The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris might have said it softly in measured words, but the message went home when he chose a media appearance at Faggy Bottom last Friday to say, “I think I should refer very briefly to another deep conviction of ours, namely that a reconciliation process [with Tamils], to be successful, it must reflect the sensitivity to the aspirations of our people, it must have a homegrown polity. It is only then that the people of the country at large will be able to identify this process, which will then come alive in their hearts and minds.”
Indeed, this is a well-known position that Colombo adheres to. The “additionality” needs to be noted, however. Peiris was saying this in the US state department building in the presence of his American counterpart as they were going in for their meeting. Peiris added that in Colombo’s perspective, “any realistic process of reconciliation must focus upon economic factors.”
Peiris’ rejection of the US pressure tactic
bilaterally and through the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva was self-evident. Interestingly, Clinton didn’t respond. Later, the state department gave a spin that Peiris presented to Clinton a “serious and comprehensive” plan for implementing the recommendations of the commission appointed by Colombo.
There is food for thought here for New Delhi as well. Colombo has successfully blunted the US’ diplomatic assault. From Washington, Peiris headed for Moscow on a working visit. Of course, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov didn’t mince words
when he told Peiris, ” We [Moscow] believe, attempts to force international investigation on Sri Lanka without the sovereign state’s permission and bypassing the UN Security Council are absolutely wrong, they also contradict our aspirations in the human rights sphere.”
Incidentally, while announcing Peiris’s working visit, Russian Foreign Ministry highlighted that the bilateral dialogue has “intensified recently” and that the visit was “destined to fuel the bilateral contacts in different spheres.” It went on to identify military-technical cooperation as one of the “most promising lines of our partnership.” The strong Russian support came after the rejection by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa of the US calls to close army bases
in the northern Tamil provinces of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is also on the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, being a “dialogue partner” of the regional grouping. Conceivably, Peiris’s working visit to Moscow also related to the forthcoming SCO summit in Beijing on June 6-7. It will be interesting to see if the SCO summit declaration, which is customary, dilates on cooperation with Colombo.