Jubilant Obama supporters in Colombo look for the change

November 5th, 2008 - 6:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaColombo, Nov 5 (IANS) Barack Obama’s supporters in Colombo, who gathered at the Election Watch centre set up for the live telecast of the poll results, broke into tears of jubilation and jumped up in joy Wednesday when CNN announced he would be the first African-American president of the US.”It is an amazing win, which not just the Americans but the entire world has been looking for. It is up to the new president-elect to deliver now and go for the change he promised,” said Liza Robertz, an American national.

The Election Watch was set up by the US embassy at Colombo Hilton here and a large number of Americans, US supporters, Sri Lankan academics and business entrepreneurs gathered in the early hours of Wednesday as the poll results were being announced.

“I expected Obama to win and Obama has won. So I am exited, to say the least,” said an emotional African-American national, Kingsley Iyite, waving at the US president-elect on the giant screens.

Addressing the gathering here, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake said: “It is an extraordinary moment for us who are Americans. Our new president is going to be a real force for change in the US.”

He added: “This should be one of those moments like when Neil Armstrong stepped down on the moon. It will be one of those times we will remember and we ask ourselves where we were? And those of us who are Americans will be more proud to say that we were in Sri Lanka among friends watching this great victory.

“I am proud because what we have just seen shows that my country, the United States, is a land of democracy and a land of opportunity. It shows that a young African-American junior senator can rise from nowhere. He had no support, no money and was virtually written off by everybody, won the presidential election to become the next president of the US.”

Ambassador Blake said that right after the CNN announced that Obama was the projected winner of the US presidential elections, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had called on the phone “to congratulate us and the people of the US for this great victory for the country”.

He has major, major challenges ahead of him. He also has the power, ideas and the power of his words and the power he has to unify our country and unify the world, Blake added.

Commenting on Obama’s victory, head of the National Peace Council, Jehan Perera said that the US president-elect “has a good chance of mending closer relationship with all countries”.

“There is a lot of faith and hope in him. The main challenge for him is not to disappoint the world, despite the amount of pressure and inertia in the US. He has to do this without creating worries in the US,” Perera said.

Rohan Edirisinghe, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), an independent think-tank, described Obama’s win as “a very positive and historic development for the world and, not just for the US”.

“I think the Obama administration will probably attach more significance to the issues of human rights and democracy. They hopefully will be less unilateralistm in their approach, pay more respect to difference in the world and will have slightly more nuanced foreign policy,” said Edirisinghe, who is also a senior lecturer at Colombo University.

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