Her excellency Alaina B. Teplitz,
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka.
Let us not waste time on details and points that would inevitably lead to denials and disagreements. I will only add what I assume to be necessary in order to contextualize the point I do wish to raise here: I find it very hard to believe that the United States of America is a country that upholds the rule of law, accountability and equal access to justice, as a fundamental and unsurpassable principles. Countless examples to contrary, from all over the world, at least since the end of the second world war, are well documented, above all by thinkers born and brought up in United States itself, like Noam Chomsky. But, you see, these are all details with which you are extremely unlikely to agree with, and as such, can always be disputed behind a well horned jargon of diplomacy and public relations. That is why I would not waste time trying in vain to show the hypocrisy of the sentiments you expressed in that now famous tweet, going viral in social media, where you criticize the government’s decision to pardon Duminda Silva. No. My problem is not with the hypocrisy of your remark – even if I believe it to be such. For, once again, it is clear that we cannot come to a consensus on that point. I do believe, however, that there is a point on which we can possibly agree and it concerns the strategic significance of your intervention. The reason why we can possibly agree on this particular point is fairly simple – it carries with it the strength of self-evidence. Let me elaborate.
It is not quite clear what exactly you were trying to achieve through this intervention – maybe you were just trying to act as if you were warning the government; maybe you genuinely thought that this is a threat of certain regard; maybe you were just trying to impress those above you to, give them the impression that you really have a good command of the situation unfolding in here. Whatever your strategic motives were I think it is fairly obvious what are the real and practical consequences are. Already, one of the leading theoreticians of the Sinhala ethno-nationalist brand of politics, Dr. Nalin de Silva, who is also the Sri Lankan ambassador to Myanmar, has written two articles, widely shared on social media, arguing how this proves their relentless claims of a Western Christian plot – or, better still, a ‘tendential movement’ that seeks – to destroy the cultural heritage of this country, especially the one of Sinhala origin. The point is not, of course, to ask if there is indeed such a plot. The point is to ask what practical consequences are there of such an interpretation and that certainly is all too obvious: from now on anyone who attempts to criticize the government’s decision to grant a presidential pardon to Duminda Silva can potentially be an ally of this Western Christian plot! If you feel that this is a far-fetched exaggeration, let me translate for you a line from His Excellency Dr. Nalin de Silva’s most recent article:
“However, my intention was to expose the American ambassador’s intervention with regard to the pardoning of Duminda [Silva]. The Ambassador had expressed her pleasure on the fact that few members of the LTTE have been released. This same view had already been expressed by Jehan Perera of the so-called peace council. He is a head of a Christian organization. Many of those who agree with the ambassador are those who oppose a Sinhala Buddhist state.”
So you see, the only practical outcome of your twittering intervention, I venture to say, is that this will strengthen the very ideological forces that played a decisive role in creating the situation you ostensibly try to criticize. In other words, your act is what we call in philosophy a ‘performative contradiction’ – the very fact that you speak, your act of enunciation, undermines what you intend to say, the content of your enunciation. Or, put another way, by saying that you oppose the pardoning of Duminda Silva you support the very forces that legitimized such acts.
You can certainly prove me wrong, and thereby defeat the claims of the good ambassador to Myanmar, by simply ‘walking the talk’ – that is, quite plainly, by utilizing the political, economic and military strength of the United States to, for instance, force the government to change this decision. It will not prove Nalin de Silva wrong in principle, but it will certainly break the back of the political power it has helped to establish and thereby loosen its grip on national politics. But you see, I do not for a moment think you would do any such thing, nor that you are capable of taking such drastic measures unless you want to jeopardize the macro-level political equilibrium with unforeseeable consequences. This is why I think your gesture here is an empty gesture, a self-undermining empty gesture.
We all know that social media are replete with what the German philosopher Hegel called ‘beautiful souls’ – individuals who feel superior in a corrupted world, but who need this very corruption in order to establish their moral superiority. Sadly though, this is not what we need in politics right now and that is why, to anyone who wants to see, the lesson of all this is quite obvious: our good hearted American ambassador should keep her opinions to herself.
Citizen of Sri Lanka