Thursday, December 2, 2010

The cancellation of the President’s address to the Oxford Union

An invitation was extended to the President to speak at the Oxford Union and was graciously accepted. There was much hoopla in the local press that it was the first time a sitting Head of State would speak twice at the venue in its entire history.
On the eve of the event, it was cancelled, with the President’s Secretary citing pro LTTE groups who had pressured the cancellation, while the Oxford Union cited security concerns having had discussions with the Thames Valley Police who were charged with the security of the visiting Head of State.

Whatever reason is correct, it is definitely a slap in the face for the President, despite any spin that is being put out for public consumption. In my opinion it was a pit of his own making, that resulted in this embarrassment. He should never have accepted the invitation unless he was given assurances in advance of the adequate security, and non-cancellation due to pro LTTE pressure.

Having lived in the UK for 18 years, I would have advised him not to have accepted as I know that the Diaspora, have certainly prejudiced public opinion, and our counter points have been too little too late to effectively negate this view. It is futile therefore to attempt damage control, until positive political moves are made to address the grievances, which have been promised, but not yet even proposed.

This act of failed diplomacy must surely rest with the Ministry of External Affaires which has patently failed to advise Head of State of the nuances of British thinking, possibly because of the lack of understanding of our representatives in the United Kingdom. If however they had advised against it and was overturned by the President, due to vanity or some other personal agenda, then it is him who should shoulder the blame and shame. Sadly his visit will not therefore be remembered for the positive steps taken to build a dialogue with the new Conservative coalition government, but for this date with infamy. Such are the pitfalls of a lack of clear direction in the conduct of foreign policy.

If there is a lesson we can learn from this, it is to clearly understand the lay of the playing field prior to starting the game. A thorough debrief of the saga is warranted so that in future such 'faux pas' are avoided, and eventually it is the nation that looks silly and it is in our interests that our representatives act with care and preparation. I wish we had our version of ‘wikileaks’ to this event to better understand the diplomatic communication between London and Colombo to give an opinion on the events that led up to this. This time the Country lost and we better accept it for what it is worth without saving face and sweeping under the carpet.


sittingnut said...

i don't agree.

i don't think it was a mistake to accept the invitation.
given that he had already successfully done it why should he have not?

this sort of address is routine diplomatic stuff. .

responsibility for cancellation ( which is not an 'infamy' ) lies with organizers. they showed themselves unable to conduct or even commence a civil open address and discussion. we were willing, they weren't. egg is on their faces

and diaspora activists showed they do not want reconciliation just violence. they are unable to accept reality of their hero murderer's defeat. given that we now have proof of uk politicians pandering to them in the form of milibank's antics last year . this is another opportunity for us to marginalize and legitimately disregard any voice they raise in uk against us as voice of extremists beyond the pale.

btw for the record i seem to be that my blog is banned from kottu
readers are free to decide which parts of my 2 posts today one written 2 hours before this one and still not on kottu were offensive to kottu administrators :-)

Anonymous said...

The diaspora here is still fractured, Sadly neither community is taking any steps to build bridges. The SLHC in London should also take blame for not attempting to get the communities together. They did have a deevali fucntion but thats attended only by the well to do tamils who are pro government anyway. They need to get groups of the sinhala diaspora organised to work with tamil groups at town level so that decades of mistruct and anger can be overcome.. sadly until the SLHC shakes off the hangers on who are in there only for the photo opportunity it will not happen.... lessons have not been leart... I know as I am watching from the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

it is amazing how this event has been used at home to get more political mileage, by implying that he actually gained credibility from the event, and receiving a hero's welcome again paid for by the state, bussing people to the airport and giving them Rs1000 plus a bath packet so the people watching on TV will believe what is being shown.

Another whole made for TV event in the banana republic