India still being made a punching bag

India still being made a punching bag

By N Sathiya Moorthy

By selectively choosing London-based Global Tamil Forum’s (GTF) demand for an international probe into the ‘Easter blasts’, veteran naval officer, Rear-Adm Sarath Weerasekara, has asked why the Diaspora was not demand similar investigations against India’s IPKF and the TNA.

In doing so, he has twisted the context and avoided addressing the unpleasant side nearer home. After all, it is the Colombo-centric Sinhala-speaking laity and the Catholic Church under Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, and also the Leader of the Opposition SJB, Sajith Premadasa who were the first and the most vociferous still, to demand an international probe into the Easter blasts, especially after the questionable Channel IV ‘expose’.

A Parliament member belonging to the SLPP under-writer of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Government, Weerasekara is also the chairman of the House committee on national security. Does he expect to be seen as representing his committee or his sole self? If the latter is the case, he should clarify it. If not, the issue is more serious – for the Government and the ruling combine to address, more inside Parliament than outside.

It is anybody’s guess why the GTF should add one more to the long list of Tamil complaints against the Sri Lankan State and the majority Sinhala-Buddhist polity and society.  After all, until now, the likes of Sajith Premadasa (or Ranil in his place when they were united in the UNP), nor Cardinal Ranjith stood by their demands for an international probe into ‘war crimes’.

By dragging India’s name into a domestic discourse, that too entirely out of context, Weerasekara seems wanting to deflect attention away from the Easter blasts, and demands, here and elsewhere, for an international probe. The same seems to apply even more to some of the recent attacks on Tamil political leaders, as if someone is likewise seeking to precipitate an ethnic crisis all over again, with an eye on the presidential election and more.

Blatant attempt

Thus, you had the attack on Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, MP, followed even more recently by one on his party-colleague and fellow-parliamentarian, Selvaraja Kajendran.  The former had agitated against – and continues to be so – against what is seen as a blatant Sinhala-Buddhist attempt to take over historic Tamil lands and kovils in the Tamil North and East. What began under the predecessor Gotabnaya Rajapaksa regime, even violating court orders, continues still – no questions asked.

The goal is to re-write ancient history as an exclusive Buddhist culture. As used to be the case before Tamil militant groups sprouted in the past decades, to defend their language, culture and lifestyle, the Sri Lankan State and the police especially seem to be collaborating with the attackers as no meaningful action has been taken thus far against the attackers or encroachers, as the case maybe. Whenever taken up with him, President Wickremesinghe, as is typical of them, says that the Government would investigate and act against the perpetrators.

Nothing has come of such promises, to keep these faceless protestors and the more prominent Buddhist monks leading them, either in their homes or in prisons, as the case may be.  If Tamils fears a return to the distant and eminently forgettable past, they may not be entirely wrong. After all, the attack on parliamentarian Kajendran, MP, it was over the anniversary observances of Thileepan, who was among the early ‘martyrs’ of the LTTE.

To consider that Ponnambalam, Jr, is the chip of the old bloc as far as Tamil politics goes, and is also opposed to the LTTE’s ways still, for his party, too, to observe Thileepan’s memory, speaks volumes by itself.  That is about the general mood of the Tamil youth over the past decade-plus after the end of ‘Eelam War IV’. If the likes of Weerasekara still think that they could whip up ethnic sentiments in the Sinhala South to someone’s electoral advantage now and again, then they are sadly mistaken.

If nothing else, Circa 2023 is not Circa 1983. And China-Russia’s UN veto alone won’t be enough to save the rulers and the ruling class – from which the SJB leadership (if not the party) seems wanting to extricate itself, even if over the demand for the ‘Easter blasts’ probe. Yes, within that party itself, not many seem to share Sajith Premadasa’s concerns, making it out as if he is still upset over losing the 2019 presidential polls, post-blasts than by the Easter blasts, per se.

Sovereignty, territorial integrity

As on many occasions in the past, Weerasekara used India as a punch-bag to deflect national attention away from what’s on hand. It was at cross-purposes with India’s declaration at the UNHRC’s 54th session, where the OHCHR, the US-led Core Group and the EU dwelt at length about Easter blasts probe – and naturally so.

“India has always been guided by …two fundamental principles … unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka” alongside “support to the aspirations of Tamils for equality, justice, dignity and peace”, Indra Mani Pandey, India’s Permanent Representative (PR) at Geneva told the UNHRC Council.  “As a close neighbour and friend of Sri Lanka, India has consistently supported Sri Lanka’s efforts towards relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction process in Sri Lanka since 2009,” Amb Pandey reiterated, underscoring the fact that New Delhi had stood by Colombo ever since the West began throwing ‘war crimes’ allegations and demands for ‘international investigations’ at Colombo ever since the ethnic war ended in 2009.

India, Amb Pandey, asserted again only expected Sri Lanka to ‘work meaninfully’ towards the early implementation of its commitments. The main reference of course was to the 13-A, but there was enough scope for expansion – yet, India did not go into avoidable delays as the West has been doing all along.


India’s turn at the UNHRC came after that of Sri Lanka – and whose PR, Amb Himalee Arunatilaka, outright rejected the OHCHR evidence-gathering mechanism. She pointed out how the OHCHR mandate in this regard went beyond the one conferred by member-States on the Council, under UNGA Resolution 60/251. In effect, Sri Lanka has argued that the UNHRC Council itself did not have the powers to grant such a mandate to the OHCHR.

It may be interesting to see how the UNSC, UNGA or the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would act/react, if and when approached. It is another matter that including the ICJ, all three of them are politically-0riented. With the result, when the West is demanding much more than ground realities in the country can permit, it becomes inevitable that President Wickremesinghe goes and addresses the G-77+China conclave in Cuba, before flying to New York to address the UNGA session.

It is once again a chicken-and-egg situation. The West, this time, is said to be upset over the President attending and addressing the Cuba conclave, called for China benefit. Sri Lanka is once again left with no other option as in the absence of positive signals from the West, the nation has to count on China’s veto vote in the UNSC and its possible ability to muster at least a few more numbers in the UNHRC now and the UNGA, whenever required – not to leave out credit-rescheduling which has become the core to IMF funding and anticipated western investments.

In doing so, the West may have succeeded without effort in converting a sworn ally in President Wickremesinghe, possibly the only one in his place in a long time – even if he may be politically weak – to drift away from them. That too, when the SLPP under-writer of his Government has not done anything to pressure pressured him to turn anti-West and pro-China!

(The writer is a policy analyst & political commentator, based in Chennai, India. Email:

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