The Ides of March


As March dawns again, conspiracies abound in the island where every prospect pleases but only man is… It appears that the circus is once again coming to Geneva town.

From the Sri Lankan government side there are the worthy diplomats who apparently are “in charge” this time to lie for their country, although an erstwhile Minister who was supposed to be kept away from Geneva has been given marching orders at the eleventh hour to turn up, despite messing up big time last year.

The neo-LTTE remnants have been busy loading the human rights cum media bandwagon with a spate of new stories of child murders and custodial rapes, just weeks before this year’s UNHRC session, as if nobody knew that these atrocities were taking place throughout the war. The opposition, busily engaging in a “non-violent guerilla operation” to lure people “with opposing views” to the UNP before the next election, has nothing much to offer in the way of Geneva, although the TNA has sent a delegation to put pressure on the government to deliver on its promises.

The US government is once again wagging fingers at Sri Lanka with a new “resolution” while its occupation forces continue their drone induced killing spree in Afghan villages and dismiss criminal charges against troops burning Korans. Indian media reports affirm that India will support the US resolution while the suave Janata leader (intriguingly enough of Tamil origin) assures the Sri Lanka government of a “positive outcome” in Geneva, despite the pressure exerted by extremist Tamil Nadu politicians. India’s unblemished human rights record apparently includes some 500 perpetrators of abuse and torture, ranging from soldiers to generals, who have been decorated and promoted for their appalling deeds in Kashmir.

In the absence of China, Russia and Cuba to rely on for their valuable votes in the UNHRC, the Sri Lankan government is making untiring efforts to buy the US and India away from the resolution – by scheduling the country’s biggest ever auction of oil and gas concessions just around the March meeting. Perhaps it is counting on Exxon or Reliance to influence foreign policy decisions in their respective countries, when all other attempts appear to have failed. The two Asian economic giants, China (no longer a voting member) and Japan, meanwhile have assured Sri Lanka of their support in Geneva, no doubt increasing exponentially their chances of winning the oil bids, while Korea (which is a voting member) recently democratically elected the daughter of their previous dictator as president, with a reputation for her tough stand on security and terrorism.

So is the stage set in Geneva once again for a ritual show of solidarity by Asian member states (sans India) plus the Brazil-Venezuela-Ecuador bloc, taking offense at the hypocritical rantings of US, Canada, the European states and their third world minions? What has Geneva ever accomplished in providing those human beings, who have been oppressed and dispossessed, lives of security, dignity and respect, not only in Sri Lanka but anywhere in the world? All it demands is yet another investigation and report to be written by UNHRC consultants, each of who earns in one day at least half of a house that can be built in the Northeast for one dispossessed family. That is if the regime allows the consultants to come in. And if they let them talk to people independently. And if the consultants are objective and hear all sides dispassionately. And if the report is not rejected by the regime, merely creating a media sensation for a few days, otherwise to be buried in the dustbins of history. Or accepted by the regime with promises of compliance and thrown anyway into the dustbins of history. Meanwhile, those who were violated, will continue to suffer.


Much has been said about building peace and reconciliation. In Sri Lanka, the regime, its supporters and opponents continue to be locked in the “us” and “them” syndrome. The conflict that resulted in ethnic fratricide in the island is between groups that have co-existed, whose histories and genealogies have been interlinked for centuries.

Is the Ides of March the right forum to bring about this peace and reconciliation or is it merely a confrontational space for one-upmanship? What is torn aside by fratricide needs to be healed by reconstructing brotherhood and sisterhood. Acknowledging, accounting and atoning for violence is an important step, as is the ability to live with different perceptions of what happened to individuals, communities and ethnic groups during 30 years of war. A UNHRC investigation and report will not establish the “truth” as some of its proponents hope and its opponents fear.

Perhaps it’s time to learn some ancient wisdom from the Japanese concept of takakuteki or multiplicity as an approach to conflict resolution – the need to engage multi-dimensionally or multilaterally, rather than as “us” vs. “them”. Cardinal principles are that there is no absolute need to be consistent across all contexts and there is no need to engage directly when this will only result in further conflict. The principle of multiplicity accepts that it is not possible every time to eliminate the contradictions in conflicting perceptions, values and principles. These differences can be allowed to exist in the same space, without harming one another, until such time that antagonism cools down and rapprochement is possible.

The raison d’être of the UNHRC is to be yet another playground of global geo-politics. The Ides of March and its logic is most likely to continue to hurtle Sri Lanka into its familiar galaxy of violence and destruction – as is the objective of some of its proponents. Trouble is good for local politicians to keep constituencies pacified and for global players to occupy banana republics. However, while the current Ides of March is a lot about posturing, what is uncertain is whether caesars still need beware, lest their last words be “Et tu, Brutus?”.


  1. When US drones accidently kills Afghan villages the US admits it and pays compensation to the survivors and their relatives. The US doesn’t scream to the world about “Zero Casualties” and call the fight against terrorism a “Humanitarian Operation.” After Bin Ladan was killed, his wives and children were later returned to Saudi Arabia. They were not killed in cold blood the way uncle Prabas wife, daughter and 12 year old son were killed, and neither does the US shoot down Taliban fighters who surrender carrying white flags unlike what was done during the final days of the war in 2009.

    “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth”
    ~ The Buddha

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