By Asoka Seneviratne –
Day in and day out, we see reports of people referring to Basil Rajapaksa as the American who is part and parcel of messing up Sri Lanka. Ridiculing Basil on social and main stream media as the American who can’t speak English, or even Sinhalese is common place. Political opponents often refer to Basil as the American crook or even American agent. Infamous “Kaputas” comments have become the ultimate political joke and personally I believe rightly so too. It is obvious that Basil’s mastery of English language is shameful, especially for a man who lived in English speaking USA for decades.
I have been the beneficiary of living in America for several decades. Despite being a senior building Engineer in Sri Lanka, upon arrival to America, I had to start my career from ground zero. My qualifications and experience in Sri Lanka and overseas was not recognized as I would have liked. However America gave me the gift and opportunity to rise along ranks very quickly to get well into the middle class within a matter of a decade.
Hard work, commitment, integrity, competency coupled with the great American corporate culture gave me that opportunity. While America is in no way free of racial or ethnic biases, I was rewarded for my hard work and abilities. This is the gift of America for which millions try to flock to America even risking their lives. Despite serious inequalities of income and wealth that has sprung up within the past two decades, America remains to be that shining house on the hills.
America’s hallmark is being the longest running Democracy of its kind in the world with its limitless freedoms and opportunities. Large homes, large cars, luxury living and large opportunities are for the taking or those who are willing to work hard. That is the gift of America. Indeed and often, America has come under fierce criticism for its role in military involvements across the world. Even everyday Americans and hundreds of American leaders acknowledge that fact. Those who violate rules of engagement in war are readily exposed punished. In the poorer world America is often criticized and looked upon as a powerful bully rather than a great policeman or democracy.
While acknowledging serious mistakes have been made in other nations while in battle that are readily exposed in the free media (with absolutely no repercussions from the government) and even a large swath of everyday Americans. I like to ask the critics this simple question.
What will the world be like without America and its mighty economy and military? Will the two major non democratic dictatorship nations like Russia and China walk into other nations with impunity? Will the United Nations to whom America contributes 22% of its budget succumb to the lack of funding? Will the IMF exist with its $120 B funding by America?
Will NATO exist with its massive $ 6.85 Trillion (to-date) spending by America while the 2nd contributor Britain has spent just $ 655 Billion? On a lighter vein, perhaps even will the world have Internet, smart phones, and life changing drugs and medical procedures, deep space exploration and many more cutting edge technologies? Yes Russia and China has challenged it of late but America always led the world with its immense contributions to mankind’s progress. I also need to add that it is common knowledge that both China and China frequently steal America’s intellectual property.
By no means, I do not portray America as a perfect nation or even close to it. Far from it. But it continually moves the needle to the RIGHT! Just a mere 43 years after voting rights for African Americans, a black President was elected. And a large number of first or second generation Asian and African immigrants hold top posts in the federal government. America is work in progress, not regress.
So now coming back to Basil, relating him America is a cheap political shot. The crocked and bankrupt politicians know that to millions of Lankans, the mere word “America” portrays bad. This is sad. Americans have no idea who the heck is Basil. He is just one of many millions of immigrants who flocked to this great land. If he failed to gain proper employment or speak English, it is Basil’s fault. He was a failed immigrant that had the great fortune to be born to a powerful political family that is now fast falling out of grace.
He is one hell of a lucky American!!
I expect quite a push back from Colombo Telegraph readers on the contents of article. In the spirit of that great democratic virtue, Freedom of Speech, I welcome them!