Stephen Harper and necessary commiseration

By Malinda Seneviratne

Politicians must continuously shape and reshape the word to fit exigency.  They often don’t realize that when the expedient door is opened those outside get to see some of their insides.  Most often there are no half-way measures.  The door has to be fully opened or kept shut. Open it and it’s like dropping your pants.  It’s not always a beautiful sight.  I am thinking of poor Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. 

 Harper is reported to be campaigning aggressively ‘to pressure Sri Lanka on human rights and political reconciliation’.  He’s stated that he will boycott the 2013 Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka if Sri Lanka’s government ‘does not show accountability for human rights abuses and take steps to reconcile with the Tamil minority’ and has wanted others to follow suit.  His Foreign Minister, John Baird, has complained  that ‘Sri Lanka barred UN investigators, showed a lack of accountability and used heavy-handed tactics since the war’.  He wants to see ‘action’, his spokesman, Chris Day, has said. These are times where mouth-shooting is the order of the day.  There is no necessity, especially after George W Bush’s WMD-related lies justifying monumental crimes against the people of Iraq, for anyone to support contention with evidence.  All that is required, Bush and Blair showed (and Obama, Brown, Sarkozy and their minions such as Susan Rice, Robert O Blake and Hillary Clinton as well as ‘tag-alongers’ like Navi Pillai and Louis Arbour have affirmed), is to have big mouths, big bucks and big guns. 

Just to put the record straight, though, let’s state the facts.  Sri Lanka never barred UN investigators.  The issue of accountability is adequately addressed and anyway the parameters of such exercises should not be determined by some meddling and ill-informed foreigner fed by terrorist proxies.  Most importantly, while the international community (with all its many flaws and crimes of myopia and selective vilification) has the moral right to call out nations with respect to rights abuse and other transgressions, such umbrage should be founded on hard evidence and not conjecture.  If this were not the case, the UN would have nothing else to do than investigate each and every member state because some ill-intentioned members level charges, using the correct language of indignation.

As for reconciliation with the Tamil community, let Harper be informed that the Sri Lankan security forces rescued close to 300,000 Tamils held hostage by the LTTE.  Now that’s a big favour (if indeed saving lives of fellow citizens is not responsibility but favour on the part of the state) he would agree. Of some 11,000 LTTE cadres captured or surrendered, more than 8000 have been reintegrated with society, something that Harper might find impossible to imagine if it happened to be Al Qaeda fighters held in torture chambers, sorry ‘detention centres’ by the USA and its NATO allies.  More than 98 per cent of those displaced have been resettled, and not just in landmine-ridden plots of land but areas where important infrastructure has been restored with all complementary facilities to make for normalcy provided.   If he’s upset about ‘political solutions’, then let’s hear the man enumerate the grievances, especially since his heart bleeds so profusely for the Tamils. 

Enough of ‘record’.  Let’s move to pots and kettles and the colour black, and the assessment of blackness in the relevant utensils.  

First the righteousness

Harper outlined Canadian values: ‘freedom, democracy and human rights’.  For good measure, Harper said that those who do not share these values are considered a threat.  Nice words, but when it comes to application, all I know is that a few weeks after Harper said he will have no truck with dictators, he was making deals with a man who carried out a coup.  Makes me wonder what he means by ‘democracy’.

  Harper’s government is trying to push through a new set of electronic surveillance laws that will make privacy history in Canada.  Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada sums it all up: ‘Read together, the provisions of [these bills] would substantially diminish the privacy rights of Canadians. They do so by enhancing the capacity of the state to conduct surveillance and access private information while reducing the frequency and vigour of judicial scrutiny. In essence, they make it easier for the state to subject more individuals to surveillance and scrutiny.’

Human rights
  My fellow Yaka has a comment.  Well, more than one.

‘Tell me the basis on which Harper or any Canadian derives claim to discuss human rights with anyone or anything other than their off-pink navels!  Can they tell us how to take the asbestos they exported to us from our roof and out of our lungs, knowing well that it causes the worst and most painful carcinomas?  And how can we resolve his concern for humanity when an original aka aboriginal aka red indian aka first nations aka native person’s average mortality is 27 years?  Yes, now, in 2011.  Where is he speaking from? Windstruck in Prairie Winnipeg? Mounted on a war horse overlooking the Beaufort Sea? Under the Queen of England’s Hanoverian underwear?’ 

 I would be less harsh, but we can’t get around the fact that my Yak friend makes: ‘Canada is NOT as it claims a parliamentary democracy but a constitutional monarchy!’  In fact Harper’s proposals have been backed by the UK, Australian and New Zealand.  ‘Who,’ asks my friend, ‘are these countries?’ and proceeds to answer: ‘Constitutional monarchies! Settler states!’  He puts it well, so I will continue with quote: ‘New Zealand? Give me a fokkin break…..let’s speak directly to the Maoris and the originals!’  Canada recently changed her colonial department from Indian Affairs to Aboriginal Affairs.  Now is that ‘reconciliation’ with the ‘originals’, forget minorities in Sri Lanka who have it better than Canadian minorities have and moreover have no evidence to buttress claims to territory?  

Finally, myopia
  If democracy, human rights and freedom are what count and if these things are what help distinguish friends from enemies as per Harper’s conceptualization, should he not immediately break off all diplomatic ties with his neighbour, the United States of America which led NATO’s massive gun-burst on democracy, human right and freedom in Libya (and of course Iraq and Afghanistan before, where their work is yet to end!)?   The attack on Libya, just like the invasion of Iraq was based on well-crafted lies and the process mimic, tragically, the very transgressions (purported of course) that was used to legitimate the invasion.

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