Sirisena sends a ‘Dear Donald ‘letter to Trump to dump war crimes probe To the victor, the spoils. Not only the scalp but the professed allegiance, too, of the fallen, however insincere it may sound; even as Hillary Clinton demonstrated – moments after it became clear she had lost key swing states – when she [...]


THE DANGER: Will Lanka go off Trump America’s radar?


Sirisena sends a ‘Dear Donald ‘letter to Trump to dump war crimes probe
To the victor, the spoils. Not only the scalp but the professed allegiance, too, of the fallen, however insincere it may sound; even as Hillary Clinton demonstrated – moments after it became clear she had lost key swing states – when she called upon the people to rally around Trump and to hail him as the man America had decided upon to lead the nation for the next four years as her president.

Donald Trump’s astonishing rise to the zenith of world power is something still to sink in. And perhaps the world will remain in a state of suspended disbelief until his inauguration on 20th January next year when reality will dawn and an astounded world will perforce awake to what seeming monstrosity 63 million Americans had chosen to rule the world.

Had it happened in fiction, the author would have been strung up in scorn and ridiculed with stones as one who had trespassed beyond his artistic licence and exploited the readers’ credulousness over the limit. But, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. And, sometimes, more bizarre than fantasy.
Not the world, not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not the pollsters, not the media and, finally, not even the people of America had ever imagined that the demagogue all loved to hate was destined to win the race to the White House. With such a body of world opinion hopelessly erring as to the final outcome, none can blame the Lankan Government if it got it wrong too.

But why did the Lankan Government bet on Hillary in the first place and believe that a triumph for her at the polls would ease the load of the human rights burden it had inherited from the previous regime? Why did it even send a delegation of ministers at public expense to the States to urge the Sinhala Diaspora there to vote for Hillary and save Lanka’s bacon from the fire?

In the Government’s estimation the known devil in this instance was certainly better than the unknown archangel. The Obama administration had publicly announced America’s wish for a regime change in Lanka and after having achieved their aim in 2015, looked kindly on the new kid on the block. With US Secretary of State Kerry beginning to spend sleep-overs in Colombo, the inquisitor had become the protector and the incredible hulk that once snorted sulphuric fire demanding immediate UN embargoes against Lanka to force her capitulation, now began to blow mint fresh breath to sweeten the air.

The March deadline last year set by the UNCHR for Lanka to abide by the UN resolution or else face crippling sanctions was extended as was the one in September. When it came up for review this year in March, it was again extended to September. Now it has been extended again to next March. As every deadline approached, the US managed to coax UN’s Human Rights Chief Zeid to move the final post six months further. Instead of being a defender Lanka became a co sponsor along with Uncle Sam to bring last year’s resolution on Sri Lanka. It was a tidy, cosy arrangement that retained America’s hold over Lanka whilst simultaneously placating Lanka’s fear that the Damocles Sword, though placed ominously in position, will not be allowed to drop.
Nothing new in that, of course, for that’s what transitional justice is all about in the arena of international power politics. It has been done before in other fields of conflict and, no doubt, it will be done again. For instance in South Africa and even in Bangladesh, the transitional process consisted in the main of societies undergoing a form of catharsis – of crying their collective hearts out in a national confessional box and emerging purged of collective sin.

The charade works: justice to the victims whether it has been done or not is certainly held up and hailed to have been done, especially when the teary outburst of grief and breast banging is accompanied with the harsh lash of punishment whipped out to a few low level offenders to complete the melodrama. Atonement plus physical retribution having been procured in the minimum quantity required for the sham to attain legitimate status, the nation moves on, leaving the sordid past behind, to face new challenges ahead.

In the case of Lanka, the process of transitional justice agreed by all in Geneva consisted in the main of two aspects: A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and an international tribunal manned by foreign and local judges to probe alleged war crimes and punish the guilty. Knowing the Obama administration will soft pedal the issue, the present Lankan government was only too happy to go along with this since it enabled Lanka to regain its lost status as a member of the civilised world. The fact that the presence of foreign judges on the tribunal to pass judgment on those considered by a majority of the people as war heroes may cause a glitch on the political landscape, was put on hold to be dealt with later at the appropriate moment.

The government’s readiness to pay the price of alleged past transgressions of another regime even at the cost of its own political survival, earned for Lanka the garland of the world’s goodwill. Instead of being the harlot on some dusky twilight street peddling her meager wares to catch a chink in the eye of some port-crawling Chinaman willing to offer a pearl in exchange for her pier, she suddenly became the wart hidden, paint coated, made up bimbo belle of the ball, talking ‘posh’ the current ‘politically correct’ lingo, the world swooned to hear gushing from her red rose leaf lips.

But now, with Trump’s advent, she faces the dim prospect of having the spotlight lights turned off and being back on the wrong side of the street again to lurk furtively in obscurity’s shadows without the world giving damn as to her fate.The Tamil Diaspora which bet heavily on Hillary, contributing million of dollars to her campaign fund, suffered a severe blow when it lost its wager when dark horse Trump pipped her at the post.

If the Lankan government had backed the filly to ensure no unknown sea monster would rise from the deep and rock the boat and spoil her chartered comfortable course, the Tamil Diaspora pinned its faith on Hillary to keep the Eelam issue very much afloat, bobbing in the world’s seas as an ever present tombstone, with the epitaph ‘Probe 40,000 Tamil war dead in Lanka’. What it dreaded most was that the Eelam buoy would be torpedoed by superpower America to languish in oblivion at the bottom of the ocean’s depths.

And why did the joint opposition wait expectantly and hope against hope for a Trump victory and yet when their miracle happened, came to realise that the planned celebratory fireworks would turn out to be damp squibs that would refuse to light the hope they wished to see emblazoned in the night time sky?

For with Trump’s mind focused and the US Foreign Department’s energies concentrated
n on the worsening crisis in the Middle East and how to eliminate forever the ISIS threat to America’s global interests:
n on its new planned trade deal with emerging China and how best to stymie the unstoppable plod of the oriental panda:
n on how to formulate a new pact with an increasingly acquisitive Russia:

n and whether or not to carry out Trump’s election threat to withdraw from NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and renegade on its treaty obligations to place the whole of American might to defend Europe against Russian aggression, will it be surprising if the Lankan issue is relegated to be stored in mothballs in a bottom drawer at the solitary Lanka desk at the US Foreign Office?

For the new incoming Trump administration to Washington D. C. this January, have other greater things on its mind. For all the new President’s men, Lanka’s war crimes probe will be but a speck of space dust in their universe of supernovas.

With the belated dawn of this realization, the Lankan Government has wisely decided to shift its two dime pre election support from Clinton to post poll victor Trump. Following the age old prudent Sinhala adage of ‘vasi pattheta hoiya’ or ‘hail the winning side most beneficial to our interest’, it has embarked on a campaign to woo Trump directly through snail mail and get the message across to his Trump Towers where he presently holds presidential court.

He should not be too surprised if, come this week, a letter, post marked Sri Lanka, peeps through the letter flap in his apartment door and falls softly on the richly carpeted floor of his penthouse suite at Trump Towers, whilst he is busy discussing Russia, China, Syria, Korea, NATO, Europe and ISIS with his key men, even as he is deciding on the names to fill the remaining key slots of his administration.

The letter will be from the Sri Lankan president who may well have taken a leaf from the sheave of letters written by the children of America to Trump. Two weeks ago, CNN reported how over 10,000 American children have written to their new president elect, many of them asking him to be ‘kind to the discriminated’. One letter, shared by a parent on Twitter said, “be President of all Americans including gays, lesbians, African-Americans and Hispanic friends”, while another written by a five year old boy simply said, “Dear Donald Trump, I want you to be kind to everybody.”

The kindness that Lanka would expect of Trump to extend to her was to turn a blind eye to the human rights issue and say to the United Nations Human Right Commission ‘let bygones be bygones”.

Last Saturday, the President announced his intention to make a direct appeal to Trump to forget the whole issue of alleged human rights violations in Lanka during the war years. “I will write to President Donald Trump to ask him to free us from these accusations”, President Sirisena declared at a SLFP meeting in Galle and said that he hopes the US President-elect Donald Trump would grant Sri Lanka redress by not pursuing the human rights accountability charges against the country.

But even if a ‘Dear Donald’ letter from the Lankan president catches the Trump eye and moves the Trump heart to drop the matter and to instruct his staff to mothball it, what will such a US presidential amnesty for Lanka’s alleged war crimes portend to its people and to the protagonists concerned?

The President is certainly not on a flight of fancy when he expressed the hope that Trump America may acquiesce to his wishes. In the run up to the presidential election, Trump has demonstrated again and again that he is not America’s Statue of Liberty when it comes to carrying the flame for human rights. His plan to deport all Muslim immigrants, later qualified to ‘illegal immigrants’, his declared vow to destroy the ISIS no matter the human cost reveal that the concept of ‘human rights’ is not foremost on his list of priorities and that he has the utmost contempt for those who use it as a shield to enable terrorists to do their worst.

Smashing the ISIS, entrenched as they are within civilian communities, will no doubt lead to an immense loss of civilian lives; and America would face the same dilemma Lankan troops faced in the Mullaitivu jungles in 2009 when Prabhakaran and his senior cadres took refuge amongst thousands of Tamil civilians and used them as a shield.

If Trump keeps his promise to the American people to destroy the ISIS once and forever and have no qualms over any civilian collateral damage that may be caused as a result, America may find it difficult to pursue, without blinking her eye, the war crimes probe against Lanka to its logical conclusion when she herself is planning the final liquidation of a terrorist grouping, thousands of civilian casualties notwithstanding. Abandoning the Lankan war crimes probe may save America an unnecessary red blush of embarrassment and shelve the need to justify the otherwise two face, fork tongue hypocritical countenance on the world stage.

While President Sirisena was blowing his balloon of hope that Trump will be ‘kind’ to Lanka, America’s Vice president elect Mike Pence figuratively airlifted a pump to help him in his efforts to blow it even bigger. On Thursday night, in a surprise telephone call, Pence invited Sirisena to visit the States to “to enhance bilateral relations between the two nations”. Pence commended the achievements of Sri Lanka and the progress made and also assured Sirisena that the US stands ready to provide any assistance to Sri Lanka. And to crown the cake with the traditional red cherry, Pence also assured that he would arrange a meeting for Sirisena with Trump.

Certainly Sirisena’s guardian deity has smiled on him: and his ascendant star stands exalted. If he can convince Trump to dump the war crimes probe which seeks to turn some of Lanka’s war heroes to war criminals, if he can pull it off and bring home the good news that the war fallout has been swept under the American carpet and its dust will not be exposed henceforth for the world to breathe and sneeze in allergic bouts, then he would have earned for himself the accolade as the man who cleaned up the poop the Rajapaksas left untended.

Should the probe fizzle out at Trump’s behest, for the joint opposition it will prove a wash out. On the one hand, Mahinda Rajapaksa will, no doubt, sigh in relief that he is no longer on the wanted list in the war crimes probe. On the other hand, it would act as a spoiler to his martyrdom hopes. No more will he be able to proudly declare at rallies – as he has declared ad nauseam to embed himself further in the public heart – that he will gladly face the shocks of the electric chair if that be the price and punishment for ending the war.

No more will the joint opposition members be able to watch Sirisena, having promised Geneva last year to allow foreign judges to probe alleged war crimes, squirt and squirm while he tries to wriggle his way out of his pledge to escape the local backlash. Should Sirisena’s appeal to Trump succeed, not only will it cease to be an emotive campaign issue but force the joint opposition members to unite their hands in applause and grudgingly congratulate Sirisena for his remarkable diplomatic coup.

For the Tamil Diaspora, it will be nothing but shock, horror, disappointment and disaster. They would realise that if the USA were to remove its spurs from the UNCHR’s belly to goad its gallop, their utopian dream of establishing a separate state of Eelam on the strength of the supposed injustices done unto the Tamils in Lanka – even genocide as claimed by northern chief minister Wigneswaran in his letter to the UNCHR in March – will have to be mothballed in sleep to awake to another warmer clime.

But though Sirisena’s sun may stand at high noon where no shadow of fault falls unto the ground he walks, the question remains whether the Lankan people may find their own star eclipsed should Trump concede to Sirisena’s plea and take Lanka off the America radar.

Ever since the Americans achieved the regime change they desired in 2015, they have hailed the Lankan example as one to be followed by less fortunate states and showcased Lanka as a striking success story of how a nation transcended its own internal war and strife and emerged triumphant following the branded ‘American recipe’ of democracy. It had clothed Lanka in new attire and presented her at every international forum in a ‘clean suit’ though, alas, in Lankan eyes, its pockets came bereft of American dollars. Still, full suited, with bespoke American tailoring, and still promoted as America’s protégé though penniless, it was indicated to stir the Lankan spirit that the long term benefits would be in renewed international investor confidence to invest in the island’s growing economy.

Now if America decides to switch its head lights off and leave Lanka’s future wanderings in the dark, two fears arise. The first danger is that should the healing process of truth and reconciliation fizzle out in Alpine air and is sentenced to the never- never land of oblivion, whether the civilian victims of Lanka’s terrorist war will consider it as justice denied; and, with the open sore still unhealed with the treatment halted midway, whether it will burst forth anew in an even more virulent form in the future.

The second negative impact of American indifference to Lanka’s human rights issue is whether it will set a precedent. And give fancy hope to future Lankan regimes to violate the rights of the citizens of Lanka with impunity knowing no powerful international monitor exists to castigate any transgression. And that, even if one did exist, it could be, in the course of time, still be ‘shaped up’.

In the process of closing one questionable chapter for expediency’s sake, whether we will be uncorking another even more ghastly than the one we close now, is left to be seen. But as the short sighted bloke said, live for today for tomorrow may never come.


ENGLEBERT: The man, the voice and the power of the love songAll time singing legend wows Colombo’s Last of the Romantics

ENGLEBERT LIVE N COLOMBO: Fans rush to the stage to capture on cells moments with the singing King of Romance

Why should an eighty year old man, a singing legend for over fifty years, who has earned a star on every walk of fame and captured the hearts of over million women and is a multimillionaire to boot, come down to Lanka and sing his heart out to a few thousand in a Colombo hall? And do it two nights in a row? Merely because his fans asked for more?

Was it for a few dollars more?
Something to keep the wolf from
his Beverley Hills mansion door
and keep the home fires burning?

His appearance and his stunning performance on Sunday and this Monday – extended by special demand, even though he was scheduled to perform only for one night in the Lankan capital – at Colombo’s Convention Hall, proved the Confucian truth that if the job you do is something you love doing, then you will not have to work a day in your life.

And his total dedication to his art was self evident that Sunday and Monday night, when he gave a performance that will not be easy to forget for all who heard him sing, as he transported his audience to a wonderland of entertainment by night that was out of this ‘ ll Mondo” which lit Lankan eyes as they remembered the way it used to be in their very own winter world of love, walking hand in hand with their sweetheart before it became too beautiful too last.

For one hour and forty five minutes and more, he sang his all time hits, spicing the music with jovial banter, still shaking a leg to his Ten Guitars before finally singing the song that had made it possible for him to meet his fans and the fans to meet him: Release Me. And that was not all. Coming back for one more, he sang ‘ For the Good Times’ but not before he called upon the crowd to loosen up and come closer to the stage and join him as he sang farewell – to meet again in another time, another place.

So what makes the man tick, what makes the man sing, what drives him inexorably to give all to a last waltz that, God willing, will go on and on with the orchestra continuing to play playing while others have long gone down to their graves, and slunk to their sleep, some hitting the sack even before their time on earth is done?

Long after great singing sensations have had their genius blown out like candles in the wind at a much younger age, Englebert Humperdinck and his friendly rival Tom Jones still play their song at venues worldwide when they can well afford to be snuggled up in bed. Why they do it, why they bring joy to millions the world over, why they give and share with the people their God given talent to bring cheer to the multitude, prove their generous nature. Stardom has not made them selfish but only selfless. And it is to that spirit of human nature, fan or no fan of his music, that humanity must pay tribute.

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