US Footprints at the Galle Face Protest Site
Posted on August 20th, 2022

By Sena Thoradeniya

M.P. Wimal Weerawansa participating in the debate on Emergency Regulations on 27 July said that CIA through USAID and NED (National Endowment for Democracy) have funded various Sri Lankan Non-Governmental Organisations aiming regime change and protesters were attempting to destroy the State with the aid of external forces. He disclosed the amount spent by NED in Sri Lanka from 2016 to 2020 and named some recipient organisations and the number of projects” funded by it. He further stated that the script of the present protest was written by foreign powers, how Youtubers were paid by their foreign masters and how the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka pressurised GR on a daily basis not to take any action against the protesters.  He tabled a document to support his arguments. Since we are aware that documents tabled are not included in the Hansard but kept in the Parliamentary library, we do not have access to the document he had tabled.

Against this backdrop it is worthwhile examining two insightful articles written by Ms. Shenali Waduge titled Regime Change Role of International Republican Institute (IRI) in Sri Lanka” and Who is NED and What its Role in Sri Lanka” respectively that appearedin LankaWeb recently.  Her revelations about International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) which were created by CIA in 1983 outsourcing its activities for the purpose of working with the  civil society” and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) all operational in Sri Lanka and how they operate in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Eurasia are alarming. NED funds both NDI and IRI and a host of local NGOs in Sri Lanka. For this commentary we have used Shenali’s background information as a guideline.

IRI say that they are experts” in political processes, polling, technology and party building.  Encouraging women to participate in politics, promoting democracy and human rights, strengthening Sri Lanka’s democracy through responsive local government, empowering female councilors, election observations were some programmes conducted in Sri Lanka by IRI.

Sri Lanka gained universal suffrage in 1931 many years ahead of some developed countries in the West. Men and women without any discrimination used their ballot either to elect new rulers or retain the existing rulers.  In this context we do not think that a training for voters was necessary at the behest of foreign funded NGOs. Instead of finding solutions to eradicate election violence these Good Samaritans had formed organisations to monitor election violence! In Sri Lanka peaceful elections were conducted without any election monitoring and observations from the days of the Legislative Council, state Council and finally Parliament respectively. If there were malpractices and violence, political parties and individual candidates were responsible for those. It was the rulers who either postponed elections or held referendums retaining the same bunch of parliamentarians.

Many participants or trainees who participated in IRI funded pragrammes may have played some   role in mobilising the protesters at local, provincial and national levels, thus fulfilling the mission of the foreign masters and their local hirelings.

It is interesting to note that Generation Democracy” (GenDem) launched in Asia by IRI, provided training for a group of youth including youth from Sri Lanka in advanced technical training, leadership, branding, social media and Face Book for networking to build a new generation of leaders in Asia to engage in politics. #Uniting Youth was its hashtag.

Who were the Galle Face protest leaders or their handlers who received this training? It is well known that Galle Face Protesters were initially mobilised through social media platforms. A hashtag called #GoGotaHome was popularised making it the rallying call. Placards such as Gota you’ve messed with the wrong generation”, You’ve f***** with the wrong generation” displayed at Galle Face Green cannot be a spontaneous response to the grievances of the protesters. They have close affinity to Generation Democracy”, no doubt.  

In another training programme called Global Freedom”, young leaders” from some Asian countries were given a training in public speaking and digital communication. Public speaking and digital communication were two areas closely intertwined with Galle Face Protest. Who were the protest leaders or their handlers who had participated in Global Freedom” programme?

NED website played a major role in transmitting hundreds of videos about Galle Face protest all over the globe.

IRI’s Protest to Policy” programme dealt with people losing faith in institutions and archaic structures.” IRI partnered with Face Book for networking. How some protesters cried for system change” when GR was also calling for a system change? Under whose guidance the protesters called for a system change? Did they do it with a thorough understanding of what is meant by a system? Or knowing anything about System Theory”, a useful management tool to understand the workings of modern day organisations?

Gall Face Protesters did not have any faith in any institution, presidency, premiership or parliament. They considered these institutions as archaic”. That was the reason for them to demand removal of all 225 legislators. Their handlers were well aware that this was leading to political turmoil, instability and anarchy paving way for even a foreign military intervention.

 A Gay Pride March was organised in the North of Sri Lanka and in Colombo in 2021. On June 25, LGBTQ activists marched to Galle Face from the Temple Trees precincts. This may be one example for the inclusiveness preached by local and foreign NGOs.

Youth leaders in Sri Lanka were trained to use short documentaries to voice their views as an advocacy tool. In Digital Citizenship for Youth (#DC4Youth) programme, youth were trained to create their own documentaries.  Videos, short documentaries and the cinema at Galle Face played a significant role as propaganda tools and fostering the objectives of the protesters. On April 17 protesters digitally illuminated the front walls of the Presidential Secretariat. An expert told the writer that for a such laser projection one needs nearly 20-25 projectors. Who provided these projectors for tech savvy protesters? Advertising firms? Media moguls? Foreign embassies? Or the foreign media training outfits?

In Thailand it was only in 2020, 10 years after the crackdown of Red Shirts”, the remaining protesters were able to illuminate the walls of Bangkok downtown buildings using laser projections, displaying their message, Searching for the Truth”. How advanced our protesters were?   

Individuals as well as communication giants distributed data cards among the protesters. A free WIFI center provided Internet connections. Protesters who forcibly occupied nearby star class hotels had free WIFI too.  Doing so, an artificial class distinction was made between these occupiers” and hoi polloi at the protest grounds. It came to light that one person alone produced hundreds of Instagram. Who paid for this extravagant deed? Experts say that Instagram are used to evoke envy on other people. In this case it was MR, Basil and GR. Malicious BOTs were designed to mimic rulers and discredit them.  

Among the leading protesters there were top executives of digital strategy and digital marketeers attached to advertising, marketing and PR agencies linked to multinational advertising giants. Some of them also work as activists of NGOs having esoteric names and of election monitoring NGOs promoting themselves as public speakers” and socio-political analysts”.  

In almost all protest movements in Latin America, participation of indigenous people was a significant phenomenon.  In a project called Advancing Democracy for Indigenous Community (ADIC), Rathugala indigenous people were trained, not in modern methods in hunting and gathering, subsistence agriculture or socialisation and integration, but surprisingly in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and constitutional reforms!  What was sown was reaped by bringing indigenous people to the Galle Face protest site; KIrikoraha ritual of the Adivasi community was performed at the protest site. We do not know who transported these Adivasins to Galle Face, whether the ADIC or the kinsman of Adivasins who was in the forefront of the protest. But his mother says that the son had not set his foot in his village for years even to see her!

It is said that to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected President of Haiti in a coup d’état in 2004, armed militia was trained by IRI. Aristide fled the country.  In Sri Lanka there was no need for a militia because two political outfits were in attendance to do the work of a trained militia. On July 7 ,2021 Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated after political unrest and calls for his resignation. On June 24, 2019 US Principal Assistant Secretary of State Julie Chung met with Moise. On February 25, 2021 Chung came to Sri Lanka as US Ambassador to Sri Lanka. On July 9, 2022 Sri Lankan President GR was ousted by popular protests.

Julie Chung after meeting with Anura Kumara Dissanayake just a few days before July 9 said (T) to me the JVP is a significant party. They have a growing presence. They resonate with the public during recent times. They are a growing political party and their ideas are accepted by the public.” No wonder AKD being adjudged as the most popular leader” in a survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).  Not so long ago a JVP academic in Sinhala, introducing himself as a person having   American connections wrote an open letter to Julie Chung addressing her in her first name Julie. Ambassador Chung’s twitter messages regarding the Galle Face protest and protesters and how she had lamented after the crackdown on behalf of them are well known. 

 ROAR Global, with its branch organisations such as ROAR Media, ROAR Studios, ROAR Digital and Density Media is an online media organisation in Sri Lanka also funded by IREX (International Research & Exchange Board) and Google. (ROAR stands for Restore Our Alienated Rights}.  IREX was founded by Ford Foundation. It is funded by USAID, US State Department, Ford Foundation and Millennium Challenge Corporation. ROAR Media described as a South Asian multilingual media platform” has an English Editorial, Sinhala Editorial as well as a Tamil Editorial. Its Sinhala Editorial had succeeded in roping some well-known Sinhala feature writers who give it a heritage” colouring. It has glorified the Galle Face Protest as a peoples’ struggle that attempted to build a (better?) tomorrow with people who had gigantic power to chase out a President”.

 IREX works with partner organisations such as Centre for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Hashtag Generation. It has a journalistic training programme in Sri Lanka called MEND (Media Empowerment for a Democratic Sri Lanka)supported by USAID. In 2021, it had conducted a programme called Catalyzing the Media’s Transformation”. MEND’s Media Development Partnership (MDP) had trained Sri Lankan journalists of almost all media institutes in Sri Lanka including that of state owned ANCL.

MEND had supported 2000 journalists and 20 media organisations in advocacy, mobile journalism and multimedia. The MDP had helped to propel Sri Lankan media into the digital age working with 17 mainstream media outfits, helping them to develop digital content, upgrade their online services and enhance revenue. Through MEND’s Media Corps Felloship Pragramme more than 260 young journalists were trained in mobile journalism. We know that many mobile journalists are attached to main media institutes.

 ROAR Mediaalso piloted mobile journalism in Sri Lanka, training mobile journalists through its Civic Action through Mobile Phones (CAMP). All these activities, especially mobile journalism played an active role in recent protest movements.  

On one occasion ROAR Media interviewed JVP’s National Organiser providing him with an opportunity to talk about revolutions”! What a nice spectacle!  Also featured was the Sinhala short story writer who portrayed Prince Rahula as Channa’s (Prince Siddhartha’s close ally) illegitimate son.

As a result of the above-mentioned overt operations, from the very beginning of the Galle Face Protest there was an army of well-trained digital campaigners;  no wonder print and electronic media in Sri Lanka becoming the mouthpiece of the protesters; TV anchors parroted what were uttered by the protesters donning them with peaceful” and non-partisan” garb, even after arson, storming of public institutions and vandalising  took place.

Role of ROAR’s Editor-in-chief (a female) was crucial during regime change protests.  Once she twittered How many deaths and how much needless, senseless destruction could have been prevented if Gota had stepped down on May 9? Instead Gota and Ranil dragged a bleeding nation to its knees”. How she twittered after torching of Ranil’s private residence was gruesome: (T)the price being paid for one man’s desire to gain and cling to power”.

It will be interesting to explore the role played by IREX’s Sri Lankan counterparts in the protests.

On May 25 almost two months after the first riots, ROAR Editor-in-chief with her team members (some wearing Ts with the face of a roaring lion; lion is a predator!) and some Youtubers was invited to meet Ambassador Chung to talk about social media trends in Sri Lanka.  After the meeting US Ambassador twittered. social media influencers, bloggers and other online commentators play a major role in sharing news and shaping public opinion. Great chat w/this Sri Lankan digital creators about fighting disinformation & promoting truthful reporting to keep SL’s citizens engaged”. Sharing news, shaping public opinion, fighting disinformation (whose?), keeping citizens engaged are key words m their manipulations.

It was reported many times that Ambassador Chung had prevented GR enforcing law and order when law and order was clearly breached by the forceful occupation of public institutions, claiming that protesting is a human right” of the protesters. Other Western diplomats openly urged the police not to obstruct peaceful protesters”, the day before mayhem took place.  

As highlighted by Shenali in her article, discussing NED activities globally in detail is a frightening experience. National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI) are only two of its subsidiaries. NED is responsible for creating chaos, many colour revolutions”, disintegration of sovereign states, interfering in national elections by training how to vote, violent coups etc.

Surprisingly the foreign fund managers had not given a colour to Sri Lanka’s protests. But the predominant colour of the protesters was black. Several organisations mushroomed showing their fancy to black.

The list of countries that had suffered by NED’s interventions is too long to mention. Suffice to state that it happened all over the globe. Following are some activities conducted by NED all over the world: Funding pro-Us political parties including media, training and unifying opposition parties, insurrection training” and instigating riots, influencing social media for political campaigns and generating anti-government slogans, promoting hate campaigns under different themes, tasking NGOs and civil society to do these work, funding disruptive news, building networks of academics, professional groups, artists and writers, dig up corruption and abuse of power , labelling rulers as dictators and autocrats, organising protest marches and occupy” movements and providing campaign skills”. In Sri Lanka in general and at Galle Face in particular we saw all of these taking part simultaneously.

Recently even foreign bloggers found US fingerprints behind Sri Lankan unrest, accusing the NED and its local hirelings.

In Sri Lanka during the protest period NED produced pro-IMF and anti-China propaganda and comedy kits using local Youtubers.  Very recently IREX conducted a Workshop titled how to report in a crisis”.  

Recently,The Herald” published in Zimbabwe stated that US through USAID has channeled millions of dollars to various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) spending on women and youth, planning demonstrations in the months preceding 2023 elections, recruiting protesters via social media as happened in Sri Lanka. The columnist warned that Zimbabwe is not Sri Lanka”!    

Cynics may ask whether all the protesters were trained by IRI or NED? The answer is simple. It is only sowing a seed. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain.” (I Corinthians 15:36). Sowing can be done behind the scenes. One Change Agent (or in their parlance Change Maker) can train another few; and networking goes on.  One pied piper is well enough to lure the rats to the river! He can use his magical flute to lure the children also away from their homes, never to come back or never to be seen again.

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