CHOGM was over. As expected the British Prime Minister David Cameron was engaged not only in a tough conversation but also in a tough tour.
Although the British Labour Party was of the view that the Prime Minister should boycott the summit he decided to come here and question the actions of the Sri Lankan Government.
The actions of the British Prime Minister were questioned by many. One said that he still thinks that Sri Lanka is a British colony. In response to a question asked from him the President said people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. One was of the view that the country should protest against his behaviour via diplomatic channels. One said that CHOGM was degraded to the level of human rights summit due to his behaviour. One accused that he was visiting Jaffna without attending executive meetings and thereby not contributing to the summit. Another questioned the double standards of Britain.
In an article written to Sunday Times, UK it was sarcastically stated that he struck the right tone when he addressed his Sri Lankan counterpart. After the bilateral meeting with the President, what was expressed at the press conference by the Prime Minister was balanced, once he praised the President.
He said that there was a lot of work done after the war. No one else praised him for this except the government-owned ITN television channel. ITN reported on the day of the press conference that he praised the Government and nothing else. It implied that his so called tough conversation failed and the President tamed him. Those who criticise the double standards of Britain and Callum Macrae of Channel 4 are of this calibre.
Politicians of this country most of the time think of themselves first and then about the country. Their main issue is how to be in power continuously. If they can do so, in lieu of that, they are not hesitant to sacrifice the long term interests of the country. In this context there is no difference between the governing party and the Opposition, or for that matter the so-called third force. Kings who lived centuries ago worked towards fulfilling their own objectives rather than the objectives of the country. History has proven this.
The President expected to hold the CHOGM here in order to boost his own image. In Sri Lanka when one becomes the President, the law cannot be exercised against him and when one becomes the Chief Justice, cases cannot be filed against his dishonourable behaviour. Similarly, the President might be under the pretext that when he becomes the President of the Commonwealth Nations, the strengths of the allegations of human rights violations would be diluted. Heads of state do unwise things on and off. Kings who lived centuries ago also did so, on and off. History has proven this as well.
When people of this country think about an event of this type, they first tend to think about the benefits ensued to the country and then about the benefits to themselves. They feel that the aggressive behaviour of the British Prime Minister damaged badly the prestige of the country. Much later they would realise that they were hit by the recent budget proposals. Unlike the heads of state, the general public do unwise things very often too.
A quote by Abraham Lincoln defining democracy being a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” will have to be interpreted in Sri Lanka in a different manner. It should be redrafted as a “government of the people by the people for those who govern and for the people as well”. This status quo has prevailed in this country for a long time beyond this regime. It is up to the people of the country to get the democracy of this country upgraded to the level Lincoln expected.
There was a lot of criticism against the double standards of Britain. Everybody other than those who have attained high spiritual levels have double standards. This is because of the concept of “I” as a separate entity. One treats his own child differently to someone else’s child. One’s cares well for his own car or pen compared to someone else’s car or pen. This is the source of double standards. Double standards are active on a personal level as well as in diplomatic levels. Those who maintain double standards claim that others use double standards. Ordinary people should evaluate and see whether what Britain is trying to point out, although there is a double standard, is advantageous to them.
People also as politicians should be concerned about themselves ahead of the interests of the country. It would help to fulfil their intentions. The British Prime Minister did not speak about the human rights of British but of Sri Lankans. Tamils also are Sri Lankans. The LTTE and not the ordinary Tamils were in battle with the Government. Human rights violations of LTTE were at very high levels and the state is not on par with a group of armed rebels.
One reason why the LTTE was moved away from the negotiations with the Government was that the international community did not consider them on par with the Government. Therefore a government has a much more responsibility towards its citizens compared to that of a bunch of armed rebels. Hence if there are allegations that the human rights of Tamils were violated it is the responsibility of the Government to investigate it, since they are Sri Lankans not British and not second class citizens but first class citizens. When the human rights of Tamils are not safeguarded the same rights of the Sinhalese would also not be safeguarded since both would be treated in similar manner. Therefore the efforts of the British Prime Minister, who is concerned about the human rights of Sri Lankans, should be appreciated and commended. People should first think of their rights. If the rulers safeguard the human rights of the people, the self-respect of the people and that of the country will be safeguarded.
In this country, law and order is also implemented properly with the influence of the international community. The case against a political goon who killed a British national and raped his girlfriend was taken up hurriedly after it was reported that Prince Charles was concerned about it. The ordinary people of this country who face difficulties caused by political goons are denied of justice. People should think about the gravity of this situation. If the endeavours of the British Prime Minister would be successful, law and order would be re-established in this country. Citizens of the country would get a direct benefit and also an indirect benefit out of this. Foreign investors who are much sought after by the Government would come here since their investments would be safeguarded with the prevailing law and order. As a result there will be tremendous impact to the economy of the country.
Therefore we should commend and praise the acts of the British prime Minister who visited our country and who met and discussed with various types of people without following the Canadian Prime Minister and without listening to the British Labour Party. We should not criticize or condemn his acts.
(The writer is a Chartered Accountant by profession and holds a Master of Business Administration degree awarded by the Postgraduate Institute of Management of University of Sri Jayewardenepura.)