Wednesday, November 6, 2013

CHOGM 2013 – My Pre (before the event) Thoughts

What began as a blog entry reviewing initial reports of Journalists sending stories back home from Sri Lanka, has already turned into this being the 8th CHOGM related blog entry.

I have had a veritable series of comments by readers, and would encourage more as to what it is that Sri Lanka can really gain from this, and really how important is it to Sri Lanka, that we showcase our Country to the world after the end of turmoil of the past 30 years, and to answer the question as to whether we have arrived or if we still have a long way to go in growing up to take our due place in the Nations of the world. 

Looking at the history of CHOGMs first, they have not yielded any lasting benefit to any country hosting, and I don’t believe anyone has made such a big deal of it as much as Sri Lanka has. None can even remember where the last CHOGM was held, unless of course one Googled it for any particular reason.

I don’t mind Sri Lanka pulling all the stops to make the event succeed as we live in a media world and we must look good to the outside world. However we cannot fool foreign media to the extent we can fool our own or control ours.  So we must be able to contradict with evidence that the Diaspora pressures and the UNHRC allegations are for the most part incorrect or at least grossly exaggerated. Secondly we must be able to give them a wow factor that leads them to defuse these issues of HR allegations, and instead concentrate on the positives of Sri Lanka, that is if we are able to genuinely showcase them with our hospitality and cultural traditions and vibrant multi ethnic diversity.

I have tried to point out some absurdities of extravagant expenditure that will not win any points with our guests, but perhaps raise some eyebrows instead. I have also alluded to the system of Government we currently have that is heading in a direction not conducive to Foreign Investment and is intolerant of people holding contrary views. I have also referred to ways we can possibly cut down on wasteful spending, and direct expenditure to the investment in Human Resources, which currently have been overlooked in favor of unproductive and expensive infrastructure such as the constantly breaking, Norochcholai.

Also using CHOGM as an excuse to speed some beautification work around Colombo is NOT a bad thing as otherwise these processes take ages to complete. My angst is the shoddy workmanship that may make them useless soon after the big event. I have cast doubt on the relevance and need for side shows like the Business Forum, that is only for local consumption, and the Youth Forum in Hambantota that has NOT selected youth for their capabilities, but more on political gamesmanship.

In the FOG of this whole charade, the whole purpose of these biennial event get together of the Heads of Govt. or their deputies, is to network in private to help each other, most of whom have a common language English, which other international events don’t have the benefit of. The proclamations at the end of these are always compromises, so that some common ground can be had and NOT indicative of the private chats, that hopefully will help each of those attending and their countries, in one way or another.

As it is such a short event, I don’t know if our Government made any extra effort to extend the stay of those who may have wished especially the media, by offering them some sweet heart deals that may cost a few bucks (nothing close to the cost of the Benzes) but which will reap IMMEDIATE media related benefits when they return home. I believe our theme should have been to emphasize the “BEAUTY AND HOSPITALITY” aspect of Sri Lanka, which to me seems to have been forgotten over the “SHOW AND TELL.”   Therein we lost a Golden opportunity.

The event has still to start, and we don’t know what travails await our Leaders. I somehow suspect no one has any agenda to bash Sri Lanka publicly for the past and so it will be quite uneventful. However the self same leaders MUST be cognizant of their actions vis a vis the freedom of the press, the absence of justice for all, the selective political repression, and the lack of LAW AND ORDER, and a lasting solution to the national question, all of which play a definite role in dragging Sri Lanka, both economically and humanitarianly from the first world, which is where we should be. By first I don’t mean highest GNP, more about the high in the Happiness Index of our Citizenry.

If CHOGM can result in soul searching(from fellow leaders putting in a private word in ours in secret!) that puts a stop to environmental desecration, reduce corruption, attack the culture of impunity, check the misuse of official resources, as if they are their own, and finally make a genuine effort in eliminating Human Rights violations of our citizens, then the whole event would have served as a positive for Sri Lanka. On the contrary if it just gives a boost to the ego, as being invincible in the face of accusation, from plaudits placed it from others, then there is no telling where this will end. 

I fear the total destruction of a way of life and liberty, we have hitherto taken for granted will eventually result.               

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