How do you solve a problem like Sirisena?

The people’s bafflement
Sunday Times’ Punch 01
The President washes his hands of UNHRC resolution claiming he didn’t know Lanka’s envoy had signed it
If there is one tragic flaw in Maithripala Sirisena’s get up, it is his habitual tendency to absolve himself of all knowledge and thus responsibility to the nation when the first whiff of trouble blows in the air or the first whistle of controversy is blown at dusk to alert opposition hounds to bear their fangs and go for the kill when they smell Sirisena blood in the offing.


His escape route, his favoured ruse: Constant reference to his ignorance as an all-redeeming, face-saving, eye-washing excuse.  But he is only fooling himself for, unbeknown to him, he  fools none.

Sad to say, he has become so accustomed to passing the buck that it has become second nature to him now to profess ignorance, even as the “I don’t know’ theme has become the signature tune of one of his more infamous cabinet ministers.

Perhaps he thinks – when he pathetically says that certain government decisions of great import have been taken without his knowledge, whenever it is shown to have turned sour later – his pathetic ignorance of what’s happening around him will stand him in good light in the nation’s eyes and will make the people’s tear drop fall in sympathy with his pathetic plight as to his pathetic helplessness. What he probably and pathetically fails to realise is how pathetically he sounds when he stands on that presidential pedestal and bleats in such pathetic impotence born of such pathetic self-confessed ignorance. It is not a tear jerking statement of defence. But an admittance of gross failure, even, though in his profound ignorance he fails to fathom how pathetically he stands in the nation’s contemptuous countenance: a people giving him the side eye to his lame duck pathetic excuses.

Not that anyone expects the executive president to be omniscient and to be in the know whenever a public loo has been declared open by some provincial council member at some bus depot in Moneragala. But is it unreasonable for the public to expect its elected head to be with it when it comes to the signing of binding international treaties at international forums, especially one so important as the one presented before the United Nation’s Human Right’s arm last week in Geneva?

But as far as Sirisena was concerned, he did not know that the nation’s ambassador to Geneva had signed the document to co-sponsor the resolution presented before the UNHRC which ultimately was passed without a vote being taken granting Lankan Government a reprieve of two years to get its act together, an extension of a further two year’s grace granted to it in 2017 on more or less the same terms.

Addressing an event in Meegahatenne in Kalutara on Wednesday, nearly a week after the resolution had been passed in Geneva and was history, the President said that Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Geneva had signed to co-sponsor the resolution to consider the report on Sri Lanka again in two years without his approval and that he completely rejects it.

He said the signature had been placed without his knowledge or of the Foreign Ministry or the Foreign Ministry secretary. He said that he is opposed to this process which happened because of the wrong decision taken by certain sections of the country. The President said that he sees it as a betrayal of the people, the government and the tri-forces.

The President said that the delegation to Geneva had been appointed without any discussion with him and he took steps to change it afterwards. The President said that he advised the Foreign Minister subsequently on the way the presentation has to be made in Geneva in a way that is suitable to the country.

He added: “The responsibility of international relations rests with me alone and not anyone lesser than that.”

Not that it matters one jot to the United Nation’s body whether the President was told or not. As far as that body is concerned, a person authorised to sign the document on behalf of the nation had signed it and, therefore, it was a binding agreement. Not for them to question and go into the internal workings of the Lankan government. It is presumed that the ambassador had the presidential assent to ink his government’s approval; to co-sponsor the resolution.

While the President berated all those around him, accusing them of not telling him of this most important international crucible in Lanka’s calendar where the actions of her soldiers during the thirty-year-long terrorist war are biannually drawn to attention, the question the president must ask himself is not why he was never told by his foreign minister or his officials as to the stance his government will be adopting but why he failed to ask it?

As it is said, knock and the door will open, ask and you shall be given an answer. If one fails to knock or ask on so important an issue, at whose door does dereliction of duty lie?

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