Just as President Donald Trump appears to have got over his fire and fury fighting with North Korea’s Rocket Man Kim Jong Un, the US Ambassador Atul Keshap appears to have started a presidential battle issue in Sri Lanka or the Gotabhaya Game Dispute or Gota Keliya Aragalaya.
Many have seen the reported Keshap comments to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, about his brother Gotabhaya’s plans or the SLPP / SLFP’s plans for Gotabhaya to be the next president here as an unwanted American interference in Sri Lankan politics. Quite right, Mr. Keshap should know that we oppose any US involvement or interference in any presidential politics here; much more that Americans oppose the alleged Russian interference to ensure the election of Donald Trump as US President.
There are many critics who say we will have to keep a close watch on Facebook and other social media as to how much the US Embassy here, will be throwing its weight in Anti-Gota Politics.
But there are many others who think what Keshap had raised at his very cordial meeting with MR – related news reports not contradicted or clarified by MR or Keshap – was really about American citizenship, and not about the Sri Lankan presidency. Just look at the picture.
Surely, a US ambassador has every right to speak about the political strategies abroad of an American citizen. Come on. Not a recent American citizen, but one who has had such citizenship for well over a decade, or nearly two decades, since Gotabhaya Rajapaksa settled down there after leaving the Sri Lankan Army, during its fight with the LTTE.
It is possible that the US State Department may fear that Gotabhaya’s political ambitions could affect the image of US foreign policy, by trying to promote a present US citizen to be the future president of Sri Lanka.
News coming out from Keshap’s office also mentions a wider family issue, which could lead to more allegations against the US. They remind us that Gota’s other political brother over here, Basil – of Divi Neguma fame or ill-fame – is also a long standing, and very patriotic US Citizen, who has repeatedly said his political interests here, would never lead to his abandoning US citizenship. This is the patriotism that Donald Trump would be happy about and Atul Keshap would certainly cheer.
There is another brotherly issue too. Gota, Basil and Mahinda have yet another brother, who is a US citizen for very long, settled down in Texas, when last visited by brother Mahinda, and with definite commitments to US citizenship.
From the looks of it, Keshap’s concern is more about a filial of brotherly issue, as well as one of Family Bindings, that can have a major impact on the future politics, business or even crooked manipulation of US domestic and foreign policy.
Some do ask the question as to how a member of such an American citizenry bound family, could even want to be the next Sri Lankan President? Of course, who can remove a desire to follow one’s own brother, in becoming another hugely authoritarian president, and with the military experience even have dictatorial ambitions?
The Rajapaksas have changed a lot in political thinking and strategy from the days when their paternal uncle – D. M Rajapaksa – entered the State Council in the 1930s, with the brown- kurakkan colour Sataka, representing the hard pressed cultivators of his day. The Sataka is now a very political red, in shade but not in policy; and they were until the last general election the largest political family in our parliament and government. President – Mahinda Rajapaksa, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa,
Basil Rajapaksa – Minister of Economic Development, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa – Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, son Namal and niece Nirupama Rajapaksa- Members of Parliament. That is certainly a big political family and this wider family has three US citizens, among them.
You had better make a note of this Mr. Keshap, because it could have an impact on future US politics.
As the Gota Keliya Aragalaya gets more interesting, Udaya Gammanpila of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, made a media statement seeking to clear doubts about Gotabaya’s US citizenship preventing his future candidacy for the presidency here. Responding to a “Gotaphobia” spread by his Gota’s opponents, Gammanpila said renunciation of US Dual Citizenship is so simple and so quick, taking only a couple of days, to remove the restrictions on contesting the presidency under the 19th Amendment. There it is Keshap should not worry about US politics, it is Sri Lankan politics.
Supposing Keshap has said so, but Keshap has another angle to this. He tells Mahinda, not contradicted, that Gotabaya needs to clear himself of allegations over war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations, before the US would allow him to renounce US citizenship.
The main issue here is who knows the US Citizenship Laws better – Udaya Gammanpila of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, known for often crazy politics, or Ambassador Keshap from the US State Department. We have to work that out.
But, so far we know of no such allegations on Gotabhaya – no war crimes or violation of human rights. He may have speedily removed shanty dwellers in Colombo, but that was to help Patali Champika to boast of mega project housing in Colombo today. What we know most about him is how attempts by the Police to arrest him, over issues relating to building the memorial to his late father, have been delayed for so long and he is now assured to making his statement at the CID, with no fear of arrest. Just think of that for democracy. Mr. Atul Keshap, you must understand much more of democratic progress here and of judicial independence, too.
So now both Atul Keshap and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa could enjoy a loud rendering of the Star Spangled Banner, be proud of their US Citizenship, and pledge with Donald Trump to Make America Great Again. Forget Sri Lanka.