noble of our British buddies
Shortly after discussing recent developments in Sri Lanka with the
Norwegian Foreign Minister last month, Britain's Foreign Office
Minister Mike O'Brien issued a statement that contained references
to the peace process and the upcoming elections.
his statement, O'Brien said: "It is essential that, throughout
Sri Lanka, these elections are free of intimidation, fair and non-violent.
It is also essential that the media are allowed to play a responsible
and independent role in the democratic process."
said that one would have expected Minister O'Brien, whose commitment
to the democratic process is not doubted though his lesson in democracy
might seem somewhat gratuitous and patronising, to have promptly
condemned the recent killings of candidates and political activists.
all, Mr O'Brien, who is prepared to give free lessons on the democratic
process, had insisted in his statement that the elections should
be free of intimidation and non-violent "throughout Sri Lanka."
that admonition from one who sits in the Mother of Parliaments that
supposedly epitomises British democracy, the least one would expect
is the condemnation of the murder of one who aspired to a seat in
the Sri Lankan parliament.
not a murmur was heard from Minister O'Brien probably because he
was shell-shocked from the news that the killers of the candidate
had murdered him in the hospital where he was taken after they botched
the first attempt.
US, on the other hand, did not suffer from convenient amnesia or
whatever the ailment that reduced Mr O'Brien to silence. The State
Department's Richard Boucher returning to his old job as spokesman
after a stint at Consul-General in Hong Kong, was quite unequivocal
in his condemnation of the political murder.
fact, he went beyond condemnation. He clearly pointed the finger
at the LTTE for the dastardly act and said that this was why the
Tamil Tigers were a banned organisation in the US.
mind that the UNP, whose candidate was killed, had also apparently
taken a vow of silence at the time and made, what would appear to
outsiders, as a belated complaint to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.
Minister O'Brien is free to proffer advice and tell anyone who cares
to listen or not, how to run their elections and their countries.
After all, he is a minister in a country where free expression is
permitted - except to the BBC - and everybody is equal except asylum
seekers and those suspected of being terrorist on the faintest of
evidence or better, none at all.
is disconcerting, if not spurious, is that this advice comes from
a government that is morally and politically tainted and has failed
abysmally to adhere to norms of political conduct that it preaches
others should practise. One shoul
not, of course, be shocked by the behaviour of governments and politicians.
It is in their nature to preach one thing today and do just the
opposite tomorrow, to make faithful promises and break them as easily
Chandrika Kumaratunga, we are told, is seeking a mandate from the
people to change the constitution or make a new one. But did she
not promise to do the same 10 years ago when she contested the 1994
people in Sri Lanka are increasingly disillusioned with politicians
and their myriad promises, the British people here are equally dissatisfied
and disgusted with their own government and prime minister as opinion
times that the west has lectured the rest of the world on human
rights, the rule of law and democratic practices are numerous and
would normally suppose that such hectoring comes from those who
unscrupulously adhere to the laws and conventions of international
conduct and ensure that their own institutions do so.
it appears that the roles are now being reversed. While those countries
whose human rights records, adherence to the rule of law and democratic
behaviour have been under constant scrutiny are, by and large, changing
for the better, it is those that have been doing all the preaching
who are now being called to account for their conduct.
all round slippage in the west is being defended on the grounds
of 9/11 and international terrorism. No impartial observer will
condone or defend terrorism if terrorism means the use of terror
against civilians and non-combatants.
in the name of fighting terrorism all sorts of injustices are being
done by governments to their people and citizens of other countries
that questions are increasingly being asked whether the war against
terror requires terrorising one's own people.
and legal norms that have been in force for decades are being jettisoned
in the name of fighting terrorism. Here in Britain, people are being
held in detention without charges brought against them, without
the recourse to legal representation and without a semblance of
evidence being presented against them.
a result the public is unaware why people are being held and what
evidence if any, there is against them to prepare a legal defence.
Just last week, three British judges accused the Home Secretary
David Blunkett of detaining a man in a high security prison for
16 months without charges or trial on evidence that was "wholly
unreliable and should not have been used to justify detention."
of the evidence against the man, identified only as "M",
was heard in secret with none of his lawyers present. Two cardinal
principles of English law are trial by jury and open justice. They
are being gradually undermined and it will not be long before secret
trials become more common and jury trials abandoned in some cases.
should this come as any surprise when international laws and conventions
are being violated with impunity either alone or in collusion with
other countries such as the United States?
case against Katherine Gun, the analyst working for the top-secret
communications eavesdropping establishment here who leaked a US/UK
bugging operation ahead of the invasion of Iraq, was dropped not
out of kindness. It was because the government feared that the Attorney-General's
detailed opinion on the legality of that invasion would be in the
open and prove a total embarrassment to the Blair government.
bugging of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's private office, which
has not been denied, was surely a violation of international law
and the laws setting up the UN. The fact that others were bugging
too does not make the act any more lawful. It would be as logical
as saying that since others commit murder, you are entitled to do
the same. How ironical that Britain and the United States call some
countries "rogue states". The "rogues" are right
here among us.