Time to tell US diplomats who is boss here
Posted on May 12th, 2013

Dr Kamal Wickremasinghe Courtesy The Daily News 

The content of the recent speech by the US ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele J Sison to the Foreign Journalists’ Association in Colombo on the “next steps” for US engagement with Sri Lanka is typical of the forceful and uncivilised approach to diplomacy being practiced by US state department officials whose career rise roughly coincides with the neocon capture of the US government and the Armed Forces.

Some US diplomats in this category who have got promoted to ambassadorial postings are typified by a level of arrogance that borders on stupidity due to the brainwashing they have undergone at the hands of neocon-run diplomacy schools and neocon mentors within the state department – they have been brought up on a world view that the US is “ƒ”¹…”the’ rightful, unrivalled emperor of the world, and those who represent that power should “ƒ”¹…”manage’ world events like the viceroys of the preceding empire. So they come and present the world with a caricature of the fabled “Ugly American”.


Michele J Sison

They are not apprised of the fact that the US power and influence in the world is more “ƒ”¹…”imagined’ and fake than real, and that US elitism is not readily “ƒ”¹…”accepted’ by significant numbers of people in other countries.

This arrogant approach to US diplomacy reflecting the pernicious influence of the cabal of neocons who infested the Ronald Reagan and Bush administration, such as Jane Kirkpatrick, Madeline Albright, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, is different from that of previous generations of professional US diplomats in that they subscribed to a more realistic world view that made them circumspect in attempting to influence domestic events in other countries.

Michele Sison is a victim of neocon brainwashing

The current US “ƒ”¹…”envoy’ in our midst, Michele J. Sison, typifies this generation of naively confident career state department official brought up in a drip of neocon ideology and agenda. Like most of her contemporaries, Sison has a B.A. in Political Science, in her case from Wellesley College, a private women’s liberal-arts college in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

She has also studied at the neocon mecca, the London School of Economics (LSE) and served in a number of African countries between 1982 and1993 before the neocons seem to have decided to unleashed her in South and West Asia, obviously with a view to exploit her Filipino heritage.

She has served in Chennai (1996″”…”1999), Pakistan (1999″”…”2002) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2004. She served in Lebanon from 2008 to 2010 in a junior capacity, and in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs, the office created to exploit the “rapidly progressing” South Asian region, before the state department decided to bless Sri Lanka with her presence as our ambassador.


US troops in Afghanistan

Several incidents during Sison’s stints in Lebanon and the UAE suggests that the motto of her alma mater, “Non Ministrarised Ministrare” (Not to be ministered unto, but to minister) has made a deep impression in her rapproach to diplomacy, sometimes leading to dangerous consequences.

One such event that nearly ended in disaster took place during a visit by her to the southern Lebanon town of Nabatiyeh on June 19, 2008 – a visit by anyone associated with the US, least of all a diplomat who represents the regime, to the strongly pro-Hezbollah South Lebanon can only be described as foolhardy. The anti-US feeling in Nabatiyeh was even stronger than elsewhere in South Lebanon due to the civilian deaths and miming being caused even today by American-made cluster bombs dropped by Israel during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli war. But Sison visited the area, as charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Lebanon. She would have experienced first-hand the much talked about US “image problems” in the Middle East when her convoy was surrounded by more than 200 villagers, including women and children, shouting “Death to America” and “We don’t want you in South Lebanon”, pelting stones at her car. A state department spokesman later played down the incident that put Sison’s life in harm’s way.

Also while in Lebanon, Sison’s injudicious statement to the media that the goal of the Obama administration’s upgraded heavy armament assistance including M60 and SP42 battle tanks to the Lebanese army, one of the active parties in the delicately balanced powder keg of politics in Lebanon, was to “help the Lebanese people feel secure” earned her the nickname the “US viceroy” in Lebanon.

Sison also attracted media attention during her stint in the UAE, when she handed over runaway Iranian criminal cousins, Maijid and Hossein Kavousifar, who had murdered a judge and two innocent bystanders applied for asylum in the US as persecuted “freedom fighters”. Having personally interviewed the men, Sison handed them over to the Dubai authorities who returned them to Iran, and both men were hanged in downtown Tehran at the very intersection where they had murdered the Judge.

While Sison’s action in this particular case appeared justifiable at the first glance, many analysts interpreted the handover of the two criminals as “ƒ”¹…”sacrificial’ for an anticipated violent public reaction in Iran against the hangings, an eventuality that failed to materialise.

Sison always had eyes on the “civil society groups” in Sri Lanka

Sison’s remarks prior to coming to Sri Lanka on her next posting after Lebanon, clearly shows that US plans for Sri Lanka centred around financing anti-government NGOs and other US-compliant sundry “civil society groups”.

She promised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – “I will absolutely commit to you that human rights issue, the civil society and the media to do their job will be on top of my agenda in Sri Lanka and I do believe that we can have a constructive dialogue to keep human rights protection, rule of law at the forefront.”

Sison’s speech in Colombo was condescending and dishonest, and it contained threats. Her emphasis at the beginning to the “value” of the US relationship to Sri Lanka and the people of Sri Lanka, including references to every penny that has ever been shown on US accounts as “aid” to Sri Lanka, is clearly dishonest “”…” it was revealed during the same week by the Central Bank Governor that the much boasted about US “aid” of around $12 million to Sri Lanka is actually granted to enrich the coffers of shady local subversive groups such as Transparency International and the Centre for Policy Alternatives who carry out their “dirty work” of destabilisation on behalf of the CIA and USAID.

Sison’s references to the current situation in Sri Lanka included threats against, and attacks on, media outlets and journalists; In effect, she was accusing the government of being behind such atrocities, without producing evidence.

She spoke of the United States defence of the “universal right to freedom of expression” that is critical in protecting democratic institutions and values, without making reference to the 24 hour electronic surveillance of citisens’ communications routinely carried out by her government, legally under warrants as well as illegally when they felt like it. She dismayed over the impeachment of the former Chief Justice, dragging in the actions supported by sections of her “ƒ”¹…”darling’ Bar Association of Sri Lanka in support. She expressed alarm over the recent attacks on Muslim businesses and demanded that hateful sentiment must not be allowed to fester. Obviously, she knows nothing about her government’s harassment of the Muslims including ethnic profiling that constitutes open discrimination against Muslims in the US and in the West in general.

And, of course, the US expresses disappointment with the stalled progress on reconciliation and accountability since the end of the conflict in 2009 “”…” Little does she seem to understand that such impatience rings hollow, coming from a country that failed to show any weapons of mass destruction, after a decade of war against Iraq, killing more than a million civilians and creating a refugee outflow of many millions of others.

In justifying the US decision to table a second resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in March, Sison revealed that they “monitored” the situation throughout the country, and found that the National Action Plan not covering “all” the recommendations of the LLRC unacceptable.

She referred to two specific examples of LLRC recommendations on which the government has “failed to perform” on investigations – the deaths of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006 and the 17 Action Against Hunger “aid workers” in August 2006.

Sison’s attempt to “downgrade” the Sri Lankan government’s post-war performance on these 20 or so regrettable deaths, like all other deaths of the war, suggests that the 20 people involved or their “ƒ”¹…”work’ that led to their demise were US “ƒ”¹…”sponsored’ activities. Her obvious lack of concern about any of the nearly 100, 000 or so other deaths go to confirm this view.

She referred to curbs on “freedom of movement” in the context of police prevention of travel to Colombo by hundreds of family members of the “disappeared”. Who will try to claim that there is no “freedom of movement” in Sri Lanka today, based on this “ƒ”¹…”one’, fully justifiable police action taken on public security grounds? She also reprimanded the government for not “moving ahead” on the “crucial”dialogue with the TNA on political devolution and prescribed that the government continue to return property to rightful owners and to “implement a process that resolves outstanding land claims issues”. Such interference in domestic political issues tantamounts to bad manners in the first place, and more importantly, a violation of the international law that governs conditions of Sison’s presence in Sri Lanka as the representative of a foreign government.

Sison’s threats reveal future US plans on Sri Lanka

It must be noted that this event at the Galle Face Hotel was hurriedly organised, including the invitation to Sison to speak on “next steps”, by the MI6 (BBC) agent in Colombo, Charles Haviland. His express intention was to get Sison to issue a threat to the Sri Lankan government, subsequent to the announcement that it takes no account of the ridiculous March 2013 US-EEC anti-Sri Lankan resolution at the UNHRC.

Keeping to Haviland’s agenda, Sison aimed to keep us on suspense by declaring that “what happens next” would depend on the government of Sri Lanka. She added, like “the mouse that roared”, “we” will look closely at what steps the government chooses to take in response to the resolution, referring to Navanetham Pillay’s “long-standing recommendation” for an independent international investigation in her back pocket.

She reminded the Sri Lankan government of the orders in the 2013 resolution to Pillay to “update” the UNHRC on Sri Lanka’s “progress” at the September 2013 session, and present a comprehensive report in March 2014. She also reminded that the resolution “encourages” the government to respond to the eight “outstanding requests” by UN special procedures mandate holders. Her final words were – as we examine next steps, we will renew our consideration of all mechanisms available, both in the Human Rights Council “and beyond”.

This particular unwelcome, undiplomatic and unprofessional intrusion in to Sri Lanka’s internal affairs by Michele Sison is not the only offence she has committed in terms of breaking international law relating to diplomatic etiquette outlined in the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations of 1968.

Sison certainly would have approved the approach of a minion in her office, a woman named Allison V. Areias-Vogel to the chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board for a “special discussion” with regard to the proposed revision of electricity tariffs, and matters pertaining to the refusal of the Petroleum Corporation to continue to issue fuel to the CEB on a deferred payment basis, intensely domestic administrative matters.

They are trying it everywhere

Michele Sison is not the only US ambassador who has sought to interfere in domestic affairs of other countries in the recent past: Just two weeks ago, in Lebanon where frantic political manoeuvring is underway to replace the coalition government headed by NajibMikati that fell on March 23, Sison’s successor Maura Connelly got in to trouble for meetings with MPs and political faction leaders.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry considered her actions”interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon.” Prior to the meeting, Connelly had offered loads of unsolicited advice to all political factions that clearly reflected the US wish to transform Lebanon into a rear base of support for the proxy war the US is waging against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

The Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin also denounced the US ambassador’s intervention and called for the parliamentary elections to be held on time based on an inter-Lebanese consensus rather than on foreign directives.

In an interesting aside, Maura Connelly, like Sison was involved in a mishap during one of her sojourns to the Lebanese country side when one of the SUVs in her motorcade crushed a portion of a wall surrounding a historical site near Tyre.

In January, the Slovenian government complained that they faced daily interference in internal affairs by US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeliwith persistent demands to push on with “reforms”, accusing Mussomeli of “disrespecting the dignity of patriotic Slovenians”.

A year ago, in Hungary, Magyar Nemset newspaper revealed that American Embassy staff initiated a two hour meeting with the country’s commissioner responsible for investigating financial crimes committed under the former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany’s administration.

The US embassy has been showing particular interest on the evidence that had been collected on an alleged fraudulent land swap. The commissioner revealed that during the discussions the Americans and the Israeli ambassador spoke disparagingly of the enquiries procedure, suggesting political persecution of Gyurcsany was the aim of the inquiry.

The angry commissioner told Hungary’s Hir TV – “I can clearly say that the US ambassador to Hungary openly interferes in Hungarian domestic politics and the remarks made by American officials during the meetings indicating that they question the foundations of the rule of law in this country.”

The Magyar Nemset newspaper also revealed that the Americans attempted to collect information from the Chief Justice Office on the names of the socialist politicians under criminal investigation and in stages of investigations under the pretext of information gathering for embassy statistics.

US ambassador Eleni Kounalakis had several meetings with the President of the Supreme Court and the head of the Hungarian Association of Judges discussing the proceedings of the Hungarian justice system.

In February this year, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister asked the US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone who had criticised Turkey’s judiciary for “lengthy pre-trial detentions, lack of clarity in charges and lack of transparency” in relation to cases of hundreds of retired and active military officers and dozens of journalists, lawyers, politicians, and MPs linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in jail, pending trial for plotting against the government. The Turkish government asked the US ambassador to stop interfering with the country’s judiciary system, warning that – “Ambassadors should mind their own business. They should stay away from assessments that mean interference in Turkey’s judiciary and domestic affairs.”

A spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), accused Ricciardone for “not learning not to overstep his boundaries” despite warnings from the Prime Minister.

The row came just a week after an explosion outside the US embassy in Ankara that killed two and wounded several others.

Last week, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep TayyipErdogan rejected a request by US Secretary of State John Kerry to delay a planned visit to Gaza on May 31 to mark the three-year anniversary of the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in which nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli naval commandos raided the ship attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade.

In March, just before the last presidential election of April 14, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua expelled two American diplomats in response to “interventionist statements” by US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who superfluously called for “open, fair and transparent” elections. A week before the expulsions, President Maduro had called on Barack Obama to stop an alleged conspiracy by former US diplomats Roger Noriega and Otto Reich who were “recruiting mercenaries” in Central America to assassinate the rival presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, with a view to destabilise Venezuela.

Reminders needed

Such blatantly interventionist actions of US ambassadors in foreign countries violate international law built around Article 2.1 of the UN Charter which provides the principle of the sovereign equality of States, and Article 2.7 that states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

The Friendly Relations Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970 strengthened such foundation principles by declaring specifically that – No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State.

The principle of non-intervention is in fact the mirror image of the sovereignty of States.

The dictatorial interference on domestic affairs of other countries the US is attempting has already been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in the case of Nicaragua as “matters which each State is permitted, by the principle of State sovereignty, to decide freely. One of these is the choice of a political, economic, social and cultural system, and the formulation of foreign policy” through activities such as making payments to political parties and other forms of interference in the internal political processes of the State. But the US and NATO violate these laws on a daily basis with impunity, while claiming the guardianship of ‘rule of law’ globally!

Sri Lanka, with a history of progressive international involvement through organisations such as the Non-Aligned Movement should consider becoming the first nation in the world to remind US diplomats the rules of appropriate behaviour in foreign countries where they gain accreditation as ambassadors. We can certainly forego their ‘aid’ to the NGOs.

They should be reminded that respect, not humiliation the foundation of civilisation, and electricity and running water certainly can’t make up for the decency deficit in this area!

One Response to “Time to tell US diplomats who is boss here”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Excellent.

    But I disagree with the conclusion.

    OK, what if we remind US diplomats the rules of appropriate behaviour in foreign countries?
    Will they listen? NO!

    They are after TE. Until they get it they will bug us.

    We should BUST their plan of TE by making Tamils a MINORITY in the north. That is the only solution.

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