CBK bewildered by MR’s policies

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga says she is bewildered by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s foreign policy.

In New Delhi for the first annual conference of her own South Asia Policy and Research Institute (SAPRI), Kumaratunga also denied she backed Sarath Fonseka at the last Presidential election, the Hindustan Times reported.

Kumaratunga said that Sri Lanka has a “marvellous opportunity” to heal and reconcile its twin populations after 25 years of civil war and she is more than a little baffled at the slowness with which the Mahinda Rajapaksa government is building post-civil war “bridges.”

“Such opportunities do not last forever,” she warned.

“That is why they are called windows and not something larger.”

SAPRI will look at issues regarding the subcontinent, Kumaratunga says, engaging research scholars globally on these topics.  These deliberations will result in policy recommendations which will be communicated to policy-makers and professionals.

Sri Lanka is still fertile ground for the dissemination of such ideas. While the civil war has seen some repair work accomplished, Kumaratunga says still more needs to be done in terms of physical reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Kumaratunga led Lanka during some of the bloodiest years of the civil war. Today, with a Tamil minority “who want rights but of whom only a small minority still talk of a homeland,” she seems worried Colombo doesn’t recognize what a good thing it has going for it.

Rajapaksa’s abrogation of her promise of Tamil political devolution – a decision he had been party to at the time and did not oppose – was one reason Kumaratunga declined to support him in the last elections.  “Even though he called me eight times asking for support,” she remembers.

Kumaratunga strongly denies she backed the rival candidate, General Sarath Fonseka. “Normally I would have supported Rajapaksa: I am still patron and member of our party. But I could not support some of his policies.” So she stayed out of the campaign altogether.

If she is concerned at Rajapaksa’s minority policies, she is “bewildered” by his foreign policy.

“In my time, we practiced nonalignment, which meant keeping good relations with the entire world,” she says.

This led many Western countries to agree to ban or limit the activities of the Tamil Tigers. Kumaratunga is clearly discomfited with Rajapaksa’s confrontational policies with the West and his rhetorical claims to having new “friends” in China, Myanmar and Iran.

“Relations with India are essential and crucial,” she stresses.

Which leads her to wonder, after New Delhi’s recent United Nations vote against Sri Lanka, what has changed there. Two years ago, in similar circumstances, India actually canvassed on Lanka’s behalf.

“Somethings must have changed,” she says.

“I do not know what they are.”