By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“What they wish to be, they believe is true.” – Carl Sagan (The Demon–Haunted World)
Sri Lanka is to get her first Formula One track. The Chinese will build it, in the soon-to-be-constructed artificial landmass, Colombo Port City.
Motor racing is a particular passion of Namal, Yoshitha and Rohitha Rajapaksa. In a few years, the presidential offspring will be able to glory in their very own Formula One track, thanks to Chinese generosity.
The Chinese certainly know how to flatter, indulge and please, how to create dependency out of greed, nooses out of largesse.
Rohitha Rajapaksa says he always dreamt of being world’s youngest astronaut. And China has reportedly promised to turn this yearning into reality.
(A necessary digression – Rohitha Rajapaksa is the Chief Technical Director of SupremeSAT, the company which sprouted with miraculous suddenness to take Lanka to space age. The youngest presidential offspring has been hailed as the creator of Sri Lanka’s satellite programme[i]. The first Lankan satellite was launched in 2012, with customary Rajapaksa pomp and pageantry. Subsequently it was revealed that Sri Lanka does not have a satellite programme and that the much vaunted Lankan satellite is actually a Chinese satellite. SupremeSAT merely rented it, reportedly a common practice[ii]. Incidentally SupremeSAT seems rather invisible these days[iii]; the last time it made news was in January 2014, when it was accused of supplying low-quality coal for Norochcholai power plant[iv]. Is SupremeSAT a Lankan version of that infamous historic hoax, the South Sea Company?)
The Chinese obviously excel at Rajapaksa-management. The best way to advance Beijing’s agenda in Colombo is to give Sri Lanka’s ruling family whatever it desires, besides backing its power-project to the hilt. Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted an international airport and an international sea port in his home city of Hambantota. No international investor/creditor was forthcoming, probably because of the extreme economic infeasibility of both ventures. The Chinese made those dreams possible. Other Ruling Siblings too are being helped with their pet projects from the Lotus Tower to military housing in the North/East and the Defence Services College in Colombo. With this Abracadabra approach, it is little wonder that the Rajapaksas are totally in thrall to the Mages in Beijing.
True, no international flight comes to Mattala. Even the visiting Chinese President opted to use the Bandaranaike International Airport. Without a government order making it mandatory for vehicle importers to use the Hambantota Port, that Chinese construction too would have become a ghost-port[v].
The regime says that Colombo Port City will create many jobs. An identical claim was made when the Hambantota Port was being built. Sri Lanka Ports Authority stated that “with the setting up of the Hambantota Port, nearly 56,000 job opportunities will be created in the Southern region”[vi]. That dream has become another mirage. In 2013, the government admitted that the Hambantota Port did not create any new job opportunities[vii]. The Mattala airport too is using employees of the BIA.
For Sri Lanka, these ill-conceived, uneconomical and environmentally costly projects bring little or no benefits. But for China they bring multiple advantages. Politically these projects help Beijing to win Rajapaksa hearts and minds, and bring Sri Lanka even more into Chinese orbit. There is no economic fallout either, because the loans are given at relatively high interest rates. Additionally the Chinese do not scruple to hike interest rates whenever it suits them. For instance, in 2013, Exim Bank increased the interest rate for the Hambantota Port loan by a huge 5% (from 1.3% to 6.3%). As Minister of Ports and Highways Rohitha Abeygunawardhana admitted, “Though we had earlier decided to pay 1.3% interest, consequent to negotiations between the two parties, the government has agreed to pay 6.3% interest per annum.”[viii]
Why did Sri Lanka agree to such an obviously unfavourable and unjust change? Because Colombo no longer has the ability to say no to China. The Rajapaksas are spending addicts, and the Chinese deliberately feed this addiction in order to render Colombo totally dependent on Beijing. If at any point of time addiction becomes even marginally tempered by commonsense, all China has to do is yank the financial chain; and the Siblings will have no option but to come to heel.
Loss of Sovereignty
Economic dependence creates political dependence. The resultant loss of sovereignty will prevent Colombo from acting in the best interests of Sri Lanka.
Take for instance the Maritime Silk Route project advocated by China. President Rajapaksa has embraced it enthusiastically. A more moderate response might have made greater sense from a national interest perspective since Modi-India is preparing its own alternative maritime project. Named ‘Project Mausam’, (a cultural project with a ‘serious strategic dimension’), it plans to “explore the multifaceted Indian Ocean ‘world’, extending from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka to the Southeast Asian archipelago”[ix]. In the contest between the Maritime Silk Route Project and Project Mausam, the best place for Lanka will be the sidelines. But that is not an option, given the growing Rajapaksa dependence on Beijing.
At the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, the US and China had a public verbal battle over the South China Sea/islands issue. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China of engaging in ‘destabilising unilateral action’ in the South China Sea and warned that the US will not ‘look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are challenged’.[x]. Deputy Chief of Staff of the Chinese Army Lt-General Wang Guanzhong charged that Mr. Hagel’s speech was ‘full of hegemonism, threat and intimidation’[xi]. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe weighted in by offering support to those Asian neighbours at loggerheads with China – namely Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia. Delhi has already offered a concessional credit line of $100 million to Vietnam to purchase patrol boat. Those boats of course will be used to keep tabs of the movements of the Chinese navy.
We live in a global context characterised by the waning of the existing imperial power (US) and the rising of a new imperial power (China). In such an uncertain world, the most sensible policy (especially for smaller countries) would be to remain strictly neutral, maintaining friendly relations with both powers but not becoming allied to either. After all, imperial powers often confront each other not directly but via proxies. Thanks to the growing Rajapaksa dependence on China, Sri Lanka can easily find herself in such an unfortunate situation.
Like most ascendant powers, China has an execrable environment and labour record. This year, Chinese scientists warned that China’s air pollution resembles a nuclear winter[xii]. Thanks to China’s labour practices and regressive taxation policies, the country’s rich-poor gap is one of the worst in the world[xiii]. In its Lankan ventures China will follow the self-same practices; these in turn will influence and inform Rajapaksa governance. After all empires are trend-setters and the trends set by the Chinese will be anti-democratic, iniquitous and environmentally unsustainable.
Tin-pot tyrants need patrons to bankroll them and defend them. The Chinese connection is a necessity for the Rajapaksas. But for Sri Lanka, it may be a ticking time-bomb in more ways than one.
Dr Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam / September 18, 2014
A Formula 1 track and casinos is not the sort of development Sri Lanka needs. Australian governments also spent millions on trying to attract foreign tourists and distract the masses with casinos and car racing. In a world where fossil fuels are running out and car-generated pollution is such a problem, Sri Lanka is setting a bad example. In a country where there is widespread poverty these games for rich people is an obscenity.
herath / September 18, 2014
good for people with sense and capacity to reason as well as empathy, not for sociopaths
George v an der Poorten / September 18, 2014
Titsaranee’s quote ““What they wish to be, they believe is true.” – Carl Sagan (The Demon–Haunted World)” is very true.
You and “she” have your views and the Rajapakse mgovernment has its views.
The problem with the foreign-paid NGOs and their other agents is that they want the government to rule according to “their” wishes.
That is not going to happen.
The American paid pushers of their shit, are going to be ve..ry ve..ry unhappy for a long time to come. To hell with them.
someone / September 18, 2014
George v an der Poorten
The Chinese paid pushers of their shit like George v an der Poorten, are going to be ve..ry ve..ry unhappy for a long time to come when the tin pot dictator creep under the culver after the coming election. To hell with them.
Javi. / September 18, 2014
What is the big fuss.??
Everybody wants Chinese money,
China is in for Brand China at Germany.
Navin / September 18, 2014
What a waste!. All your previous bum sucking went down the drain!
Palayang yako! / September 19, 2014
Dr. R Senewiratne-Alagaratnam:
In addition to your other attributes, you appear to be a schizophrenic practicing Rajapaksa-bootlicking in one breath and then criticising their conduct in the other.
Make up your mind, you boob!
Dr Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam / September 20, 2014
I support some of the government’s policies and actions and oppose others. Is there something wrong with that?
Rationalist / September 18, 2014
“The Chinese certainly know how to flatter, indulge and please, how to create dependency out of greed, nooses out of largesse”
Tisaranee, they must be laughing all the way back to China, at how gullible the Ruling Junta is!
They will be rubbing their hands with glee, because they know that Usurers always get back more than they have Loaned.
They certainly are not the ‘Konde Bandapu Cheennu’ that the Rajapakses believe they are!
Vibhushana / September 18, 2014
Scraping the bottom of the barrel for any kind of mud are we?
There are a few fallacies as usual. Given the country has risen to “middle income” bracket concessional loans are no longer available. Low interest rates are nice if anyone offered it isn’t it?
Whether its the Project Mausam or the “Silk route”, Sri Lanka is at the heart of it. Its not the same as in the cold war days where a country had one Capitalist foe or one Socialist friend.
Although admittedly Ukraine got it so wrong. They got it so wrong I suspect when they tried a complete one sided alliance with NATO isolating Russia. Ukraine needs to learn from Rajapaske how to balance friends.
Its the era of Multi-laterism anyway. China & Pakistan have regular border skirmishes, spy wars but they still deal with each other economically. Sri Lanka was in the receiving end of some “soft power projection” at the UN but still harmonious at every other level.
Native Vedda / September 18, 2014
“Scraping the bottom of the barrel for any kind of mud are we?”
Is it an invitation to Tisaranee Gunasekara to check your head for surpluses?
Ben Hurling / September 18, 2014
Low interest rates are offered by IMF, WB etc.
However, they are not offered to pump Rajapassa image. But, for projects that are economically viable & sustainable.
Desereted Hamba Port, environmentally destructive Hamba airport, Rohitha’s silly, ego massaging, space dreams etc are all junk projects. Nobody wants to finance them.
Except of course the Chinese. Where they can get a fancy ROI at a whopping 6,3% rate. Plus control the family run, corrupt regime in Colombo on a Chinese leash. It is a Win-win for China stupid.
Sri Lanka being a “middle income” should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Cabral’s Central Bank statistics are well massaged and not to be trusted. Same happened in Greece. When Sri Lanka goes bankrupt one day and she will at this rate. Current Rajapssa cronies and henchmen will be long gone by then with their stolen wealth. That includes the like of Vibushana.
Sri Lanka and her people will pay a terrible price.
At that point SL will collapse as we know her. International lenders will jump in and dictate not only economic austerity lead by the West, but politics as well.
VP’s & LTTE die-ass-pora’s dreams may come true. All of a sudden.
Those who mismanage our economy for stupid personal glory and endless power are true enemies of Sri Lanka. And they should be seen as such.
Thank you Tisaranee for this excellent piece.
Unfortunately the man on the streer will not get what you mean.
Average citizen is being perfectly bamboozled by a shamelessly compliant media culture the corrupt family clan has created in SL.
May God Bless our country.
Vibhushana / September 18, 2014
From a basket of complaints you made there I took one randomly to check your credibility.
How many vessels can you count berthed in just one day? Check here.
Where did you get this information? During discussions near the village well is it?
Ben Hurling / September 18, 2014
Did I touch one of your sore point?
Your link says it all. There will be no berths by a single ship.
These are projects to glorify one meglomaniac & his clan.
These are not infrastructure projects conceived after proper research & planing by professionals with national consensus.
There was never any due process. Only driven by ad-hoc “Wannabe Great Leader” syndrome. Nothing else.
With one man’s name on every single project. Hilarious! Amazing the guy himself does not get tired of seeign his name everywhere he goes.
Shall we re-name Sri Lanka as Republic of MR? How about Republic of Hambantota Clan? Will you be satisfied?
Don’t you ever get tired of this kind of waste and mismanagement of our national wealth?
Do you sleep at night?
Taraki / September 19, 2014
Vibhushana, Jaya container terminal is in Colombo not Hambantota.
VIsbushana / September 18, 2014
These are the vessels that imported vehicles which were dictatorialy transeferd from colombo to hambantota to show that port is earning money. NOW car importers have to pay more mony to transport back to colombo. DUMB MORON!
srilal / September 19, 2014
“NOW car importers have to pay more mony to transport back to colombo. DUMB MORON! “
no they don’t , consumers will have to put up extra Rs 50-75 k for a car.
Ben Hurling / September 19, 2014
How much you pay for a car is none of their problem. Not even Vibhushana’s problem. He is probably getting a free state vehicle.
All connected to politics, henchmen & cronies get vehicles and fuel sponsored by the state as long as they hang around. And they hang around.
Those who pay taxes via cars & fuel prices will be lucky to get home tonight on horrible & stinking public transport. Through traffic jams.
Take the 3 Presidential offspring. Despite them wasting their time away trying to become the next Schumakers of Formula 1. None of these guys have ever paid for one litre of petrol in their lives. Not even their extended family members pay for it.
It is all sponsored by the impoverished Sri Lankan state. Three sons beleive they are entitled to these unlimited state resources for the rest of their lives.
PS: Sri Lankan voters are truly stupid. Sinhalese, Tamils & Muslims.
Ben Hurling / September 19, 2014
Shipping is run by relatives of Prez and his cronies. Not by qualifed professionals with a proven track record.
So is Aviation.
Not to mention the ever struggling, corrupt Foreign Service of SL.
Lapatiya / September 18, 2014
“Incidentally SupremeSAT seems rather invisible these days”
No it is not correct. This Supremesat is now above the Uva province to see the pulse of Peoples in Badulla and Monaragala Districts. Maha Raja reduce the price of Diesel, Petrol and K’oil as he got information through Supremesat.
herath dhammika / September 18, 2014
When uneducated low life lumpens rule a country , poor ” karumakkara” lankans cannot do much, except visiting nearby temple and repent. I wish sri lankans good luck and enjoy what you harvested. Thisaranee is spot on, chinese are masters of exploitation, people who admire china run for western world when they were persecuted by the regime, speaks volumes.
MirakRajBanda / September 18, 2014
Maritime Silk Route is China greedily looking for a long time and set many traps to acquire massive wealth buried in our sea floor in the form of crude oil and ship wreckage. At last the current Rajapakse Regime fell prey and sold our sovereignty and untapped wealth to the Chinese and the ruling family ALONE will benefit from this fiesta…..
We are the poor, helpless daughters and sons are looking helplessly when the Chinese rob our beloved nation piece by piece.
By the time MaRa-GoRa & Co and their stooges; MP’s (Govt. & Opps);Gnanasara are all gone saying ”Sayanara”!!!!
Park / September 18, 2014
When JR went behind USA we saw the birth of LTTE. Now Rajapakse is going behind China, what will be the baby of this union?
mike / September 21, 2014
“..what will be the baby of this union?”.
Sri Lanka will hereinafter be known as “Chin-Lanka” and the official language will be Mandarin with reasonable use of Chingalese.
lal / September 18, 2014
This diatribe is not about demonising China or Motor Racing but the target is the Rajapakses. Why are the Rajapakses targetted this way by this writer and LTTE sympathisers? It seems the Rajapakses are guilty of liberating the nation by eliminating the terrorist scum! We can agree or diagree with the alleged manner it was done. But, if I was one of any of the Rajapakses I will live happily with what has been achieved for the country by them. True Motor racing is an extravaganza in a country where there is much poverty. It is strange the people are critics of Rajapakses did not see LTTE Terroreism was causing poverty, despair and an impediment to well being of all. Let these moaners “eat cake” or should I say “eat thosai”?
Gonnamba / September 18, 2014
You dumb nit wit you still dont understand the real problme? AHA? Definitely you must be very well off robbing the sri lankan nation for your personal gain with rajapassa clan. DUMB [Edited out]. If majority of the Sri Lankans have crooked pee brain like you then rajavassas will vin again. I am sure. But for the decent educated intelligent Sri Lankans have to forget about their mother country. STUPID MORONS ARE RUINING THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW. Gonnamba
lal / September 19, 2014
“DUMB [Edited out]” says Gonnamba. Not surprising that CT prints this sort of language.
Gonnamba did not mention that it was possibly his [Edited out] he is refering to. S[Edited out] a.Sorry, you are upset.
You need to deal with your anger management. Losing the war in a humiliating manner is affecting you even after 5 long years.
Do you live on [Edited out]? Worse than what you accuse me and the Rajapakses of.
Gonnamba / September 19, 2014
Mr LAL in LALA LAND, whoever you are your intelligence is so low that like some of the sri lankans just becuase we won the war against LTTE RAJAPASSAS own the country. They can do what ever they want. They can rob, evict people from their houses, no independent judiciary, no law is applicable to its maily relations and close associates, megalomaniac who spends public money without any control, destroy the opposition, create animosity among the races for their(RAJAVASSAS) survival, utter despicable lies to get the innocent votes all these can be tolerated? AHA? JUST becuase we won the war.
Native Vedda / September 19, 2014
A few days ago you were proud of your Aryan Sinhala/Buddhist Hydraulic Civilisation.
What is so great about it?
Leon / September 18, 2014
This moronic regime has no idea of geopolitics. As a small country, instead of staying neutral, they support Japan one day China on another, not realizing that China and Japan are sworn enemies. One day they support the Palestians and Israel another, not understanding the relationship between the two.
What can you expect from this uncouth and uneducated idiots?.
Antany Peter / September 18, 2014
Do we know the interest rate of the loan for the Port City Development project? The dragon is taking advantage of the least educated government in the history of Sri Lanka. All most a decade I supported the Chinese Communist Party, but mow days I am staying away from it, because I am not happy with its actions in the South China sea and Sri Lanka. Chinese Communist Party is going crazy as it gets more power. If we do nothing it will do the same as Japan had done in the 1930s and 1940s, and it will be a detrimental for Asia’s success. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is doing everything to please the China’s President to get more commissions to fill his own pocket; and also to get more support to carry on his racist ideology. Why the President wasn’t dancing without drink and food to please the Chinese leaders, instead of forcing the school children to dance in the sun from 6 am? President gets commissions on the Chinese projects, not the school children. Therefore, it is more appropriate for the President, Basil, Chamal, Gota and Namal to dance to welcome the China’s president. The Rajapaksas got excited too much, I am surprised President wasn’t dancing. Don’t gettoo excited. Remember, China dropped everything and ran away fromLibya. If you carry on your Sinhala racist attitude; we know how to makeChina to run away from Sri Lanka. Don’t underestimate the Tamils and the world. China is economically powerful, but the world is far more powerful in defense than China. I really don’t think the Rajapaksas would change course, I believe that India must get ready to follow Russia. India can’t lead South Asia by passive leadership. India has to become pro-active, loud and tough leader to deal with the Rajapaksas and the Chinese Communist Party.
Ponkoh Sivakumaran / September 18, 2014
The Rajapakses need to save their own skins than think of the country. The democratic world is out to ensure that they pay for their crimes against the innocent. So, they have to take refuge with a dictatorial state that has its own skeletons in the cupboard, liquidating its Buddhist minority in Tibet and the Muslim minority in Xinjiang. The Chinese adopt the same techniques as the Rajapakse clan. The Chinese are in occupation of the two minority provinces. There is planned migration of the Han Chinese into Tibet and Xinjiang. But, as it is very evident, the might of China has not been able to suppress Tibet after five decades of occupation. The lessons are clear for Rajapakse. He is not going to succeed in militarily crushing the Tamils for too long.
Unlike in the case of Chinese minorities, international opinion will not condone the dictatorial policies of Rajapakse for too long.
Neither will India condone this attempted shift towards China. China is still far away and will remain far away. It cannot help SL in time if India seeks to flex its muscles. SL has to remain in the region. China cannot contain India with the string of pearls strategy. It is China that is encircled. Burma will move towards India and the US and ASEAN so that an important string will go missing. Pakistan is too unstable to provide the other link. Hambantota is just a mirage and cannot be a point in the string without meaningful facilities. In any event, SL is sandwiched nicely between the Indian coast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The might of the US navy has to be taken into the equation. Rajapakse and his idiot advisors are attempting a policy that will provoke India and the US into unsavory reactions.
For Sri Lanka, it would be best that Rajapakses leave the scene before it gets rough for everyone concerned. If they have to be unseated through strife, the picture will not be nice. It will provoke intervention by foreign powers. The independence of SL will be prejudiced. The honorable way for Rajapakse to go will be to hold a free and fair elections, lose it and leave office gracefully. That may be too much to hope for. Hapless, thrice cursed SL is destined for more strife.
punchinilame / September 18, 2014
Thanks Tissaranee for this article – may have to be re-read in the future, if the
prediction hereunder is a possibility, specially the Kings sons here as with that in N.Korea:-
http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/33186 .. “Beijing’s Regime Change Change Plan in North Korea Shows that Mahinda Rajapaksa has to fear China more than the USA or India.”
Abracadabra = A Hebrew phrase meaning “I CREATE WHAT I SPEAK” (Rajapakse Magic!)
kali / September 18, 2014
Sri Lanka is like a Dog on a Chain and the master holds the reins and the chain will only stretch so far. The master is India and when the master takes the dog for a walk the Dog is allowed to relive against a lamp post. But when the dog sees a stray one and tries any hanky Panky the master will pull violently.
India has total Jurisdiction over Sri Lanka as Sri Lankas Sovereignty is limited to Indias security.
The closer Sri Lanka gets to China the easier it becomes for India to intervene militarily and we are already there as India has increased its military presence at the Indian Embassy.
K.A Sumanasekera / September 19, 2014
Abracadabra is real in the US than in China.
Ali Baba collects USD 20 Billion . I mean 20,000 Million from US Pensioners.
These investors must have a lot of faith in these Chinese entrepreneurs to provide them a luxury retirement income by selling Chinese wares on the Net.
The Share price of the IPO , for the interested Elite who dabble in our CSX , is USD 68 each..
Here our inhabitants get real time Real Estate like a Harbour, Airport, a man made mini peninsula in the Elite Turf Colombo, and a new Island in Magampura.
And these are not from private Chinese entrepreneurs,
These are from the National Govt of China which can draw on 10 Trillion Dollar reserve which the American Govt owe them.
Ms T has certainly progressed from Sinhala Buddhist bashing to China bashing now.
I will leave the cost benefit analysis of the Chinese and Japanese Infrastructure to the intelligent Elite who love to live in a prosperous Srilanka .
Our inhabitants in Wellala Gadens can see the ships which already sail along our west coast ,the new Silk Route every night..
Avi / September 19, 2014
KAS the Rajapaksha koolaid man,
It is amazing how you keep repeating the same lie about
US owing 10 trillion dollars to China over and over agin given
how easily one can get info on Amarican debt from the net.
You have no shame at all. No one with any self respect would
repeat same bogus numbers and same gibberish to defend
criminal Rajapaksha family who are looting SL in the name
of Patriotism(bogus). Get a life!!
Mallaiyuran / September 19, 2014
Minister Ekanayake met the Chinese ministers, to sign the pacts, with a pair of Chinese shoes.
Ha ha ha
In that condition Chinese making town in the sea? Certainly the water is going to come through the sole.
May be the King the would donate the eclectic chair he is about to be presented, to this poor soul(may be poor leather sole?). Ha ha ha. If the Shoes come from China then the electric chair too should come from China. Then only the justice will be served.
Ha ha ha
K.A.Sumanasekera / September 19, 2014
After Norochcholai power plant the Chinese don’t have a track record to build Formula One Track.
Bensen Berner / September 19, 2014
Xi ‘s on his visit to Sri Lanka threw a few crumbs and bones to the members of the Rajapaksa family especially for the sons to satisfy their vain desires and also in the provision of infra structure at the expense of the suffering masses to enjoy their luxury car racing and to ride into space not to mention the financial assistance to the “non functional” Mattala Airport and the Hambantota harbour. In China although there are reports of top officials being taken for task for corruption, one can climb the ladder of success unfettered if they are related to the ruling elite in the communist party. For Xi, the Indian PM Modi, an admirer of Chinese economic success is a pleasantly surprising and convenient alternative to the traditional anti Chinese Nehru dynasty post 1962 . It is indeed a completely happy turnaround for the better. The reference to the Silk road is an emotive ploy, for in ancient times only India and not Sri Lanka was part of the Silk road. Xi can afford to ignore the Rajapaksa regime but only if to redeem their Chinese debts. Xi has to contend with two contrasting scenarios of the corrupt Rajapaksas and on the other hand the Modi regime. Bensen