By Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake –
South Asia’s Arab Spring has arrived amid energy wars and slow tectonic shifts in power and wealth eastward to Asia and the Indian Ocean Region. This has been hastened by the new Cold War proxy-war in Ukraine, US-led sanctions on energy-rich Russia and a refugee crisis in Europe.
Two regime change operations amid staged protests have transpired within a month in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan known for his courage on an off the cricket pitch was removed on April 9:. He accused Washington of orchestrating his ouster on the heels of his visit to Moscow.
Exactly a month later in Sri Lanka on Monday May 9, as the Central Bank commenced talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for a ‘bailout’ a regime change operation was launched in the strategically located Indian Ocean island perpetually in the cross-hairs of big power rivalry. The stage had been set by 6 weeks of peaceful protests at Galle Face, which tipped into coordinated violence the same day.
As talks with the IMF commenced hitherto peaceful demonstrators, some who even held “pro-IMF posters” were inexplicably attacked and violence spiraled against ruling party politicians resulting in a mass resignation of the Cabinet. The violence was a prelude to curfew, lockdowns and the swift installation of a pro-Washington Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. The timing of events was remarkable.
There was instant approval by US Ambassador Julie Chung who said: “Ranil Wickremesinghe’s appointment and the quick formation of an inclusive government are first steps in addressing the crisis and promoting stability. We encourage meaningful progress at the IMF and long term solutions that meet the needs of all Sri Lanka.” A new regime that the “IMF could ‘vibe with’ was being set up as noted by senior journalist Saeed Naqvi.
One of South Asia’s wealthier countries, Sri Lanka is caught like Greece and Lebanon in an International Sovereign Bond (ISB) debt trap. The island faces the usual cycle of currency depreciation against the US dollar, with clearly coordinated trade and supply chain disruptions in every sector resulting in fuel and food scarcities and along with cyber hacks and protests.
Simultaneously, as the Lankan rupee depreciates steeply against the US dollar, there have been calls to de-dollarize and end the reign of the ‘exorbitantly privileged” Petrodollar, and source Sri Lanka’s petrol, diesel gas, jet fuel and other energy requirements at discount prices from Russia, as India is already doing.
Such energy policy alternatives however would be stymied by the proposed privatization and IMF ‘firesale” of energy assets and infrastructure (such as the Yugadanavi power plant), which would further compromise Sri Lanka’s Energy Security at a time of global energy wars.
Mask of Democracy and Full Spectrum Dominance
Questions arise about the legitimacy of Washington’s Manchurian Candidate for the post of Prime Minister in Sri Lanka at this time. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), the equivalent of the GOP, was decimated in the last elections and he did not win a single seat. He was sworn in on May while the military patrolled the streets and citizens were under curfew.
To what extent are democracy, society and economy gamed and controlled by external actors when a national parliament is convened via Zoom while citizens are locked down with military on the streets in an era of heightened Disinformation Playbook narratives, artificial intelligence, data wipes, and cyber war globally and locally?
Leaderless protestors at ‘Gota Go Gama’ were also organized anonymously via social media platforms and networks like Facebook (META) and WhatsApp chats via remote servers with invisible bots on the English-language based internet. Who or which intel agents and agencies backed and provided the digital intelligence? After all, Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen not so long ago had also revealed how social media were used to de-stabilize countries such as Myanmar and Ethiopia by spreading disinformation and hate and fueling ‘protests’ that also gamed election and other outcomes. On the ground the activities in Galle Face Green were organized by foreign funded local Non-Government Organizations NGOs mobilizing genuine grievances.
As protests continued a propaganda operation to continue economically debilitating lockdowns and supply chain disruptions was staged on Vesak Poya holiday: Several Indian news channels suddenly resurrected the Liberation Tigers (LTTE) and claimed that they planned attacks, just like the mysterious Islamic State (ISIS) claimed Easter Sunday attacks of 2019. Simultaneously, NDTV talked up a staged “refugee crisis” to distract from the main plot.
“There can be no better candidate for such abject surrender to Washington than someone as politically weak as RW” noted Delhi-based Naqvi. Wickremesinghe has always been supportive of an American presence in Sri Lanka and was promoting the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact and Status of Forces Agreement when he was fired by former President Srisena.
But can the mask of democracy be sustained and for how long? Is this not a façade of democracy promoted by external actors – a new pro-western Prime Minister who has no moral legitimacy sworn to deliver debt trapped Sri Lanka into the IMF’s and Washington’s arms?
Are these masks of and for democracy in Sri Lanka and Pakistan sustainable? The outcome of talks with the IMF including the proposed “firesale” of land, transport, energy and telecom assets in Sri Lanka have been hidden from scrutiny of the citizens of this strategic Indian Ocean island, kept distracted with food, fuel and energy shortages.
Is Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD), of the strategic island nation, a spaghetti junction of Undersea Data Cable (UDC) routes that keep the Indian Ocean and global financial system going, the endgame?
Meanwhile, regional hegemon and junior partner, India seems to be watching and waiting as her neighbourhood is destabilized and impoverished, seemingly benefiting from Washington’s “Chaos strategy” in South Asia– to counter Chinese investment and development projects such as the Belt and Road initiative.
The same chaos strategy was visible in NATO’s exit from Afghanistan with the promise of Over the Horizon (OTH) engagement via remote servers and cyber and drone operations in that country.
India’s short term gains on China will however be long-term collective regional loss since no country can develop when its neighbourhood is in chaos. In the long term, the entire South Asia region, which is a development laggard in Asia relative to Southeast and West Asia has suffered another setback due to Washington’s new Cold War.
Wouldn’t it be in India’s own self-interest to shelve its differences for awhile and work with fellow Asian giant, China, to develop the South Asian region together?
Cold War dynamics in South Asia
Prior to the regime change operation in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in April, western pressure had mounted with almost simultaneous visits from various British, European and US emissaries who cautioned and questioned Delhi’s historic and close ties with Moscow.
Simultaneously, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had visited Russia on a pre-planned trip a few weeks earlier, was subject to a “no confidence” motion. Khan pointed the finger at the United States as the foreign power behind events in Islamabad and a Regime Change operation by buying politicians and political parties.
Prime Minister Khan showed material evidence of the ‘foreign conspiracy’ and named Assistant Secretary of State for south and central Asian affairs Donald Lu. A letter from Washington dated one day before the No Confidence was stated, “Pakistan would be forgiven if Imran Khan lost the No Confidence motion!” Washington had foreknowledge of events in Islamabad.
Ironically, Prime Minister Khan, who saved Pakistan’s economy from the economic destruction that almost two years of unnecessary WHO-recommended Covid-19 lockdowns caused in Sri Lanka and protected the Pakistani people and economy by refusing to lockdown Pakistanis, stating that the resulting poverty would kill more people than the lab-made virus, has been accused of economic miss-management even though he was proved right.
The World Bank had lauded Prime Minister Khan’s handling of the Covid “Panicdemic’ in Pakistan. Imran Khan’s friendship with China and the recent visit to Moscow and Mr Putin, he noted, had irked Washington and was the reason that Pakistan was targeted. Washington, however, has been much softer on its Indian Quadrilateral Group QUAD partner’s friendship with Russia. There may yet be a new Asian confluence with China, India and Pakistan all refusing to follow NATO condemnation of Moscow following the NATO debacle in Afghanistan last year.
Geopolitics and IMF as Deus ex Machina
Remarkably, the Government, the Opposition, and even some protestors see the IMF as a sort of ‘Deus ex machina” solution to the crisis triggered by an apparent dollar shortage after rating agencies downgraded the island in concert last year, making it difficult for the government to roll over the 7 billion debts to be paid this year owed primarily to Sovereign Bond traders.
“Sri Lanka’s Creditors are mostly based in the USA” noted senior economist Dr. Dushni Weerakoon of the Institute for Policy studies. The island’s debt to GDP ratio is around 110 per cent, partly due to economic mismanagement, including lost tax revenue, and the Covid lockdown and injection policy debacle. But then Japan’s Debt to GDP ratio is over 200 per cent! Compared to America’s 20 trillion debt, Sri Lanka’s debt is around 67 billion.
Is the currency steeply depreciated as a precursor to IMF negotiation in March because of an apparent dollar shortage to clear goods and fuel from the targeted port staged? The saucy island dared to refuse the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in 2019. The economic crisis has escalated to default, and an IMF bailout now appears inevitable.
The island was repeatedly downgraded by Rating agencies and could not roll over its debt. The Euro-American Financial system comprises rating agencies, sovereign bond traders and, of course, the Washington Consensus and OECD or Paris Club.
To be fair the IMF has never pretended that it cares about poor people or inequality but instead prefers to impose austerity measures on the ordinary people which should be imposed on luxury-living politicians and business elites with, for and by which the IMF works. Is the IMF a Fake Solution offered by ALL—who are bought for a unity National Government?
Unlike Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, known for his courage and integrity on and off the cricket field, the hybrid American-Sri Lanka Rajapaksa Regime would not point the finger at the external factors behind Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter attacks, the blow to the tourism-dependent economy followed by lockdowns and travel warning and the compounding economic debacle of the past three years.
Lockdowns to devastate an Economy?
Keeping hapless citizens in economically debilitating curfews and lockdowns seem to be President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s and his foreign advises’ preferred response to the unexpected.
For the past four years, since the mysterious 2019 Easter Sunday Islamic State (ISIS), claimed attacks that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), later farcically concluded were Master-minded by an internet bot named “Sonic Sonic” in Malaysia, there have been economically-devastating Lockdowns in the months of March, April and May, the annual religious festivals season in this multi-religious land.
The Easter curfew were followed in 2020 and 2021 with militarized Covid Lockdowns recommended by the WHO that devastated economy, society and democracy. There were also mysterious cyber hacks of data on the Government Cloud and maritime trade and supply chain disruptions, including the burning and sinking of ships MV Pearl and MT Diamond.
This year in the week that Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan faced a No-Confidence motion, Sri Lanka saw Arab Spring style’ protests unfold against former US citizen President Gotabaya and the Rajapaksa brothers’ regime, given the soaring cost of living, fuel and food shortages due to a much-hyped dollar shortage in the country and downgrades by rating agencies.
A few weeks earlier, the Sri Lankan rupee was crashed, having lost 70 per cent of its value in a year against the exorbitantly privileged dollar—a precursor to an International Monitory Fund (IMF), “bailout” or is it “bail-in” negotiations in Washington DC?
Although Sri Lanka is one of South Asia’s wealthiest countries with high social and Human development indicators in REAL TERMS, a coordinated food, fuel and electricity crisis materialized after the rupee crash. There were long queues at petrol sheds and gas shops.
But the strategic island’s crisis may be more about Geopolitics and less about Economics. Since 2019 staged Easter Sunday attacks on Tourist hotels and the economy using religion as a smokescreen and the country’s rejection of America’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, this strategically located island amid Indian Ocean Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC), appears to have been subject to a form of hybrid ECONOMIC and TRADE WAR with Supply Chain disruption and cyber hacking of Data.
Four years of hybrid economic and trade war
Retrospectively, the mysterious Islamic State (ISIS) claimed Easter Sunday attacks on coastal Hotels and the Tourism dependent economy in 2019, ten years after the defeat of the LTTE and the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka, may be seen to herald the onset of hybrid Economic War in Sri Lanka. The attacks used religion as a cover to hit the tourism-dependent economy and Chinese investments including the Shangri_La Hotel where the leader Zharan and another suicide bomber perished, signaling this was the most crucial target.
The US FBI which removed the cell phones Easter attackers claiming to be ‘helping’ with the investigations and cover-up subsequently claimed that the attacks were master-minded by an internet BOT named “Sonic-Sonic!
The hybrid war style Easter 2019 attacks were followed by two years of Covid-19 biowar and fear narratives and economically destructive Lockdowns in 2020, 2021. There was massive health sector expenditure (almost 38 per cent of the budget) and 16 million useless and expensive Pfizer booster injections by Basil Rajapaksa, Head of the Covid Task Force.
At this time while the narrative is that there are no funds to purchase essential drugs, the 4th Pfizer booster injection is on offer although Covid has disappeared! All health institutions were also captured through Digital Colonialism by Big Pharmaceutical industry and external actors promoting the Covid narrative and LOCKDOWNS (Great Reset after Event 201).
Energy Security compromised on UN climate catastrophe narrative
The crisis was compounded during Covid lockdowns in 2021 by Agriculture and Energy policies that appeared to follow the UN “climate catastrophe” narrative. Farmers were instructed to switch overnight to organic fertilizer without a transition plan. The result was fertilizer shortages, harvest failure and farmer’s livelihoods decimated. But President Rajapaksa was awarded a prize at the UN for his ‘organic fertilizer’ policy!
So too the island’s Energy security was compromised during Covid lockdowns following the United Nation’s climate catastrophe narrative although Sri Lanka’s per capita carbon emissions are minute comparted to most countries in the world.
There was a rush to convert power plants to LNG and focus on renewables, without a phased transition plan, also given high levels of corruption in energy sector and oversight institutions like the Ceylon Electricity Board and Public Utilities Commission PUCSL. Meanwhile, the Yugadhanvi power plant at Kerawelapitiya was sold to an American company- further compromising national energy security during an energy crisis! The claim was that the answer to corruption in State owned enterprises (SOE) in privatization and sale of assets to foreign companies. Is this not a case of throwing a baby out with the bathwater?!
For the past four years then a pattern has emerged: Every March-April, a new round of destabilization and economically, socially and democracy debilitating lockdowns starts and since 2019, Sri Lankan citizens have been routinely put in LOCKDOWNS and CURFEWS. Meanwhile, foreign navies stage war games off the island’s coasts of this strategic island, as was the case with the Malabar War games that beached and killed pilot whales while Lankans were in lockdown in 2020.
Has the island been systematically targeted because it sits on the Indian Ocean Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC), vital to securing America’s “Free and Open Indo Pacific” after refusing the MCC compact and SOFA? Geography is history in this strategic island in the Indian Ocean. Similarly, Pakistan was targeted for regime change after Imran Khan’s visit to Russia.
Former US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice G. Wells, once referred to Sri Lanka as a “valuable piece of real estate” and the island appears to be vital for maintaining America’s “Free and Open Indo Pacific”.
So too, the Sinhala Diaspora seems to have been Weaponized: Basil Rajapaksa, brother of the President and Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Disaster in Sri Lanka, is a US Citizen. Governance in Sri Lanka for the past three years has been a family affair of the hybrid American-Sri Lankan Rajapaksa family. Basil Rajapaksa was set to fly to Washington to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after a staged parliamentary debate on April 8 but was later ditched as a liability.
Lawfare: Solutions when conspiracy theories come true
We live in a post-Covid world when conspiracy theories increasingly seem to come true. In a landmark decision the Supreme Court of India ruled last week, that ‘no one could be forced to be vaccinated’ and that that there was NO data to show more risk from unvaccinated persons than vaccinated individuals. This begs the question why and millions being spent on Covid injections and boosters?
At this time Protests may be useless without creative alternatives to the proffered IMF “solution” requiring foreign legal firms to take over Sri Lanka’s economic negotiations.
Strategic Sri Lanka may need to look to look east, beyond India for help and development at this time of national humiliation and develop a strategy to de-dollarize and trade in a basket of currencies. It may consider an independent Economic, Trade, Energy and Foreign Policy and source its oil, gas, and other energy needs from Russia at discount prices like India is doing.
Going to the IMF and its aid conditionalities means that Sri Lanka loses policy autonomy and sovereignty and is rendered unable to have an INDEPENDENT FOREIGN, ECONOMIC, TRADE or ENERGY policy that serves the interest of her citizens.
Sri Lanka seems to be subject also to the phenomenon of lawfare as part of a Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD) remote Over the Horizon (OTH) operation. As documented in the regime change operation against Brazil’s leftist President Lula by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), lawfare has been identified as the process whereby a country’s legal system is subverted and weaponized against justice.
There is a pattern of fundamental rights cases against government actions being dismissed while the people are distracted with food and fuel shortages and or Covid-19 lockdowns. Petitions that have been refused leave to proceed sometime by five-judge benches include challenges to the sale of the Kerawelapitiya Yugadhanavi Power plant at this time of Energy Crisis to a US company name New Fortress in a midnight deal by the President, the Central Bank Bond scam cases, the cases challenging the Covid-19 mass injections Gazette of 2022 which would impose digital vaccine certificates and discriminate those who are not injected from public places under a Fake Health Emergency etc. that would also enable surveillance, stop crowds and protest, stymie democracy and promote digital colonialism and control of citizens.
Are the citizens of strategic Sri Lanka being targeted in an Over the Horizon (OTH) Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD) operation for control, colonization and occupation as Cold War returns to South Asia with America’s ominous Pivot to the Indian Ocean region?
[IDN-InDepthNews – 04 April 2022]
Photo: A Sri Lanka protestor. Source: DAWN
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Dinuk / May 16, 2022
When all systems crash at the same time – food, fuel, meds supply chains, you know that the American Cyborg Dr. Octopus is squeezing and strangling you!
Time for the Araglaya folks to protest Curfews and Lockdowns and come up with an alternative to Washington’s IMF agenda!
old codger / May 16, 2022
“On the ground the activities in Galle Face Green were organized by foreign funded local Non-Government Organizations NGOs mobilizing genuine grievances.”
And you still want :”Time for the Araglaya folks to protest Curfews and Lockdowns and come up with an alternative to Washington’s IMF agenda!”
Never heard of consistency, have you?
VanguardII / May 17, 2022
Dr. Darini, thank you for an erudite and cogent argument.
People can’t fight an enemy they cannot see. Or maybe they have sided with the enemy. It has happened before, although hard to believe.
Anyone is free to look at the events that have transpired so far – the American Military agreements, or attempts towards, the ‘pivot to Asia’, the blessings of the Americans on the Sirisena – Wickramasinghe government – when, according to them, ‘democracy returned’. They have not told us when democracy left us for the last time, but we have the laughable statements by the United States being concerned about ‘military deployment’, the irony is just lost.
The best we can hope for is that people get educated, and not by reading books at Galle Face or SAITM, but realize what is going on.
Unfortunately patriotism or even civic duty cannot be taught, but it can be bought, with IMF – funded luxury sprees or promises of would be puppeteers. Hopefully the few left will be able to defend.
SJ / May 16, 2022
“…India seems to be watching and waiting as her neighbourhood is destabilized and impoverished, seemingly benefiting from Washington’s “Chaos strategy” in South Asia– to counter Chinese investment and development projects such as the Belt and Road initiative.
“India’s short term gains on China will however be long-term collective regional loss (etc.)
“Wouldn’t it be in India’s own self-interest to shelve its differences for awhile and work with fellow Asian giant, China, to develop the South Asian region together?”
The last point is very valuable.
When China started on its so-called ‘String of Pearls” project linking India Ocean harbours, the campaign was that it was a plan to “encircle” India. The purpose was to counter potential US naval blockades that could affect Chinese commercial shipping. The Chinese some years later thought of economically benefitting from their investment in harbours awaiting a later day US blockade ba using them for the Marine Silk Road.
SJ / May 16, 2022
The Chinese would be absolutely daft to launch a naval strategy to hurt India. But the anti-China lobby in India thrives on the Chinese naval threat. China has friendly neighbours to the north, east and west of India. It would seek to build military bases there if the plan is to “invade” India. Even if it conquers Sri Lanka, India is too well placed to defend itself with a strong navy to confront China which will require support from SE Asian countries even to send naval troops to this island.
By projecting the Indian Ocean contest ac China v. India instead of as US v. China, which is the case the US has succeeded in preventing India joining collective projects in the region like B&R and RCEP (signed by 15 countries including India’s Quad partners Australia and Japan).
Dislodging China from Hambanota or Colombo is hard, and China will not invite trouble by making a military presence in either.
India has more to worry from the US.
It may be learning a few lessons from attempts to wreck Indo-Russian ties whereby India will be totally isolated in Asia and rely on faraway US, Japan and Australia for support.
Sriram / May 16, 2022
The Current Indian Government is not naïve to trust the Chinese. Since the turn of the century the Chinese have illegally occupied more than 40,000 Sq. Kms of Indian territory. China is clear that it wants to replace USA as the Superpower in a unipolar world and the only space for India is to act as a vassal state. You just cant go to bed with the dragon. And help me understand why China has not swiftly stepped in to help either Sri Lanka or Pakistan, both of whom do not have an option expect the IMF (USA if you may like). Spending about USD 50bn is small change for China and that will effectively keep the two countries out of IMF’s reach. Pray what are the Chinese waiting for?
SJ / May 18, 2022
Is it not India that holds on to territory occupied illegally by its conqueror by claiming succession?
Read essays by AG Noorani in Frontline 20 years ago. They show who made false claims, falsified maps and snubbed requests to renegotiate borders.
India stole half of Kashmir (Pakistan the other), seized Naga and Manipur territory, annexed Sikkim, and clings to Chinese territory in Arunachal Pradesh.
It bullies Nepal, dominates Bhutan, sent troops to Sri Lanka and got humiliated by rebels.
As for trust, anything is safer than trusting the US. India can learn it the hard way.
India while losing out by rejecting economic cooperation plans, joins a US-led military grouping to target China, hardly realising that Quad will to b*****all if India fights China.
B&R and RCEP are winners regardless India’s views.
Had China bailed out SL you will scream “Debt Trap”.
Since mid-2021 SL government is running after the US and India and getting cheated out in the process.
You charge that China is not coming to the rescue. Where has China bailed out any country out of its financial mess up? And why should it?
Its development assistance projects have mostly yielded good results.
Dinuk / May 17, 2022
Yes indeed, the US is far more dangerous than China! Ameica is very good at starting wars in Other Continents distant places and selling weapons!
Ukraine is a good example of how the US bleeds Europe and Russia simultaneous, as it has done the middle east and Easter Asia for decades, not to mention Africa with the ISIS and Islamic State narratives with France too. US bleeds friends and foes alike while promoting FAKE Democracy and Human Rights.
The US is by far the biggest military industrial complex in the world. Check the Stockhold Peace Institute (SPRI) Report
US is more dangerous than China also because of its control of the English Language internet and fake democracy and Human Rights !
David Vines’s book: “The United States of War:” tells this story.
Mallaiyuran / May 17, 2022
The Chinese would be absolutely daft to launch a naval strategy to hurt India.
Author’s theories suggesting that they are belittling or sneering at Dr. Communist Sadampi’s and Dr. Vet’s, combined! Anyway, this is your home ground. Only you and me are here. In this game, Deva’s steroids are not banned, but encouraged. Keep blasting your lonely sixers. If Ranil government not importing soap, you can use Panagkali to wash the sarong! By the way did you ever have time to read your Finlandization of Ukraine to save Putin, whom you swore will not launch war, but president Biden has beaten you and made President Putin go for it and take on the buttock. Some farmers husk chaffs too, not because there is any commercial value, but because the very little amount of seed obtained from chaffs give some sort of captivating taste that makes endearing food when used for Pitta, Idiyappam & Appam (But if they happen to be in cooked rice, it will spoil the texture of the rice. Did UOJ benefited anything from you for remitting the penalty for their mistake of hiring you?
SJ / May 18, 2022
Is it too early for the effect if the illegal stuff to wear out?
Take a break– Have a KitKat as the advertisement used to say.
Pundit / May 17, 2022
A real eye opener, brilliant .