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The battle she fought in Geneva for the country should not be belittled

(This is the text of an Editorial titled “Targeting Tamara” which appeared in the “Daily Mirror” of May 7th 2012)

The latest turn of events to relocate Ms. Kunanayakam to a Latin American country, when Sri Lanka is heading for another crucial encounter in the UNHRC in August, signals a portentous threat to the country’s chances of surviving another blow.

Quite obviously, there are many reasons as to why Sri Lanka could not obtain the required number of votes to defeat the US sponsored resolution. In fact, it was a muddle created by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the government that brought Sri Lanka to its downfall.

While the larger portion of the blame lies in the hands of the government, which paid no heed to the voice of the North’s citizenry, the MEA aggravated the situation by not obtaining a feasible counter mechanism in their diplomatic battles against the PRO-LTTE diaspora. Incompetence, mismatched priorities or lethargy, call it what one will, negativity was bred in Colombo, not inside her office in Geneva. Hence, singling out Ms. Kunanayakam for a collective defeat, in which the Lankan delegation too has a heavy share, is neither ‘diplomatic’ nor fair.

By unseating her on the day of the crucial vote, in which every other country allowed its representative to take seat in the front row, the MEA had in fact provided a prologue, which many people failed to read. Perhaps a wiser few, including Ms. Kunanayakam herself, saw it coming.

Whatever the reasons behind the arbitrary move, it cannot solely be the Geneva debacle. The high heads at the Ministry of External Affairs, by attempting to dance to different tunes, have fallen off stage. Their short-sighted decisions to fill the important chairs with political appointees go to show that the country’s image was the last thing on their mind when making such appointments.

Hence, it is the career diplomats like Ms. Kunanayakam who are called to clean the trails left by the ambassadors of chicanery. Earlier it was her predecessor Dr. Dayan Jayatilake, who, after a single-handed win at the UNHRC, was prematurely called back. Hence, the question remains as to whether she would be subject to the same treatment had this year’s sessions been concluded on a jubilant note.

If her chair in Geneva has been promised to someone else, chucking her to the far end of the world cannot be called gratitude. The matter is not about balming the wounded egos. It is about showing respect where it is required.

After all, Ms. Kunanayakam may not be a Lakshman Kadirgamar; but her years of experience in the UN does place her above many diplomats who walk under the Lion Flag. The battle she fought in Geneva in the name of the country, should not be belittled. And the least a diplomat can expect in return, is a grain of dignity for the services he/she has rendered

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