The farcical fast against the United Nations in Colombo

Groundviews

Media coverage
On 6 July, after the first images and video footage of a National Freedom Front (NFF) mob, led by senior government minister Wimal Weerawansa, violently agitating in front of the UN compound in Colombo hit domestic and international media, we noted on our Facebook fan page,

“When this is in fact such a resplendent, verdant country with so much of potential post-war, it is tragic that unbridled lunatics like Wimal Weerawansa contribute to this kind of image doing the rounds in the media. These are the images too that in turn fuel the fringe lunatics in the diaspora Eelamist camp, who will use this as evidence – and not entirely without merit – that the Rajapaksa regime is unable and unwilling to control its openly militant ministers.”

Exclusive audio and video coverage of the first day’s violence in front of the UN can be seen here. By the second day, it was very clear that the Wimal Weerawansa’s provocative statements and the NFF’s violence enjoyed the fullest support and protection of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the churlish brother of the President and Secretary of Defense. As noted by Groundviews on 7 July,

“Later in the day, in contradiction to the statement issued by the Government Information Department, news stories noted that Police actually attempted to remove the protestors, including a group that had forced themselves inside the UN premises. However, in a bizarre twist of events, it was ultimately the Police who had to withdraw on instructions from the government. News reports suggest that Minister Weerawansa directly threatened the Inspector General of Police, and in a characteristic display of chutzpah went on to note the following day that a UN representative had bribed the police to assaulted the protestors, injuring some of them.”

Read the full coverage of the day’s events, including exclusive photos and video, in The protest by Wimal Weerawansa against the UN in Sri Lanka: Condoned by government?

We also noted on Twitter, “No denial from govt that Wimal W called Gotabaya to order police out from NFF protest. Rule of law = Gotabaya’s fancy?!”

By day three, the circus was in full-swing. With Weerawansa fasting, the NFF adorned the environs of his makeshift stage in front of the UN compound with defamatory, derogatory material against the UN and its Secretary General. Tellingly, there was not a single poster, placard, flag or leaflet in Tamil. See Photos from Day 3 of NFF protest against UN in Colombo.

On the second day of Wimal’s fast, in a revealing parade of exclusive Sinhala nationalism, the NFF marched to the Russian Embassy in Colombo and sought their help in clipping the wings of the UN Secretary General.

Video from the day’s events can be seen here.

Also on this day, Groundviews published a satirical piece on the NFF’s protest, titled Sri Lankan Minister continues farce.

The vast majority of Sri Lankans – even those opposed to the establishment of the UN Secretary General’s panel and in support of diplomatic counter-measures – were not part of the NFF’s firebrand coterie of goons, or supportive of Wimal’s farcical fast. In online commentary, mainstream media editorials and physically in front of the UN, Wimal was very much alone and alienated. As we noted on Groundviews early on in the protest,

“Tellingly, the soi-disant card-carrying patriots and commentators, columnists, bloggers and other politicians who have vehemently and oftentimes viciously opposed the UN panel in mainstream and online media have yet, to date, thronged to join the NFF protest. Perhaps they too wonder what relation Gandhi’s deep commitment to and belief in non-violent civil disobedience has with Minister Weerawansa’s public statements and the behaviour of the NFF in front of the UN.”

Critical commentary
Read nearly 1,500 times to date, Managing diplomacy with melodrama: Sri Lanka’s Madness by Chaminda WEERAWARDHANA avers,

“Despite its quintessentially Spartan capacity to reach the strong position it currently finds itself in, those heading the Rajapakse administration’s executive, national defence and foreign policy establishments have amply proven, a year into the post-Piraba phase that they do not possess that shrewd Athenian strategic maturity to work their way around Lanka’s renewed position in the post-2009 international political landscape. This situation explains the farce (better expressed in Sinhalese/Tamil nadagam) currently taking place in Colombo city, which includes carnival items such as (rather childish) anti-UN protests, blocking and barricading international ground, diplomatic visa refusals and deportations.”

Making Foreign Policy on the Street by Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu notes,

“The regime wants to present a picture of political stability, peace and reconciliation but cannot resist confrontation, bombast and turbulence. Their brand of populist politics and pseudo-patriotism leads them to dig policy holes for themselves and destroys the goodwill this country has earned over the years as a respected member of the international community. Foreign policy cannot be made on the street and God forbid that Weerawansa alone on a tiny stage, except for a motley crew of cohorts, fasting to death outside the UN building should be emblematic of Sri Lanka in the international community.”

Groundviews, Sri Lanka’s first and international award-winning citizens journalism website uses a range of genres and media to highlight alternative perspectives on governance, human rights, the arts and literature, peacebuilding and other issues. The site has won two international awards for the quality of its journalism, including the prestigious Manthan Award South Asia in 2009. The grand jury’s evaluation of the site noted, “What no media dares to report, Groundviews publicly exposes. It’s a new age media for a new Sri Lanka… Free media at it’s very best!”

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