Feature Article

Canadian professor exposes cosiness of Clinton with Colombo, Cairo

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 02 February 2011, 03:55 GMT]
“I observe Hillary Rodham Clinton careening about in response to events in Sri Lanka and now Egypt – bouncing from (realpolitik) wall to (humanitarian) wall to (pragmatism) wall, in a kind of foreign policy funhouse of mirrors,” writes Canadian Professor of Law, Craig Scott, exposing the hoodwink game played by the US State Department having close personal relationship with the oppressive regimes in Colombo and Cairo. In an article appeared in Open Democracy Monday, Prof. Scott exposes how the protection of Rajapaksa regime is smoothly carried out by the family connections of SL foreign minister G L Peiris with Hillary Clinton.

Craig Scott is Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, and Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, York University, Toronto. He also serves as an Advisor to the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice.

Following are excerpts from his article, “Taking Tea with Torturers:”

By spring 2010, Sri Lanka is under sustained pressure from global civil society.

G L Peiris, the former Dean of Law at the University of Colombo turned politician, has just been promoted in Cabinet to become, on April 23, 2010, Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. Scarcely a month later, in May 2010, he visits Washington.

Peiris’ personal relationships almost certainly entered into the calculus of the elected-but-autocratic Sri Lankan President, Mahinder Rajapaksa, when he decided to insert Peiris as the lead on Sri Lankan foreign policy.

When Foreign Minister Peiris arrived in Washington last spring, we learned that he has, like Mubarak, a family connection to US foreign policy,” writes Prof. Scott on the relationship of Peiris and Bill Clinton who were together at Oxford.

Scott implies that the rapport of the high ruling circles protected the regime in Colombo and went against war crimes investigations.

As Clinton’s lengthy remarks progress, there is not a single word of criticism or even diplomatically expressed concern about the policies and practices of the Sri Lankan government.”

Instead, she hands legitimacy on a silver platter to the Rajapaksa regime by remarking, “The United States has long been a friend of Sri Lanka. Our countries share a history of democratic institutions…”

There is not a word on the militarization of governance in the north of Sri Lanka. Not a word about the Ministry of Defence assuming control of the government’s NGO Secretariat that regulates NGO activity throughout the country – with special implications for (highly restricted and monitored) NGO access to the north. Not a word on the large increases in the defence budget, despite the war having ended and no military threat having survived.

Clinton, in the course of a four-paragraph answer, spends the entire first three paragraphs saying, in various ways, that the US supports the LLRC process. In the final paragraph, a single sentence appears: “The minister and I talked about the continuing role of the United Nations, which intends to have an independent oversight role.”

Secretary of State Clinton simply obliges Foreign Minister Peiris and Sri Lanka, effectively endorsing a whitewash response to her own department’s report.

Coziness practically oozes from the pours of this Peiris-Clinton press conference.

Well it may be that there are geopolitical reasons for the kind of double standards that the US applies to cases like the Shah’s Iran, Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka, or Mubarak’s Egypt, but the key is that any tragedy is in a significant part of the US’ own making.

In the end, coziness with repressive regimes leads to well-founded perceptions of hypocrisy and, when all is said and done, tokenistic integration of fundamental human rights into official US behavior in the world.

Egypt's demonstrators are not just fighting the regime. They are fighting Washington, too.

The US, Britain and other western governments that have wrongly valued stability above freedom should take inspiration from the brave people of Egypt.

The situation of “valu[ing] stability over freedom” is only worsened when personal relationships deepen the coziness. It is not just that a layer of complexity is added, but that a different ethical dimension enters into play.

Secretary of State Clinton’s family ties – including her inclusion of the Mubaraks as “friends of my family” and including whatever special access her husband’s nostalgia for his Rhodes years may provide Sri Lanka’s Peiris – become part of her political accountability.

As such, Clinton – and by extension President Obama – need to find a way to create critical distance between her friends and the foreign policy of the United States.


External Links:
OpenDemocracy: Taking Tea with Torturers

 

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