Commonwealth gathers momentum in Colombo
Posted on November 5th, 2013

H. L. D. Mahindapala

‚ Under normal circumstances the life span of a loose, scattered and wobbly institution like the Commonwealth of Nations does not tend to be long. It should have withered and died shortly after its birth in the London Declaration of 1949. But it survived for 64 years. Today it stands as a union of 53 heterogeneous nations yoked together under a Queen who was also the head of the extinct Empire. The unbroken continuity also speaks for its stability and viability.

‚ Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is appropriate that Sri Lanka should play its part in bringing the nations together. And the willing and friendly response of the nations to come together in Sri Lanka, despite the massive attacks, adds to the stature of President Mahinda Rajapakse as a leader who cannot be isolated or ignored in‚  the international arena. It is a resounding victory for the image of the nation. It is also a feather in the cap of the Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G. L. Peiris, who worked tirelessly to make this event happen.

‚ The transition from Empire to Commonwealth is remarkable considering the monumental contradictions that stood in the way. It was something like putting together diverse ingredients and baking the lot into one wholesome cake. ‚ One way of defining it is by highlighting the contradictions. ‚ The head of the Commonwealth is a Queen who is totally alien to most of its members. This is an institution that has no money. It depends mainly on the generosity of Britain, Canada and Australia. For a body of its size -” second only to the UN — it has no central organization with significant capacity to make it an effective international instrument to pursue a broad agenda for the good of the world. It is said that there is more staff running the UN canteen than the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House.

‚ It is not a military alliance like NATO. It is not an economic bloc like EU. It is‚  not a political organization united with a common will to achieve selected international or national goals. It has no‚  powers to enforce its decisions. It is a conglomeration of republics, monarchies, dictatorships, and democracies each doing‚  their own thing. They vary in size too. It ranges from India, the largest with a population of 1. 2 billion to Tuvalu with‚  only 12,000.‚  Some are suspended. Some withdraw. The Gambia refused to be a part of it saying that -it will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution, will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism.- It is meant to be a union of ex-colonies though. But Ireland quit after it became a republic. Others like Australia and Canada are debating whether‚  they should sever its umbilical links to the Queen and become a republic.

‚ And yet there is a queue waiting to join it. South Sudan, Madagascar and Yemen are some of the nations waiting to be admitted.‚  Its most celebrated ritual is to meet once in two years in one or the other Commonwealth country like the way big families get together for Christmas or a wedding and disperse never to meet until the next bi-annual. These meetings also have all the characteristics of one of the exclusive British clubs where deals are done on the side with a bit of influence-peddling. Above all, it remains as the remnants of an extinct volcano -” the British Empire. No other empire -” from the Roman to the Soviet Union -” left a legacy that bonded together the people who came out of a rejected colonial past.

‚ Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, however, regarded the commonwealth as a -healing process-. It is a process of not‚  forgetting the past but of forgiving the past. The sun continues to run its diurnal rounds over the Commonwealth of Nations as it did over the British empire without setting. Perhaps, what holds it together is not only the shared past but also a great degree of tolerance of each other-â„¢s differences. No‚  one tends to‚  stand over the other though of late there are some‚  signs of this obscenity raising its ugly head. And when something like that happens members rebel. Zimbabwe, rightly or wrongly,‚  quit partly due to the stand over tactics of Britain.

‚ What then is the‚  Commonwealth of Nations? Is it just a gathering of assorted nations to remember a past they hated and rejected? Or is it a bit of political theatre where the past meets the present in a bi-annual ritual to make- believe that they mean something to each other and the world at large? Where does it take them? Does it matter whether they meet or not?

‚ In essence it is diversity at its varied best looking for some bonding commonality. It is like an unwritten theme/book going in a search an author who can give it some form and meaning. It is actually nothing trying become something. If nothing else the endeavor to hang on to each other for survival alone is worth it because there is the possibility of some order coming out of a collective of differences. The fact that such an oddity exists alone is a wonder and worth recognizing and respecting it.

‚ Of‚  late, it has been gaining in importance slowly but surely. The first point to note is the eagerness of non-Commonwealth nations to join it. The second point is the presence of Prince Charles. He is coming to Colombo on a mission of his own. His main task is to impress that he is a worthy successor to his mother, the Queen. In the event of the Queen abdicating or passing away her position as the Head of the Commonwealth does not pass to Prince Charles automatically. It is up to the members to elect the next successor. He is coming to Colombo to make sure that the Crown of the Commonwealth remains within British royalty. He was first sent to school in Australia to dampen the rising republican movement and to win the hearts and minds of the Australian for British royalty. The idea was to sell the British Crown as belonging to the Commonwealth and just not to the British. Similarly the choice of Prince Charles for the Colombo CHOGM is a calculated move of the British establishment to make sure that the British Crown remains as the head of the old British empire reincarnated as the Commonwealth. Though there was local media hysteria claiming‚  that the Queen had snubbed the choice of Sri Lanka as the venue for CHOGM the hidden agenda was to ensure the succession of Prince Charles to the Crown of the Commonwealth.

‚ So when the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the current Chairperson-in-Office, passes the baton to President Mahinda Rajapakse, the latter will be the next Chairperson-in-Office until the next CHOGM is held in Mauritius in 2015. ‚ David Cameron and Stephen Harper of Canada, the fire-breathing dragons of the defunct empire, will have to deal with President Rajapakse whether they like him or not. He has stepped into the seat of the Chairperson-in Office at a critical time when the British establishment is still aiming to retain its grip on the old empire through the symbolic British Crown.

‚ Unlike other CHOGM events the Colombo meeting is threatened with unwanted unsavoury politics of boycotts (Canada) and threats of boycotts (India) and fire-breathing attacks from Britain. All three instances are driven by domestic politics which should‚  have been kept far away from CHOGM. This is the first time that the host country is under siege by some of its leading members even before they set foot in it. It smacks of -neo-colonialism-, as stated by The Gambia. In contemporary politics neo-colonialism sneaks in from various angles dressed in the Emperor-â„¢s clothes of human rights. David Cameron is due to come to Colombo waving the imperial British stick about justice and human rights. It doesn-â„¢t cut much ice at a time when Britain is paying compensation to the victims of British barbarity in colonial Kenya when‚  it was fighting for its independence.

‚ Before he lands in Colombo accusing ‚ Sri Lanka of the manner in which it ended the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War ‚ he should look up the chapter on how Britain ended World War II by carpet bombing Dresden ‚ in which 300,000 innocent Germany civilians died purely because the imperialist British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, wanted to end the war in a hurry. ‚ On the contrary, the Sri Lankan forces ended the war by saving the lives of 300,000 Tamils who were held as a human shield to protect the life of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Pol Pot who killed more Tamils than all the other forces put together, according to Tamil leaders.

‚ As for justice, someone should remind Prime Minister Cameron of how Britain reacted to the ethnic cleansing of the Chagossians from the island of Diego Garcia. When the High Court of England restored the right of the Chagossians to return to their traditional homeland in Diego Garcia -” the indigenous people were evicted forcibly by the British in 1971 for the Americans establish a base in the Indian Ocean -” an ‚ Order-in-Council issued by the Queen reversed the High Court judgment and blocked the re-entry of Chagossians to Diego Garcia. Thanks to the British imperial diktat, overriding the judgment of its own High Court, the helpless Chagossians are now‚  roaming‚  the world homeless, rootless and penniless. So much for David Cameron-â„¢s British justice!

‚ There is hope for the Commonwealth if some of the White Sahibs and the Brown Sahibs cease to exploit it as a platform to strengthen their vote banks in their domestic electorates. Besides, their claim to dictate from the‚  top of the moral high ground rings hollow because they know that there are‚  no untainted righteous men in their neck of the woods who can claim to be lily white. ‚ The Westerners pose of being morally white is only skin deep. The multi-cultural Commonwealth is all about putting‚  the past behind and getting together to build a common future for the collective benefit of all its multi-coloured members. If the White Man is bent on raising‚  the ghosts of the past they must begin from the grim graveyards they left behind, rattling‚  with the bones of innocents massacred by their predatory plunderers who spared no blacks, reds, browns or the yellows in conquests of lands that never belonged to them.

‚ When they came to conquer there were no enforceable laws, national or international, to punish them for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. They made their own laws as they went along to grab the land with impunity. They declared that the imperialist White Man was the legal owner because their legal fictions proclaimed that there were no prior owners. There was no UN Charter or human rights activists to protect the helpless victims of imperial conquests. That came later when they were leaving. Before leaving they introduced‚  international humanitarian law which gave them the upper hand in manipulating global institutions and norms to dominate the world they were forced to leave. International humanitarian law, applied only to small, ex-colonies, is viewed suspiciously as legal concoctions to retain the neo-colonial grip of the old colonial ‚ masters. When they came‚  first they brought with them the missionaries to -civilize the natives- -” meaning that Christianity was their -soft power- to ideologically tame the resisting natives and make them obedient to their alien rule. Now they bank‚  roll their hired claque in NGOs to do their dirty work of defending, promoting and retaining their neo-colonial grip under the legal fictions of international humanitarian law which does not apply to drones killing civilians in Afghanistan or ethnic cleansing in Diego Garcia.

‚ Take the case of Sri Lanka. The UN report blamed three parties: 1. the LTTE, ‚ 2. the Sri Lankan government and 3. the UN itself. Of these ‚ the intense focus has been only on Sri Lanka. The Western accusers insist on punishing only Sri Lanka virtually exonerating the other two. Why only Sri Lanka and not the other two? Quite a lot of them are in, Britain and India. In Britain there is Adele Balasingham, -the White Aunty-, as she was known among the Tamil under-aged girls whom she trained as killers and suicide bombers. Leading Tamil churchmen, who sat on the right hand side of Prabhakaran, the Tamil Pol Pot (New York Times), as if they were sitting on the right hand God, justified the stoking of fires of racist‚  extremism which resulted in the violence against‚  the Sinhalese,. Quoting the Bible, they raised funds to promote terrorism, violating UN Security Council Resolution 1373. These agents of terrorism act openly in UK with David Cameron looking the other way. What would David Cameron do if he found an Adele Balasingham, who trained forces to terrorize UK, in his backyard and front yard too?

‚ Take also the case of UNHRC. The 33-year-old war ended on May 18, 2009. Ms. Navi Pillay, head of the UNHRC, drafted her speech slamming Sri Lanka on May 25, 2009 -” i.e., within seven (7) days, without any substantial report from any credible source, without any valid statistics, without‚  any studies on the ground realities in the aftermath of the war and without any acceptable guidelines, except‚  hearsay, for her to act. She had only the draft copy of the EU Resolution ‚ against Sri Lanka to guide her. Can a responsible head of an international organization dealing with ‚ human‚  rights, at that, accuse a member state on assumptions without substantial evidence backing her case? What was her hurry -” within 7 days, mark you — ‚ to fall in line with the anti-Sri Lankan machinations of the EU? Why did she fail to wait for non-political and non-partisan institutions to present whatever evidence was available? Why did she compromise her independence and objectivity in rushing into places where angels fear to tread?

‚ Second, she accused Sri Lanka by selectively picking only the happenings in the last five months of a 33-year-old war. Why only the last five months? As the watchdog of global human rights it was her moral and legal duty to take into account the violations of international humanitarian law that occurred throughout the entire 33 years of the Vadukoddai War. But that would have meant including ‚ (a) the Indian IPKF, (b) Western nations ‚ ending‚  their backyards as havens for raising funds for terrorism in Sri Lanka, (c) the entire Tamil leadership who were actively in the camp of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Pol Pot, who was guilty of mass murders, war crimes and crimes against humanity, (d) the UN itself turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Tamil Pol Pot. ‚ So she conveniently skips 32 years and seven months and focuses only on the last five months in which the Sri Lankan government fought to save 300,000 Tamil civilians held as a human shield to ‚ protect the retreating Tamil Tigers. Isn-â„¢t this a deliberate ploy to exonerate the other guilty parties who were involved in the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War waged by the Tamil terrorists?

‚ Third, after the Cold War the global agenda turned to fight terrorism to protect and restore democracy. Sri Lanka represent‚  the classic‚  example of defeating fascist terror comprehensively with the minimum of casualties. It did not end the war with the‚  use of weapons of mass destruction as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nor did it end up in the dead-end of Iraq where, after toppling Saddam Hussein ten years ago and after investing $60 billion to restore democracy, peace and stability during that ten years, America, the super power, is still nowhere near stabilizing Iraq. In contrast, what Sri Lanka has achieved‚  within four years, without $60 billion dollars, without American contractors and expertise, without the backing of super powers, and with all conceivable hostile anti-Sri Lankan interventions of I/NGOs and UN institutions thrown to block its way to recovery, ‚ is remarkable by any comparative standards.

‚ The greatest triumph is‚  not only in ending a war that was rated as -unwinnable- but, more‚  importantly, in liberating the Tamils who were kept under the jackboot‚  of Tamil Pol Pot. Restoration of democracy to the north for the first‚  time in its entire‚  history is a landmark that history cannot erase. ‚ 

‚ This‚  is not to claim that Sri Lanka has finally reached El Dorado. It means that with great sacrifices Sri Lanka has made a great start for a new beginning on the road to the peace, reconciliation and‚  democracy. Raking up the past for‚  vindictive politics is not going to redeem the past. The past must be remembered only to get away from‚  it.

‚ As the second largest international body next to the UN the Commonwealth has an opportunity to carve out a new path, without the eviscerating and crippling big power politics that bedevil global peace and stability. It-â„¢s strength so far has been ‚ the pro-active role of the Secretariat to prevent it becoming a tool for member states to meddle in each other-â„¢s domestic affairs. Keeping the Commonwealth away from the menacing and exacerbating intervention of big power politics accounts for most of its success. Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary General, has stood up for the Commonwealth of Nations and its independence. He has not given in to the arm-twisting and hypocritical politics of Canada and Britain. His neutrality is essential to hold the Commonwealth together and make it work for the good of all. ‚ He has dealt with the latest issues raised by Canada and Britain in his quiet, diplomatic way without letting them blow up into a major confrontation. He has deftly stymied ‚ the Tamil separatist ‚ agents ‚ who had successfully penetrated and manipulated‚ the Canadian and British establishments.

‚ The task of the Colombo CHOGM is to make it a viable institution for the‚  future. Not to wallow in the blood and bitter bile of its past. If, however, there are those who insist on revisiting the past to revive vindictive politics in the guise of human rights then it is nothing but fair that they ‚ must go as far back as the time when the barbarity of the colonial masters ‚ knew no limits.

‚ There is no future in the failed past. The Colombo CHOGM has the opportunity to redefine and reconfirm the goals of the Commonwealth by rejecting the past and paving the path to a promising new future.

10 Responses to “Commonwealth gathers momentum in Colombo”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Colombo CHOGM should be its LAST!

    Commonwealth is a SHAME for people in former colonies.

    Commonwealth is all about reminding them, “YOU WERE OUR SUBJECTS”. “YOU STILL ARE!”.

  2. Sirih Says:

    I still believe this is massive waste of tax payers money..
    I have a invitation for the business forum and will be there to see how things evolve re. foreign investment support for the local industry.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Our thanks to HLD for this analysis of CHOGM.

    If CHOGM is to become a meaningful organization, strong and respected, then CHOGM must become a platform from where truth and justice is done.

    Sri Lanka leaders must present the lies, cheat & deceit of CH-4 and others via CHOGM, and seek redress. Lanka should also seek ways to protect herself, copying some of the British methods, such as deporting illegal migrants. Britain protects herself very well. Lanka must copy British methods of self protection of the Nation. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery.

  4. callistus Says:

    ලෝරන්ස් මහත්මයා හෝ මහත්මියට එතරම් දුර නොපෙනේ

  5. Marco Says:

    Author HLDM states that holding the CHOGM is a resounding victory for the image of the nation. I beg to differ.
    I would concur the delegates would enjoy the hospitality and experience the delights of Sri Lanka can offer but i doubt very much Pres Rajapakse can foresee the challenges he faces during the conference and his 2 year tenure as Head of CHOGM. The spotlight will be firmly fixed on him and on Sri Lanka .
    CHOGM is a waste of taxpayers money and lets face its of no relevance or clout in current geopolitical sense.

    If rather foolishly Pres Rajapakse (not exactly an ardent fan of the Commonweath values) thinks that by hosting the CHOGM and securing the 2 year tenure he can repair his dented credibility within the international community he is sadly ill advised and mistaken.

    I also note the praiseworthy comment on SG Kamalesh Sharma by the author for his neutrality and diplomacy. Think i would “park” that for future reference.

    On a lighter note, i have never seen Rosemead Place so clean, white washed (not at owners expense may i add) and looking splendid to welcome Prince Charles.

  6. Nanda Says:

    ලෝරන්ස් ට දුර නොපෙනුනාට​, වර්තමාණය ඉතා හොඳින් අඳුනා ගත හැක.

  7. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    To quote the article:”Under normal circumstances the life span of a loose, scattered and wobbly institution like the Commonwealth of Nations does not tend to be long. It should have withered and died shortly after its birth in the London Declaration of 1949. But it survived for 64 years. Today it stands as a union of 53 heterogeneous nations yoked together under a Queen who was also the head of the extinct Empire. The unbroken continuity also speaks for its stability and viability.”

    In order to understand this anomaly I go back to the Bolshevik revolution of Russia which took place in 1917. Their revolution ushered in Communism and with it Collectivism to the harsh degree that large numbers of people started starving since that system did not work. It was then that Vladimir Lenin made a few changes such as giving the farmers a certain level of independence to sell their products for a profit. That little change allowed Communism to reign for another 70 years while most of the Russian population suffered and then in the 1980’s the Soviet Union and its Communist system collapsed.

    The Commonwealth is similar and according to the article it contradicts its validity in every form and yet it survives. The question is how much longer before new systems of wealth render the commonwealth of nations obsolete and like the Soviet Empire implode on it own contradictions.

    Currently Sri Lanka is going to host the Commonwealth but many nations including India, Canada, the UK have used this meeting to push their agenda of human rights with implications of whether they will attend or not. Canada has already used human rights based on a Channel 4 video which has not received any objective analysis to cancel her presence. Similar threats are coming from India and the UK. That is not supposed to be part of the Commonwealth meeting and yet it is now a potent force.

    Keeping this in mind what other issues will more powerful nations use to penalize the host nation according to their whim and fancy and by doing that only render the commonwealth of nations that much insignificant for at the end of the day Sri Lanka can fully thrive if she never hosted the Commonwealth and by that avoid this constant attacks of human rights based on a questionable material.

  8. Christie Says:

    As of any other empire the emperor is the last to decide whether to attend or not to attend. So we just have to wait to grace the greatest emperor of the day. As he is waiting to colonies’ Mars he is on top of the Universe. The terrorist arm of the Indian Empire branded Tamil Tigers have been wiped out by the Sinhala army with the help of CHina, Israel, USA, Pakistan and other countries.

    The CHOGM that Sri Lanka is hosting is the start of a new direction and CH-OGM and stands for CHina and the rest could be OrGasM or anything else.

    The party goers to the orgy will be taken along a CHinese built freeway and will be held at Chinese built buildings. The largest group to grace the occasion is the Chinese Trade Mission.

    No wonder PM Singh is in a mess.

    I feel sorry for Harper a victim of the Indian Intelligence Service, the Third Eye who managed to pump more than 300,000 Indian colonial parasites from Sri Lanka, India and other parts of the Indian Empire.

  9. Indrajith Says:

    Once again this is another excellent article by Mr. Mahindapala. Thank you, sir for reminding us some very valuable points! Hope the international community, specially Canadian, British & Indian people and local Colombians will read it.

    I just want to add one important point to the item (d) in para18 where it says ‘the UN itself turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Tamil Pol Pot’. The UN not only turned blind eye to atrocities committed, but also criminally responsible for not informing to Sri Lankan authorities when LTTE kidnapped two Tamil UN workers from Vanni in 2008 to blame the govt. of SL. Instead, the UN secretly negotiated with LTTE for the release of them. Since the armed forces came to know about this clandestine affair between the UN and the terrorists, the UN staff in Colombo had to apologise to GOSL, as I remember. The LTTE couldn’t achieve its goal of blaming the GOSL as the news leaked to the security forces prematurely. How is that?

  10. Piyadigama Says:

    ලොරෙන්සෝ ඉතා තීක්‍ෂණ නුවණින් හෙබිය​. ඔහු වැනි දේශප්‍රේමී දෙමළ සගයන් ඉතා දුර්ලභය​. ඔහුට අපේ සහයෝගය දිය යුතුය​.

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