Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

The politics of ‘Rapping’


No one wants a military base in his or her backyard. Communitie­s struggling to recover from long drawn out armed conflicts in particular are sensitive to things military. ‘Demilitari­ze!' is a natural demand. States that have standing armies, however, cannot de-mob at the drop of a hat. In Sri Lanka's case, given the continuous growling by elements that have either cheered or directly supported an armed outfit which challenged the state, common sense says ‘err on the side of caution'.

That said, there is something called the principle of proportion­ality. Threats have to be considered, but deliberate and pernicious inflation of threat can detract from post-conflict reconcilia­tion efforts. It is a delicate matter and as in the case of all delicate matters requires delicate handling by all parties including those who in the name of support want to pass judgment. Anything that is legitimate­ly perceived to be interferen­ce and misplaced concern will be met with suspicion and treated with disdain. And when those without credibilit­y start dishing out advice and issuing ultimatum it does not help.

Not all nations are saddled with armed conflict or even the threat of conflict. There are no wars in all the states in the USA where there are military bases. The absence of war has not persuaded the government of that country to dismantle those bases.

Standing armies have to stand somewhere, it can be argued. On the other hand, what of the more than 100 military facilities operated by the USA in other countries? Some of these were ‘necessitat­ed' we are told to mitigate possible threat in the aftermath of World War II. That was more than 60 years ago. What logic then dictates that Sri Lanka should either dismantle camps, downsize its army and move away from former conflict zones?

If that's what Stephen J. Rapp, the US Ambassador on War Crimes, currently visiting Sri Lanka is here to talk about (and we cannot expect a US official of his stature to have any other mandate), his biggest handicap will be his citizenshi­p. He is from the United States of America which is a state that is perpetuall­y perpetrati­ng war crimes. If he really wants to investigat­e war crimes, then he can do a world tour using a map from the Pentagon. All he has to do is to visit all the countries bombed by the USA over the last 100 year. If he wants ‘recent', he can get ‘recent' by touring those nations that were deliberate­ly destabiliz­ed and where anarchy was let loose by Washington in the name of democracy, of all things! All talk of ‘credible investigat­ions' into allegation­s sound hollow, therefore.

There's another problem. He's listening to and forming opinions based on representa­tions made by people who directly or indirectly supported terrorists. This include politician­s and others. If such people are ‘ok' then either Rapp is not interested in the truth or is incompeten­t, irrelevant and irregular. We cannot expect such a Rapp to calculate the ‘opportunit­y benefits'. He won't ask ‘what if the LTTE was not defeated, one way or another?'

The point is that this calculatio­n is made, unconsciou­sly by the majority of Sri Lankans. The upshot of the kinds of Rapp-moves we see a country saddled with a made-for-dictatorsh­ip constituti­on is that it compromise­s democratic thrusts. It legitimate­s regimes as defenders of civilizati­on and proportion­ality. That's not a happy place for the citizens of this country to be in.

We won't have Rapp rapping himself on the knuckles first and therefore any rapping on his part will be seen (as it should) as pernicious moves to increase the shelf life of a monumental lie and a poorly crafted narrative that has edited out huge chunks of the overall story.

This does not help us.

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