Natasha Maurice questions the Bona Fides of the Geneva Campaign Mounted by USA

Natasha Maurice nee Gooneratne … Statement presented by J. Natasha Maurice (nee Gooneratne) at the Panel Discussion ‘Geneva and You’ On 29th September 2016 … with highlighting emphasis in blue and red being impositions by The Editor, Thuppahi 

gyou-11-natasha Natasha addressing Geneva and You

I’d like to start off by firstly thanking Sri Lanka Inc for organising this event, and am confident that it will provide more avenues to discuss the resolution and events surrounding it. This paper will very briefly explore 4 topics, that of multilateral affairs, geopolitics, economic and trade issues, and the issue of the one size fits all model.

Any form of discussion on this resolution becomes so highly politicized, that it is now presumed that you are either anti-government or pro-former government, or that you are pro or anti US or pro or anti UN, if you have any sort of opinion on it. But the background and content of this resolution is not so simply polarized, it’s far more complex. And if we are not careful, we can get so caught up in the politicisation that we can miss the legitimate issues that surround it. These ramifications impact both the macro level, in relation to Sri Lanka as a sovereign entity, and ultimately trickle down to the micro level, in relation to the lives of individual Sri Lankans. … [including] you and me sitting in this room.

Briefly looking at multilateral issues in relation to the resolution:

MULTI-LATERAL AFFAIRS UNDER QUESTION

If you look at the statements of the countries that have voted against this resolution at the Human Rights Council since its adoption in 2012, you will notice a clear pattern. Those states note that the resolution was unnecessary and uncalled for considering that –

  • Sri Lanka had always cooperated with the UN systems and its bodies,
  • Sri Lanka had provided regular updates on the internal situation in the country,
  • They further note concerns that this resolution had reversed the decision taken by the 2009 Special Session, when the Council was requested to, support Sri Lanka in its internal efforts toward resettlement and reconciliation.
  • And finally because of these reasons there was further concern that this resolution pointed to the fact that the Council was being used as “a trigger mechanism”, a label synonymous with the defunct Human Rights Commission– connoting a political tool used by powerful states to control smaller developing states.

{So, from the standpoint of] multilateral affairs, by Sri Lanka now sponsoring this resolution, it is implied that the country now distances itself from the position referred to in the points above. [In brief] there has been] a clear positional change.

If [today one can still find] numerous Sri Lankan analysts, and numerous global entities, including those international governments who have voiced their concerns regarding this resolution, who are saying that this resolution is not about an altruistic effort, then it remains important to deconstruct what the resolution and surrounding events are factually about, and on how those events can ultimately affect us.

What is important in any discussion of this nature is the CONTEXT and the BASIS and these are the two themes that my presentation will try to come back to.

I’d like to start with the most contentious issue and that is geopolitics.

GEOPOLITICS

For the most part the discussion tends to become politicized because since the resolution’s adoption in 2012, many have pointed out that this US led initiative, was more to do with regime change than the protection of human rights or promoting reconciliation.

In fact, Ambassador Kunanayakam made this argument before 2012, and she noted that the resolution was a part of a system that legitimized intervention, and what it was seeking was a system change. There has been greater discussion even at the multilateral level, that so called emerging norms such as RtoP are a part of this drive toward system change, which doesn’t aim to discard sovereignty, but attach conditionalities upon it. But at the point of time that Ambassador Kunanayakam was foretelling the possible route that the US government may take, not many people, including some within the SL government were listening.

And there is a context and basis to that argument. And looking at context and basis is the only way in which to quieten the white noise of saying that if you bring up this point up you’re simply conspiracy theorists. As such, the argument here should not be focused on the previous or present SL regime per se – but on the [imperatives pushing USA to establish a decisive voice in Sri Lankan affairs].

This need for control is connected to Sri Lanka’s geopolitical significance to the US. For instance, The Committee on Foreign Relations submitting its report to US Congress in 2009 in the report “Recharting US strategy after Sri Lanka’s war”[1] notes that

  • Sri Lanka is ‘strategically located at the nexus of maritime trading routes connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia. It is directly in the middle of the “Old World,’ where an estimated half of the world’s container ships transit the Indian Ocean’.
  • And among the numerous flags that the report raises about Chinese activity in Sri Lanka it notes that ‘Even for those that dismiss China’s ‘‘string of pearls’’ strategy as overblown, there is concern about growing Chinese influence on the Sri Lankan Government.’
  • It’s important to also note at this juncture that US Naval and Marine core vision strategies in 2007-2008 changed, asserting that two oceans of relevance for the US would no longer be the Atlantic and Pacific, but the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
  • And if you look at countless US reports on Sri Lanka after the war, the main themes should have been reconciliation or human rights protection, but a large chunk deals with strategic geopolitical significance. You would recall Secretary Kerry’s statement in May that confirms this.

[Against this background] it appears that we at home have a misplaced view of the country as it is placed in the world. That it’s simply a dot in the Indian Ocean. But global powers have long seen, not simply the country’s significance, but its immense significance in terms of geopolitical placement. From its significance to the Allied Powers in World War II, to Trincomalee’s continued importance to numerous political players at present.

It should at least by now be understood that while Sri Lanka may not be a superpower, we are without doubt located in a super position. And that shouldn’t be overlooked.

This position may not have been used to any one players’ advantage given tha

  • The country’s non-aligned stance had been strong,
  • And given that the internal conflict had disqualified it from being used to its fullest potential.

What is important to note here, is that if you have this tiny state that is of extreme geopolitical significance to you – then what you would ideally require is an accommodating government, so that your interests can be solidified and protected. If that accommodation is not present, it doesn’t matter what the regime is, a change would be construed as necessary.

If you don’t know history, that may sound like a conspiracy theory – but this is a strategic political tool that has been perfected by the United States over the years. Nicaragua, Guatamala, Iraq, are but a few examples that history has provided us with.

In this regard, if you read some of the work of Ryan Goodman the co-editor of Just Security and the Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the US Department of Defense; his work on the resolution and on relations with Sri Lanka, subtly but clearly insinuate the benefits of maintaining control over the government in order to secure US interests here. He even goes as far as to say in one article, how the US could help to politically marginalize certain political elements, in order to consolidate the power of the government.

At this juncture we should not get side tracked into thinking ‘former regime’ – ‘current regime’ – our focus should move out of the polarity of party politics in Sri Lanka, and rest on the principle that Ryan Goodman is talking about – and it doesn’t matter how sugar-coated it is, because what he’s talking about is essentially strategic interference in the affairs of another state, in order to pursue [American] interests.

The danger then, is that whatever change that the resolution or trade plans or technical assistance from the US is, that what it aims at is not in the context or basis of what Sri Lanka as a country needs, but is dependent on what American national interest requires. And it’s important to look at the repercussions of this formula. And that brings me to the theme of economic and trade issues.

ECONOMY AND TRADE

For one thing, this control that would need to be exerted, will need to go across the board in Sri Lanka in order to be fully consolidated, including in the areas of economy and trade. This is the usual model that the US uses, and any article that critically analyzes neoliberal policies will explain this. That way, if the government they’re dealing with, steps out of line, they would either have a very big carrot – trade or economic dependency; or a very big stick; a UNHRC resolution; or both, to put them back in check. The main aim is control.

In this light, you would recall Secretary Kerry’s statement in May this year that affirmed, that the US would “[ provide] ‘technical assistance’ to the government as it makes constitutional and democratic reforms” and that “the Commerce and Treasury departments will send advisers to help develop a plan for more investment and economic growth.”

If the United States is offering advice anywhere, in relation to commerce, investment or economic growth, it would fundamentally be based on the principles of neo-liberalism and free trade. Now everyone knows that there are advantages in this area, but more recently analysts and business people alike have flagged the dangers of this model.[ii]

  • How the focus is on growth and not equitable growth.
  • How this model benefits large multinationals but how smaller national players are unable to compete,
  • and there is further concern on how the IMF and World Bank fit into this mix as de facto state arms of the US – as was the case in Jamaica, and
  • how it results in the dangerous dependency of smaller developing states on loans.

If what Secretary Kerry talked about in May is now fleshed out in terms of negotiations, advice, or technical assistance, then there needs to be transparency with regards to those negotiations:- a clear and thorough assessment of what’s being negotiated, and how it will impact Sri Lanka’s business and farming communities.

You may recall that Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead, who served in Sri Lanka from 2003-2006 specifically describing the kind of government system that the US would support in Sri Lanka, [stated] that it is one that favours ‘market-oriented economic reform, and pro-free trade and globalization.”[iii]

In this same report he notes how the US believed ‘…that economic incentives could help motivate the domestic players to make the political choices needed…’. And this is the use of economic incentives as a carrot or stick that I was referred to earlier. And if we step back for a second, you see that this is nothing personal on the part of the US.

Because here in Sri Lanka we tend to take things very personally, but this is business as usual.

The US occupies a prominent place in global politics, Sri Lanka has always been of geopolitical significance, and what has been required over time is an accommodating government in order to safeguard US interests, and if that security is lacking, they will find other means in order to ensure compliance. When you see through that lens you start becoming aware that whatever discussions are taking place with the US, whether it is social, political, trade or economic – it is about US interests not Sri Lanka’s.

I would like to conclude [by addressing modes of evaluation conditioned by the notion that one-size-fits all].

ONE SIZE FITS ALL?

This is something that has also been debated at the UN. For instance, there is an understanding that there is no one model of development, which is what the free-trade model often tries to push for, and in the same vein, there should be overall consensus that there is no one model of reconciliation.

The minute you start operating in this one-size-fits-all mentality- you remove the context of the situation, and you’re focusing more on the model or mechanism you want to implement. The outcome has already been prejudged in that sense. The context of issues that has surrounded Sri Lanka is suddenly removed, and it becomes easy for the UN Secretary General to suddenly refer to Sri Lanka on par with Rwanda. And in turn that comparison would justify whatever mechanism that is being insisted upon.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think anyone who meaningfully works at the UN would ever want the establishment to be known as a trigger mechanism. But it is an establishment which is in the hands of its member states – and if some of its member states are turning it into a trigger mechanism for their own interests, and the rest of its member states are too politically disenfranchised to do something about it, then it is a very serious and grave problem.

And the precedence that has been set with this US-led resolution, (as it will affect every area of life in Sri Lanka), can in turn affect other developing states based on the agendas of the powerful. Which is why it’s so important that more discussions like this take place. [ENDS]

natasha  Natasha in Geneva in halcyon days 2012

FOOTNOTES

[1] Citation and points raised can be found at ‘Under the guise of protecting human rights and establishing democracy: US intervention in Sri Lanka’, Jamili Natasha Gooneratne, 2015, accessed at http://www.monitor.upeace.org/innerpg.cfm?id_article=1087#_ftnref12

[ii] Carol Morello, ‘Kerry: U.S. will deepen ties with Sri Lanka’ (2 May 2015) – accessed 24 May 2015 and 5 September 2016

[iii] Jeffrey Lunstead, ‘The United States’ Role In Sri Lanka’s Peace Process 2002 – 2006’ The Asia Foundation (2007) <http://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/SLSupplementarytoSCA.

ALSO SEE

Natasha Gooneratne 2016 “USA’s Imperial Embrace marked in 2015 … and Now Continuing,”14 July 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/07/14/usas-imperial-embrace-marked-in-2015-and-now-continuing/

Tamara Kunanayakam 2015 Tamara K’s Forecast in 2015 … Evidence Today on USA’s Penetrative Thrusts,” 9 August 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/tamara-ks-forecast-in-2015-evidence-today-on-usas-penetrative-thrusts/

Jean-Pierre Page 2016 “Placing Sri Lanka’s Woes in the International Context: Critical Comments on the Marga Readings,” 28 September 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/placing-sri-lankas-woes-in-the-international-context-critical-comments-on-the-marga-readings/#more-22634

Diana Johnstone 2016 “Smart Power International Machinations from the Hilary Clinton Camp,” 26 September 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/smart-power-international-machinations-from-the-hilary-clinton-camp/#more-22598

Michael Roberts 2015 “Lilliputs in a World of Giants: Marga and CHA bat for Lanka in the Propaganda War, 2009-14,” 18 November 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/lilliputs-in-a-world-of-giants-marga-and-cha-bat-for-lanka-in-the-propaganda-war-2009-14/#more-18467

 ADDENDUM

A NOTE from A WELLWISHER: 

According to Hassina Leelarathna’s report (http://srilankaexpress.org/ms), the following shows some of what Mangala had said in his speech to expatriates in Los Angeles. – 

“Now, after sliding for almost 70 years, Sri Lanka has finally caught a break according to the minister.  There’s hope in the horizon with “a new vision for democratization and development” being pursued by his government which came to power in 2015. “All the countries are coming forward to help us,” he declared. emphasizing that the island will be a strategic military hub in the Indian Ocean and a gateway to Asia.”

“Touching on Sri Lanka’s economic future, he said the government will take measures to make it easier for foreign investors to do business in the island as well as for foreign nationals to buy land.

In pursuit of promoting reconciliation, there was a “new political trajectory” aimed at “breaking down walls and building bridges” and putting away “past baggage.”  

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Filed under accountability, american imperialism, authoritarian regimes, China and Chinese influences, discrimination, doctoring evidence, economic processes, governance, historical interpretation, human rights, law of armed conflict, legal issues, life stories, military strategy, politIcal discourse, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, Responsibility to Protect or R2P, security, self-reflexivity, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, UN reports, war crimes, war reportage, world events & processes

2 responses to “Natasha Maurice questions the Bona Fides of the Geneva Campaign Mounted by USA

  1. Pingback: Palitha Kohona’s Review of USA’s Relations with Sri Lanka, 1948-2016 | Thuppahi's Blog

  2. Pingback: Tirimanne’S and Kohona’s Talks at GENEVA AND YOU ….. Sri Lankans You | Thuppahi's Blog

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