Posted on January 2nd, 2015

By Don Wijewardana

Developing nations with independent policies that displease the West always run the risk of regime change.  It does not matter whether the action was in the national interest. Sooner or later it will come to bite, with the timing and intensity of intervention depending on the strategic significance of the country concerned.  For instance Iraq was so unfortunate to own large oil reserves that it invited direct and devastating intervention. Libya came a close second. The ‘Arab Spring’ that engineered popular uprisings involving a range of Middle East countries was another facet of the phenomenon. Further down the scale are other, more subtle ways to bring about regime change. This is particularly so if the country concerned has a popularly elected government where it is unlikely to be overturned by prodding the public to rise against the leadership.

Unfortunately Sri Lanka meets all the criteria for intervention. Rajapaksa committed the cardinal sin that evoked the wrath of the west during the final phase of the war when he ignored their oft-repeated advice not to fight  the LTTE but to negotiate with them. The message was made clear by, among others, the US and Norwegian ambassadors who regularly knocked on his door to draw his attention, and by the French and British Foreign Ministers who flew in to give the ultimatum personally. Rajapaksa told them where to go, for he was single minded in pursuing the enemy. Thus he became a marked man.

Since then there has been a concerted effort to oust Rajapaksa from his perch through a multi-pronged strategy. One was to use the United Nations as a tool bringing in resolution after resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council. Secretary General Banki Moon himself was used by them to appoint a team of experts – the Darusman panel, to prepare a dossier as the basis for the charge. Many critics have provided proof that the report’s findings were unfounded. But that did not matter as long as it helped persecuting Sri Lanka. And the process continues.

Among the many means implemented on the domestic scene were direct funding of opponents, indirect backing through NGOs or media organizations and promoting coalitions among opponents. They were always subtle and carried out in secret and hardly became known.

There was widespread speculation of an external force in the assassination of SWRD Bandaranaike. Given what happened in Chile it was a strong possibility. But Sri Lanka then did not have the resources or the will to pursue and nothing was proved. Foreign intervention in the domestic political scene has become more evident since Rajapaksa came to power. Even before the war ended attempts were being made to bribe MPs to defeat the government. For instance it became public knowledge that on the eve of the vote on the Budget in 2008 a western ambassador had taken a ‘tuk-tuk’ ride to a key Opposition politician’s residence on the sly and assisted the Opposition move to engineer mass crossovers from the government. This was in a bid to have the budget defeated and the government dislodged[i]. However, the attempt failed.

Using NGOs

Using NGOs and similar groups that influence public opinion has also been a favoured means of intervention. During the war large amounts were transferred through such media ostensibly to support humanitarian needs. As such, the general expectation was that such funding would decline after the war ended. But as The Island of March 4, 2011 revealed a section of the international community was still pouring large amounts of money into Sri Lankan NGOs like the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and National Peace Council (NPC). Transparency International Sri Lanka.

The report showed the CPA had received Rs. 272.31 million during the three-year period. The NPC and TI have received Rs. 171.23 million and 174.79 million, respectively.

The Norwegian Embassy was the largest single donor. It has granted NGOs Rs. 148.11 million during three-year period and the NPC is the recipient of the single largest grant from them; it received Rs. 70.48 million. The European Commission (Rs. 55.61 million) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Rs. 43.11 million) are the second and the third major contributors. Pity we do not have data for later years.

Among other measures used are inviting people who influence public opinion for seminars, functions and briefings to embassies at which they are handsomely rewarded. This is a popular means used by the US embassy.

Direct funding

In recent years direct cash handouts has been the preferred means used by the CIA. It is most effective and does not leave a trail. According to the New York Times, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. Afghans call it ‘ghost money’ for it came in secret, and left in secret.

Closer to home attempts at direct funding of the opposition has become evident over the last two presidential elections. Now another benefactor, the Tamil Diaspora has joined Santa Claus. In February 2010 the mother of former Army General Sarath Fonseka’s son-in-law, Asoka Tillekaratne (mother of Danuna Tillekaratne) was arrested after CID recovered a large sum of foreign currency from her bank account worth Rs 75 million[ii].

The CID is also currently investigating the detection of some one million Swiss Francs and US$ 200,000 in a house in Mount Lavinia to ascertain whether it involved a breach of Exchange Control laws. SSP Rohana said 32 bank accounts belonging to three suspects including a person named Athula Weeraratne who was allegedly closely associated with Mr. Maithripala Sirisena have been frozen and investigations were going on to ascertain whether it had any connection to common opposition candidate. (The Daily Mirror of 26 December 2014).

If it were found to be foreign funding of efforts to oust Rajapaksa it would be only the tip of the iceberg. Taken with the grants that had come via NGOs and handouts to leaders of opposition parties the scale funding could be massive.  This is so because the closest Western governments and the Diaspora come to driving out Rajapaksa is the election time. And much concerted effort is going in to achieve the objective pursued ever since Rajapaksa came to power in 2005. But we may never know the real extent for it is ghost money.




  1. Christie Says:

    India had and still have massive armament contracts with Nordic countries which Norway is one of them. Norway is pretty advanced in telecommunication and surveillance technology and India has been buying them for a long long time. India is using western countries to pump money to its puppets.

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