16 November 2011

Patricia Butenis gets an A for ‘Arrogance and Condescension’ but an F overall


Whenever Patricia Butenis deigns to offer opinion she waves a flag with a bold statement: ‘I don’t know what the hell I am talking about’. She doesn’t, but that’s what she should do, I feel. Two years ago, when she became US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ms. Butenis wrote to the Sunday Times confessing that Uncle Sam is no saint but maintaining that this doesn’t take away the responsibility of the USA to engage with other governments with respect to issues such as democracy, transparency, human rights etc.  She insisted that her office was open to dialogue.  ‘Monologue’, however, has been the name of the badge she’s worn since.
The indefatigable folk mining Wikileaks for statements regarding Sri Lanka (www.colombotelegraph.com) has been giving a lot of tidbits by way of Butenis sound-bytes, many of which reveal her finger-poking ways.  The communications dispatched from her office have provoked much comment.  Butenis ought to hang her head in shame but does not. The lady is thick-skinned, that much we have to grant.  It helps I suppose when you are a representative of a government that has an arsenal capable of blowing up the entire world several times over, never mind the fact that it is groveling at the feet of China and the rest of Asia to secure financial viability as a nation and is besieged by an unprecedented wave of protests at home. 

This busybody has stated, according to www.colombotelegraph.com, that her challenge is to ‘strongly encourage the Sri Lankan government to embrace reconciliation, accountability, and respect for human rights’.  She’s also said that many neutral observers of the conflict have expressed in private that if there was no concern for civilians, the Sri Lankan armed forces could have ended the war long before May 2009.

Now, having full knowledge of this fact, Butenis has continued to work tirelessly, out in the open and behind the scenes, to feed pro-LTTE propaganda and insinuations that the Government didn’t give a damn about civilians, never mind the fact that some 300,000 civilians held hostage by the very same organization were rescued at great cost to military personnel. 

She wants to help Sri Lanka ‘reconcile’.  She wants to help government be more accountable, have greater respect for human rights. She can help by shutting up, not because these things are not useful or cannot be classified as ‘urgent societal needs’, but since she gives a really bad name to the real struggles for justice and democracy.  She has admitted that most media representatives she’s spoken to, especially during a one-week period two years ago (November 2-8, 2009), had objected to US policy (she’s not said which policy or policies, but given that US policy on most issues is toilet wash, this slip is hardly worth the bother). The fact is that people are wary of standing shoulder to shoulder with political nutcases and those with horrendous track records on accountability, transparency and the upholding of human rights, especially in agitation on these very subjects. 

One of the most serious obstacles to action against perceived wrongs is that the loudest among the protestors happen to be people who just cannot be trusted.  When they call for action, others want to run in the opposite direction, so tainted are they in their complicity with the Eelam project, US machinations and other moves to undermine sovereignty and the mindless and uncalled for vilification of all things Sinhala and Buddhist.  The same goes for Butenis.  She given protests and objections a bad name. 

Butenis has stated in a leaked unclassified diplomatic cable (October 30, 2009), Sri Lanka at a pivotal point in its modern history. The end of the long secessionist war with the LTTE opens up opportunities for national reconciliation, political reform, economic renewal, and international re-engagement. The question is whether the Sri Lankan leadership has the vision, determination, and courage to seize the opportunity.’
Vision and courage to do what?  What is this ‘national reconciliation’ she talks of?  What is the ‘political reform’?  And what are the dimensions of ‘economic revival’?  She speaks of ‘international re-engagement’.  What re-engagement and with whom? 
My gut feeling is that the answer to all these questions is reducible to ‘upholding US interests’. 
Look Butenis, we do need to resolve things.  We need political reform.  Our development model is archaic.  We have always engaged with the rest of the world so the issue of ‘re-engagement’ (implying there was some kind of suspension of engagement) does not arise.  These things are important, because you want it and certainly not on your terms or in line with your preferences. 
It’s our business.  The Sri Lankan leadership has its own ideas and there is no lack in vision, determination and courage and certainly no pussy-footing when it comes to opportunity seizing. Whether this is good or bad has to be decided by the people of Sri Lanka, not by you.  Not just because you are a busybody but your country needs to gulp down a barrelful of medicines you yourself prescribe when it comes to vision, courage, determination in sorting out ‘national reconciliation’ (the word’s literally in the streets of every major US city), economic renewal (requiring a hefty kick in the collective corporate behind) and international engagement (requires you to get the f-word out of from all countries). 
This is how things are here, Butenis.  You are not helping.  We have a lot to deal with and can do without the condescension and arrogance.   

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2 comments:

Sybil said...

If Butenis is a honest career diplomat who has made some errors of judgement as to what was unfolding in Sri Lanka she would resign from her job now.

If she is a CIA agent, she will stay on as the US Ambassador.

And we all know that she will stay on and try her best to do what US has done in other parts of the world.

Anonymous said...

I had the unfortunate experience to work under Ms. Butenis in Baghdad, Iraq, where she was oblivious and insensitive to dark under currents within the Iraqi government and more than willing to turn a blind eye to corruption and re-emergence of a dicatatorship. Whether Sri Lanka or the Maldives, the US will indeed do as it always does and throw its support to the oppressors.