What Do Bandaranaike, Premadasa and Rajapaksha Have in Common?
Posted on September 26th, 2010

Dilrook Kannangara

It is a chilling realization that they all have something in common.  So what do they have in common which other national leaders didn’t have? China. The first two were assassinated, even decades later, countrymen are still grappling with the entirety of the conspiracies behind their assassinations. Certainly the assassins were not acting alone. They had powerful shadowy godfathers. Rajapaksha is treading the same path of Bandaranaike and Premadasa in relation to China and he must be protected as a national priority not allowing to end up in a similar fashion.

I do not intend to dwell on unproven theories. Only facts will be discussed here and readers are free to draw their own conclusions based on facts.

Prime Minister Bandaranaike 

Who is Zhou Enlai? He was the first premier of the People’s Republic of China. He was a highly skilled leader and an even better foreign minister. He visited Sri Lanka twice in 1957 and 1964. His first and crucial visit was in 1957 during the tenor of Bandaranaike. In 1950, the Sri Lanka Government recognized China. On February 7, 1957, China and Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations during the term of Bandaranaike. In 1956 the first ever Joint CommuniquƒÆ’†’© between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Sri Lanka was signed which was followed by the Joint Statement between Premier Zhou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China and Prime Minister Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka signed in 1957.

This was at a time when even USA, Japan, UK and France didn’t recognize the Peoples Republic of China. USA started diplomatic relations with PRC in 1979; Japan in 1972; UK in 1972 and France in 1964. Although India established diplomatic relations in 1950, a few skirmishes over Chinese territory claimed by India dampened relations until due recognition was established and both great friends from ancient times continued good relations.

Around the same time, late 1956 to be precise, Sri Lanka and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations. In 1958, the Soviet Union and Sri Lanka signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation which was immensely beneficial to the island nation gaining its only steel and tyre production facilities subsequently.

Sri Lanka was a very weak nation by the time of Independence after 443 years of colonial plunder. Colonial masters left their obedient servants to run the colony through agency. Diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, China and India while maintaining strong relations with USA, UK, Japan and Europe was an attempt to forge meaningful international relations. However, this was not viewed by some nations, particularly the former colonial masters and their associates, with good intents. They found it to be the communist bloc finding inroads to the island nation. Bandaranaike having initiated full diplomatic relations with both the Soviet Union and China, both very powerful nations, was becoming a pain for former colonial masters although he frustrated the growth of communism in the island cleverly.

Their fears were not totally unfounded. Before the emergence of Singapore as a regional shipping hub in the late 1960s, Sri Lanka was both a shipping and air travel hub. With universal adult franchise, high levels of literacy and political involvement of its people coupled with poverty and a strong presence of communist parties, it was an ideal extension of the communist empire. Former colonial masters knew this only too well and it was worrisome when the island nation reached out to the Soviet Union and China.

What happened next is not fully known and will never be known. He was assassinated within just three years of his rule. However, one thing is sure, the assassin and collaborators had powerful support from many unknown sections to kill the nation’s leader with enormous popular support. This is a country where the last assassination of the nation’s ruler was witnessed over 475 years before when the three sons of the king took his life over inheritance. Since then this nation witnessed no such act until 1959. It was not customary in this country to kill the ruler over disagreements. However, some external forces employed and still employ this tactic to have their way. After the demise of Bandaranaike, the rapid growth of relations between Sri Lanka and the Soviet Union and China slowed down.

President Premadasa

After a long time, President Premadasa once again opened a new chapter in Sri Lanka-China relations. He did the groundwork in 1979 as the Prime Minister when he received a grand welcome. Until then relations were more or less at the same level as established in 1957. By late 1980s the Soviet Union’s significance was fast receding. China became Sri Lanka’s biggest military supplier during President Premadasa’s time. Chinese warplanes (especially F-7s), tanks, artillery, etc. found their way to the island. This was a paradigm shift in the nation’s military allegiance for the first time. It was a time when Lanka had a very sour relationship with India following the unpleasant departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force dispatched by President Premadasa. He ridiculed the Indian solution “”…” the 13th Amendment by taking over powers vested in the North-Eastern Provincial Council. He disrupted Indian established Tamil National Army with the help of the LTTE. He went to the extent of handing over Indian weapons captured from the Tamil National Army to the LTTE! India had enough reasons to dislike his conduct. He quickly filled the void with increased Chinese participation.

Premadasa invited a senior Chinese political leader for his party’s political events which was another first. China was a big participator in his economic policy as well. He marked a big shift from former colonial rulers and their henchmen in the island as he took the reins from “ƒ”¹…”Yankee Dickie’.

He was brutally murdered within just four and half years of his rule. Although the LTTE was blamed and possibly carried out the attack, it is still not clear why he was targeted at that time. It was not fully investigated and much more has happened behind the scenes than a suicide bomber blowing himself up. These will never be known. Following his death, another strong pro-western leader, rather two leaders “”…” one in the ruling party and the other in the opposition, emerged. It raised eyebrows when the caretaker president appointed Ranil as the Prime Minister when there were more capable individuals. However, Ranil’s strong western values were rewarded. Chandrika further steered the nation in a more pro-westward direction. Inviting Norway as the facilitator of the “ƒ”¹…”peace process’ was the culmination of her pro-western rule. Strangely India had little interference during her rule despite largest ever military operations.

She turned away from China for weapons. Israel, Ukraine and Russia became key military suppliers.

A comparison of main weapons suppliers to Sri Lanka during this time would be relevant. During Jayawardena’s time our biggest supplier (by value) was the USA and China accounted for only 30%. By the time of Premadasa China became our biggest weapons supplier accounting for 58% of all weapons imports. During Chandrika’s time Ukraine and Israel were our main weapons suppliers. China accounted for only 18%. Using available data from 2006 to early 2008, China once again became our biggest supplier accounting for 52% of all arms imports.

How about Sirima Bandaranaike? She maintained close ties with China and the former Soviet Union. However, she broad-based her international relations by leading the Non Align Movement. It was difficult to pinpoint to relations with a particular country. She had another characteristic that was highly valued even by the colonialists. She became world’s first woman prime minister, a feat that resonated well with the democracy campaign of former colonialists.  Her continuation was more beneficial to them at least symbolically than getting rid of her. Instead the pro-western Yankee Dickie disabled her civil rights. Those who howl for human rights today were silent then and absolutely no punishment was levied on the country for it by the west for the total erosion of democracy as long as it was done by Yankee Dickie.

When Jayawardena contravened Indian interests, India armed and protected the LTTE. This is well documented. However, Jayawardena was allowed to continue since his removal meant his replacement – the ambitious Prime Minister – would follow an even hardline approach towards India.

President Rajapaksha

The next big thing in Lanka-China relations came during President Rajapaksha’s rule. Hambantota port is just one piece in the puzzle which was initiated before his time. However, he gave unwavering political leadership to the project. Defence and economic ties were strengthened while his government was blamed by western nations for human rights abuses. Western governments punished him for his alliance with China by suspending the GSP Plus facility, withholding funding facilities and getting the UN appoint a panel to investigate alleged war abuses. It was the Sri Lankan government that decided to inaugurate the first phase of the Hambantota port project on August 15th, the day the European Union rescinded the GSP Plus facility. This no doubt was a slap on the face of former colonialists.

Today China is the island nation’s biggest lender, investor and defence supplier. Certainly it is the most important friend.

Former colonialists and neo colonialists will not view this with pleasure. If allowed to continue, relations between these ancient trading partners will become stronger that they will become inseparable. Western interests may not put up with it. In fact they may be already pulling the strings to get rid of him as they did with many third world leaders around the world.

Although President Rajapaksha maintains very close relations with India, the big neighbour never treated Sri Lanka as an equal. India always tried to interfere in Sri Lanka as if the island is India’s backyard. Close economic and defence ties with China will not be tolerated by India as these ties seriously affect Indian defence interests in the region. Having lost all its neighbours, India is concerned about the only friend it has in the region. It should not surprise if India goes to what most Sri Lankans consider extraordinary lengths to defence its “ƒ”¹…”backyard’.

President Rajapaksha must take extreme care of himself and his family as they could be targets of foreign sponsored attacks carried out by locals.

Growing Indian Presence

India is heavily into the island today. Although most development work is centralised in the north, the rest is not out of its radar. Add to this the large number of illegal immigrants and workers coming from India every year. They can be used for intelligence gathering, causing disruptions, changing Sri Lanka’s demographics, influencing political and defence decision making, etc. Compared to Sri Lanka’s international espionage capabilities which are at the infancy stage, India has a very well developed and sophisticated network of agencies. To make matters worse India keeps on pressing Lankan leaders to implement an Indian engineered “ƒ”¹…”political solution’ despite wide public dislike.

Although brushed under the carpet, the Indian central government cannot disregard Tamil Nadu demands totally. These must be reasonably entertained for both political stability and national security. Nothing emerging from Tamil Nadu is beneficial to Sri Lanka as long as the southern state of over 65 million is governed by political forces with a strong race identity. Even until now India has not condemned the “ƒ”¹…”panel’ appointed by the UN contravening the UN procedure. Its new alliances with former colonial rulers may have played its part.

Indian projects, unlike Chinese projects, are hardly development oriented as they focus mostly on resettling Tamils in the north. Even the scant amount of money needed for resettlement will be channelled through an Indian bank depriving business for local banks. Most likely almost the entirety of low-end labourers will be brought from India despite plentiful supply locally.

Indian fishing trawlers regularly enter Sri Lankan waters illegally. Are they all fishing trawlers that enter Sri Lankan waters from India?

Fifth reason is the Indian insistence on the CEPA agreement which is highly disadvantageous to Sri Lanka.

With India engaged in multiple security challenges including the arms race with China, volatile states including Kashmir, growing Chinese defence presence in the region, the Maoist threat, threat of various radical Islamic terrorist groups and growing Russian-Chinese military co-operation, its response to Sri Lanka’s changing economic and defence attachments will be more crucial.

It is not necessary to know the whole story behind selective elimination of national leaders of this peaceful nation which may never be known. Bandaranaike and Premadasa met their end after years of displeasing anti-national elements and forging closer ties with countries colonialists and India consider dangerous. Proactive action is needed to safeguard patriotic leaders and to have a number of well groomed next level patriotic leaders to take over if need be. Increasing Chinese military presence in the island is a must to stop Indian interests messing with Lankan interests.

6 Responses to “What Do Bandaranaike, Premadasa and Rajapaksha Have in Common?”

  1. Ben_silva Says:

    Indians specially Tamils pose a serious threat to Lanka. Sri Lanka need to develop a self reliant defense Industry in partnership with China. As the country develops it will attract illegal immigrants and close monitoring would be needed. I agree with Dilrook that increasing Chinese military presence in the island is a must to stop Indian interests messing with Lankan interests.

  2. herman Says:

    I agree with some of Dilrook Kannangara’s findings and wish MR will learn and follow from one of the most ablest Asian statesman – Lee Kuan Yew (former prime minister of Singapore) and do a balancing act between the western – eastern powers.

  3. Siri Says:

    This is a good eye opening article Mr. Dilrook Kannangara. I hope the Defence Secretary reads it and heeds the advice and warnings given. We now need a good intelligence gathering network to be organized. I also agree with Mr. Ben Silva that we need the Chinese prescence to counter balance the Indian influence. Anything bad will come from India directly or indirectly. Western Powers can also use India as a cats paw to do their bidding. The Indians are good Sub-Contractors and will do anything for the Western Powers. Western Powers are in the habit of outsourcing their dirty work to others and India is still their obedient servant. They have not got out of the colonial mentality yet. We should have our intelligence services closly watch the new Indian consulates in the North and in Hambantota. These are totally unnecessary except for espionage purposes and should be closely watched.

  4. ranjit Says:

    I know that our leaders are more brainier than us in politics but my question is why cant they understand or listen to the views of the majority regarding Indians. Most of us dosent like the Indians for what they did to our country.We know who was behind all the misery for last three decades and now they are back like bats pretending that they are coming to help us Nonsence they never liked us nor helped us therefore our leaders must be little careful when dealing with such rattle snakes. Most of the writers like Dilrook writes many good articles in this favourite web about every subject and our politicians can learn so many things if they can just read Lankaweb once in a way atleast to know about the views of their own citizens. We should be non aligned and be friendly with everyone except the wicked

  5. gona Says:

    Interesting article, however the writer does not credit MR as an astute politician, whose experience covers many decades.
    MR is actutely aware of India’s pplitics, he is of course making sure than they the Indian’s or rather Mrs SG is aware of this hence his befriending the likes of Pakistan, the continued relationship with Russia and the Ukraine. The writer has of course covered the situation with China.Many do not understand why SL continues its military build up, whilst we cannot match that of our neighbours, we can at least offer sufficient resistance until SL’s other friends comes to her aid, should push come to shove. Power broking is MR’s forte, India needs SL to deals with the issues of some of its neighbours and SL needs India to keep TN under some control as much as India needs to keep TN under control or India will break up. Deals must be done and MR’s dealing will always be in the interest of SL, he will never sell out like some of his predessors did. The West is smarting, not getting any contracts, its influence is on the wane, hence the support given to India and the virtual abandonment of Pakistan which was their favoured country in the region not so long ago. Pakistan are now paying the price of having sold out to the west. The divide and rule policy of the west continues unabated through out the world.

  6. Nanda Says:

    Recent blast at Police station is sraising suspicion of RAW activity. There should be a proper invstigation and if RAW invoulve that should be revealed.
    They did not publish inquiry on shooting of our cricketers. Why is Sri Lanka afrid of truth. If it is RAW it should be published.

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