By Kumar David –
The Anuradhapura incident yet again establishes that Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa leads a bunch of gun-wielding, drunken, thuggish scoundrels; but CT is so full of this that I can comfortably switch to a different topic. The cardinal point regarding the incident is not the behaviour of the thug, but that Nandasena continues to coddle him close to his racist heart – as expected.
My topic for the day. To begin with I am not saying whether to be a satrap of the People’s Republic is good or bad; readers will have their views. What I do assert is that, good or bad it has happened. Britannica says: “The satrap heads the administration of a province, collects taxes, is the judicial authority, is responsible for internal security and raises and maintains an army”. There is however one respect in which the Lankan satrap differs from this classic Achaemenid model; the financial arrangement is reversed; our stooges do not collect revenue for the Son of Heaven, on the contrary they survive on what the Middle Kingdom drops into their begging bowl. This has long been the fate of the Paksas and to a degree short-lived Yahapalana. The satrap is all powerful within his domain so long as the interests of the empire and imperial ‘investments’ are protected and provided the satrap comes aggressively to the defence of the empire in the face of foreign challengers.
The Colombo Gazette of 16 September reports under the heading “Sri Lanka tells UN not to interfere in Xinjiang and Hong Kong” that we had lectured the UN Human Rights Council that the “principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states is the very bedrock on which the international order is founded and external forces should not seek to interfere in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, which are integral parts of the People’s Republic China”. A more abject, word-for-word repetition of a standard PRC formula is hard to imagine. Lanka has all but formally accepted and enunciated its status as satrapy of its masters in Beijing.
It is of course arguable that the Gota-Mahinda outfit had no other option and that is true. The government is utterly broke, the Central Bank is on its knees apropos foreign debt servicing, and food shortages are spreading. We have had crises before but never, not even at the height of the civil war, was it so disconsolate. There seems to be no way out for the Rajapaksas but to throw themselves at China’s feet and beg. Of course not only the Paksas but forerunner UNP governments from JR’s time are no less responsible for Lanka’s wretched state. But that’s a matter apart; I want to focus on the future.
China watchers have observed a significant new thrust in Chinese foreign policy – aggressive determination to assert not just its global economic power (Belt & Road Initiative for example) but also a resolve make the world more pliable to its interpretation of law, contracts and treaties. It now wishes to promote, extraterritorially, its own interpretation of intellectual property and the rule of law. For example Chinese courts have ruled that disputes between Chinese companies and foreign entities in any part of the world should be settled according to Chinese law and precedent determinations of Chinese court. If this is extended to Sri Lanka for example a dispute between a Chinese developer or investor and the Harbour City Authority will have to be settled in Chinese courts. Things have gone further, a court in Wuhan made a ruling in a dispute between two foreign companies, Samsung and Ericsson. The losing side appealed to a US court but in the end had to make an out of court settlement that was favourable to the winner in the Wuhan court. The point is that Sri Lanka’s satrapy to China will have far reaching legal and institutional implications; too many to explore in this short column.
The aforementioned Colombo Gazette article also reports that our beggar-in-chief GL Peiries declared that the Lankan Geneva delegation notes with alarm “the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Venezuela. We deplore that food supplies and essential medicines were blocked during the pandemic by freezing Venezuelan assets. We call for the lifting of these restrictions on Venezuela. Sri Lanka is of the view that any action aimed at protection and promotion of human rights in a country must have the consent of the country concerned”. Obviously a very self-serving comment! GLP also called on the Council to recognize the action taken by Nicaragua to respect and promote human rights and to engage in a positive dialogue with the government of Nicaragua.