– by Shenali Waduge –
There are some vital questions that need to be posed to the Ministry of External Affairs in particular the Minister for answer vis – a – vis the important upcoming event of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November 2013.
No one will deny that the External Affairs Ministry has come in for flak by virtue of its actions or inactions depicted by the manner in which Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister was omitted from representing Sri Lanka at the last Geneva sessions.
Nevertheless, the fact that CHOGM will be staged amidst a hail of accusations and allegations by foreign visitors to Sri Lanka warrants preparation of a strategy that would counter these unjustified attacks. No country must be allowed to point fingers at others particularly when their own hands are soiled with the blood of innocents in not just one nation by almost 90% of the entire world.
Sri Lanka and fellow nations of Africa, Asia, North and South America and Australia were all one time colonies of the British Empire. Each nation has their own woeful tale of atrocities that cover pilfering, murder and divisions that continue to haunt the masses still. Many of these once colonized nations in Africa and Asia are now coming out to seek reparations and compensation from former colonial western countries.
Sri Lanka is a civilized and considerate nation but we cannot forget the crimes that our forbears and ancestors had to endure and it is our duty to seek an apology and compensation for these crimes from all three western colonial countries i.e. Portugal, Netherlands, and Britain.
What is the current policy of the Ministry of External Affairs on the issue of colonial compensation for crimes committed?
Should we not as a self – respecting independent sovereign country be ready with appropriate placards, slogans and argument in the event one former colonial master attempts to give a discourse on Accountability and Human Rights at the CHOGM in Hambantota? We invariably become victims of their harassment of our own choosing when we take all what is thrown at us lying down without protest or resistance.
Does the NGO-mindset thinking External Affairs Minister and Ministry prefer to keep mum and say ‘Mum’s the word’ and otherwise maintain total silence when others start pointing the accusing finger at us and by doing so continue the servile attitude that the Ministry under the stewardship of the current Minister is well known for?
If Israel can be paid compensation for the holocaust why can’t other nations who have suffered more? The summary of the compensations made to Israel is given in detail in the link.
The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany on September 10, 1952 says that Israel has to be paid for the slave labor and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and to compensate for Jewish property that was stolen by the Nazis. In 2009, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that he will demand a further €450 million to €1 billion in reparations from Germany on behalf of some 30,000 Israeli forced labor survivors. Germany has paid $89billion already to Israel as compensation but Israel claims a further 50,000 have not received compensation.
If Israel’s claims are being addressed why has Africa’s, Asia’s and Latin America’s cases being ignored?
An International Claims Conference for Colonial Crimes upon Third World nations must be immediately set up to put out into the open all the crimes that have been committed by the Western world upon nations of the Third World and the colonial powers must come out with a plan to compensate these nations for the pilfering, the plunder, genocide, the crimes against humanity and violations of human rights committed by them.
The Western media is quick to brand President Rajapakse as a Sinhala Buddhist leader, given that he did come to power primarily on the Buddhist vote as do all leaders since the majority are 70% Sinhalese Buddhists, it was the Mahinda Chinthanaya that promised to rid the nation of LTTE terrorism that won him the people’s vote. The people of this country did not vote for any other Chinthanaya including a Pieris Chintanaya for devolution, separation of power, modification of the national anthem, discarding of Article 9 of the Constitution and a subtle incremental usurping of the rights of the Sinhala Buddhists legislatively.
As such, while the Minister of External Affairs welcomes with great warmth delegations representing the minority faiths including foreign representatives at Ambassadorial level to discuss matters concerning the interests of minority faiths, our next query is what is stopping the External Affairs Minister from initiating a similar exercise i.e. an international forum of Buddhist delegates and starting a think tank to address the grievances of Buddhists in Sri Lanka as well in other parts of the Buddhist world given that Article 9 empowers the State to take steps to ‘ protect and foster Buddhism’. We do not expect the Minister to dodge answering these direct questions with his incomprehensible lectures. A straight forward answer is all that we expect.
We would also like to know if there is a specific reason why the External Affairs Minister refrains from issuing a statement showing allegiance with the Buddhist world in particular the Buddhists of Burma/Myanmar which is a fellow Theravada Buddhist nation? We have not forgotten that the Ministry of External Affairs remained silent when historic Buddhist Temples and priceless Buddhist artifacts were destroyed overnight by mobs in Bangladesh a few months ago.
We would first like to have asked what is the strategy of the Minister to use the influence and leverage of Sri Lanka as a leading Buddhist nation to join hands with other Buddhist nations to give voice to the plight of Buddhists in various parts of the world and protect Buddhists and Buddhism? As a paid public servant it is the constitution that the Minister and all others need to uphold and not their personal whims and fancies and certainly not to please a block of nations that they have personal affinity to. If this is hard to do the simple solution is to resign from one’s portfolio.
There are many more questions that the Minister of External Affairs Minister and Ministry need to be answerable for but given that we are to be the host of the Commonwealth Nations whose heads are to meet in Sri Lanka, our bewilderment rests on what strategy is to be prepared because as citizens we do not wish to face another diplomatic embarrassment to add to the hosts of other embarrassments we have had to weather in the past because of Ministerial bungling and incompetence