Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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A Sri Lankan Turkey Roast in New York

by Sachi Sri Kantha

[Dhanapala's] dismal performance in the three straw polls among the UN Security Council provide evidence that the international community is not buying the catchy anti-terrorism slogans of a candidate officially sponsored by a rump Sri Lanka state

When I lived in the USA, it was amusing for me to hear the word ‘turkey’ (referring to the bird, and not the country) used in a variety of contexts. Having been tutored in British English in the blessed isle, this was a revelation for me. Then I was enlightened by my labmate, Donald Thompson (an English major, and currently a professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University), on the nuances of turkey terms. For the uninitiated, here is a synopsis from a reference source.

Turkey: The domesticated turkey hardly knows what to eat and has to be attracted to food by colorful marbles placed in its feed; it often catches cold by getting its feet wet and frequently panics and suffocates itself when the flock presses together in fear. For such reasons, turkey has been slang for any stupid, worthless, useless, unsuitable thing since before 1930. Turkey for a poor, third-rate play, movie, or book is said to be an invention of humorist S.J.Perelman, who in the 1920s called himself a ‘Pennsylvania farmer of prized turkeys, which he displays on Broadway once a year.’ The word is also used for a socially incompetent, awkward person, a fake drug capsule, easy money (because turkeys are comparatively easy to catch), an easy task, a valise, a 50-cent piece, and a hobo’s suitcase. [Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File Encylcopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 3rd ed., 2004, p.735]

Dhanapala’s Dismal performance in the UN Security Council Straw Polls

Last week, we witnessed a Sri Lankan turkey roast in New York – an unusual spectacle in the Big Apple – almost two months before the traditional Thanksgiving season. I’m sure that readers can guess what I’m referrring to. Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala, the much ballyhooed Sinhalese establishment candidate for the UN Secretary General position, was routed and placed dead last in the third straw poll held among the 15 member UN Security Council. The current roster of the 15 members are; 5 veto-wielding permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK and the USA), and 10 non-permanent members (Argentina, Congo, Denmark, Ghana, Greece, Japan, Peru, Qatar, Slovakia and Tanzania).

In the first straw poll held on July 24th, Dhanapala received 5 votes of encouragement, 6 votes of discouragement and 4 votes of ‘no opinion’. In the second straw poll held on September 14th, Dhanapala’s stature diminished to 3 votes of encouragement, 5 votes of discouragement and 7 votes of ‘no opinion’. Then, in the third straw poll held on September 28th, Dhanapala’s fortunes plummeted further and he was placed last with 3 votes of encouragement, 7 votes of discouragement and 5 votes of ‘no opinion’. Subsequently, the Sinhalese establishment candidate withdrew his candidacy.

Dhanapala –a closet Sinhalese partisan

Now that the Sri Lankan turkey has gotten properly roasted, it is not inappropriate to review Jayantha Dhanapala’s campaign as a closet Sinhalese partisan, with so-called “international clout”. In a profile cum interview, published in the ‘Lanka Monthly Digest’ (November 2003), a business magazine, Dhanapala had this to say, on the aftermath of the anti-Tamil riots of 1983:

“I was pitchforked into a very stormy human rights situation. Try as we might to explain the racial riots as an aberration of Sri Lanka’s hitherto impeccable record, it was very difficult because of the strong human rights and Tamil expatriate lobbies. We lobbied with the various delegations and obtained a relatively mild resolution that was not condemnatory of Sri Lanka. And, since a few months prior we had had the Sub-Commission on Human Rights proposing a very damaging resolution against us, this resolution was certainly an achievement…”

The use of the royal “we” and “us” by Dhanapala relates to his stance as an outright Sinhalese partisan, cloaked in the garb of neutral ambassador of human rights. Then, a few paragraphs later, the profiler Savithri Rodrigo contributed a half truth to boost the image of Dhanapala.

“Working extensively for the US government and acquainting it with the policies of the PA government [of President Chandrika], Dhanapala was instrumental in successfully negotiating the extension of the bilaterial textile agreement and paving the way for legislation to ban the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.”

That the American policymakers in Washington, DC made their decision to include the LTTE in the US State Department list of ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ in 1997, based on Dhanapala’s campaign is a baloney. Apart from Dhanapala, the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar also fooled the gullible Sinhalese with this paternity claim. For a while, even Kadirgamar entertained the thoughts of being a candidate for the UN Secretary General position. Thus, to raise his profile and appeal among the Sinhalese, Dhanapala also played the “anti-terrorism” and anti-LTTE cards in his campaign. His dismal performance in the three straw polls among the UN Security Council provide evidence that the international community is not buying the catchy anti-terrorism slogans of a candidate officially sponsored by a rump Sri Lanka state.

Another of Jayantha Dhanapala’s boasts was that he was invited to “chair the widely acclaimed 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference.” [Lanka Monthly Digest magazine, November 2003]. It may be so. But, how effective was his performance in exposing the nuclear black market ring run by Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, whose right hand middleman is a Sri Lankan Muslim identified as B.S.A. Tahir? Until President G.W. Bush revealed the identity of this B.S.A.Tahir on February 11, 2004, had Dhanapala mentioned anything about Khan or Tahir for the public record, between 1996 and 2004? While keeping his silence on the potential dangers of nuclear blackmail and nuclear terrorism [‘Islamic Bomb’] emanating from the Pakistan-Malaysia network, Dhanapala hoisted his canard of the LTTE as the prime devil for civilization, and that he is the most suitable person to lead the UN, after Kofi Annan. The current 15 member UN Security Council didn’t buy Dhanapala’s boast, and handed him a well-deserved turkey roast.

I thought that it would be appropriate to express my opinion to the muddled heads of the ‘Lanka Monthly Digest’magazine on whether Dhanapala deserved a post at the UN. Thus, I sent the following e-mail to the editorial desk of the ‘Lanka Monthly Digest’ magazine.

“Hey Wise Guys:

How does the crow meat taste for you all, for the past few days? Shame on you that you promoted a turkey Jayantha Dhanapala, as Sri Lanka's peacock. The Sri Lankan turkey got roasted in New York, almost two months before the American Thanksgiving season. Would you lay the blame on the Eelam Tamil expatriate lobby, for Dhanapala's pitiable performance in the UN Security Council straw polls? Isn't he the one who extravagantly claimed paternity for a strictly "internal" decision by the USA in 1997 to list the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization? (vide, LMD magazine, Nov.2003) Now, Angel Veritas has kicked him with her wand for his naughtiness. Dhanapala, whateve rhis bulky resume shows, is only fit to be a night janitor at the UN.”

You should know the reason why I sent this mail. The September 2006 issue of the ‘Lanka Monthly Digest’ magazine also carries as its cover story, quite a few promotional pieces on Jayantha Dhanapala, with the caption ‘Our Man in the UN?’, by dreamers Anoma Pieris, Lakshman Ratnapala and Jehan Perera. Their dream, that their paraded turkey can dance and the world would buy this dance, has gotten busted. Not only this, for the next two generations or so, (if the established tradition of regional rotation stands) another Sri Lankan establishment candidate cannot dream of being a successful contestant for the UN Secretary General position.

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