Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena must have been
diplomatically polite when he conveyed the Sri Lanka Government’s
displeasure and objections with regard to the travel ban to the United
States imposed on the Sri Lanka Army Commander and his family, when he
met with the US Ambassador Aliana Teplitz earlier this week.
meeting must have revived Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s memories of
his father, the late Philip Gunawardena, who had his higher education
in the US, where he began his left-wing and socialist political career;
in association with the many prominent American socialists of the time
and leaders of the movement for equality to the black people.
Teplitz’s assurance of conveying the related concerns and objections
of the Sri Lanka Government to the Washington DC authorities was the
reality of diplomacy, and nothing to do with the larger issues involved
in the aspect of good relations between the US and Sri Lanka, in the
context of current politics and governance in both countries.
from the diplomatic objections raised by Minister Gunawardena,
Ambassador Teplitz should also convey to the Secretary of State, Mike
Pompeo, the much wider concerns among the Sri Lankan people about the
very situation of democracy in the US today, and the issues of
pardoning those who have committed crimes against humanity.
at the reality of the situation on justice, fair-play and broader
democracy in the US today, one is struck by the shocking attack on the
very democratic process and the obstruction to the judicial process by
the impeachment move on President Donald Trump. He was the third US
President to face impeachment and not face conviction. In a situation
where the House of Representatives had overwhelmingly voted in favour
of impeachment on two articles of illegality and violation of the US
Constitution, President Trump escaped unhurt through the political
manipulation of the Upper House or the Senate. His Republican Party
supporters, who are the majority in the Senate, voted against subpoenas
or compelling witnesses to attend an inquiry, and the calling of
witnesses. The whole process was a mockery of democracy and justice by
political abuse of provisions of the US Constitution.
This is certainly a matter the voters in the US must study in depth and take action to prevent any future US presidents from misuse of constitutional provisions, in the context of democracy and rights of the people.
Ambassador Teplitz must understand that it can only be mockery of
democracy, justice and human rights for the government of such a state
to find fault with the state personnel and family members in another
democratic state, who have not been charged before any court of law,
not found guilty of any offence by a court of law, and who have not
manipulated the legal process for acquittal, as President Donald Trump
In a statement accompanying the visa ban
announcement on Lt. Gen, Shavendra Silva and his family, the US
secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said: “We urge the Sri Lankan
government to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals
responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance
security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue
justice and reconciliation.”
It is interesting to look at
Mike Pompeo’s reference to “promote human rights, hold accountable
individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations”.
From the days of the Vietnam War, to the invasion of Iraq, and the
current violations of human rights and conduct of war crimes in
Afghanistan, the US stands among the leaders in such violations of human
rights, together with its allies and international rivals. The US has a
record of the most brutal violations of human rights, participation in
war crimes and human rights violations. Ambassador Teplitz must
certainly be aware of all this. The UN and other international bodies,
and the UK’s Chilcot Report had shocking reports of such war crimes and
human rights violations. Let’s leave those larger issues aside, and
look at the Trump administration’s related actions alone in recent
years, which may have slipped Ambassador Teplitz’s mind.
mid-last year President Trump intervened in three war crime cases
granting full pardons to two Army officers and restoring the rank of a
One of the pardoned Army officers is First Lt.
Clint Lorance, who has served six years of a 19-year sentence rendered
after he was convicted of second-degree murder and obstruction of
justice after ordering soldiers to shoot at unarmed men in Afghanistan —
a command which resulted in the death of two of the Afghani men.
other Army officer is Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who had been awaiting
trial after being accused of an extrajudicial killing of a suspected
bombmaker in Afghanistan; in December 2018, he was charged with
Trump also reversed the demotion of
Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who was convicted of posing with the corpse
of an enemy combatant in Iraq. Last July Gallagher was acquitted of
murder and other charges.
Earlier last year, Trump pardoned
Michael Behenna, a former first lieutenant in the Army who was in
prison for killing an Iraqi during an interrogation, marking the first
pardon for a convicted murderer in modern US history.
are increasing concerns that these Trump actions would undercut the
power and reputation of the military justice system, taking into
consideration the wider aspect of democracy and justice, which the US
claims to support worldwide.
There is no question that
persons formally accused or tried and found guilty of violations of
human rights and committing or supporting war crimes deserve the
strongest of action against them, including visa bans. But the
reality of the Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt. Gen Shavendra Silva is one
with no serious or formal charges, but widespread allegations. Is the
entire process of democracy, human rights and justice to be twisted
into mockery of the very process of honour and justice by the current
move of the Trump Presidency and the United States?
is no doubt that the Sri Lankan process of democracy and justice has
much room for improvement. That is a task before the Sri Lankan people.
Such work is not in any way supported or encouraged by the manipulation
of Statecraft and Diplomacy by the Trump Administration and the moves
of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the US.
deride and sneer at justice, human rights and democracy through the
abuse of economic, military and other powers, as the US has done and
still does with glee, are hardly the genuine movers for human rights
and justice. Ambassador Teplitz should also convey this message to Mike
Pompeo and the political powers in Washington DC.
Donald Trump moving to an election for a second term presidency, his
leading opponent from the Democrats is Burnie Sanders who contests as
a Socialist, in a country where socialism is, if at all, in a hugely
distant future, but has very little to do with even the Welfare State.
The current US – Trump policy on the Palestinian people shows its wider
contempt for human rights and the sovereignty of people and nations.
The action against the Sri Lankan Army commander and his family is a continuation of this show of dominance against the traditions of democracy, justice and fairplay. Ambassador Teplitz had better convey all this thinking to her anti-democratic supervisors, the violators of human rights and justice of the Donald Trump leadership.