YAHAPALANA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PT 3.
Posted on April 29th, 2017

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

After Independence, Sri Lanka continued to look to Britain for guidance, though USA had taken over world leadership.   USA had first of all, make Sri Lanka aware of the USA, take its gaze away from Britain.  The United States Information Service (USIS) set up cultural centers in Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna. These centers lent American fiction and records of American music and showed American films.

There were live performances too.   The Golden Gate quartet    visited in the 1950s. Marian Anderson came in 1957. These performers sang in Colombo and Kandy to appreciative audiences. Duke Ellington performed at University of Peradeniya in 1963. Martha Graham Dance Company performed in Colombo in 1956. J.H. Esterline  said the performance appealed to the Colombo fine arts cognoscenti, ‘which was exactly the opinion setting audience we sought.’  A team of American tennis players including Althea Gibson came to play exhibition tennis matches in Colombo, in 1956. Gibson was the first African American to win the French, US, Australian and Wimbledon championships.

Ceylonese   who could become future leaders in Ceylon were invited to visit the US at US government expense. Each was given a custom made itinerary.  The US- Sri Lanka  Fulbright Commission was founded in 1952 by an Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Ceylon for the administration of educational exchange programmes in Sri Lanka. The programme aimed to promote cultural understanding between the United States and Sri Lanka through mutual academic exchange.  Fulbright scholarships were offered for postgraduate study in America.

But after some time, the US decided that this ‘hearts and minds’ strategy was not working. It was necessary to intervene directly in the politics of the island. From 1977 when J.R.Jayewardene became President, there was a tilt towards the USA.  President Jayawardene   permitted US naval ships to enter Trincomalee  and wanted to give the Trincomalee oil tanks to America.  Voice of America started to broadcast from Iranawila.

Izeth Hussein recalls, US Ambassador James Spain had sought a meeting with the Minister of Foreign affairs, on the day of the Indian parippu air drop in 1987. Ambassador Spain had to convey an urgent message from his government. India was going to suggest something and Sri Lanka should not over react, he said. That ‘something’ was the Accord. USA was behind the India-Sri Lanka accord of 1987.

Hussein told W.T.  Jayasinghe,   Permanent Secretary, Foreign affairs, that almost certainly a third party was involved in the Indo-Lanka accord. Jayasinghe, who was present at the signing, ‘told me later that I was correct.’ Just after the signing of the document, Ambassador Spain handed over an envelope to Rajeev Gandhi, obviously a congratulatory and goodwill message from Reagan. Clearly the contents of the agreement were already known to the US government.  In addition, visiting US senator Charles H.  Percy had carried a letter from US President Reagan to President Jayawardene offering to be of any assistance in conveying a message from J.R. to Rajiv Gandhi. We are not told the date of this meeting.

Around 2004, the US tried to persuade Sri Lanka to sign an agreement under the US Tropical Forestry Conservation Act of 1998. This Act said that if a tropical country has at least one globally important tropical forest that country can sign an agreement with the United States to reduce its debt with the US. Under this arrangement the forests will be managed by a committee of representatives from the US government and International NGOs.

This would give US control over all Sri Lankan forest assets against interest on monies borrowed by Sri Lanka from USA.    The Sri Lankan cloud forests would belong to the President of the United States of America, said one critic.  The agreement will also give them exclusive access to the medicinal plants in these forests. The search for pharmaceuticals is a multimillion-dollar industry, carried out mainly by US firms   and US pharmaceutical companies are well known for getting patents for plant based pharmaceuticals.

There were a number of Sri Lankans supporting this move,  saying that the motive was only to help conserve tropical forests. Others like Environmental Foundation   had ‘serious doubts about the genuineness of this action’. The US would benefit from this in several ways, they said.   Under the Kyoto Protocol a country has to either reduce its carbon emission or buy carbon entitlements from other countries.  US could say that it need not reduce its Carbon dioxide levels because it is protecting so much of tropical forests in the world. These will act as sinks to absorb the Carbon dioxide  which the US releases. However, there were heavy protests from   some Environmental NGO’s led by the Wildlife & Nature Protection Society regarding this Agreement and it was stopped. But there is nothing to stop the Agreement from raising its head again, as many of the original players are back in the ring today, critics said.

We now fast forward to the present period. In 2014 Sri Lanka had a visit from Stephen J. Rapp , the US Ambassador on War Crimes, Rapp heads the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the US State Department. He advises the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights on issues related to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.  The Office also coordinates the US Government stance on international and hybrid courts currently prosecuting persons responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, not only for such crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia ,but also in Kenya, Libya, Ivory Coast, Guatemala, and elsewhere in the world.

Rapp met a broad cross section of government officials, political leaders and civil society activists during his visit to Sri Lanka.   The  civil society activists  he met included  Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and representatives of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).   Rapp visited the North and met Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.    He toured former conflict zones  and heard eyewitness accounts of human rights abuses in the country.

Critics wanted to know, how did a foreign official dare to enter their country with the stated objective of meeting government officials and others to discuss Sri Lanka’s  justice, accountability and reconciliation processes?   His visit lacked legitimacy. Critics also commented on the ‘surreptitious methods’ the US embassy in Colombo has used to organize meetings with ‘dubious NGOs’ and opponents of the government.

USA was active underground during the Rajapakse period, but came to the surface with the regime change of 2015. Yahapalana has a firm link with the USA. This is  particularly visible in the many visits of American officials and in  the   developing relationship between Sri Lanka Navy and the US Navy. The state banks now want to know whether you are a ‘US person’ or a ‘politically exposed person’ when opening a Fixed Deposit. Yahapalana is also linking with the countries that are tied to the US.

Sri Lanka had a  highly publicized , triumphant visit from Secretary of State John Kerry, In May 2015,after Yahapalana had taken over. Kerry  did not hide the fact that Sri Lanka was of great strategic importance to Washington. He said, “Your country sits at the crossroads of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia. The Indian Ocean is the world’s most important commercial highway.. And with its strategic location near deep-water ports in India and Myanmar, Sri Lanka could serve as the fulcrum of a modern and dynamic Indo-Pacific region”  he  went on to say .”The US could play a leadership role in making this happen.” US saw itself as a convener and partner in Sri Lanka , said Tamara Kunanayagam.

Sri Lanka is an important country, she sits in the middle of one of the busiest sea lances in the world and the US realized that it would be far better to engage Sri Lanka than push it away, said Kohona.  A delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives  came in February 2017 for three days of meetings, as part of the House Democracy Partnership (HDP) .This Partnership is a bipartisan, twenty-member commission of the U.S. House of Representatives, that works directly with partner countries around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislative institutions.  The 8 member delegation is the largest ever US Congress Group to visit Sri Lanka. It included 4 each from Democratic  and Republican Parties.

The aim of the visit was to promote the on-going partnership between HDP and the Sri Lanka Parliament while strengthening democratic institutions and deepening bilateral relations. The HDP delegation stated that is  pleased to continue the important partnership begun with the signing of a Collaboration Agreement between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Parliament of Sri Lanka on September 14, 2016 in Washington D.C. The visit serves to underscore the strong bipartisan support for Sri Lanka in the U.S. Congress.

The  delegation  met President Sirisena and held discussions about the steps to be taken to further strengthen bilateral relations. The delegation  told President Sirisena that USA will stand by Sri Lanka in its challenging journey towards economic development. It expressed admiration on behalf of the US House of Representatives for the transformation process that the President has led after his election two years ago. President Sirisena, briefed the delegation over the major achievements of the government. The delegation also met Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera and discussed issues of mutual interest.

A high powered US delegation visited Hambantota sea port and Yala national sanctuary in March 2017. The delegation consisted of three American Congress members, members of the Congressional staff , one member each from House Democracy Partnership Majority and  House Democracy Partnership Minority, and Chaplain of the US House of Representatives. The delegation was accompanied by a  US military escort. They visited the Yala national sanctuary to see for themselves the fauna and flora of the country and admire the natural beauty because they plan to donate towards the development of the wildlife parks and sustainable development in Sri Lanka. They also admired the beauty of the Pattanagala rock and the sandy beach.

The US, through its embassy in Colombo has  taken a deep interest in various social and economic  sectors of Sri Lanka .  The United States has increased assistance for two important programmes in Sri Lanka – Strengthened Partnership for Democratic Reform and Social Integration” and Increased and Equitable Growth and Public Financial Management.”

U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) selected Sri Lanka as eligible for an MCC compact five-year development grant linked to reforms that can spur growth and alleviate poverty. Countries are selected based upon rigorous standards for good governance, anti-corruption and anti-trafficking efforts, and respect for human rights.  Senior officials from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) visited Sri Lanka  in January 2017  to discuss joint efforts to fight poverty and promote economic opportunity for all Sri Lankans. During this visit, MCC representatives met with Sri Lankan government officials as well as representatives of industry and civil society to hear their views and explain the MCC process in detail. MCC projects rely on locally-driven solutions to help increase prosperity.

The US   is also  helping with Sri Lanka’s  economic policy.  Ricardo Hausman, Director of Harvard’s centre for International development and   Robert Z. Lawrence,  Professor of International trade and investment have been in Sri Lanka for over a year, starting 2016, to restructure exports.  They  have been looking at ways to improve  growth using Export Development Board, Board of Investment, Sri Lanka Tourism development Board and  Ministry of Development Strategies  Harvard Business School and  World Bank are advising the BOI.

Kamal Wickremasinghe  observed in 2013  that the USA  was  planning to empower youth to support the reconciliation process. They were also going to use civil society groups in Sri Lanka to initiate several programmes supporting   reconciliation. This plan sounds suspiciously like a programme of funding and training of internal subversive groups and government must take serious note of this, said Wickremasinghe . The  Youth Climate Summit of 2017, a climate education process to empower youth, was funded by the US embassy. It is organized by the Community Resilience Centre, a voluntary organization dedicated to promoting community capacity against challenges such as natural disaster, environmental pollution and climate change.

The Government Surveyors’ Association (GSA) said in January 2017, that there was a move to hand over several operations of the Sri Lanka Survey Department (SLSD), including Land Information System (LIS) and Aerial Survey Operations to Trimble Navigation , a US-based land administration solutions group,  for 15 years  ‘The required plans are already in place to complete the transfer. It appears that  the US government had forced Yahapalana to agree to this. This may  help to revive the abandoned US Tropical Forest Act as well said observers.

Mo’ Mojo, an American zydeco band, came in February 2017 on a U.S. Embassy sponsored visit .There were public performances in Jaffna and Colombo; workshops for music students; and master classes for Sri Lankan musicians.We bring American musicians here to increase understanding of the United States diverse musical heritage and to strengthen our cultural connections with Sri Lankans,” the embassy said.

USA is  interested in  influencing  the Sri Lanka armed forces. In 2002  the US Pacific Command team  was   invited to report on the Sri Lanka armed forces. The team prepared a top secret report which was also shown to the Sri Lanka authorities. In early 2012 US officials in  Colombo met 15 or so business executives representing companies that were  importing from or exporting to US . The US embassy wanted regular feedback about security related matters in this country. The meeting was sponsored by the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the US State Department which looked after US business interest.

A Sri Lanka Marine Corps was  set up with US help. President  Sirisena  thanked the US for resuming training of Sri Lankan armed force members, and urged the US to increase  technical training to naval officials. The Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) briefed a delegation from the Young Alakai Warriors of the U.S. Army Pacific on Security Challenges of Sri Lanka in the Next Decade” in 2017.

For seven decades from the end of the World War II, the US Seventh fleet dominated the Pacific area . After Yahapalana victory, ships of the   7th Fleet,  now visit Sri Lanka regularly.  The first US navy ship to arrive was Blue Ridge’, in March 2016. When Blue Ridge came, the  US ambassador said that this would be the first of many to come. They would like to bring more of their Seventh Fleet to Sri Lanka. Thereafter,  US  guided missile destroyer USS Hopper arrived on   a goodwill visit in January 2017.   It  conducted training  for the Sri Lanka navy and also played cricket, baseball, volley ball and basketball with them.

The USNS ‘Fall River’,  a transport ship of  U.S. Pacific Fleet  arrived at the Port of Hambantota in March 2017  to engage in the first Pacific Partnership goodwill mission. Chief of US Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Gabrielson was present at the launch. Admiral Gabrielson said Sri Lanka was selected as the first of four nations for the 2017 Pacific Partnership programme because Sri Lanka government had made the request. Hambantota area was selected out of about 48 areas proposed.  It takes a lot of effort to build trust and credibility. This exercise will make it easier for us to help each other when the unthinkable happens,” said Gabrielson. 100 US, Japanese and Australian marines  including 60 air borne US marines and navy personnel  participated.  SLNS Samudura (formerly of the US Coast Guard) joined the 10-day exercise.

The Pacific Partnership medical teams will join Sri Lankan doctors and nurses for training at the General Hospital and Nurses Training School in Hambantota, the Tissamaharama Base Hospital and other local clinics and hospitals. Free public medical and dental clinics in select cities will also be conducted by mission doctors and nurses, said the press release.

The activities would include free community health clinics, school and hospital renovations, learning exchanges for medical and disaster-relief responders, seminars to promote women’s roles in peace and security and public performances by the U.S. 7th Fleet Band. Local organizations, working together with U.S. Navy civil engineers,   will complete renovations of the Ambalantota Divisional Hospital, Wishaka Mahila Preschool, Sri Gunananda Preschool and multiple Maternity and Child Clinic Centres.

The U.S. 7th Fleet Band  held joint public concerts at the Galle Fort, Tangalle City Centre, Hambantota Beach Park , Bata Atha Agro Park, Matara Beach Park and several schools in the area. Television news showed the Pacific Partnership team attending a pinkama at Ambalantota  Sunadararamaya.

USS ‘Comstock’ arrived  for a four day training workshop at Colombo harbour in March 2017. ‘USS Comstock’ is at present a part of the 7th  fleet.  The training will be to enhance skill sets and strengthen relations between the two militaries. This is the third such military-to-military exchange between U.S. Sailors and Marines and their Sri Lankan counterparts in the past 12 months, the authorities observed, ‘and this will form the basis of further cooperation between our militaries.’

Approximately 325 U.S. sailors and marines joined 175 participants from the Sri Lankan Navy and Marine Corps as part of this exchange.  Training focused on  the movement and logistics support needed to successfully conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,.   US marines showed the Sri Lanka Marine Corps, procedures for life-saving skills, convoy operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief training and amphibious vehicle familiarization. Thereafter members of the U.S. Embassy, including U.S. Ambassador joined this group in donating toys and renovating children’s dormitories at the  School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana.

America is now in decline but  will remain  more powerful than any other state for the foreseeable future, said observers. This is not yet the China century,  US remains central  to the global balance of power. But American  preeminence in military, economic  and soft power terms will not look like it once did. The US share of the world economy will fall, and its ability to wield influence and organize action will become less. It is quite a challenge for a super power with declining influence to keep its traditional leadership role when other countries are rising, critics observed.

For seven decades from the end of the World War II the US Seventh fleet dominated the Pacific area and provided much of its security.  There are American troops in Europe, Japan and Korea today.  Over 28,000 US troops are stationed in S Korea. It  is cheaper to station troops overseas than in the US.

US is supported by the ‘Five Eyes’ a highly secretive  intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.. Singapore  also partners with the Five Eyes. This expanded to Nine Eyes with Denmark, France Holland Norway. And Fourteen Eyes with Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden joining in.

From its Secretary General downwards the United Nations is strongly influenced or controlled by the  US . We lead the world in part by leading at the UN said Samantha Power. The United States needs the UN. The UN goes to places that the US will not go. If the US reduced its contribution to the UN, then Russia and China would step in. If there is less US leadership in UN other countries will step in to fill the void.

US  often throws its weight around at the UN , bullying and threatening  those who did not support UN policy.  US  uses its financial clout to threaten developing nations who refuse to fall in line on critical UN voting in the Security Council, the General Assembly and Human Rights Council. In 1990, when Yemen, an American ally and  member of the Security Council, voted against a US-sponsored resolution to militarily oust Iraq from Kuwait, US  cut off  its aid to Yemen.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley  issued a veiled threat to member states who defy Washington on US-sponsored resolutions. She spoke of ‘taking names’ of those who don’t do as she says and  singling them out for retribution”. If we are strong and stand by those loyal to us more countries will want to be our allies and those that challenge us will think twice before they challenge us, she said. The UN is only one of the institutions controlled by the US.

Western countries, which Sri Lanka considers rich and powerful, such as UK and   the European Union, also Japan and Korea    are   heavily dependent on USA for their military security  and military protection.  They     depended wholly on USA for their military defence. They could not face a world war without the US.

These  countries were scared when Trump won the American Presidency. They were frightened that USA would abandon its role of the leading economic and military power. These countries, it appears cannot stand on their own.  They need a protector. New Zealand said they like US being in the region, but if the US is not there the void has to be filled and it will be filled by China.

Europe depends heavily on NATO for  its protection.  The main contributor to  NATO is USA   which gives about 70% of the money. When Trump won the US Presidency, EU was apprehensive, about the fate of NATO on which their defence depended.    Trump wanted to reduce US spending on NATO and  make the other NATO countries contribute more. American officials   reassured  nervous European counterparts over Washington’s commitment to NATO and pressed them to  increase their contribution, to give 2 per cent of their economic output. Germany  flatly refused to do so.  Two per cent would mean military expenses of some 70 ­billion Euro. That is not possible, Germany said.

President Trump wishes to abrogate the free trade agreement with South Korea  and also reduce  aid. US has asked South Korea to pay for the USD 1 billion missile defence system the two have installed in South Korea, to oppose North Korea. South Korea says No”. It will  provide the site and USA will  spend on the missiles. South Koreans are now becoming  ambivalent about their link with USA.  China is hitting them where it hurts. There has been a boycott of Korean  shops and one firm has had to shut down 85 of its 99 stores in China after the new  missile defence system was installed. China has stopped tourists from going  to South Korea and this had greatly affected the tourist trade. Korea could suffer up to USD 14 billion losses from the lost of Chinese tourist trade over the next two years.

Sri Lanka is mainly concerned with American foreign policy, not  the  country  or its people. But USA  has  serious domestic worries. America’s highways, waterways and subways, built decades ago , are in dire need of upkeep. Where did the US wealth go? Jack Ma of Alibaba observed that multinationals such as  IBM, Microsoft and  Cisco had made huge profits, but US squandered it on 13 wars in 30 years.  There is  a  second race problem looming in USA. The Latin American group is overtaking the blacks and the whites in America. California which is full of Latinos wants to secede.

USA has a very  poor Human Rights record. US has engaged in torture, legal rendition and Cold War assassinations. USA admitted before the UN Committee against Torture that they had ‘crossed the line’ at its CIA site at Guantanamo.   USA’s Human Rights record  was  criticized by the UN HRC in 2010. US dismissed   its recommendations. US dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on Laos 1964-1973 during the Vietnam War. Khammouan province in Central Laos  is still littered with unexploded bombs.  One bomb went off at a picnic, when they lit a fire over it.   In 1969 US launched “Operation Breakfast”,   covert carpet-bombing of defenseless and neutral Cambodia.

One Response to “YAHAPALANA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PT 3.”

  1. Christie Says:

    Each mob has their own agenda. Nikki Haley is a Hinduthwa. You know what Obamas Indian vermin did and is doing now, Biswal.

    Our problem is not the West but Indian vermin in those countries.

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