Saturday, October 10, 2009

WHICH PART OF THIS DON'T WE GET, REALLY?

WE emphasized the importance of focussing on effective outward communication earlier when the visiting UN representative Lynn Pascoe, after visiting IDP camps amidst the post-war chaos commented 'you have a better story than is getting out today.' At the time the government was patting itself on the back for a job well done, when the opposite was true; it was failing miserably to establish the facts with the international community as to what is happening with the internally displaced persons, while anti-government forces were very successful at portraying a completely different and derogatory picture of Sri Lanka. That situation has not changed since then and the warning signs are continuing.

The most recent of these signs is the communication issued by the veteran US foreign policy figure Madeline Albright who commented in relation to Sri Lanka and in the absence of verifiable facts US political analysts are forced to make deductions from unrealiable sources which continue to feed even flawed information to them on a regular basis. This is a harsh statement of reality and is an indicator of how vulnerable the SL government is, due to a combination of the not very original, yet effective propaganda activities of the pro-eelam lobby and Sri Lanka's own ineffectiveness and lack of interest in establishing constructive dialogue based on ground realities with outside forces. Sri Lanka may be an island geographically, but in international relations no nation can expect to be an island unto itself. Isolationist policies whether actively sought or forced by circumstances has never served any nation well. Even the mighty US came down to its knees economically and militarily after its previous President followed similar 'go alone' series of policies. There are plenty of other examples elsewhere in history.

Albright's comments are a second reminder to Sri Lanka that the government needs to talk more often to the international community, to get the facts out to them. Hidden behind this warning are subtle forces which seek to have dialogue to be channelled to and through them, so that they have opportunities to continue covert activites within Sri Lanka. Some of these forces can be found on the Scandinavian part of the world map. Contemporary Europe's continuing politico-military impotency is a definite threat to Sri Lanka's national soveriegnty in that context, and can be expected to remain so for a considerable period of time. What that spells out is that Sri Lanka should get the facts out to the world fast, often, and in easily digestible potions. The fact that the EU will grant GSP+ concessions yet again to Sri Lanka should not be taken as a sign of improved relations between us, even though the politicians on the two sides of the divide may make misleading statements and the usual stupid noises. Not surprisingly, some on Sri Lanka's side may even belive what they utter.

And then there's the not so little issue of a Nobel peace prize for Prez Obama. There are many and diverse views on this surprising turn of events, which 'deeply humbled' Obama the brilliant orator and led the majority in the US and elsewhere to wonder what next? While a minority usually in the lunatic fringe either support or oppose (Rush Limbaugh is livid and frothing at the mouth) the Nobel happening, majority are concerned about how the pressures of recieving such a prestigious award would influence their yet to be tested President, who is already facing apparently insurmountable challenges at home and abroad. Although it is quite possible that the main promoters of the event, Sweden and Norway are following their well established anti-George Bush rhetoric by awarding Obama, it is also more possible that they intend to use the shock and awe of the situation to make the office of the US Presidency more amenable to their views about how the world should be run. With Hillary Clinton and now potentially Obama coming under the Scandinavian peacenik influence nations such as Sri Lanka Israel which are plagued by deep rooted terrorist problems that essentially require military responses, better watch out.

This is not to say Obama is anyone's puppet. The very fact that he has not relinquished the pressure on anyone should tell the world that attempting to mislead him in the long term is very likely to be futile. In managerial and analytical skills, Obama is much superior to his predecessor and that characteristic provides for hope for a balanced perception in this worrisome situation.

But that does in no way eliminate or even diminish the fact that Sri Lanka is yet again spiraling out of control into a propaganda vaccuum, when the need of the hour is the very opposite; an effective international public relations mechanism which drives the change worldwide that uniquely benefits us. In that context we can and must learn from the pro-eelamist lobby amongst others to be able to not only counter, but to overcome them. Worse, in the propaganda game, time is not on our side. Sri Lanka needs to act now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

THE FACTS WHICH ARE UNDENIABLE

THERE are many interested colonial wannabes who are pointing the finger at Sri Lanka, while attempting to whitewash, or even blatantly ignore their own horrendous attrocities in recent times.

In Iraq, the US led invasion has so far led to over half a million civillian deaths and unquantifiably large scale destruction to the once prosperous country. And yet there doesn't seem to be any accountability for the horrendous crimes against humanity commited by these military forces, even though ample evidence exists to support undeniable indictments against the previous Bush Government.

Similarly, but lesser known and even less cared about is the carnage that has been happening in Afghanistan, which has now become a testing range for US and allied weapons systems where they are deployed against live targets with absolutely no sense of accountability. Even though some reporting happens on these mass scale killings, they do not lead to any legal consequences in the Western world.

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Meanwhile Sri Lankan media is hyper ventilating on reports that the present SL government has succssfully deterred yet again another attempt to bring war crimes indictments against them in the US Senate, with the assistance of the Israeli influence groups. Reality behind such claims could easily be quite different.

The fact remains the Americans and the British do not possess adequate evidence to prosecute a war crimes case against Sri Lanka and the present attempts are based on flimsy and baseless accusations of a few pro-LTTE groups affiliated with a few Democratic party leaders. In such a situation it would not take much to convince the US Senate that they shouldn't proceed further until and unless solid and irrefutable evidence is unearthed. In any case the Americans have bigger problems; two losing wars, an ailing economy, a declining politico-military stature and a deeply fractured nation divided over the policies of its first black President.

The situation for the British is no better. An increasingly unpopular government led by a group of incompetents has led the country to a gradual political and economic decline while its idiotic foreign minister is seen as many as a juvenile amateur who craves recognition at any cost. British forces abroad have also commited many documented attrocities including the indiscriminate use of white phosperous ordnance in civillian areas leading to large numbers of deaths.

Complicating the issue for those who'd like to bring a successful indictment against Sri Lanka is the fact that the island nation is not a signatory to the Geneva convention.

It is in this context that the Sri Lankans are now compelled to play the diplomatic games of recovery. Not only must we rebuild the nation, but must also help rebuild our diplomatic clout to one of decisiveness and usefulness. The Sri Lankan government needs to reach out to her loyal and patriotic diaspora population and garner support in coherant and well planned exercises to manage this outcome, which is not too difficult irrespective of hostile attempts by pro-LTTE groups operating from abroad.