|On Barack Obama: Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN-Geneva|
|Thursday, 06 November 2008|
Given below are extracts from a collection of articles and speeches made by Dr. Jayatilleka (from March 2008 up to now) in which he has made direct references to Barack Obama.
“A new way which puts us on a far higher analytical and ethical vantage point. A new way has opened up to regard and discuss these problems. I refer to the historic speech made by Barack Obama, confronting honestly but not aggressively, these phenomena in his own society, but with a far wider relevance than purely to his society alone. My appeal is that our own discussions, our search, our strivings in the inter-governmental working group, in other Durban related spaces, and in any discussion of this interrelated scourges, we must take into account and seek to emulate that example of Senator Obama which I personally consider to have opened up a new paradigm, may be even a new episteme, in discussing this subject.”
“In his soaring ‘rap on race’ – his initial response to the Jeremiah Wright controversy – a speech that should be studied by every reflective Sri Lankan (I watched it twice myself, having read the text once), Barack Obama drew his fundamental demarcation from his former pastor. He said that Rev Wright’s main error was in assuming that racism in America was endemic and in failing to recognise that US society was capable of change for the better; of evolution. This, said Barack, was the major difference between Rev Wright and Rev Martin Luther King the 40th anniversary of whose assassination had been commemorated throughout the US just months earlier. Martin Luther King always dreamed that that America could change, improve – and indeed the very candidacy of Obama is proof that King was right and Wright was wrong. “
Web link: Eastern election, Northern Task Force
“Back to Barack Barack Obama looks like he is resolving that contradiction. He is bringing the American Revolution home. He is also renewing it. If he succeeds he may not only legitimize and complete the liberal democratic revolution in its metropolis and thereby hasten its globalization, affirming Fukuyama’s prognosis, he may also and at the same time, pave the way for addressing the Huntingtonian Clash of Civilizations, because he is himself a synthesis of civilizations. A new, positive cycle of world history may commence, just as the existing polarizations will protract indefinitely if the outcome is different.
The Sam Cooke song penned in 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement, featured in the movie Malcom X, and now part of the campaign music of the Obama camp, assures us hauntingly that someday "A Change is Gonna Come".
That change is already underway in the USA. Is Sri Lanka ready for Barack Obama? Is Sri Lanka ready for the change, the transition that he will represent in himself and generate in the world? Is the Sri Lankan (and Sinhala) mindset ready for the paradigm shift represented by Obama, the Multicultural Man, epitomizing antidiscrimination, equality, multiculturalism and meritocracy? Defending our vital interests in such an era of dramatic change will require nothing less than a change within our collective consciousness and identity. Our policy profile and we ourselves shall have to change. We shall have to evolve. “
H.E. Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva
"The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew, cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down". Barack Obama, Berlin, July 24 “…. For those who think that Sri Lanka can win the war on the basis of a program and vision of inequity between peoples, of enforced cultural homogeneity in a heterogeneous society; for those who believe that Sri Lanka can return to its pre-war order or build an unfair unequal post-war one; for those who assume that closed minds and cultural exclusivity can sustain our country in the 21st century, I have little time and no more arguments but only two words, which must be marked well: Barack Obama.
The American Candidate: Barack in Berlin
Barack Obama left the USA for the Middle East and Europe as a candidate described as African-American but in Europe he was re-defined and reborn as what he is: the American candidate. Leonard Cohen’s song says "First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin".
Obama seems to be reversing that trajectory of triumph. Let him speak for himself, in his own words -- highly acclaimed as statesmanlike -- delivered (without a note) to the two hundred thousand strong crowd in Berlin’s Tiergarten on July 24th: "…Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world. "…I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.
The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British…" "…The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down." "…Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please."
President- elect of the United States
Obama points the way for Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. For the Tamils, the relevance and example should be clear: abandon projects of separatist walling-off, integrate into the mainstream, fight against discrimination and for equal rights, regard oneself as a Sri Lankan and compete as one. The African–Americans experienced slavery and segregation and still encounter racism, but Barack Obama’s example is to transcend that experience, which was historically far worse than anything suffered by Tamils. His is the model of our martyred Lakshman Kadirgamar (whose oration for devolution in the Parliamentary debate on the August 2000 Draft Constitution is cunningly ignored by Sinhalese chauvinists).
It can come to the forefront only when Kadirgamar’s assassins, the Tigers, are defeated. What is the lesson and example for the Sinhalese? Barack Obama, perhaps the most intellectually gifted politician in today’s world and potentially a philosopher-president in the Platonic sense, ushers in a new model of cultural globalization and globalized culture of and for the 21st century. He is the modern, Multiethnic, Multi-Cultural Man, emerging from the melting pot meritocracy that is America. However, this is not an exclusively American Dream. It is not essentially different from the multiracialism of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, or that of Jawaharlal Nehru, without whose inclusive, pluralist, secular, rational, modern leadership vision for an ancient, culturally rich society, India would not be the Asian success story and the 21st century miracle it has become.”
Web Link: Winning the War, Winning the Peace
“Position 5 that of Indian model quasi federalism, enjoys, according to the CPA (and much to its regret) 5% support among the majority Sinhala community— that’s 5% of 74%. No mainstream political party or candidate in a competitive electoral democracy (and that includes Senator Obama) would treat as anything other than radioactive, a position that was so hopelessly unpopular.
And yet, otherwise sensible Tamil politicians expect the two main Southern parties to agree on this. If there were any such possibility, President Kumaratunga’s 1995and 1997 "union of regions" packages, or her admirable August 2000 draft Constitution would have obtained bipartisan support, instead of suffering the highly visible fates they did.”
“It is probable that a new, positive cycle of world history will commence If Barack Obama wins the forthcoming US presidential elections. If he succeeds, he may not only legitimise and complete the liberal democratic revolution in the US metropolis and thereby hasten its globalization, he may also, being himself a synthesis of civilisations, pave the way for addressing clashes of civilisations. That change, the paradigm shift represented by Obama, epitomising anti-discrimination, equality, multi-culturalism and meritocracy, is already underway in the USA and will eventually influence the world at large.”
“Insofar as several are pacifist "civil society" liberals as distinct from Realist or pragmatic liberals (such as Barack Obama)…” “… their perspective is very far from the pragmatic liberalism of the Obama ticket.” “The central vice of Sri Lankan cosmopolitan liberalism-progressivism is that it has no equivalent of the Obama-Biden US Democrat perspective on National Security. Any one with even a cursory acquaintance of the US Presidential election campaign will be aware that Senators Obama and Biden have attacked the Republican candidate on national security issues, pointing out that a needless war on Iraq had undermined the necessary war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Why necessary? Because it was these forces that attacked the USA on 9/11 and still intend to do so if they possess the capability, while Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The Democrats have criticized the Republicans for being diverted from the task of "capturing or killing" Osama Bin Laden, tasks which they have pledged themselves to achieve (the terms are from Senator Obama’s first debate, echoed by Senator Biden in his Veep debate). In his dramatically delivered concluding speech at the Democratic convention, Senator Obama accused war hero John McCain of saying he will "go through the gates of hell after Bin Laden" but of not being "ready to go to the mouth of the cave he (Bin Laden) is hiding in".
Rightly or wrongly, wisely or imprudently, Senator Obama reiterated in the first face-to-face Presidential debate, his pledge to take out Osama Bin Laden, if "there is actionable intelligence" that he is in a location across the Pakistani border; if "he is in the cross hairs… and the Pakistani authorities are not going to do the job".”
“If Sinhala ultra-nationalism laments the impending victory of Barack Obama (whom I supported in print, way before the Democratic nomination) while the world welcomes it, there is something wrong with Sinhala nationalism, not with the rest of humanity. A Barack Obama victory will tilt the balance between ethnonationalism and republican civic nationalism in favor of the latter.
Ethno nationalism, often antiquarian, holds that an older or majority ethnic or ethno religious community has some greater claim over or ownership of a given territory while modern civic (and especially but not exclusively republican) nationalism holds that every citizen has equal rights and equal ownership of that country.
(The Sri Lankan state as defined by the Sri Lankan Constitution is a Republic, and the Constitution is the supreme law to which we all owe allegiance). When General Colin Powell, Jamaican-born former Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces and US Secretary of State endorsed Barack Obama last week, he gave as one of his reasons his disgust that John McCain had not responded appropriately to an ignorant heckler in a Republican crowd who had shouted that Obama was a Muslim. (As is well known Obama is a Christian who often quotes the Scripture in his speeches).
Colin Powell said that Senator McCain should have responded "so what if he is?" and went onto to tell the TV audience about how moved he was about US Muslims dying for their country while fighting against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq… » “…The commonality of values and notions of citizenship between the world’s most powerful democracy (the USA) and the world’s most populous democracy (India) will be cemented by an Obama triumph. »
Web link: Sri Lankan identity in a time of siege
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 November 2008 )|
|< Prev||Next >|