3 July, 2022


Affairs Of An Island & The World

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

A Forgotten national hero: remembering Ven. S.Mahinda

On the 15th of May sixty five years ago was the death of one of the great national hero’s of Sri Lanka Ven. S.Mahinda also known as Tibet S.Mahinda. Born in Gangtok, Sikkim state of India located in the Himalayan Mountains, this foreigner by nationality to Lanka dedicated his life to awaken the nationalistic sentiments to liberate the country from the British. His poetry generated sparks through our independence movement. Remembering individuals in our society is important not only the politicians who was behind the national struggle. A memorial lecture to remind us of S.Mahinda’s work particularly in the sphere of literature to our younger generation should have been conducted.

Regional Disaster management Center

The worst natural disaster after many years affected the island of Sri Lanka., The floods and related landslides killed more than 91persons with still more than 100 missing and 400,000 affected. The floods have caused more than $1.5 billion worth of damage. Many Sri Lankans locally and internationally combined strengths to assist generously toward the cause of flood aid to come out of this situation just like in 2004 Tsunami.

Last November the first annual international disaster convention in Sri Lanka was held by MDF which this author attended and Chaired a session to share the successful Tsunami reconstruction work at fishery harbours corporation during his time. The first thing I noticed when entering the conference was many empty chairs, apparently many high level politicians and officials were invited but they couldn’t make it due to their busy schedules. The military was present with few interested participants. During my remarks commenting “It was Prime Minister who established the ministry of disaster management, he understood the importance of the subject back then. We need a national disaster management plan for all stakeholders to work together, public private partnership is essential and all of them need to sync or else they will work on their own silos. SAARC Regional disaster management center in Dhaka contribution is limited and I don’t think it’s operating. Sri Lanka is an ideal location a geo-strategic hub to setup a regional disaster management center.” With the increased regional natural disasters in the last several months in Nepal, Bangladesh, South India and now Sri Lanka the government should seriously consider setting up a state of the art fully equipped regional disaster management center that could predict accurately few days before the disaster.

Geopolitics of Indian Ocean

The US – Vietnam relationship presents a bitter backdrop to bilateral relations. The deadly Vietnam War claimed many lives ending in April 1975. Both countries have however embarked on a different phase. The visit of President Obama to Hanoi this week brought the US embargo on selling military equipment which lasted for few decades came to an end. The bilateral partnership was elevated during the high level meeting between Presidents.Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and America’s Barak Obama have initiated a deeper defense cooperation. Obama was on a visit to East Asia clearly to boost economic and security cooperation in the region before joining Tokyo G7.

President Sirisena will also attend the G7 meeting this week. It is a significant moment for a South Asian leader as the first Sri Lankan head of state to visit G7 with his nation sitting at the center of President Xi’s Maritime Silk Road. President Sirisena could initiate discussion to elevate his relationship with Japan and other nations. Sri Lanka’s geo-strategic position is a clear factor and an important variable when formulating the grammar of geopolitics in this region by Washington, Beijing or New Delhi in the next two decades. Japan will be an important partner for Sri Lanka in the future due to its close historical relationship during the time of distress both nations has helped each other. During the Asian Tsunami Japan donated close to a 1billion rupees of grant funds for reconstruction work including fully restoration of Galle and Tangle fishery harbors with new equipment.

The US embargo lift on Vietnam is seen as a strategic move from US to counter China’s influence in the region. The recent tension at south China Sea should be taken into this scenario along with the US grand strategy the “Pivot to Asia” to counter Chinese influence in Asia. In February US Pacific Command head Adm.Harry Harris speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee requested more port visits to Vietnam and wanted to increase from the present state. In 2015 it was only four port visits. Adm. Harris supported the weapons ban lift for getting more ships for port visits an important factor for the US as Vietnam shares a border with China in South China Sea the Gulf of Tonkin.

At the same time, another move by the US to send John Kerry US Secretary of State to visit Myanmar for discussions with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Myanmar’s transition to a civilian democratic Government. This transition was praised by US as the half a century military government was ended last November. Washington lifted financial and trade embargoes on Myanmar last week which shows another clear indication of US support.

A political scholar in Sri Lanka who was removed as Ambassador when performing really well by former President said back then Sri Lanka has to go through similar transition like Myanmar “With defeat in UN Human Rights Council, Myanmar rallied round its neighbours particularly ASEAN and worked towards improving its human rights record. Since then Myanmar has been achieving tremendous and incredible progress towards establishing democratic reforms.” This advice was not taken by the previous regime. But the same scholar is now with the former President trying to bring back a fresh set of better reforms for the country, the new slogan he has designed is “GR2020” Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for the 2020 Presidency. Rather than this he should have been working closely to achieve the present reforms introduced by President Sirisena a leader who has already initiated a bipartisan model and who could bring this change as he understand the pulse of the common people.

Sri Lanka is going through a different transition to Myanmar which was under a military rule, with its new government introducing democratic reforms through good governance trying to correct governance structure with independent commissions and constitutional amendments to follow. This will give better transparency and revive our failed and loss making institutions in the country.

With the victory of South Indian Chief Minister Jayalalitha, Sri Lanka South India relationship is back again to square one but this time during her election she pledged to setup a separate state Eelam in Sri Lanka. President Sirisena would have to navigate with all these external political pressure. There are three key areas which needs immediate attention. The ailing economy which needs to be fixed, balance in foreign policy and national security with probable internal and external threats of reemergence of LTTE, to more than 50 Sri Lankans who has joined the Islamic State.

Next week at Shangri-la Dialogue organized by a leading think tank IISS in Singapore, the top defense experts will gather to discuss the regional security architecture which this author is privileged to participate. There are 48 warships under construction for the Indian Navy which include one aircraft carrier, one nuclear and six conventional submarines, and a variety of destroyers, frigates and corvettes. By 2027 they are plan to expand capacity to hold198 warships. While a silent yet aggressive naval build-up is taking place in Sri Lanka’s neighborhood, Sri Lanka should be ready to proactively face any future challenge as the Indian Ocean security environment is expected to remain complex in the next several years. For geopolitical forecasting, analysts should study events to develop trend lines which could affect us in next several years.

While facing many difficult challenges such as the present natural disaster and economic crisis we should keep a close eye of the surrounding geopolitics to see the opportunities to build a great nation. Much like poetic words from the past, we should aim to bring back patriotism to rise in times of flood and fear in a fast changing geo-strategic environment.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    This guy before writing rubbish should go to a decent school to learn how to structure and essay. This writing is similar to Kandy looking Colombo going.

    • 2

      This guy AA is a TOSH artist of EMPTY RHETORIC and broken Sinhala patriotism!
      What kind of BUNK is this?

      “While facing many difficult challenges such as the present natural disaster and economic crisis we should keep a close eye of the surrounding geopolitics to see the opportunities to build a great nation. Much like poetic words from the past, we should aim to bring back patriotism to rise in times of flood and fear in a fast changing geo-strategic environment.: (Last para)

      The question to ask is Where have all the funds gone?
      The Government institutions and international organizations that do so-called “CAPACITY BUILDING” for disaster preparedness in low income countries have failed Sri Lanka in this disaster, as they continue to do all over the world.

      The United Nations World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul is going to be another expensive joke. No serious questions will be asked about Where has all the money gone, spent over the years on disaster reduction?! WHS report says that only 4 percent of aid goes to local institutions!

      What is the cost benefit of UNDP’s huge sums spent for environmental disaster prepardness and prevention? Who is monitoring and evaluating and preventing corruption in waste of funds in these organizations which should have helped develop the Institutional and Management and governance structures and expertise to COORDINATE RELIEF and AID?

      This was supposed to have been done after the Tsunami disaster in 2004. Instead, Ministry of Disaster Management and its Donors are a Disaster! Big JOKE!

      The UNDP and Red Cross after the Tsunami spent billions on so called Disaster Prpardeness training and Drills.
      The blame game between the corrupt Sri Lanka politicians and their cronies who lack any expertise who run the Ministry of Disaster Management and the equally corrupt international organizations will continue while AA indulges in empty rhetoric!

    • 3

      Asanga you must be already in Shangri La! Dialog and security talk shop in Singapore!

      Seems you want a foreign posting, perhaps Ambassador to China – like late Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke.. Is this what all your garbled IR talk about regional geopolitics is about?!

      Get real Dude – study history of post-tsunami corruption in Sri Lanka and how your patron saint Mahinda Jarapassa, aka. Tsunami Hora, looted aid meant for victims, and then do some real ANALYSIS and write critically about global and regional geopolitics. Instead of happily re cycling the work of foreign ideologues..

      • 3

        You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know what Sri Lanka’s strategic interests and position on the Indian Ocean, (recently reinvented as China’s silk route), should be:

        1. Non-Aligned between China, UN and India

        2. SL should call for DEMILITARIZATION of the Indian Ocean by all parties.

        3. Sri Lanka should steer a different course – and call for investment in Human Security and investment in education, health and fighting corruption for good governance in the Indian Ocean rim countries, rather than massive spending on an arms race.

  • 6

    ‘This guy before writing rubbish should go to a decent school to learn how to structure and essay. This writing is similar to Kandy looking Colombo going.’

    What you mean is –

    Instead of writing rubbish, this guy should attend a decent school to learn how to structure an essay. His writing can be described as ‘Kandy looking Colombo going’.

    Perhaps you should join him at that school.

  • 1

    Thanks for your advice to SL leaders about disaster management and geopolitics. The most important thing for our leaders is how to cash in on disaster relief funds. Our leaders successfully pocketed millions during the Tsunami relief funding. During the war many “Defence equipment” purchases were excuse for building up foreign bank accounts. Now flood relief will be a great opportunity for our beloved leaders.

  • 1

    India is building 48 warships how many are we building in Sri Lanka? Zero , excellent article! S.Mahinda Thero
    was a foreigner he wrote so many books to teach our people patriotism. Thank you Asanga for reminding

  • 2

    “Sri Lanka South India relationship is back again to square one but this time during her election she pledged to setup a separate state Eelam in Sri Lanka. “
    Madam J has started implementing her election promises.

  • 1

    With Jayalilitha stirring cauldrons and swearing all KINDS of oaths upon high-heaven for eelam, it is finally established that no rational Lankan (other than some terroristic northerners) will want to build that land-bridge.

    With all the niceties done by the Obama admin in Vietnam and Myanmar (mostly to contain China, but some good structural toys were also thrown in), guess US won’t go too far with being too tight. They will need to balance out China with a few places, And Sri Lanka should nicely fit in for that monetary balancing deal. But if Obama-Kerry are going to be shortsighted, we will hope for Trump to give a better flair to the business potential of working somewhat with China.

    We’d have to wait and see how Sirisena manages the G7. Hopefully, pledging our case before the powers will give them greater awareness.

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