Power Play in Sri Lanka
Posted on November 26th, 2015

By BANDULA JAYASEKARA Courtesy Island

The government has been singing hosannas for America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who was here on a brief visit. Is Samantha Power genuine genuinely interested in Sri Lanka or government politicians are gullible? Is Sri Lanka bending over backwards to please the US?

Power, who had a strained relationship with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is a much welcome guest in Sri Lanka these days though she did not receive the same welcome in India. In Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Samaraweera took it upon himself to host the US diplomat to dinner whilst in India only Joint Secretary Sujata Mehta in charge of Multilateral and Economic Relations which oversees the UN did so. Power described Samaraweera as a good friend. However, she just couldn’t describe Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in endearing terms. India, which is very concerned on protocol issues, would never offer such welcomes. In a way it is not surprising that such things are happening in a country where ambassadors could even reach the former through text messages. Late Lakshman Kadirgamar would have none of it. Certain protocols must be practised. On an earlier occasion, Samaraweera, whom I respect, got flak from sections of the Sri Lankan media for his welcome hug for the US assistant secretary for South Asia, Nisha Biswal. They said he would have reserved it for his counterpart, US Secretary of State John Kerry.

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United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power plays Elle with Muslim girls at the Osmaniay College in Jaffna on November 22, 2015. (File Photo)

Samantha Power and Susan Rice may be the confidantes of US President Barrack Obama but that does not mean we should act in breach of protocol to please them. Power holds a cabinet rank in the Obama government. The government may try to justify its action on the grounds that it wants to strengthen relations between the two countries.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, like several others, doubted Power’s interventional motives in spite of her much-flaunted ‘human rights defender’ status. She once told Rajapaksa that he should not contest again. When Rajapaksa asked her as to why he shouldn’t contest, she said because he would win! The former President is on record now saying that the US helped the common opposition to defeat him! He disliked Power and have described her as arrogant, undiplomatic and interfering. Rajapaksa thought the US would go all out to have him defeated.

Rajapaksa cannot blame the US alone for what befell him. He, too, was responsible for his own downfall due to nepotism and abuse of power and not giving freedom to his own Ministers. He ignored the cracks within his own party and his supporters.

Samantha Powers is obviously happy that Rajapaksa is out of power. I agree that no one could be in power forever (not even Samantha Power) and President Rajapaksa shouldn’t have sought a third term. No sooner had she arrived here Power tweeted: “In Sri Lanka for first time since 2010 Jan. elections a sea of change in human rights climate. Important leaders continue path towards justice and accountability.” Her agenda in Sri Lanka was made clear by that tweet.

Some question the motive of Power’s visit to Sri Lanka. Many are still in the dark. Why didn’t our Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Dr. Rohan Perera, accompany her? Did Sri Lanka fail to see how India treated her in Delhi? Did anyone at the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry check with its High Commission in New Delhi why Samantha Power went red faced when questioned by the aggressive Delhi press; they laughed at her when she tried to lecture them on terrorism? Is Sri Lanka going to make a bigger mistake by trying to discard China and other countries completely to curry favour with Uncle Sam? Sri Lanka should understand that the US has no permanent enemies or permanent friends. It uses anyone to further its interests. However, the US respects the countries ruled by leaders with some self-respect.

What does Power want in Sri Lanka at a time where there is a heightened terror alert in Europe and other parts of the world including her own country? She wants demilitarisation, reconciliation, rights of Sri Lankan people, accountability etc. Is Samantha Power qualified to speak for the rights of all Sri Lankans? She said the same thing when she visited in Sri Lanka in 2010, just one year after Sri Lanka defeated terrorism.

In Sri Lanka she met President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, Governor of Northern Province Palihakkara (a former respected Foreign Secretary) Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran, went to the Jaffna library to make a donation, played elle with schoolgirls and posed for photographs. She also conducted sessions for the ‘youth’ groups in Sri Lanka. She did not forget to give us a lecture on our suffering for 30 long years! She ate hoppers with Sri Lankan ministers and tweeted them. (A former diplomat based in the US told The Island her public diplomacy failed because she was just acting. It was clearly visible.) She visited the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper, which was attacked several times and praised its courage. No one has the right to attack anyone in Sri Lanka, media or any other institutions. No one should go unpunished. However, what she failed to tweet was that the newspaper is owned by a politician representing the TNA, which has acted as the LTTE’s mouthpiece and recognized the terrorist outfit as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. She also said free press was the guardian of democracy and human rights. How come she did not want to meet veteran Tamil United Liberation Front leader, Veerasingham Anandasangaree, who had the courage to stand up to terrorism even at the risk of his life and limb.

Is Power capable of specifying what she wants. How could she ask any other government in the world to be accountable when the US is blamed the world over for atrocities against countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Did Power tell the United Nations that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq? What is her take on Tony Blair and his recent ‘apology’ after all the destruction and mayhem overseas? Why is Blair still trying to play a role in the Middle East process?

The new US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap is a seasoned diplomat with a smiling face. He has worked very closely with Robert Blake, who tried to interfere with the affairs of Sri Lanka at a later stage. He surely was a good man at the beginning and I even did his first ever interview in Sri Lanka for Rupavahini. What’s up Uncle Sam’s sleeve? What are the power games the US is playing in Sri Lanka, unbeknownst to India and China? Is President Maithripala Sirisena fully briefed on the situation?

Only time will tell.

 

One Response to “Power Play in Sri Lanka”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    USA playing ball with *! Everyone knows that. Ask Putin and he will tell you.

    UNFORTUNATELY SL has become the play ground of COLD WAR politics once again.

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