Rajapakse, regional politics, “Eurocentric Developmentalism” and the western hegemony-Part I
Posted on March 29th, 2010

Geethanjana Kudaligamage

Sri Lanka is in historical crossroads; and has reached to a critical juncture in her entire history of two and a half millennium. Opening up a new politico-economical and a military chapter, radically severing the dependency on the west, Sri Lanka has taken a far-reaching twist in the course of its history toward a new destiny. Sri Lanka had no alternatives or no return; she was cornered to the wall by merciless adversaries. But she struck back from dustbin of the history to the center page.  However, let the history decide of many things we witness today.

For some western administrations, Sri Lanka is degenerating within; it has become an authoritarian despotic regime with ever worst human rights record under Rajapakse presidency and nearing to be a failed state. That is the declared reasoning for western resentment over Sri Lanka; and this is the story perpetuating in the western media on daily basis. But there are many other reasons; never appeared on the surface. Among them, defeating LTTE against the will of Europe and strengthening bilateral relations with china including specific strategic maritime partnership, has been for the utter discontent of the West and, it has been deemed by them as a threat to their regional interests. However, majority of Sri Lankans consider Western displeasure as a symptom of their pent-up anger due to the removal of their “alleged” geopolitical strategic tool, a seventy years worth of western espionage work constructing a Frankenstein monster, their regional military leverage, the LTTE.

Not to mention, eliminating this monster is the greatest post WW2 strategic, diplomatic, and even intelligence, debacle for the west. Although they were failed in Sri Lanka, they were successful in other similar ventures. The same game they played in Kosovo, with a successful accomplishment of the mission of fragmenting the periphery. The slightly different scenario in East Timor ended-up into their favor. But, even with faithful help of the amateurish and shortsighted political leadership of the previous governments of Sri Lanka, they still failed here in the island. It must be considered as a miracle of the twenty first century global politics.  

West cannot be blissful to see Sri Lanka drifting away from their orbit of influence and becoming a stake holder of Chinese regional strategic agenda, especially allying with them to build a maritime network, widely referred as “string of pearls” in the Indian Ocean; of which western annalists suspect a stealth strategy of China to build her naval capabilities in the Indian Ocean weakening of their own.

On the other hand, it seems essential to point out that there are some misconceptions widely circulating in electronic media in the post LTTE political literature. First is the reasoning of intensification of western intervention/interference into Sri Lankan affairs including UN secretary general’s decision to appoint a committee to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka. As the reason widely presented for this situation was the lobbing of the political network of the powerful and influential Tamil Diaspora in the western capitals, and the power of their vote bank. But one can refute this argument and submit another, presenting western regional interests as the crucial and fundamental reason behind this situation. Considering the history of western interferences in other occasions and their past records, this second reason seems to be more viable than the first one. Let us enlarge the picture and see little away from our nose length.

In this enlarged image, Sri Lankan situation creates a win-win situation between western regional strategies and the Pan-Dravidian/Tamil aspirations. Tamils need a state, and Tamils need it big, which eventually includes Tamilnadu. In par with such Tamil aspirations, west also need a foot hold in the Indian Ocean; having such foothold is the only way to tackle the age old “eastern nightmare” of the west. 

In any event of gaining the ultimate western dominance in the region; North East of Sri Lanka is the ideal location for such venture. The history of Sri Lanka revels that the 16th century western policy and strategy toward Ceylon still remains unchanged.

Before the invasion of Kandy, with the intention of enthroning Dona Katharina under Portuguese supervision, convincing the Viceroy and his council of the prospects of conquering and colonizing entire Island was presented as follows”¦

“It is desirable possession for any nation. It was, moreover the natural center of the rich traffic with the southern seas; and so long as the Portuguese were supreme at sea, its insular position would render its defense against all possible enemies no difficult matter. Could it be that Ceylon destined to be the scene of the fulfillment of Alboquerque’s dream that Ceylon would be established a second Portuguese nation which should hold sway over the whole of India?” (P.E. Pieris)  

Not only that, as British colonial administration envisioned earlier, as they desired to contain independent India and China in post colonial era, (again as a part of their “eastern nightmare”) to slow down if not, control Indian and Chinese economic growth becoming future Asian powerhouses and threat to western interests in the long run for their global hegemony, Pan-Tamil aspiration was a god given opportunity to take the advantage. And apart from that, as a way of containing India, this was a useful tool to successfully culminate their age old design of fragmenting India, major part of the “eastern nightmare” of the west. (The other facet of this eastern nightmare is China.)

Although West already had begun the mission of fragmenting India by partitioning it on religious line between Pakistan and India, and drawing the disputed McMahon line between India and China crating another unending row between these two giants, still the mission has not been accomplished fully.

In such backdrop, by supporting Sri Lankan separatist movement, West can gain much more than Tamils can. So if there is a powerful lobbing in the western capitals by Tamil Diaspora for separatism in Sri Lanka, then it is reasonable to conclude that its power source must be none but western juggernaut itself. This situation is pretty similar to the situation prior to 1917 Balfour declaration, in which Jewish aspiration of a statehood in Palestine and the British patronage for it as a measure of the strategy of protecting British interests in the petroleum rich region were embraced passionately each other. One can see an frightening similarity between the story of the creation of Israel then and the current British administration and the Global Tamil Forum strategies now.

“The objectives of the Zionist movement were spelled out at the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in 1897. The main problem faced was how to establish a “legal” claim to statehood in Palestine, whose indigenous Palestinian Arab population (Muslim and Christian) was 92% of the population. Indigenous Jews and other groups constituted the remaining 8%. Obviously, this implied demographic transformation to make Palestine exclusively Jewish. After the Basle Congress, the Zionist movement approached the German Government, the Sultan of the dying Ottoman Empire (Middle East and Balkans), and the British. Ultimately, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour issued the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which stated: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people….” Finding themselves in the midst of World War One, the British found Jews to be useful allies, and hence embraced their cause. With the death of the Ottoman Empire after WWI, Britain was confirmed as the League of Nations Mandatory Power in Palestine. Ordinarily, a mandate meant that the Mandatory Administration would prepare the area for independence. In Palestine, the British Government made conflicting agreements with the Zionist movement (Balfour Declaration, 1917), and the Arab Nationalist movement (Hussein/McMahon letters, 1915). The Zionists aimed to establish a Jewish state in Palestine; and the Arab Nationalists expected Palestine to be a Palestinian Arab nation among the other Arab nations.”  (Elaine C. Hagopian) British prime minister and foreign secretary’s participation of Global Tamil Forum meeting has to be taken in this particular context.

(Also reed the Churchill’s remark over Palestine issue elsewhere in this series of articles)

West always had a nightmare and this nightmare always had a direction of movement as well. From medieval Europe to up until the end of the cold war, their eastern nightmare was Russia, which was assorted with terror. But there was another nightmare, which was even older than the first, and it also coming from the East. From ancient times to crusades, Renaissance, post Columbian modern era and to up until now, this nightmare is again terrorizing feverish western mind. This eastern nightmare is nothing but “fear of the east,” the oriental, India and China, and the Muslims. It is an ideological, philosophical fear, an ontological, subjective fear; fear of the European “ƒ”¹…”Other,’ a fear of a stolen prestige, a fear of a revelation of a hidden truth. Fear of a retaliation of the historical injustice, fear of their own past.

As the Slovenian philosopher Salvoj Zizek describes, “This is a fear of threatening and menacing of their own “thing” by obtrusive “Other.” This is the “thing” at stake, as they wish to call it “our way of life.” (Zizek)

This “way of life” accustomed with invading poor countries, bombarding innocent masses in the periphery, diplomatically, economically and militarily terrorizing, traumatizing regimes that do not wish to follow their dictat.

However, victimization of Sri Lanka of various charges is just a side effect of this traumatic fear. It is just a symptom among many other symptoms.

 Sri Lanka is the allegorical “antelope” possessing the much needed horn that savage desired to seize to kill Chinese bear, Bengali tiger. The true aim of the savage was to kill the bear and the tiger but not the antelope. But without killing the antelope, the savage cannot simply achieve its target. So Sri Lanka is the sacrifice at the altar of the satanic belief of the savage. This is the truth behind this war crime lie, it is the truth behind this genocide lie, and this is the truth behind this alleged human rights lie. There are no ideal situations of human rights anywhere on the earth. Name it. USA, UK, France? They are not better than Sri Lanka. On the other hand, Sri Lanka is not the ideal political entity on this planet either, nobody said so, and not even Rajapakse himself said so. Yes, there are problems. But it is not the worst place on this planet for sure.

 In this text, this writer will bring some probable consequences, related ideological and historical background of this new frontier in relation to regional politics. At the same time, extends sincere invitation to all our professionals, experts, historians and political and critical theorists to contribute their observations on the same subject discussed in this article to Lanka web forum for the benefit of our readers.

“¦In politics, the creative spirit demands a tremendous courage to take risks; all remarkable politicians in the world history were as audacious as they were fearless risk takers. Sometime of course, creative destruction helps to build new foundations. In fact, colonial Sri Lanka has been built on a fake structure that has been reached to its limits. In order to go into future, SL ought to demolish not only this fictitious structure itself, but also its ruins. Indeed, as political history revels, there is nothing right or wrong as such in political actions but only justified measures, justified to the given circumstance and their contexts. If anyone can suggest alternative strategy to disprove the actions of Rajapakse within the current Sri Lankan political context, then this writer invite them to come forward and submit their views to Asian tribune or Lanka Web to enlighten the readers. This invitation is open to everyone including British foreign secretary Mr. David Miliband.

Teaching a lesson to the whole world

However, in this backdrop of intensified Western diplomatic and other global activities in the post LTTE and post presidential election of Sri Lanka, notable configurations in the diplomatic and international circles in and outside Sri Lanka appeared to be posing probable future challenges. But from Sri Lankan point of view, she must prevail over this situation. If Sri Lanka fails to play properly in this game she entered, her adversaries will certainly try their best to ensure her failure in short and long run. Most likely they will try to do Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka. Will she be able to safely maneuver in this booby trapped terrain or, will she fall prey into the traps that have been laid down by its adversaries along the path of its progress? However, Sri Lanka cannot afford to loose, she must win through. Rajapakse administration seemed pretty well poised to tackle it. For many Sri Lankans, president Rajapakse is a man of fine mettle.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the most popular leader of recent history of the nation has been portrayed in western media as a despotic dictator who disregards all accepted norms of democracy. Except for a few, a very few of urbanites in Colombo, for large majority in rural Sri Lanka, Rajapakse is a great leader capable of taking the country into twenty first century.    

But from the western point of view, Rajapakse regime has committed so many unpardonable political “crimes.” Let along all other crimes, but one specific crime is not excusable for them; the crime of being independent in the way of exercising national sovereignty and governance. Sovereignty of the third world has become the allergy of the west and the most mutilated object in the world under constant attack of western diplomacy and NGO activities.

SL government’s public display of disrespect and utter disregard of the western global authority in its all aspects of internal and external affaires, in its economical policies, diplomacy-ranging from the SL treatment to high level dignitaries/delegations, conduct in international forums, drifting SL towards political adversaries of the west such as China, Iran, Libya and Venezuela and finally, to the manner in which SL conducted the war and peace was beyond tolerance of the west.  

Somehow it is essential to note here, that this behavior considered to be undeclared political taboo for the global weak; symbolic cyanide capsule hanging on the neck of the third world. West can never stomach if any state trespass this forbidden territory challenging their authority. Therefore, to abdicate their authority or to back-off this “crime” unpunished is unthinkable for the west to maintain the existing global power apparatus. It must be clear by now; the fundamental to all systems of power equilibrium in the global arena is the “fear factor.” West cannot afford to lose their grip slowly developed through last five hundred years, just by watching this mockery by a mere third world country like Sri Lanka. Rajapakse administration cannot be unaware of this factor when they took bold decisions to challenge it. In that sense even the decision to use atomic bomb is also falls within this category of fear mongering in global politics. In post WW2 world, “fear factor” has become a viable political tool in global politics ever since the decision to use the atomic bomb.

“The need for Russian aid in the war against Japan still influenced American strategy at the Potsdam summit in July 1945. On 23 July Truman met with Churchill and the Combined Chiefs of Staff ‘and reiterated the policy to, “Encourage Russian entry into the war against Japan”.

It is this which explains America’s decision to use its newly developed atomic weapons on Japan. Truman still needed Russian help in Manchuria but the successful detonation of the atomic bomb was intended as a marker laying down America’s post-war position in the world.

Truman’s decision to bomb first Hiroshima in August 1945 and then Nagasaki concluded a long series of negotiations with the Russians over the final conquest of Japan. G Kolko, writes that in May 1945:

…the Allies had effectively defeated Japan and reduced its industrial capacity and manpower to nearly a last-stand posture… The Americans now tried to weigh the atomic bomb both from the viewpoint of its use against Japan and its implications to future relations with the Soviet Union… (G Kolko, “The Politics of War”)

Thus strong presence of the “fear factor” with the nuclear stick emerged into being in our postwar global political culture. From western point of view, challenging this fear factor can never let go easily.   

Although it looked so trivial at first glance, given due consideration to the political context in which SL government had to react and uphold its sacred duty to its people’s mandate, Rajapakse’s actions are justifiable however serious they are or the penalty that will bring in return. But from the western angle, the global consequences of this sort of public display of conduct by an insignificant third world nation could create upsetting ripples globally, especially in terms of “global discipline.” If this tendency was not nipped in the bud right now the future will be chaotic. What ever the outcome, west has to do something, as a counter display of consequences of being disobedient to the western global authority. It is a matter of teaching a lesson, setting an example, not just for Sri Lanka, but for the whole world.

(Will be continued)

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