Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why is the President missing the UN General Assembly?

It is reported that President Rajapaksa will not be attending the UN General Assembly this year but no real  explanation has been offered. People, including myself, often think that nothing much happens at the UN summit but Yahoo News offers six good reasons why this summit is worth watching.

Regardless of anything else, it is the main meeting of the UN and many world leaders will attend. Judging by past behaviour, the President himself attaches huge import to the meeting, he has never missed one before and his address to the UN GA is widely reported and closely followed in Sri Lanka. The official statement that "this is not the first time, previous Presidents like J. R. Jayewardene and Chandrika Kumaratunga had also sent representatives to address the UNGA” does not ring true.

This raises the obvious question: why is he missing it this time around? The President is always keen to raise the country's profile and project its 'soft power' and has traveled extensively to further this cause. Earlier this year he attended the UN conference on Sustainable development in Rio and also took time to visit Cuba. Pictures show a smiling President chatting with various world leaders.   

Has the relationship with the UN soured since then or is he in ill health?

There was the unfortunate case of the UN resolution in March this year as a consequent of which we had the delegation from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) visiting this month. Critics seem to think that things are not going swimmingly on that front either and the actions of the Government seem to confirm this view: witness the new diplomatic strategy of opening missions in Africa and South America, with the hope of garnering their votes at the next session of the UNHRC. The country has already paid host to visits from the Presidents of Seychelles and the Maldives and the King of Swaziland, so this strategy is already in the process of being executed.      

Perhaps he is preoccupied with domestic concerns? The Provincial Council elections were just concluded and there is speculation that the Provincial Elections are only a precursor to the big event - the Presidential election. Could we be in for a Presidential election in early 2013 or perhaps 2014? Certainly the Presidential poll of 2010 was preceded by the Provincial Council elections in April, August and October 2009. As Gomin Dayasiri argues, the Provincial Council is a test bed of opinion and victory there enables the President to create a "wave" - politicians-and the providers of election funds-are keen to back the winning horse so victory at the Provincial level forms a good stepping stone to bigger things. Either way, we are in for some interesting times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My guess is as good as yours. But if he is feeling the pressure from UN finally, hopefully its a good thing to get his act together finally.