The question above is an interesting Foreign Policy poser for Sri Lankan students of International Affairs. Obama is going to Cambodia to attend an Asean Leaders Summit, but is nevertheless the First by a sitting US President to that Country. Its been a while since Cambodia opened up, and is now firmly within the US grip with much US investment, and a wholesale scramble of rich Cambodians wishing to educate their children in the US to come and run businesses and government!
It is barely 2011 when Myanmar opened up to the world, but since the Pro Democracy leader’s visit in September to Washington, Obama graces with a visit to a once Pariah state, where the Pariah is still in power!! A record 22 months since the country opened up. In this same record speed the US investments are flying in and even the Sri Lankan Motor Traders, sickened by the flip flops of an unpredictable and schizophrenic Sri Lankan Government, are scrambling for a piece of the action, by re-exporting the cars they cannot sell in Sri Lanka to Myanmar!! Who would have thought a few years ago that the US would make such an about turn in such a short time?
It is a lesson to SL. Much of the foreign investment designated for Sri Lanka is now gladly going to Myanmar. Their gain is our loss, a direct trade off. I would recommend a student from the External Affairs Ministry go to Myanmar and see what it is we have missed by a Government taking the wrong turns. SL government has in fact cheated their own people by this action, and the results can be seen clearly. The two faced jingoistic politicians may say good riddance, but they would greatly have preferred the US investment to fill their greedy bellies but for the anti Western rhetoric, for local consumption.
The relaxing of rules, the encouragement of investment, the enterprise of a still not corrupt population, not asking for huge bribes are all part of this formula that benefits both the people of Myanmar and the people of the Investing Country. It is a sad reflection of what we in Sri Lanka have missed, what we have deliberately set aside for personal political fame at home consigning our population to a state of siege of the devaluation of law and order, and the morality of example of leaders that affect the actions of the general public into a stealing, lazy amoral life.
Why unless their honorable intentions are questionable, would a country after a debilitating war sacrifice the peace dividend? Why is it that the people of Sri Lanka are so oblivious to have foregone the benefits, to a daylight robbery by a few of the immense potential of this country? I can just but wonder in words!!!