Khobragade Affair
Posted on February 5th, 2014

Mahinda Gunasekera Toronto, Canada

Your Excellencies and Editors,

 I am in receipt of a letter dated January 12, 2014 on the ‘Khobragade Affair’ by one Mr. Thepanis Alwis from the Town of Baddegama located in the south of Sri Lanka.  Mr. Alwis has looked at the issues from many angles and seems to have a deep understanding of the American systems and treatment meted out to non-European persons even of diplomatic standing.

I was amazed to read this news of the humiliating and degrading manner in which Ms. Khobragade was dealt with by India’s newest strategic partner with whom she even joined hands to beat up on her tiny neighbor, Sri Lanka, on unsubstantiated allegations of HR violations at the prior UNHRC sessions in Geneva.  Sri Lanka has initiated her own process to inquire into and take action for any wrongdoings if any on the part of her security forces as recommended by the Presidential Commission referred to as the LLRC as any other sovereign nation would without undue interference from outside parties.  All what Sri Lanka seeks is necessary time and space to resolve her internal issues in a fair and just manner following a conflict which lasted over three decades, including the resettlement of nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians who were forced to move with the retreating Tamil Tiger forces to be exploited for their labour, conscripted into the fighting forces to replace fallen cadres and lastly to be used as a human shield.  They were civilians aligned with the LTTE terrorists who underwent military training as part of a people’s army, who were engaged in the making of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), who provided various support services for the fighting cadres such as digging bunkers and ditches, building high earthen defensive walls, supplying ammo for cadres at the front, and other combat related roles which raised many questions as to their being ‘genuine civilians’. 

We are aware that the USA is the biggest violator of human rights of the indigenous native peoples of America and people of African descent taken in chains to work as slaves, and of recent times citizens of other countries such as Iraq, Libya, etc. being invaded on false premises to gain control of valuable resources not caring if those countries were bombed into oblivion killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions.  I am also aware that India too has a poor record in respect of human rights of her own people with violent skirmishes still going on in many theatres. Even the IPKF is accused of human rights violations during their military intervention in Sri Lanka’s north in terms of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 1987. But our dear neighbor and one deemed a friend with whom we have close ties going back over two millennia, who is a signatory to the Pancha Seela Pact of Bandung and the UN Convention on non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations even trained and armed the Tamil militants to destabilize her tiny neighbor Sri Lanka. India’s decisions and actions are not based on principles but on electoral arrangements with regional parties and alliances entered into with other super powers in the hope of gains.

Yours truly,

Mahinda Gunasekera
Toronto, Canada

Encl.   

The Khobragade Affair

 On 12 December 2013, Mrs. Devyani Khobragade, the Deputy Indian Consul in New York, was arrested when she went to a school to pick up her children. She was handcuffed and taken to a police station where she was strip-searched, including manual probes of her anus and vagina, had swabs taken for DNA testing, and was then locked in a cell with ordinary criminals till she was allowed bail. The charge sheet was, in summary, “making a false statement on a US government document at the US embassy in New Delhi and under-paying her housemaid in New York in violation of a contract and US minimum wage laws”. It was another outrageous example of misconduct and abuse of authority by a US police department, so totally uncalled for, to humiliate an Indian diplomat when a court summons to answer the charges would have sufficed. No one can believe that such a violation of a person would have ever taken place if it was a European diplomat who was on a similar charge. In 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Frenchman, the head of the IMF, was involved in a rape in a New York hotel and was arrested. Would he have been strip-searched and cavity probed? Never! He was a European and White.

 The current Indian government must take some responsibility for this very public humiliation of an Indian official. Highly placed Indian officials have been humiliated by US authorities on numerous occasions to muted protests by the Indian government while India dared not take similar reciprocal action against US officials in India. In 2009, the distinguished Indian nuclear scientist and former President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, was singled out for frisking by US Continental Airlines officers at New Delhi airport before he boarded a plane to New York. In 2011 President Kalam had already been through security at New York JFK Airport and boarded an Air India plane preparing for take off when US security officers forcibly entered the plane and removed his coat and shoes for examination for explosives. In December 2010, Indian Ambassador to the US, Mrs. Meera Shankar, on her way to speak at Mississippi State University, was singled out for a body “pat down” at Mississippi airport despite the information that she was the highest ranking Indian diplomat in the country. Leading Indian actor, Shah Rukh Khan, has been detained at US airports for hours for questioning every time he arrives in the USA that he jokes about it. These are only a few of the indignities suffered by prominent Indians in the USA.

 After every such episode a US official would issue a simple apology while insisting it is within their right to search anyone at airports. Can you imagine such treatment being meted out to comparable European leaders like ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair or ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy? Such treatment, Indians and other non-Europeans must understand, is reserved for them.

 Sri Lanka, which endured three decades of terror unimaginable in Western society, never imposed such humiliating measures at airports or elsewhere on foreign diplomats or any other foreigners. In fact, it allowed foreign diplomats to visit terrorist strongholds and have sympathetic meetings with terrorist leaders. Norwegian peace brokers even smuggled sensitive military material like telecommunications to the terrorists while the supine Sri Lanka government of the time raised no objection.

 The two main charges against Indian diplomat Mrs. Khobragade, in summary, are that (1) she made a false visa application declaration at the US embassy in India that the wages to be paid to her maid, Sangeeta Richard, would be $9.75 per hour with an 8 hour work day and two days off per week, plus medical benefits and paid sick leave, and (2) that she paid her only $575 a month (Indian Rs.30,000) while she had no 8 hour work day and no off days

 Making a false declaration to the US government is an offense that could result in punishment, depending on the gravity of the circumstances and the stature of the person. People are punished but not always. In March 2012, General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, repeatedly lied on oath at a US Congressional hearing denying that the NSA was tapping into US citizens’ phone calls and e-mails, despite the fact that whistleblower Snowden had exposed the scandal and provided incontrovertible proof of it. Government officials regularly lie to deny malfeasance. Again the next year, he officially denied NSA searching through Google and Yahoo communications by the public when it was patently untrue. US officials at the highest level kept denying that the government widely tortured prisoners in secret prisons despite ample proof and official documents to the contrary. No one is punished for these grave offenses. People should be punished for deliberately making false statements to the government or the public but then the rule must be applied with an even hand to all.

 Enforcement of the minimum wage is another area where the rules are often bent. Millions of undocumented illegal immigrants from South America are employed in farms and factories in the Southern US states in inhuman conditions and paid a fraction of the official minimum wage. Since these faceless people are essential for farming, it is rarely that state officials launch prosecutions. There are also exemptions to the minimum wage as restaurant and other service workers could be paid $4 or a little more per hour while they must strive to earn more by way of service tips from customers.

 That the Indian diplomat underpaid her maid is true but there are some extenuating circumstances. The minimum wage in New York is $8, not $9.75. Even if the maid was paid at the rate of $9.75 per hour for an 8 hour work day with the week-ends off, she would have received around $1560 per month. New York City is the most expensive place in the USA and her board, lodging and transport to the workplace would be at least a minimum of $2,000 a month, even to survive under the meanest conditions. Instead, she was lodged and fed in the diplomat’s comfortable house and her occasional financial needs, and presumably medical needs, were met. Additionally, $575 was sent monthly to her family in India, a large sum of money for any ordinary Indian family. What a clever US employer would have done in the circumstances would be to sign a separate contract with the maid to lodge and feed her for a sum of $1,500 which would be deducted from her salary!

 The Indian government was outraged because there was evidence that this was a planned sting operation by the US authorities. The maid’s husband worked for the US embassy in India as a motor vehicle driver. Before Mrs. Khobragade was arrested and humiliated, the maid’s husband and children were given special visas and flown to the USA by the embassy at US expense and are also probably maintained there at US expense. It was then that the maid disappeared from her employer’s house.  Further evidence was disclosed by Mrs. Khobragade’s sister in India who had a letter sent earlier by the maid to her family stating that she was being treated very kindly by Mrs. Khobragafe and that she was very happy.

 Whatever the merits of the US legal system and the US postures on human rights, the Indian public has realized that the world’s sole super power reserves the right to humble any non-European nation, even if it as large and as important as India. Will the Indian government in turn realize that it is more important to have good relations with its Asian neighbours than seek the favour of a distant super-power through subservience?

 Thepanis Alwis

Baddegama, Sri Lanka.

12 January 2014.

7 Responses to “Khobragade Affair”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Indians fully deserve this service from their masters. They are masters at sucking up to white masters. May be they will give the same service to Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh next time.

  2. Sirih Says:

    “If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas”
    Indians have no self respect, will suck up to any one to, get ahead.

  3. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    This issue of punishing Sri Lanka on human right violations- DURING A TIME OF WAR is not only dragging on, it is growing in the number and scope of accusations trumped up without verification, without a thorough investigation, without the rule of law.

    I propose a simple short cut that is hard and merciless. Colombo needs to go to those nations who will side with her and get a guarantee of support and commerce. Once that is achieved Colombo does her own investigation, fact finding backed up with evidence including video footage and bring it to the UNHRC with copies to all the nations including those who are allies to Sri Lanka and to those who have aligned against Sri Lanka and make it clear as far as Sri Lanka is concerned the issue is ended.

    If any nation continues this bullying process then close their embassy and send them back. In the same vein close the Sri Lankan embassy in that land. Simply put severe all ties. This has been done during the Cold war. If this cabal of nations accusatory actions are very similar to a cold war after the real war had ended. Time for Colombo to take control of the issue and take this issue from the hands of the UK, US, India, and any other nation wishing to punish Sri Lanka. With the support of China, Russia and other nations Sri Lanka will be in charge and not be on the defensive.

    To bring up this again would be similar to bringing up past transgressions of other nations who have put those issues to an end. Sri Lanka has the right to be treated with respect and if not then respect to those who belittle Sri Lanka will not get any respect either. Time to move on. This especially applies to the TNA, Tamil Nadu, and the 13th amendment. Finally to give an example even Cambodia under Pol Pot got more respect.

  4. bathgediya Says:

    The Indian Govt. believes that it is still a colony of “Great Britain”.
    They certainly deserve to be treated like the pathetic, subservient scum they are!

  5. jayasiri Says:

    I agree with Mr. Bernard Wijesinghe……..It is upto Sri Lanka to teach other nations HOW WE SHOULD BE TREATED. If that is done in the past, this TYPE OF BULLLYING would not have happened.

    EVEN now it is not too late to chnge our foreign policy, and entrust our embassis with EDUCATED & long standing, experised in dealing with foeign countries.

    WE HAVE notied what happens when ONLY POLITICAL AFFILIATIONS are used to SELECT & post Ambassodors, High Commissioners to our Consulates / Embassies abroad.

    This should happen concurrently with Geneva March 2014 resolution. We cannot ignore that, BUT after NO MORE RESOLUTIONS or any accomodating such issues anymore. UK has refused to present itself for charges laid by ICC & got away with it. USA has said it will NOT prosecute their soldiers who were found GUILTY of WAR CRIMES.

    WHY always Sri Lanka is singled out for this type of treatment? ..IT IS TIME for our leaders to speak up & show them, that we are NOT GOING TO TAKE IT MORE…………J

  6. Christie Says:

    This woman Devyani Khobragade is no different to the Indian Diplomat Mr. Dixit who was responsible for the Indian terrorist arm Tamil Tigers and their actions. Both were employees of the Indian Foreign Services the most elite lot who are responsible to look after the affairs of the Indian Empire. She is a high caste Indian woman who is married to an Indian in the US.
    The Chief Attorney of the US, a US Indian Preet Bharra defended the actions taken by his department, Immigration authorities and the Police.
    What is wrong with the authorized persons doing a cavity search of this women like any other person who has committed an indictable crime? Is she sacred? She might be for some of the so called defenders of Sinhalese.
    Not only this woman exploited a poor low case Indian woman she and her father had made millions of dollars from fraudulent land dealings in India. She is no baby mates her father is a high ranking

  7. Christie Says:

    …Indian Officer and uncle an IFS officer.

    India got her out of US authorities by appointing her to the Indian UN Mission in New York. I suspect she is involved with other UN missions in New YORK to facilitate the US war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka.

    Her husband is a rich US Indian who is a Professor and a vine grower and a producer. They got enough money to pay for a local domestic. India could have provided a maid but they do not because then they have to employ them.

    This woman, her family and the agents of the Indian government are harassing Sangeeta Richards’
    s family in India with Court proceedings and other means. Sangeeta’s huaband was employed by an African Nation’s Embassy in New Delhi.

    My hats off to the US and Richards Family.

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