Whose Arms Will Embrace You? The United States and the Beijing Consensus

    China's President Hu shakes hands with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sanya

    China’s President Hu Jintao shakes hands with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sanya, Hainan province, April 10, 2008. Image by Reuters, courtesy Transcurrents. The United States is increasingly playing a game of subtle communication in the international arena. I suspect we had a passing glimpse of this at the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council, which gathered in Geneva last month. The question is: who is the United States talking to and what is it trying to say? There has been much discussion about President Obama’s “Return to Asia” strategy, arising out of a 2009 speech during which he declared that as an Asia Pacific nation, the United States will seek to be more involved in the issues affecting the region. There has been an equally vibrant discussion in policy and scholarly circles about the so-called Beijing Consensus, a term used to describe the Chinese government’s embrace of capitalism, while remaining autocratic. It is to these nations who have…

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  • 9 Apr, 2012

  • Dr Vinoth Ramachandra

  • 17 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Features,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Peace and Conflict,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War

    Restoring Government in Sri Lanka

    sri-lanka-27feb12

    Image courtesy Transcurrents If Sri Lanka is fast becoming a pariah state in the eyes of the world, it has nothing to do with the recent UNHRC Resolution. The writing has long been on the wall. As a nation, we are ruled by a group of men who seem to have nothing but contempt for the rule of law, let alone for truth in the public sphere. Violence and threats of violence against critics, the suppression of media freedom, extra-judicial killings, misplaced economic priorities and corruption on a scale that made even previous governments look clean, have become the order of the day. The minimal definition of government has to do with the rule of law: namely, that as a people we should be governed not by arbitrary fiat but by a system of laws to which the law-makers and law-enforcers themselves are accountable. The opposite of government is sovereign will, where the King/President decides what is “good for the…

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  • 29 Mar, 2012

  • Groundviews

  • 12 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Diplomacy,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War,

    Reconciliation,

    War Crimes

    The Geneva II debacle

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    Photo courtesy Vikalpa, from protest against US resolution in Colombo, 27 February 2012 The US-sponsored resolution at the UNHRC had to be defeated. It was not. 24 in favour, 15 against, 8 abstained. Hearts are broken, glasses are shattered, the ‘gods’ have ignored our prayers, there is madness surrounding us; 2012, we are now sure, is when the world comes to an end. But that was yesterday. Today, the morning after, is once again cold; we need to pick up the pieces, mend our hearts, move on. And there are questions too: what is this resolution? How did we perform? Is it all India’s fault? Where did we go wrong? Are we to be blamed? What now? Resolution L.2: From US, with love The resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka’ has, during the process of the UNHRC session, undergone considerable change. From being an intrusive and arrogant one sponsored by the US, it now appears rather soft,…

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  • 24 Mar, 2012

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

  • 32 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Diplomacy,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War,

    War Crimes

    Geneva 2012: The signs missed, lessons unlearnt

    geneva_sri lankans

    Photo courtesy JDS Let’s learn the right lessons from the Geneva outcome, not the wrong ones. It is not the case that a small country such as Sri Lanka cannot fight a diplomatic battle with the mighty USA and win. Minutes after the Sri Lanka vote at the HRC this time, the Cubans moved a resolution on the composition of the staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the opacity (code-named independence) of which the West regards as a holy of holies. The USA opposed the resolution. The Cuban resolution won with a massive 33 votes. Last year the USA invested far more effort and political capital at a far higher political level than in the case of the Sri Lanka resolution in Geneva, to prevent Palestine from being granted full membership of the UNESCO in Paris. The US lost that battle, and besieged Palestine, an embryonic or proto-state (unlike Sri Lanka) won a two…

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  • 21 Mar, 2012

  • Politiki

  • 32 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Human Rights,

    International Relations,

    Peace and Conflict,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War,

    War Crimes

    India’s Volte-Face: Winners and Losers

    Image courtesy LankaStandard

    India’s hasty decision to support the United States of America led Resolution on Sri Lanka came as a big surprise. While a few rumours flagged the possibility of an India “for” vote a couple of days before the actual announcement by the Prime Minister, they were largely ignored. The prevailing orthodoxy was that India would likely abstain, and that the vote would carry with a narrow majority. That orthodoxy has now been questioned, and with India coming on board, the possibility of a landslide victory for the US is more likely. This brief piece sets out to identify the political “winners” and “losers” from the fallout of India’s decision, barring last minute twists in the tale. The merits of the Resolution are not discussed in this article. Its aspirations are rather more modest, and only seeks to identify the manner in which coming events will contribute to the image of specific political personalities and entities. Winners The United States…

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  • 19 Mar, 2012

  • Amali Wedagedara

  • 13 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Features,

    Human Rights,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Peace and Conflict,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War,

    War Crimes

    Sri Lanka and the UNHRC: Implications for India and for Human Rights

    Mumbai on March 5, 2012_2

    Image courtesy India Ink blog by New York Times/Rajanish Kakade, Associated Press As the 19th session of the Human Rights Council progresses, the discourse on Sri Lanka with reference to Human Rights is reaching its annual climax. It is annual in the sense that it has been reaching the said level of climax each year ever since the United Nations Human Rights Commission took up the issue after the completion of war in Sri Lanka. In the first two sessions Sri Lanka managed to defeat the Resolutions forwarded by the Western countries with the support of its allies from various quarters of the world, most prominently from China and Russia. India, a part of Sri Lanka’s support system, continued to assist Sri Lanka beyond the platform of the UNHRC despite the opposition from its South Indian Tamil constituency[1]. However, India’s silence amidst the mounting protests by Tamil Nadu MPs has created sense of uncertainty for Sri Lanka which is more…

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  • 16 Mar, 2012

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

  • 44 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Diplomacy,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Peace and Conflict,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War,

    Reconciliation,

    War Crimes

    THE BIG LIE ABOUT THE US RESOLUTION

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    Image from The Nation It is almost a crime to lie to the people and mislead them on a matter of vital national interest. When it is committed by politicians it is an act of unconscionable opportunism. When it is perpetrated by so-called intellectuals belonging to civil society, it is a counterfeiting of the currency of the intellect and the function of the educated, which is to educate the public. One of the rankest untruths in the public domain today is that the US resolution is innocuous and unobjectionable because it only seeks to commit the government of Sri Lanka to implement its own LLRC report within a reasonable time frame. This untruth is perpetrated by the dominant elements of the UNP, the TNA and the civil society commentariat. The utter falsehood of this assertion is instantly provable by a mere glance at the Resolution itself. Far from limiting itself to the harmless and arguably even constructive pursuit of merely…

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  • 14 Mar, 2012

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

  • 73 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Diplomacy,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War

    The Geopolitical Matrix of Sri Lanka’s Conflict

    flags

    Image courtesy South Asia Monitor I am appreciative of the fact that this is a seminar on geopolitics. I think geopolitics has been underestimated; perhaps overestimated earlier and then there was a reaction, the pendulum swung too far in the other direction. I am not a geopolitical determinist. I do not believe that geography is destiny. If we look at the case of Cuba for instance, it is very clearly a dramatic rupture from any notion of geopolitical determinism. However, if we have a notion of long term history as recommended by Braudel, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, then we understand the importance of place. We are materially and psychologically constituted at least in part by where we are. Though I would not say that who we are is determined in a monocausal sense by where we are, it is certainly one of the decisive and perhaps one of the determinant factors. So Sri Lanka, as most of us know…

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  • 24 Feb, 2012

  • Kusal Perera

  • 24 Comments

  • Colombo,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Politics and Governance

    How bad is the crisis for Mahinda Rajapaksa?

    mahinda-angry2-e1329484673797

    Photo courtesy Lanka Standard “Although certain foreign powers have attempted to conspire against and oust me from the presidency, I will not leave this position before completing my duties” – President Mahinda Rajapaksa (Ada Derana Online / February 19, 2012 01:27 am) That perhaps is the easiest of the answers possible for any Head of State under pressure from his own people who voted him to power and from the international community, to explain his own dilemma. The Resolution proposed to the UN Human Rights Council’s19 Session will pressure the Rajapaksa regime to honour it’s own Commission’s Recommendations, while Chilaw now, after Katunayake FTZ workers’ agitations on May 24 and 30 last year, followed by local vendors and rural farmer protests against plastic container rule, turns a wholly new militant page on protests against this Rajapaksa regime, albeit glib talk about foreign conspiracies. Anthony Fernando from “Wella” fishing village, a protester in Chilaw died of police shooting on Tuesday while three…

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  • 17 Feb, 2012

  • Indran Amirthanayagam

  • 7 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Foreign Relations,

    International Relations,

    Poetry

    The Island Abstains

    The decision by the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to abstain from the General Assembly vote calling for an end to violence in Syria, and stepping down of its president, cannot be accused of inconsistency, given the island republic’s wish to continue importing Iranian oil, serve tea at official Syrian garden parties, and its pummel- the- minority most successful bombing strategy, that just three years ago seemed to be the talk of Colombo town. Unfortunately, the government faces a resolution of its own, upcoming in Geneva, and perhaps the abstaining route indicates a not unsubtle wish that it may go unperceived in the noise of those who said yes or no. Some of us noticed, however, the way Lankan diplomats exercised the popular will and we present evidence here in the court of poetry.

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  • 24 Jan, 2012

  • Michael Colin Cooke

  • 3 Comments

  • Colombo,

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    Human Rights,

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    Once more into the breach

    PR1

    “The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten.” Milan Kundera[1] “…. Some [intellectuals] served as spokesmen for power or for a constituency, trimming their beliefs and pronouncements to circumstances and interest: what Edward Said once called “the fawning elasticity with regard to one’s own side’ has indeed “disfigured the history of intellectuals.” Tony Judt.[2] His Excellency Dr Dayan Jayatilleka has been good enough to respond to my critique of his position with regard to the merits of the current government of Sri Lanka.[3] Let me first deal with his view of my original comments on his intellectual and political practices; then I will go to the heart of his response.[4] Readers of Groundviews know, better than most, Dr Jayatilleka’s…

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  • 23 Jan, 2012

  • Gibson Bateman

  • 18 Comments

  • Colombo,

    Features,

    Foreign Relations,

    Human Rights,

    International,

    International Relations,

    Peace and Conflict,

    Politics and Governance,

    Reconciliation

    Examining Sri Lanka’s Diplomacy Machine

    Lankan Human Rights Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe

    Photo courtesy JDS As promised, the Sri Lankan government made the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) public last month. It has also recently released its “National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights: 2011-2016.” The Action Plan was developed in accordance with a commitment the government had made in 2008, the last time Sri Lanka participated in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review. Both documents are part of the Sri Lankan government’s strategy to placate international observers and convince people that there is no need for any kind of international assistance because the country’s domestic institutions are working just fine. Like the LLRC report, the National Action Plan contains some decent ideas and recommendations, but it is replete with missing and false information. For example, the section on the Prevention of Torture is laughable and worrisome. The Sri Lankan government claims that it “maintains a zero-tolerance policy on torture.” This sweeping assertion directly contradicts…

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  • 17 Jan, 2012

  • Groundviews

  • 0 Comment

  • Colombo,

    Constitutional Reform,

    Foreign Relations,

    International Relations,

    Jaffna,

    Peace and Conflict,

    Politics and Governance,

    Post-War,

    Reconciliation

Defending Sri Lanka: Response to Michael Colin Cooke

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Image taken from ‘Interrogating a public intellectual: Noted bloggers and youth activists engage Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka‘, published on Groundviews The phrase ‘a man for all seasons’ being a compliment -which is clearly not the writer’s intent- I find Mr Michael Colin Cooke’s sense of irony rather leaden (read A Man for all political Seasons: Dr Dayan Jayatilleka). No matter. I have two options in responding. One is to enter a slugfest of quotations and ideological polemic, for which I simply do not have the time, and nor I suspect, do most readers. The other route is to address the substance, with a view to advancing clarity and political discussion. MCC accuses me of “idealisation of the current government of Sri Lanka”. That’s plain silly, and he would find it impossible to back it up with a single quotation or example, while none of those he has furnished amount to anything remotely approaching idealisation. I do defend the Sri Lankan state, its…

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