A hornet s nest was stirred up following the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka , Robert Blake s meeting with the Elections Commissioner just before the Provincial Council elections. It is widely questioned by the media as to what right the US Ambassador has to hold discussions with the Elections Commissioner in regard to the conduct of free and fair elections.
This is not the first time that accusations have been levelled against the U.S. Ambassador for interfering in Sri Lanka s internal affairs. Even during the Eastern Provincial Council elections , Blake has visited the area, prior to elections and inquired as to the measures that are being taken to conduct a free and fair election.
It is no secret that Blake and his family on one occasion has gone on an excursion along with President Rajapaksa and his family to Mahinda Rajapaksa s Carlton Bungalow in Hambantota where he spent a delightful weekend with them.
On another occasion, Blake has joined Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to watch the Royal Thomian match. Because of these actions , Blake is a vexatious character. Today , his image is tarnished because he tried to ensure that there will be a free and fair Provincial Council election by meeting the Elections Commissioner.
Some say, Blake s conduct is reminiscent of that of the British High Commissioner David Gladstone in the past ,who visited the polling booth during the Provincial Council elections in 1991, and lodged a complaint against election malpractices . David Gladstone went to the Matara Dickwella polling booth to complain of the malpractices which he witnessed with his own eyes. This occurred during the tenure of Office of the Premadasa Govt. The latter did not brook this conduct of the British High Commissioner.
Even prior to this incident , the Premadasa Govt. kept a surveillance over the British High Commissioner as he went to great lengths to notify the International community of the human rights violations prevailing under that Govt. The British High Commissioner got enmeshed in the Dickwella election episode while the Govt. was gathering information with a view to taking action against him.
The Premadasa Govt. not only expelled the High Commissioner following the incident , but also carried out a media campaign against him as trying to interfere and meddle in country s internal affairs .
For the current ruling SLFP which was in the Opposition at that time , the British High Commissioner appeared as a saviour of Democracy.
The late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle who was a Chief Organiser and a powerful Minister in the present Govt., while in the Opposition at that time, had this to say on behalf of David Gladstone : The British High Commissioner has gone to a polling booth . There he has seen a polling racket going on which he reported. What did the Govt. do ? Instead of the Govt. investigating this election fraud , what it did was to direct its probe on whether the High Commissioner had rights or not pertaining to this matter. Jeyaraj Fernandopulle , Parliament Hansard report of 23-05-1991
Regarding the British High Commissioner s conduct, the unofficial Deputy Leader of the SLFP, the late Anura Bandaranaike stated thus : Sir, may I finally say just one or two matters Much has been said about the declaration of Mr. David Gladstone , the former British High Commissioner , as a persona non grata . I am not going to be an apologist for Mr. Gladstone . If he has done something he should not have done, whatever the reasons that motivated him to doing it may be legitimate , may be genuine , I am not here to argue that case. All I am asking is this. The extreme form of action you took , was it justified with whatMr. Gladstone is supposed to have done? The only person, one of the few last people , to send back a British High Commissioner was the great Idi Amin of Uganda . We have followed in the illustrious footsteps of Idi Amin. If Mr. Gladstone has done something wrong that he should not have done - I am not defending that there are ways of reprimanding him. The British were prepared to even apologize but you were hell bent on persecuting this one individual, Mr. David Gladstone , because of a reason , Mr. Speaker. He was the most outspoken Ambassador of a Foreign country in this country that criticized your human rights record. So much so that the British Govt. on a number of occasions has had cause to raise on International forums the human rights violations of Sri Lanka and you felt the man behind it was none other than Mr. Gladstone. Unwarranted attacks were made on him in this house where he has no right to reply. He is not a Govt. servant. No Minister can reply on behalf of a Foreign Ambassador or a High Commissioner.
Now, Mr. Speaker , I would like to ask the Govt. just one matter and I am winding up, Sir I will not take more than two minutes. What would have been the position if in the incident complained of at Dickwella , Mr. Gladstone had complained against the SLFP? If Mr. Gladstone had complained that the SLFP supporters were wiping off their ink or whatever that thing is called , would you have taken the same course of action against him ? No, you would have built a monument for David Gladstone at the Gam udawa in Kumburupitiya . It is only because David Gladstone made a complaint against . (interruption)
Now, Mr. Speaker , I am winding up. Finally may I say this ? A speech was made at the BMICH condemning Britain for colonialism and new colonialism. I am glad that certain people , Sir , have realized rather late in the day that Britain was a colonial power because when they sent their sons to be educated at Millhill and the London School of economics , Britain was not a new colonial power, Britain was very good then to educate your sons , but just because you had a grudge against one High Commissioner you take a completely unnecessary , unprecedented step, and we of the Sri Lanka Freedom party unequivocally condemn the action you have taken against the British High Commissioner, David Gladstone. Anura Bandaranaike ,Parliament Hansard of 20-06-1991
Anura Bandaranike s speech highlighted a point: if Gladstone has made these charges against the SLFP , a monument would have been erected by the UNP in power at that time . What Anura Bandaranaike said at that time has been proved true in the context of the current Blake s episode when Blake requested the Elections Commissioner to conduct a free and fair election, the UNP , now in the Opposition and who reigned earlier, looks upon Blake as a saviour of democracy .
Those of the Premadasa Govt. at that time viewed Gladstone as somebody interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. The SLFP which was in the Opposition then ,and is now in power , construes Blake s recent action as interfering in the country s internal affairs. Yet, to the SLFP ers who were in the Opposition at that time , Gladstone appeared to be a saviour of Democracy.
The U.S. State Department analyses Blake s role in his mission to promote Democracy thus : upon consultation with NGO s, and keeping with the (Congressional ) Act s definition of non Democratic and Democratic transition countries, we have reported on our poverty efforts in 106 countries .. . Sri Lanka is one among the 106 countries enumerated in the U.S. Dept. report.
After Blake s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka . in 2007, after his arrival , he helped the Elections Commission Dept. to compile the computerized version of the National voters registry. Hence, Blake s involvement with the Elections Commissioner s office harks back to that time .It is therefore a reasonable inference that Blake s efforts to ensure a fair and free election is based on this mandate .
Blake is exposed to a constant barrage of accusations and castigations that he is a UNP er, owing to this. In the same way, that accusations were hurled then ,against Gladstone that he was an SLFP er .