By Rathindra Kuruwita Courtesy Ceylon Today

Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States was probably the best thing that happened to Sri Lanka, internationally, for a long time. Even a Bernie Sanders presidency would not have been as good for us. But then again it would not be good news if you are some upper class social justice warrior who was clamouring for stronger international mediation, ignoring evidence that the majority of Sri Lankans view such moves with distaste.

Trump throughout his campaign promised to keep out of the internal affairs of other sovereign nations and to focus on developing the United States, which if he adheres to during his presidency would be welcome news to Sri Lanka.
Hopefully this means that the Trump administration will have better things to do than sponsor UNHRC resolutions against us, especially when the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration is doing their best to bring about reconciliation, and stop pushing the government to promise unachievable outcomes in a limited time. I mean at least they will stop inflicting the presence of Samantha Power on us.

Intervention doesnt work

Almost for a decade Sri Lanka has been facing a number of resolutions at the UNHRC and other international forums on alleged war crimes and very real human rights violations under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. While I admit that it is vital to have international norms and standards, I have often felt that attempts at meddling in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka by the West, often manipulating the UN processes, actually contributed to the survival of the Rajapaksa administration. How many times did the Rajapaksas use defeats at UNHRC to local political advantage? People of this country figured out that Rajapaksas were faking ‘patriotism’ and that the rule was benefitting only a few elites soon after Mahinda won the second term and they got two thirds vote in Parliament. They were appalled when Rajapaksas dragged former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka to jail and when news of massive corruption related to infrastructure projects surfaced and they would have voted against the UPFA a lot earlier if they did not fear that weakening the government would allow the ‘international community’ to impose terms on Sri Lanka that most Sri Lankans wouldn’t like.

And as Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said last week Trump can make the world a whole lot better simply by non-intervention.

On the other hand, a Hillary Clinton victory would have ensured that UNHRC and UN attempts to meddle with Sri Lankans affairs would intensify. It is not for nothing that Northern Provincial Councillors K. Sivajilingam and Ananthi Sasitharan dashed 1,008 coconuts in a Hindu Kovil hoping for a Hillary Clinton victory. And seriously when would our politicians figure out that dashing coconuts, at Rs 60 per nut, is not working out? Remember the Joint Opposition MPs who dashed the same amount of coconuts at Seenigama to get rid of the government? It didn’t really work out for them, right. Unless, of course, you call getting quizzed by the FCID and the CID all the time, and a split in the party as winning!

And maybe without the constant pressure by the West to direct our reconciliation process, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government will be able to carve out a solution that is acceptable to most Sri Lankans after consulting local experts. This also places a greater responsibility on the hands of the government because whether they succeed or not will be completely dependent on them, no more space for anyone to point at the big bad West when things go wrong. Our politicians have been using the ‘West’ the way Hillary was using Russia; God how these people love to avoid individual responsibility.

Trump win and 8 January election

Soon after Donald Trump was elected, a few members of the Rajapaksas and some prominent members of the Joint Opposition attempted to draw parallels between Trump and Mahinda Rajapaksa. Following some weird logic they also seem to think that Trump’s strategy can be used as a template to ensure future electoral wins for them.

Are these people insane? If we compare the 2016 US presidential election to 2015 Sri Lankan presidential election, Mahinda was Hillary Clinton. Mahinda Rajapaksa had the entire mainstream media behind him, except Ravaya and Sirasa (coincidently Trump only had endorsement from two media institutions), the power of the State apparatus, unending donations from rich businessmen, and smart money was going for Rajapaksa.

And just like Hillary 2016 campaign, using its overwhelming media presence and resources, tried to convince the US voter that Trump would create a fascist State a la 1930s, Mahinda’s 2015 campaign tried to convince the people that a Maithripala Sirisena’s victory would lead to a separate State with minorities getting uppity. And just like ‘smart money’ betted on Mahinda prior to the 8 January election the ‘smart money’ was betting that Trump would lose. Living in their own bubble, both Mahinda’s 2015 and Hillary’s 2016 campaigns believed that given the choice the people will prefer the status quo and never realized that a whole lot of people have not benefitted from the status quo and the ‘silent majority’ was itching to give their collective finger to the political establishment. And just like the Mahinda’s 2015 team, the Hillary’s campaign is being a sore loser by blaming the ‘shortsightedness’ of some ethnic groups and foreign intervention.

Just like Mahinda’s 2015, Hillary’s 2016 campaign has no idea what was going on in the real world and judging by the statements made by the Rajapaksa loyalists they are never going to seriously review what went wrong and to come up with alternative strategies. For me this is a good thing because it would ensure that Rajapaksas will be out of power for some time, hopefully forever.

P.S – All this is written with the assumption that Trump will keep his election promises, but the empire that he is saddled with is strong and is resistant to change. Hopefully, he won’t go over to the dark side.
Rathindra can be reached via [email protected]