The JVP has blown a gasket over the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) recently signed between Sri Lanka and the United States. It is making an issue of the reference therein to `peace keeping missions`. It demands that the contents of the agreement be made public forthwith. Strangely, the UNP, too, has lashed out at the government over that pact. The UNP has chosen to dub it a `secret deal.` (It looks as if there were a secret deal behind every bush in this country.)
One may have thought the contents of the agreement were fairly well-known. But, since some political parties seem to have doubts about the pact, it behoves the government to allay them. As the UNP says, it is in a position to reveal the details of the `secret deal` in Parliament, it should be asked why it doesn`t do so presently without holding the public in suspense like in a cheap soap opera.
Even if a dipsomaniac happens to drink a glass of milk under a palmyrah palm, so goes a local saying, the people tend to think he is downing toddy. Likewise, the US being the US, it is not surprising that the agreement in question has raised doubts in some quarters, especially among the Reds who view anything that America does with a jaundiced eye. But, why should the UNP, which is considered Uncle Sam`s sidekick, raise objections to a government-to-government agreement between Sri Lanka and the US. Has the UNP policy towards America changed since the demise of JRJ, who even antagonised India with, inter alia, his pro-American policies to such an extent that Indira Gandhi retaliated by creating the LTTE?
The US, it should be noted, has ACSAs with 89 countries across the globe. However, it may be argued that simply because others do something, Sri Lanka should not follow suit. Similarly, simply because the ACSA has the US as a party to it, it should not be considered a Trojan horse. True, Americans are no angels and they have earned notoriety for crooked deals. (We are yet to hear of a powerful country without such reputation!) But, that is no reason why Sri Lankans must tuck up their sarongs and hook for their dear lives every time America proposes an agreement.
This is not the first time Rathu Sahodarayas have cried wolf. In the late 1980s, they launched a military struggle claiming to put paid to what they called Indian expansionism. Their anti-Indian frenzy reached such proportions that the then UNP government even had to resort to stupid things like renaming `Bombay onions` as `Lanka Loku loonu`. For, the Sahodarayas blew the brains of traders out for the crime of selling `Bombay onion`! Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was, in their eyes, an agreement of surrender signed by JRJ. The Indian army, they claimed, would never go back. How many thousands died at the hands of the Sahodarayas who were in a mighty hurry to drive the Indian `occupation army` away! But, today, the same old patriots are genuflecting before India seeking her intervention to help remove the scourge of LTTE terror.
The Sahodarayas` atavistic fear of foreign powers is only too well known. Anything that doesn`t fit their threadbare shibboleth automatically becomes an object of suspicion or a conspiracy. This trait has cost them their credibility. The problem with calling wolf all the time is that that cry ceases to be a warning with the passage of time. That having been said, it needs to be added that some of their protests have stood the country in good stead, as in the case of former President Kumaratunga`s P-TOMS agreement which, unless shot down, would have legitimised the LTTE`s claim of running a separate state.
The US is not without double standards on Sri Lanka`s conflict, as we have pointed out in these columns umpteen times. Its support for Norway, whose partiality to the LTTE stinks to high heavens, some utterances by US envoys, both past and present, and the fear of many here that Sri Lanka is moving in the same direction as Sudan, where the US-led international community stands accused of promoting secession, have caused many Sri Lankans abhorring terrorism to doubt the US intentions.
But, the fact remains that the US has placed the LTTE on its list of terrorist organisations?on which Prabhakaran finds himself in the exalted company of bin Laden?and told the outfit in no uncertain terms that it will never recognise Eelam. It was only recently that the FBI busted a group of LTTE emissaries who were shopping for arms in New York.
Why should the US do all that, if ruining things for Sri Lanka is its real intention? What can Sri Lanka do if the US removes the LTTE from the list, turns a blind eye to its arms smuggling operations and boosts Prabhakran`s morale by uttering something in favour of Eelam?
Are the Rathu Sahodarayas and other faded Red windbags going to make President Bush do as they say at galkatas point? And what moral right does the UNP, whose leader signed the CFA on the dotted line under international pressure, have to oppose the ACSA? Will the UNP scrap it if it comes back to power?
Nay, it is not being argued that Sri Lanka should become putty in the hands of Uncle Sam. But, in reality, there are situations in which states have to co-operate on a give-and-take basis, depending on one another`s requirements. The critics of ACSA ought to look at how mighty China and India are cooperating with the US, despite all their differences.
Most of all, have the Reds, the Greens and others of their ilk forgotten the adage: Beggars are no choosers!