Third world development is a war; Contemporary battle of liberation is not over land, but in economics (Part 17)
Posted on January 31st, 2011

Geethanjana Kudaligamage

Rajapakse, regional politics, “Eurocentric Developmentalism” and the western hegemony

 The model of power that is globally hegemonic today presupposes an element of coloniality, which in turn is deeply grounded in “ƒ”¹…”racing’ our political culture. We are not living in the 15th century after all, but the fundamental power relations of 15th century still in place. Power apparatus of the global economy has been grounded on a racial axis.

This racial axis has colonial origin and character and has been intertwined with political and economic geography of entire world, including our region. But it has proven to be more durable and stable than colonialism in whose matrix that it was established in regional politics today. Economic freedom of Sri Lanka must be envisioned as a part of freedom struggle of the entire region, in which, India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives will be our immediate concerns. Iran, Afghanistan, Bhutan Nepal and Myanmar (Burma) will be our outer loop. This effort will be depend on our ability to go beyond racial limitations we are entrapped in the regional politics.     

 The main battle of erstwhile imperialism was over land and Indians bitterly fought for their freedom from British imperialism. When Britain decided to quit India, they also abandoned their colony””‚then Ceylon; although there was no decisive battle for the freedom of it. Why did they easily quit is a question valid to ask. But at that historical juncture, policy of Britain over her overseas possessions must be assessed with the pressure extended by USA as a prerequisite to her role and the war strategy in the liberation of Europe. US economy was in choking condition as much as Germany, which led her to take the war path. In overall, Second World War was an outcome of British and French colonialism and their imperial preference scheme that excluded countries, including USA, Germany and Japan from markets of larger part of world economy.

 USA’s position was very clear and logical. Her demand was loud and clear. Dismantle the empire! Open world for free trade!! At the beginning US business tycoons like Rockefeller supported Germany realizing intentions of Hitler. (Please read “Was the Second World War a war for democracy?” link: )

Under the circumstances, British strategy of transferring power into the hands of Anglophone bourgeoisie colonized class in Colombo (Ranil’s class) was the wisest and safest way to keep the island under British umbrella of influence at that point. British decision to keep Trinco under their control even after the independence answers the question. They held it until SWRD Bandaranayake asked them to leave in 1957, almost a decade after the independence. Then after twenty years Europe struck back via their pet terrorists LTTE in island politics. Why they wanted to comeback. Firstly we must understand that they never left to come back. The second reason is economics. When you dig deep to trace the reason of our war, you will find ECONOMICS in bold capital letters.  

 After the end of her final liberation struggle out of neo-colonial war, I firmly believe Sri Lanka as a nation needs to have a meaningful dialogue on development strategy. I hope this debate will help to extract many truths that we need to know and understand the meaning of our development in depth. As I also believe, we need to develop our own philosophy of development asking our ultimate questions of development from the long cherished ideals of our cultural beliefs. This will be necessary in order to discover and elaborate its own architecture to formulate the suitable structures for our development programs. Above all this discussion is vital in the backdrop of current chaos of the madness of global capital encroaching violently into the peripheral world, as Enrique Dussel says”¦”of the impoverished peoples of the peripheral nations of global capitalism, who live under the neo liberal hegemony of economics of free competition where soon and not far from the “fall of the Berlin wall” (1989), the true meaning of the new world order , inaugurated with the “cruelty” of thousands of tons of bombs thrown on an innocent people””‚since the madness of Sadam Hussein and the people of Iraq have to be distinguished””‚will be seen.” (Dussel, The underside of Modernity)

 If the “ƒ”¹…”madness of colonial criminality’ doesn’t strike Hambantota destroying our will to progress, we definitely will be able to sail our “ƒ”¹…”ship of hope’ roaming back and forth on ancient silk route before 2020. Their military device, the LTTE remained as a blood clot blocking our main artery of development and we had to under go a life threatening surgery to remove it. Perhaps they may try it again. We cannot forget that waters of Indian Ocean is getting more and more volatile, violent and prone to conflict after we defeated regional terrorism, as they proclaimed it, “ƒ”¹…”the good terror’ of the west. 

 Edward Said once said, “”¦none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography, and that struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings.” (Said, Edward, “Culture and Imperialism” Vintage Books, NY 1993) Borrowing words of Edward Said, I also would argue that the struggle of economics of today has replaced the struggle of geography of yesterday. In that sense, economic liberation is also complex, because it too is not only about soldiers and cannons, but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings.’ However, by removal of the LTTE, we have fulfilled the soldiers and canons part of the liberation. Now the matter has reached to the realms of ideas, forms, images and imaginings. It must not only be concerns of Central Banks and ministries of finances, factories of heavy machinery and agricultural lands, but also a matter of  ministries of education and all sectors of media and information””‚including the institutions and individuals who involved in production and the distribution of knowledge; our universities and our intelligentsia. In other words, development is largely a matter of education; it is a matter of ideology and information, a part of philosophy to begin with.

 We (Sri Lankans) never anticipated our freedom through a nation-wide liberation struggle, instead, it was granted as a result of just drawing-room discussions, or cocktail fallouts. But we had to fight for our freedom very lately, and won it in 2009 defeating neo colonial military device in the region. Like Indians, now Sri Lankans also can claim that they fought for their freedom over land, but at that point it was only when the imperialist battle had been taken many different forms and being decentralized it into many different frontiers. Thus, today in this era of neo-liberal format of imperialism, the battle ground has been shifted from Nantikadal to Diyawanna, Mulative jungle to policy planning rooms of ministry of finance and foreign affairs, and Kilinochchi to central bank.

 The important part that we must understand in regard to our freedom struggle is that the core issue of it was not just of the land, but of economics. Even bygone imperialism was never desired to dominate land just for the sake of having it. It was economics that made the imperialist to dominate lands and their people. In the case of Sri Lanka, since the neo-liberal regional strategy had been intertwined with inevitable land battle for specific geo-political reasons, we had to fight a war over land with LTTE. What we must realize is that the battle of north and the east of Sri Lanka was a conflict that had multiple layers. The most visible layer was the land battle between SL forces and the LTTE, but there was another layer in it. That was the politico-economic and military agenda of the global capital. It had a national scope and a regional scope. However from the western point of view, the entire military intervention was a part of their economic strategy. (Considering western sponsorship in various forms of divisionism in nation states in the periphery is completely devised by economic strategies, although at times they look as military interventions)

 It has been evident that with the military debacle of LTTE, the multi layered strategy of global capital has been curtailed in two directions. Firstly this military defeat of LTTE has put the full stop to the largely anticipated chain effect of fragmentation in the region, and as well as the division of Sri Lanka. If there were any national level political, commercial or military gains linked to this partition advantageous for the west, like Professor McLean once pointed out, the ocean resources for Norway, then they have been temporarily curtailed. Secondly, they have lost their anticipated regional launching pad of future operations in the region. This curtailment on the other hand has pushed the prospects of such regional operations at lest for another fifty years back into the history.

 We also must note the stark similarity and the relationship of Indian partition and Sri Lankan separatist struggle in relation to the great game of the west in the region. By partitioning India, Britain anticipated a military cooperation with Pakistan in favor of their strategic game in the entire region, including the control of oil wells of the Middle East. This military aspect was one of the main prospects that were in the blue prints of partitioning Sri Lanka as well. The newly emerging Elam state could no longer survive without having overwhelming military assistance of the west. That was a fact they reckoned with. For that reason, we also must realize our liberation has been intertwined with the liberation of entire region. 

 Given the fact that the significance of the battle that SL fought was not just political or military, but fundamentally a battle of economics, Sri Lanka must formulate her second phase of the battle of economics, with similar care and meticulous planning that she had employed in her land battle.

 If we miss the fundamental point behind separatist struggle in Sri Lanka and the objectives of the powerful parties who wanted to see it prevailed, the future of Sri Lanka will be in chaos. We must identify the separatist struggle that has been kept alive in the west, especially in England as a part of this great game in the region and has been intersected with other facets of this game. Why Britain desperately needed to partition India, why they created a dispute between India and China, why they never resolved the border dispute created by Durand Line (read the link) between Pakistan and Afghanistan before the partition, why they preferred Nehru as the convenient negotiator to go between Congress and the British, why they created a Jinnah, similarly a Ponnambalam in Sri Lanka, all were part of this great game of economic dominance.

 In order to shed some light into the partition dilemma of India, I would suggest our Lanka web readers to read Narendra Singh Sarila’s “The Shadow of the Great Game, the Untold Story of Indian Partition” (2005) in which Sarila reveals the idea of partition, as wildly believed, was not a result of the pressure of the Muslims. The origin of the idea of partition occurred not in Muslim mind, but in English mind; means, originally Muslims never asked for it, but the British.

 Following remarks of Churchill tells a lot about British policy toward the region and its consistence even up until now. More than anything, it reveals that Churchill was the English FƒÆ’†’¼hrer, believed in the superiority of Nordic race like Hitler. Contending with the opposition of Attlee in the war cabinet, in regard to Indian independence Churchill noted “¦”India has been profoundly affected by the changed relationship between Europeans and Asiatics which began with the defeat of Russia by Japan at the beginning of the century. The hitherto axiomatic acceptance of the innate superiority of the European over the Asiatic sustained a severe blow (this notion of innate superiority is very philosophical, and we will come to it later [writer]) “¦the reverses which we and the Americans are sustaining from the Japanese at the present time will continue this process”¦The fact that we are-necessarily- driven to a belated recognition of China as an equal and of Chinese as fellow fighters for civilization against barbarism makes the Indian ask why he, too, cannot be master in his own house. Similarly, the success against the axis of a semi-oriental people, the Russians, lends weight to the hypothesis that the East is now asserting itself against the long dominance of the west. A pan-Asiatic movement lead by Japan has been recognized as a danger; a Pan-Asiatic block of our allies (meaning with China and India) is a possibility that should not be ignored.

 “¦All [of] India was not the fruits of conquest; larger part of it came under our rule to escape from tyranny and anarchy”¦we are condemned by Indians not by the measures of Indian ethical conceptions but by our own which we have taught them to accept.” (Transfer of Power, quoted from Sarila 2005)           

 This reveals why they needed a McMahon line to create a dispute between India and China. More than anything, it tells the extent to which European politics has been based on German ideology. (We will come to that part later.) 

 However, from the western point of view, for the triumph of current neo-liberalism, it requires a weaker periphery. Sri Lankan part in this great game has become so vital. As I mentioned in an earlier article, just concluded war had been a part of defeating a larger regional neo-colonial strategy. Can we celebrate the victory yet? No, not at all. From enemy’s perspective it was a fought to seal our entire region’s fate permanently into the 400 years old economic subjugation. From SL point of view, it fought to defeat this enemy strategy. When the enemy strategy was an economic one, we cannot assume that we have concluded the battle just by gaining some achievements in the military field. Now the battle ground has been shifted. It is not for capturing Kilinochchi or Mulative anymore, it was about liberating four hundred years old economic suppression. Therefore, larger part of the battle is still ahead of us. Can Ajith Nivard Cabraal, and G. L. Peiris take the baton they received from Gotabhaya and field commanders to achieve a decisive breakthrough?   

 After sacrificing thousands of lives of our men and women, Commander in-Chief, President Rajapaksa, Gotabhaya and their Generals won the freedom torch in Mulative beach, and brought it back to Colombo and secured it in the central bank. Now if we are debating over how we must surrender this freedom torch to parties responsible for alleged mishandling of many economies of the third world entrapping those poor countries in insurmountable debt traps, now stationed in the Central Bank, then of course we are missing the whole point of the reason behind north east war. We haven’t seen the big picture of entire battle of the global south and the whole point of the actual purpose of the battle of economic liberation.

 Then on the other hand, the alarming question that most of us do not wish to ask is, what is the point of sacrificing so many lives to win a battle if we are going to surrender our entire economic life to a subjugating agenda of the west, given the fact that it was the precise objective “ƒ”¹…”the Kohinoor’ that which our enemy desperately desired to win through the war. Does this reveal the distressing fact that we have fought a battle without knowing what truly it was all about? However there cannot be any doubt about the fact that our economic liberties can only be achieved through building lives of underprivileged masses of the land, neglected for centuries, but not through enforcing neo-liberal agendas of the west upon them, because this neo-liberal agenda is nothing but a combined dream of Hitler and Churchill, reestablishing erstwhile colonialism in different format sealing entire global south into the 500 years old western socio-economic subjugation ensuring the sustainability of western centered uneven global development for another five hundred years.

 Then what is the actual reason for this persistent “ƒ”¹…”addiction to dependency’ toward west over our development? Is that just the deficit of capital along? No it is not. It is also a philosophical issue. We think that Europe possess something we do not, therefore we assume that we need to submit for their global economical doctrine to ensure their assistance in our development.

 Mahinda Chinthanaya vs. Ranil Chinthanaya

As an ardent supporter of current version of globalism, Mr. Ranil Wikramasinghe saw that fragmentation of the region was a way forward toward progress. Division of Sri Lanka was a prerequisite to achieve his globalist utopia with a blissful population of youth wearing European attire, gold bracelets, and headphones listening to hip-hop music. At this juncture, although we criticize Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe for his role in CFA, which eventually anticipated a chain reaction in regional political fragmentation, from the globalist point of view, it was a mammoth step toward the success in the western globalist agenda in the region including Sri Lanka. Although we viewed it as a complete betrayal of the national spirit, for neo-liberal globalist’s perspective, it was a massive way forward for Ranil.

 This ideological difference between nationalists and globalists over the CFA is similar to that of the issue of searching for a national agenda and subjugating our economy under the strict regulations of IMF and the WB. If asked, the globalists will tell us that winning goodwill of IMF and the WB is a triumph of the nation; whereas the nationalists believe it as a complete submission and defeat. Ideologically Ranil was a globalist, but president Rajapaksa was a nationalist. Ranil was dead against nationalism. Rajapaksa was dead against betraying the nation and its freedom and liberty to external forces. Under this scenario, not only Ranil’s politics, but also Ranil’s economics must be rejected by Rajapaksa administration. Because the war he fought was fundamentally an economic war.

 Under that background it is clear, wittingly or unwittingly, if we are marching on the path of Ranil Chinthanaya it is complete derailment of Mahinda Chinthanaya. Under Mahinda Chinthanaya, we have no reason to march along Ranil’s discarded economical policies. However, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have defeated separatism at such a cost bringing such a mammoth devastating effects upon the entire nation’s bio political life, if she was to march on the same economic path that Ranil envisioned for Sri Lanka, because Ranil’s plan was much affordable to achieve the self same subjugating target of WB/IMF duo without having such a cost of war? But Mahinda Chinthanaya was a philosophy valued the freedom and the dignity of the nation, therefore war was inevitable. And that was the right path for majority of Sri Lankans.

 Mahinda Chinthanaya envisioned achieving development through home grown solutions but not following globalizing agenda of WB, and IMF band wagon. On the other hand, for a section of the society, there was no reason to fight such a costly war if Mahinda Chinthanaya was destined to end in Ranil’s global agenda. If we were to justify Ranil’s economic policies by following his economic path, we shouldn’t have fought such a mammoth war; because at the time, west was advocating a strategy to make Sri Lanka a part of larger regional global apparatus, under that plan, we never had to fight a war. Instead, country might have been divided but that was also for the benefit of the prescribed development agenda in which we may have lost our national pride, but might have become a part of the exploitative quagmire of the west in south Asia. As a member of post-colonial politico-mercantile class who is faithful to their neo-liberal global doctrine and its world order of western center, Ranil also envisioned subjugating entire nation under the neo-liberal free-market fundamentalism avoiding the path of war.

 However we try hard, still we have been unable to ignore the question as to if we have misplaced our purposes?  If we are to follow Ranil’s chinthanaya in post war economic development, why we won the war, and why we won it at such a mammoth cost to begin with?

Defeating Ranil was not a part of our congenital political idiocy, but a part of gigantic approval of liberty principles of Mahinda Chinthanaya. We must see the connection between the purpose of winning the war and economic liberation? In that perspective, we did not need to win the war at such cost to achieve what IMF and WB envisions for our economic liberation; because to achieve that end, Ranil’s plan was much cheaper, economically feasible and less costly. Solheim was a good friend after all, thank you.

 Exporting means of production

Yes west exported means of production to former colonies. So the third world also began to produce some of industrial goods apart from their traditional agricultural commodities at low wages and with low cost of raw materials. And these industrial goods will be exported to the center and at times the same products came back to the countries they produced and sold at high prices irrespective of their low cost of production. If an i-pod was produced at the cost of $ 4.00 per unit, but the consumers in the center pay $ 299.00 to buy one, this situation contribute nothing to uplift lives of the center or the periphery. A pare of Nike shoes were priced over a hundred dollars and still remains the same or even more expensive irrespective of the fact that the production cost has drastically gone down for about 90% after the outsourcing industries from the US.  This revels that the reduction of the cost has never paid its dividends to the consumers in the center, but only to a very few powerful people of the world. But the consumers of centers are sending their sons and daughters to war front to build the empire for their countries although they have very little or nothing to benefit out of it.

 Although large proportion of these commodities produced in third world, they do not consume them. We are like starving chefs who cooks delicacies for their masters without having right to taste them.

 The other side of the story is even worse. Although third world produce goods and services for the world market, their earnings are not sufficient to consume these commodities. On the other hand, due to structural adjustments, monetary and financial regulations and other mechanisms, it has been caused to increase essential commodity prices of goods and services in domestic markets of poor nations pushing low waged masses into misery.

Around 1990s, the World Bank and the IMF had adhered to the Washington Consensus, policies which included deregulation and liberalization of markets, privatization and the downscaling of government”¦.Many now agree that the Washington Consensus placed too much emphasis on the growth of GDP, and not enough on the stability of growth or on whether growth contributed to better living standards. Under such assumptions, third world economic experts have sought after playing number games rather than qualitative development. GDP never expose the true realities of masses, it is not sensitive to economic disparities between social layers.

 Since the economy always has been a political affair, some regimes in the third world do not like to see people articulate about their economic activities. The GDP emphasis of third world economies have been used to misguide masses and to cover-up their true status of economic condition. The dollarization of commodity prices has drastically decreased the real wages of the working class. For instance, as a member of a high income society, US consumers pay $ cents 0.07 or Rupee equivalent of Rs. 7.00 to buy an egg. That is the price of an egg in the USA. But as a member of a low income society, a Sri Lankan has to pay 3 times higher than this price, which is around Rs. 20.00 to buy the same in Sri Lanka. On what economic theory one can justify this aberration? Is that due to war? Another example is, a 2 liter soft drink bottle is sold at $1.00 “”…” $ 1.50 or Rupee equivalent Rs. 100.00 and 150.00 depending on the brand name in USA. But in Sri Lanka, 1 liter, (a half of 2 liters) has been sold over a Rs. 100.00. Then there is no reason for us to boast about the elevating of our status into middle-income country when our real wages has been significantly gone the downhill. We must be realistic and honest in our effort to development. Otherwise people will lose their faith in the administration. However through our experience we know that before IMF and WB came meddle in our economic policy planning in 1980s; our country was a better place to live even while fighting a war.

 If the IMF/WB economic formula is a mouse trap, then Ranil is the mouse who following all rules of the trap to reach the piece of cheese in the trap. We all know that all traps hereditarily meant to have design failures. It needs a precise path, and precise sequential order of actions of its prey to get it into the trap. Actually they meant for people like Ranil. But, when it comes to Kossata Meeya, he realizes this design. And never follows the path or its sequential steps. Instead, it uses the weakness of the design for his advantage to get the piece of cheese out of the trap. If our economists have such a plan, then we must be able to see it.

 For the starving masses, if a coconut is unaffordable and expensive, our economy is still sucks period. That simple “ƒ”¹…”down to earth’ attitude demands an immediate action plan to reduce essential commodity prices.

Many apologies for pointing out this hard truth. The reason I decided to say these things is because we love our government, and yet we suspect of a conspiracy of some conniving factions, if there are any, have penetrated into the government, for the derailment of plans of our administration into public unpopularity; because in these times in Sri Lanka, anything is possible. If there are no conspirators involved in our economic development, then they will address burning economic issues immediately as possible to ease hardships of the masses that supported our president.  

(To be continued)

5 Responses to “Third world development is a war; Contemporary battle of liberation is not over land, but in economics (Part 17)”

  1. Ben_silva Says:

    If the Sinhalese want to remain free, they need to master business skills and be competent in the economic (wealth generation) field. Also it would be helpful to be secular and give up living in an era 5oo years BC. Time to move over to the 21st century and deal with present day problems. I agree with the author on many points, specially on his commets on economics.

  2. Ben_silva Says:

    Promoting science, as suggested by Fran Diaz may help our liberation. The West progressed due to advances in science and scientific thinking. The suggestion by Fran Diaz to promote Science is an excellent idea. A scientific mind will look at theory and evidence , without the influence of bias introduced by religion. If the evidence do not support the theory, then the theory has to be modified or rejected. I suggested a secular path, so that people can think critically, without any bias. This will enable people to understand a situation clearly. Further, religion is a mind virus that affects peoples thinking. As suggested By Needham, belief systems in Asia may have hindered progress.

  3. nandimitra Says:

    very well written article. Lessons nead to be learned both from the day we were colonised to this date. Blindly pursuing the white man has only led us to this major enviormental disaster and the threat to the very existance of humanity. Yes science can be the answer but a holistic approach is essential. Reality is not assesed by creative accounting . Unfortunately creative accounting where by the negatives of economic activity are not included in the final assesment makes the present day economic growth a illusion. One thing is certain if we have to learn lessons it does not matter where it comes from be it religeon or our past heritage it must be taken. For too long our past has been condemned by the white man as been inferior and hence it has been arrested since colonisation. 2000years of our past should give us more information than the 300 year old western civilisation. That is logical. This is where I differ from Ben Silva.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    It is the west created GDP that bugs the poorer countries. Development designed on GDP means measurement of wealth of a Nation by the Goods & Services it produces, and will always keep the ‘Hares’ who have been already ‘ahead’ for hundreds of year with the ‘Tortoises’ always lagging ‘behind’. Since GDP will not be going away in the near future, a sane balance must be maintained between GDP : Human and Environmental factors. Under such a new system, a constant monitoring of the Human & Enviro factors are a must.

    (1) Education: Yes, a Science education for most students of Lanka will help to form logical thinking and awareness of the environment and use of local raw material much more than an ordinary Arts degree (please, no offence meant here). Logical thinking will erase emotional and angry revolts and upheavals. With logical thinking, people will mostly hold themselves responsible for their own lives and life styles.

    (2) On Accounting Systems : The Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) which takes into account the Human Factors of Health, Education, Longevity, Infant Mortality, etc. should act as a balancing factor against GDP which are almost all non-human factors. The Economists here should define an acceptable ratio between the two, GDP : PQLI. The PQLI factor was brought out by Dr David Morris of USA way back in the early 1980s and since then shelved, with the GDP measurements taking the forefront.

    * Now, with a deteriorating global Environment due to Global Warming & Pollution of air & water including the 7 Seas, we have to consider the Human Costs in health factors, as well as add on the Enviro factor.

    * Population Growth must be controlled by each country. It should be the responsibility of every government to have a population that they can maintain within their budgets (with the exception of disasters, epidemics happening), thus eliminating debt.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Geeth, I got so carried away with your stunning analysis, that I forgot to congratulate you on this particularly insightful
    piece of writing ! Please keep on writing your superb articles. We hope they are translated into Sinhala & Tamil, and eventually published in book form.

    No Nation can afford to sacrifice its Self Respect for the GDP ! Global Warming and the pollution of water & air is affecting the health & well being of the rich and the poor, wherever they are found. God/Truth/Nature does act in mysterious ways !

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