09 June 2012

Goodbye Pat, hello Michele!

Michele Sison has not yet been appointed as the next US Ambassador to Sri Lanka.  She’s still ‘Ambassador Designate’, meaning that she has to subject herself to scrutiny by the US Senate before being confirmed.  She’s been asked questions, she’s answered; she’s been required to articulate statements of purpose and she’s done that.  One thing can be concluded: we don’t need to anticipate any surprises from Ms. Sison in the likely event of her being confirmed.

When the outgoing Ambassador, Patricia Butenis, assumed office a couple of years ago, she took the trouble to make a statement to the press of sorts, outlining her position on various issues and giving the impression that she is willing to field any questions on any issue.  She made out that she was for dialogue and openness.  It didn’t fool anyone of course.  The lady chose when and where and on what to speak. She chose her ‘friends’ carefully to.   There were those she listened to of course, but when you are the representative of a nation that has the power to blow up the world several times over, it probably doesn’t matter if you don’t get it right.  You can, simply, write it as you want to and not necessarily as it is.  That she did. 

No, there was no dialogue and there was no openness.  There was malice and unabashed interference in the internal affairs of the country in absolute violation of diplomatic protocol.  The best that can be said of her is that she was no worse that the man she replaced, one Mr. Robert O Blake, a meddler of the first order.  In that sense, and drawing strictly from history, both Blake and Butenis are excellent and representative specimen of US foreign policy.  Good for the USA, bad for US-Sri Lanka relations and terrible for Sri Lanka. 

It would be folly indeed to believe that the USA is lax when it comes to training diplomats.  They get the best men and women available for each and every job at whatever corner of the earth it may be.  There is no reason to believe that Ms. Sison would flip the script of her employer. Indeed, her statement could very well have been cribbed from whatever Butenis and before her Blake uttered when they went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Not that she had to memorize anything, for the exchange of views was framed by the Acting Chairman of the Committee, Bob Casey, who rattled off the litany of things that bother such people when they talk about Sri Lanka, but about which they really don’t give a damn when it comes to what their own policies produce. 

So Sison wants Sri Lanka to achieve ‘genuine reconciliation’ and she believes that this can only happen if steps are taken to ‘ensure equality and justice for all Sri Lankans, particularly those living in the former conflict areas’.  She even wants elections held in the North.

Why, thank you Ma’am! 

I doubt that when she said ‘equality and justice’ she meant the dismantling of the structures of exploitation that is also called ‘capitalism’.  I wonder, though, what she meant by the word ‘genuine’ because it implies that there is something called ‘bogus reconciliation’.  She believes too, it is clear, that she has some kind of authority to define ‘reconciliation’. 

If any non Sri Lankan mouthed such disingenuous rubbish, I would not hesitate to call that person ‘Nutcase’, but we are talking about the would-be US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ms. Michele Sison, a woman who in the very least can be expected to do what Butenis did and what Blake did before that. 

One thing is certain, ‘reason’ will not work with her.  ‘Truth’ will not work with her.  Money and guns might, but we really can’t match the USA in a buck-for-buck, bullet-for-bullet manner and anyway, we are not that kind of a nation in the first place. 

So what are the options?   We could smile and tell the truth. We can resolve to whisper to her the truths that ought to bite her ear but may very well go unheard.  There’s not much we can do, really.  Except to keep saying ‘don’t think we don’t know; we do and we are not only horrified but amazed at the idiocy that persuades you to think we don’t’.

Are we being unfair?  Well, Butenis was asked many times to deliver on her promise of ‘openness’, but she remained clammed up throughout her tenure.  There’s no reason to believe that Sison would be different, given what she’s uttered so far.

Come on, Ms Michele Sison, prove us wrong!



Anonymous said...

I read the article in the paper last night on Ms. Sison's response to Senate confirmation questions. As an American expat, I can truthfully say, her oh so 'Ugly American' approach made me sick to my stomach. When will America ever get it right on Sri Lanka. The meaning of Liberty and Justice for All has never been so shallow.

Malinda, another on the target commentary and challenge. Too bad the diplomatic core is deaf.

Chandrani said...

What's even more outrageous is Sen. Robert Casey's remarks that nearly 100,000 Tamils are still displaced. He said the military presence in the island's north and east was obstructing their resettlement.

Wonder whether these politicians have a clue of what is happening in Sri Lanka. Seems like they are still three years behind.

Anonymous said...

Well said Malinda. One must be able to call a spade - "a spade". Just because America is a super power does not mean they always get it right!

Wasantha Ranagala said...

Beggars have no choice. The behavioiur of our leaders even beggar questions when they make matters worse for the course.

Shaik Ahamath said...

Sadly, we have to kowtow to the Americans nomatter what they do or say as they hold all the cards. We have to set aside the fact that they have been blatantly violating human rights from the word go - from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Lately, with the use of drones, they can assassinate anyone at will, anywhere in the world they suspect as an enemy, with little or no evidence, but with immense collateral damage to the innocents. The film Homeland portrays an accurate effect of the damages drones cause. E.g. three people in Pakistan loading fertilizers into their truck is deemed bombmakers and duly killed, but they could easily have been farmers - nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

Having spent 32 years living outside of the US, I have seen much change, some for the better (a man named Barack Obama could be elected president) and much for the worse, with shallow claims of being the torch bearer of human rights around the world. I for one will be happy and content when the world does not need a Super Powers to call the shots, only an agreement among us all as equals on what is wrong and right, and keep to that path.

Every country has its time in the spot light when the world thinks they can do no wrong. But in the end, the human condition makes fools of us all, of governments..., even with the best of intentions.

The next super power will be no better. Show me a super power that has not committed human rights abuses at sometime, and I will believe in the tooth fairy.