Doubting the morality of International relations: A healthy suspicion of the Sri Lankan mind
Posted on September 21st, 2009

Dr D.Chandraratna, Australia

The drama of international relations played in the portals of Colombo has done all of us a favour. And that is the suspicion and doubt that it has created in the minds of thinking people.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The aggressiveness of diplomacy in the past few months have prompted us to question the validity of theories, assumptions and conjectures propoundedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  by academics, pundits and many others on inter state relations. It can be called an awakening from our centuries of slumber, or ignorance, gullibility, slavish mentality and many more. Sri Lankans, the intellectuals in particular, must be happy that we have been offered this rare opportunity to think for ourselves and think differently. I wonder whether the readers of these columns now feel and think the way many of us do.

Our interpretation of diplomacy and international relations has changed. We are now firmly of the opinion that BBC political analysesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  are biased, reports are written by people who have a poor understanding of other peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s business, published political commentaries are superficial, foreign policies of the powerful nations can be inimical to the well being and security of Sri Lanka. International relations do not search for the truth anymore; the self interest of organisations, countries, and ulterior gains lie at the heart of pronouncements and actions. Hence we have a healthy suspicion that international dramas are con tricks of international relations, not any different from the tricks played by well dressed tricksters lurking at the New York Bus exchange waiting to pounce on unsuspecting hapless tourists to the Big Apple. The only difference is that the international game is played by well dressed educated people in the suites and hotel rooms of Geneva, Zurich and other corridors of power in Washington, New York, and London. Self interest of some states are paramount to the decisions arrived, ostensibly for the well being of less powerful ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”othersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But they are couched in the language of human ethics, normative standards, values and inclusivity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Regrettably though, we are beginning to develop a healthy suspicion to all these claims.

The Window Dressing Technique.

This paradigm is not new. It has been described as Window Dressing in International relations. Our attention was drawn to this technique by authors and analysts including Ralph Milliband, who wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”The State in Capitalist SocietyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. (Wonder whether David Milliband has read the text). But most of us were unconsciously aligned to the Western mind set and hence easily discounted this as a riposte to the hypocrisy of the colonial imperialism.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It is only now that we are beginning to understand that international concerns are rarely underpinned by human values and concerns. They have to be seen in the correct perspective from now on as projections of self interested state parties, usually the powerful nations, camouflaged in humanitarian rhetoric. The underlying truth is that beneath the rhetoric lie the brutal realities of power and self interest nicely dressed in appealing, suave, civilised language.



So when we see a projectile appearing in the horizon, be forewarned. A Channel 4 Video, a CNN commentary, IDP lament, resettlement concern, North East Monsoon, devolution, discrimination are nothing but instruments to further the self interest of some party. Therefore when well paid human rights angels are aggressively pursuing war crimes, human right violations, global environment and world peace we have to look underneath. This duplicity is played quite openly now with regard to global warming. Until the developed nations are feeling the heat in their rear end nothing of substance will happen. The Copenhagen summit is already prophesied to become an expensive talkfest. Our healthy suspicion about self interest is further vindicated. The moral of the argument is that all Sri Lankans, especially Sinhalese and Tamils should cultivate this healthy suspicion. It is in fact a paradigm shift in our thinking.

In the columns of this website and many related postings this question mark relating to international diplomacy has been canvassed vigorously. Sri Lankans and others who think, living outside Sri Lanka have been vociferous in highlighting the duplicity in international relations in relation to the Sri Lankan issue. This new perception demonstrates the heightened capacity of the intelligentsia to question hitherto taken for granted truths which were driving us up a blind alley. Unlike in the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the Battle in the Balkans and the recent war in Afghanistan many of the subjugated people are beginning to unpack the knapsack sent through the expensive couriers.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Those who are sermonizing us should realise that nations that sit in judgement of alleged war crimes of Sri Lanka, are failing to investigate crimes, extra judicial killings by powerful armies of the West. Numerous reports are written by independent experts about the deplorable accountability lapses. But these same nations are ever prepared to make laws, and be the judge and jury. Some have put this stance of the West in the laconic phrase of the poacher turning game keeper. Joining Human rights Commissions and the like perhaps is to silence others who dare investigate their own lapses. Apparently Mr. Obama is daring to investigate the Guantanamo techniques of torture. Good luck. We are waiting eagerly to see the report.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The hegemony of the West is such that surprisingly, the volumes of munitions used in the aforementioned wars had no war crimes. In the Vietnam War alone 400,000 tonnes of napalm had no civilians killed. The casualties of NATO bombings are unreported by the liberal media. The My Lai massacres, the High Way of Death, The Abu Ghraib investigations are insignificant in the eyes of the paid agents of Human Rights Watchers. The more suspect we become the better prepared we will be to face the hegemony of the powerful. Finally I will not say that human values have no place in international relations. Nor is the international system anarchic. The problem is that values are treated as given and accepted superficially; the normative implications of stratagems, moves and choices are not thoroughly investigated. The cry to send the IDPƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s to mine laid habitats clearly proves my point.

5 Responses to “Doubting the morality of International relations: A healthy suspicion of the Sri Lankan mind”

  1. gdesilva Says:

    There is one thing that all Sri Lankans owe Prabhakaran – his brutal war helped us unmask the real intentions of the West, the self proclaimed guardians of democracry, human rights, freedom of speech etc. The unfortunate events that unfolded during the past three years have enabled us not only to see the treachery of the Western policies but also helped us learn how to detect them well in advance. It is clear that the colonial policies of the West which helped them to subjugate and exploit people around the world and plunder the wealth of other countries are well and alive even today – it is just that they are now wrapped in the concepts of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights.


    At last we know what we are doing and what to look for.
    Can we now reduce the number of ministers, please?

  3. antondesilva Says:

    A polite argument with facts like this article is a healthy way to discuss our strong resentment of the double standards that are shown by powerful nations.

    We should never follow the footsteps of the US house republican sponsored attacks on the democratic town hall meetings. Sri Lanka has better intellectuals to give a counter argument to any accusation of the country and it’s policies. Let us be polite, positive and knowledgeable. I really like to see articles of this nature rather than the negative attacks that some writers tend to display. Negative attacks never bring positive results. Positive arguments always do bring positive results.

  4. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    I am pleased to read this article from someone of this writer’s calibre. I believe it is time to get into the mind of westerners and understand them better. Are there any of you who have worked for any of the ruling establishments in the modern colonial west with a record of leaving your job in disappointment/disgust even disregarding a bait of an executive position that would be your lifelong unfulfilling dream? I believe such people may be in a better position to explain the western thinking and their actions to complement this article. Even I am intrigued by the content at this website that defy the logic, a prime reason to visit. Let me add something to your last line “The cry to send the IDP’s to mine laid habitats clearly proves my point”. Westerners use this to argue against and vilify us. What if we settled them without mine clearing? When people die of explosions, they will blame us for letting them out. So let me suggest one of the many options (I do not wish this to be implemented and this may be outrageous if viewed from Sinhala value based thinking. It is ok to assume that I think like a westerner). Let us say we want to keep them as prisoners for a long time and kill their will to live as normal humans to eradicate terror (There is a well-developed standard practice in the west applied to those even within who oppose them from the birth to death that have turned many of them to suicidal murderers). I would pick the best employee who would read my mind, not my words for the job anticipating him to pick a bunch of refugees and herd them to a mine infested area with a clearance certificate. Let us assume that life is not worth a penny for me. I am a born killer who enjoys killing. Obviously select another that you want to get rid of and push him to make a quick judgment to issue this certificate, a recipe for disaster to keep his job. When there are deaths, hold an impartial inquiry and sack the poor bastard. Before doing this, keep chanting the mantra that their freedom of movement etc. is foremost and under no circumstances we will change our decision to resettle all the refugees. When there are explosions and many deaths and injuries, use the media to broadcast their carnage. So everyone will demand us to stop resettlement. Do not listen to them and repeat your mantra and actions. Send the next group. Let them die as well, but you repeat your mantra. At some point they will come up with sanctions, war crimes, human rights and everything they got. Then you demand them to give money to keep them if they want and tell that until you find it safe “you will not resettle any one” in no uncertain terms (This F part of words at the end picked up from Indians). You kill many birds in one shot. Please do not insult me personally for writing this. We are talking about murderers who have done so many horrible crimes beyond our imagination. What surprises me is our acknowledgment of them as our saviours. We have reached a time of change that may be more interesting to watch. They have an objective that is totally different to popular comments (It came out of R Blake’s mouth though no body cared) and I am yet to hear from others about their true intent behind all these smoke screens. (Nihal please read this article. I wish I could make another comment to clarify my comments when I find some time).

  5. cassandra Says:

    I assume when Dr Chandraratne speaks of “the drama of international relations played in the portals of Colombo” he is referring to the conduct of various countries and their institutions during the last stages of the armed conflict with the LTTE and its immediate aftermath. But, assuming my assumption is valid, I cannot think why such conduct should have come as a surprise. ‘Enlightened self interest’ has always been the over arching principle guiding nations in the conduct of their foreign affairs. So, why should we have expected these countries to abandon that well established principle in this instance?

    Besides, on the basis of their past record, we should not have expected them to behave otherwise. Throughout the so called Elaam wars, the attitude of the west and its institutions toward Sri Lanka has been at best ambivalent and at times unashamedly unhelpful. What else were we to expect of Britain which having supplied armoured vehicles now refused to provide spare parts to keep them running, which whilst listing the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, was happy to turn a blind eye towards its activities in Britain? Then there is the US who would supply military vehicles but with the gun turrets removed. And Norway, was rarely seen as a truly honest broker in its role as a facilitator of peace. These and other countries were seemingly unconcerned when Tamil protestors publicly carried and waved the Tiger flag – sometimes alongside the national flags of those countries – despite the fact that the Tigers were identified officially as a terrorist organisation. If anything, these countries ran true to form.

    If the intellectuals and the so called pundits have seen their theories come to naught, they have only themselves to blame. I believe many of them are like the the proverbial ‘pothe guras’ ( bookish teachers) who chose to move around in their own little worlds insulated (by choice) from the realities of life. I respect their erudition and the logic supporting their theories. But where human nature – with all its potential vagaries – is concerned, you simply cannot expect things to proceed according to logic. Theories often turn out to be no more than that– just theories. Human behaviour is not often motivated by logic. It is often irrational. It is often based on impulse.

    In regard to human rights violations and other crimes by the west, let us simply remember that they have been the victors of recent wars, and, as the saying goes, ‘to the victors go the spoils of victory’. And those spoils include the opportunity to try those who lost the war, for alleged crimes, whilst being able to escape such scrutiny yourself. So it was that after WWII, many Germans were prosecuted at Nurenberg. The Germans had lost the war. But there were no Allied servicemen who were tried. But then, the Allies had won. The vanquished Germans and the Japanese were in no position to proceed against those who had beaten them.

    If we learn, however belatedly, to appreciate the true nature of foreign relations and how we can reasonablyexpect other countries to act in relation to Sri Lankan affairs, it can only be to the good. But we must learn from that experience. I daresay there are enough clever and bright minds in the SL Foreign Service who are fully aware of how nations conduct their foreign relations and how SL’s own foreign affairs should be handled. They will know – and other should appreciate – that tact, diplomacy and ‘a quiet word’ are much more helpful than parochial statements, aggressive reaction and public criticism of other countries, in getting things done for the country’s benefit.

    The history of nations is marked by traumatic events and periodical conflict. But nations do move on from these as indeed they must. So must Sri Lanka do – move on. It cannot keep wallowing in self congratulation or in continual criticism of the attitude of other nations (however, justified such criticism may be). Such action does not help.
    Sri Lanka needs to be realistic about its relations with the rest of the world. Sri Lanka is part of the world, it is inextricably a part of it. It needs to conduct itself as a good world citizen inasmuch as it would like other countries to do.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2023 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress