Sri Lanka Cabinet Minister leads ‘Death to America’ Demonstration
Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune News Analysis
Washington, D.C. 31 May (Asiantribune.com): When a senior Cabinet Minister of Sri Lanka Government leads a demonstration calling for the demise of the United States in front of the American Embassy in Colombo the U.S. State Department, the foreign policy and foreign relations arm of the U.S. Government, seriously considers it an expression of the Sri Lanka government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The report of the demonstration received here in the State Department describes the organization Sri Lanka Palestinian Solidarity Association as a group that has been associated with Rajapaksa for more than thirty years.
In fact, the Colombo American Embassy will not fail to report that the organization is headed by Mr. Rajapaksa who is currently the country’s president.
If the American Mission reports that the Cabinet Minister attended and led the demonstration with the concurrence of President Rajapaksa, it is a total misinterpretation but such interpretations cannot be avoided.
On the other hand, if the demonstration was not given patronage by a Rajapaksa government minister the State Department here wouldn’t have taken it very serious.
The minister who participated and led the ‘Death to America” demonstration was Labor Minister Athauda Seneviratne.
The American Embassy report of the demonstration calling for the demise of the United States arrives at Washington State Department at a time another senior minister of Sri Lanka Prof. G.L.Peiris is here, as the emissary of Rajapaksa, to engage in negotiations with American officials to maintain and extend the concessions of GSP when he told the AFP news service "and to cut off resources, to threaten to withdraw trade benefits, GSP (General System of Preference) and so on -- all of that is unhelpful because that will only mean the dissemination of poverty, deprivation and adversity.”
It is a known fact that the United States totally understands Sri Lanka’s affinity toward the people of Palestine and their cause but that scenario did not stop e successive Sri Lanka governments, including the current Rajapaksa administration, from getting assistance from Israel to combat Tamil Tiger terrorism.
The American Embassy and the State Department here react very differently when anti-US demonstrations, and in this case in front of the American Mission in Colombo, are led by a government cabinet minister. The seriousness taken by the US State Department is that the ‘association’ that led the demonstration calling the ‘death to America’ is closely associated with President Rajapaksa who has already sent another senior minister to Washington to negotiate a settlement for the issue of GSP.
Do the officials of the U.S. State Department’s South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau arrive at the conclusion that there is no unit in Sri Lanka’s Presidential Secretariat to monitor situations of this nature and prevent those who are closely associated with Mr. Rajapaksa’s governance associating with such events that make difficult for the government to reach the U.S. (and the West) for trade and investment concessions? Definitely yes.
Knowing up close and personal the thinking, behavior, mind-set and influence of American Foreign Service Officers and their Mecca the State Department it is in the interest of the Rajapaksa administration in particular and Sri Lanka in general to keep tab on developments not only that benefit but also detrimental to the administration and the nation to make the governance much easier.
As it is the Rajapaksa administration is making a significant effort to strike a balance between national security and human rights in the face of a serious terrorist threat that endeavors to destroy the territorial integrity, sovereignty and democracy with little or no support from the West.
The LTTE’s public diplomacy campaign in the West has greatly contributed to the present ‘mind-set’ that gives moral support to project Sri Lanka as an international pariah.
The United States and the European Union have withheld various aid programs and are debating whether to withdraw special trade benefits from Sri Lanka amid concerns the human rights situation has deteriorated since the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tamil Tigers in January.
And Minister G.L. Peiris told the media in Washington that under such sanctions and other pressures on "a democratic government pitted against terrorism, you can't possibly prevail."
Avoiding political pitfalls for a nation like Sri Lanka which needs the support of the international community without being captive to major players in that community needs better vision and professionalism that prevents a senior cabinet minister from associating with a demonstration that calls for the “Death to America” at a time Sri Lanka is being pinched and elbowed by the, in Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s expression, ‘rapacious West’.
- Asian Tribune -