Okay, so the words in that leaked confidential diplomatic dispatch to London by the British ambassador in Washington pointed to the chaotic functioning of the Trump administration. But if you did not know where it came from, who authored it, what it refers to but had read a part of its content you might be [...]


All the president’s men and more


Okay, so the words in that leaked confidential diplomatic dispatch to London by the British ambassador in Washington pointed to the chaotic functioning of the Trump administration.

But if you did not know where it came from, who authored it, what it refers to but had read a part of its content you might be excused for thinking that it was a confidential assessment of another president-led government — the one in that glorious country like no other.

Sri Lanka’s politics has descended to such improbable levels of madness that one would hesitate to draw obvious conclusions about anything that happens in our paradise isle where chaotic governance rules and bookies are offering odds on what will happen in the days to come.

“We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” wrote Ambassador Sir Kim Darroch from Washington to his bosses and colleagues in London summing up the condition of the Donald Trump government.

His withering comments on the Trump administration and the “knife fights” between and among White House officials, several of whom have fallen by the wayside and some have committed hara-kiri, so to say, rather than serve an unpredictable, irascible and early morning tweeting twit are surely the kind of political assessment our ambassadors or their senior officials should be doing but obviously don’t or cannot.

Darroch: Candid diplomacy

Ambassador Darroch’s remarks read like an encapsulated version of President Sirisena’s government in action, sowing discord and thrashing left and right ready to grab at any straw in the hope of surviving a few more months beyond its term.

Of course, those words of disorderly and confused governance were not directed at the Sirisena-style of running the country but at the world’s most powerful leader President Donald Trump whose racist rhetoric and tone are becoming increasingly hostile towards American minorities and immigrants.

Trump has now picked on four Congress women from among the Democrats to turn his ire on asking them to return to the country’s they came from. But he did not seem to know that three of them are US citizens and born in the mighty United States.

Admittedly President Sirisena has not acquired this vile habit of picking on minorities and castigating them in public. But sure enough those he has pardoned or partnered in recent years during his political journey to the top have not been great advocates of racial harmony, equality before the law and justice for all.

Recently President Sirisena pardoned a foul-mouthed monk in yellow robes named Galagoda-aththe Gnanasara Thera, who had been convicted for contempt of court, a conviction endorsed by the higher courts.

Though sentenced to six years, he was freed by Sirisena after nine months and he is back again on the road as though he was a member of that utterly racist and violent organization Klu Klux Klan which once flourished mainly in the American south and which Trump would perhaps like to emulate if the law did not stand in his way.

Whether Sirisena pardoned Gnanasara for political advantage or, in his heart of hearts, he had some sympathy for Gnanasara’s racist ideology one can only speculate. It has been said that what Trump does publicly some politicians in Sri Lanka do privately adding fuel to the fires of racist demagoguery.

In fact, fires lit by racist elements have destroyed shops and homes of minority citizens undermining the very teachings of Buddhism, the purity of which they claim to preserve.

When Ambassador Darroch referred to Trump’s faction-riven White House, it seemed very much like a direct criticism of the Sirisena government which is looking more like a political dog fight than a responsible administration.

The pile of bile that Trump releases to the political atmosphere is surely no different from that which Sirisena’s sharply divided administration does to Sri Lanka’s yahapalana governance.

Trump’s campaign strategy for the 2020 presidential race is race. He hates immigrants and reviles them whenever he could. What Trump forgets or does not want the American people to know is that he is the product of an immigrant family as most Americans are.

Trump wants immigrants to “go back to the place they came from”. If he is serious about his anti-immigrant crusade like Sri Lanka bigots are about minorities there, then he should go back to where he came from.

His paternal grandfather came to the US in 1885 from a small village called Kallstadt in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate. Friedrich Trump, his grandfather changed his name from Friedrich to Frederick and some years later took American citizenship.

If Trump wants all immigrants to return to where they came from then the US would be inhabited only by the descendants of the Native Indians — the Apaches, Comanche, the Sioux and others.

One wonders whether heads of missions of the US and the UK send back to their capitals such candid assessments of the happenings in Sri Lanka as Ambassador Darroch, one of the UK’s best diplomats has done from Washington.

We have seen some of the despatches sent by Robert Blake, former US ambassador to Sri Lanka, when a cache of confidential cables were released by WikiLeaks some time back. They were not entirely complimentary to the Sri Lanka government.

Particularly interesting would be the assessments sent to London and Washington as the faction-riven government of Sirisena is driven further apart, while Sirisena tried to stand the constitution on its head just as Trump, still facing 16 different investigations, tried to manipulate events to suit his political orthodoxy.

Equally interesting would be to read the despatches from Washington of our ambassador or whoever wrote the political reports, on the crazy happenings in the White House under an “inept, insecure and incompetent” president as Darroch called Trump.

Did our diplomats back there send such damning indictments of Trump’s presidency as professional diplomats would surely do or were they bootlicking the administration in reports that praised the presidency? Would it take 30 years to see them, especially those from Washington?

Were these reports to Colombo ever read by the relevant ministers and senior officials to assess the contents or were they just allowed to gather dust as little interest was shown in the diptel (diplomatic telegrams) sent.

When Trump turned round on Ambassador Darroch and called him a “pompous” fool, the British Foreign Office and the Foreign Minister defended the ambassador who subsequently resigned.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that the British public expected its diplomats to provide the UK government with “honest, unvarnished assessments of the politics in their countries” and added “we pay them to be candid”.

If the British High Commissioner in Colombo follows those expectations, then the despatches in the last three or four years should make juicy reading!

Maybe our heads of missions and officials find it easier to lift some reports from the media and paraphrase them or serve as acolytes to their host governments praising them to the hilt and providing sufficient delectation to those back home, if anybody reads the reports that are.


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