16 December, 2017

Blog

A Future Bathetic?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“There is no tomorrow in this desert”. – Mahmoud Darwish (A rhyme for the odes)

It is another first – full-page, full-colour advertisements in daily papers, by the Ministry of Finance and Planning. Titled, ‘The Five Pillars that Uplift the Nation. Unstoppable Sri Lanka’ the ads laud Mahinda Chinthanaya and the upcoming budget.

colombotelegraph mahinda rajapaksaThe now ubiquitous thugs attacked a group of UNP parliamentarians during a fact-finding mission to the Ports Authority. (The same week another group of thugs attacked fishermen engaged in a peaceful protest in Colombo). The parliamentarians wanted to discover whether state resources are being used for presidential election propaganda work. As the unprecedented ads by Ministry of Finance and Planning demonstrate, state resources are being used, blatantly and openly, to sell the increasingly lustreless Rajapaksa rule to the masses.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa does not have to say, ‘I am the state’. He and his family act as if they are.

Tom Paine warned, “When it is laid down as a maxim, that a king can do no wrong, it places him in a place of similar security with that of idiots and persons insane, and responsibility is our of the question with respect to himself”[i]. The 1978 Constitution made the original error by placing the president above the law. With the 18th Amendment, the Rajapaksas turned the state into the permanent-fief of this omnipotent president.

Idiotic and insane governance is resulting.

The Bandaranaikes named the Katunayake airport after themselves. The Rajapaksas too wanted their own international airport, in their native-district. No other consideration mattered, apart from this familial whim. The end result is a largely unused airport which is benefiting neither the surrounding community nor the country. And increasingly farcical sleights-of-hand are being used to conceal this preposterous reality.

Cheap and unlimited duty-free shopping is reportedly the most recent ruse used by the authorities to provide a bustling veneer for Mattala. At Mattala Duty Free, goods, especially liquor, are cheaper than at Katunayake. There are also no official limits on what you can buy. Nor does shopping at Mattala prevent you from shopping at Katunayake. Since most Lankan-owned flights make an obligatory stop at Mattala (irrespective of whether anyone is embarking or disembarking), some Lankan passengers get two boarding passes, disembark at Mattala, do some cheap duty-free shopping and re-embark on to the same waiting plane. “Having passengers go in and out of the airport will clearly count as traffic and be reflected in performance figures for 2014.”[ii]

This is the risible condition of a country where the whims of the rulers become policy and practice, at the expense of the nation.

The story of the Hambantota port is no different.

Once again the Rajapaksas wanted their own Port, and in their own home-base. No other consideration mattered. The result is another hugely expensive facility with little economic or financial justification – and a load of debt. So the Chinese lender is being given a controlling stake in the Port, in the hope of obtaining concessionary repayment conditions.

As Shino Ship News (self-described as ‘The authoritative source on Chinese shipping’) pointed out, “Chinese state owned companies will operate four new berths at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port once they are completed next year…. The Sri Lankan government had agreed to such an arrangement with the Hambantota Port’s Chinese lenders as far back as 2010…. In exchange for berth operating rights…Chinese consented to ease loan conditions which could possibly comprise concessions in repayment terms or the time granted for repayment.”

And when the Agreement on Key Terms for Supply, Operate and Transfer (signed during the recent visit by Chinese President) comes into operation, China Merchants Holding International and China Harbour Engineering “will hold operating rights in both of Sri Lanka’s main ports. China Merchants Holding International (CMHI) already operates the new Colombo South Container Terminal. Additionally, Chinese interests will have effective control of 108 hectares in Colombo Port City”[iii].

In her 1974 book, The Debt Trap, Cheryl Payer described how the IMF used aid and credit to undermine the sovereignty of third world nations and influence their internal policies. As the emerging Global Hegemon, China seems to be following a similar path. And Sri Lanka is rapidly becoming a text-book case of how the new superpower is using this age-old ploy of to create a string of vassal states.

Of the 27 agreements signed before Lankan and Chinese Presidents during the latter’s visit to Sri Lanka, one deal was unique. Two Chinese nationals signed that agreement, one on behalf of China and the other on behalf of Sri Lanka. According to The Sunday Times, “Number 21 was the Term Sheet Agreement of the Colombo Port City Development Project Phase I. It plainly said, ‘Signed for Sri Lanka: Mr. Mo Wenhe, Chairman of China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd.’ and ‘Signed for China: Mr. Hu Huaibang, Chairman, Executive Director, China Development Bank’”[iv]. Ports Authority Chief has claimed that it was merely a financial agreement between two Chinese nationals. But if one Chinese national has signed on behalf of Sri Lanka, and the deal is included in the list of bilateral agreements between China and Sri Lanka, it is a deal which binds Sri Lanka.

A Chinese national signing an international agreement on behalf of Sri Lanka – can anything be more evocative of our ultimate destination under continued Rajapaksa rule?

Curiouser and Curiouser  

The mushrooming of world-class billionaires is becoming another miraculous product of Rajapaksa rule. In fact Rajapaksa rule might produce several Lankan nominees for the Forbes’ richest lists.

The latest example seems to be Nandana Lokuwitharana who burst into fame as the owner of the Marriot Al Jaddaf Hotel in Dubai. He has also purchased the Oruwala Steel Corporation. Now this gentleman is venturing into a new arena – “the mineral sands deposit of Pulmoddai in Northeast Sri Lanka, known as the ‘black gold of Sri Lanka’…..  Mr. Lokuwitharana….has already pledged US$40 million to the Treasury for this project as an initial investment…. The project involves producing Titanium dioxide through Titanium….a strategic metal….ideal for high performance military aircraft and rockets, space capsules, armour plate, aircraft firewalls, jet engine components, landing gears, submarines and engine parts.”[v]  Just the sort of stuff a superpower, especially a rising one with a rapidly expanding military, will do anything for.

This week Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi informed the parliament that Norochcholai has broken down 24 times since inception, costing the nation a whopping 18 billion rupees[vi].

According to officially-unconfirmed reports, China is to be given the tender for the modernisation of the Sapugaskanda refinery, even though the Chinese bid was rejected during the first round of tender procedure[vii].

When everything is subsumed into familial power, idiotic and insane become the rule.

This year’s Economics Nobel went to French economist Jean Tirole for his work on curbing the dominance of powerful companies. The Nobel-citation mentions his efforts “to understand and regulate industries with a few powerful firms”.[viii]

Our challenge is to find ways to dislodge or at least impede the powerful politico-economic conglomerate which is seeking to control every aspect of Lankan existence, directly and through various proxies – and is selling Lanka’s external-sovereignty to the emerging Global Hegemon in the process.


[i] Rights of Man

[ii] Booze Trick at Mattala – The Sunday Times – 19.10.2014

[iv] So many Errors: MR may need Fact Checkers – The Sunday Times – 19.10.2014

[v] Influential ME-based Lankan invests in Pulmoddai Project – The Sunday Times – 28.9.2014

[vi] N’cholai Breakdowns Cost 18bn – The Island – 21.10.2014

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Latest comments

  • 5
    10

    Yes, it did raise some alarm bells. Although as you say.

    And when the Agreement on Key Terms for Supply, Operate and Transfer (signed during the recent visit by Chinese President) comes into operation, China Merchants Holding International and China Harbour Engineering “will hold operating rights in both of Sri Lanka’s main ports.

    It a BOT project. That means once China Merchants International recoup their investment the asset is transferred to GoSL.

    So both ports will come under GoSL at a point in time in the future. The other advantage is that China will build the traffic into the port until then. This is how infrastructure projects are financed in most other countries too.

    • 3
      2

      Tisaranee Gunasekara –

      RE: A Future Bathetic?

      are you working on the Common sense Pamphlet for Sri Lanka, just like what Tho,mas Paine did for American in 1776?

      Why not?

      Common Sense (pamphlet)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_(pamphlet)

      “Common Sense[1] is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. In clear, simple language it explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time had surrounded the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.[2]”

      “Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of whether or not to seek independence was the central issue of the day. Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people.[3] He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity.[4] Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”.[5]”

      • 1
        0

        Tisaranee Gunasekara –

        “Planning demonstrate, state resources are being used, blatantly and openly, to sell the increasingly lustreless Rajapaksa rule to the masses.”

        “President Mahinda Rajapaksa does not have to say, ‘I am the state’. He and his family act as if they are.”

        That is what is happening on the ground in Sri Lanka, and Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa is bringing his claims and story to the people?

        who is bringing the Common sense yo the People, on the Ground?

        Orly JP seen to be doing that. What about the others? Anybody writing the Common Sense Pamphlet and distributing?

        Mr. Rajapaksa must be thinking that the Opposition is stupid, does not know how o get things done , except the JVP, but the people do not want Mr. Mahinda Rahapaksa’s hegemony ,Family Dictatorship[p and Dynasty.

        Tisaranee, can you get going on the Common Sense Pamphlet without delay….

    • 1
      1

      Why waste time about the monatanous, stale sounding attacks of a constipated old man who failed in Canada?

      Let him pour out his bile to no awail, under all the pseudonyms he can muster.

      Poor land robber.

    • 0
      0

      Vibushana,
      I had to wait until the stupid budget of a country bumpkin,(which he called himself)”How is the country bumpkin’s Budget?: MR” # Daily Mirror 24/10/2014 to post this comment.

      [Edited out]

      This does not include the foreign debt incurred for infrastructure projects and interest payments. Give us evidence of true income of the govt. Forex, Taxes, export income……etc. It is all borrowing from the poor to keep a bunch of corrupt ignorant bunch of thugs entertained.
      So, please present your assumptions for the future when the so called infrastructure projects are handed back to the sorry Lankans after 20-30 years.

    • 0
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      I think you are a ‘Blinkered Frog in a Well’. Sorry it’s not an insult but a expression.
      Please go to this site and find out where the Sri Lankans are when it comes to ‘Development Projects’.

      https://www.portduqm.com

  • 9
    1

    A leader of a country should be a visionary. He must be extremely careful with those who flock around him. He has failed in these two areas flatly. They took him on rides one after the other. The result of these short-sight are the Airports and seaports. To develop a country with such a lot of power with will not happen just by laying on big roads, and city-beautification etc.. I don’t understand there are some people in the country call this is development. That is nonsense! There are two aspects in development
    A- Human aspect
    B- Material aspect
    What MR used his executive power is to focus only on B. Which is utterly wrong. I do not now how/why he did it?

    A- is the main subject for any leader who come to power in a country like SL in its present situation.

    MR is not prudent leader. Every action he did since came to power was to weaken and destroy A. go to the following link and find out more information for yourselves.

    Thank you
    @SenakaDeZS

    [Edited out]

  • 6
    0

    An excellent view though very depressing.Bensen

  • 4
    2

    “It a BOT project. That means once China Merchants International recoup their investment the asset is transferred to GoSL.”

    I never expected you to be so ignorant ‘Viboooshana’. Which is the commodity which earns the most amount of Forex in Sorry Lanka at the moment?. It is undoubtedly the labour of the poor Sri Lankan men and women working for next to nothing in the Middle east under extreme conditions who earn the much needed foreign exchange. What have the present govt. done to bring anything else by any other means? None, I suppose. An un believable amount of FX has been spent on importing motor vehicle alone and most of it was for the corrupted politicians and their goons. The money for the loan payments and other expenditure has to be met while the lease holders of the infrastructure project owners syphon the earnings from them out for years. The balance sheet of the budget will ever go green again.

    By the time the Sorry Lanka receive the infrastructure projects back, 2/3 of the Island will be owned by the Chinese and Sri Lankans will be a minority. I do not care, as I do not exist!
    Time to wake up !!

    • 0
      0

      Correction
      “The balance sheet of the budget will ever go green again”, should read as ### The balance sheet of the budget will never tally or go green again.

  • 2
    2

    Do not worry. I expect MR to find some pretext to quarrel with China, nationalize all Chinese assets and cozy up to India when the time is right.

  • 2
    2

    …without compensation!

  • 4
    3

    Dear Readers,
    Whether it is the US, the Europeans, India or China, we have to develope the infrastructure for our country. We have to establish our position within the globe. That is what Singapore did. Currupt politicians are every where, the US, Australia, europe, India you name it…. Look at our interests… Today the Colombo port is a bonus for us. Another 10,20,30 years when China departs we will have a port that is 50x the port of Colombo. That will be for our children… While I dont agree on most of MR clan, we are progressing like never before. Dont for a moment forget that China now is the worlds 1st economy and they are supporting us, Sri Lanka, no the Rajapakses…. and they too know that… It will be the same with Ranil…

    • 1
      1

      Maya, I hope your views will turn out to be right. I should be around for the next 20 years and let’s see then.

      Cheers.

    • 1
      5

      Maya,
      These are massive projects which cannot be funded by the Sri Lankan government on it’s own, and the contractor gets about 30 years to recover costs+ before it departs after which ownership reverts to the Sri Lankan people. It does cost more than if we paid for it ourselves, but we and our children do get the total benefit at the end. China is a friendly nation and I am certain that we got a better deal from them than we would have from a western nation/company.

  • 1
    3

    Thuggery is coming from the top.

    One thing is very clear. Justice will be done at some stage against injustice and will come to last. The president of SL a Sinhala Buddhist extremist, who got his soldiers kill 100,000 Tamil civilians, mainly women and children who will never fight soldiers, says he will help those who can fight against the EU court decision.

    He must first fight Sinhala Buddhist Extremism(SBE) in his country. The Daham Pasal and Pirivenas are the manufacturing units for SBE.

    SBE is no different from ISIS or any Islamist terror organisations.

    SL now needs a Leader who can talk to LTTE and recognise the legitimate right for the independence of Tamils. or should SL be bombed by the west like the Islamist states?

  • 4
    1

    China is the “economic hitman” which will ruin our economy and make sri lanka a ‘satellite’ of, and only for, china’s future in economic and military progress and prosperity.

  • 0
    0

    .
    “The Bandaranaikes named the Katunayake airport after themselves. The Rajapaksas too wanted their own international airport, in their native-district”
    .
    .
    So, it is obvious that airports are named after politicians, not real heroes.

    Srilanka needs a naming convention for all ports, highways, national parks, stadiums, and so on……..

    Airports are to be named after Airforce soldier killed in protecting the nation, same for Seaport after a Navy soldier.

    Stadiums are to be named after a sportsman… like Arjuna, Aravinda, Murali, Sangakara, Jayawardana,……

    :-)

  • 0
    2

    White paints for dwellings is the biggest market for.Tioxide ..

    Even our Dalits buy it to paint their new pads which are being built after Nathikadal.

    It certainly is progress, in comparison to the past where our valuable coral beds along the coast were plundered to white wash Elite , Anglican and Vellala abodes.

    With Modi promising high living standards for Dalits , just imagine the demand for white paint there.

    And Modi banning Chinese good in to India , our paint manufacturers if there is any will rake it in.

    That Dude from Dubai should have perhaps invested in a Paint Factory in UVA.

    Looks like Ms T has outsourced Sinhala Buddhist bashing to Fazi Mohammed .

    And she is now totally focusing on Chinese and China Bashing .

    Wonder whether Ms T is eyeing a part time Advisory position to LTTE proxy Prema and Christian Faction heavy Karuna to help them kick out the Chinese and get the Diaspora and UK, North American Pension Funds to give our Dalits a good time.

    (The latter in particular seems to be up to speed in getting Foreign Funds after helping the richest Srilankan from NYC to quarantine his pension money in our old Kirullapona.)

    That is when the Christian Faction Leader becomes the President.

    And the chance of it happening seems better than ever, with the two Turbo Chargers, Sobitha and Anura Kumara fitted to Ranil and Sambnadan’s posterior to crank up the Opposition Campaign to roll Rajapaksa…

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