I call this a problem that needs to be solved and can be solved if the Sri Lanka Government takes a constructive approach to handling it with professionalism and boldness in its diplomacy, with less use of anti-Western rhetoric.
Firstly I do not think any of our diplomats, be they career diplomats or not, except for one or two, are competent to tackle this issue in the manner it has to be undertaken. One has to engage the community in a constructive way, something that is tough but doable, so that their incorrect presentation of the ground situation can be EFFECTIVELY countered. We do not have any who can take on the press and face the tough questions with alacrity and zeal instead of defensive mumbling.
Using Bell Pottinger at enormous fee is another failed project of incompetents, who could have actually engaged a skilled home team, who are the public relations vanguard who go for example to London a week prior to the President’s visit to set the media stage and garner enough counter arguments to the vitriol that currently flourishes. Sadly some of the pathetic actions of the Government in its dealings with her own people make it difficult to defend the indefensible, so we must first educate the leaders that they bear a measure of responsibility for this view. “The no smoke without fire syndrome” has turned into a raging inferno.
We must engage each Government where there is a significant presence of such detractors, with the facts at home but with support from the relevant embassy in SL of that country to corroborate the true state of play. A significant push has also to be made to the media, to counter the misinformation that is being spread, much by people who have never even been to SL, as I personally know that foreign born Tamils have a particularly jaundiced view of the facts, which have changed dramatically once they visit SL and find that Colombo is fully of wealthy Tamils.
If the current trend is unchecked the media misinformation will mushroom into a size that will affect the prestige of SL in the outside world, which cannot be supported by India and China alone. The pariah status will then affect all parts of the economy from consumers, investors, tourism and to other forms of economic progress. The smug attitude of the current leadership has got to change as it is the future that will suffer while today’s lot are six feet under and not have to face it.
A five pronged approach with a pincer movement working together concurrently must be started, one country at a time to neutralize Diaspora, media, governments, public opinion, and perception of local missions, but backed up by facts. The latter to be addressed first, without which the former cannot be convincingly conquered.
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