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Sunday, 7 July 2013

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President's clarion call

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's assertion last week that international relations are marred by self-interest of the states and their struggle for power is an eye-opener to one and all. He told the extraordinary session of the National State Assembly of the Republic of Seychelles that colonialism, which Sri Lanka had fought and freed the nation from a few decades ago, is now making a comeback in a different form in today's global scenario. He said that a new power bloc is emerging, states are intervening in the affairs of other states using their strength and the past seems to be re-surfacing.

The President said threats emanating from these developments will only harm small nations such as Sri Lanka. Likewise, the independence and sovereignty of the so-called smaller countries are at risk. Therefore, these countries should unite as they had done in the past against colonisation, to face this looming challenge.

Having eradicated terrorism, Sri Lanka embarked on massive infrastructure development projects that would provide the masses the dividends of peace. The Government's aim is to develop the country as a regional hub as envisioned in the Mahinda Chinthana in five strategic areas - knowledge, commerce, naval and maritime, aviation and energy.

Nevertheless, while the Government is attempting to bring about national reconciliation and economic development, Sri Lanka has to still grapple with extraneous elements and those with vested interests. They spare no pains to undermine Sri Lanka's historic victory against terrorism and also sully the country's image internationally. The best support that the international community could offer the Government at this juncture in its reconciliation process is time, space and encouragement.

It is indisputable that Sri Lanka was the first and the only country to eradicate terrorism. When the so-called powerful Western nations desperately battled terrorism in their countries, Sri Lanka set a shining example in May 2009 by vanquishing the LTTE which was then considered the world's most ruthless terrorist outfit that had massacred thousands of civilians and assassinated world leaders.

At a time when the main cities of these countries are not safe and are moreover, vulnerable to terrorist attacks at any given time, their leaders are still diffident to acknowledge the fact that Sri Lanka is much safer compared to their countries. Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs who held a meeting on Tuesday with a delegation from the United States Embassy called upon them to lift the travel advisory against its citizens visiting Sri Lanka.

They explained as to why Sri Lanka should be removed from such a travel advisory.

Foreign Secretary Karunathilake Amunugama had said that the US delegation would make representations to the US State Department in this regard.

The Western countries' travel advisories are more or less tendentious. In issuing the adverse travel advisories, certain Western countries attempt to project a dismal picture of those countries which don't dance to their tune. It is even more baffling that favourable statements are being issued on countries that are unsafe, but whose leaders are puppets of the West. No country could compromise national security, whatever their size. Every sovereign state has the supreme right to protect its territorial integrity.

The leaders and the Governments of all sovereign countries have an inalienable right to protect their citizens. Hence, a country's national security could never be compromised by any means. Although powerful countries exploit this right to the maximum and go that extra mile and do virtually anything and everything in the guise of national security in their countries, they are somewhat reluctant to adopt the same principle when it comes to the national security of countries such as Sri Lanka.

While pontificating to countries such as Sri Lanka on privacy, human rights and the right to information, some Western countries even overstep their limits in the guise of national security. It has now come to light how some godfathers of human rights had even gone to the extent of tapping the private telephone conversations of certain people and kept surveillance on them.

In sharp contrast, they exert undue pressure on Sri Lanka even when a notorious criminal or hardcore terrorist is taken into custody. There are seemingly countless Western forces who still make a big hue and cry over the human rights of terrorists killed in action, while confronting a legitimate army of a sovereign state.

The American presidential historian Robert Dallek had said that US President Barack Obama seems to be more committed in protecting national security than promoting civil liberties and privacy rights, which puts him firmly in the tradition of most of his predecessors.

Dallek said that one reason is that there are "real national security concerns" that preoccupy every commander-in-chief. In Obama's case, they include fear of a repetition of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings. Domestic politics also play a role, Dallek said. Presidents believe that their top job is to "keep the country safe," and to fail in that mission would look "negligent," a reputation that no president wants, the historian said.

Obama has strongly defended his administration's surveillance of telephone and internet communications, which have been exposed through a series of recent news leaks. "They make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity," Obama was quoted as saying.

Head of the US National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander had said that his agency's electronic surveillance programs had helped avert dozens of terrorist attacks. "I think what we're doing to protect American citizens here is the right thing," Alexander told a congressional hearing and added, "Our agency takes great pride in protecting this nation - and our civil liberties and privacy."

We fully endorse the views of the US President and his National Security Agency head. In this context, it is pertinent that Sri Lanka, or any other sovereign state for that matter, has the same right when it comes to a country's national security.

The Head of State of any sovereign nation should enjoy the same right which the US President or any other head of a Western nation enjoys when it comes to national security. The Government, led by President Rajapaksa, has exercised the same right when Sri Lanka was subjected to brutal LTTE terrorism. The President had no option but to take recourse to military action when LTTE terrorists held over half a million people as a human shield in the North and the East.

At the time, Sri Lanka's Security Forces were directed to embark on that historic humanitarian operation - the largest ever in world history. The West's double standards to deal with terrorism in this part of the world, to say the least, is mind-boggling.

President Rajapaksa has time and again stressed that there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terrorism in any part of the world is the same and wreaks havoc. Hence, terrorism in any part of the world should be eradicated likewise - be it in the West or elsewhere. The West should relinquish its negative approach that undermines Sri Lanka's herculean efforts to crush LTTE terror.

Any attempt to discredit the Security Forces or frame war crime charges against Sri Lanka would only foster terrorism and jeopardise the country's efforts to usher in a better tomorrow for those rescued from the jaws of LTTE terror. Rather than levelling war crime charges to appease the Tiger cohorts, the West should make a tangible contribution to Sri Lanka's efforts to find a secure future for the Tamils in the North and the East.

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