30 November, 2020

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Playgrounds And Players In Asia

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the first Asia Cooperation Dialogue Summit in Kuwait, outlined his vision for the region in the following terms:

‘This continent of Asia cannot be the playground of other forces, who seek our wealth, our assets of nature and human resources. Our progress must draw from the best of our own cultures and while learning from the best of others who come with genuine friendship. We are seeing the dawn of the Age of Asia. We must together see it bring new light to a troubled world dominated by the grave errors of other continents.’

Asia has been playground for many, across the centuries. The British, French, the Danes, Portuguese and Americans of the United States have put their dirty paws all over Asia, massacred thousands of people, ravaged cultures and communities and plundered resources.  The ‘West’ is rich and it’s no secret where the wealth came from.  It was not Asia, true, but the Plunder of Asia did not end with ‘independencies’ or troop withdrawal.  Plunder was replaced by Smart-Plunder.  If memory fails, then think ‘Afghanistan’.

So the President is correct.   Asia should not be anyone’s playground, or dumping ground for that matter.

Even as the Long American Century (to use a term coined by Giovanni Arrighi almost twenty years ago to ‘periodize’ the play and control of power and money) draws to a close the USA’s more than finger-poking presence all over the globe is too in-one’s-face to ignore or pooh-pooh away.  There are fairly naked guns-in-booty-out examples (Afghanistan, Iraq and the elegantly executed ‘Arab Spring’) and there are UN resolutions, arm-twisting in international forums, aid-for-policy buy-outs, open and surreptitious bribing of officials and politicians.  Getting dirty fingers out of regional-pie is thus easier said than done.

There’s another part to this ‘playground’ business though.  There is an implicit notion that it’s an outsider that is messing things up.  True, history has shown that when we draw deep from history, heritage and culture, the outcomes tend to be more benign than when we uncritically purchase foreign blueprint, but even in some happy in-between of such choices we need to keep in mind that territories are not and never were islands.  There is engagement and therefore terms of engagement.  Resources and manpower alone won’t ensure a good bargain.  It’s about what we buy and what we sell, what we need and don’t, and the wisdom to make correct choices.

There’s a third part to this story.  Locals also play.  There are playgrounds and playgrounds, players and players, winners and losers. Not all of them are ‘foreign’.  For centuries the poor and dispossessed have been played. For centuries their access to resources has been tampered with.  They’ve been robbed outright and by law and lawsuit, threat and execution of threat, promise and contract breach.  There are structures that enable this kind of playing which, although may have been constructed by invader for invader-purpose but which survive invader-quit simply because they are convenient appendages for resource extraction and labor exploitation by people who look local, act locally but do what foreigner did (and does).

Regional solidarity is good.  If we had, for example, a SAARC Security Force, the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been resolved a long time ago.  It is good for Asia to come together. No, Asia will not win the Nobel Prize, but that piece of humbuggery won’t matter.  However, at the end of the day, thumbing a collective nose at the West and having European leaders eat humble pie won’t mean much if Asians starve in their millions.

President Rajapaksa has opened a debate.  That’s good.  It’s not the end of the story.  That’s good too.  For what we have is a double-whammy: playgrounded by the invader and playgrounded by people who look like us, our fellow citizens, our fellow Asians.  That’s not good.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .Courtesy  www.nation.lk

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    The president is absolutely right. How can any, half-decent kleptocracy go about peacefully pilfering state resources when all these foreign ‘goondas’ keep asking for a piece of the action? This is not right. The local playground is reserved for local players. There is also some movement by the side screen, by the judges of the supreme court, preventing one of the main local players from hitting a cover drive six.

    George Bailey: [yelling at Uncle Billy] Where’s that money, you silly stupid old fool? Where’s that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison! That’s what it means! One of us is going to jail… well, it’s not gonna be me! From the movie ‘IT’S a WONDERFUL LIFE.

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    Malinda S:
    As they used to say, “There you go again!’
    One of the (New) 7 Wonders of the World must be the fact that CT continues to publish your paeans of praise to your Master(s), all of it parading as “journalism.”!

    [Edited out]

  • 0
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    Wonderful article. thank you Mr. Seneviratne.

  • 0
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    RAJAPAKSE ENJOYING KUWAITI HOSPITALITY,WHILE HIS THUGS ARE TRYING TO
    CREATE PROBLEMS FOR MUSLIMS.

  • 0
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    I read your articles with interest. Please keep writing.

  • 0
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    These errors are done by their own people not the others, you know it is not true. How long you can play this game? Words have no meaning.

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    I would be thankful to Malinda if he can please clarify the following.

    During the period of JR and Premadasa there were human right violations to suppress the JVP uprising and also crack down Tiger terrorism. Richard De Zoyza and few journalists were killed presumably by Para military closer to then government. At that time Western countries were trying to interfere and restricted the foreign aid and trade with Sri Lanka to bargain with the improvements in human rights. Both JR and Premadasa called it a direct interference of Sovereignty of Sri Lanka. JR went to the extent of expelling British High Commissioner Mr.Glastein because he went to criticize the frauds in the referendum election of then government. But what did our so called Desha premi movement and Sinhalese extremist group including Malinda and Mahinda Rajapaske do at that time? They went to Geneva and human rights forums complaining against then Sri Lankan government elected by people. Mahinda Rajapakse must have gone to Geneva several times with complaints against Sri Lankan government.
    You all went on complaining to International Community because you correctly found that without foreign interference government would be heading towards dictatorship, with forged election and misuse of power. At that time you accepted the right of International Community to interfere in countries where they see gross violations of human rights of citizens. Can Malinda or someone in the ruling clan please inform why you call this an interference of our Sovereignty only now?

    I believe the International Community has a right to interfere in countries where there is a gross violation of human rights and rulers are misusing power and taking the citizens for a ransom. In many such instances they have successfully applied pressure on the corrupt government to improve the human rights and media freedom. The citizens of corrupt regimes will have no one to help if corrupt rulers continue to exploit them and the country. It is a god sends opportunity that we have some developed countries that would go to any extent to improve human rights and to restore democracy. That does not mean some of these Western countries are perfect. If you take the track record of America or its Western allies, there are many instances in the history they themselves violated human rights of other nations themselves. However rulers of these countries will have to face their own people at genuine elections and they would be answerable to media and its own citizens. Media freedom is guaranteed and media will not care about the status of Politician they criticize. Even the Royal family and American President cannot escape media scrutiny or accountability. Therefore a better justice is done to suppressed masses of our counties if we allow International community including Human Rights commission to interfere to safeguard the rights of our people whenever it is breached by the rulers.
    Mahinda Rajapakse’s claim that developing countries should not be a playground for Capitalist countries would be approved by many of his best friends and other dictators in Iran, Burma, African countries or Middle East countries. There notion most probably would l be that, our countries should be left to exploit only by own rulers and there cannot be any outside interference. But in reality Sri Lanka should d not be a playground for any one especially for Rajapakse brothers and their party supporters.

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    These are the very same people go to Western Countries for better education, complicated health issues and foreign aid. This is hypocrisy.

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    forget what rajapaksa says but we all know sri lanka is the playground for paedophiles and perverts.

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    Over the centuries of European colonization, the continents of Asia and Africa have been more like battlegrounds (between the colonizing powers) than playgrounds. Battlegrounds full of treasure to plunder and people to exploit, enslave and oppress.

    And now the European Union wins the Nobel Peace Prize!

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      it may be true that in many colonies the colonial powers plundered the wealth and exploited,enslaved and oppressed the natives. i wonder what has that got to with sri lanka. sri lanka never had abundance of wealth to plunder. sri lanka has always been and will be a pauper country. when people talk about the so called 2,500 year history it makes me laugh. what have you got to show for having such long history and civilisation. nothing absolutely nothing. as regards the human factor , colonial masters never bothered the sinhala people at all. sinhala people were left alone to carry on with their normal lives . it’s not that you refused to be enslved and oppressed but the real reason is that something they know more than you and me. when they left you wanted everything for yourself and started exploiting , enslaving and oppressing the minority tamils. even after 64 years of turmoil you don’t appear to have come to grip with the gravity of the situation. your leaders are dithering and not making any attempt whatsoever to address the genuine demands of tamil people.

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    I am sorry that Rama is taking this discussion to a complete different direction. Rama should be ashamed of himself when he condemns Sri Lanka as a country with no heritage at all. Compared to developed countries we had a great civilization running back to 2500 years. Rama should visit Anuradapura, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya to see our heritage. Just because you hate Sinhalese Politicians do not try to hate Sinhalese people and the country as a whole. Majority of Sinhalese people believe in nonviolence and communal harmony. It is the politicians like Rajapakse family or Mervin who are bringing disgrace to the Sri Lanka. You find this type of evils in any community. What is the good you can talk about Prabakaran? Can Rama agree that PrabaKaran was a murderer and a terrorist., for whatever the reason is? It appears that Rama is completely ignorant of Sri Lankan history.

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      existence of few disused water tanks and a few dilapidated structures don’t make a civilisation. civilisation and history has to reflect on the people who live there. unfortunately i can’t see this on sinhala people. besides when countries with 200 year history have become super powers and developed nations , you are still a third world underdeveloped nation that is after your so called 2,500 year history . can you tell me where you have gone wrong. your so called civilisation was seen by the world on channel 4 documentary. your animal behaviour could be seen by everyone. are you saying having sex with corpses and ogling and commenting at the private parts of dead tamil girls is civilisation. prabhakaran was no one. he thrived because of your failure to accommodate the reasonable demands of tamil people. instead of asking me about prabhakaran you should ask yourself how he thrived and flourished.

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    In Sri Lanka, the West interferes in our internal affairs through the local Sri Lankan proxies. JR was the proxy for the United States in the sixties and seventies and UNP’s proxy tradition is continued today by the present UNP leadership. The Tamil leadership led in the past by Federal Party, Tamil Congress, TULF and now the TNA had been in the pockets of the Indian establishment. Now TNA has also become the proxy of the Americans and Europeans. This so-called international world is able to interferes in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs only through our local Sri Lankan politicl leaders in the name of human rights and humanitarian law. Additionally we now have the local Sri Lankan NGOs funded by the Americans and Europeans. For the Americans and Europeans human rights and humanitarian law would not matter when they invade countries like Iraq and Afghanistan or destabilize the Arab nations. When little Sri Lanka crushes a hated terrorist organisation these very same Americans and Europeans are beating their chests about human rights and humanitarian law violations.

    President Rajapakse who now talks about Asia becoming the playground of other forces should bear in mind that he should not open the way for such intereferences by himself inviting an Asian giant which is on the way to become another world bully like the United States. Entry of China into Sri Lanka will inevitably lead to the interference of the United States and India under one pretext or another. Their pretext now is the Tamil problem and they are now using their local stooges TNA.

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    Rama appears to be writing this stuff with full of hatred and vengeance against Sinhalese. I am sure there are Tamil moderates and intellectuals who would disassociate with ideas expressed by Rama.

    Both Sinhalese and Tamils are oppressed people. Corrupt Politicians are ruining the country. They are only interested in their self-interest, not the Sinhalese community. Does Rama knows that over 20,000 Sinhalese youths were killed in 1971 and 1987 JVP uprisings. The reactions of the Rulers for JVP uprising and LTTE were the same. Rama must be aware that how many innocent Tamil intellectuals in addition to thousands of Sinhalese were killed by Prabakaran. Prabakaran, in one instance killed over 150 innocent Buddhists who were meditating in a Religious place. Further he killed thousands of innocent civilians by targeting civilian busses and trains, using child soldiers and suicide bombers. Can Sinhalese people blame whole Tamil civilization for the disgrace Praba did to Tamil culture and civilization? Nazis did ruthless things to Jews killing millions of them and torturing them. But have you heard of anyone blaming German civilization for what Nazis did?
    With regard to animal behaviour Rama should know how IPKF behaved in North and East when they were fighting with Tigers. Comparatively Tamils have a better respect for Sri Lankan forces than IPKF. That does not mean we approve their behavior in last stages of the war. Most of the Sinhalese are hurt and unhappy to read the disclosures of war crimes in Tamil areas during the war. We are of the view that a proper investigation is needed and those who proved guilty should be punished just as American and British forces did for their soldiers who were found guilty of war crimes.
    Total reconciliation can come only with investigation, punishment and forgiveness on the part of Tamil people.

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