For a few dollars more
silence that greeted President George Bush when he addressed the
United Nations General Assembly a few days ago was evidence enough
of what the world thought of his administration's abrasive and aggressive
If there was
some desultory applause at the end it was more out of courtesy -
a quality that he and his key officials seriously lack - than appreciation
of its content. Here was President Bush returning to the very body
that he dismissed out of hand as irrelevant and tried to threaten
into submission before his illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq.
If at the time he tried to browbeat the world body to follow his
path to perdition, the other day he was there cap in hand literally
begging for human and financial resources to help Washington out
of the morass into which it stepped with the Stars and Stripes playing
boastfully in the background.
With the situation
in Iraq deteriorating daily and more Americans losing their lives
unnecessarily, any sensible and responsible leader would have shown
some contrition on returning to the very organisation that he decried
and rejected earlier this year.
But Bush and his neo-conservative cohorts are too arrogant to do
so and hence the reception he received from the vast majority at
of the Iraq invasion was not the only reason for the deafening silence
that greeted Bush. The disgusting performance of the US - and the
European Union - at the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit
in Cancun that ended in tragic failure, proved clearly that for
all the rhetoric of the rich nations about helping the developing
world their real intentions lay elsewhere.
numerous shortcomings and the genuine need to overhaul its structure
and rules, the WTO is proving unmanageable for the US and Europe
which hope to accrue for themselves all the benefits of a liberalised
In more recent
months the solidarity shown by the developing world in the form
of the G21 led by Brazil, China and India has proved to be a more
formidable opposition than Washington and Brussels had imagined
it to be before the Cancun meeting.
Realising that after some 20 years or so the developing world has
found a rallying point and are holding out together, Washington
in particular, tried desperately to drive a wedge to disunite them
by bribing, bullying and blackmailing some nations.
a few nations succumbed to this old colonial policy of divide and
rule now being dusted and revived with the new gloss of globalisation
and investment flows.
Unable to break the solidarity among the majority of the developing
countries, Washington and the EU scuttled the Cancun talks in an
effort to destroy the WTO, just as Bush tried earlier to make the
the talks and thereby hoping to drag on the Doha Round negotiations
beyond the 31 December 2004 deadline, the US and EU are trying a
new ruse. Instead of pursuing global trade deals they are trying
to strike bilateral agreements with individual countries or regions.
is quite obvious. The rich power blocs know only too well that they
can extract far more lucrative deals by pursuing bilateral agreements
than were they to deal through the WTO where rules apply and pressure
from the poorer nations could lead to revisions in the trade organisation.
Sri Lanka could
not be bullied or blackmailed. We had been bought over earlier.
We had become a vassal of Washington long before Cancun. We found
a great ally in a dubiously-elected president called George W. Bush
who is now being found out by his own public. Each poll shows that
American opinion is turning more and more against this man and his
machine that represents American oil interests not the people.
and economic policy has been inexorably tied to the West, particularly
to the United States. When our diplomatic and economic policies
are influenced and even formulated by persons who seem to owe greater
allegiance to the US than to Sri Lanka it is scant wonder that we
end up as the doormat on which every low ranking western diplomat
and passing politician could wipe their feet on.
undignified lurch to the West became our accepted policy nearly
three years ago, it was only a year ago that it was articulated
in unmistakable terms by Economic Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda
during a seminar on security in Honolulu. There he urged the United
States to accept the leadership of the world, to play the hegemon
and save the globe from the undesirable.
While the world
is not Moragoda's to give away, he and his colleagues in government
and the business community have created the impression that Sri
Lanka has been given away to Washington as though it was a family
So when sections
of the Colombo media hail Minister Ravi Karunanayake for siding
at Cancun with the US against the developing world to which Sri
Lanka belongs, he was only following a policy line that has already
been adopted not trying to improve on 30 pieces of silver.
If a section
of the media wishes to inflate Minister Karunanayake's ego by claiming
that he "espoused" in Cancun "new thinking, both
diplomatic and economic", so be it, whatever the reason. But
to mislead the public into believing that Ravi Karunanayake had,
with Socratic wisdom, espoused some new theory, then it does journalism
and the public a grave injustice.
The newly established
Sri Lanka Press Institute is set to start a College of Journalism
to train those who wish to join the profession as well as some in
the profession. While this is a laudable idea, the great challenge
is how to educate those already practising the profession at the
highest levels on global and even domestic issues so that considered
views based on fact could be presented to the public and policy
makers. For instance, it was claimed that Sri Lanka and China stood
out as nations "that sided with the US-European position".
rubbish. Admittedly Sri Lanka decided to hold the hand of Goliath
while the Davids of the developing world refused to be overawed
by the giant. Those who know enough of American foreign policy,
how it discards its friends, the effects of globalisation and free
capital flows on developing nations will hardly consider Sri Lanka's
stand an achievement to be acclaimed with fanfare.
But to cast
China in the same mould shows ignorance or an unfortunate attempt
to distort the truth. China was one of three signatories - along
with Brazil and India - that issued a joint proposal before the
conference calling for far more radical reforms than the US and
EU were ready to grant.
The joint proposal
urged far more stringent cuts in domestic support programmes, such
as the enormous subsidies to farmers, than offered by the US and
EU. Besides distorting the position of other countries, the comments
on globalisation and Sri Lanka's agriculture show that greater understanding
of such issues would help immensely some of those who believe that
they are moulding public opinion. Certainly it will help those who
confuse exercises in public relations with informative and thoughtful