US Peace Institute invites charlatans and liars to promote peace in Sri Lanka
Posted on August 29th, 2009

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The Vadukoddai War launched officially in the Vadukoddai Resolution passed by the Jaffna leadership on May 14, 1976 ended on May 18, 2009 in Nanthi Kadal lagoon, eliminating all hopes of achieving the goal of a separate state through military means.  The military solution endorsed as Plan A in the Vadukoddai Resolution backfired and those who relied on the violence endorsed in it are licking their wounds, either in hideouts in Sri Lanka or in seminars abroad.

Their fall back position in Plan B is to mobilize international backing to gain what they lost in the battlefield. Post-mortems are popping up in seminars globally partly to manipulate the international community regain, partly to regain the lost international sympathy, partly to boost their sagging egos after Velupillai Prabhakaran went down in the Nanthi Kadal lagoon and partly to keep the money flowing in from far-flung network.

Not surprisingly, NGOs have joined hands with the defeated remnants of the Tiger terrorists in the Tamil diaspora to fan the dying embers of the war into another conflagration, if possible. These politicized NGOs have a lot to loose if the issues of the Vadukoddai War are snuffed out. To begin with, the foreign funding sources will dry up and they will be forced to give up their expensive life-styles outside, of course, the cocktail circuit of Western diplomats in Colombo. After Nanthi Kadal lagoon they lost their power to meddle in the domestic affairs under the pretence of being in possession of the magic solution to end the Vadukoddai War launched by the Jaffna jingoists. They have also their lost their self-appointed role as peace-makers too. They are now in a vacuum and are running scared, fearing the prospects of being unemployed. Their only hope of surviving is by re-igniting the fires of the lost Vadukoddai War.

But the Jaffna jingoists in the Tamil diaspora are flushed with millions of the unspent Tiger collections. Their problem is finding a way of spending it now that their $300 million killing machine went down in the Nanathi Kadal lagoon. So they are spending it lavishly on the second front abroad. To the Tiger supporters in the diaspora and their allies in the NGOs a seminar, right now, is war by other means. Lobbying foreign offices and financing mainly left-wing parliamentarians, or selling Tamil votes in exchange for political support are strategies pursued with renewed vigour as desperate moves to increase the pressures on the Sri Lankan government to give into their demands which they lost in Nanthi Kadal lagoon.

The latest seminar is in America. Teresita C. Schaffer, the director of South Asia Programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank, and former American Ambassador to Sri Lanka, is running it for the US Institute of Peace (USIP) which is a prestigious body established by the Congress. USIP, however, has not paid much attention to Sri Lanka in the past. Its main focus has been the Middle East and Africa. Suddenly, it has turned its attention to Sri Lanka and invited Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternative and Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council. Then in October A. T. Ariyaratne is billed to speak on his Gandhian approach to peace in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankans are well aware that these three names are inter-connected particularly in their cut-throat competitions to get the dwindling dollars in their kitties. They are also known as peace-merchants with a considerable capacity to use the common clichĮՠթs used frequently in the lucrative peace industry. The invitations extended to these notorious peace-merchants of Sri Lanka is intriguing, more so because Ms. Schaffer is moderating it. These three are characters known to her during her tenure as Ambassador to Sri Lanka. So it is not far-fetched to assume that it is a case of birds of a feather clucking together.

According to Ms. Schafer’s advertisement (or is it USIP’s?) these two NGO pundits are billed as “two prominent individuals from Sri Lanka’s civil society who are working to secure a lasting peace in the country.” USIP/Ms.Schaffer also claim that these two guest speakers will show “the pathways to a sustainable peace and reconciliation.” Those who know the recent history of the 33-year Vadukoddai War would justifiably conclude that these puffs could have come only from those who write one-liners to Jay Leno for his audience to laugh. If they are so good, as advertised by USIP/Ms. Schaffer, how come these two NGO apparatchiks failed in all the years they worked “as prominent individuals of Sri Lanka’s civil society”¦.to secure a lasting peace in the country”? Or to get anywhere near it?

But, more importantly, what does USIP/Ms.Schaffer hope to contribute to peace and stability with these two hired hacks? Can this charivari produce anything constructive to the war-weary people of Sri Lanka? It has on its staff scholars of repute. It is also linked to big names in the international community, from Condolleza Rice to Jimmy Carter. Though it is known as a body committed to promote peace it is also clouded in much controversy as to whose peace it intends to promote. In fact, when President George Bush appointed anti-Islamic Pipe as its head the Arab world, in particular, was up in arms protesting against his appointment.

This indicates that the USIP is not much different from many other NGOs, INGOs despite its claim to be an independent organization. If it is independent, as it claims, why is it that USIP has a tendency to invite only like-minded apparatchiks? Is it by coincidence that these so-called independent bodies invite only Tweedledums and Tweedledees? Take the case of Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera “”…” the Tweedle-dumbos from Sri Lanka. Their biggest contribution will be to do what they normally do: demonize Sri Lanka. How can USIP, or the genuine peace lovers benefit from the usual complaints made by these two charlatans whose contribution to peace in Sri Lanka has been as oceanic as ant’s urine?

A critical question that needs to be asked is: how will the presence/participation of these two invitees help to achieve the USIP’s mission and goals which are to (1) prevent internationalƒÆ’‚¯ƒ¢-¡‚¬  and resolve violent conflicts (2) promote post-conflict stability and development and (3) increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital Worldwide. These goals are commendable but how can two failed theoreticians from Sri Lanka help USIP to achieve any one of its goals. Of course, their record proves incontrovertibly that they failed in (1) and have not provided any credible evidence to prove that they are capable of achieving (3) either. At best, they can be expected to contribute something to (2) though that too is in doubt considering their past record.

 Of the three criteria of USIP what is most relevant to Sri Lanka right now is (2) “”…” the promotion of post-conflict stability and development. Judging by their past performances can the war-weary Sri Lankans, who are now waiting expectantly in the post-conflict period, expect anything positive from these two peace merchants whose counter-productive attacks on Sri Lanka exceeds that of the Vadukoddai war-mongers? They have consistently skimmed over the war crimes and the crimes against humanity by the Tamil tiger terrorists because it undermines their one-eyed theories of blaming either the Sinhala-Buddhist south or the Sri Lankan government.

 Their partisan approach focused exclusively on the infirmities of the Sri Lankan government “”…” all of which were common to other democracies engaged in combating terrorists. They even blame the Sri Lankan government for ending the 33-year-old war within 2 ½  years without taking the advice of the David Milliband and Richard Kouchner to stop the war at the most critical stage. They would, of course, raise the human rights issues and ask for international investigations as a first steps towards reconciliation. They would harp on the IDPs who are being screened in Menik camp as if America had released the Germans after World War II without screening them for Nazi connections. De-Nazification was an official policy of US and some researchers have written books claiming that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was so bitter with the Germans that he starved them. In the IDP camps in Sri Lanka they are given three meals a day and, according to BBC, contractors are making money hand over fist by supplying food. 

 But why should Paki or Jehan focus on these issues when their bread is buttered with dollops of foreign currency? Their passage to USIP or any other American institute depends on how well they denigrate Sri Lanka. Clearly, no one in their proper senses will deny that stability in the post-conflict period can come primarily by promoting development and this needs analysis, planning, scrutiny and careful implementation. But in their presentations they will have no constructive road map to go into the future. They will speak in generalities and divert attention to the failures of the government which is tasked to fulfill the needs of the north and east within three months.

 Apart from that development and stability need aid. But Paki and Jehan are busy lobbying to cut aid. Will they urge at USIP that the West should give more aid for stability and development or will they argue to cut aid because the government is not fulfilling their criteria on selected issues from their political agenda? My bet is that they will run down Sri Lanka with the ulterior motive of cutting off aid. These two are quite used to playing their conventional role of perverted nurses who pinch the baby and rock the cradle.

Last but not the least, let me deal with A. T. Ariyaratne “”…” one of the best known cheats in the NGO circuit. He is due to speak on the topic of: In the Footsteps of Gandhi: Creating a Culture of Inter-Religious Peace in Sri Lanka. USIP has advertised him in the following text: “For over two decades, Sri Lanka has been beset with a civil war fought between government forces and a minority insurgent group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which seeks an independent Tamil state on the island country. Although rooted mainly in ethnic, linguistic, and political differences, religion has also come to play a role in the identity-dynamics shaping the conflict and its beleaguered peace process. Elements of the majority Sinhala Buddhist population in Sri Lanka argue against peace with the Tamils, who are predominantly Hindu, in defense of Buddhism. Meanwhile, the minority Muslim population, composing Sri Lanka’s third major ethnic group, is often caught in the cross-fire of war, and the Christian minority population has been accused of unethical conversion practices and targeted violently.”

The picture is painted in subtle terms to project the Buddhists as targeting Hindus, Muslims and Christians. This text could have been written only by the USIP, or by Ariyaratne. If the USIP wrote it, it would have been with the advice and consent of Ariyaratne. Jointly or severally, they have presented the Vadukoddai War as a “religious” war between the Buddhists and all other religionists. The religious element is woven in subtly when the blurb says that “religion has also come to play a role in the identity-dynamics shaping the conflict and its beleaguered peace process”. Then it goes on to add: “Elements of the majority Sinhala Buddhist population in Sri Lanka argue against peace with the Tamils, who are predominantly Hindu, in defense of Buddhism.” Which serious and credible analysts have ever come down to this kind of lies? When did the Hindus and Buddhist clash in this Vadukoddai War? 

This makes Ariyaratne, who would have seen this text by now and done nothing about it, a cheap and venal liar. Of course, he has spent a life time selling Buddhism and Gandhism as his main products. His greatest contribution to Sri Lankan peace has been to march from one suburb to another mainly to video the parade as an earth-shattering event that would bring about peace.  These marches are a charade to hoodwink foreign donors to make them believe that he is the Gandhi of Sri Lanka moving the masses towards peace. The ulterior motive, however, is to market the video abroad to rake in more foreign funding and also to grab as many peace awards as possible to boost his image for soliciting more foreign funds.

Now if USIP thinks that it can serve the cause of peace in Sri Lanka with Ariyaratne’s concocted lies and cheap tricks then it must think again. Independent commissions of inquiries into his money-making rackets have exposed him as a cheat too. So USIP must probe the advisors who recommend these racketeers as agents for peace. These are qualified professionals who are adepts in selling the misery of the war-weary people of Sri Lanka for a fistful of dollars. People of Sri Lanka deserve better than this. And so does USIP.

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