Departure of someone hostile is always problematic. It is popularly believed that an evil spirit, when exorcised, makes it a point to leave a trail of destruction. Yakas, when put to flight by kattadiyas, are said to break branches of trees. Yakas in politics—perhaps the most dangerous of all the known devils—if got rid of, go all out to destroy the exorcist, as evident from the experience of the Greens, the Blues and the Reds. Our striped friend in the Wanni, too, has had a nasty experience at the hands of some of the yakas of his ilk, whom he tried to banish a few years ago. The ancient Parthians on horseback had a much dreaded practice of feigning retreat, turning back at a full gallop and shooting arrows at the pursuing enemies. Hence, the term, the Parthian shot.
On Tuesday, we witnessed a group of eminent persons resorting to a propaganda Parthian shot. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), which had been at loggerheads with the government over an investigation into the killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur in 2006, trained its guns on the latter in public before leaving the country. It accused the government of lacking the political will to find the truth behind what it termed a ‘spate of killings’. The government has faulted the IIGEP for overstepping its limits. We don’t intend to discuss how independent the IIGEP has been or the intentions of the government. Suffice it to say that both parties have inflicted heavy damage on each other and cut very pathetic figures as a result.
The government should have known better than to play into the hands of some outfits hell bent on destroying Sri Lanka’s sovereignty through further internationalisation of its conflict aimed at foreign intervention. We are living in a world where human rights campaigns have become instruments of intervention at the disposal of foreign powers or even terror groups. It is not seldom that some human rights campaigners lay bare their true faces. They pressure democratic states to give fair trials even to mass murderers and to desist from treating them like criminals until they are proved guilty by a court of law. But, they don’t practise what they preach, when it comes to furthering their interests. They want the people whom they give a bad name hanged at once, trial or no trial. They had the chutzpah to campaign against ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s effort to secure a UN post by citing allegations against her in a book without caring a damn about the principle of natural justice. Over the Muttur massacre, too, they stand accused of having acted in a similar manner. They have, on more than one occasion, betrayed their prejudices.
The mass murder of seventeen aid workers must be probed and the perpetrators brought to justice. But, in so doing, proper process and procedure must be followed however desperate we may be to have the killers hanged. That is the way with the law that is said to be an ass.
The government erred, as was said earlier, because it tried to make use of the investigation at issue to improve its image internationally. Instead of ordering an impartial probe immediately and ensuring that the law would take its course without interference from any quarter, the government tried to demonstrate its liberal credentials to the world by inviting a group of eminent persons from other countries. Having such a group was an unprecedented move which may have impressed the international community initially but little did the government realise that through its naivete, it had unwittingly given a fresh impetus to what it had vehemently opposed during the 2005 Presidential Election campaign—the internationalisation of the conflict.
President Kumaratunga made the mistake of bringing in the Norwegians as foreign facilitators after her election in 1994. They left stealthily in April 1995, when the LTTE scuttled a ceasefire with her government much to their embarrassment. They resurfaced in 2001, after the UNF’s victory. Throughout history, leaders of this country have bungled in handling foreigners, many of whom have been gift bearing Greeks. They have received many a Trojan Horse with open arms. The Portuguese were allowed to have a foothold in the littoral. They abused the king’s courtesy and consolidated their power in several parts of the low country. Later, kings fell for the wiles of other invaders and the end result was the country’s total subjugation.
The biggest obstacle to neo-colonialism is national sovereignty of the target nations. The concept of sovereignty (of smaller nations) has, therefore, become anathema to the global North and its NGO mercenaries. We make no attempt to tar all NGOs with the same brush. Let it be stressed that NGOs are a necessary evil in that the modern State cannot or doesn’t care to look after all the needs of its citizenry and there should be some organisations to do that. Some NGOs, both local and foreign, have been functioning in this country for decades, rendering yeomen service to the needy. Only a few newfangled conflict resolution outfits, which look more multinational companies than non governmental outfits and are doing the bidding of their foreign masters, have become problematic.
The government has no one to blame but itself, if the IIGEP has overstepped its mandate and become intrusive. Put any yokel behind a counter, as Albert Camus said, and he will begin to put on airs and graces in no time. How difficult a group of intellectuals would become when they are placed in a position of great importance goes without saying. So, the intrusion of the eminent persons, invited to monitor the proceedings of a probe into a massacre was something to be expected. Any eminent person who lands in this country tries his or her hands at governance, thanks to subservience of political leaders.
In our book, the government richly deserves the Parthian shot it has got from the ‘eminent’ persons––for having invited them.