Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, in Island, 16 June 2020 where the title is “Lord Naseby’s Paradise”
It is a great joy to come across someone who loves this country passionately. In the case of Lord Naseby the joy is enhanced by the practical aspects of his devotion, his unceasing efforts to promote Sri Lanka’s interests and to combat what he sees as unremitting and vicious hostility to Sri Lanka on the part of successive governments.
The joy is however limited by the fact that he has not been able to achieve much in these last efforts, and also because he has received so little practical support from Sri Lanka itself. I should note though that Naseby himself offers no criticism about this, and indeed his narrative in ‘Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained’ is full of positive references to the many Sri Lankans with whom he interacted over the years.
This is in contrast to his forthright denunciation of British politicians, foremost amongst them the unctuous David Cameron. The previous Labour governments are criticized as well, Tony Blair’s for failing to ban the LTTE when the Americans did and for offering no tangible support to Sri Lanka during negotiations with the Tigers, Gordon Brown’s for perpetuating falsehoods about Sri Lanka in the person of David Miliband, its bumptious Foreign Secretary – even though, as Naseby notes, they must have been aware of the truth, given what the Defence Attache in Colombo Anton Gash had reported.
Lord Naseby’s effort to obtain the text of the Gash despatches is the most significant element in the book, and his long struggle against delays and obfuscation and what he suggests is downright falsehood provides us with fascinating reading. He makes it clear that the British government must have been totally hypocritical in pushing resolutions against us at the UN Human Rights Council given the information it had. And he also suggests it must have shared this with the UN, which is an indictment on those in that body pursuing a political agenda with no regard for truth.
But the perfidy of Albion is nothing new, though I should note that Lord Naseby does by contrast make clear how Mrs Thatcher was both straightforward in her dealings with Sri Lanka and put her money where her mouth was. He notes then that, perhaps at his suggestion, Sri Lanka was one of the few countries to vote with Britain over the Falklands issue – at a cost to us for after that Argentina proposed a resolution against us. Naseby does not mention that, understandably enough, for in those days Britain was not deliberately doing down Sri Lanka.
To me what is saddest about the narrative regarding the Gash despatches is that Sri Lanka did nothing to support Naseby. He does quote in an appendix a letter from Vasantha Senanayake, then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, thanking him, but there was no further consequence, no fulfilment of the hope expressed in that letter that ‘we in Sri Lanka will be able to build on your work, to ensure that our victory over the terrorists who inflicted such suffering on all our people, Tamils as well as Sinhalese and Muslims, is not traduced’.
Lord Naseby had sent a copy of the Gash documents to the President, and sent me a copy for Mahinda Rajapaksa. The latter was prompt in collecting this from my house, but nothing followed. When I asked him about what he was doing with them, he said he had given them to G L Peiris, ridiculously for he knew well how ineffectual G L was.
And as was usual with him in dealing with anything in English, there was no follow up. Sirisena claimed to know nothing of the documents when I called him and promised to check, and then reiterated his ignorance when I called after a few days, I think the last time I spoke to him for that set the seal on his astonishing lack of capacity. However, to give him his due, he did write to Naseby to thank him as Vasantha had suggested, but then that letter lay idle in the High Commission in London for weeks, since those in charge of Foreign Relations in London would have preferred it had never existed.
But even now it is not too late, if the current President, who probably better appreciates the importance of Lt Col. Gash’s reports, stirs himself. His Foreign Minister can easily call in the current British High Commissioner and ask that the full contents of those reports be shared with us. He could also inquire as to whether any part or parts were shared with UN inquiries, and find out whether anything in them was used to support the allegations of war crimes which hang over us like a Damocles sword.
Naseby thanks our excellent Deputy High Commissioner in London, Sugeewara Guneratne, for helping him with data for the book, and mentions more than once in it the support he received from Amal Abeywardena of the Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka. That body, with a distinguished multi-ethnic leadership, is the type of group our High Commission in London should work with, and I hope the professional Saroja Sirisena will establish a close relationship with them and with Lord Naseby so that his work will indeed be built on.
I have dwelt at length on this element because I think this country must pull its finger out if we are to re-establish the respect we were held in after we defeated the Tigers. Instead of building on that, and getting the British into line with the help of our friends there, we allowed them to make the running and nearly destroy the fruits of victory. Naseby, it should be noted, records in detail the fiasco that took place in 2010 when our President went to England, propelled by Kshenuka Seneviratne, against the advice of our High Commission there and the capable Public Relations company Nivard Cabraal had contracted. He also hints at the connivance of the British government in promoting the embarrassment to us, which I have argued was the beginning of the decline into disgrace that overwhelmed us in the next couple of years.
But leaving aside these reasons for sadness, I should note the exuberance with which Naseby records his burgeoning love affair with Sri Lanka, from the early days when he would motor round the country staying in the old resthouses, relishing the beaches and the hills. I should mention the support he gave that led to enhanced British assistance in the eighties. I should record his prompt response to the tsunami, and his appreciation of how swiftly we recovered, due to the efforts of the government as much as the generous assistance we received, from the British people as well as its government.
I should also reiterate his account of how swiftly the Sri Lankan government restored facilities in the North and resettled the displaced. He notes how the government continued during the war to provide governance and supplies to areas in which the LTTE held sway. He records the international presence in the refugee centres and rubbishes the claim they were Concentration Camps. He cites the ICRC rebuttal of charges against us, to add to the evidence of Lt. Col. Gash. And as a refrain there is the viciousness of the British in doing nothing to help, its acquiescence in efforts to weaken our economy, its reiteration of lies agreed upon with terrorist supporters.
Unfortunately there are a few glaring errors in the book, none that affect its arguments, but it is a pity the manuscript was not checked carefully by someone with a better knowledge of the details of Sri Lankan political history. It was not Mrs Bandaranaike who made Sinhalese the official language, Tamil was made an official language in 1987 but English is still not one, J R Jayewardene did have a Presidential election, and in 1982 two years before it was due, Vadamaarachchi was launched in 1987 not 1986, the Executive Presidency started in 1978 and not 1982, and so on. I hope these small but irritating errors are corrected in any subsequent edition.
I mentioned above that Naseby is not critical of Sri Lankan politicians, but there is obviously one person he cannot stand. Though full of the milk of human kindness as far as this country is concerned, he does write about Ranil Wickremesinghe that ‘I suppose I am not alone in finding his laidback attitude strange’. I suppose I am the opposite to the former Prime Minister, in that I believe that what needs to be done should be done immediately. I can only hope that those now in authority will not be laid back but will act swiftly to strengthen Sri Lanka with the support Lord Naseby has so generously extended to us.
Ellis, Royston 2020 “Profound Insights into Sri Lanka’s Tempestuous History,” 25 March 2020, https://thuppahis.com/?p=41347&preview=true
Engage Sri Lanka 2013 Corrupted Journalism. Channel 4 and Sri Lanka. A Collective Work by Engage Sri Lanka, http://www.corruptedjournalism.com/book/Corrupted%20Journalism.pdf
Hull, C. Bryson & Ranga Sirilal 2009 “Sri Lankan War in Endgame, 100,000 escape rebel zone,” 23 April 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-srilanka-war-idUSTRE53J0IZ20090422
Marga 2011 Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, http://www.margasrilanka.org/Truth-Accountability.pdf.
Roberts, Michael 2018 “Reflections: Interpreting the Gash Files, IV,” 29 August 2018, https://thuppahis.com/2018/04/29/reflections-interpreting-the-gash-files-iv/
Roberts, Michael 2018 “The Western World’s Cumulous Clouds of Deception: Blanketing the Sharp Realities of Eelam War IV,” 16 October 2018, https://thuppahis.com/2018/10/16/the-western-worlds-cumulous-clouds-of-deception-blanketing-the-sharp-realities-of-eelam-war-iv/
Roberts, Michael 2020 “For Sri Lanka. Engaging Lord Naseby and His journeys in Sri Lanka,” 31 March 2020, https://thuppahis.com/2020/03/31/for-sri-lanka-engaging-lord-naseby-and-his-journeys-in-sri-lanka/
Roberts, Michael 2020 “Embracing the LTTE Strategy in 2008/09: Norway, USA, UK, France and the Human Rights Conglomerate as Complicit Tiger Allies,” 8 April 2020, https://thuppahis.com/2020/04/08/embracing-the-ltte-strategy-in-2008-09-norway-usa-uk-france-and-the-human-rights-conglomerate-as-complicit-tiger-allies/