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THE UNFATHOMABLE

[Lakbima News, Sunday, 12 February 2012 12:59 No Comment]

Sri Lanka is very much the curious case for the Western powers that generally operate under the name and style of ‘the international community.’

You would bet that even Hillary Clinton does not know what to do with a country that does things according to the IMF recipe book, is almost neo-liberal in the way economic issues are approached, but is also a great irritant when it comes to issues of human rights and governance matters that can be set apart from economic aspects in general.

In other words Sri Lanka is structurally neo-liberal but is in other ways a renegade nation that does not abide by the unwritten rules of the world order.

The written rules are that if a country is in debt, such a country has to either seek IMF assistance or bail itself out with the help of friends,

Truman

11-2 These are the ‘written rules’ because they are so obvious, but the unwritten rules are that in the international community — the West — expects fealty, total deference, and total capitulation.

This is akin to the unwritten rules of say class delineation in a society, maybe. There is nothing expressly said that the lower classes cannot get too uppity or disport themselves in a way that would be grating to the sensibilities of the upper-class elites, but the unwritten rules governing such things are generally stronger than anything that gets written in the statute books.

The problem is that the Sri Lankan leadership does not hail from the kind of milieu in which the unwritten rules of the international order are accepted without argument.

Mahinda Rajapaksa who was disparagingly referred to in one leaked Wikileaks documents as just another country lawyer’, is a lawyer, and that is certainly not the problem that the world order/West has with him.

In a country where a haberdasher (Truman) became a very successful almost idolized president, ‘just another country lawyer’ should not be a problem at all.

Faced down

The problem seems to be that the current administration just does not seem to have any idea that there is an unwritten world order — and in many ways, good for them that they don’t.

It has been said several times that any leader educated at S. Thomas’ or Royal could not have faced down the external pressure that ended the war in 2009, and the best reference point with regard to this was the JR Jayewardene administration (JR being a Royalist), and the way Indian pressure was handled, or mishandled, during the infamous parippu drops of 1985.

But the fact of the matter is that the West also loves a buccaneer type who takes risks with all kinds of projects which are carried out with monies loaned by Western governments, or banks in their control.

Which other leader would have risked hosting the Commonwealth Games for instance without so much as a second guess on it?

This is the kind of buccaneer that the West dotes on, and in this sense Rajapaksa is a greater darling of the West than ‘let the robber barons come in’ JR would ever have been.

But the issue is that here is a democratically elected leader who is in this way at least, with his buccaneer tendencies, a bit of a man in the Marcos mould, may be.

Now we all know that the West, particularly the US, dotes on the Marcos type of buccaneer, but then the one condition there is for the liberal West is that these types do not have to come elected.

When they are democratically elected, an entirely new light is cast on the matter. Mahinda Rajapaksa is democratically elected, which is why he is expected to abide by all the unwritten rules of the international community, of which the really underscored rule is that no country shall aspire to rise above their given station in the life of the community of nations.

Hot potato

This is a democratically elected buccaneer, who does not seem to play by or sometimes even comprehend these unwritten rules which are generally operated through various devices and markers such as ‘ human rights’ ‘ governance issues’ and such …

Rakapaksa is a total conundrum wrapped in a riddle as far as the West is concerned vis-a-vis these unwritten rules, and therefore they do not know whether to hold on to this hot property with tongs, or drop him like a hot potato.

Even as I write this I am sure the debate is going on in the panelled rooms in the Oval Office or in Whitehall or wherever, on the lines of ‘Yes, we should destroy him,’’ and ‘No, but we should suppress our best instincts, and let him stay on.’

And generally for a mad Empire (refer Nixon who said the ‘crazier and the more bizarre our actions the better’…), if there is no measure of deliberation in her actions, it is something of a slow death.

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