22 September, 2020

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Modi – Rajapaksa(s) Bonding & Bothering    

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Whether it is because of the 19th Amendment or not, India has been treated to two state visits within three months from its utmost isle to the south. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa paid the first visit last year soon after his election, accepting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special invitation. Not to be outdone, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has just concluded his first Prime Ministerial visit to Delhi. The visits and the talks were given extensive coverage in the Indian media. The presidential visit last year was a casual victory lap and the new President was quite informal even on formal occasions. 

The PM’s visit was true to usual form and tagged along a retinue comprising his second son (who took a furlough from the Navy) and political sidekicks including a rather roguish MP. The retinue provided good fodder for Colombo’s social media. More seriously, the talks between the two Prime Ministers and their statements gave enough clues about the different problems and priorities facing the two governments. On the Tamil question, the two leaders kept to their respective scripts. Modi struck a note of harmony on terrorism, which for the BJP government is the code word for anything Muslim.

The two newly elected governments in both countries are facing troubled economies. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s second budget delivered on February 1, is the country’s longest budget in history. Yet, it has been called a historic non budget, lacking in foresight and boldness when the economy is facing its worst troubles in decades. The country is losing jobs, its revenues are falling, the economic growth is slow and the government’s main response is to generate cash by selling assets. But even the project of disinvestment is too ambitious to meet its targets, say the critics. The general sense is that the government is neglecting the economy while vigorously driving the BJP Hindutva agenda in general, and particularly over Kashmir autonomy and Muslim citizenship anywhere in India. Modi’s second term is running into problems that were cleverly avoided during the first term. 

If there is a lesson from Modi’s second term government for Sri Lanka’s first term President, it would be to avoid the folly of ignoring the economy for other distractions. After winning a resounding second term national election victory, Modi and the BJP are having their knuckles rapped at the state and union territory level elections. The latest lesson came in the Delhi Legislative Assembly election on February 8, where the reigning Aam Aadmi (Common Man’s) Party maintained its stranglehold, winning 62 of the 70 assembly seats. It was a stunning defeat for the BJP which reportedly unleashed an unprecedented communal and chauvinistic campaign to capture power in the politically symbolic Delhi union territory.   

In Sri Lanka, the distraction will likely take the form of yet another campaign for constitutional changes, but this time to go beyond the reaches of the JRJ constitution and to dismantle whatever checks and balances that were introduced by the 17th and 19th Amendments. Sri Lanka’s constitutional changes in the 1970s were spearheaded by extraordinary leaders like Colvin R de Silva and JR Jayewardene for extraordinary historic reasons – first to sever the island’s constitutional links with the British monarch; and immediately after to pivot, albeit ill advisedly, from a parliamentary system to a presidential system. Now, constitutional charlatans are coming out of the woodwork to argue for a new constitution to enable the President to fire the IGP! That is the gist of yesterday’s news story headlines. Quite a distraction not only from the economy, but also from the fallouts of corruption.         

Regardless, Sri Lanka’s economic priority has suddenly become immediate and urgent. Hence, Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s plea with the Indian government for a moratorium on debt payment. A similar pitch is to be made to China even as that behemoth is reeling under the deadly coronavirus. The Rajapaksa government is trying to dig itself out of the hole it quite unnecessarily created by killing some of the tax geese based on voodoo economic wisdom. And the opposition warning shot has been fired not by anyone in the official UNP, but by Champika Ranawaka, the former government minister and the new government’s number one political enemy.

According to a reported speech in Thalawatugoda last Sunday by Mr. Ranawaka, the government has caused great confusion within government agencies and businesses by disrupting well established avenues for collecting taxes. Businesses are not sure whether or not they have to pay VAT anymore. Government finances are depleting without the traditional tax revenues. And Ranawaka is alleging that the government “cannot pay the pensions, overtime payments and Rs. 1,500 increment given to professionals”. He went on to assert, “this country could not be taken forward by leaders without any knowledge of economics and financial management.” That is exactly what the SLPP folks said about the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government during the November presidential election. So, one side is not very different from the other. And the people are stuck with choosing one or the other.

Revivals and Rejections

Different media outlets in India highlighted different aspects of Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s visit and talks in Delhi. There seem to be expectations to revive some of the bilateral and trilateral initiatives involving the previous Rajapaksa regime (2010-2014). There is renewed interest in ‘reviving’ NSA-level (National Security Advisers) discussions between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives over defence ties and counter-terrorism co-ordinations. Bilaterally, Sri Lanka is looking to obtain further financing from India for a nationwide housing project, investment in an LNG port, and a joint Indo-Japanese bid for an oil terminal in Colombo. Apparently ‘rejected’ are the oil projects in Tincomalee and the Mattala airport expansion that were part of a 2017 MOU signed by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

On the Tamil question, Prime Minister Modi revived the old script while Prime Minister Rajapaksa offered the old rejection. Mr. Modi said, “I am confident that the Government of Sri Lanka will realise the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and respect within a united Sri Lanka. For this, it will be necessary to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.” For his part, in a subsequent interview to The Hindu, Prime Minister Rajapaksa would give “no firm commitment on the way forward for the 13th amendment” and “ruled out any resolution that was not acceptable to the ‘majority community’ of Sri Lanka.” 

The Sri Lankan government’s position is to hold provincial council elections after the parliamentary elections are completed in April, and “engage with whomever the Tamil population chooses.” Mr. Rajapaksa told The Hindu, “We want to go forward, but we need to have someone to discuss, who can take responsibility for the [Tamil] areas. So, the best thing is to hold elections, and then ask for their representatives to come and discuss the future with us.”

The two governments are finding a new common ground in enhancing security co-operation and intelligence sharing, especially in the wake of “the ISIS-inspired Easter Sunday terror attacks last year.” There is also agreement to hold a meeting with the Maldivian government “to re-operationalise a security cooperation trilateral arrangement amongst them.” It is remarkable that the BJP government is not putting up its Muslim firewall in dealing with the Maldives. Interestingly, at the same time, the Indian government is reportedly cultivating India’s Buddhist neighbours, hosting President Win Myint of Myanmar, another neighbouring Buddhist country. Mr. Myint will be visiting India before the end of February. 

Myanmar has its own internal Muslim problem involving the hapless Rohingyas. It was hauled up before the International Court of Justice in January this year, and was ordered “to prevent genocidal violence against its Rohingya Muslim minority and preserve evidence of past attacks.”  And the world Muslim problem took another turn with the new Trump deal-of-the-century for the Middle East that President Trump pompously announced, on January 28, at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Trump deal is the outcome of a total and utter sell out of the Palestinians by the regimes of the entire Sunni Arab world. There are lessons for Sri Lanka from the twists and turns of developments in the Middle East over the last 72 years, as well as the current Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar, and the BJP’s anti-Muslim politics in India. 

But there is little time for Sri Lanka’s political leaders to learn anything from anywhere before they wade into the next parliamentary. There is even less time for anyone to teach anything to any of them. We can expect old rhetoric to be revived and reasserted in the north and in the south. It would be a fruitless exercise that may not even move the needle in the electo-meter one way or the other. People already have their premeditated reasons to vote for one party or another among the multiple contenders. Equally, as well, the political leaders have their own pre-meditated positions on everything which they will insist on before and after the elections, regardless of the people’s verdict. 

It has been said recently that Sri Lanka is the only country where an elected President cannot fire the IGP. That is a lawyer’s brief and not a political statement, or constitutional wisdom. What needs to be said politically, however, is that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where you need not one but two national elections, and that too one after the other, to determine who actually is in government. In between elections, there is only room for caretakers. The unnecessary stalemate is the result of marrying two different political systems, that JR Jayewardene happily brokered, and the inability of all of his successors to consummate the marriage after the ceremonies. And it so happens, that in India and Myanmar, the presidents are elected not directly by the people but through electoral colleges comprising the people’s elected representatives. And the system works. It is all too late, once again, for Sri Lanka.    

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Latest comments

  • 6
    17

    The two nationalists have something in common, they both looked the other way when Muslims were being attacked and killed, the situation in India worse though. Modi’s policies are basically racist, and presently thousands of Indian citizens, from all religions, are protesting them. Modi’s nationalist party and his hard line RSS followers have taken over the country, and their economy is not doing great. Muslims are being killed for being near, or “suspected” of eating beef inside their homes, and cow vigilantes are roaming the county, killing Muslims in mobs, with Modi doing nothing, and seems indifferent to the crimes. We have to ask ourself if we want to end up like India, having unrest, ethnic violence, and have racist laws,, or if we want to take the higher road, and look at other multi-religious nations that have unity, peace, and are prospering, and emulate them. Being a good neighbor is one thing, but making deals with the devil, is another.

    • 0
      4

      Correction: “we have to ask ourselves”….

    • 12
      2

      @Manel,,

      You are technically correct although you exaggerate. “Muslims are being killed… of eating beef in their homes.” Perhaps one or two in a high profile but disgraceful case. “Cow vigilantes are roaming the country, killing Muslims in mobs.” Yes, 27 or so beef traders murdered, disgraceful indeed, but place this in a context of 1,300 million people. More blacks are killed in America each year in police violence while Australia’s treatment of Aborigines is hardly edifying even if it does not get covered in the international media. And Sri Lanka? You say India is worse. 20,000 Sinhalese youth, almost all non-Govigama, killed in 1971; 60,000 Sinhala youth killed, almost all non-Govigama, in 1987-1989. Slightly less than a million Tamils estate workers of Indian origin disenfranchised in Sri Lanka in 1949. So let’s put things in perspective. And what about Hindus in Bangladesh? Their population was 22% in the 1951 census of Pakistan. In 2011, it had fallen to 8%, a case of “structural genocide”, as some claim.

      • 13
        0

        @Manel,

        You use the present tense. The events, you allude to happened three years ago. They are shameful nonetheless. But what about 14 to 16-year old Hindu, Christian and Sikh girls, barely pubescent, kidnapped in rural Sindh, forcibly converted to Islam and forcibly married off to much older, already married Muslim men? There’s a word for that. It’s rape. So let’s apportion blame in a balanced manner.

        • 0
          8

          Take your grievances up with Human Right Watch, and you are incorrect about the numbers.

          India: Vigilante ‘Cow Protection’ Groups Attack Minorities
          “The Indian government should prevent and prosecute mob violence by vigilante groups targeting minorities in the name of so-called cow protection, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

          The 104-page report, “Violent Cow Protection in India: Vigilante Groups Attack Minorities,” describes the use of communal rhetoric by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to spur a violent vigilante campaign against consumption of beef and those engaged in the cattle trade. Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people – including 36 Muslims – were killed in such attacks. Police often stalled prosecutions of the attackers, while several BJP politicians publicly justified the attacks.

          “Calls for cow protection may have started out as a way to attract Hindu votes, but it has transformed into a free pass for mobs to violently attack and kill minority group members,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Indian authorities should stop egging on or justifying these attacks, blaming victims, or protecting the culprits.”

          The report details 11 cases that resulted in the deaths of 14 people, and the government response, in four Indian states – Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand – selected because of their large numbers of reported mob attacks.”

          Here’s more in detail
          https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/18/india-vigilante-cow-protection-groups-attack-minorities

        • 0
          9

          So you justify the violence in India, by pointing to others to show that what happens in India is better? Isn’t India supposed to be better than it’s neighbors, at least according to Indian trolls?. As for rape, India is known, and notorious for rapes of little girls, and young women, by mostly Hindu men, and mass molestations, even in universities.

          “Seven years after the fatal gang-rape of Jyoti Singh on a bus in New Delhi horrified India and sparked nationwide protests, a crowd gathered last Monday to mark the anniversary of her attack. That same day, Dec. 16, a former lawmaker from India’s ruling party was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl.

          The dichotomy highlighted the plight of India’s women, who, despite the outrage after Singh’s rape and murder, still face unprecedented rates of sexual violence. “Nothing has changed for women at all,” says Asha Devi, Singh’s mother, who was at Monday’s gathering with her husband to remember their 23-year-old daughter, who has become known as Nirbhaya, or “fearless.” “So many of these incidents are continuing to happen.” Time

          People in glass houses throwing stones.

          • 6
            0

            @ Manel,

            You haven’t addressed my core point – that no one speaks of minority rights in Pakistan, Bangladesh (and even Malaysia). The focus is on India (and China). This includes the western Human Rights industry that you cite, an insidious tool of western foreign policy.

            The statistics of rape are horrific and disgraceful. But you once again skirt my core point. In Pakistan, it’s directed at religious minorities.

            I urge you to be more balanced.

          • 4
            0

            Holy Mother of God, Manel! You are fixated on India. Statistics, statistics and damn statistics. You quote HRW and Time. You forgot Amnesty International, the BBC, the Economist, the New York Times and the Washington Post! None of these media houses/human rights busy bodies had anything to say when NATO destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yugoslavia and failed to do with Iran, Venezuela and Vietnam. Their venom is directed at Putin, Xi Jinping, Modi and Assad who beat them at their own game.

            • 0
              5

              That is what one calls “look over there” comment.
              I thought this article is about Modi, and his India.
              Busybodies eh? Or is it merely finding it hard to face the truth?

              • 3
                0

                @Manel,

                You have consistently refused to acknowledge my point that just as you flag minority rights in India, you should be concede that religious minority rights are flagrantly violated in Pakistan and Bangladesh. You have repeatedly sidestepped that point instead resorting to dismissing those who disagree as “trolls”. You have selectively cut and paste many excerpts of anti-India source material. Some lack credibility as I will explain in another comment below. You have never cut and paste excerpts on Sri Lanka. This makes me think that you are not interested in minority rights per se but only in bashing India.

      • 1
        10

        Tissaveerasingham,

        If you think, numbers can justify terror and the value of human lives, how about this?
        Yes, it’s disgraceful that 250 people killed Easter Sunday bombs, but place this in a context of the atomic bomb, Little-Boy dropped over Hiroshima that killed more than 100,000 people.

        • 8
          0

          I hear you, Abdul. My point is that the individuals only speak of minority rights in India while not discussing minority rights elsewhere in the region. It’s a veritable industry. That blows things out of proportion and demonizes one religion while leaving others out. India was partitioned on the basis of religion. There’s a legacy there.

          Let me change subject. Which Asian country east of the Suez [except for Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam, all three mono-ethnic and largely irreligious], has not had religious or racial violence.

        • 0
          4

          Good point Abdul Kader. They have to keep pointing to other nations to justify the violence against minorities in India, and deflect from the facts.

        • 5
          0

          Abdul Kader, don’t trivialize the debate with a far fetched analogy. No one is justifying terror here.

        • 0
          7

          Please note 8-10 pro Modi “commenters” or maybe trolls, disagreeing with facts stating what Human Rights Watch, Times, and others credible sources, reporting on Modi and his anti Muslim policies.

          Looks like the cyber troops in India, are inserting themselves into Sri Lankan businesses.
          “Cyber troops in India use a variety of strategies, tools and tactics to spread disinformation and manipulate public discussions about politics online. Disinformation often originates from non-credible news outlets or fake social media accounts, but disinformation is prolific in India as it also originates from mainstream media, politicians, and as part of official election strategies.”
          And
          “Today, around 300 workers use “strategies meant to inflame sectarian differences, malign the Muslim minority, and portray Modi as saviour of the Hindus” (Bloomberg, 2018). These attacks vary in their sophistication: from crudely automated criticism, such as #GoBackModi, to highly personalized attacks on individuals.”
          Research by Oxford University

          Be aware Sri Lanka, they operate their dirty business here too.

          • 5
            0

            @ Manel

            Don’t dismiss individuals who disagree with you as trolls. It’s a convenient, but shoddy way to skirt issues when one lacks a credible answer. You are very anti-Indian. I have never read you provide the same prolific information and vast data in support of minority rights in Sri Lanka. The highly selective and one-sided information you provide borders on disinformation. For example,
            the high profile rape case you highlighted took place under the Congress administration,
            not Modi. Individual have a right to disagree with you. The anti-India campaign you support is a dirty business

            • 0
              2

              I am anti Modi, and Modi’s racism for good reason.

            • 0
              3

              That was a study from Oxford university, and it describes exactly the comments here, and the justification of Modi’s racist policies.
              Go ahead and disagree, but make sure you can back it up with CREDIBLE sources, not propaganda from the Modi troll organization.

              • 5
                0

                You cite Human Rights Watch. Who funds it? Who staffs it? Which countries does it focus on and which countries does it sidestep?

                HRW has received funds from the billionaire maverick George Soros whom Mahathir accused of precipitating the East Asia financial crisis in 2008, who is widely seen as having caused a run on the Pound Sterling a few years ago and is denied entry into his native Hungary. HRW also obtained funds from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

                It is staffed by officials of the Clinton and Obama administrations.

                Nobel laureates have criticized it’s research methods and lack of verification. It’s numbers are incredulous. Its coverage of Latin America is aligned with US foreign policy. Focus on Venezuela but ignore Brazil, Argentina and Honduras.

                It’s reports on India need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But that would not stop you. All you do is bash India!

              • 4
                0

                You conveniently very selectively cite Oxford University. Let me refer you to two other Oxford University publications. i. Business and Politics in India published in 2019 that reviews the Modi administration in a nuanced manner; and ii. Changing Contexts and Shifting roles of the Indian state, also published in 2019 and looks at the Modi administration in a balanced manner. You cite very selectively only to bash India. You are not balanced. As a Sri Lankan Tamil with roots in Batticaloa, I am appalled at your hatred of India. Let’s focus on Sri Lanka, shall we? You come across as a cyber warrior who has weaponized the internet to attack India.

          • 2
            0

            The clip Manel pastes here includes the anti Narendra Modi gangs – # GoBackModi. All sides in India resort to misinformation and online abuse. Like Sri Lanka.

    • 10
      3

      I hace seen photos in which Ahmadinejah, when he was the Iranian President, was sleeping on the floor. I have seen photos of MODI, leader to. 1.16 billion people, as the PM of INdia, but going home in the town service train.
      In Sri Lanka those people are Emperors. Even the national list MP Ranjan Ramanayake boasts, if he goes to courts, the expense is Rs. 1000 need three cars and the ministerial security detail and he is carrying a pistol that can misfire anytime.
      Sri Lankan career politicians are living a disgusting life. In sinhala, kings parading naked. They know it, they are shameless and now behaves like criminals living in the open. Others are scared except voters say to themselves “we know that too. Come when the election comes”.
      See what kind of maneuvers they do when the election nears as new different political parties for the same 225. It is legalized criminal activity.
      My guess is it won’t go another 40 years (1977 – 1920). Tsunami is coming.

  • 3
    11

    They will fool Modi. Modi is a tea maker not a politician. So, MR can fool him quickly. It has been done since JR time.

  • 9
    1

    Bonding & Bothering It is about getting the best deal that Sri Lanka, upheld and holding of talks with India for the entrance strategy is actually more important to china sri lanka to mediate or consultations with Sri Lanka, to convince to push the China’s ‘Silk Road For US the silk Road has really turned into a major focal point and US has to mobilize resources to compete. US opens with a prayer and closes with past investigation.

  • 7
    0

    Manel, you are right with your comparison but India still seems to have some checks and balances, as Rajan mentioned. The recent state elections including Delhi has handed a blow to Modi Govt for its religion/division based policies..(Modi is now carrying only 35 % of the states )Where as we Lankans have no hope what so ever.

    • 0
      7

      Modi’s checks are for Hindus, and there is no balance when it comes to Muslims. His recent racist policy on denying Muslim refugees legality, while giving it to all others, which resulted in thousands of Indians, of all religions protesting, is the latest show of racism shown by him.

      • 5
        1

        Muslims in India voted for partition. Pakistan was created for India’s Muslims. India is under no obligation to provide Muslims from Pakistan refugee status.

  • 3
    3

    Under Modi’s second term India is in financial trouble and to deviate from the key issue hidden hands are instigating violence on the Muslim population.

    US has banned SS family but nothing on superiors giving orders. US A has bee summoned by the FM over this, while senior king is holding discussions with congresspersons and entertaining voters thoughts on MCC. Deceiving foolish voters continues.

  • 7
    4

    It says, Mahinda Rajapakse’s entourage to India was 69 parliamentarians including his son and new daughter in Law. and none of the politicians were of the CLEAN MEN He visited Jibuti TOO.

    • 2
      0

      Clean men like Gotha, Basil and now Weerathunga what a team of talents. They have all got Leprosy

  • 0
    4

    Why this Hindian Common Man’s Party made a clean sweep only in Delhi?.

    What about the other states which accommodate the rest of those e 300 Million Plus Two Dollars a Day Lot in Hindustan?.

    I thought Modi Party would get its ass kicked last time with so much Poverty there.

    This 300 Million must be kept in that Category as political strategy , both by the Congress and the Modi party as a guarantee for their success .
    Just like our Colonials and their sucker Parties did to the Sinhala inhabitants, denying them education by keeping them in poverty.

    Modi can’t ask money from China who are the only ones in the World who have it.
    Although he has been sucking up to America , Uncle Sam wouldn’t give him any even if they had any ..
    So what else can he do without selling the Hindian Assets to US Pension Funds to Equity Funds and Hedge Funds..
    Pension Funds will pay a premium, if Modi decides to sell the Taj Mahal. like our Dr Rani tried to do in Mihintale .
    =
    I lost interest after Mr Phillips quoted Mr Champaka as the Expert on our Srilankan Economy which has no problems in comparison to Modi’s Economy.

    Although Dr Rani and his crooked mates racked up another USD 6 Billion Loans in just 4 years with most of it going to Luxury Vehicles for Dr Rani’s Yahapalana record breaking 80 Minister Cabinet . And his ex Royal Mates Bank Accounts.

    Mr Champakan Ranawaka played a Big Part in that nasty Economic management .
    Also Mr Ranawaka forgot to stop his Defender even after hitting a Motor Cyclist although he was the driver .

    The Loan Book is still not a big deal when Prez Nandasena starts his Economic Development Strategy in earnest after the Election.

  • 1
    0

    Why was the son and Daughter in law taken on a Government delegation . The Navy officer was part of the delegation holding the rank he has .and of course chili guy, what contribution could he make ?This is food for thought for the New President and has to be rectified as soon as possible before you lose credibility

  • 4
    0

    Rajan

    There is no bonding. but yes there is a lot of Bothering from Modi. One is a Hindu the other one is a Racist Buddhist. There is a lot of STICKING & LICKING. MR has to STICK and LICK. Just to give you one example Gotha has been banned from going to Beiging at least for the time being until the finances are sorted out. Sinhala Lanka wont be allowed to borrow anymore from China and become over reliant to the detriment of India .

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