28th September 1997


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US - Mexico relations

Dangers of transition

So far from God and so near the United States....! This columnist heard the original Spanish version in Havana and it did sound quite a compliment to Big Uncle Sam. It was the Mexicans who had invented it, I was told. Yes, Mexico is the closer neighbour since Cuba and the United States are separated by an expanse of water.

Those Cubans, certainly those who regard Fidel Castro as a patriot in a long line of heroes, thank God for that.

Washington's anti-Cuba policy is justified on the ground that Fidel runs a one-party State. And it is. How about Mexico? The P.R.I. has governed Mexico for nearly half a century, from 1929 to be precise. Besides, the "R" in P.R.I. stands for "revolutionary", the Institutional Revolutionary Party! At the recent elections, the P.R.I. lost control of the Lower House of Congress. Did it mean the party was ready for radical re-organisation, a much needed perestroika? Evidently not. After two days of wrangling, Mariano Palacios Alcocet was given the post of leader. "We thought the old authoritarian style was gone but this just shows that it is still working," a veteran party militant told the NYK Times. He had boycotted a meeting in which the party leaders held a pro forma vote to ratify the selection.

What of U.S.- Mexico relations now?

Despite America's new status as the sole superpower, the answer is not all that clear. Whenever 'the Mexico file' ends up in the Oval office, there is trouble, right now for instance.


Clinton administration: image of 'big bully'

"Washington sure is a funny town" snapped Mr. William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts at a press conference he held at the White House. He had been picked as the new Ambassador to Mexico. "This morning I asked President Clinton to withdraw my name, he told a hurriedly arranged press conference at the White House. The problem was confirmation. Poor Mr. Weld's confirmation had run into "insuperable obstacles", reported Bruce Clark, a British member of the capital's press corps which operates under unusually high pressure.

The Weld affair should interest the student of American diplomacy, and more broadly, the making of U.S. foreign policy. What role the Congress play? How does the Senate Foreign Relations Committee function in the larger decision-making process? What is likely to happen when the man in the White House is a Democrat while the Congress is dominated by the traditional rival, the grand old party?

Right now we could need to focus on Senator Jesse Helms, the pugnacious conservative Committee chairman, a man who made it to the top in "the intelligence field".

The anti-drugs "war" " globally is a high priority of the intelligence community, the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. In that area, Mr. Helms can claim expertise of the highest quality—one reason why poor Mr. William Weld did not get the job which President had offered him, Ambassador to Mexico. Senator Helms had made it clear that the issue of "drugs" and "drug trafficking" would be "high priority" in the selection of the right man for the post of U.S. Ambassador to neighbouring Mexico.

Mr. Helms was by no means alone. He had co-opted Senator Trent Lott who leads the Republican group in the powerful Senate.

Funny Town

In picking Mr. Weld a Republican, President Clinton may have counted on bipartisan support. But no. Mr. Helms out manoeuvred him with his tactical alliance, however temporary. "This morning I asked President Clinton to withdraw my name" said Mr. Weld, a sadder but perhaps wiser man. "Washington sure is a funny town" was his final parting words. While Mr. Weld, probably a plain "outsider" may regard this as useful lesson on the intricacies and cynicism of big-time politics, the main challenge has to be faced- - - drugs and Mexico. The Weld controversy has been viewed as a domestic U.S. affair. What of the problem?

The US and Mexico are in daily contact through the working of a binational committee which has grown over the years to become the largest consultation mechanism between the US and any single foreign government , says the same reporter. What is clear is that the item is such a top priority on the agenda of the sole super-power that the anit drugs campaign must necessarily be global. Not just Latin America or the Americas but Asia, Africa and Europe.


Fidel Castro: hos position gets stronger

What does Washington expect from the Mexican administration?

"Respect for human rights creates an atmosphere for stability in which business and investment can flourish"said Senator Ernest Hollings (Democrat), chairman of a Committee on Commerce and Science.

American initiatives to boost democracy in Latin America fell short of their lofty goals. He lists Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbour policy, President John Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, and President Ronald Reagan's Caribbean Basin Initiative all failed because our commitment to democratic and social reform never matched our rhetoric.

On the contrary, Washington has mounted many an "operation" to topple Fidel Castro - operations which are usually exposed to the world by the Castro regime and the world media. The result? Fidel Castro's position is strengthened.... not because every Cuban adores him but because of a patriotic pride and a righteous anger at the arrogance of a "big bully". What would be the ultimate effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)?

It would principally benefit Mexico's ruling oligarchy. For the past 60 years that oligarchy has systematically denied Mexicans free elections, free speech, basic civil liberties and a genuinely free market, argued Senator Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina. "In some 2,000 pages of NAFTA text the word "democracy" does not appear.

It looks as if we can look forward to a turbulent "period of transition."

Yes minister, why are you silent?

Statement of the Sri Lanka Ekeeya Sanwidanaya on the comments of Minister Mangala Samaraweera on the Interim Report of the Sinhala Commission

Minister Mangla Samara weera has, at the last Cabinet Press briefing, let lose a stream of puerile and petulant vituperations at the Interim Report of the Sinhala Commission. He has described it as the "biggest conspiracy against the Sinhala People," slating that the contents of that Report will only make people like Velupillai Prabakaran, arms dealers and Tamil racists, happy, and expressed his confidence that Report will soon be consigned to the dustbin.

Minister Samara-weera has not adduced a single reason for his pontifical pronouncements.

The Interim Report of the Sinhala Commission is one that was prepared by a set of eminent professionals, academics and administrators of wide experience and unimpeachable integrity headed by a former Judge of the Supreme Court, Mr. S. W. Walpita, who was appointed to that high office from the unofficial Bar in 1972 by the Government of the present Prime Minister. All members of the Sinhala Commission reached the top -most rungs of their fields of activity by reason of their ability, learning and hard work and not by deceiving the people into voting for them by fraudulently and dishonestly making false promises to them and by means of advertising campaign.

The Report itself was prepared after a careful consideration of the provisions of the 'Devolution Package' and the evidence of a large number of citizen of all walks of life who testified before it. It contains an informed and logical analysis of the several provision of the Package and is replete with cogent reason for all the opinion, conclusion and recommendations contained therein.

Any responsible criticism of this Report necessarily contains an analysis of the Report and reasons for the criticism. Mere vituperation, name calling and pontifical pronouncements can never be a substitute for reasoned analysis. The resort to vituperation, name calling and partial pronouncements in lieu of analysis and reasoned criticism constitutes manifest proof of the correctness of the analysis of the Package and the validity of the opinion, conclusion and the recommendations contained in the said Report.

The gay abandon with which Minister Mangala Samaraweera has seen fit to condemn the report calling it the "biggest conspiracy against the Sinhala people" etc. is decidedly queer having regard to his own conduct and that of his party the SLFP including its leader the present Prime Minister in respect of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the Provincial Councils Act and the several statements made by the leaders of the racist Tamil Parties now called moderates in respect of the LTTE and the very existence of the Sri Lankan Nation.

The 13th Amendment and the Provincial Councils Act which came in the wake of the Indo Lanka Accord devolved only a small fraction of the powers now sought to be delivered by the Devolution Package. The present Prime Minister, the members of the SLFP and most of his Cabinet colleagues were uncompromising in their opposition to these pieces of legislation. They attacked these pieces of legislation on the ground that they would divide the country and pave the way for the creation of a separate state and organized street demonstration against them which resulted in many SLFP supporters and others opposed to such pieces of legislation being shot dead, wounded, maimed and imprisoned.

Yet, neither Minister Mangala Samaraweera nor any member of the SLFP has, todate said that the SLFP was engaged in a conspiracy against the Sinhalese people etc. How then can the Interim Report of the Sinhala Commission be described as such?

Secondly while even President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has, albeit belatedly publicly and categorically declared that the LTTE is a terrorist organisation, Minister Thondaman has publicly stated that the LTTE represents and is fighting for the rights of the Tamil people. i.e. that the LTTE is justified in fighting a separatist war. The several so called 'moderate' Tamil political parties have publicly stated that the present government has no moral right to call upon the LTTE to give up arms i.e. that the LTTE has a moral right to bear and use arms. These same parties have devised the validity of the slogan of the so called 'Peace Caravan' of the Government - "One Nation, One Country," and continue to insist that Tamils and Sinhalese are not two races within one Sri Lankan Nation but are two Nations which are separate and distinct from each other - i.e. that there does not exist a Sri Lankan Nation.

Neither Minister Mangala Samaraweera nor any member of the Government has, to date, raised a whimper of protest about these monstrous pronouncements - what a contrast to Minister Mangala Samaraweera's childish and choleric outburst against the Interim Report of the Sinhala Commission!

What is the reason for Minister Mangala Samaraweera's deafening silence on these matters?

Is it because he cannot explain the volte face of the SLFP? Is it because he is now in agreement with the above- cited pronouncements of the so called 'Moderate Tamil Parties'? Or is it because the dictates of political expediency have prompted him to be silent on these matters.

The dictates of transparency indisputably enjoin Minister Man-gala Samaraweera to explain his queer conduct.

Minister Mangala Samaraweera would do well to realize that there are significant points of difference between designing garments for fashion conscious ladies and designing a Constitution for our country.

S. L. Gunasekare

Joint Secretary

Sri Lanka Ekeeya Sanvidanaya

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