President Wickremesinghe’s outspoken stand against western narratives

5 October 2023 12:00 am – 6      – 418

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The recent DW News interview, however, proved to be a test of President Wickremesinghe’s patience and cool

 The President’s recent assertiveness on the world stage has been surprising many, particularly his critics, as he fearlessly addresses vital issues
Wickremesinghe stressed the importance of dialogue between the West, particularly the United States and China, acknowledging the reality that we must engage with China without alienating them

In recent times, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been making headlines with his candid and outspoken remarks on critical geopolitical issues during his foreign visits. His latest interview with DW News in Germany, although more of a verbal sparring match than a usual run-of-the-mill television interview, shows a stance against what could be termed as biased narratives perpetuated by Western ‘woke’ media. In a world filled with carefully scripted diplomatic exchanges and guarded statements, President Wickremesinghe has been quite notable with his frank comments.
The President’s recent assertiveness on the world stage has been surprising many, particularly his critics, as he fearlessly addresses vital issues. In a discussion few weeks ago at the Carnegie Centre in New York regarding the geopolitical aspects of the Indian Ocean region, he unequivocally expressed his views on AUKUS, labelling it as a mistake. He also rationalised China’s activities in the region, emphasising the need for constructive engagement rather than antagonism.

During the Berlin Global Dialogue, President Wickremesinghe boldly declared that the current global financial architecture was outdated, advocating for a new global financial order. He stressed the importance of dialogue between the West, particularly the United States and China, acknowledging the reality that we must engage with China without alienating them.
The recent DW News interview, however, proved to be a test of President Wickremesinghe’s patience and cool. It is a known fact that when Western media interviews leaders or officials from Asian or African countries, their approach often leans towards cornering them with preconceived notions and narratives. These narratives often align with a socially liberal ‘woke’ Western worldview, creating a skewed perspective on the countries in question. These narratives are mainly propagated by NGOs and Think Tanks through studies, researches and surveys also funded by Western countries.

The interview with DW News began with a factual error, as the interviewer incorrectly stated that the IMF had halted Sri Lanka’s second funding tranche, which was not the case. President Wickremesinghe calmly corrected this and provided clarity on the matter.
The interviewer’s persistent questioning regarding hunger and nutrition was met with President Wickremesinghe’s firm responses. He rightly pointed out that these challenges were not unique as it would be the case with any country undergoing an economic crisis. He said these matters were being actively addressed as the economy showed signs of improvement.
However, what truly irked President Wickremesinghe and got his goat was the interviewer’s insistence on probing unsubstantiated allegations and conspiracy theories put forward in a British Channel 4 television documentary about the Easter Sunday attacks. In a straightforward and assertive manner, President Wickremesinghe made it clear that Sri Lanka would not entertain international inquiries and challenged whether countries like Germany or the UK would do the same. He bluntly stated, “You are talking nonsense. You have no right to ask me this question. You think we are second class. You need to take this Western attitude out.”
Moreover, when pressed on human rights issues, President Wickremesinghe firmly rejected the recent UNHRC report.
It is essential to view this interview in the context of the broader narrative surrounding Sri Lanka, which has been shaped over the years, particularly during the LTTE war. President Wickremesinghe’s mature and seasoned political acumen allowed him to identify the interviewer’s intentions early on and call it for what it was – an attempt to perpetuate a certain Western media narrative on Sri Lanka.

While opinions on how President Wickremesinghe tackled the interview may vary depending on one’s political perspective, the lengthy introduction to the DW News video on YouTube raises questions about the true intent behind the interview as the narrative it tries to feed is quite clear. The several minutes long introduction shows the economic problems of Sri Lanka, the Aragalaya and blames the Rajapaksas not only for economic woes but on human rights violations and slowly lets Channel 4 allegations creep in. At  the very beginning it introduces President Ranil Wickremesinghe as a “political veteran with deep ties to the now ousted Rajapaksas; two brothers whose rule left Sri Lanka a broken, bankrupt country.” The narrative articulated in this introduction is very clear and unambiguous and how they approached President Wickremesinghe is obvious.

Narratives are powerful tools in shaping our understanding of the world, influencing our opinions, and driving political agendas. In the realm of politics, narratives are not just stories; they are carefully constructed messages that can be used to sway public opinion. This is particularly evident in the way western countries have historically created and manipulated narratives about Asian and African nations to serve their own geopolitical goals.
The creation of political narratives often begins with a specific agenda in mind. Whether it’s justifying military intervention, economic sanctions, or promoting trade partnerships, these narratives are crafted to cast a favorable light on one’s own actions while demonizing or undermining the credibility of another nation. In the process, selective facts, half-truths, or even outright falsehoods may be employed to create a compelling narrative and Sri Lanka has been barraged with these narratives since the advent of social media. Some such narratives that even lack proper factual standing sometimes stick on when it is being spewed over and over again through social media.
The Channel 4 documentary can clearly be broken down when you analyze it in this perspective. What started as mere rumors, conspiracy theories and allegations without any substantial evidence over social media for some time has been brought into the mainstream by using a person with a questionable past to give it a voice. The DW News interview tries to give further credence and value to these allegations aired on Channel 4 by questioning President Wickremesinghe about it. But the sharp mind of Wickremesinghe spots this immediately and calls it bluff.

For some who are not aware of how the western narrative formation works might have been surprised at how President Wickremesinghe who was mostly treated with kid gloves by the Western media in previous times is now treated in a different way. It would not be surprising if you read and study a bit on the Burmese leader Aung San Su Kyi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame on how the West portrayed them then and now. Western media usually create caricatures of political leaders seen favourably by them according to their liberal ‘woke’ mindsets. But once in power if those leaders do not continue to live according to their ‘woke’ caricatures, the western media begins to paint them as the devil incarnate. Was DW News trying such a stunt with Wickremesinghe?
Western countries have a history of framing narratives about Asian and African nations that can be detrimental to their international image. This can include portraying these regions as unstable, corrupt, or in need of Western intervention to bring about progress and stability. These narratives not only serve to maintain a position of influence and control but also often facilitate economic exploitation and resource extraction.
Understanding the importance of narratives and their manipulation is crucial for a more informed and balanced global discourse. It is essential to critically analyze the sources of information, consider multiple perspectives, and seek the truth behind the narratives that shape our perceptions of the world. Much light can be shed on the Channel 4 documentary which goes by hearsay ‘facts’ and the focus of the DW News interview when seen in this perspective.
However President Wickremesinghe’s recent remarks on the international stage have showcased his resilience in the face of biased questioning and he has quite emphatically presented a counter viewpoint. At the same time the importance of fair and balanced journalism should be recognized, rather than attempts to fit countries into predetermined narratives that may not accurately represent their realities.

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