The UN, IMF and the BBC – is the tide turning?

It didn’t take long for Western opinion to start turning positive, confirming that the players in this media game are so very fickle. It helps that the government ended it quickly after the international pressure rose to a fever pitch last week. The government certainly did not do what “the international community” (in the form of Western countries) was asking it to do – they didn’t agree to a ceasefire, but they sorted it out in their own way quickly. I guess that means a lot in a world where memories fade fast and long term attention is always in short supply.

In the latest news, the Toronto Star reports that the UN chief in Colombo, Neil Buhne, is ‘backing Sri Lanka on refugee camps.’ This coincidentally comes just 20 days after The Nation needlessly speculated whether he would get his visa cancelled. They probably figured he was one of the nicer chaps we have had and, to be honest, it doesn’t look too good to expel yet another UN co-ordinator at a time like this.

The economic news which was looking down, is also looking up. While a couple of days ago our sovereign rating was downgraded to negative, the IMF bailout now seems fairly certain of being approved. Investor Jim Rogers had an orgasm over investment opportunities in Sri Lanka, and the stock market keeps going up. The Central Bank revised its growth rate predictions for the year upwards to 5% (not that anything CB governor Ajith Cabraal says really matters – the man has the credibility of a boiled ambarella).

Then, there is our dear BBC which has seemed, over the past few weeks, rather hostile towards Sri Lanka. Their reports have been bathed in a tone of negativity, even going to the extent of reporting the government victory within inverted commas. Perhaps it had something to do with the burning of Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s effigy and the resounding fuck-off that was still reverberating in his ears. Perhaps it had something to do with diaspora pressure. Or, maybe George Alagiah had his own version of things.Ā  Anyway, finally, they seem to have come around and published a story that throws some positive light on the effort that is being put in by at least one Sri Lankan.

This is just the start. Memories are very short and media-wise and diplomatically things should improve. Realising this and keeping the international community managed is an art-form. I have to say, that for all the criticism and even ridicule that the loudest voices in civil society have heaped on Rajiva Wijesinha, Dayan Jayatilleka and Palitha Kohona, they really have done a masterful job of balancing their government’s objective in this international circus. They’ve been very smart. Clowns like Bogollagama probably didn’t make it any easier. There’s a great article here that offers some insight into the process.


10 thoughts on “The UN, IMF and the BBC – is the tide turning?

  1. I was quite surprised by the BBC article….not familiar with Rajiva Wijesinha but Jayatilleka and Kohona seem very good. It would have been amazing to see them working with Kadirgamar instead of a nitwit like Bogollagama.

  2. So now you can remove the tongue that you put on your cheek when you wrote your previous article.
    As I have said before you got to play the game the west plays and those gentlemen from SL are doing a great job of it. Thank you for seeing it as it is.

  3. Ravana

    Everyone loves a winner don’t they? šŸ™‚

    Seriously though, I’m glad we have some articulate people handling our relations with the West and the Western media. It’s all good for armchair patriots to prattle on about how biased the western media are and how the west supports the LTTE etc and to insist that we ignore them, but in reality we need to get our story out there and engage these guys. The reality also is that the LTTE still has significant media influence, albeit indirectly and so when the GOSL restricts media access, these guys, in their desperation for a story, turn to the whatever available source of information they can reach.

    I’m not quite sure about Dayan Jayatilleke though. By all accounts he is an extremely intelligent man, but he seems to have bought into the Gotabhaya Rajapakse school of foreign relations, i.e. slander anyone who expresses any misgivings about Sri Lanka, no matter how justified, as a ‘terrorist’. For heck’s sake, Dayan thought it fit to commentate on the future of the British Monarchy! But given his eloquence and undoubted intelligence, he would definitely be a good choice if he can see the light.

  4. TBD: No, one thing you can say about Dyan is that he is incredibly ethical in what says/does. He has a set of beliefs, and he is governed by them. Actually, its surprising he’s managed his ‘diplomacy’ so well — with out compromising his ethics. On that particular committee he was on, he had every right to ask Britain to review the monarchy. He also stood up to Israel and got into trouble over it. But there it is.

  5. TBD: ‘The Universal Periodic Review Process’, is carried of by select committees of the UN HRC. Each select committee reviews a member state, and makes a set of recommendations. This is ongoing series of reviews. That was happened, and the recommendation to the UK was to consider a written, preferably republican constitution. Dyan, as I understand it, represented Sri Lanka in this review process. Other countries have made lots recommendations about Sri Lanka in past, I understand. May be all this, like much of the UN is pointless…but that’s not the point. šŸ™‚

  6. Thanks Pradeep. I’m glad that Dayan is using his considerable intellect for the right reasons now. I still can’t get over how he bought into the ‘Gotabhaya Rajapakse School of Foreign Relations’ though.

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