The Rajapaksas, the SLPP and the unfolding Indo-Pacific Great Game
Posted on December 9th, 2018

By Robert Blake Courtesy The Daily Mirror

The current political impasse in Sri Lanka marks an important opportunity for Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa to think about the consequences of their current actions for future support from the United States and others for a government a Rajapaksa could be elected to lead next year.
Despite two no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s Government and two motions to halt funding for government ministries, Mr. Rajapaksa has refused to step down.

“The Rajapaksas enjoyed famously good relations with China during Mahinda’s presidency

His refusal not only calls into question his and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP’s) adherence to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, it begs the question why they are inflicting unnecessary wounds on their and the SLPP’s future.
The strong showing of Rajapaksa and the SLPP in local council elections earlier this year demonstrated the support Rajapaksa continues to enjoy in Sri Lanka. New presidential elections could be called early next year. Although Mahinda Rajapaksa is prohibited by the Constitution from running again for presidency, his brother Gotabaya could be a strong contender.

“A new MCC programme for Sri Lanka is now under consideration”

The Rajapaksas enjoyed famously good relations with China during Mahinda’s presidency.  China financed the port of Hambantota and several other mega projects. The Hambantota port project has since become a cautionary tale for all recipients of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) largesse. When Sri Lanka could not service its debt payments, China instead negotiated equity control of the port for itself.

Since then, newly-elected governments in the Maldives, Pakistan and Malaysia all have announced reviews of BRI projects in their countries to be sure these projects benefit their countries and will generate good rates of return that would enable them to service their debt to China.
Indeed, as Xi Jinping doubles down on BRI and continues projects that will give Beijing the capacity to exert control over international waters in the South China Sea, countries across Asia increasingly want to maintain good relations with the United States, Japan, India and others to counter-balance China’s growing economic and military influence.

  • SL well-positioned to benefit from new Indo-Pacific initiatives

  • Results of recent mid-term polls in US to bring added scrutiny on SL

The United States, and other members of the Quad – India, Japan and Australia – have responded by enunciating a broad Indo-Pacific strategy to ensure a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.  The US also passed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act earlier this year, creating a new International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) to incentivize US corporations and institutional investors to invest in developing countries and provide an alternative financing mechanism to China’s BRI. The IDFC complements new US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) projects in countries that meet a host of good governance criteria. A new MCC programme for Sri Lanka is now under consideration. Japan and others have developed their own international infrastructure and Indo-Pacific initiatives.

  • Hambantota port project a cautionary tale for all recipients of China’s Belt and Road Initiative  (BRI) largesse

  • SL should expect more intensive congressional review of its recent actions, which could impact SL’s access to financing from the new IDFC or the MCC

Sri Lanka — with its strategic location on the busiest sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, its literate population and the tentative steps it had taken to achieve reconciliation after its bloody war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — had been well-positioned to benefit from these new Indo-Pacific initiatives.
But President Sirisena’s and Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s recent actions have raised serious questions in Washington, New Delhi, Tokyo and elsewhere, about their commitment to democracy and good governance. The results of the recent mid-term elections in the United States will bring added scrutiny on Sri Lanka. The Democratic Party won back control of the House of Representatives and announced that promotion of human rights and democracy would be a priority. So Sri Lanka should expect more intensive congressional review of its recent actions, which could impact Sri Lanka’s access to financing from the new IDFC or the MCC.
The above analysis suggests that Mr. Rajapaksa would be wise to step down as Prime Minister, and instead put his considerable political skills toward helping the SLPP win next year’s presidential elections through a free and fair contest. This would resolve the current political impasse and position Sri Lanka to be a leader and winner as the new Indo-Pacific great game unfolds.

Ambassador Robert Blake served as US Ambassador to Sri Lanka from 2006 to 2009 and then as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013.
He retired from the US Government in 2016 and now advises US business overseas on behalf of
McLarty Associates. 

3 Responses to “The Rajapaksas, the SLPP and the unfolding Indo-Pacific Great Game”

  1. Christie Says:

    USA Congress dominated by Indian Parasites. What will you expect Mr Blake?

  2. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean should be sidelined. That’s what US needed. So MR is a a no no. Chinese are doing business and if we say no, they will go to pakisthan or Thailand or any neighbouring country. You’ve
    seen how much Sri Lanka progressed during the MR era. War was stopped, infrastructure projects were
    completed, peace and prosperity came, Sri Lanka boomed. What you give countries is grief and grief.
    Unfortunately there are people who are prepared to toe your line and destroy Sri Lanka. Of course losing the anchorman RW is a big big blow.

    Instead of helping developing countries to get on their feet, by meddling with their internal affairs it causes a lot
    of trouble for both parties. While the victimised countries see the destruction straight away the developed
    countries also not immune from the after effects. We’ve seen these in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afganisthan,
    Somalia etc as they left for Europe by millions and changed most countries forever. US also suffered so
    many attacks as a result of their involvement in those countries.

    In my opinion, if these countries keep their distance from developing countries and not meddling in their internal
    affairs, world will be a happier, peaceful place. If you want to do business, you compete and get them. After all it
    is a open, competitive market. Or we all need a bit of Buddhism for a better world.

    Five Precepts of Buddhism which are refraining from:
    harming living things.
    taking what is not given.
    sexual misconduct.
    lying or gossip.
    taking intoxicating substances eg drugs or drink.

    If you do bad things in this life, you pay in the next lives. It could even be in this life as we’re seeing now
    karma catching up with RW for the numerous crimes he has committed during the last 40 years. What Lord
    Buddha preached has been proved to be true time and again with the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Origin of Species, and the Universe.

  3. Nihal Perera Says:

    Robert Blake is one of those “Ugly Americans” who desperately tried to save LTTE and Prabhakaran, when he was the US Ambassador to SL.

    At the last phase of the war (May 2009), he tried his best to provide a safe escape route to Prabhakaran, which failed miserably thanks to Gothabaya and the SL Army.

    These Ugly Americans should NEVER be trusted, as they are using our country as a pawn (with the help of their Indian puppets), to repel growing Chinese influence in the region.

    They are extremely worried that their puppet Ranil is no longer in charge…

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