8 August, 2022


Alleged ‘Regime Change,’ Trinco Port & Conspiracy Theories: A Response To DJ    

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Balancing between India and China is the correct thing to do both in trade/economic relations and foreign policy matters, without aligning with one against the other. This is undoubtedly easier said than done given both the local and (less visible) international pressures. The policy must be formulated within a broader framework of Non-Alignment without any semblance of aligning with any of the global powers, the US or Russia, while Sri Lanka could take a prominent role/stand against any hostilities or war erupting in the region and beyond.

Both India and China could be Sri Lanka’s closest friends, in the latter consideration, as their declared interests/ambitions are primarily economic and not military. It is now time to resurrect the proposal of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranike to declare and maintain the Indian Ocean effectively as a Peace Zone.   

It is in the above context that Dayan Jayatilleka’s (DJ) recent article “Jan 8th 2015 Regime Change: Trinco Was The Real Target” (Colombo Telegraph, 26 April) is quite unfortunate and irresponsible. To claim that ‘Trinco was the real target of the January change’ is pretty delusional. The real reason for this claim of course is his inability to appreciate the democratic change of government through the ballot box in January 2015, whatever the inherent weaknesses of the outcomes thereafter. It is a refusal of democracy that DJ has unfortunately demonstrated most of the time in favour of a regime like ‘Kim Jong-un’ in Sri Lanka. If the 2015 change had not taken place, Sri Lanka today would have been quite a duplicate of the North Korean regime.

The delusion goes on to say, “So this is also what the new Constitution is about.” What is again neglected or distorted is Sri Lanka’s necessity and ability to change its constitution without dictates from other countries. A movement for constitutional reform has been there since 1994, first thwarted by the lack of agreement between the main two parties (in August 2000) and then by betraying the whole idea for the sake of strengthening the executive powers of a single person (in September 2010).

Conspiracy Theories

It is a blatant insult to the country and its people that the peaceful governmental change in 2015 (unlike Arab springs) and the intended constitutional changes are pictured as dictates of foreign conspiracies. Again, this shows DJ’s no-confidence in democracy.    

There is a grand conspiracy theory behind DJ’s main argument. As he says, this is what the January 2015 change was all about, “the US-India-Japan axis, securing through a puppet Prime Minister, the strategic prize of Trincomalee as part of its competition with China and Russia in the Asia–Pacific region and especially the Indian Ocean.” His claim about a ‘puppet Prime Minister’ is quite personal that he has been indulging in without any decency in almost all his recent articles.

To talk about a ‘US-India-Japan axis competing with China and Russia in the Asia-Pacific region or the Indian Ocean’ is quite irresponsible to say the least. DJ is trying to dangerously give meaning to current situations (or bilateral alignments) in the image of the Second World War. The term ‘Axis Powers’ came into the use after a Tripartite Pact signed between Germany, Italy and Japan in September 1940. All these countries were fascist entities. Moreover, by that time, the second world war had already started; Germany invading Poland in September 1939 and Britain and France declaring war against Germany quite instantly.

The danger of DJ is not that he is warning about the dangers of another destructive World War. But he appears thrilled about the possibility, and already outlining the battle lines, even implicating Sri Lanka into the calculation. It is similarly quite wrong to drag India into an Axis Power equation. India has been a major leader in the Non-Align Movement and in fact the NAM was largely a design of the then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. India has signed a defence agreement with the US in recent times (2016), but not for the purposes of war but peace. There are similar agreements with Russia, the old friend of India.

Even in the case of Japan, although she is quite tied up with the US at present in defence or military terms (after Japan’s unfortunate adventures in the World War II), if she is given the independent choice, Japan would prefer to be neutral or out of any future war. My studies in and on Japan during 2005/6 have led me to this conclusion.

There are of course competitions among countries that DJ has mentioned in the Asia-Pacific region, and in the Indian Ocean and beyond. Those must be confined to economic or trade ‘competitions’ and not beyond. It is in this context that Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s proposal for a Peace Zone in the Indian Ocean should be again resurrected. Even in the case of trade and economic activities, there is much room for all to involve creatively and for the benefit of the poor people in the region. It is the peace that should be emphasised and promoted, and not war, although there are dangers given power ambitions, unwarranted fears or simple delusions like what DJ shares.

Trincomalee Harbour

DJ bases himself largely, in his arguments, on what Wade Shepard (WS) has written to ‘Forbes’ (21 April) on “New Silk Road or New Great Game? India Developing New Sri Lanka Port to Combat China.” This is again utterly a speculative article. At least, WS has a question mark to his title. But in the case of DJ, it is completely presented as the ‘final truth,’ as usual in his pompous style and rhetoric. 

WS’ argument is that India irritated by China’s growing influence in the country is trying to ‘jump in, show the money, and build something.’ And that is Trincomalee Port! Note the language he is using. WS is another DJ! Whether he knows or not, the Indian investments and trade agreements in Sri Lanka are long standing. Sri Lanka has been working with India in the SAARC context and whatever the current odds (spurred internally and externally), these links and relations should continue, keeping in mind the national interests.

WS has not substantiated his claim that “India Developing New Sri Lanka Port to Combat China” in the article at all. On the contrary, it is not long time ago (exactly three months) that WS writing to the same Forbes (21 January) claimed that “India Tells Sri Lanka: You Can Take Your Port and Shove It.” If there had been a sudden ‘Axis conspiracy’ within these three months, WS and DJ should show it with facts. Nothing at all.

WS’s January article was speculative as much as the present one. Therefore, on this matter or others, one should not take WS or DJ seriously. They are ‘trouble makers’ fishing in troubled waters. Although WS is now a repeated writer on Asian matters, he has a clear slant against China’s economic progress. He is the author of ‘Ghost Cities of China.’ Perhaps he must be harbouring the same type of ‘envy’ against India’s economic progress now. Until recently he was just a ‘free-wheeling’ and ‘fancy-blogger’ who has come to some fame because of his antipathy and arguments against Asia. This is the person DJ is depending on as an authority on the subject!       

It may be correct to say, naturally, that India could be apprehensive if there are undue Chinese influence in Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lanka should not try to appease it artificially. India’s economic relations with Sri Lanka are long standing. There is no reason for India to suddenly ‘jump in’ as WS claims. If both countries, India and China, are interested in investing, helping and undertaking projects in Sri Lanka, beneficial to the country and the people, there is nothing wrong in encouraging both. 

But what must be kept in mind is not only national interests, but also Sri Lanka’s economic and developmental priorities without depending too much on any of them. On this count, the present administration, and particularly the PM’s office, appears lackadaisical and quite dependent on other countries and investments. There should be a stronger national effort to encourage local entrepreneurship, promote savings and investments, and to undertake developmental projects. In this respect, there is some semblance of truth in what DJ says on the present economic policies. On the foreign policy front, Sri Lanka’s ‘non-alignment’ and the ‘middle path’ foreign policies, although not always properly followed, are well suited to face the evolving confrontational situations in the region and beyond. Sri Lanka should not be aligned with anyone in this ‘great game.’  

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Yesterday’s (27th) total shutdown in the North and East should show all citizens of Sri Lanka that that there are much bigger problems of existence and daily life for citizens there, than a so-called Indian ‘takeover’ of Trincomalee.
    Only STF were patrolling the roads bare of people and vehicles.

    Both DJ and Laksiri are debating about an imagined ‘take over’ of Sri Lanka by India.
    Both should end this unnecessary speculation.

  • 6

    Dr. Laksiri,
    “It is a blatant insult to the country and its people that the peaceful governmental change in 2015 (unlike Arab springs) and the intended constitutional changes are pictured as dictates of foreign conspiracies. Again, this shows DJ’s no-confidence in democracy. “
    You have demolished DJ’s grandiloquent theories very effectively. When he talks about peoples’s power, he actually means rule by thugs such as his favourite Gota.

    • 3

      old codger

      “When he talks about peoples’s power, he actually means rule by thugs such as his favourite Gota.”

      He told us democratization of this island must be stopped by any means necessary.

      Codger, be careful make sure you stayed inside the house if and when there is a counter revolution by clan and cronies (read Dayan, Wimal…).

      Dayan will kill you (stop you by any means necessary).

      Sorry we cannot attend your funeral.

      We will be stopped by any means necessary.

      I am not ready to die for you as you know I am too young to die.

      Remember “He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day” Therefore don’t pose your chest as if you are ready to receive a bullet straight through your upper chest.

      Do you remember anyone running away from Kanatte – cemetery? Are you thinking what what I am thinking?

      • 0

        CT would be a very boring place if we all agreed. Have a look at Lanka Web.

  • 3

    DJ and Laksiri,

    What is the difference between the two,; None
    DJ is sponsored by Mahinda Rajapaksa. Laksiri is sponsored by Ranil Wickramasinghe.

    The only difference is MR was the STRONGMAN of Sri Lanka and RW is the “WANNABE STRONGMAN” of Sri Lanka. Both are Machiavellian dirty rats.

    • 3

      “The only difference is MR was the STRONGMAN of Sri Lanka and RW is the “WANNABE STRONGMAN” of Sri Lanka. Both are Machiavellian dirty rats”

      We were always governed by “rats”.

      Rats are worshipped by Hindus – in fact a Hindu God rides a rat. Too much Hindu influence? No wonder our leaders run to Indian temples seeking favours.

  • 5

    Thank you Dr. Laksiri for exposing DJ’s lack of depth in his writing and analysis and his childish indulgence in making grand theories about anything and everything.

    DJ has become a joker without a proper job. I think somebody should employ him for some work, at least, cleaning MaRa and Gota’s toilets so that he can be kept under control and made him sanguine of some possible job in a Sri Lanka mission overseas some day in future.

    DJ’s cheap and shallow writings display utter hypocrisy: talking of Che-Guerra, Lenin, Castro; posing in outward appearance as a socialist and living the life of an English speaking Colombo seven pseudo academic providing some lip service.

    In late 1970s, I saw a man, walking sidewalks in Kandy and Peradeniya, hand in hand with a girl with measured and self-dignified steps to pose intentionally that he was different from the rest of his fraternity. This man reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s shallow women – “In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo” just as part of their snobbishness.

  • 4

    I assume that DJ is continuing his brutal cruel bloodthirsty propaganda because he wanted to take revenge against Mahinda Rajapakse and Sinhalese people for throwing him out of UN. He must have been paid billions to do this by a group that doesn’t like peace in this country.

  • 1

    Both China and India are very powerful and very large countries. Only thing Sri lanka has to do is forget evrything get maximum out of both and stay away from their games.

    when you say balancing between China and India it is like saying what that monkey said when Two elephants wanted to have sex and monkey was teaching them how to do it.

    US-INdia-JAPAN axis is exactly what is happening in the Eastern Europe. Trump is mad that Germany is not paying their fair share to NATO. NATO having US troops is what US wants and not what the Germany needs. Finally, those troops were sent to Poland.

    Now, Sri lanka is geting intoa game like that to protect Indian OCean from china, Sri lanka is trying to buy air planes to patrol and to train Marines and who knows what else. IT is Sri lanka going to subsidize NATO needs in order to block china.

  • 1

    An old joke of my high school days’……. goes like this:
    One day two beggars from the same road were kicking, killing, beating and hacking each other. Everyone looked at them said “rowdy buggers” and went on their way. The two poor kept continuing it for long time. Then a gentleman came that way, felt sorry for them and separated them and asked them what the fight was about.

    The first one complained: “That shameless beggar is saying Birla is the richest, Thurey.”
    The second one replied: “Thurey, when this beggar is saying that Tata is the richest, how can I take it?”

    Two troubled kids are from the same group home maintained by the Old Royals fighting to determine whether Chitanda is the correct philosophy or Yahapalanaya is the correct philosophy to cheat the Modayas.

    They both are “ this side one day and then other side… then this side… other side…”Thinking listeners are dump Modayas….

    This guy prayed China when it was lending arms on loans and turned over his hat to other side after the Hangbangtota sale, to cover up that loan. That guy was caressing Sonia’s back until 2009 UNHRC special sitting now changed when he sees his master need a win. These two Chameleons were kicked out by the old royals. They both lacks shame too.

    Isn’t all policy less left talkers are Chameleons like that?

    Two trucks are keeping loading the Meethotamulla.

    Ridiculous! Too much of freedom in CT! All these guys should be banned!

  • 1

    Giving Trincomalle to India is not a new idea. Ranil wickramsinghe in advance told, that none of the ports would be given for military activities. I think, Modi will not invole to sign the Trinco – port for development.

    But, there should be a certain desire from the west to use Japan and India get the Trinco port for them and they would eventually use it to watch the Indian Ocean for any chinese movement.

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