Much of the international press seems unable to grasp that Sri Lankan voters might have determined the recent election. They’re saying that Indian intelligence did it, or only America can push reforms forward. Actually I guess that’s just the New York Times. Let’s look at both propositions.
1. India Did It
When Sri Lanka unexpectedly turfed out President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an election this month, it was the biggest setback in decades for China’s expansion into South Asia – and a remarkable diplomatic victory for India. (NYTimes)
As they say, victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan.
This article, via Reuters, circulates the usual rumours that Indian intelligence brought the opposition together. They actually quote this line – “At least that was the perception of Mahinda Rajapkasa,” said M.A. Sumanthiran”. Someone talking about the perception of someone else is hardly proof of anything. India presumably would have been meeting with both sides, but saying that they’re kingmakers is A) unproven and B) unlikely.
I say unlikely, because there’s only so much India could ever do. I don’t remember the source, but I heard a quote that went something like – ‘democracy comes down to a little man in a little booth and I will never know what goes on in his mind’. India can talk to any politician but they can’t move many votes, except in the opposite direction. If anything, Mahinda had more overt support from India – supposedly employing Modi’s social media guru (fail) and campaigning with Salman Khan (epic fail).
However much India seems to benefit from this election, that doesn’t mean they caused it to happen. Farmers benefit from the rain but they don’t cause it, unless you believe in rain dancing. Motivation is not causation.
2. Only The US Can Help
The country must make sure that members of the ousted regime do not return to power and that the new government can secure its authority. The United States — and only the United States — can do something to help make that happen. (NYTimes)
Sigh. The proposition Ryan Goodman makes here is that the US should prosecute Gotabaya Rajapaksa as a war criminal because he’s a dual citizen. Never mind the hypocrisy of going after someone here when the definite war criminal Dick Cheney is on US television defending torture. This is precisely the kind of sanctimonious meddling that offends everyone and doesn’t help.
The article is called ‘Sri Lanka’s New Democracy’ and what Mr. Goodman doesn’t seem to understand is that Sri Lanka’s democracy A) isn’t new and that B) we’re a sovereign country. Unlike Dick Cheney, Gotabaya Rajapaksa actually won a war and his brother won nearly 50% of the votes in this country. If they want to run for office again that is, honestly, the business of the Sri Lankan people. We do not need America to come here and prosecute the losers of our elections. What happened here wasn’t a coup, it was an election.
Besides how offensive this crap is, it is also politically toxic. No one from ever party is ever going to support the US prosecuting a Sri Lankan. Indeed, even being perceived to be with the US on this is political suicide, and for good reason. We’ve been colonized and no voters want to be meddled with be foreign powers. Thankfully, Mr. Goodman doesn’t represent the US government, because if his ideas were policy they would be disastrous.
What Actually Happened
A lot of international commentators are trying to find a cause they understand for something which was actually quite simple. Sri Lanka is a democracy, we’ve actually had universal franchise for longer than the US and UK. We had an election. More people voted for one guy rather than the other. He won. I’m not saying there wasn’t House Of Cards type maneuvering going on behind the scenes and I’m not denying that countries like the US and India have an interest here. But they, thankfully, don’t have a vote.
Sri Lankan voters determined this election, not international puppeteers behind the scenes. It’s funny how the international press actually seems to believe the same conspiracy theories that Mahinda supporters have been spreading. They’re both wrong.