POHOTTU AS USA’ S PROXY Part 5C
Posted on June 25th, 2022

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The USA needed supportive persons in Sri Lanka if its plan to take over Sri Lanka was to succeed. Though Sri Lanka did not realize it at the time, Neelan Thiruchelvam was USA’s best link with Sri Lanka.  

Neelan Thiruchelvam was a leading advocate of Tamil separatism from the 1970s onwards. Unlike the rest of the leaders of the Tamil Separatist Movement, Neelan came from the social elite in Sri Lanka. He was also clearly the best educated, the most articulate, and the most  knowledgeable regarding political concepts, though he was certainly not the great legal mind he was projected to be.

He had a high profile, and high standing, both locally and abroad, on the subject of   Tamil Separatism, camouflaged as ‘minority rights.’  His death was a blow from which the Tamil Separatist Movement has never recovered.

The USA link would have come about when Neelan went to the US for further studies. He went to Harvard on a Fulbright scholarship and obtained his doctorate there. Later he was Edward Smith Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Harvard Law School as well as Fello2w in law and modernization at Yale Law School (1972–74).

The regard in which Neelan was held by the USA became known in Sri Lanka only after his death.  When Neelan died, USA cried. There was a condolence meeting attended by US officials in a Washington.  What this showed was not Neelan’s greatness but his usefulness to the US.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said he and his wife were “shocked and saddened” by Neelan’s tragic death. Hillary Clinton had been “deeply moved” by her meeting with Neelan in 1995. With his death, a powerful voice for reconciliation in Sri Lanka has been silenced, he said.” Samantha Power, Special assistant to US President and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights said that she became friends with Neelan, when she came to Sri Lanka to have discussions with President Rajapakse in 2010.

TIME recognized only two Sri Lankans in its obituaries column. they  were  Neelan and  Prabhakaran. TIME carried an obituary of Neelan when he was assassinated in 1999. TIME said that Neelan was a tireless activist in the sphere of human rights and on behalf of ethnic minorities.  He was highly regarded around the world as a legal scholar and an advocate for peaceful resolution to interethnic strife.

Due to the US link, Neelan was also recognized elsewhere in the western world. UN Chief Kofi Annan also expressed sympathy on his death. Condolences and condemnatory messages came from the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Australia. The Times (London), The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, and  Toronto’s Globe & Mail, observed analysts.

Mangala Samaraweera, Foreign Minister in Yahapalana government, was very pro-USA.  Mangala Samaraweera was in Washington in February 2016 as Foreign Minister for a Sri Lanka – U.S. Partnership Dialogue. There was a media presentation where US Secretary of State Kerry met with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister. Mangala looked strained. He was not his bouncy self. Probably due to the gravity of the occasion. (https://youtu.be/dQ7SdFkhcdg)

Sri Lanka under Samaraweera as Foreign Minister   supported the 2015 UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka put forward by USA. in his apparent school boyish and sycophantic eagerness to endear himself to the Western promoters of the UNHRC resolution of October 2015 on Sri Lanka and his naive rush to placate the expatriate Tamil groups, who are still pursuing the Eelamists agenda through other means with the apparent acquiescence of their patrons in the West, he conceded far more than what the drafters of the resolution had expected, said Mathias Keitel. In many countries, compromising the national constitution with such audacity would have resulted in prosecution before the courts.

Many people were alarmed by his style. Mathias Keitel said that the interests of Sri Lanka are being systematically compromised by its buccaneering foreign .Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Dr Dayan Jayatilleka pointedly observed in a recent article, that Foreign Minister Samaraweera poses an existential threat to the State’s sovereignty and security, and gravely jeopardizes political stability and governability.”

 Minister Samaraweera was in Los Angeles after attending the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly in New York. About 200 residents from Southern California were present at the September 25 event, 2016, which was the first featuring a visiting government dignitary in that period. Notably absent were Buddhist monks from the local Sri Lankan temples.

In contrast to other Sri Lankan leaders who from time to time have addressed the expatriate community here, Mr. Samaraweera, speaking for about 20 minutes, solely in English, did not have one good thing to say about Sri Lanka from independence to present.  None of the warm nostalgia for the homeland usually evoked by leaders from all sides of the political divide.

Quoting extensively from the late Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, he painted a grim picture of a country that couldn’t evolve,” a nation, contrary to the promise shown when it became independent, is still struggling to move forward.” Touching on Sri Lanka’s economic future, he said the government will take measures to make it easier for foreign investors to do business in the island as well as for foreign nationals to buy land.

Journalists based in Washington and New York have noted that, from the time Mangala Samaraweera assumed office as Foreign affairs minister, he has taken upon himself to denigrate the previous leadership of the country before his Western counterparts, sometimes embellished with unsubstantiated tall yarns, (One recalls his tales of the Rajapaksas siphoning off $50 billion to foreign tax havens or Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election campaign being funded by the Chinese). Badmouthing a previous leadership which could return to power at some point, with foreign counterparts, is not in the country’s best interests.

 The former Army Commander, Mahesh Senanayake was among those who had been sent on compulsory leave in 2010 after Fonseka suffered defeat at the Presidential election. The government accused him and others of backing Fonseka, and trying to stage a military coup against President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Senanayake left the country and went to USA where he worked on intelligence in Afghanistan and Libya then held a senior position in the American embassy in Dubai.  He served USA for five years.

He   returned to Sri Lanka in 2015 and was reinstated by President .Sirisena. Mahesh Senanayake was a candidate at the Presidential election of 2019.  Had he won, US would have felt comfortable with him. He did not win. Thereafter he left the country. He now lives in Dubai and works as a Consultant-Advisor to National Airlines, USA, said the media.

Senanayake had a distinguished service in the army. He participated in the Eelam war. He was actively involved in all operations in the North and East and was also instrumental in introducing the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol concept to the Sri Lanka Army.

Senanayake served as the Regimental Centre Commandant of the Special Forces Regiment, Commander 211 Infantry Brigade – Vavuniya, Commander Special Forces Brigade and the General Officer Commanding 52 Division -Varani, Jaffna. He also held the position of Director of the Army Command and Staff College and Director of Planning at the Army Headquarters during the decisive period of the humanitarian operation.

Gen. Senanayake has been honored with the Rana Wickrama, Rana Soora, Vishishta Seva Vibhushana and the Uththama Seva medals for his unblemished services in the Army and his gallantry and bravery in the face of the enemy during the Eelam operations.

Mahesh Senanayake had trained in USA. He is an alumnus of General Staff College, USA. He had followed CGSC course in 2000.  General Mahesh Senanayake (Rtd) was inducted into the United States Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) International Hall of Fame in 2021. He is the first-ever Sri Lankan Army Officer to receive this honor.

He has been conferred this honor in recognition of his outstanding military leadership for the nation and commitment to preserving global peace, said USA. His contribution towards the resettlement of internally displaced persons and reconciliation process following a 27 year civil war in his country is truly noteworthy. He was a trusted and important partner in bilateral cooperation between our two countries.”

General Senanayake said, I am extremely happy and honored as a Sri Lankan, to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame, which only a very few military and civilian members have been fortunate to receive. Since 1973, only 287 global military leaders received this prestigious honor and I am humbled and proud to have been able to bring this prestige and fame to my country. I am grateful for the knowledge, wisdom and experience I received from CGSC this was definitely instrumental in charting out my military career and I am grateful for the CGSC for this honor and recognition.”

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