THE ART OF CONFLICT AVOIDANCE

By: Victor Cherubim

Diplomacy is the art of the impossible. Our embassies and representatives abroad, particularly in the western world, no doubt have a difficult task in the light of our dismal failure of communication, to translate and transmit the real values of our tradition and culture to their accredited countries. There is however, no denying that the world is much more sophisticated, more upbeat; more advanced in technology and that news travels that much faster today. It takes much more than just accreditation of an embassy, or a Counsellor Officer sitting behind a desk, to understand the nuances of confronting situations, in sensitive postings. There is equally no doubt, that if experience is lacking, it has to be either in-sourced or outsourced to be fully in command of scenarios and situations. If information cannot be researched and intelligence is not able to be analysed, there is something radically wrong, which needs more than attention.
Adhering to the adage: “see no evil, hear no evil or speak no evil,” these outposts are often accused of following the strict guidelines of diplomatic conduct. Rightly so, but it should not be at the expense of no information, mis-information or false information.
One does not require a diploma in rocket science to ascertain that an embassy of Sri Lanka abroad is the custodian of the entire peoples of Sri Lanka, not a particular party or represent only 80 percent of the people of the country? A diplomat in Colombo speaks for the entire country he or she represents, not just the government or a section of the people, as allegiance is to the entire country.
The recent editorial in the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka “Once bitten; not twice shy,” infers by its innuendo that it was the President’s fault to attend the Queen’s Jubilee and to accept the invitation to address the Commonwealth Business Council at Mansion House, London. That it was the President who should know whether the Oxford Union or the Commonwealth Secretariat will do a somersault. Is it implying that before a President visits and accepts an invitation to speak abroad in UK, he should consult an astrologer or a City Trader well acquainted with the “Fibonacci sequence,” the odds of his speech being abandoned?
It is a misnomer and is further from the truth. It is indeed a sad state of affairs that we were no able to hear what the President had to say. We talk about democracy, we talk about human rights and yet a bunch of hooligans can take the country to ransom, leverage the British Police authorities to discredit a Guest invited by Her Majesty, The Queen. Are we to be fooled that the Queen is not aware of what has happened in Sri Lanka? Are we that ignorant that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI was unaware during his audience to President Rajapaksa, of the situation in the country?
What we are seeing is the blinkered view of persons who want to discredit our country, yet they want to return to their homes in that country. What they fail to remember is that the measure of nationality is the respect for one’s nation, warts and all.
Are we to accept that all those who shouted themselves hose outside the Hilton had come with an ulterior motive, or that they were part of a “rent a mob” by interested parties who have an axe to grind against our nation? Was it conjecture that the First Lady, Shiranthi Rajapaksa, is said to have appealed from the window of her hotel apartment before retiring to bed, to the young hotheads outside to inform them that their message was loud and clear and wished them safe return to their homes for the night and to allow everyone to rest. This motherly admonition was not only ignored but was not even enforced by the Police keeping control of the mob.
The people of Britain are a very tolerant people. When enough is enough, we no doubt will see the rule of law prevail. It is unfortunate that the High Commission in UK finds unable to relate to the diaspora and to have a relationship established for consultations with all sections of the Sri Lankan expatriates. There has been too much concentration placed to placate the divergence of opinion among the diehards. It is high time a new approach is made to draw in saner elements of all communities, to advise and participate in the country’s welfare in the future.The hallmark of diplomacy is the art of conflict avoidance.

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