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Sunday, August 25, 2019
Nov 14 2016 - And so, the American voters have picked the unknown devil (instead of the known devil) to lead them for the next four years. In their somewhat skewed election process, the defeated candidate got more popular votes than the winner who to the much over-rated ‘most powerful job in the world’ – the President of the United States of America.
They were unable to break the ‘glass ceiling’ in electing their first woman leader, throwing her and her baggage of 30 years in public life out of the window. Not all the coconuts broken by Tamil National Alliance politicians for her victory were of any use. Maybe they should have broken more. The ‘silent majority’ in America ignored what the President-elect’s detractors said about him, and voted for change.
Misleadingly called ‘the policeman of the world’, given the United States’ pre-eminence in world affairs (and that is not necessarily a compliment), many are those who say, not always in jest, that the world’s citizens too must also have a vote in picking the man or woman for the job.
The Donald Trump victory only reinforces a growing global trend we have referred to recently (Oct. 9) that all over the world, the ruled are reacting against the rulers – even if they have been placed in power and place by these same voters. They are reluctant to trust the rulers implicitly. Britain’s ‘Brexit’ vote is a textbook case. The anti-incumbency trend that Sri Lankans experienced in January last year, terribly misread by those cocooned in office, is a worldwide phenomenon. In the US, this week, many people did not trust the Government of the day – even though the incumbent President remains popular.
The disturbing signs of the US election and what is happening in much of Europe today are that the world is becoming more and more insular. The refugee problem, started by the triggering of wars by the US and European nations in West Asia and Africa, and the unequal world economic order have given momentum to a refugee crisis last seen during World War II, 70 years ago. This has given rise to xenophobia and momentum to the Far Right in Europe, and now in the US with the influx of migrants, sending shivers through local inhabitants. Home-grown terrorism as a corollary to this migration has only compounded the fear psychosis within native populations in the US and the West.
It was the ‘white voters’ afraid of foreigners taking their jobs and indulging in terrorist acts who tipped the US election this week in Trump’s favour for that was his strident message that resonated with the voter.
There are some salient features that Sri Lankan leaders might take serious note of from the US elections. One is that these elections – and the subsequent oath-taking, are held on fixed dates and not subject to the whims and fancies of the incumbent President. Here regrettably, we have seen in recent years, all types of shenanigans from calling snap elections to secret oath ceremonies behind closed doors.
The US and the world now enter an era of uncertainty in January next year. It is a leap into the unknown, but that is not always a bad scenario because there was so much amiss not least in the management of US foreign policy.
However much President Barack Obama resisted going to war (he always maintained that war was not the only option to settle disputes), he could not take on the Generals in the Pentagon backed by the multibillion-dollar arms industry, the CIA and those who run Washington. That is why his job is not necessarily the most powerful in the world. He is restricted and constrained by ‘The Establishment’. If President-elect Trump thinks he can change Washington and ‘The Establishment’, good luck to him. Unless he fits into the mainstream of US ‘politricks’, he will face the consequences from within ‘The Establishment’.
Many Sri Lankans are not all that unhappy with the outcome of the US election considering the stories that the pro-Eelam Diaspora lobby had made heavy donations to the Clinton Foundation and exercised some influence over the one-time Secretary of State. The ruling UNP, has an alliance with the winning Republican Party through the IDU (International Democratic Union) of which it is a partner, and its representatives attended the Republican Convention (not the Democratic Convention) this year. On the other hand, Mr. Trump is a renegade Republican and his anti-Free Trade Agreement thinking as well as threatening big US companies investing abroad with huge penalties does not bode well for Sri Lanka looking for foreign investors and trade pacts with the US. The Foreign Minister made deep friendships with the Democratic Party-fuelled State Department and through them the Tamil Diaspora, but he will now have to start all over again with the new dispensation.
One redeeming factor would be that a Trump Administration would be least interested in the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka, or one hopes so, particularly when the UNHRC chief undiplomatically weighed in against a Trump Presidency. It is now up to Sri Lanka to take advantage of this change of guard in Washington come 2017.
Sri Lanka has rarely been on the radar of the White House, and much of US policy towards Sri Lanka is dictated by the State Department and to some extent, Congress. A State Department under Mr. Trump may not be best placed to push its human rights agenda around the world calling for minority rights with its President being accused of being a white supremacist.
For many years, the US distinguished its citizens from foreigners as “Americans” and “Aliens” respectively. The latter definition was the old, outdated language now changed in many countries to “non-residents”. Though relatively sober in his victory speech, if one is to go by his election rhetoric, the newly elected President of the United States of America – and those who voted for him — might want to bring that old definition of “Aliens” back to their lexicon. God bless America.
Climate talks at crossroads
The US President-elect Donald Trump has gone on record calling the current debate on Climate Change a hoax. This week, in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, ministers and environmentalist are gathered to follow up on the historic Paris summit of a year ago that decided to hold the increase in global average temperature.
But come January, and if the Trump Administration thinks all this global warming talk is a hoax, and the world’s biggest polluter and contributor to the warming of Planet Earth is not an active participant to a world strategy to tackle the biggest common problem faced by humankind, then all this discussions on Climate Change is just hot air, after all.
This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
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