Miliband’s baseless allegations
Taking Miliband seriously was a mistake that the British media now
generally managed to avoid. It had to be noted that Miliband was an
ambitious politician, who had to nurse his supporters, and that several
Labour MPs were dependent on the votes of Tamils who they mistakenly
assumed were LTTE supporters. There had been threats to withhold support
from Labour, and naturally Labour leaders with personal ambitions had to
respond. If Labour were defeated at the coming election, Miliband would
present himself as the leading candidate to supplant Gordon Brown, and
he needed to build up support for this.
With regard to the substantive issues, we had to note that Miliband
had little experience of South Asia. During a recent visit to India,
according to British journalists in Delhi, he had presumed to advise the
Indian Prime Minister and also patronized a senior Minister like
Mukherjee by calling him Pranab, while he was addressed formally as
‘Your Excellency’ himself. We should not then be surprised if he seeks
to patronize us too.
His first point concerns the need to give up violence, but he
obviously does not have the guts to directly condemn LTTE terrorism, as
say the Australian Government did. The current British Government, for
obvious reasons, prefers to sit on the fence on such issues. We must
however appreciate his sharing with Sri Lanka some of the things he
learnt during his three years at Corpus Christi College, such as that
“It is through politics that social and economic change takes occurs and
not through violence.” Such wisdom is most illuminating.
Unfortunately this is not accompanied by much knowledge. He talks of
the need to ensure that Sri Lankans all had rights on an equal basis, so
perhaps we should ask where there are deficiencies in this regard. True
there were shortcomings with regard to language rights, but these were
set right in 1987, and the British have not really helped with practical
support to the current government for policies to advance these that it
has developed in this regard. Instead Britain gave all its aid for peace
promotion, according to the former British High Commissioner, to NGOs
which persistently attacked the government. I suppose this is diplomacy
at its most subtle, though fortunately now the cat has been let out of
the bag about what lies behind all this.
Then Miliband talks about the need for an independent judiciary,
whereas this is an area which, with the exception of a few brief sad
years in the eighties, when judges were intimidated, has never been seen
as a problem. He also talks about restrictions on media freedom, whereas
he should perhaps consult the Guardian correspondent now in Sri Lanka
who said how much independence he saw now that he was here, and this was
not the picture seen abroad.
Finally, he talks about GSP+ as though the crisis were something
divorced from himself. All those I have spoken to on the subject,
including from Europe, say that the campaign against us is being led by
Miliband during his time at Corpus must have studied the German
philosopher Wittgenstein, who talked of someone who bought the second
copy of a morning paper to check that what the first said was true.
Miliband is being a bit cowardly in hiding behind the European Union in
general, and not saying straight out that Britain is behind this
campaign, as it was behind the effort to bring a resolution against Sri
Lanka at the Human Rights Council in 2006 and 2007.
And perhaps Sri Lanka should register that none of this is Britain,
whose people generally have a much better sense of fairplay, but a small
segment of British officialdom at this point, following a political
agenda that will soon be changed, whether there is a change of
government or whether a more confident Gordon Brown can stop people
playing to their own little galleries.
The writer is former Secretary of Disaster Management and Human