By The Pepper Spray Club
Milinda Moragoda is set to be Sri Lanka’s next High Commissioner to India. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s prerogative. We accept that. Presidents/governments typically appoint those they trust are capable of delivering expectations. Ideally these expectations are extrapolated from promises given and mandates obtained.
Now Moragoda is a controversial figure, to say the least. He was Ranil Wickremesinghe’s point man in the so-called peace-process that began with the Ceasefire Agreement that the UNP regime of the time signed with Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE. He’s seen as someone who champions the neobileral agenda pushed by Washington. His Pathfinder outfit is almost like a counterpoint to everything that Viyathmaga stands for, Viyathmaga being the think-tank that designed policy for Gotabaya Rajapaksa as he prepared his bid for the presidency.
The prospect of relations with India being put in the hands of someone like Moragoda has clearly upset a lot of staunch supporters of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, almost all of whom backed Rajapaksa to the hilt in November 2019. India, they believe, is not Sri Lanka’s ‘friend.’ That’s a case that is easily made. If, then, India is ‘enemy’ then why on earth appoint a person who has not been ideologically on the same page as the President, one can legitimately ask.
The flip side is that if ‘engagement’ and not ‘confrontation’ is what is demanded, someone who is rabidly anti-Indian would probably be an unwise choice. Such an individual will be loath to engage from the get go. Moragoda, even if he’s the villain he’s made out to be, is probably a better choice.
There’s a question though. Is Moragoda’s engagement framed by the aspirations associated with the tone and substance of the Gotabaya/SLPP platform or have Gotabaya and the SLPP reconciled themselves to being led (up the garden path?) by Moragoda?
We don’t know. Therefore, it is best that the people resolve to put Moragoda on probation and, by association, the President and the Government as well. At least on the matter of Indo-Lanka relations.