Typically such invitees deliver warm encomiums praising the man or woman ‘of the moment’
Samantha Jane Power, US Ambassador to the UN during the Obama administration is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an event celebrating Mangala Samaraweera’s completion of 30 years in politics.
Tennyson Cooray, if he celebrated some landmark year in a career as a comedian, has the right to invite, say, Donald Trump. Makandure Madush could get one of the several politicians Ranjan Ramanayaka claims do cocaine to say nice things about him, Madush, if he decided to celebrate a decade in the narcotics business. Anura Kumara Dissanayake could invite Ranil Wickremesinghe. That’s their democratic right. Samaraweera picked Power.
Typically such invitees deliver warm encomiums praising the man or woman ‘of the moment.’ After all it is not nice to rubbish the host. And, after all, in this case, the guest doesn’t really have the moral authority to rubbish anyone, even if the subject is eminently rubbish-worthy.
There are things, therefore that Samantha will not say about Mangala. And there are things about Samantha that whoever introduces the lady will not say. If there are true transcripts of relevant speeches, they will be trashed in favour of the sanitized. In the public interest, however, we can offer nutshell-versions of the draft introduction and draft keynote address. Here goes:
The one introducing her says…
‘Our guest at this event is the keynote speaker Samantha Power who needs no introduction really. She once wrote a book titled ‘A problem from hell — America in the Age of Genocide’ where she charged that Washington has historically been ineffective at stopping crimes against humanity. We caution that when she uses the name ‘America’ she is talking about the USA and not the two continents defined between the Atlantic and the Pacific. We would be delighted if she touches upon the crimes against humanity hatched in Washington and executed by the US military and the militaries in other countries including terrorists organizations over the years, and not just those relevant to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘She’s no longer holding office but she could speak also of her government’s concerns, so-called, about Venezuela even as it has done nothing to help the 40 million Americans of the United States, the 20 million without health insurance, the millions living on the streets or entire cities without clean water, as Dr Jill Stein observed recently.
‘She can talk about US interests and interference in the internal affairs of countries such as Sri Lanka, using aid as an effective arm-twister and of course the more horrendous and as frequently used instrument called “troop deployment”. She can talk about the urge of her country to bring about democracy, the strange support and non-intervention in the case of military juntas, dictatorships and monarchies with track records as terrible or worse than those regimes they’ve wanted to oust, and the play of economic interests, especially oil resources, in all this.
‘She could flip the script of her statement on Syria and Bashar a-Assad and talk about the problem from hell, the real one, and say something along the following lines: “To all the repressive regimes and terrorist organization and successive US Governments that backed them, including that of Barack Obama — you bear responsibility for these atrocities, you are signalling to these regimes and/or militias who are massacring innocents to keep doing what they are doing.”
‘We are hopeful that she will not “deny or obfuscate the facts, as she has done before, saying up is down, black is white” and understand that doing so will not absolve anyone, for one day there will be ‘full accounting of the horrors committed” sometimes even in the name of democracy and peace, and “you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening, that you were involved, for we know what happened and we know who was involved.”’
And Power, perhaps in a up-is-up and down-is-down, black-black and white-white moment of clarity might say it all. Even if she doesn’t, here’s what she might say about Mangala Samaraweera…[Note: the chortles in this ‘script’ are cues; she won’t say ‘chortle’ but chortle she would, if she actually read this KEY note].
‘I am no longer in Geneva, but you may have heard that my successor, Nimrata “Nikki” Haley just before leaving the post last year called the UNHRC “a cesspool of political bias”. Some might wonder what he was talking about. Our bias. That’s the USA. Not just the UNHRC but the entire UN system, more or less. It’s our creature after all. That’s what we do. We have our creatures. No, Mangala, we are not calling you one! <chortle now>.
‘Mangala Samaraweera. A friend, certainly. A man who is more than a friend. A partner. <chortle now> A partner willing to go the whole hog, indeed way beyond expectation, to safeguard our interests in Sri Lanka, regardless of costs to his country or its citizens. He was a God-send, really, not just when it came to doing the utmost in standing with us on Israel, but standing with us against Sri Lanka!
‘I remember how we didn’t even have to try convincing him to agree to a joint resolution at the UNHRC in October 2015 on Sri Lanka. He was on the same page. No arm-twisting required. It was of course, as is usual in our work, couched in lovely language which included words such as reconciliation, but I need not tell this distinguished audience about how we think, what we do and how serious we are about such things <chortle now>.
‘We are glad he is in this government as we get more serious about military engagement with the Sri Lankan security forces. Engagement. Joint engagment. <chortle now> We want, for instance, multi-lateral maritime inter-operability in the Indian Ocean. Multilateral. <chortle now>. Inter-operability. <chortle now>.
‘With Mangala where he is, and may God protect him, we can be assured that we have more than a foothold in Sri Lanka and in the region, never mind the Chinese! <chortle now>. It’s less expensive than war, you know! <chortle now>.
‘I am aware that Mangala is popular in Matara. I am aware that on one occasion the people took up cudgels, well, kooroondu pollu in defence of the political position he took at the time. The people. <chortle now>. He will not let any opportunity pass to vilify the Sinhalese and the Buddhists, which suits us well. We don’t like terrorists as long as they attack us, but we don’t mind them if they serve our interests. We don’t usually say that of course. Mangala has his own style of using our good governance lexicon, talking about peace and reconciliation, devolution of power as a necessary foundation for eventual split of the island making for renewed conflict, instability and the right conditions for our involvement. Involvement. <chortle now>. Mangala does his work diligently. Our work. And we don’t even have to reward him. Talk about complete genuflection!
‘I am reminded of that lovely line by Philip Gourevitch in his book about Rwanda. He said, and I quote, “power largely consists in the ability to make others inhabit your story of their reality, even if you have to kill a lot of them to make that happen.” With people like Mangala, we don’t have to kill anyone. We can count on him to tell our story. We know about problems from hell, baby. We made them!’