When the boss is bossed around

(Courtesy of The Island)

President Maithripala Sirisena, on Wednesday, revealed the real extent of foreign interference with the internal affairs of this country. He told a group of media heads that some foreign envoys had even sought to meddle in the Cabinet appointments, last December. Some of them had tried to persuade him to refrain from bringing the police under his purview, the President said. One may recall what befell a British High Commissioner who overstepped his diplomatic limits while the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa was in power. David Gladstone was declared persona non grata and sent back for reporting an incident of polls rigging to the police.

President Sirisena is the boss and why does he allow foreign diplomats to boss him around in this manner? Why didn’t he ask them to mind their own business when they tried to impose their will on him? He should have reported the meddlesome diplomats to their governments, promptly, without waiting for months to go public. He has a reputation for getting tough with Sri Lankans who ruffle his feathers, doesn’t he? It may be recalled that following his abortive bid to get rid of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, he tore into the latter after swearing in the Cabinet, last December; Wickremesinghe was seen squirming in his seat. Why didn’t the President treat the meddlesome diplomats in a similar manner?

Sirisena became the darling of the international community when he took on the Rajapaksa government which, unnecessarily, antagonised the western powers, and, therefore, made a lot of powerful enemies. His presidential campaign received a tremendous boost from some foreign governments, as is common knowledge. They rallied behind him and ensured that the Rajapaksa government acted with restraint when he declared that he feared for his safety. The envoys of those foreign powers, also, campaigned in the North and the East for him, to all intents and purposes. He and Wickremesinghe, after capturing power, went so far as to enlist the backing of some foreign powers for their efforts to trace their rivals’ ill-gotten wealth, believed to have been stashed away overseas.

The subservience of the yahapalana government to the foreign powers which helped engineer the 2015 regime change is such that the latter must be thinking, albeit mistakenly, that they should be able to have a say in the affairs of the current administration they helped form.

All political leaders are to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs. They and their parties have reduced this country to a mendicant state dependent on foreign aid for survival; not even a sewer gets constructed without foreign assistance. The Budget 2019 has a proposal for building toilets. It is hoped that the government leaders will not seek foreign assistance for this project as well. Those who call themselves leaders shamelessly siphon what the country gets by way of foreign loans and grants and live high on the hog. Corruption and the abuse of power have also caused them to lose respect internationally. It is only natural that they cringe and cower before the representatives of foreign powers.

The only way the so-called Sri Lankan leaders can assert themselves and regain dignity is to get their act together. They have to make this country less dependent on the rest of the world. If they refrain from sullying their hands with stolen money and conduct themselves properly while making a serious effort to hoist the country out of the politico-economic mire it has slid into over the years, the world will begin to treat them with respect, and they will have the courage to tell the meddlesome foreign diplomats where to get off.

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