John Kerry came and went. It was not all veni, vidi and vici as die-hard nationalists would have it. Since most of them seem to be from the ‘Bring Back Mahinda’ camp, the cry doesn’t really resonate with sincerity. After all if it’s ‘vici’ that really matters, then the name of the conqueror doesn’t really matter if conquest results; ‘Made in China’ is no better than ‘Made in the USA’ when it comes to such things.
That said the US Secretary of State did himself or his country no favours by appearing to be somewhat ignorant about Sri Lanka. In fact he bracketed himself with former Vice President Dan Quayle and former President George W. Bush.
He first erred in Washington when he referred to a ‘war against Tamils’. This essentially devalues and ridicules Sri Lanka’s effort to do her part in the global war on terror which ironically the US has taken upon itself to lead. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who was present did the cardinal error of letting it pass.
That Kerry didn’t show any regret is a serious matter. He could of course take refuge in the argument, ‘If Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister didn’t have a problem with it, it can’t be wrong’.
If Kerry showed ignorance in Washington, he appeared to have been emboldened during his visit. What he stated could in certain ways give credence to the notion that the American abroad is quite arrogant. Of course one cannot expect a lot from a country that went to war over non-existent weapons of mass destruction. If Washington can twist truth for the benefit of the US citizens, it would be optimistic for a country like Sri Lanka to expect anything better.
Kerry indeed pointed at some heartening directions with regard to the mending of fences when it comes to Sri Lanka’s foreign relations with Western countries that are oft termed as the ‘international community.’ However, it did not point exactly where to.
Having mentioned that, Kerry’s references to the future elections in Sri Lanka should be noted. His announcement comes at a time when the fate of electoral reforms a la the 20th Amendment is still unclear. The 19th is yet to be implemented. Many ‘musts’ pledged before the ‘must’ of a General Election remain either undone or half done. This, therefore, carries the unpalatable flavour of Viceroyism if you will.
He even announced when the elections would be held: ‘this summer’. Kerry probably believes that the entire world is like the US when it comes to seasons and that too shows both ignorance and arrogance. Apart from this, with nothing definite on the table regarding elections, it is utterly presumptuous of the US Secretary of State to tell Sri Lankans what will happen in their country and when.
It is as though Sri Lankans got regime change and some bits and pieces of good governance and lost out in some quarters. That’s hardly anything to crow about. He may have wanted to play conqueror, though Kerry did not conquer. But some, however, acted the conquered and even sounded happy about it.