No. 170 NAI DFA 27/30

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S. 7/14/5)

Geneva, 22 February 1933

Colombia-Peru Dispute

You will see by a copy of the Provisional Minutes which will reach you in due course, that the Council yesterday considered the appeal of Colombia under Article 15. The Peruvian representative did not attend. The Bolivian representative, in the course of his speech attacking the Peruvian Administration, used the name of Sir Roger Casement.1 I believe that this was not done without advertence to the fact that the Irish Representative was Chairman of the Council Committee. I knew I was about to be appointed President of the Council Committee to endeavour, under Paragraph 3 of Article 15, to bring both parties together.

My natural reaction was to say subsequently that I had heard, not without emotion, the name of Roger Casement mentioned at the Council Table - the name of a great humanitarian and a great patriot. That was my very natural reaction, but the fact that Casement's work on the Putamayo was being used to condemn one of the two parties to the dispute, and that I was to preside over this Committee in which the slightest suggestion of approval of the Colombian attack would be fatal, compelled me to let the opportunity slip. I felt that I had lost an opportunity with political and national interests. I still suffer from an acute sense of having been thwarted.

In a personal conversation with Mr. Santos2 afterwards, I thanked him for his reference to Casement. He was fully aware of the predicament in which he had placed me!

[signed] Seán Lester

1 Sir Roger Casement (1864-1916), Irish nationalist, former British consular offical who highlighted human rights abuses of indigenous peoples in the Congo and in the Putumayo region of the Amazon basin by colonial authorities and business interests. Retired from the Foreign Office and joined Irish Volunteers (1913) and became a member of the Provisional Committee, raised money for purchase of arms, sought arms in Germany, sailed to Ireland and was captured at Banna Strand, Kerry, on 20 April 1916, charged with high treason and executed in London on 3 August 1916, remains re-interred in Dublin (1965).

2 Eduardo Santos (1888-1974), head of the Colombian delegation to the League of Nations (1931-33), and head of the Colombian delegation to the Rio de Janeiro Peace Talks to settle the Leticia dispute (1933-34), later President of Colombia (1938-42).

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