Why Burt should look at Chilcot


Alistair Burt the UK’s Foreign Office Minister gave the impression of a jack-in-the-box when he leapt into the ring to call for accountability by Sri Lanka, no sooner the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission handed in its report to the President.

The news channels are full of so many matters of foreign policy that are directly  affecting the United Kingdom, much closer home and  with much more impact than the situation in Sri Lanka. But, Sri Lanka was on top of the list of Alistair Burt. One wonders whether his demand for immediate accountability by Sri Lanka, on the many charges being made against it by a whole lot of pro-terrorist propagandists and well manipulated politicians, think-tanks, and rights activists had anything to do with the widely announced Mahaveer Day celebrations due to take place this week beginning today.

In case you have forgotten it, this is Mahaveer Day – the birthday of Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose lethal army of terror was defeated in Sri Lanka two years ago, and whose followers are involved in keeping the Eelam message alive and kicking in the West.

The members of the LLRC have completed their study of what took place in Sri Lanka during the period of their Terms of Reference and handed in their report.  But look what’s happening in the UK, where Mr. Alistair Burt lives and is a member of the House of Commons.  The Chilcot Committee is sitting for more than one year and has come nowhere near concluding its work. It is being stymied by the secrecy of the Foreign Office and the British defense establishment, among other problems. That may be a problem for the British people, who must be relieved that their troops are not dying in Iraq anymore, but would still want to know the truth behind the Iraqi invasion and how they were fooled about Weapons of Mass Destruction of Saddam Hussein, and the 15 minute threat that Tony Blair lied about in the Commons.

But let’s take a look at the accountability and independence issue of the Iraq invasion, about which Alistair Burt, his leader David Cameron, and Foreign Secretary William Hague maintain the strictest of silence. All of these are people who ask for accountability in Sri Lanka, in the same breath that they call for an independent inquiry into what happened in the final months and weeks of Sri Lanka’s battle to defeat   LTTE terrorism.

A Sri Lankan, who is not busy with distributing leaflets for Mahaveer Day happened to meet Alistair Burt and ask him a few questions on accountability.

"What is this independent inquiry you ask for on Sri Lanka?"

AB: "Very simple, it must be seen to be independent."

"So why does the LLRC not seen to be independent?"

AB:  "Well it is made up of Sri Lankans only, and is appointed by the President. They have to report to him."

"Very interesting. Who appointed the Chilcot Committee that is inquiring into the UK’s role in the Iraqi war?"

AB: "Well it was the British Government. Who else could appoint it? It was our war against that damn Saddam."

"Are there any foreigners on the Chilcot Committee?"

AB: "Why should there be any foreigners.  From Sir John Chilcot on, the committee is made of eminent British people.  Who can doubt their independence?"

"So you doubt the independence of  eminent Sri Lankans sitting on a commission on a Sri Lankan conflict, that took place within Sri Lanka, but have no problems of independence about  a full British committee trying to report on a conflict, sorry an invasion, that took place outside the UK?"

AB: "Well the British are known for their independence of judgment. It’s not the same all over."  

"But don’t you think that a war that was an invasion of a foreign land, should have at least one member from that invaded land sitting on a committee to report on the invasion?"

AB: "What nonsense. Who is to appoint an Iraqi to the Chilcot Committee? There will be wrangling among rival political groups that will never come to an end."

"You mean the wrangling that came after the western type of democracy as introduced to Iraq after the invasion."

AB: "That is not the issue. But as I said earlier, this is a British inquiry and it must be done by Britons."

"Very good. But what about having some members from the other coalition countries that joined you in carrying out the invasion, and caused so much bloodshed in Iraq? Why are they excluded?’

AB: "Well, I don’t think any coalition member asked for such representation, certainly not the USA, the biggest coalition partner, and its leader?"

"Forget the political divisions, don’t you think there should be at least one representative each from the Shia and Sunni Muslims of Iraq who were turned against each other after the invasion, and so much of whose blood was shed since the invasion?"

AB: "Come on you will next ask for an Iraqi Christian representative, because they have also suffered a great deal?"

"Well yes, why not? The Iraqi Christians and Jews too are known to have lived in complete safety under that damn Saddam as you say, but it is no so anymore. So why not a Christian too?"

AB: "Look, you are not making any sense. What we are doing is having a British look at what British leaders and British troops did in Iraq. It may have affected the Iraqi people badly. We are here to learn lessons for the British in future situations, not to teach lessons to the Iraqis. That is why it is a fully British committee"

"Damn it Burt, have you forgotten that what took place was a conflict within Sri Lanka, where no others were involved, and that we ended it our own way, with no foreign troops, in a coalition or not. The only foreign input was in weapons purchased from willing suppliers abroad. So why can’t we have our own people on our own commission to learn the lessons that we need to learn from the conflict, and why should it not look independent?"

AB: "What you said seems very true, but please remember that we British are accountable only to ourselves. So the Chilcot Committee is fully British and will be so, until whatever time it takes to submit its report".

"Well, well Alistair Burt; that is certainly the most convincing case you have made for the independence of the LLRC. Thank you".

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