Sri Lankan President Rajapakse as Head of CHOGM must establish an International Claims Tribunal seeking compensation for British Colonial Crimes
Posted on April 18th, 2014

Shenali D Waduge

Mahinda Rajapakse, President of Sri Lanka, took over as Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations at a Meeting (CHOGM) held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in November 2013. He presides over 53 nations with an estimated population of 2.245 billion covering a landmass of more than 29,958,050 km2 (11,566,870 sq mi) – a third of world population.

There are some pertinent questions that the Chair of the Commonwealth of Nations may like to consider answering:

  •     What can the Chair of the CHOGM do about British Prime Ministers calling for international investigations against sovereign countries when Britain continues to dodge apologizing or compensating for its war crimes and genocide committed in the nations it invaded and occupied for over several centuries?
  •  What type of shared ‘culture’ and ‘heritage’ is the Commonwealth actually promoting when the British imperial policy during colonial rule was to completely destroy and annihilate the indigenous culture and heritage and the rationale for the introduction of English education was to create a class of people who in the  words of Lord Macaulay, contained in his Minutes on Educationmay be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect’. In other words, a class of craven natives submissive at all times to the British Raj, lacking national pride and patriotism, and sense of self worth and eternally dreaming of being accepted by the white man. How many sovereign nations desire to continue as clones of Great Britain’s white supremacist ideology?
  •     As Chair, what is the assurance of ‘racial equality’ by Britain towards fellow Commonwealth nations when the UN special envoy has herself declared Britain as being ruled by ‘sexist culture’?
  •  As Chair, what policy initiatives can be taken to realize the declared objectives of the Commonwealth: Democracy, Economics, Education, Gender, Governance, Human Rights, Law, Small States, Sport, Sustainability, and Youth and on whose terms these objectives are set – Is it the values of Great Britain or do the Commonwealth of Nations offer a shared value system that encompasses the values of the East that had been flushed out by the British occupational rule? If Eastern values are not taken to account or accommodated adequately who can raise objections before the Commonwealth?
  •  Commonwealth Shared Culture – Is this not a great opportunity for President Rajapakse to propose that the ancient cultures, value systems and ancient legal systems of the former British colonies are revived so that the world would see in its true sense the civilizational merits of the East (without only looking at the world from the lens of the West)
  •  The Commonwealth has a War Graves Commission. The CWGC is responsible for maintaining war graves of 1.7million service personnel that died in the First and Second World Wars fighting for the British Empire and succeeded the Imperial War Graves Commission set up in 1917. There are 2500 war cemeteries. As Chair, should President Rajapakse not insist that the service personnel of national armies should be included in a Commonwealth War Memorial especially those who fought heroic battles and fell to save commonwealth countries e.g. Sri Lanka, from the brutal menace of terrorism? Should similar memorials not be set up for all the fallen heroes that fought for freedom and independence of their countries from colonial yoke e.g. members of the Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose, not receive similar status as the British Imperial Army?
  •  Is this not a great opportunity for the Sri Lankan President as Head of CHOGM to propose a National Heroes Museum under the auspices of the Commonwealth so that all the national heroes of the Commonwealth Nations gain international recognition and their heroism displayed for all to see.
  •  Under the Commonwealth of Learning program should President Rajapakse not take a lead in insisting that the indigenous history, culture and achievements of the Asian, African and Latin American countries that were ruled by UK be included in the school curriculum fulfilling the objective of shared learning?
  •  Commonwealth Symbols – Is it also not opportune for President Rajapakse as Chair to propose an exchange program to ensure indigenous languages are protected.

·        Question Britain & Hold Britain Accountable – As Head of CHOGM, President Rajapakse must also lead the way by enabling Sri Lanka and other members of the Commonwealth to question Britain’s contemporary involvements that include : British war crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Libya and champion the case of the Chagossians of Diego Garcia, a case that deserves world attention and Britain requiring to take accountability. Also question British policies on the commonwealth nations themselves at political and economic levels and the treatment of the citizens of the Commonwealth nations by Britain. /

As Chair of CHOGM, President Rajapakse must take steps to ensure that he is on the right side of history. President Rajapakse is well placed to create history by taking the lead in drawing attention to the crimes that Britain has committed over 250 years of colonial rule in many parts of the world. Within his tenure as Head, President Rajapakse must take the side of the oppressed and use his position to champion their cause and the world will follow him.

Instead of being at the receiving end of an Inquisition at UNHRC he can turn the circus around by asking the very nations that are bellowing for his neck to subject themselves to a process of accountability and catharsis and come clean on horrendous crimes committed in the past under deceptive jingles and catchphrases such as ‘white man’s burden’ and ‘civilizing the heathens’.

The oppressed of former British colonies are entitled to an apology and reparations. If Israel can put a price tag on atrocities committed in the past there is no reason why former colonies should be denied this chance.

An International Claims Tribunal must be established without delay to inquire into crimes against humanity committed by Britain and other European nations in their colonies during the last 500 years with a mandate within a limited time frame to spell out recommendations on payment of adequate compensation and other relief measures. This measure is long overdue.

President Rajapakse will enter history books if he were to take a stand on behalf of all the oppressed nations that were once victim of cruel and inhuman British colonial rule and demand on their behalf apology, compensation and justice for the victims.

If President Rajapakse decides to belong to the right side of history he  will stake his claim to be placed alongside other heroes of the oppressed world such as Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Ho Chi Minh, Sukarno, Aung San, Nethaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Mao Tse Tung and our own Sri Lankan national hero Anagarika Dharmapala.  

8 Responses to “Sri Lankan President Rajapakse as Head of CHOGM must establish an International Claims Tribunal seeking compensation for British Colonial Crimes”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    This is EXACTLY what he should do.

    Canadian Indians should get compensation too.

    Some BLACK WHITES will find this offensive. Too bad. Caribbean countries have shown the way.

  2. AnuD Says:

    The problem is they take the revenge.

    Saddam Hussein. avoided the american dollar and did Oil transaction. that was a Fatal mistake.

    Muammar Gaddafi, suggested African gold to be the international exchange and he refused to buy French planes.

    Sri Lanka is a small country.

    A better thing is let them hit the wall and one day they will.

    See what happened to many empires in the past.

    There is nothing permanent.

  3. Nanda Says:

    Hurray ! . Will Maha Ranee who is sheltering illegal Saudis for his survival at the useless UNHRC do this ?
    Shenali is wasting time by playing Veena to Deaf Elelphants.

  4. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    To quote the article: “Instead of being at the receiving end of an Inquisition at UNHRC he can turn the circus around by asking the very nations that are bellowing for his neck to subject themselves to a process of accountability and catharsis and come clean on horrendous crimes committed in the past under deceptive jingles and catchphrases such as ‘white man’s burden’ and ‘civilizing the heathens’.”

    The tables have to be turned against the UK and other western nations who have shielded themselves from the scrutiny of their puppet organization the UNHRC. But in addition to the human rights issues there is a pressing tangible issue Sri Lanka must demand. That is the repatriation of all the Sri Lankan antiquities stolen by the former European Colonial powers ranging from the Portuguese, Dutch, and Great Britain.

    When I was in Amsterdam I visited a museum and in one room there was an extremely long spear which measured by the feet. It was so long it had to be placed diagonally in that large room in order for it to fit. It was an ancient Sri Lankan weapon used to ram oncoming Ships. At that moment I thought if this is the case how much of the ancient treasures of Sri Lanka are now gathering dust in some Western museum. I also remembered the famous Bodhisattva taken from Sri Lanka. That is a religious icon that belongs in a Sri Lankan Vihara, but now is part of the plunder that the UK holds.

    This issue is very sensitive to the former Colonial nations. From India to Africa movements have demanded the return of their ancient wealth to the deaf ears of the European Colonial powers. Taking an example from Israel who demands all property confiscated by the Nazi Party be returned to the rightful Jewish owners was done by legal mean. In the same manner this issue must be taken up in an international court that the property confiscated, stolen or taken by imperial edict be returned to their places of origin.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Reduce parliamentary seats from Matara and Kurunegala and increase in Vavuniya and Nuwara Eliya. What the HELL?

    “Sri Lanka’s Election Department has reduced the number of slots in parliament assigned for Matara District in Southern Province and Kurunegala district in North Western Province.

    One slot each has been reduced from the Matara and Kurunegala districts and the two slots have been assigned as one each to the Vavuniya and Nuwara Eliya Districts.

    The Elections Commissioner makes an annual announcement of the parliamentary slots to each district in the country according to the voter population.

    The Elections Commissioner has recently issued the gazette notification announcing the number of MP slots for each district, which had shown the reduction of slots from the Matara and Kurunegala Districts and an increase in the slots for Vavuniya and Nuwara Eliya Districts.”

    – colombopage

  6. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    An article in “The Island” stated that the pro LTTE Tamil diaspora in Great Britain may successfully get the government to put an embargo on Sri Lanka. Another article was reporting about the virtues of the “Singer” machine, which is a British product.

    It would be time to turn the tables on Great Britain if the UK does put an embargo on Sri Lanka by NOT BUYING GOODS FROM GREAT BRITAIN!! China alone is increasing her bilateral trade with Sri Lanka and unlike Great Britain CHINA DOES NOT HAVE A TAMIL PROBLEM. There are many other nations in Asia, South America, Africa to continental European nations who will continue trade with Sri Lanka.

    Great Britain still believes she has some clout in the world. Her heady days of being the head of the British Empire has not evaporated yet. Time to show how isolated Great Britain can be if she decides to place an embargo on Sri Lankan exports based on nefarious human rights charges. Great Britain ceased to be the center of the world since 1945 but their politicians act as if the days when the “sun never set on their Imperial empire” is still intact.

  7. Nanda Says:

    Only the super rich buy “British Products”, ( probably except Singer).

  8. S de Silva Says:

    Yes Shenali, MR is in a credible position to raise these issues while in the Chair of the Commonwealth of Nations, but will he?? I have my doubts on that.
    If he is so ‘impotent’ to even raise the pertinent issues while actually in the Chair, what hope do we have??
    Of course some are fearful of economic sanctions rightly or wrongly – See how the US/UK/EU etc are ganging up against the infinitely more powerful Russia (a country having all the fuel, raw materials, and food) over Ukraine right now to impose e/sanctions. On the World scale, comparatively, we are only a very small fry. And that may be worrying the SL leaders since economic collapse of SL over sanctions is something no one wants to face – As much as I wish I do not see how we could manage a full-frontal shot at these HR hypocrites on our own. But I still see some relatively practicable remedies – the first is a good majority vote in the SL parliament to reject the outcome at the recent UNHRC (as already rejected by GLP), etc as the “WILL OF THE SRI LANKAN PEOPLE”. Since the named HR prostitute countries are constantly going on about Parliamentary Democracy at every opportunity when it suits them, such a step will surely shut them up for good including the local TNA! – S de Silva – London

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