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A wise theory

It could replicate the butterfly effect of James Gleick's Chaos theory. A statement made by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the UNSC in New York could have a multiplier effect thousands of kilometers away in a southern Sri Lankan election, writes Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Oct 06, 2009 16:48 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

It could replicate the butterfly effect of James Gleick's Chaos theory. A statement made by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the UNSC in New York could have a multiplier effect thousands of kilometers away in a southern Sri Lankan election.

Clinton pronounced last week, in a careless, generalised tone, that "rape (was) used as a tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma and Sri Lanka and elsewhere."

The statement was followed by howls of protest and the US envoy was summoned to the foreign ministry here.

The US clarification was quick. It said that it had no recent evidence of women being raped in government custody. Recent meant between 2006 and 2009. The US added that it, however, had detailed -- implying in earlier phases of the war -- "numerous cases of rape and sexual violence in Sri Lanka…acts committed against women held in detention by the government." And that it remains concerned about extrajudicial killings, disappearances and detainee abuse.

The wise, instinctive politician that he is, President Mahinda Rajapaksa seized the statement in half and hailed it a victory. Addressing a political rally in Galle, he said: "it was a victory for the country that the US has clearly stated that there has been no record of Sri Lanka using rape as a military tactic.''

Lankan army soldiers, he said in another speech, had accomplished the rather difficult job of carrying ``guns in one hand and the Human Rights Convention in the other."

At a press conference, only "relevant'' portions of the clarification were read out and it was subtly thumped a diplomatic victory -- the David in diplomacy was one up against the Goliath of international relations.

The US, maybe inadvertently, had allowed Rajapaksa to whip up electoral emotions against the West in the run-up to the October 10 southern provincial election. Rajapaksa would be quite happy to project his government, and the army, as the sole protectors of Lankan sovereignty against western powers -- ``motherland'' and ``victory'' have defined many of Rajapaksa's recent speeches.

That's one butterfly effect of Clinton's statement that Rajapaksa's opponents hope would die out soon.