UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the then head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, began a three-day visit to Sri Lanka on 25 July 2006, the first such visit by a UNHCR head to the country, when the armed services had just begun to make inroads into Tamil Tiger terrorists held areas in the North and the East of the country.
Now as head of the apex body, Guterres will preside over the destinies of Sri Lanka when the UNHcr takes on the US resolution demanding a “transparent and independent war crimes probe” with foreign agents represented on a probe team.
The UNHCR said in a release at the time that “The purpose of his visit is to meet displaced people in the North and the East of the country and hear their first-hand concerns and needs.
Guterres also had talks with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa before visiting several parts of the country where a large number of Tamil and Muslim IDPs lived in the North-East and met LTTE members too for talks. Guterres has a long history of rapport with ‘refugees’
That visit by Guterres, a former Prime Minister of Portugal and a former President of the European Council, peculiarly was followed by the UN system adopting a tough line against Sri Lanka on war crime allegations made by the LTTE in Sri Lanka and abroad.
To what extent his talks with the LTTE inspired the UN’s antagonistic stance against Sri Lanka since then can only be guessed at.
But on 4 February 2010: “EU nations decided to suspend Sri Lanka’s preferential trade status because of the island’s human rights record”. The EU Commission’s investigation showed Sri Lanka has not demonstrated that it has taken steps to retain or regain the GSP+ status,” a European diplomat said at the time.
These are the changes which came about after Guterres visited Sri Lanka back in 2006.
They were two lasting major developments which followed Guterres’ visit to Sri Lanka.
March 2017, that same man will be overseeing the lampooning of Sri Lanka on the US-sponsored resolution against the country.
The guess is that Guterres, may ultimately be swayed by US mounted influence to pass the word to the UNHRC to take its foot off the pedal and give Sri Lanka space on the war crimes and HR violations issues.
The rationale is that quite unexpectedly, the Philippines President Duterte just three days ago stunned the world announcing he was severing all military and economic ties with the United Sates and publicly announced in Beijing his new commitment to the emerging powerful new Sino-Russian military combine that’s steadily building a collaborative power against the US. The announcement means that very soon, the US war ships around Spratly Islands will have to quit the area, and the US will have to begin dismantling its Subic Bay Naval base, the Clark base in Manila and four other military bases agreed to just 6 months ago.
WHAT A COUP, THAT SENT THE PENTAGON INTO A LATHER!
The US will have to hurriedly look for alternate sea and air bases in the immediate vicinity and barring Bangladesh, the US is left with the only option of getting closer to Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in a bid to relocate in Trincomalee and an air base or two at least to maintain its forward defence architecture.
The odds are that the CIA had intel in advance which is why the US relocated its Delhi-based Defence Attache back in Colombo several months ago just after which we saw the US sending its best warships to Colombo and sidling up to Sirisena beginning with the invite to the G7 Summit in Japan 3 months ago and Indian Premier Modi’s “outreach” invite to him to attend the BRICS Summit.
Duterte has also seemingly agreed to a 12 kilometre maritime boundary falling far short of the disputed Spratly Islands which means the US will be immediately looking for places such as Trincomalee and Colombo at least as makeshift alternate locations to sustain its forward defence lines against the Russo-Chinese strategic move with Duterte.
The US can be expected to now come, calling on Colombo for this purpose AND WILL THEREFORE NOT PRESS THE WAR CRIMES ISSUE COMING UP IN GENEVA THIS MARCH.
It would seem that Duterte has unwittingly helped drag Si Lanka out of the impending crisis at the UNHRC.
Duterte’s hallucinatory brinkmanship might turn out to be just the catalytic conflation that was needed for a major shift in the Obama US Pivot to Asia policy in which Sri Lanka will be faced with tough foreign and domestic policy options.
That’s provided nothing happens to unseat Sirisena in Colombo.