US Presidential Election: From Planting Cleveland Trees to dashing coconuts!

By Manekshaw

First Principal of Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai Rev. E.P. Hastings planted Mahogany trees in the school premises to celebrate when his brother-in-law Grover Cleveland (wife’s brother) was elected 22nd President of the United States of America in 1885.
Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, was one of the oldest schools to be started by American Missionaries in 1871.
Some of the Mahogany saplings planted by Rev. Hastings to celebrate his brother-in-law’s victory stand to this day, and are popularly known as Cleveland Trees.

Nearly a hundred and thirty years after the planting of Cleveland Trees to mark the victory of President Grover Cleveland, Northern Provincial Councillor M.K. Sivajilingam dashed 1008 coconuts at the Nallur Kanthaswamy Kovil in Jaffna, last week, to seek blessings for Hillary Clinton’s victory.

However, the US Presidential poll ended up with the victory of Donald Trump shattering the expectations of Sivajilingam who is a close relative of LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Being a onetime Parliamentarian, Sivajilingam also contested the Presidential poll in Sri Lanka in 2015 and experienced a ‘nose dive defeat’.

Commenting on his support for Hillary Clinton, NPC Councillor Sivajilingam said the US Democratic candidate’s involvement only would lead to a solution to the Tamil crisis in the island.

During the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton was exposed sending highly confidential international issues on her e-mail private account between 2009 and 2012 when she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration.
Hillary Clinton’s efforts in putting pressure on the Lankan Government through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to stop aid were also found in the private e-mails of Hillary Clinton during the final phase of the Lankan Civil war.
When Bill Clinton was President, Hillary Clinton with her daughter Chelsea visited Sri Lanka as part of her twelve-day tour of South Asia in March 1995. During her brief stay in Colombo, she even went to the historic Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya where a traditional Lankan reception was accorded to Hillary and her daughter.

Tsunami disaster

Following the tsunami disaster in December 2004, former President Bill Clinton visited Sri Lanka as a special UN envoy accompanied by his predecessor George Bush (Senior) and he expressed his concerns over the civil strife in Sri Lanka and urged the Lankan Government and the LTTE to grab the opportunity of working together in disaster relief work and begin with the peace-building process to bring an end to civil strife.

Meanwhile, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tamil Nadu in 2011 and met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram who expressed her concerns over the Lankan Tamil issue.
Hillary during her meeting with Jayalalithaa said: “The United States is looking at some innovative and creative ideas to break the impasse over the Lankan Tamil issue”.

Addressing a public meeting in Chennai, Hillary pointed out that India’s example of a multicultural democracy should serve as a model for Sri Lanka.

Describing Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai as an example of how much society can achieve when all citizens fully join the country’s political and economic life. She said: “Every citizen of Sri Lanka deserves the same hope and opportunity for a better future”.
With concerns expressed by former US President Bill Clinton on the Sri Lankan ethnic issue when he visited Colombo as UN’s special envoy after the tsunami calamity and his wife later visiting in her capacity as US Secretary of State making efforts at preventing the final phase of the Lankan civil war and later on expressing her views on settling the Lankan ethnic issue when she toured Tamil Nadu, Northern Provincial Councillor M.K.Sivajilingam had every reason to place his confidence in Hillary Clinton and to dash 1008 coconuts at Nallur temple for her victory.
As far as the American connection with the Lankan ethnic conflict is concerned, it dates back to late President Ronald Reagan’s tenure of office.

However, President Reagan expressed his political maturity by dealing through India when American engineer Stanley Allan and his wife Mary were kidnapped by the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) cadres in May 1984.
President Reagan understanding the Indian influence on the Lankan Tamil militants, through the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi succeeded in getting the kidnapped American couple in Jaffna released.
In 2012, for the first time the US backed UNHRC resolution against Mahinda Rajapaksa was successfully adopted in Geneva with the US State Department led by Hillary Clinton playing a significant role.

The US President-elect Donald Trump has been rated as a leader with hardcore racist policies.
It is interesting to note that three Indian American Tamils who hailed from the State of Tamil Nadu have been elected to Congress at the US Presidential election this time.

Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthy and Kamala Harris are the three Indian origin Tamils who were elected to US Congress.
As the Donald Trump camp is presently submerged in the ‘victory bash’, it is too early to say how the outlook of the new US regime will remain with regard to Sri Lanka and international relations.