YAHAPALANA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Part 18
Posted on October 20th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

USA had planned to entrench itself comfortably in Sri Lanka immediately after the regime change of 2015. ‘What we offer Sri Lanka is a true and transparent partnership, particularly in terms of development and infrastructure, avoiding unsustainable debts,’ said USA to Sri Lanka. ‘Your country stands to gain substantially from these opportunities.’ 

Unfortunately, USA is not that admired and welcomed in Sri Lanka. Critics seem to outnumber admirers. Loyal supporters of the USA are ridiculed. Mangala Samaraweera is America’s poodle and the West’s darling, said Rajeewa Jayaweera.

Even the USA embassy in Colombo is criticized.  USA is at present completing a huge embassy on Galle Road, amalgamating the old British embassy site. The new complex appears to extend from the Kollupitiya junction to the old Colombo Swimming Club area, covering the entire length of the front wall of the Temple Trees, said critics.

The current government appears to be highly dependent on the West for its political survival, said analysts. This link will not benefit the country.  Over a thousand so-called independent “Think Tanks” have been established both in the USA and in other countries to influence governments towards USA projects. Institute of Policy Studies and Advocata are playing that role in Sri Lanka, said Tissa Vitarana.

USA wants to wean Sri Lanka away from China. Sri Lanka should avoid the vulnerability associated with excess indebtedness to a single lender, USA advised, meaning China. Hambantota port is a Lankan operation, said Yahapalana soothingly. Not a single ship can enter Hambantota unless it is guided by the harbour guards who come under Sri Lankan Navy. No Chinese submarines can dock here. Just because we take loans from China, it does not mean we will subscribe to their strategic interests,” said Yahapalana.

China   responded. China’s development can be seen all around the world in ports, roads, railway while American bombings can also be felt all around the world, replied China. US and British imperialists secretly create difficult situations in sovereign countries in order to pave the way to interfere openly, warned China. One method is to create spurious narrative about regimes they want to target.  

It is now suspected that the USA was probably behind all the political killings in Sri Lanka. The assassination of SWRD Bandaranaike, the two attempted assassinations of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the two JVP killing sprees of 1971 and 1989 and the Eelam wars. These are all externally induced. None of them are local. Easter Sunday Bomb blasts are also blamed on the USA. The bombings were carefully planned and executed, showing an external influence.

The US seems to be funding all types of clandestine operations in Sri Lanka during the present period of Yahapalana rule, observed analysts.  The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) received substantial US funding.  USAID and DAI which are operating in Sri Lanka are used by CIA for clandestine operations. Contracts and funds are issued through them, said Tamara Kunanayagam.

It is well known that the US meddled in the elections of 2010 and 2015.The US funding of Sirisena campaign in 2014/2015 is not a secret though identities of recipients remained confidential, said Shamindra Ferdinando.  US Secretary of State John Kerry said a massive USD 585 million was spent in Nigeria, Myanmar and Sri Lanka to ‘restore democracy’. This was in addition to USD 3.4 million made available to the Yahapalana government between the January 2015 Presidential and the August 2015 Parliamentary polls.

The forthcoming 2019 presidential poll will not be an exception,   said analysts.    USA is clearly going to play a role in that too. For instance, US embassy officials met Arumugam Thondaman, head of the Ceylon Workers Congress to discuss the election.

There are at least three Presidential candidates who are considered pro-USA. Apart from the UNP candidate, who will definitely get the support of the USA, there is also the CIA funded JVP. There is speculation to why JVP has presented a candidate this time. JVP last contested the presidency in 1999.

The former Army Commander, Mahesh Senanayake is also a Presidential candidate. Mahesh Senanayake left the country after 2010 election. He   returned in 2015. Many do not know where he went, said Former Army Major Ajit Prasanna, now an Attorney at Law. Senanayake had gone to USA where he worked on intelligence in Afghanistan and Libya, then held a senior position in the American embassy in Dubai.  He served USA for five years, said Ajit Prasanna on television news.

We know that the present government is not coming to power the next time, said USA. Therefore, USA is now courting the new political power in Sri Lanka, the Pohottu. USA hopes that   having links with both sides will allow the US to further its interests after the next Presidential election, observed analysts.

 In May 2019, former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa attended a dinner given for Robert . O. Blake  former  US ambassador in Sri Lanka . At this dinner, Blake praised the three Rajapaksas, Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil. He  paid a glowing compliment to Basil for being the brains behind the new opposition SLPP. Blake had praised Gotabhaya earlier at a Pathfinder seminar. Blake also met Mahinda Rajapaksa, in private discussion, on invitation from Mahinda Rajapaksa, reported the media.

Sri Lanka is mistaken if Sri Lanka thinks it can get rid of USA as easily as Sri Lanka invited USA in. The USA has no intention of getting out of Sri Lanka now that it has got in. Sri Lanka is too important. The attraction is not Trincomalee ,  as it is popularly supposed. It is Sri Lanka ‘s  strategic  position in the Bay of Bengal, with Trincomalee thrown in as an added bonus.  The unique geographic position of Sri Lanka makes it a natural aircraft carrier. It is also ideal for a major communications center and it has Trincomalee, said analysts. 

USA’s military interest in Sri Lanka has been expressed in a roundabout way, to avoid alarming the public. Sri Lanka occupies a strategic point in the Indian Ocean, said USA. She sits in the middle of one of the busiest  and most strategically important  sea lanes in the world .  The sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are considered among the most strategically important in the world, announced USA.

More than 80 % of the worlds seaborne trade in oil transits through Indian Ocean choke points, with 40 % passing though straits of Hormuz, 35% through the Strait of Malacca and 8 % through Ban el Mandab strait. These sea lanes are the gateway to the control of resources and market in the near east, Middle East, Africa and Asia, said USA. 

This  sea route has been  in operation for a long time, centuries in fact.  It is nothing new.  But it  is presented as a new  discovery by the USA. Suddenly Sri Lanka  is not  India’s heel.  it is at the cross road of the emerging energy, trade and air route linking Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asian and Australia, commented critics, sarcastically.

What the US did not say is that the Bay of Bengal is now  becoming a theatre of war. Indian Ocean is a heavily militarized ocean and a military battle is possible, said analysts. There is  competition in the Indian Ocean   between India and China, and between China and USA. There is competition for military bases as well.

Sri Lankans fear that the US in planning to drag Sri Lanka into a global war against China. On account of its strategic location, Sri Lanka is  now in the crosshairs of dangerous power games among the big powers, said Lasanda Kurukulasuriya. Sri Lanka will be dragged into wars and conflicts over which it has no  control. They will use our army elsewhere in the world, said Tamara Kunanayagam.,  In place of our traditional non-aligned foreign policy of equal friendship with all nations ,Sri Lanka has become a part of the USA’s military machine,  they said.

The alarmed intelligentsia have now started to look for ways of getting out of  this awful possibility. They called for the restoration of the country’s independence, sovereignty and non-aligned foreign policy. Leaders, both present and future, should align the country with the nations which do not interfere with internal affairs of the country, they declared.

“Stop the use of our military bases and ports by foreign powers. Repudiate all military agreements. Have friendly relations with all nations on the basis of equality. Reverse the harmful Neoliberal changes designed to make Sri Lanka a semi-colony of the USA”,  said LSSP.

Sri Lanka must pursue an independent foreign policy. This must stress the protection of the territorial integrity,  sovereignty  , independence and economic advancement of Sri Lanka,  said Palitha Kohona. Sri Lanka should not permit its territory to be used to create a strategic imbalance or threat to any country. Sri Lanka   should follow a non aligned position.

We need to have a foreign policy which is effective, which ensures our security, safeguards our territorial integrity and sovereignty and ensures prosperity of all our people. [We must have ] healthy relations with India. We cannot at the same time antagonize the west. But we need  not be intimidated by them, said Sudarshan Seneviratne.

The intelligentsia brushed aside Yahapalana claims that relations with the  West” were badly damaged by the Rajapaksa regime and that  Yahapalana had changed this. The west did their utmost to prevent us from winning the war said the intelligentsia.  If Rajapaksa government  saved the county at the cost of good relations with the west, the present  Yahapalana  government mended those relations at the cost of independence of the country,  they  said angrily.

A group of concerned citizens offered a solution. Sri Lanka  should establish good relations with countries other than the USA, they said. There are other countries to turn to, notably China and Russia. We were able to end the Eelam war because China threw its weight behind us and sent us the required arms. It was China that supplied much needed weapons, at a time when Western countries refused to do so citing human rights concerns, they said.

Russia and China supported us in Security Council. Russia gave military assistance as well.  Iran has also been helpful, not only with military supplies but also with interest free loans. Iran supplied us with our crude oil requirements. So we are not without real friends, said K Godage. Sri Lanka also realized during Eelam war IV, that India’s support   is not essential for Sri Lanka, concluded analysts.

But a better solution for getting out of this dilemma would be to return to Non-Alignment, said the intelligentsia. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) established in 1961 is, as its name indicates, a forum of 120 states that are not formally aligned with any major power bloc. NAM is   second only to the United Nations in size. It represents two thirds of the world population and could be a formidable force in the international arena.

Sri Lanka enjoyed status way above its size in the NAM in the 1970s. Under the Chairpersonship of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka helped this movement reach its zenith in the mid 1970s.  Sri Lanka held a very successful Non-Aligned Summit in Colombo in 1976.  After that, Sri Lanka occupied a respected position in international relations. Sri Lanka was regularly consulted at the United Nations. Sri Lanka’s opinion was sought at the UN when issues came up. This is the highest recognition Sri Lanka has ever achieved in an international arena. Taking into account our small size this was an extraordinary achievement, said analysts proudly.

 When J.R.Jayewardene became President, in 1977   he did not continue to support NAM. Instead he took Sri Lanka away from Non Alignment to alignment with USA. NAM is still in existence, though in low profile. It is called on when necessary. NAM recently supported Venezuela at the UN Human Rights Council. Before that, Sri Lanka had received support of the NAM at the Council when resolutions were brought against it after the Eelam War. We should recover our earlier position in the NAM, said Palitha Kohona.  Some senior NAM diplomats still have sympathetic feelings towards Sri Lanka, he said. (CONCLUDED)

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