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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2963

What did Ambassador Dominic Chilcott say at the Dudley Senanayeka Tenth Memorial Lecture?

By Oscar E V Fernando

Now that the blood rush with his statements has simmered down, it may be worth having a fresh perspective on what he said!

That Dudley Senanayeka, unlike most politicians today, was one who came forward because the country needed him; he would have welcomed the 17th amendment to the constitution; had the agreement Dudley signed with the moderate Tamil leadership in 1965 been implemented it is quite possible that Sri Lanka today would have been a vibrant, prosperous, multi-ethnic country at peace with itself.

Comment: It is remarkable that Dudley was a politician who practiced pristine Buddhism and was educated in a Christian School as were many political leaders of this era who fought for independence, but did not get ‘converted’

Media Freedom

That civil society’s wish to express dissenting views is under pressure.

In Sri Lanka either one should be a supporter of the military campaign against LTTE or one’s loyalty to the state is considered suspect: let the voices of those pointing out the grey areas be heard he said.

Comment: One begins to wonder as to whether there is so much pressure when one reads certain papers-especially the week end variety!


As the world has changed to a global village the rules of the older schools of diplomacy are no longer practised-the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is becoming blurred.

Comment: The world of Sri Lanka, in the eyes of some, is still in the Dutugemunu/Elara era when wars were conducted with tar, mortar and Galkattas- at least then Dutugamunu erected a statue for vanquished Elara!


Pursuing self-interest of nation states can no longer be carried out in isolation; internal events in Sri Lanka affect Britain as when conflicts worsen they get more asylum seekers from Sri Lanka; it then becomes more difficult to manage the movement of people between the two countries.

Comment; Same as for diplomacy.

Inter-dependence of states

Six new global forces, unique to our generation, which showed humankind’s growing inter-dependence, were identified as;

Violence and instability in fragile states-the spread of terrorism and the risk that terrorists could acquire destructive weapons- global flows of capital and global sourcing of goods and services- climate change-global pandemics such as Avian flu, and world-wide migration.

Comment: Most of these problems faced by the so-called developing countries were caused by those so-called developed countries represented by Ambassador Chilcott; these were problems that came about due to the greed of colonialism in a past era. As much as the victims must get adjusted to this thought, especially Sri Lankans who were victimised together with certain other countries that have now gone far ahead of us-so must the developed countries look at these problems more pragmatically from the point of view of growing poverty, terrorism etc.


Those who argue for the inviolability of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country are swimming against the tide of history.

Sovereignty should be firstly about responsibility rather than power; the starting point is that any state has primary responsibility to protect individuals within it.

One task of the new diplomacy is to find a way to give effect to the exercise of this secondary responsibility.

Comment; Sovereignty is a point highly debated by scholars and is very relevant to the problem faced in Sri Lanka today especially in the context of concepts such as internal self determination, external self determination etc. Several attempts have been made to solve the problem but no solution is seen on the horizon other than war at the present moment. Does it point to an incapability of those governing the country to find a solution; if this were to be the case his last paragraph is very relevant!

Peace and ethnic Harmony

With a calmer environment it should be possible for the APRC to produce its final report on devolution and thereafter the President’s endorsement of his vision of the country’s future.

The President has to ensure that any devolution appeals to moderate Tamil opinion.

Comment: New moves are a foot by the APRC. One could only hope that the President would make a statesman like move that he has proved to be capable of- Chilcott has placed much hope on this ability of the President.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE

He does not believe the aim of the government’s devolution offer should be to put something on the table that will engage the attention of the LTTE.

He doubted as to whether the LTTE leadership would be sincere about reaching a negotiated settlement that reinforces democratic values within a united Sri Lanka.

Comment: What better assurance would the vociferous campaigners against those ‘imperialists’ want as an indictment against any support to the LTTE by these so-called imperialists-moreover most diplomats from similar countries have endorsed views expressed by Chilcott!


That asking for a separate state is not illegal but LTTE’s methods of seeking it are simply unacceptable.

Comment: Same as above.

Moderate Tamil Muslim Opinion

The government’s offer on devolution should be addressed to moderate Tamils and not to the LTTE; the international community’s focus, after the budget, will be on encouraging the government to come forward with an imaginative proposal on devolution that is capable of meeting the aspirations of moderate, democratic Tamils and Muslims.

Comment: In addition to the above comment, APRC proposal with Presidents nod will be awaited by most interested countries and further, only moderate Tamil opinion will remain if most countries do not accept LTTE as a negotiating team.

Military Option

The government acknowledges that it cannot win by military means alone. The international community would like to see that acknowledgement backed up with a political vision of how Sri Lanka can be reunited and its different communities reconciled with each other.

Comment: This is the opinion of at least fifty percent of the voters judging from the last held elections; however it is obvious that the President is wedged between the red-eyed monster and the deep blue voters!!

Grievances of minorities

Interim measures can be taken by the government to establish its bona fides, within the existing constitution by addressing the grievances of the minorities.

As an interim step, the government should explore how to implement the 13th amendment in a way that gives real power to the provincial councils in the North and East of the country, as well as in other provinces.

Comment: This interim step of implementing the 13th amendment was hinted at by the President and if he is genuine he must go ahead and implement it-as an interim measure that gives real power to the provincial councils in the North and East. It would appear that with evident and almost mischievous dragging of feet by the APRC, the President will have to be stubborn on this point and implement it-as an interim measure-an existing constitutional amendment only to be given more muscle!

Minorities imply not only the Tamils but also Muslims, Burghers and those Singhalese Christians very curiously dubbed a minority!

Institutional Racism.

In 1999, a report into the murder of a black teenager in London accused the Metropolitan Police of “institutional racism”. This was defined as the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin which; seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people; to their credit, the Met Police acknowledged the problem and have since put a huge effort into eliminating racism within the service.

It seems to me that in Sri Lanka the agencies of the state, including the police, need similarly to take a step back and make an honest assessment of whether they are institutionally prejudiced and what steps they need to take in order to ensure that they treat all Sri Lankans equally fairly said Chilcott.

No comment.

Bipartisan Politics

The government needs to think how to develop policy on the internal conflict in a bipartisan manner.

Comment: Self interest of the two major parties divided for no known worthy reason has been the root cause of this escalated ethnic problem.

Sri Lankan Conflict

The sooner it ends the better; but the government has the right to take steps to defend itself against the threat posed by the LTTE; the LTTE has to change its ways.

Comment: All accept those wanting to kill human beings with no desire to cease hatred with love, want a peaceful end to this conflict that is bleeding the country dry-dry it will be at the end of a protracted war that would pave the path to an easy eelam- it will be the clear case of fly getting trapped in the spider web!!

British Government

The British government would like to continue to help the Sri Lankan government find the way forward to peace and development.

We shall continue to take steps against the LTTE in the UK, to prevent public demonstrations of support for the LTTE and to disrupt fund-raising.

We shall continue to fund our modest peace-building strategy projects in cooperation with the Sri Lankan authorities to help address the underlying causes of the conflict.

Comment: What more assurances will those ‘anti imperialists’ want in the absence of any alternative offer by them accept a ‘bone dry and a failed nationalist economy’?

In general

Not to demonise UN agencies, NGOs and their staff on the basis of wholly unsubstantiated allegations; the government should make clear it does not support the JVP’s campaign against UNICEF.

Comment: What more assurance do the ‘anti-imperialists’ want in deed; unless they count Chilcott to be a brazen liar!

Comments in general:

As to whether Chilcott is out of step in diplomacy is not for this writer to comment; but however it remains that most diplomats endorsed the views he expressed.

Also, he must also be cognisant of the fact that moderate Tamils had an aspiration for a separate autonomy even during the state council days; that this aspiration got aggravated with grievances Tamils had at the hands of majority Sinhalese over the years; that the grievance came to a climax in July 83 riots caused by the killing of thirteen soldiers in Jaffna; that subsequently this earlier held aspiration of separate autonomy turned into a demand for a separate state; that down the line the separate state demand boiled down to a state with internal self determination-and;

That now, this notion of internal self determination may be negotiated with moderate Tamils with sufficient and eternal vigilance on the stretch of sea between Jaffna and Tamil Nadu.

Moderate Tamils may comprehend this request for vigilance!!

This then is the assistance international community should provide in the background of the ambassador’s address!

- Asian Tribune –

Also Read:

British High Commissioner flayed both Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE

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