Jayewardene admitted, “I was foolish and shortsighted.” – July 1983 Sinhala-Tamil riots

SJB Opposition MP Dr. Harsha de Silva, speaking over a private news channel on Sunday, said that when he spoke to the Japanese Ambassador on emergency aid for Sri Lanka, he first wanted the island to fulfil two conditions: Have  an all party Government and an agreement between the Government and the Opposition that they would honour commitments made in a prospective Japanese aid offer.

De Silva’s statement is an indictment on the SLPP Government co-led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (SLPP) and UNP leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, in contrast to the relationship Japan had with the latter’s uncle President J. R.  Jayewardene, sealed by their gifts of Rupavihini Corporation and Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital to name a few that took place during his tenure.

Nonetheless, Wickremesinghe and the UN, led by the latter, organised a virtual humanitarian assistance appeal for Sri Lanka on Thursday, where UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer appealed for US$ 47.2 million emergency assistance targeting the vulnerable for the next four months. This assistance is in the form of food, medicines, livelihood, child and gender (women’s) rights protection and education, she said. According to her, 5.7 million have been affected by the current crisis engulfing
Sri Lanka, the worst since independence in 1948.

 Singer said that in response, the Sri Lankan Diaspora in the USA and the Governments of Japan and Australia have responded positively without elaborating. While there was nothing found on the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka’s website in this regard, nor a website on the Sri Lankan Diaspora in the USA, immediately, the Australian High Commission (AHC) in Sri Lanka’s website however said,
“Sri Lanka is currently going through a severe economic crisis. The United Nations has launched a flash appeal in Sri Lanka to support communities affected by the economic crisis. Please see the information below on how you can support Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (an NGO), Foundation for Goodness (an NGO), Give2Asia (A U.S.-based NGO), UNICEF, UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the United Nations Foundation.” It also said, “The Australian National Cricket Team are currently in Sri Lanka and are raising awareness on the economic crisis.”

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Sri Lanka quoting its Ambassador here Julie J. Chung on Thursday on the present Sri Lankan crisis vis-à-vis an interview she had with a private news channel, said, “We’re actively consulting with Washington and the United Nations on how to provide humanitarian assistance.  But meanwhile we are the largest donor to the Food and Agricultural Organization and UNICEF and we’re looking for additional ways to provide that support.”  

What is of significance in both Chung’s and the AHC’s statements are that the Government and its allied agencies such as the Disaster Management Centre have been left out as being possible recipients of such aid and/or as being conduits for the channelling of such aid, other than the UN and its allied agencies and NGOs and international NGOs, showing that there is not only a trust deficit on the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe Government by Japan alone, but by the international community  as a whole headed by the USA, with the exception of India.

 India’s interest is due to a combination of a guilt conscience, humanitarian and geopolitical. As far as the former is concerned, it’s connected to the refusal of releasing to  Sri Lanka in May 1982 LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakran captured by the Chennai Police despite being wanted for murder and other crimes dating back to 1975 here and despite also an extradition treaty existing between the two countries since 1978 and again on 4 June 1987, threatening to invade Sri Lanka for cornering the LTTE and Prabhakaran in Jaffna in a blitzkrieg launched by the Sri Lankan military on 26 May 1987. LTTE terrorism is the root cause for Sri Lanka’s current plight leading to the birth of the present leadership behind this morass.

Therefore, what the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe Government needs to do is to first bridge that trust deficit and be statesmen like Jayewardene, who admitted, when questioned by the BBC on the July 1983 Sinhala-Tamil riots, said, “I was foolish and shortsighted.”

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