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Sunday, 11 January 2009

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Ethics and humane use of violence

On the 50th anniversaries of the Cuban Revolution and the triumphant entry of Fidel Castro into Havana, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations in Geneva hosted a commemorative event, the centrepiece of which was the presentation of the book Fidelís Ethics of Violence by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka.

According to the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations in Geneva Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios this work seeks to reveal the very essence of the ethics and morality of the Cuban Revolution, seen through an analysis of Fidel Castroís political thought. We publish below excerpts of Ambassador Jayatillekaís speech at the event.

Sri Lanka recognised the Cuban revolution almost hours after it was born, in 1959, itself. The ruling party which started this, once again, is in office today. And this was a major change for us, because just before that, the Sri Lankan Government that was in office before was a government that did not recognise, that did not have diplomatic relations with either Russia or China.

So the fact that we elected a government that recognised not only Russia and China but the Cuban revolution as it was born, indicates to you, the warmth which the Sri Lankan people and the government of the day had for Cuba.

Che Guevara

And this warmth was of a very special nature because in that same year, 1959, Sri Lanka was honoured by a visit, in August, of the Commandante Ernesto Che Guevara. And Sri Lanka is now preparing the commemorating of this, of the 50th anniversary of the visit of Che.

That is the broad context which may go somewhere in explaining how come a Sri Lankan writes about Cuba.

But there is also a personal aspect: I was a boy when I was introduced by my father to an illustrious Cuban diplomat, Armando Bayo, who was the son of General Alberto Bayo, who Fidel sought out to train the guerillas, including Che, who were about to embark on the Granma.

So the first Cuban ambassador of the revolutionary Cuba to Sri Lanka was his son, Mr. Armando Bayo, who is no longer alive, he died seven years ago. And this was my first encounter with a Cuban diplomat.

Debt to Cuba

Now, all of us, certainly those of us of the in the so called Third world, owe a lot to Cuba. And I would have to speak all night if I were to enumerate the ways in which we owe Cuba.

But I thought that since we have received so much from Cuba, in terms of blood shed in the most just causes, in terms of education, in terms of doctors, in terms of assistance after the tsunami, for decades, those of us in the countries of the so-called Third World have accumulated a moral debt, a huge moral debt to Cuba. And Cubans never asked for land, bases or anything in return.

So it is incumbent on us I think, to repay, to whatever extent possible, this debt. And it is as a gesture of a payment, in a way, that I came around to write this book.

One last thing about the book and this is the only thing Iím going to tell you, about the book itself. I understood through my own experiences in Sri Lanka, in a conflict-ridden, war-torn country, that Cubans today have provided us with an answer and an example concerning one of the most fundamental problems we face as humanity. And that is the problem of the way in which to resist injustice.

Now, throughout human history, people have always resisted injustice. When it was necessary, people have resisted violently. But we also know that a number of other problems have arisen due to the incorrect or excessive use of violence.

What I saw in the practice and the doctrine of Fidel is that he has set an example as to the ethical and humane use of violence on the occasions where it is impossible to avert that use.

Violence has never been a first resort for Cuba, it has always been a last resort. For Fidel, whether it was against dictatorship or in supporting just causes, such as the struggle against the Apartheid in Angola, violence has been a last resort.

But, even when it was exercised as a last resort, it was exercised in a surgical manner, as humanely as possible. And I must say, certainly as a Sri Lankan, as a Sri Lankan diplomat, that is something that very few of us, including my country, have been able to do.

I noticed in my studies and in my research, that Cuba was able to do this whether Fidel was fighting as a guerilla leader or whether he was giving leadership as a statesman. Whether it was the rebel army or whether it was the internationalist volunteers who were fighting shoulder to shoulder with others on other continents.

So, as an insurgent movement and as a State, Cuba maintained the moral high-ground. And today when we watch whatís happening in other parts of the world on television screens or when we grapple with the issues of human rights and humanitarian issues, and our own national experiences, we would understand the value of the example that Fidel, Che Guevara, Raul and Cuba have set.

An example to movements struggling for liberation, movements of resistance, that at no time were innocent non combatants targeted.

And also a lesson to states because Cuba has fought against counter revolutionary forces in its own country, it has fought against terrible oppressive forces but I must state, I have never encountered, in my research, including interviews with the last Defence Minister of Apartheid South Africa. He could not provide me with one single example of anything like a violation of human rights, still less an atrocity committed by Cuban troops.

So, this is the lesson that is contained, that I am trying to convey in my book. And credit is not due to me because all that I have done is to abstract from the practice of Fidel and hold up a mirror to the experiences and examples of Fidel and Cuba.

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