With the United Nations human rights council meet in Geneva due next month, a familiar din over Sri Lanka has been gathering force. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government suspects that Sri Lanka will once again be slapped on its face with a resolution asking for an international inquiry into the war crimes committed in 2009. Several developments have raised its hackles — the reminder by the visiting envoy of the United States of America that the international community’s patience with Sri Lanka was wearing thin, the resolution passed by the northern provincial council of Sri Lanka asking for an international probe, and the barrage of exposures of inconvenient truths by independent foreign agencies. Sri Lanka’s reaction to all this has followed a set pattern. One, a stream of foreign visits by Sri Lankan diplomats and ministers to convince whoever is willing to listen to them about the progress being made by the country in formerly Tiger-dominated areas in the north. Mr Rajapaksa even landed up in Israel recently, perhaps to put pressure on the US. At home, however, there is little of this outreach, especially to those communities that become invariably branded as traitors every time Sri Lanka alleges an international conspiracy against it. The Tamil minority, always suspect, may find itself more vulnerable to majoritarian hatred following the NPC’s attempts to garner international attention.
The problem with Sri Lanka is intensifying precisely because of this contradiction. The country has been found lacking in its most basic efforts at reconciliation. It has not even implemented the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. But the more the international pressure, the more defiant Sri Lanka gets. What is particularly worrisome is the effect the mass hysteria in Sri Lanka has on relations between the minority and majority Sinhala populations. Apart from the Tamils, the Muslims and Christians, too, have been singed by the emerging stridency of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, indicating how counter-productive the international campaign against Sri Lanka’s war crimes is turning out to be. A way out could be paying greater attention to the country’s post-war efforts, which is what Sri Lanka wants. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s military-driven reconstruction in the north does not seem to be paving an easy path to winning the hearts and minds of the minorities there.