29 July, 2021

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Sri Lanka’s Century Of Humiliation

By Mangala Samaraweera

Mangala Samaraweera

“Reflect continually on the fact that all things as happen now, also happened before, and on the fact that they will happen again. The whole dramas and the comparable scenes…from history of the past….All these were similar only the actors were different.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

The Sunday Times of 27th June says that the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a commemorative coin for the centenary of the Communist Party of China. This news followed ‘hot’ on the heels of the Colombo Port City bill which the government tried to rush through Parliament until the Supreme Court shot down a few of the clauses which could have violated our sovereignty and posed a serious threat to our countries independence in the years to come. Adding to the paranoia of many Sri Lankans was the shocking exposé by ’Sirasa’, one of the leading broadcasters in Sri Lanka and perhaps the only truly independent TV stations in this country today ( I too have been at the receiving end of its criticisms during the various periods I served as a Cabinet Minister, during the last 3 decades) where we saw Chinese personnel in Chinese Military uniform dredging a historic lake in the deep south (where youth unemployment is at its highest) under the patronage of a senior cabinet Minister of the ruling family. These are a few examples which makes one wonder whether the principle of “extraterritoriality” being applied liberally in our statecraft today is seen as the continuation of diplomatic relations with a friendly country or as a major infringement of Sri Lankan sovereignty? Will the historians of the future call this point in time as the beginning of Sri Lanka’s century of humiliation?

China is one of world’s greatest and most ancient countries; more a civilization than a country! The “Celestial dynasties” which ruled for millennia sincerely believed that they were the heavenly representatives sent to rule a vast kingdom – HONGUO/the middle kingdom, refined and civilized in a world of barbarians. The Emperor was perceived as mankind’s supreme sovereign, often referred to as the “Emperor of humanity” and his diplomats were called “Heavenly Envoys from the Celestial Court. As Honguo was considered the centre of the universe, all interactions with the ‘barbarians’ of the outside world were controlled and limited; learning/translating the languages of the barbarians were banned without special permission, entering and traveling within the kingdom was also not allowed and only the Port of Guangzhou (Canton) was open to foreigners to conduct their trade. Even the envoy from the Queen-Empress Victoria had to hang around the port for weeks until it was decided to grant an audience with the Emperor in Beijing on the basis that the English diplomat will ‘kowtow’(to prostrate oneself and to touch the ground with ones forehead thrice) before the Emperor when received in the Royal court.

With the advent of high imperialism in the 17th century, western powers tried repeatedly to penetrate this vast kingdom for trade/commercial purposes but China remained one of the few Asian countries which could not be colonized by the British to become a part of the Empire where the ‘sun never sets.’

The East India Company was founded in 1600 with the objective of promoting trade and commerce in the Indian Ocean and China. By 1800, the company accounted for more than half the world’s trading and laid the groundwork for the British Empire and the Indian Raj; East India company rule was established in large parts of India in 1757 exercising military power and even assuming local administrative functions until 1858 when the British crown assumed direct control of India – ‘the jewel in the Crown’ where opium was grown to be sold to the ‘natives’ in all corners of the Empire. In 1839, the opium war started against China in the face of determined and stiff resistance by the Qing dynasty to open up its vast market to British opium traders. Consequently, the British ordered the blockade of principal ports in China and were poised to attack the ancient capital of Nanjing, when the Chinese sued for peace. The treaty of Nanjing of 1842 imposed on China the cession of Hong Kong to the British, a payment of $6 million in indemnity, and the opening of five ports in which trade would be allowed and westerners would be permitted to reside. Although China was not formally colonized, the treaty of Nanjing made it a de facto colony of the British Empire and the Qing court lost much of its independence in commercial and foreign policy. The principle of extraterritoriality enshrined in this treaty was to become a major infringement of Chinese sovereignty and the opium traders residing in the treaty ports would only be subject to their own countries’ laws and not that of China.

Thus began, what is known in China today as its “century of humiliation.”

Nearly two hundred years later, as the first quarter of the 21st century is drawing to a close, China is now poised to become one of the world’s leading economies with ambitions of becoming a military super power as well. Like the East India Company in earlier centuries, the investment, trading and commercial arm of China is now the Belt and Road Initiative. (BRI) started in 2013 and incorporated into the constitution of China in 2017. According to the BRI, the initiative is “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a bright future.” In fact we know that the East India Company colonized the better part of the world with similar noble objective of civilizing ‘savages’ and natives promising all a ‘brighter future’. The imperial powers of the west carved out a very bright future for themselves and their countries over the last five hundred years but at what cost to the countries and the peoples they colonized? Isn’t the BRI the same old concept wrapped up in brand new gift paper?

What was challenged in the Supreme Court recently – the Colombo Port City Act. Could well end up being a modern day trojan horse or a Nanjing Treaty for Sri Lankans in the years ahead. The port city without any checks and balances and Parliamentary oversight will create a city which is more or less a law unto itself; it will be a centre for international money laundering for the local and international mafia. The likelihood of this piece of extraterritorial real estate turning into a centre for international espionage for the super powers to protect/ subjugate the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean should also not be dismissed as mere fantasy.

Sri Lanka needs FDIs and trade opportunities badly and desperately. Having an international Financial Centre on reclaimed land is a very good idea if it’s based on international law and participation, not merely serving the interests of a single country or two. In fact the first proposal for such a venture came from one of our very own Sri Lankan conglomerates in 2000. However, such proposals need not come at the cost of our sovereignty; it cannot be at the cost of our friends who provide 60% of our trade; it cannot be at the cost of diminishing our friendship with our friend and neighbor, India, 20 odd kilometres away. Sri Lanka has not been blessed with oil, diamonds, gold or copper; we have been blessed with a beautiful island and a most propitious geographical location on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

Therefore it is also in our greater interest to work with all countries to ensure that the Indian Ocean remains a zone of peace and stability while taking the maximum advantage of our position to create wealth and prosperity for our next generations. In the great power play between superpowers, Sri Lanka cannot afford to be a pawn of one group or another like Cuba in the early 1960s when not ideological but financial considerations compelled the Cuban government to allow USSR to install nuclear missiles 65km from the USA nearly triggering off a nuclear war in the Bay of Pigs. Sri Lanka cannot afford to follow a confrontational and isolationist policy with the international community. Especially in this age of pandemics and international trade, multilateralism is the way forward. Westphalian concept of sovereignty is no longer valid and we must abide by our international obligations for the betterment of our own people. Sri Lanka must revert to the foreign policy almost all governments have followed since independence; despite our relative “insignificance” in the International order, Sri Lanka was a much loved and esteemed member; from Washington to Beijing, from New Delhi to the Kremlin, from Downing Street to Tokyo, from Brussels to Ghana our leaders were welcomed with open arms.

Alas, no more!

Today, like somnambulists walking towards the precipice while tumbling over one humiliation after another, we are pushing our sons and daughters, towards a future of unimaginable horrors.

Stop. Think. Take stock.

Democracy and freedom, Justice and the rule of law, unity in diversity, multilateralism and international cooperation is the only way forward.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    30

    So here is the thing. The Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan sends his emissaries to the island to take back relics of the Gothama Buddha. This is recorded in the memoirs of The Travels of Marco Polo -> https://bit.ly/2SOc4di (p292). The chapter begins under the heading “Origin of the Buddhist Religion in Ceylon”. So the reason the Chinese emperor sent his emissaries to the island is because this is where the Buddha lived and the Buddhist religion started. Now, fast forward to the current day. The British are holding over 6000 books that prove islands authentic history. This includes the original Mahavansa that include 3 chapters missing from the one is circulation -> https://bit.ly/complete-mahavansa. The missing chapters explain how the island’s first ruling dynasty, the Okkakas began. Prince Siddhartha’s father was the last king of this dynasty. This information is available today and can be viewed by anyone. So its quite emphatic this changes the known world history. Although strangely the archeology department or anyone is not visiting to investigate. I think this takes priority over all other concerns regarding the Chinese.

    • 3
      19

      “Westphalian concept of sovereignty is no longer valid and we must abide by our international obligations for the betterment of our own people.
      When fashion designers and hairdressers become finance and foreign ministers in Banana Republics this is the TOSH nonsense you get!
      The Mangy has no clue about COLONIALISM and the COLD WAR and the fact that the Americans and Brits killed SWRD Bandaranaike for nationalizing Lanka’s PORTS, AIRPORTS and Plantations, or the importance of the concept of National Sovereignty for small states in the Global South to ensure that their resources are not looted by Fake Democracies like US and UK. Mangy please read David Vine’s Book “The United States of War” and “Base Nation” all about 800 US military and lilypad bases which they also want to set up in Eastern Province and Mannar on the Western shores of Lanka under the ISIS project at Easter 2019 which backfired when you were sucking up to Sam Power?!
      Wonder who drafted this Tosh for Managla? Sam Power?!

    • 7
      0

      So where is this “real” Mahavamsa? All that your link shows is some nutty monk pointing at something in a corner, claiming it is the original MV.
      Is this any more convincing than your unreadable Dutch maps?
      At least, if you want to spread fake history, do it convincingly.

  • 19
    5

    There has been much talk about treacherous RW attempting to sell the country. Then there are Western conspiracies to screw SL, the US even offering a grant with (invisible) strings attached & the Japs offering a railway at low interest to ease the congestion but the Rajapakse regime has seen through the deceptions & rejected them all, as well as, showing 2 fingers to the UN for meddling in our affairs. We don’t need GST+, we have divine blessings & home remedies for illnesses, healthy organic food & a military to ensure security & welfare of the citizens. Soon, with a financial hub that includes casinos, a free port & ‘no questions asked’ banking to deposit all that wealth, Swiss banks, Singapore, Dubai, even Macau, & all those little countries which launder money, can learn from the vision & foresight of our ‘dear’ leaders. Little SL can stand up to the big bad world. Of course, China is powerful friend, ever willing to give us money at commercial rates but that’s how banks operate & we should have no worry about gift horses (even if they are called trojan horses) from China.
    So Mr Samaraweera, are you tasting sour grapes when you talk of SL’s humiliation? Your previous job has been done better with no compromises by our heroic Minister.

    • 10
      0

      I am happy to see my sarcasm has not been misinterpreted & my apologies to Mr Samaraweera if it caused any distress. I was merely conveying the view of an old friend, a SL doctor living in UK. I was shocked by his blind faith & denial, only to realise that some of my friends in SL, too, share similar views. In fact, years of friendship maybe in jeopardy if I continue with my opposing opinions. If my educated friends fail to see the writing on the wall, its no wonder if 6.9m people too, may still have the utmost faith in the regime to deliver ‘splendour & prosperity’.

      Misguided patriotism & nationalism blinded the white Christian middle America but democracy prevailed in the end. The Sinhala Buddhist extremism in SL, however, is unlikely to change & we will have the Rajapakse dynasty ruling the country in the foreseeable future.

  • 30
    2

    A must read for all those card-carrying members of the Viyath Maga.
    This brilliant expose by the son of Khema [ The Essayist ] should also be noted by those 6.9 M.Idiots!

  • 22
    2

    Mangalam you promised us in 100 days program bring back all looted money back home and prosecute
    The other Kurunagala spin less man
    Let.down the people
    Sobitha there have to reborn again with Gatum

  • 27
    1

    When I think of Sri Lanka ……. I just don’t know.

    I thought I knew ……. but now I know I don’t know.

  • 22
    1

    Well thought and written piece. Extraterritoriality is a principle where a foreign law applies in an enclave. It could well be that the Port City will become that if it operates under Chinese de facto control as it will. The fact is that only the chinese with their immense money chest can pull it off. Strategically, the idea is short-sighted as we become embroiled in the tussle between elephants to be trampled by them. The Rajapakses have only cared about them. They have raised the cloud of Sinhala chauvinism and stolen the wealth of the people and gathered more by selling the country to the Chinese. where is the “Maha” Sangha who campaigned for them? They are supposed to protect the country.

  • 16
    3

    Mangy Boy! Good to read your opinion. One cannot stop Sri Lanka being a hermit state like North Korea, and approaching fast being a Chinese colony. Mangy! Your prescription quoted verbatim “Democracy and freedom, Justice and the rule of law, unity in diversity, multilateralism and international cooperation is the only way forward.”. Did it really work during your time in the “Yahapalana” government? NO! Either you must admit that you did not practice what you prescribe or the practice of it did not yield the expected results. The “civilized world” is not going to pump money like the Chinese do and that is the root cause towards the tilt towards China. Further they believe in bullying and threats to achieve their objectives while the yellow races are charming on the face. Do not forget that the ceremonial plaque unveiled at Attorney Generals had Sinhala, English and Chinese lettering, conspicuously omitting Tamil. Every one of us must learn to greet each other as “Ni Hao” and recognize the lettering “你好”. We had a taste of the IPKF now it will be the PLA. We must know “停止” if we don’t want to get shot.

    • 1
      6

      “The “civilized world” is not going to pump money like the Chinese do and that is the root cause towards the tilt towards China.”
      *
      The “civilized world” only pumps money to build military bases, to subvert governments, to invade countries under false pretext, and to be kicked out in abject humiliation as in Vietnam and now Afghanistan.

  • 26
    1

    All what you say is fine Mr
    Samaraweera
    What were you doing when Ranil let these war criminals off the hook removing Lacile de Silva from the job

    • 11
      1

      This will always be a blot on the pious prescriptions of MS

    • 5
      0

      Ranil s FCID did the job until Sorysena removed that iron lady to the manner Nandaseeni unanimously released a convicted murderer, Duminda Silva, yonger brother of Hiru TV channels owner on last poya day. So whom to be blamed? In today’s context premier Mafia boss bites nails while his brother as alleged high criminal and in the same time the incumbent president though defecto makes any wrongdoing but in public. Banana republic in all means☹☹☹☹☹☹☹

  • 12
    2

    “Democracy and freedom, Justice and the rule of law, unity in diversity, multilateralism and international cooperation is the only way forward.”
    Surely Mangala, in poor countries one needs to add ‘steady improvement of livelihood’.

    • 0
      6

      Kumar
      What has quality of life to do with any imperialist notion of human rights?

  • 24
    1

    The word HUMILIATION is not in the dictionary of the Mahinda family. They are prepared to sell the country to the Chinese so that they can accumulate wealth and move to the US or maybe China. They took the Buddhist Monks for a good ride. I would blame the voters for the present poor economic stage of the country There is a proverb in Tamil which says:: A thief who steals several times will get caught one day”.

    • 0
      5

      K,
      There is a proverb in Tamil which says:: A thief who steals several times will get caught one day” you say.
      How much longer can Tamil political leaders duck getting caught?

    • 6
      0

      “A thief who steals several times will get caught one day”
      That proverb assume the country has Law and Order.
      From 1948, no one did anything Tamils went to prison. Vijithamuni said he wanted to kill Rajiv & that is why he beat him up. But Sonia, to get Lankawe Commission destroyed Tamils, only to revenge Leader Pirapaharan. Forget about Lankawe, When is Sonia going to prison for the racketeering she did in India & Lankawe?
      The child which cries if it is hungry is only gets the milk. Tamils needs to work on their call for the justice.

    • 4
      0

      Kuviyam, Your view re moving to China will not happen as China is not that foolish. This article rightly is a call to take stock, to be multilateral without being isolated. When the majority here will be deprived of food and shelter, useless disputing about dynasty and the sangha silence. Our stubborn stupidity craving for China is an open invitation automatically for enemy attack, while friendship with all nations would be helpful regional peace. We have yet to experience the craving power hunger for world dominion which will release hybridized trained soldiers worse than Covid virus mutating into unbelievably demonic evil beings, with recent descriptions of Harbin Dragon man and ancestral Peking man.

    • 5
      0

      Kuvi@
      When would this “one day” be, in foreseeable times? No people in this country have no idea about good and bad yet today, so their representatives in parliament cant be better. Entire society is comparable to a composition of garbage dumps. They dont even notice the levels of the smells. This would nt change a lot tangibly so long significant portions in the society would nt see it right. Today fake monks are in hibernation not yet noticing the gravity of danger before us. Looking back all is upside down ofcourse except the exonerations of the high crime investigations of Rajapakshes and their close criminals 😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎

  • 6
    0

    We are getting humiliated in cricket – we were hammered by England – What is Mr Namal Rajapaksha doing? – What ever said and done – the Late Mr Gamini Dissanayake worked tirelessly for the development of cricket in Sri Lanka and gave the proper political leadership for cricket in Sri Lanka.

    This is the challange for Namal – prove that you are a leader that can deliver – bring back the standard of the Sri lanka cricket team to the 1996 standard and turn it into a winning team.

    Then people will recognise you as a leader that could be trusted.

  • 8
    0

    If you want peace and stability in sri lanka. The very first step is stop sinhala colonisation and let minorities live in peace.
    You cant have your cake and eat it also.

  • 4
    0

    All these were similar only the actors were different
    Never any dynasties thrived and flourished as much as hypocrisy thrives in Lanakwe. 6th century start of Mahanama’s lies and spared of racism is the flagship-emblem of Lanakwe. Mangala who flew all over the world to ensure his Master’s safety, Mangala who passed needed Foreign Exchange laws to bring back the Royal’s $18B to be invested in Pong Cing, is talking about century of humiliation to Lankawe. The masters of lies and frauds!

  • 6
    0

    It’s too late to think that Sri Lanka would come out from the Chinese domination in the near future. Rajapaksas had already done damage to the people of Sri Lanka knowingly and therefore would be better to learn the Chinese language from now onwards.

  • 4
    0

    When Magala was in power should have dealt with the released criminals and explained to the Chinese about the threat to the country from other powers if they have gone ahead with the port. People can’t loot the country as the others are keeping a watch. They will be confined to the island and to China.

  • 3
    1

    Well written except for this idea :

    “Having an international Financial Centre on reclaimed land is a very good idea if it’s based on international law and participation, not merely serving the interests of a single country or two. In fact the first proposal for such a venture came from one of our very own Sri Lankan conglomerates in 2000.”

    Not sure what this international law and participation would entail, for there are so many such financial centers around the world that had their origins centuries ago and go with the capitalistic flow. Another new one popping up will saturate the market , and anyway the US is now clamping down on all these alternate routes to capitalism that are away from the genuine and clean hard work of the masses. They do so because China is now attempting to steal their alternate routes and bring them to the ground. So it is in their best interests to be squeaky clean.

    • 0
      2

      But guess Sri Lanka can jump into the market if it does things like pervention of cyber-crime. For that they do not need sky-scrapers in Port-City, for fellows can network and work in their own homes.

      Or US will apease motherland, rather than bombing us, by giving us the excess of other financial cities to handle….or as a counter to China/Russia inspired crypto-currency. Na, it would be cheaper for them to bomb us.

  • 3
    0

    Look what chinese did to Zambia. Now copper mines, all big hotels, big farms are owned by chinese and Zambians are mere labourers in their projects. They select a corrupt leader and tightened the nooze around him by offering loans even without asking. This fixes them in a debt trap and it is hard to get out of it other than selling national assests.
    Same thing is happening here. They gave huge loans to build unnecessary and useless projects like Cricket stadium at Sooriyawewa, Hambantota harbour, Mattala airport and an International conference centre. All these have zero benefits to the country but fixed us well into a huge debt trap. At least if they constructed things like an oil refinery, iron extraction plant or a fertiliser plant it could have made some sense. THow many international conferences have been held at this massive conference centre? Only stray cattle come there now , may be to have their conferences. Now we have to borrow money even from Bangladesh to pay debt installments. Now the Government is trying to sell our national heritage in Colombo to the Chinese to help repay loans.
    Of course the ruling clan including their families got huge kickbacks from these grandiose projects. They and their future generations can have a luxury time while the rest of the country falls from pan to fire.

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