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Attacks on Cardinal outrageous and unacceptable

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In strong defence of Cardinal

By ROHANA R. WASALA

As evident in social media, His Eminence Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjit is taking heavy flak from certain quarters for urging the authorities to bring to justice the culprits behind the suicide bomb attacks on three churches and four hotels on Easter Sunday last year (April 21, 2019), on the findings of the presidential commission, which is about to close its proceedings. It is not clear whether the critics are supporters or opponents of the government or the Opposition; but they are definitely not lovers of the country/nation. The criticism of the Cardinal is no doubt politically motivated, though he himself is absolutely above partisan politics. He is an ideal Shepherd not only for his Flock, but also for all Sri Lankans, in both spiritual and secular (mundane) senses; he is performing this role most sincerely, with the greatest courage, and ascetic selflessness, without expecting any personal reward. It is with some reluctance and hesitation that I am broaching this subject, because I don’t want to even remotely link his name to mundane politics. Globally, the Cardinal is a great asset for our crisis-ridden country.

In response to Opposition queries regarding the progress of the presidential probe into the Easter Sunday (April 21, 2019) suicide bombings, the newly appointed Minister of Public Security, Rear Admiral (Retd) Dr Sarath Weerasekera, told Parliament (December 5) that 257 persons (suspected of involvement) have been remanded and that 86 are being held under detention orders, and that he would meet the Attorney General on Monday (December 7) to talk about expediting legal proceedings on the basis of the commission’s findings. The government has indicated that the presidential commission is about to finalise its work. The minister’s statement came amidst exchanges between Opposition and government benchers, centering on certain misgivings previously expressed by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjit about the imminent winding up of the presidential commission of inquiry and the follow-up process. Asked about the same subject by the media the next day (December 6), Minister Weerasekera said he could understand the prelate’s concerns, and that although the Cardinal didn’t know about it, almost 90% of what should be done through the government has already been done by the police: 37 have been charged with manslaughter and others with aiding and abetting terrorism.

The 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks were a bolt from the blue. The bombers targeted three Catholic/Christian churches situated in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa and four hotels, three of them luxury class hotels in Colombo and another hotel at Dehiwala, near the zoo. An eighth bomber blew himself up in a residential part of Dematagoda. These near simultaneous coordinated attacks by Islamist terrorists left at least 277 dead, including the eight bombers, and more than 500 injured, according to different but generally compatible media accounts. The dead and injured men, women and children in the church attacks had been participating in Sunday mass. Among hotel attacks casualties, there were 38 foreigners. It has now been revealed that there had been a plan to attack the Kandy Esala Perahera as the next target, but that plan was not carried out. The attacks were absolutely unprovoked and pointless from the point of view of the normal civilized world.

Of course, the eight bombers and the individuals who sponsored them wouldn’t have looked at the bombings that negative way. The choice of targets, including the Kandy Esala Perahera that they were planning to attack but later spared, suggests that they were aiming to destabilise Sri Lanka both internally and externally. Isolating Catholic/Christian churches and tourist hotels for the attack was most probably meant to create as powerful an adverse impression as possible among nations across the world, about the country that justifies foreign intervention in its domestic affairs; had a few Buddhist temples been targeted instead, the international impact would not have been so much. Hollow expressions of solidarity trumpeted from an unexpected direction with what looked like a gush of indecent haste, even before the reverberations of the bombings had properly died down, did little to allay the public’s growing suspicions of a foreign conspiracy behind the attacks. (Incidentally, the Cardinal mentioned the apparent possibility of such a conspiracy, earlier than most speakers.) In fact, SLMC MP Rauff Hakeem revealed to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Easter Sunday attacks, in camera, what he knew about alleged foreign involvement in the heinous crime; former president and SLFP MP Sirisena, who appeared before the same commission, also said that a foreign power was involved, though he did not name it.

The bombers and their sponsors must have been quite clear about their respective aims. For the terror sponsors the whole operation must have been nothing but a political project for destabilizing Sri Lanka. For the eight suicide attackers, it was purely a pious religious mission with a direct heavenly reward, and the additional advantage of serving the cause they believed in by instilling fear into infidels (that is, all non-Muslims including atheists, agnostics and others like people of no religion), as an internet post by an ex-Muslim argued (an argument that the majority of ordinary Sri Lankans are sure to dismiss as false).

Testifying before the presidential commission of inquiry former Eastern Province Governor M. L. A. M. Hizbullah said, according to the media (November 27), that he hoped to open the Batticaloa University after talks with the government, when the corona spread crisis is over. He claimed that he built it to teach the poor children of the Eastern province and that, when completed, it will be the biggest university in Asia; it had been planned to be built on 100 acres of land. He had received, it was reported, some 3.6 billion rupees in funds from donors in Saudi Arabia. No doubt, after what transpired at the presidential inquiry that cast doubt on the sincerity of Hizbullah et al, his nonchalance shocked and dismayed most of us; because it gave rise to fears among the concerned public that the unlawfully established Sharia college project will go ahead, without related issues being settled beforehand.

Islamic instruction conducted by fundamentalists even in the Islamic ‘madrasas’ in the 95% Muslim Pakistan, has been found to be problematic. About a year and a half ago, the Pakistan government under PM Imran Khan, moved to take over some 30,000 madrasas across the country with a view to ‘mainstreaming’ them, in response to international pressure, following many complaints that they radicalised the youngsters. Islamic terror attacks carried out in India and Afghanistan, were blamed on young Pakistanis who had learned in these madrasas. If that is the situation in the religiously near homogeneous Pakistan (pop. 212 m), is it unnatural for the much smaller, multi-religious Sri Lanka (pop. hardly 22 m) to be concerned about a Sharia University on its territory, that too potentially the biggest one in Asia?

Hakeem falsely complained to an Indian newspaper that Muslims faced communally institigated retaliatory violence after the Easter attacks. He was basing himself on reports of a few incidents in some unrelated places far from where the bombings took place. Muslims and other religionists and their shops and houses were indiscriminately targeted in these instances, allegedly caused by paid agent provocateurs employed by supporters of the yahapalana regime of the time; these are described in the Wikipedia (obviously, as fed in by an anti-Buddhist editor) as “anti-Muslim riots in retaliation to the bombings that were organized by the Sri Lankan Buddhist Extremist Group on Vesak Day…” (Actually, the monks of the BBS, which is meant here, played a big role in the rescue operations after the blasts, including blood donations; some blood donors had to be turned away because enough blood had been collected. Buddhists, let alone Buddhist monks, never indulge in violence, except under extreme provocation; they are least likely to do that on the day of Vesak, the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar.)

It is inconceivable how the Sharia and the madrasas problem could be effectively addressed without the cooperation of mainstream Muslims, who form 9.7% of the population. But such cooperation cannot be expected from the likes of Hizbullah and Hakeem. Not long before the Easter Sunday attacks, Hizbullah was reported as warning that Muslim youth in the Eastern Province might take up arms unless their grievances were answered (by the then government). What these grievances were only he knew. But before the time he was thus falsely complaining, there were internecine clashes among Muslims in the area, between jihadists and traditionalists, which resulted in murderous violence and property destruction. The travails of the persecuted traditional Muslims did not seem to move Hizbullah to identify with them or speak up on their behalf. Some of these persecuted Muslims made secret contact with the monks of the BBS in Colombo to plead with them to intervene, and even provided them with documentary evidence of what they were undergoing in the east at the hands of extremists.

In the aftermath of the Easter attacks, the victim Catholics were wisely and ably restrained by the Cardinal from thoughts of committing any retaliatory violence against ordinary Muslims. He rose to the occasion, as a beacon of hope, a symbol of compassion, forgiveness, and forbearance, and a great provider of emotional comfort for all Sri Lankans at that moment of universal sorrow and shock. This resonated with the characteristic patience and resilience of the general Sri Lankan populace.

Returning to criticisms of the Cardinal over remarks he made about the progress of the Easter Sunday attacks probe, this is not the first time that the prelate has articulated such sentiments regarding the performance of politicians, whether they happen to be in the government or in the Opposition, without himself playing politics. He always expresses his opinions candidly, without any malice or bias towards anyone. He says that though the church has forgiven the attackers, their sponsors must still be brought to justice, as the BBC once reported. At an audience he gave to SJB MP Kavinda Jayawardane of the Opposition, who called on him on December 3, Cardinal Ranjit expressed his sincere hope and adamant demand that the findings of the presidential inquiry be not swept under the carpet under any circumstances or be subjected to any kind of political horse trading; he also wanted the real movers and shakers behind the Easter bombing savagery be firmly dealt with according to the law. To emphasize his point, he added that if the present government fails to mete out justice to the victims by punishing those responsible, then the job will have to be given to another group of people who can do it. The Cardinal implied, however, that he has not lost his trust in the assurances already given by the president that justice will be done under his watch.

People who believed that the Cardinal is universally admired for all that he is doing for the country and for the ideals that he is bravely standing up for, were in for a rude shock. Hizbullah’s oddly defiant, affected cool that smacked of calculated dissembling (at the presidential commission) went almost unnoticed and hardly commented on, whereas the sincere, well-meant remarks made by the Cardinal about the progress of the presidential inquiry caused a flurry of adverse reactions in the media. He has been described as guilty of ‘hate speech’ for saying what he said! He’s also been made guilty of treason, for he, as one critic pointed out, has threatened to ‘overthrow the government’ by talking about handing over the business of punishing the persons involved in organizing the terror attacks to another party, even though he leads only 7.4% of the population.

I find such attacks on the Cardinal simply outrageous, indecent, and unacceptable. We know Sri Lanka has a history of appointing commissions of inquiry as a strategy to consign vital problems to oblivion. It is not wrong to invoke that reality at the present time, when we have enough reason to believe that there’s going to be a change in that unhallowed tradition, particularly, under our new president. The Cardinal has been for years stressing the need to preserve the Buddhist cultural identity and heritage of Sri Lanka, and striving to unite people following different religions as children of Mother Lanka into a peaceful, harmonious and virtuous society. He is often seen participating in Buddhist events. It is not difficult to understand that his unconventional behaviour does not go down well with some conservative Catholics. Perhaps, his severest critics are Catholics who are upset at what they probably dislike as his too accommodating attitude towards Buddhism and Buddhist monks. Buddhists have no reason to attack him when he is seen to be giving just a timely fillip to boost the confidence of the authorities who are set to move in the right direction, under arguably the least realpolitik-driven executive we have got since independence.

I would like to wind up with this tentative proposal, respectfully offered, for the attention of the President: What about inviting representatives of the clergy of the three minority religions – they should be of the same stature as the Nayake monks within their respective hierarchies – to be participating guest members of the Buddhist Advisory Council that the president consults every month? The possible advantages of such a move are self-evident.



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Opinion

How to degrade, dismantle and destroy a country

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The current social political and economic decision making and the ‘mysterious’, illogical behaviour of Sri Lanka’s leadership, are classic examples of ‘how to degrade, dismantle and destroy a country’.

What are the essential conditions for a country to be a united, successful, sovereign and independent?

1. The rule of law.

2. A responsible Parliament.

3. An executive totally dedicated to the protection and well being of the country.

4. A vibrant economy that lifts the poor out of poverty.

5. Social fraternity and friendship in a tolerant and peaceful environment.

6. Awareness of and the love and protection of the country’s ecology.

The rule of law, as ordinarily understood, is a code of conduct that a people and a state accept as their guiding and protective set of regulations for the common good. There are two sides to it; rights and duties. Human rights and civil rights on the one hand, and paying taxes, obeying social rules of human interaction, such as observing traffic regulations, etc., on the other hand are the two sides.

The institution that oversees the whole complexity of the rule of law is the judiciary. The judiciary must be like Caesar’s wife––totally above suspicion. That is what the blindfolded lady with a sword and scales of justice signify. What we see happening now is something worrisome. I am not going to list all the unsavoury happenings in the recent past. But the Presidential Commission on political victimisation has removed the blindfold of the lady, thrown away the scales, and she is wielding the sword against those few who sincerely and competently did their duty.

How can an independent judiciary stop ongoing trials and release the suspects just because the executive or a commission says so?

In other words, they are degrading the judiciary, destroying its independence.

A responsible Parliament is the very soul of a democratic country. A Parliament that behaves with decorum, efficiency and a keen sense of responsibility to the people that elected it is essential for the country’s progress.

People’s representatives are stealing public funds. They get tax free vehicles and sell them for millions! This is stealing the money due to the Treasury. They sell permits for everything, from petroleum to pharmaceuticals, from sand to stone, collecting millions. This is a brazen demand for bribes. When the President concludes his term, he gets a mansion for free in Colombo. This does not happen even in a banana republic. They have no shame to lose the elections and creep back into the Parliament through the back door, called the National List. They get huge commissions for development projects.

Listen to the current parliamentary debates. What are the crucial problems facing the country today? The gigantic external debt is number one. Number two is China, India and the USA nibbling away at the country’s sovereignty. Number three is the worsening situation of poverty. These are the three main problems among many others. Are they discussing and making laws and policies to solve the debt crisis? Are they making statesmanlike policies and diplomatic overtures to keep the three ogres at bay? Are they discussing ways and means of improving agriculture and industry and making our economy vibrant and people friendly? Listen to the gibberish they are mouthing, or rather screaming, at one another. They accuse, scold and insult one another using un-parliamentary words. They call one another thieves. They may belong to various political parties and may be in the government or in the Opposition, but are united “thick as thieves” and protect one another.

An executive totally dedicated to the protection and wellbeing of the country is yet to be found. If such an executive had been there, would there have been an Easter massacre? If such an executive is there, will it tell us only what we already know, after years and millions spent on a Presidential Inquiry into the Easter barbarity? They have shown us only the tip of the iceberg, which is there to be seen even without an inquiry. We want to know what is hidden under. Why is the executive so coy about showing it to us? We can only say with Marcellus in Act I, scene iv of the Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” – “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark (Sri Lanka)”. We have neither trust nor hope in the executive. It too has gone the way of the Parliament.

A vibrant economy that lifts the poor out of poverty. Isn’t that the main task of any governing body of a country?

But it is not so in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka they only talk about getting loans, more loans and bigger loans. And when they get a loan they crow about it as if it is a great achievement. Any decent gentleman would keep his loans secret, for he would be ashamed of the public getting to know it. We do not have gentlemen. Ours are scoundrels who are happy to get loans so that they can get their cut. They are not worried because they do not repay the loans. It is we the people who have to settle their debts.

If not for the women sweating away in FTZ factories, if not for the women plucking tea buds by the ton in the plantations, if not for the women sold to slavery in West Asia, where will this country be? What have the governing ingrates done for them? Nothing. It is the private small industries and entrepreneurs that are some consolation to the local labour force.

What have they done for the farmers? They do not get water in time, the fertilizer in time and now, as if Sena is not enough, they have the pachyderms! Their habitats are sold to multinationals and they have nowhere to go. They are being massacred more than one a day. This is a national crime against innocent elephants that cry to heaven for retribution. The country is cursed for it, but for our scoundrels it is water on the duck’s back. The farmers suffer, they are protesting in sit-ins all over the country. The politician monkeys see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, and of course do nothing. We are going downhill, getting poorer and will soon end up in bankruptcy.

Social fraternity and friendship in a tolerant and peaceful ambient, is necessary for people to live happily in a country. It was so sad to watch a popular tuition master, teaching ecology on YouTube, advise the students to leave this country for their own good, adding that he himself is contemplating such action. Can anyone blame him? We who have passed the three score and ten probably will remain and prefer to sink with the ship. But the younger generations certainly have a right to enjoy this short but incredibly beautiful life, instead of getting bogged down in the lawless, fearsome chaos this country will become.

Not too long ago, we lived side by side, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, without any suspicion or antagonism, enjoying one another. We were together in school, in the playground, in the market place and in the neighbourhood. Now we realize how wonderful that was. Then came the petty political rascals. Just to get power and amass filthy lucre, they would sell anything, sacrifice anything. For them there is nothing sacred or invaluable. Even foolish religious leaders were made use of for their benefit. The Sinhala were pitted against the Tamil, then against the Muslim. They pit religion against religion with fantastic canards like bound fallopian tubes, kotthu with impotence pills, female underwear laced with infertility drugs, etc. The media slaves of the petty political scoundrels, and even some political religious, went to town with the incredible stories without checking on their veracity. The gullible public swallowed them hook line and sinker. How much blood have we shed for the last 50 years?

What a waste of life!

When will the people ever learn that they are governed by a coterie of scoundrels––Ali Baba and the 225 thieves? Will we ever have social fraternity and friendship in a tolerant and peaceful environment? The answer is blowing in the wind, my friend; it is blowing in the wind.

The awareness of and the love and protection of the country’s ecology is the duty of every true patriotic citizen.

Ali Baba and the 225 thieves are hell bent on destroying just that, the ecology. The cunning scoundrels and their bootlicking officialdom are good at shooting the messenger. A young girl declares that Sinharaja is destroyed. And the officers instead of investigating those felling trees ask the girl if she knows where the forest boundaries are. A civil activist exposes the fraud of the Sahana Malla. Instead of verifying the accusation by checking the items in the Malla, he is arrested. You point the moon to them and they cut off your index finger. In the cancer causing coconut oil case, they have shown that they are more interested in protecting the crooked businesses, rather than the vulnerable citizens of the country. They are destroying the forests in Wilpattu, in the Sinharaja and all over. They are destroying our country, they are destroying us.

I’m sure the governing ignoramuses have never heard of Chief Seattle’s almost ‘sacred’ ecological declaration, where he tells the aggressive white invaders that his people and the environment are not two things but one. I’m sure they have never heard of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” on the love and protection of Mother/Sister Earth. They know only their insatiable greed; they see nothing beyond their own navels. They have no love or kinship to the soil and the rocks, the rivers and the seas, the flora and the fauna of Sri Lanka. They certainly have no love for Sri Lankans whom they deceive every five years. They are not the legitimate children of Mother Lanka. Their only goal in life is to exploit this country and its people to the maximum possible and get away, the dual-citizen traitors. There is no hope for our beautiful elephants, our environment and us.

Ali Baba and the 225 thieves know quite well how to degrade, dismantle and destroy our country. They not only know it, they are deliberately committing the heinous crime. Who can stop them? Only the PEOPLE can stop them. That’s why I have been calling for a Grand Alliance of Good People. But I feel I am only a voice crying in the wilderness.

Cannot our people see the cunning deceitful trickery they are perpetrating on us? When the A20 was mooted, before genuine opposition could come up, their lackeys, political, religious and lay, vociferously stood against it. The genuine Opposition was silenced. At the last moment, the bootlicking slaves supported the Bill in the Parliament. The same trick was repeated at giving away of the West Container Terminal of the Colombo harbour to the Adani Group of India. The trick is being repeated for the third time with the Port City. The same bootlicking pack of lackeys is vehemently attacking the draft of the Port City Management. The genuine Opposition has no time even to get organised. The draft is deliberately made worse than what the Chinese imperialists demand. Eventually, they will remove the unnecessary excess and the lackeys will say a compromise is won by them.

If our people still cannot see this traitorous tragic betrayal performed before their eyes, they do not deserve a unitary, sovereign, independent, self-respecting state called Sri Lanka.

 

 

Fr J.C. PIERIS

Galle

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Opinion

US vs China as aid givers

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Aid is a necessary evil for Sri Lanka at this juncture, as it grapples with a declining economy, while in the grip of the Covid pandemic. Our economy was good in 2014, and we could have survived without much aid if not for the pandemic and the five years of ‘yahapalana’. The latter ruined the economy and brought down the GDP from a healthy 5-6%, in 2014, to 1-2%, in 2019. It robbed its own bank, opened the doors to the West to interfere in our internal affairs, antagonised China, and adopted a pro-West policy — without receiving anything in return from the West. The pandemic has further destroyed the economy and now it is tottering with a minus GDP. If a man is dying of respiratory failure, due to Covid, he has to be given oxygen, via a ventilator, nothing else would work. Similarly, Sri Lanka needs substantial financial aid if it is to survive. We are fortunate in that now there is a choice of aid givers, there was a time when we had no choice but get into the aid trap of the Western powers, via Bretton Woods twins.

The ‘yahapalana’ government, in order to come out of its economic woes, almost signed the MCC, SOFA and ACSA agreements with the US, and the then Prime Minister wanted to sign them before the elections in 2019. The present government refused to sign the MCC but is being helped by China in a big way. Do we have a choice? Only alternative is to align with the US and sign the MCC. If ‘yahapalana’ had signed the ACSA, SOFA, and MCC Sri Lanka would have been in a situation where it could be converted into a military base at the whim of the US. ACSA and SOFA are designed to give the US military visa-less entry into Sri Lanka, and do as they please without coming under the jurisdiction of the country. MCC would have given them access to land and opened the doors for economic exploitation.

There seems to be a well-orchestrated opposition to the Chinese involvement in Sri Lanka. It is being said that the proposed Colombo Port City Commission would make the tiny piece of land, that has been reclaimed from the sea, a colony of the Chinese. If one compares the ACSA, SOFA, MCC combination with the Colombo Port City project, it would be like comparing a multi-barrel rocket launcher with a hand pistol. That is if what the detractors say about it is true. What is envisaged in the Bill to establish the Colombo Port City Commission is mainly facilitation of foreign direct investment into the project. For this purpose, most of the red tape involved in the approval of investment has been done away with, in order to expedite the process and avoid delay. The Commission would exercise the powers and functions of relevant regulatory authorities, such as the UDA, Municipal Council, etc. The Commission would also be granted exemption from the Inland Revenue Act, Betting and Gambling Act, Foreign Exchange Act and Customs Ordinance.

Constitutional experts, who made a mess of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, have said the Colombo Port City Commission Bill is unconstitutional. Well that would be decided by the Supreme Court. However, from a layman’s point of view, the UDA and Municipality rules, for instance, are an impediment to rapid development and would discourage FDI. Similarly, tax concessions are a necessary evil to attract foreign investment. Whether a relaxation of these rules and regulations, within the confines of the Colombo Port City, would be a violation of the Constitution and the fundamental rights of the citizens, will have to be decided by the courts. Perhaps the courts may suggest necessary modifications to the Bill so that it conforms to the requirements of the Constitution. Of course, the people of Sri Lanka would want the CPC to come under the writ of the government and the law of the country. It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to ensure that the Colombo Port City does not breach the sovereignty and independence of the people and the territorial integrity of the country.

If, on the other hand, investment does not flow into the CPC, all that effort and expense would be wasted, and what is worse Sri Lanka may not be able to recover from the economic abyss it has fallen into. The CPC is the only viable major project that we have at present, which has the potential to give a much-needed boost to the economy. We cannot do without foreign funds at this juncture, as our foreign debts are huge and we have to earn foreign exchange to service them. We cannot keep on taking loans to pay the existing loans, as successive governments have been doing. China has already given us a huge loan.

As Sri Lanka badly needs foreign aid, it has to make the correct choice in picking its aid givers. It must know that aid does not come without strings – there is nothing called a free lunch. It must look at the strings, how bad are they, how would it affect the people, the independence of the country and its resources. We must look at the aid giving profile of the major donors. Researchers, like Emma Mawdsley (2007), Mark Engler (2006), Susanne Soederberg (2004), have commented on the real intentions of the US in pushing countries to accept MCC on their terms. For instance Mawdsley says that the first five MCC compacts in Cape Verde, Honduras, Madagascar, and Georgia is using a new security development paradigm to legitimate more spending on “development” programmes, which are primarily intended to serve the interests of US consumers, manufacturers and investors, and that poverty reduction at best is a secondary objective. These researchers say that security improvement projects in recipient countries are really intended to serve US defence and military goals. Further, they reveal how the World Bank contrives to show bad business of these projects as good business.

Dreher A. et al (2017) in a study has found that Chinese aid was effective at producing economic growth in recipient countries. China’s aid during the period from 2000 to 2014 amounts to USD 350 billion (AidData 2017). One fifth of this had been outright grants. 45% of their aid goes to African countries which have benefited enormously from Chinese aid in recent times. For instance, Rwanda which was a country torn apart by a civil war, is now recording a GDP of 12 % and there is peace as well. Several African countries are recording similar growth rates with Chinese aid at present. Let me quote from the White Paper, China Foreign Aid (2014) “China adheres to the principle of not imposing any political conditions, not interfering in the internal affairs of the recipient countries and fully respecting their right to independently choosing their own paths and models of development. The basic principles China upholds in providing foreign assistance are mutual respect, equality, keeping promise, mutual benefits and win-win”

Could we say the same thing about the Western aid givers? They helped to bring ‘yahapalana’ into power but did not give a cent, though they grossly interfered in our internal affairs, going to the extent of meddling in constitution making. They wanted to punish the leaders and armed forces responsible for the victory in the war against the LTTE, based on unsubstantiated evidence. At present they are busy in the UNHRC gathering fabricated evidence in support of non-existent human right violations in Sri Lanka. Could we take the grave risk of accepting financial assistance from such donors? Do we have a choice in this matter, but turn to our good friend China in this hour of need?

N. A. de S. AMARATUNGA

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Opinion

Rise of Cheena Saubhagya

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Before the Aluth Avurudda dawned, we were talking about the lost crown of Ranjan Ramanayake and the grabbing and fighting over the crown of Mrs. Sri Lanka.

The auspicious time for the dawning of the New Year would have brought joy to those who were able to get enough rice, coconut oil and honey to make kiri buth, kevun, kokis and other delights, and even enjoy some of the avurudu games, although without elevated pillow fights and tugs-o-war. 

But the reality facing us all, with songs of the cuckoo and other birds, is a push into an inauspicious era in the country, with democracy getting its biggest blow from a government that pledged to strengthen the democratic rights of the people. 

We now face the reality of the Bill for the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, which, if enacted, would take us far away from the goals  of democracy that our people, and most political leaders and parties were committed to, from many years before independence. The proposed Colombo Port City has all the promise and assurance of being a new colony in South Asia, with the colonisers, as seen today, being the Chinese.

Is this the reality of the Rajapaksa dream and goal in politics and governance?

We do remember that when the work on the Colombo Port City was ceremonially launched in September, 2014, by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the entire project – the artificial island to be constructed by the Chinese – was written off to China. A permanent Chinese holding.

It was left to the Yahapalana government, which followed in 2015, to have serious negotiations with China, and change the full ownership to a 99-year lease given to China. 

What we now see is that the Saubhagye Dekma of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is, in fact, the rise of the Cheena Saubhagya in Sri Lanka.

A country that has had free elections since 1931, even before independence, and has had a functioning parliament, since 1948, is seeking to do away with the very concept of parliamentary democracy. The Colombo Port City Economic Commission is the display of nondemocratic governance, where the nominees of the President, will be answerable to him and not to the country and people on the functioning of the Port City, its income and expenditure, and all facilities in the new Dictatorial City, inside the Democratic Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan voters have much to do with the threat that democracy faces today with the Port City exercise. The 69 lakhs that voted Gotabaya Rajapaksa to office as President, the somewhat smaller vote that gave a parliamentary majority to the SLPP – Pohottuva – alliance in the general election, and the two-thirds majority the government gained in the passage of the 20 Amendment, are core values of the Rajapaksa-Port City strike at democracy.

Mahinda Rajapaksa may have been a strong supporter of democracy, in his early years in politics, and his first election as President but the dictatorial trend in Rajapaksa politics has been clearly seen in the post-war Sri Lanka. Today’s dictatorial policies coming with the Port City Commission, began with Mahinda Rajapaksa drawing MPs from the Opposition and passing the 18th Amendment, which curbed the democratic trends of the 17 A.

After that, the 19 A of the Yahapalana, restored democracy and expanded the provisions and facilities of democracy with Independent Commissions, and considerable independence in the appointment of members of the judiciary. 

The Rajapaksas came again, after the Easter Sunday carnage, with their full strength, and popular support to remove the values of democracy that were brought into the Constitution from the 19A, to full and shameful strides into dictatorial governance, with the 20A.      

The massive threat to democracy that comes from the Port City Commission is also backed by the draft legislation to remove the court cases on crime and corruption against members and supporters of this government. This dictatorial move is also supported by the removal of the many cases filed in the courts by the Bribery Commission, on technical errors – which can certainly be corrected — but not thought necessary by a corrupt regime.

The Port City Commission is the complete flowering of corruption and dictatorial trends in this country. This is the show of majority dominance, not to serve the people, but to serve a large and powerful family,  and the catchers that serve and benefit from it, with claims of ViyathMaga or any such crooked players.

We now have a member of Parliament of the government, but not holding any portfolio or even a state ministry, come out in a loud criticism of the Varaya Nagara Keliya. Such critics were once very supportive of all the corrupt moves by the Avant Garde players, exposed by Yahapalanaya; but things do change. The Varaya Nagara Keliya is the display of the realities of Rajapaksa Balaya. It is in keeping with the Basil Rajapaksa call to learn more of the Chinese system of governance. 

What we see with the Port City is the vast abandonment of democracy. Such political thinking will not be limited to the Port City, but will soon extend to the entire island. It is the realisation of Rajavasala Thinking, where memorials for deceased parents could/should be built at State/People’s expense.   

What the people are told to accept today is the Cheena Saubhagya. It is just one display of Apey Pavul Saubhagya, which is the reality of Port City crooked governance.

Let us see how much the judiciary can help the people of Sri Lanka safeguard its longer commitment to democracy, beyond the crooked and deadly impact of the 20A.

Cheena Saubhagya, Bunga veva!  

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