UnNamed Sri Lankan Officer Held Hostage in Baltimore, USA
Posted on July 7th, 2024

e-Con e-News

blog: eesrilanka.wordpress.com

Before you study the economics, study the economists!

e-Con e-News 30 June – 06 July 2024

An unnamed Sri Lankan is being held hostage in Baltimore by the US government. His name has not been released, and neither has the media been allowed to name the other 10 ‘high-ranking officers’ from India being held with him. Media and so-called ‘international’ unions for seafarers are not asking too many questions out loud. The crash took place midst heightened tensions between the US, Canada and India trading accusations of promoting terrorism.

     The hostages are part of the crew of the Dali, the Maersk-chartered container ship that hit and demolished the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on 26 March. It is now over 3 months, and that port is cleared, but it remains uncertain how long they will be detained. The ‘narrative’ is now being crafted by the shipping insurance companies will nail the ship’s crew as the fall guys. 10 other seafarers were returned to India, on condition they return when demanded. The crash gave another opportunity for media to unleash further tirades against ‘foreign workers’, even as their economies are now even more based on igniting wars and manufacturing refugees to undermine worker power.

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The capitalist media in Sri Lanka and India act act sunnily blasé about the hurricanes brewing off the Atlantic, let alone off Kollupitiya, against our workers. They are eager to promote their import-heavy ‘exports’! This includes trafficking workers – for they have no plan to skilfully employ them with dignity to build the country. This ee also looks at how a panel of chief economists from the biggest Canadian banks insisted, in January, ‘Too many temporary foreign workers & international students are driving up prices, taking up housing & causing productivity to collapse.’ They are blaming a ‘botched’ immigration plan, which they (& other NATO governments) hatched to discipline a ‘tight’ labor market, with workers demanding higher wages. What the big bankers are ultimately demanding, as usual, to fix their inflation, is unemployment… and war….

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Suspected of carrying toxic waste & weapons to Sri Lanka, the Danish Maersk-chartered ship Dali, which crashed that Baltimore bridge in March, returned to Virginia, US, this week, and secretly unloaded 1,500 containers there. Media again gives no details of what was in those containers. The Dali, shipping 4,700 containers, had originally gone to Baltimore from Norfolk, Virginia, which also houses the largest US navy base. (see ee Random Notes).

     Also, this week, the US Virginia Ports Authority (VPA) signed an agreement with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to exchange ‘expertise & technical collaboration’. This was follow-up to SLPA grandees being buttered there on a jaunt in May 2024. Just as coincidental was this week’s rather nettling headline, ‘Sri Lanka receives US$5Mn aid to tackle incompetence in chemical imports.’ The $5Million is from Washington-based Global Environment Facility. And what a global environment, Washington facilitates! But, ‘incompetence’?

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‘80% of global trade is concentrated within Global Value Chains (GVCs),

particularly through

the intra-firm trade of a handful of transnational companies (TNCs)’

– Shiran Illanperuma (see ee Focus)

The largest chemical importers in Sri Lanka involve the major US & EU multinationals – Exxon-Chevron, Unilever, International Chemical CIC-ICI, BAT’s Ceylon Tobacco Co, etc. Indeed, another coincidental headline this week: ‘Medical expert attributes increases in kidney diseases to widespread use of substandard whitening creams.’  What then is the higher-standard bleach? And how & why do these chemicals enter the country? Unilever’s ‘Fair&Ugly’ occupies a major segment of the wannabe vadakaha sudhiya market, in their attack on the nation’s melanin reserves.

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• The week’s ‘good news’ ended with the National Bankers Association gathering at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, on Friday. There is no sunlight about what these suited bankers spat into each other’s bushy ears. Or into the ears of the state. The US-embassy news outlet EconomyNext under the headline ‘Foreign investment is essential for the banks to thrive,’ helpfully informs us: ‘the event was attended by various individuals from the banking sector’, adding only that the President said, ‘neither I nor the Sinhalese nation is beggars.

     The week began with the US government’s latest throw of loaded dice to restructure’ even-more-impossible-to-pay-back debts. Refashion debts incurred from this so-called ‘foreign investment’, that has refused to invest long term. Media also refuse to discuss why, as China asks, the IMF/World Bank & other ‘multilaterals’ are untouchable when it comes to this ‘restructuring’? They don’t cut their hairs! Ex-Central-Bank Governor & erstwhile democrat & house-kneegrow, Indrajit Coomaraswamy dutifully declared that the 15 recommendations of the ‘IMF Governance Diagnostic’ should apply to any party that takes office.

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‘Do these reforms augment Sri Lanka’s productive capabilities & secure her sovereignty in a technologically competitive world?’, responds Illanperuma (ee Focus) He surveys the possibilities for an industrial renaissance midst the tightening hugs of the clinking chains of the multinational corporations (MNCs), of local ‘bankers’ who refuse to invest in modern production for they are too busy greasing imports of ‘luxuries & other machined joys’.

     In Sri Lanka, ‘83% of industrial exports are by companies registered with the Board of Investment, most of which are foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs)Domestic value-added remains fairly low, due to the lack of a local supply chain’.

‘One thing leads to another’, was indeed one of SBD de Silva’s favorite quotes, to describe what real industrialization is all about. He said it so often, we thought it would be apt title for a biography about him. He was also quite aware of who would ensure: one thing leads to nothing.

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• All this week’s reported foofaraw at the port took place midst righteous teeth-grinding by ‘all the Chambers’ – including the American Chamber of Commerce & European Chamber of Commerce – about a sick-note campaign by Custom officials: ‘Shippers condemn corrupt trade union action at Customs.’ ‘It was grossly immoral…for officials of the department to hold the people of the country and industries at ransom’, said the Colombo port mafia’s fronts led by Shippers’ Council Chairman Sean Van Dort, Joint Apparel Association Forum Secretary General Yohan Lawrence & Rohan Masakorala of Hub Operators Association.

     Their media suggests this was an attempt by greedy workers to grab their slice of the renewed profits at the Suez-challenged docks of Colombo, which have been controlled by England’s P&O for over almost 200 years. Meanwhile, after months of media rigmarole about the Indian workers lodged in the hills being restless, and container-loads of kerfuffle about what constitutes decent terms & conditions, an ‘independent’ & ‘unbiased’ Supreme Court has struck down a ‘generous’ President’s plan to increase their wages. Everybody, including the Indian kanganies who control labor, win – except the workers. 

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‘Dangerous are the times for Sri Lanka.

If the importing of rice stops, we would have nothing to eat.

If importing of materials stops from abroad, we would have nothing to wear.

If it was not for the vehicles imported from other countries,

we would have no means of travelling. In essence, without

the accommodation from abroad, we will not be able to do anything’

– Kumaratunga Munidasa (1877-1944)

This ee looks once more at the studiously suppressed demand, from over 100 years ago now, for an industrially developed independent country, made by such leaders as Anagarika Dharmapala & Kumaratunga Munidasa. BD Witharane asks, why ‘the emerging bourgeoisie, the new rich, who while representing different castes also shared common class interests’, did not ‘respond favourably to the call for an industrially developed Ceylon?’ Why did their demand not ‘evolve to be a mature plan’ leading ultimately to the establishment of a Sri Lankan developmental nation? He also asks why if any such ‘plan’ had ‘escaped the gaze of historians for some reason?’

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‘In the classical approach to the social sciences, economics

& what are now regarded as its border disciplines – especially

politics, sociology & history – were entwined. The first to incorporate

political economy in their writings were the 18th-century Scottish moralists,

including Joseph Hume, who were concerned with the effects of

the development of commerce & wealth on political power as well as on human happiness.’

– SBD de Silva, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment

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In the commencement year, 1960, the total numbers

admitted to the university were divided roughly

equally into English & Svabhasִā media… In a few years’ time,

the numbers in the English medium came down to a mere trickle…’

– WD Lakshman (ee Focus)

This ee continues with WD Lakshman’s look into the ‘Beginnings of Economics Teaching at University Level’. WDL highlights some of the traumas of the transition from English to Svabhāsִā medium in university education – ‘a challenging and difficult process for teachers as well as students’.

No courses with Economics in course-titles are offered

in Wayamba & Uva Wellassa Universities where, however,

there are Faculties of Business & Management.’

– WD Lakshman (ee Focus)

With the expansion of the menu, amply funded at first by untouchable multilaterals like the World Bank to suit the imperialist flavours of the hour, it turns out only a few dishes have been properly cooked, with diminishing supplies of agriculture & industry to keep the kitchen going…

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• All the news stories mentioned here may be found in our news compendium. ee sincerely believes this compendium to be a true work of modern art. An endless installation on info, misinfo & disinfo. A monument to MNCs like Unilever, which dominate the media through their advertising budgets. It shows that the principal town crier, especially about corruption, is the epitome of corruption itself. Even if we have no idea what Marshall McLuhan meant by ‘the media is the message’… we do know the media – that trumpet, is the most corrupt. Because most of what the media calls corruption is diversion from the real challenges we as a country & the world need to overcome.

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