By Dayan Jayatilleka –
Anyone wants to know what’s really happening to, in and with our country? Anyone wants to know what’s going to happen to us? Anyone wants to know what the really important issues are? Then please read what a top global think-tank, the Lowy Institute, has to say:
“A key element in any overseas naval base, and even a logistics facility, is easy access by air for people and supplies. A naval base also requires maritime air surveillance capabilities. Control over Hambantota airport will give India considerable control over how the port is used. It is difficult to conceive of the Chinese navy developing a significant facility at Hambantota without also controlling the airport. In short, India is spending US$300 million buying an airport to block a Chinese naval base.
The long and twisted saga of Hambantota is emblematic of growing strategic competition in the Indian Ocean region, much of it focused on ownership and access to infrastructure. In coming years, we are likely to see a lot more jostling between India, China and others in the Indian Ocean over control of ports, airports and other pieces of critical infrastructure – and perhaps increasingly for control over governments.” ~ ‘Why India is buying the world’s emptiest airport?’ David Brewster
That’s the real deal. That’s what really happening to our country. Our political processes, and the Govt’s direction and decisions, all have to be understood as arising from the Government’s plan of what Dr Indrajith Coomaraswamy called “ strategic promiscuity”. The plan of strategic integration into the global and regional big power competition i.e. conscious semi-colonization. It is as if a leader of this island centuries ago, instead of fighting against the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, gave them all a piece of the island each and let them fight it out on our soil.
What kind of Government will place us in such insecurity and danger as spelled out by the low Institute analyst in which “India, China and others in the Indian Ocean over control of ports, airports and other pieces of critical infrastructure – and perhaps increasingly for control over governments” ?
Is this the fate our country? Is this the shape of the country we want to hand down to future generations?
What stands as a barrier is the combination of (A) multiparty democratic elections and their compulsions and (B) a strong patriotic opposition born at the Nugegoda fight-back rally in January 2015 and led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Muhammad Ali of Sri Lankan politics.
What kind of citizenry would vote for such a government or continue to do so? We have a chance to stop this in its tracks or retard its pace if we cast a tsunami-type protest vote at the upcoming local government elections.
In a fairly recent speech, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said something to the effect that a draft of a new Constitution would be ready by—and for– February 4th, the 70th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence. What Minister Samaraweera will have as a consolation prize in place of a draft Constitution, is a local authorities election. Already Mahinda Rajapaksa and Anura Kumara Dissanayaka have called for the local government election to be regarded as a referendum, and Mr. Samaraweera would need a referendum if his Constitution is going to get through— so here he has one, or at least a pilot referendum, coming up.
The political behavior of the Northern PC members from the Chief Minister down is such that only a criminal or a lunatic would trust that institution, area or society with augmented power such as a new Constitution or a liberal Constitutional reform would confer upon it. The open commemoration in the North of ‘Great Losers Day’ or ‘Great Suicide Bombers Day’ or ‘Dead Terrorists Day’ or ‘Terminally Retired Fascists Day’, and the ugly scenes on more than one Northern campus, show how grandly reconciliation is going under Yahapalana and its supportive NGOs, and what would happen if there were a new Constitution with a divisive referendum to endorse it. (http://tamilguardian.com/content/thousands-gather-all-over-jaffna-district-mark-maaveerar-naal)
From Nomination Day for the Local Government elections, the next two years of this government would run along predictable lines, unless there is a dramatic re-composition and reorientation. Attention will move from electoral nodal point to nodal point: the Provincial Council elections of mid-2018, the Presidential election of late 2019 and the Parliamentary election just before or after that.
What all this means is that there is a chance that the over-ambitious, ideologically driven neoliberal ‘reform agenda’ of the Yahapalana government will be replaced or displaced to the margins, by the conventional, normal logic of electoral performance and survival. If the reform agenda is neoliberal and globalist, electoral logic in this country is almost always populist, which also means nationalist.
The reforms should have been primarily democratic and national, not primarily liberal and cosmopolitan/globalist, but they were. Who were the designers and drafters of the neoliberal reform agenda? Most of these persons, institutions and networks have been around and active in the same business, with the same disastrous results to their political masters, for the past 25 years. Yes, for a quarter century, since their debut was in the early 1990s. The present leaders of the neoliberal unintelligentsia were protégés of UK High Commissioner David Gladstone who, as his memoirs disclose, was tasked by London with applying the ‘New Public Diplomacy’ paradigm of Britain in Sri Lanka against the populist yet pluralist Premadasa (UNP) administration. Premadasa was the only President who could have anchored pluralism precisely because he was a successful populist.
The cosmopolitan liberal caucus really came into its own under Chandrika and Ranil. CBK’s disastrous Constitutional package, the openly federalist and “security sector reform” agenda of the Berghof Foundation (headed by Norbert Ropers), the anti-military recruitment Sudu Nelum (White Lotus) movement, the Norwegian ‘peace’ – actually appeasement—effort, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s CFA, and Chandrika’s PTOMS, were the utter, and utterly predictable (and predicted) failures that littered the decade 1995-2005, until Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected and cleared up the accumulated colossal mess, along with Prabhakaran and his Great Heroes. All of these failed projects were co-designed, driven or staffed by the NGO neoliberals who (especially the Berghof Boys) had earned the suspicion and contempt of Lakshman Kadirgamar and the hostility of Anuruddha Ratwatte.
An intelligentsia is judged by (I) its moral-ethical courage in the face of a challenge to society from barbarism, and (II) its superior intellectual and analytical abilities. The historical record shows that by each criterion taken separately as well as by the composite criteria, Sri Lanka’s liberal cosmopolitans failed abysmally.
For decades, even centuries, intellectuals the world over were judged by the stand they took against colonialism, imperialism and fascism, whether it was as an invading force or was homegrown (e.g. Italy). When Sri Lanka faced its greatest crisis and challenge of decades of war waged by a totalitarian, separatist militia which exploded more suicide bombers than all Islamist organizations put together, what did the liberal cosmopolitan intelligentsia do? The published record shows that these worthies almost never criticized Prabhakaran and the Tigers at the time, and most have yet to do so. The record also shows that they criticized Mahinda Rajapaksa and Premadasa before him, as often and as vehemently as they remained silent about Prabhakaran and the LTTE.
The collective mental prowess of the neoliberal globalist lobby is best evidenced by the record. Voluminous writings and pronouncements provide proof that, to a man and a woman (perhaps I’m being politically incorrect there), stoned, sober or drunk, the liberal civil society intellects were utterly convinced that the Sri Lankan state could never win the war against the Tigers. This stratum was so vacuous in analytical capacity that Professors of Political Science and Professors of Engineering alike, scoffed in print at the possibility of the military defeat of the Tigers while the war was a year or two (and in one case, a few months away) from being won!
I for one am glad that as far back as 1992, in an extended interview with DP Sivaram (Taraki) in the Northeastern Herald of which he was the editor, I argued, as a Realist, not merely for the desirability but also the feasibility of the military defeat of the Tigers by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Chandrika, Ranil and Mangala remained the patrons of the cosmopolitan liberal caucus throughout that disgraceful decade (1995-2005) of appeasement. And with Yahapalana, the good old ‘New Constitution’ project was back on track!
The strong revival of the Mahinda-led Opposition, the easy retention by him of most of the SLFP support base, the effective nationalist-populist countervailing force that the MR-led JO constituted, the socially delegitimizing bond scam on Ranil’s watch, the fissures in the bipartisan coalition, the dissent from and within the Sirisena SLFP, the balancing act by President Sirisena and his parametric constraints on the implementation of the globalist Geneva resolution and the new Constitution, the irruption of the Sinhala New Right, the rise of a possible ‘Putinist/Erdoganist’ Gotabaya candidacy, the global advance and local dependence on China, the shattering by the Syria-Iran-Russia bloc of the liberal ‘humanitarian’ interventionist ‘regime change’ strategy, and the current Sri Lankan political and economic crisis itself, were not foreseen or even foreseeable by the neoliberals, given their attitudinal blinkers, ideological myopia and arrogant affectations, atop their intellectual superficiality and analytical vacuity.
That cluster of factors apart, there is another reason for their gross errors and serial failures; for the Lankan liberal cosmopolitan intelligentsia to be “either fools or knaves”. The designers of the reforms were either from overseas, or lived overseas as Sri Lankan expatriates, or were producing for an export market rather than a domestic market because their funding and their aspirations lay in the West. The reform packages were either imports or exports. They were not nationally produced with a comparative global study of best practices, for the purpose of capturing the domestic mass market, so to speak. Worse still, the liberal-globalist policy intellectuals were a mercenary intelligentsia! This accounts for the (pro-Norwegian) appeasement of the LTTE agenda, the neoliberal economic policies, pro-federal Constitutional change, and the ghastly Geneva accountability resolutions of 2015 and 2017.
With the present electoral trends, however parabolic, about to repeat the outcomes of 1956, 1970, 2005 and 2010, ending in a great Bonfire of the Vanities in 2020, perhaps the civil society cosmopolitan liberals should emulate their Northern cousins and hold their own ‘Great Losers Day’ from 2018 onwards. After 2020, it might have to be a strictly expatriate affair though.