29 September, 2020

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Percy Mahendra And His Cintanaya – Response To Richmond Peiris

By Shanti Wijesinghe

Mr Richmond Peiris has made an important comment on the article “Percy Mahendra and his Cintanaya” (Colombo Telegraph, 17 November 2014). It deserves to be quoted in full:

Mahinda KapilawastuMost articles on this Web say that Mahinda Rajapaksa can not win the next PE but the prestigious Forbes investment Magazine published in USA, in its 30th October issue emphatically notes that President Mahinda Rajapaksa will win the January elections; the political stability has been cited as a reason to invest in Sri Lanka.

Giving Ten Reasons to Invest In Sri Lanka, a Forbes editorial states that from an investor’s point of view, the case for Sri Lanka is getting strong.

Sri Lanka has one of the best cases for an economy with the stars aligned in its favour,……..

I would like to know your comments.

Thanks

First of all, I wish to thank Mr Richmond Peiris for the reasonableness of his question, the spirit of inquiry in which he raises it, and not the least, his courteous manner.

My answer is a bit long. It is for that reason that I decided to make this a separate piece, which ensures it better exposure. Besides, I thought the answer is an opportunity to unravel a relatively unknown area of Rajapaksa rule, too important to be lost in a string of comments.

Instead of pursuing a principled foreign policy executed by trained foreign service professionals as was the case under all previous governments, the Rajapaksa regime has resorted to appointing kinsmen and cronies to diplomatic positions. Since such appointees are inept, the regime has resorted to hiring lobbying firms to conduct foreign policy, especially for purposes of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). The propaganda of these firms is part of the propaganda machine the regime has built as one of its arsenals in perpetrating its undemocratic, and immoral rule.

At the end of the war, the regime fantasized about FDI as the cornerstone of its programme of economic development. While publicly espousing a strong anti-western sentiment, it secretly lusted for western, especially American FDI. As usual, it got about the task of attracting FDI not the right way (i.e., by crafting a socio- economic environment hospitable to investment), but the wrong way, (i.e., by hiring lobbying firms to sell the idea to potential investors).

There is no public information on how these firms performed their contractual obligations, but we have enough clues in the periodic bulletins issues by some of the embassies in some of the major capitals of the world. These give glowing accounts of the idyllic suitability of the country as a place in invest. They also give us similar accounts of social gatherings, typically in the embassies, where prospective investors were wined and dined (at the expense of the citizens of Sri Lanka).

The regime seems to have little realized that investors are neither fools not romantics, and are not persuaded by false propaganda and empty rhetoric. “We have defeated terrorism” is excellent fodder for the Sinhala Buddhist supremacists, but does not cut ice for hardened businessmen. Rather, their decisions are based on hard facts of hospitability and profit. No investor is going risk investing his money in a banana republic that has no rule of law, and no independent judiciary.

It is telling that out of over 50 projects offered for the international business panel of the CHOGM, only two have attracted investors. While the propagandized objective of spending a massive sum of the country’s money to host the CHOGM was to attract investment, the outcome has been nothing but one more Rajapaksa tamasha at the expense of our labouring citizens.

In a story in The Hill dated October 23, 2014, reporter Megan R. Wilson gives us a picture of the hectic lobbying activities the Rajapaksa regime has launched in the US. While the focus in Wilson’s story is lobbying activity to ward off the UNHCR probe, it is clear that the broader purpose is to portray of overall perfection in all areas, especially the climate for FDI. Wilson starts by telling us that the government of Sri Lanka has hired its eighth lobbying firm for the year. The firm, named Levick, is subcontracted through Liberty International Group, a government affairs firm owned by former Republican Congressman (for Florida) Connie Mack.

Wilson quotes Mark Irion, the president of Levick, saying that his firm is contracted “to utilize communications supported advocacy to tell Sri Lanka’s amazing story of recovery after a decades long civil war against a brutal terrorist organization, as well as to assist the Central Bank in communicating opportunities for trade and investment between our two nations”.  Levick’s work will include “outreach to US media, opinion leaders and possibly US officials concerning issues of importance to the client, including assisting in establishing additional relations between the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the United States Government.” Let us remember that this is a regime that publicly slings mud at the US and the west in general, while secretly spending large sums of the country’s money to curry favour with the Americans. The phrase “utilize communications supported advocacy” is lobbyese for buying expensive TV advertising time.

According to Wilson “the contract with Liberty International Group — set to last from August 2014 to the end of next July — is worth $760,000. Levick is charging a monthly retainer of $60,000, according to the subcontract”. She further adds that “The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has hired six Washington firms since May, including R&R Partners, Madison Group and Beltway Government Strategies.

According to disclosure forms, says Wilson, the firms will lobby members of Congress and State Department officials “with the purpose of raising situational awareness of Sri Lanka and its strategic importance to the United States” and “[laying] the groundwork to promote Sri Lanka as a business and travel destination.” Among the firms Wilson lists are Majority Group, Patton Boggs, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Qorvis Communications, and Thompson Advisory Group. (Wilson’s piece can be found here ).

Jehan PereraDirector, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka  in his circular dated April 15, 2013 refers to this favourite activity of the regime: “The Sri Lankan government … has hired not one but two US companies that it believes are adept at public relations campaigning and are paying them to get the government’s message across.” From Wilson’s account, we know that the regime has hired not two but eight firms. Indeed the entire message of Wilson’s piece is the frenzy of what she calls “hiring up”.

It is against this broad background that we have to understand the claims of the Forbes magazine that Mr Richmond Peiris cites. The Forbes editorial’s rosy picture of the hospitability of Sri Lanka for FDI is derived not from any impartial evaluation of the ground reality of Sri Lanka, but from the propaganda of the lobbying firms, which in effect are paid agents of the Rajapaksa misrule.

It is true that the Forbes editorial quotes some Sri Lankan business professionals making extravagant claims for the economy, especially the performance of the Colombo Stock Market (CSM). But there has been plenty of public discussion on the manipulations of the CSM, and not particularly hushed talk about the need to have the blessings of the regime if one were to do well in business. One look at the editorial shows that it mentions the peace and tranquility after a brutal war, the political stability brought about by strong leadership, the large-scale infra-structure development, booming tourism and so forth. But this is standard government propaganda. In fact even the phraseology of the Forbes editorial at times smacks of regime language.

The Forbes writers seem to have talked only with those who are with the regime, for whom the environment is certainly hospitable. But for a rational economy to function on the basis of open and fair competition, the environment should be hospitable for all. Had the Forbes writers talked with an economist like Dr Harsha de Silva or a respected commentator like R.M.B. Senanayake, they would have been able to produce a more balanced account of the economy and prospects for investment in Sri Lanka. To take one economic example, infra-structure development, no mention is made of the fact the both the new harbor and the new air port are non-functional and a drain on the economy. To take one political example, no mention is made of the drastic reduction in the regime’s majority at the recent Uva provincial elections. Reading the editorial, the impression I got is that it is not unlikely that one or more of these lobbying firms have contacted the Forbes magazine, and had a hand in the editorial. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the fright which has overwhelmed the regime recently, caused by their virtual loss of the Uva election and the gathering unity and strength in the anti-regime forces, has made it give its lobbying firms a not too gentle nudge. (For the Forbes editorial, click here)

To the credit of the “robber barons”, they seem to exercise better judgment, and better common sense than the journalists of the Forbes magazine. But in defence of the Forbes magazine, we can understand them not devoting much time and effort over a small, insignificant, dictatorship wallowing in the political culture of the Middle Ages, when their readership’s interest and sympathies lie squarely in a community of nations that places value on modernity of thought and behaviour in both citizens and their leaders.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    The article is in response to a question posed following very positive claims made in a blue chip US financial journal. It is therefore not surprising that the negatives are given more prominence. The alluded to political risk, the all too obvious nepotism, and the self-inflicted deeply wounding foreign policy fiascos are well presented. The FDI does not depend on the US alone. Big Capital will gravitate to where the conditions are right. However, we must not be too quick to dismiss Forbes.

    Another ugly factor has made it’s appearance affecting the small foreign businessman is the demand for “protection money”. Whether this is politically ‘inspired’ or criminally motivated, I do not as yet know. If not contained quickly the jobs they have created will soon disappear.

    • 4
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      .
      You don’t need Forbes magazine for this….. we all know MaRa will win.

      :-)

      • 7
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        when i first read Mr Richmond Peries comment , i also felt the same way , it must’ve been our super duper CB governor’s job , good that you have decided to bring this matter up Shanthi !

        IIFA ring any bells ? there was a mega carnival called “IIFA”, prior to that circus ,regime used it’s full propaganda machine to explain how beneficial that event going to be and how many Billions of FDI would flow in to the country ! does any body know how many FDI’s were attracted ??
        a luxury train service was hastily introduced and established from Katunayake to Colombo , as predicted it couldn’t continue more than few days !
        Benefit of the IIFA , huge unpaid hotel bills !(in the end hotels had to take legal action to claim their lost money ), idling of a super luxury train and of course loss of Billions of tax payer money.

        Next CHOGM circus , As usual regime spin doctors were busy explaining and justifying the CHOGM extravaganza , in the end what happened ?

        British PM Publicly humiliated host countries head of state by giving a dead line to investigate war crimes ! what an insult for the country !!! next where are the promised FDI ? recently BOI released a statement saying , though there were 50 proposed projects on offer , only two were materialized , yes yes they were none other than infamous “port city ” project and hotel construction at the air ports by our new found friend “CHINA” , it has been reported that 1/3 of proposed port city going to be owned by our new friend china ! is this not selling the country , what is it ? perhaps regime spin doctors may find a new definition for this betrayal ! do we need a CHOGM type extravaganza to attract one sided Chinese FDI ?

  • 6
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    Shanti Wijesinghe –

    RE: Percy Mahendra And His Cintanaya – Response To Richmond Peiris

    Percy Mahendra And His Cintanaya? Mara Chintanaya.

    [Edited out]

  • 12
    1

    Im not sure if the reporter of the Forbes magazine was bribed by one of the few dozen consultancy companies in USA hired by the regime to wash their dirty linen soaked with blood.

    As recent as last week the Chinese prime minister was in Myanmar(former Burma) and signed projects worth USD8B and this is how a country had numerous HR issues have come out of the shell and democracy restored and the rest of the world have got notice and invest in the country.

    What Percy Mahandra did was typical Medamulana coward style, going after every UNHRC commissioner from Louis Arbour, Navi Pillai and now Prince Zeid on very low and personal level and then goes after few Banana Republics to get their vote against the resolution.

    There is nothing much as FDI for Sri Lanka after the war due to the fact the International community do not trust the Rajapaksas and even James Packer havnt started the Casino project yet.

  • 8
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    The proof is in looking at how much FDI has come into the country. Very little and far behind the forecasts put out by the puppets on a string. In fact recently there was a major revision decreasing the amount of FDI expected. People should not be fooled with the beautification of Colombo and the infrastructure and construction activity that is going on in the country. As stated by Shanthi all the major infrastructure projects completed are white elephants not giving any return on the investment except fattening the pockets of the corrupt regime. A few hotels are being built but here again one has to remember that the land was sold or leased to these investors well below market prices with large commissions being paid under the table. Mainly a few shonky Chinese and Indian investors have come in- not s single reputable international group has made any investment in the country. The corrupt regime is not interested in improving the economy- no statistics have been put out on the number of new businesses that have been started – this is the main indicator of development and growth. Even if stats are disclosed these are fictitious numbers disclosed by the sycophants and puppets who suck up to the despots. There isnt a single independent constitutional office functioning, no rule of law, the stock exchange is operated by a local mafia with massive insider trading going on, the judiciary is corrupt under the control of the King’s slave, corporate governance is a joke with non working directors being appointed who are stooges of the major shareholders, commercial disputes go on for years with no proper verdicts being given, no security for owning an investment if the ruling family ala the army and forces decide that they like to buy it, every step in the investment process requires bribes to be given, the anti corruption authority is staffed with stooges who only investigate opposition politicians, top public servants have no say in implementing policies as the ruling family has taken over this responsibility, a plethora of ministries and agencies are involved in investment approvals providing them with the opportunity to make money, the central bank is run by a political stooge, citizens rights are withheld and abused, no democracy, qualifications to be a politician are previous experience in serving a jail sentence, illiteracy and no educational qualifications, connections with murderers and drug dealers and rapists, must know how to use a gun and kill people, have a group of abductors to eliminate any one who the ruling family feels threatened and most importantly must be corruptible!!! this is the Sri Lanka of today and the Forbes journo who wrote this article would have been well advised to research the facts before publishing it. Or it could be that the article was an advertisement paid for by the central bank of SL!!!

    • 2
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      isnt Shangri-la hotel project started? also a new ITC hotel commenced yday in Galle Face?

      They are biggies as Shangri-La’s parent company is Kerry Group a diversified conglomate and also ITC is part of BAT industries.

      • 0
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        Pl. check the land ownership of Shangri-la hotel project !

        • 0
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          land of Shangri-la hotel has been sold (no lease)to the hotel owners , 1/3 of proposed port city has been awarded (sold) to the Chinese , Hambanthota port is being converted to Chinese Naval port ! i’m not sure about SGAT (colombo port ) arrangements with the Chinese , perhaps some one can educate me !

          guys , where is Ranil , he should be able highlight and educate the masses about these unprecedented day light robberies , who has benefited with these treacherous/short sighted actions !

          • 3
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            srilal

            “Hambanthota port is being converted to Chinese Naval port !”

            Even if the entire island is being taken over Chinese we should not be worrying about such petty matters. Leave the worrying part to the Hindians. Let them deal with it.

            The worrying part is that Hindians would this time around use, abuse, and misuse the Southern youth as their foreign policy tool for yet another bungling operation as they did with Tamil youth to draw a line on the sea to ward off western influence on this island.

            • 3
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              NV,

              interesting point though , new Indian PM Narendra Modi’s action is little difficult to predict yet , i posted above comment for RW ,if he really wants he has got enough points to finish MR at this election.

    • 1
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      jilmart,
      Just like you and most of the commentators and writer to CT, this guy Shanti is also a thoroughly frustrated man. All such people have inbuilt hate towards what Rajapakses stands for. And for that very reason, we villages stand by him in spite of his short comings. One can see the extent of Shanti’s frustration from the extent of falsehood and deceit in his last article. I prefer to reply such misconceptions in Sinhala because that’s the language that matters when it comes to disseminate notions. Some of your wild allegation may well been answered there as well.

      • 4
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        Banda
        You are a classic case of the intellectual vacuum that exists in the village society. Ignorance is bliss and continue to enjoy the gifts that your master bestows on you. Wait for the next Dhansala for a free meal from your patron.

        • 1
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          The days that agents of blackwhites ruled are no more. We have elected a village man as the President of Sri Lanka. I love it. He has eliminated terrorism that plagued our society for so long, and he sets upon the path of development. If you guys don’t like it tough luck for you mate. Since you talked about dhansala, I suggest you read ‘2014 World Giving Index (WGI)’ and beat it.

          • 1
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            Banda

            “One can see the extent of Shanti’s frustration from the extent of falsehood and deceit in his last article.”

            “He has eliminated terrorism that plagued our society for so long, and he sets upon the path of development.”

            One can also see falsehood and deceit in your second comment, the idea that MR eliminated terrorism is complete bunkum. Even MR and Gota stated stated without Hindia they would have won the war.

            “I prefer to reply such misconceptions in Sinhala because that’s the language that matters when it comes to disseminate notions.”

            Sinhala is the best language to spread lies, hatred and racism, best for inciting violence. If you are intellectually honest you would not hide your bigotry behind Sinhala cover but face other commentators in this forum.

            Are you a coward?

            Be a man.

  • 5
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    Shanti Wijesinghe has covered well the subject in hand, and there are many like the Forbes article that have been instigated by the plethora of firms working hard to earn the money they make from the GoSL.

    What Ram has added, apropos ‘protection’ money has also been extended to the growing number of expatriates and foreigners who have chosen to make their home in our island paradise. Sooner rather than later, the message will take wing.

    This is what happens when law and order ‘takes a break’ and little hungry fiefdoms mushroom.

  • 5
    1

    Lanka hires only lobby FIRMS. No marketing firms. Their owners mainly lawyers and politician; head offices are at Washington. Only purpose of them is to influence Washington. Major Marketing and Banking companies are based in New York. These lobby firms can not help the Central Bank other than getting attention of American Politicians. Bell Pottinger was hired to film “Lies Agreed Upon”. That is not marketing.

    Lanka hired American firms mainly to knock off Susan Rice. It really worked. China was a partner on felling down Susan. I believe major funding for that could have come from China. Eventually, America investigated the firms that work with Lankan Royal Government. Because of this only Lanka had ended up hiring Multilevel Organizations. Normally, A hires B; then B hires C ….this how the westerns firm water out the legal responsibility. In Lanka, Just give an address that never existed; that will do. But western firms’ professionals can not dodge that easily. So they go for this. That is why this mutilevl firms needed to Lanka. Lanka’s explanation of why it had to hire 8 companies was, there was heavy propaganda in America, so wanted to have it neutralized. As a matter of fact, Boycott Lanka is much stronger in other countries than America. So it is clear this is another lie Royal Government said. If Royal Government has been honestly running marketing advertisements, American Government would not now have investigated its activities. Just to cover up this fraud they might have bought a page on a Magazine. But it is noticeable Economist never ever wore anything good about Lanka for sometime.

  • 1
    2

    The Forbes magazine seems to be one outlet captured by lobbyists.

    The highly influential Economist carrys much more critical articles. I have written a couple of pieces on related subjects (see below) that may be of interest.

    [Edited out]

    Please write instead of posting links – CR

    • 0
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      is this the same Forbes magazine that picked Cardinal Ranjith as next Pope not so long ago?

  • 5
    1

    Sumanasekeram, where art thou? Are you still on your knees doing the needful?

  • 9
    2

    Those of us who live in this country know the political and economic climate prevailing in this country. The emergence of the BBS and the black guards standing behind Gnanasara are a tell tale sign of the security situation in the country. We do not need Forbes or any other magazine to convince us otherwise. I knew the story in the Forbes magazine and many others that frequently appear are planted.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2
    0

    According to the BOI, of the 50 project proposals submitted for CBC Investment Forum held in Colombo as a side event under CHOGM spending Billions of Rupees, only two have attracted the serious attention of exporters. Those two proposals are being promoted by the Chinese. As you know China is not a member of the Commonwealth. Normally investors from Commonwealth countries only participate at CBC Investment Forums. But the CBC and former High Commissioner Nonis who received a well deserved treatment, invited Chinese also knowing that it was going to be a big flop. Even the previous CBC Forum held in Australia also had not attracted single investment! This is the truth.
    The [Edited out] is a big fraudster who has established a good rapport with some of the corrupt African leaders and that arrogant Chris Nonis. Nonis got the SL government to spend billions of rupees in order to boost his Mackwoods Tea image among the CBC circle and Prince Charles. Mohan Kaul who contested the Commonwealth Secretary General post with Kamalesh Sharma failed to get him endorsed by the Indian Government. Sharma messed his engagement with Sri Lanka but he is a respectable diplomat unlike Mohan Kaul. Kaul is similar to our third grade Professor Peiris.
    This is how people waste tax payers money in Sri Lanka.
    The Commonwealth Secretariat should undertake an impartial evaluation of the Effectiveness of CBC Investor Forums in promoting intra commonwealth investment initiatives and remove it from CHOGM events.

  • 0
    1

    As long as US remains Lanka-friendly/semi-friendly, all will be well – dependent upon a good China-USA partnership. But if Putin manages to knock off the US partnership with China,…..we’re screwed! And we never can be sure of US policy with the successive presidents. Thanks to Obama’s policy of seeing the best of the East-West relationships (sans Russia) for the better of America. The more US invests in Sri Lanka, the more difficult it will be to severe the connections.

  • 3
    0

    It is not only the Hambanthota Airport and the Harbour that have turned out to be white elephants, but also the Gold Centre in Pettah(former Fish market), the Floating Market, Independence Arcade, Race Course and the Waters Edge are all incurring heavy financial losses. Electricity bills of all these places are outstanding from the day they were opened. The tenants have not paid the full down payments but only a percentage. Some who have been forced to open have already put up shutters. No rents have been paid by the tenants due to lack of business. Quite many shops in all the above places have gone into closure and the rest are closing one by one. Only the eating joints are having a little business, but again not at optimum level to pay the high rents levied.

    The curtain will fall on these Gota’s show cases very soon. To believe what is said above please visit them yourself and speak with the tenants who are cursing the MR govt.

    • 2
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      This is what I thought would happen and also the reason for calling for an early election. The proverbial excrement is about to hit the fan. None of these show pieces can carry on, on thin air.

  • 0
    1

    As long as US remains Lanka-friendly/semi-friendly, all will be well – dependent upon a good China-USA partnership. But if Putin manages to knock off the US partnership with China,…..we’re screwed! And we never can be sure of US policy with the successive presidents. Thanks to Obama’s policy of seeing the best of the East-West relationships (sans Russia) for the better of America. The more US invests in Sri Lanka, the more difficult it will be to severe any connections.

  • 2
    0

    Banda, You say CT writers have “in built hate” towards “what Rajapaksa stands for”. What does he “stand for”? What he “stands for” is corruption, nepotism, abduction, murder, cheating elections, selling country to the Chinese and taking away the people’s democratic rights, in addition clinging on to superstitions.

    You call us “black whites”, so you must be a black black. Colour does not matter Banda. Whether you are a villager or a townsman does not matter either. What matters is whether you are civilized human being or not. The Rajapaksas don’t belong in that category. Neither do you, judging from what you say. You have nothing intelligent to say. All you can do is name calling. Go back and read the article again, and see whether you can understand it.

    You are just like your hero Rajapaksa. You openly attack the west, but secretly give anything to be western. What is “village” about Rajapaksa anyway? He is a fake villager, and true gamaralas which you claim you are, are taken for a ride.

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