‘Fraud on a Power’- Exercised in Vaccinations Management?
by Chandra Jayaratne
The doctrine “Fraud on a Power” (also known as “improper purpose” doctrine) was one of the key fundamental building blocks in framing the potential charges in a high profile suspected corruption and money laundering case investigated under the ‘Yahapalanaya’ regime. This investigation was assisted, by a set of independent professionals acting as authorized independent volunteers. It appears that the prosecutors of the Attorney General’s department make limited use of these concepts.
The pigeon holed investigation report delved in to the real issues that should be pursed in a purported corruption and money laundering investigation; and in addition dealt with the failures in governance, failures of fiduciary duty, lack of professionalism, transparency, accountability, oppression and mismanagement and even willful misrepresentation. These findings regrettably had not been covered even in a specially appointed Commission of Inquiry, which cost the state coffers millions of rupees.
More regrettably, the report under reference lies in many a cubby hole of the leading investigators and prosecutors, without essential follow up action; nor are these findings even being used to develop ‘lessons in good governance’, whereby similar actions can be prevented from being repeated in the future in any state entity.
Article 3 of our Constitution states “In the Republic of Sri Lanka, sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise” whilst Article 4 inter alia states “The Sovereignty of the people shall be exercised and enjoyed in the following manner: the executive power of the people, including the defense of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the people;” It is thus evident that the President, the Cabinet and the duly appointed Secretaries of the Ministries, empowered with Executive Power by the Constitution must exercise such power for the benefit of the people; and are whilst holding such office and executing such power are committed to act as Trustees of the Sovereign People.
The readers of this article are kindly requested to review the following facts as narrated and assess, firstly whether the facts as set out as purportedly connected with the “Pandemic related Vaccinations Management” in Sri Lanka are accurate. Provided the purported case studies as noted below are factual and can be validated by evidence, the readers are requested to assess whether these actions tantamount to those in governance, including those directly involved and those in the apex of Governance under “Command Responsibility Principles” are guilty of;
The violation of the Constitution and impacting on the Citizens Fundamental Rights to Life, Freedoms, Justice, Equity and Equality;
The violation of any of the International Conventions to which Sri Lanka is a signatory and which have validation by local laws;
The violation of International Humanitarian Law and connected Jurisprudence, including joint Criminal Enterprise and Command Responsibility;
Any offenses under the Criminal Procedure Code;
Criminal Negligence and or Failure to Avoid Disasters;
Policy/Priority Corruption, Administrative Corruption and / or Financial Corruption and /or offenses under Bribery Act Section 70 dealing with Corruption.
It is also up to the readers to assess whether the undernoted purported events as listed below as Case Studies developed from purported information, media exposes and narrations by connected parties demonstrate and support the possibility that the vaccinations management and administration are tainted by bad intents, “power having been exercised for a purpose, or with an intention, going beyond the scope of or not justified by the instrument creating the power (ie. The Constitution)”, “Abuse of Power”, “inadequate deliberation” and/or “failing to take relevant considerations or taking account of irrelevant considerations”, “acting on considerations for their own or their family personal benefit or for the benefit of any other third parties, outside the interests of the effective beneficiaries”, “misbehaving with their power” and “is sufficiently serious as to amount to a breach of fiduciary duty” and thus tantamount to “Fraud on a Power”:
Case Study 1
1. Frustrating several attempts by leading Business Associations and Chambers, at no cost to the state, in accessing vaccines for their staff, whose well being was considered essential for the production operations and long term competitiveness and thus keep value addition to the economy uninterrupted ( Refer Separate Case study below) and
2. In the process of such frustration the State loosing the opportunity to receive at no cost a significant number of vaccines to be administered to the common citizens;
3. Not allowing the already established private sector agents of the vaccine manufacturers from actively engaging and enriching the procurement process, whether such procurements be by the State or as a part of a private sector business initiatives
Case Study 2
1. The Failure to make timely strategic decisions related to guarantee required supplies in a phased out manner and ensure procurement processes and supply chain management plans executed with effective risk mitigation
2. The failure to have in place a priority list in the administration of the limited stocks of vaccines
3. Failure to transparently and with integrity administer the vaccines, strictly in line with the agreed priority
4. Ensuring, where two doses of the vaccine are essential for effective risk mitigation, that adequate stocks are maintained for administration of both doses to the covered participants, within the recommended time gap
5. The validity of the opinion publicly promoted by Health Officials of the Ministry that it is better to give one dose to many participants as against the required two doses and also attempt to stretch the number of vaccinations from a vaccine vial from 9-10 by administering 11 or above vaccines
6. The GMOA submission of 1st June titled “Strategic Interventions towards achieving optimal control of Covid 19 in Sri Lanka” identifying the immediate need to restructure the Epidemiology Unit, ensure effective oversight and initiate an audit in to all activities connected with the vaccinations administration
7. A fully functional vaccine registration, administration, and management system developed by the State entity Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA), purportedly lying dormant awaiting formal authorization by the Health Authorities for formal launch. This purported reluctance to launch the system is despite clear understanding that if such a systems was in place, good governance, better transparency and operational and decision making integrity would have been assured with the optimization of economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the vaccinations management process
Case Study 3
Whereas the Apparel Exporters and the Apparel Industry as a whole and the sector Country Ratings being internationally assessed by Importers based on “ON TIME DELIVERY” (OTD); and Sri Lanka in 2020 having had OTD of around 60% vs Bangladesh 98%; and Sri Lanka’s Exports in 2020 significantly declining vs Bangladesh showing a 5 % growth within a highly restricted market, the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL), recognizing that despite 2020 low market performance as against competitors and yet having the Order Book for 2021 full by December 2020; and realizing that staff availability, their health and ability to function in the Covid impacted environment was a key driver of competitiveness is purported to have approached the Government in January 2021, with the under noted proposal:
The JAAFSL offers to fund at its cost, with an outlay of USD 20 mln, against a secured and confirmed order negotiated via local agents for WHO accredited vaccines at 3 $ each per vial, sufficient to cover approximately 6. 7 million vaccinations of which 0.7 million doses would be retained by JAAFSL for the 2 does each of the 350,000 apparel workers, with the balance handed over to the government for use to vaccinate common citizens, and
This offer by JAAFSL is purported to have been topped up by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) with an offer to provide funding of up to an additional USD 30 mln, and
With the total pool of funds garnered by JAAFSL and CCC, the order could have been made out to support at the offered price per jab of USD 3 to vaccinate 16. 7 mln jabs in total, and regrettably
The State is purported to have not approved this initiative, stating that the State will be the sole importer of the vaccinations
Case Study 4.
The Public expose already in the social media and other media that Bangladesh Government Order for Sinopharm vaccinations are at USD 5 per vial less than the price at which Sri Lanka is procuring the same vaccination direct from the same source of supply in China and that similar reduced charge procurements have purportedly been made by Pakistan too
Case Study 5
The media / social media expose of the ad hoc nature and selective manner of vaccine administration; reporting that unannounced administrations are taking place at unusual locations; and in some instances purportedly even being unauthorized and totally outside of the announced priority of administration being; thus clearly evidencing the by passing of equity and principles of priority in the application of the second dose of the Vaccinations
Case Study 6
The Media reporting that in some instances, those receiving the first dose of the vaccine were forced to sign a declaration prior to such administration affirming that that they are not insisting on the second dose of the same vaccine being administered to them as a prerequisite.
The report of the International Tribunal for a post-event global actions review in dealing with the pandemic, headed by the former lady president of Liberia and former lady PM of New Zealand has recommended inter alia the creation of a global mechanism to be adopted in similar situations; withsuch mechanism taking charge of action accountability for global good; and be in readiness to action them anywhere in the world, in the event any of the countries, their leaders and global institutions fail to take the best option strategic action.
Does this recommendation, which comes from the highlighted failures of timely strategic information sharing, lack of urgent strategic actions, lack of a single mined agreed action plan with focus on prevention and contingency plan, all resulting in implementation delays and failures to align the global leadership to such a path, culminate in placing the blame on WHO, China, US, G7 the and possibly even the UN and its other agencies? In such a backdrop, can National leaders who failed their people in the current pandemic like Presidents Trump, Bolsanaro (now on trial by the Senate of Brazil) . Philippines President and Premier Modi and others, be charged under International Humanitarian Laws and associated Jurisprudence or under Public Interest Litigation, for failure to avoid disaster within the principles of command responsibility?
Should caring intellectual elders of society form themselves in to a Peoples Commission of Inquiry and conduct a post audit of the vaccinations management, seek the citizens assessments and suggestions and determine the weak links in the administration this time round and develop a local mechanism to be adopted in similar situations in the future and place such recommendations before the citizens and those in governance.
The need for an alternative
By Uditha Devapriya
“Their much-awaited economic policy statement turned out to be nothing. The main problem with the NPP is there is no real analysis of the problem nor a cohesive plan of action. Anura Kumara Dissanayake is a Putin-by-day and Biden-by-night. What he says to the business community is not what he tells the public on the platform. If people are going to fall for [his] likes once again, we will never come out of this mess.” –Kabir Hashim, SJB Press Conference, 27 January 2023
With the Local Government elections in full sway, Sri Lanka’s main political parties are once again formulating and debating policies. The main Opposition, the SJB, has come out against parties seeking alternatives to engagement with the IMF. it has been particularly critical of its main opponent in the Opposition, the JVP-NPP, which organised an Economic Forum at the Galadari Hotel last week. As the SJB’s Harsha de Silva implied at a press conference, whatever the party in power may be, we need to implement IMF reforms.
The National Economic Forum was a masterclass in presentation and propaganda. Aimed at Colombo’s business establishment, it ended up proposing policies that are, to say the least, anathema to this crowd. The JVP-NPP’s critics have often faulted the party for being vague and abstruse about its stances. The Economic Forum revived these criticisms: MPs came out in support of a radical alternative to the current system, but failed to offer a clear, nuanced statement on what constitutes that alternative.
To be sure, such criticisms should not detract us from the need for an alternative. Yet the JVP-NPP’s lack of focus on who, or what, should drive the country’s development remains intriguing to say the least. While the Forum ended up reinforcing belief in the private sector as the engine of growth, MPs and party activists elsewhere were busy refuting such claims, arguing for State intervention. Such contradictions cannot help a party that has come under attack, from the neoliberal right, for its lack of consistency.
For their part, the neoliberal right continues to frame what Devaka Gunawardena calls the market consensus as the only solution worth seeing through. Thus, the right-wing flank of the SJB, which accomodates MPs who owe their political careers to the UNP, as well as the newly neoliberalised flank of the SLPP, which is in government, invoke the rhetoric of sacrifice and better times ahead, predicating growth tomorrow on austerity today. It doesn’t help that the country’s ever protean middle-classes, based mainly in Colombo, are divided on these policies: on the one hand they are against utility tariff and tax hikes, and on the other they are supportive of privatisation and the divestment of State assets.
Despite my criticism of the JVP-NPP, I believe the party’s framing of the need for a radical alternative to neoliberal economics should be encouraged. The JVP-NPP, to be sure, is not the only outfit highlighting or emphasising these alternatives. The Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), sections of the Old Left, as well as the centrist and centre-left flanks of the SJB, have argued for and advocated them. No less than Sajith Premadasa has implied that IMF negotiations should not compromise on the country’s economic sovereignty.
Yet with the ULS’s past association with the Rajapaksa regime and the SJB’s rightward tilts – epitomised more than anything else by Harsha de Silva’s and Kabir Hashim’s recent criticisms of the JVP-NPP – it is the JVP-NPP that has gained credence, with critics of the status quo, as an authentic and a radical political option.
I am not in agreement with everything the JVP-NPP stands for. Its stance on the Executive Presidency, as Dayan Jayatilleka has correctly pointed out, is at odds with the tactics and strategies deployed by Left parties elsewhere, prominently in Latin and South America. Its stand on devolution is somewhat ambiguous. It continues to be progressive on every other social issue, including minority rights and LGBTQ rights, but recent statements concerning women have been roundly criticised, if not condemned. As my friend Shiran Illanperuma puts it, the party has been in a permanent state of opposition ever since it lost its hardcore nationalist and student Left flanks, between 2008 and 2012. Its statements on the economy and what it plans to do with it have hence become vague and confused.
However, despite these limitations, I believe that the party’s radical thrusts need to be taken forward. That is because the SJB’s right-wing has been incapable of transcending its fixation with neoliberal economics. It has become a captive to the mantra of the market consensus. Nothing illustrates this more, in my opinion, than Harsha de Silva’s take on the recent tax hikes: he says he opposes a 36 percent rate, but then adds that he and the party favours a 30 percent rate. As a Left critic of the party pointed out to me, between the one and the other, there isn’t much of a difference. For its part, the JVP-NPP has recommended that the minimum threshold for income tax be moved up from Rs 100,000 to Rs 200,000, and that the tax rate be capped at 24 percent.
Kabir Hashim’s advocacy of the UNP’s economic reforms is another case in point. Hashim’s remarks on the UNP’s proposals for the 2005 election at the recent press conference are instructive here. “In 2004, Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the UNP was going to trim State sector jobs and said they wouldn’t allow it. Now in 2022, on NPP platforms he says the State sector is a huge burden to the country and that it cannot give jobs. He took 20 years to understand this… State institutions grew from 107 to 245 since then, with losses of over Rs. 1.2 trillion.” Such statements tell us that while the SJB’s neoliberal flank is unwilling to team up with Ranil Wickremesinghe, it is perfectly willing to continue his policies.
To their credit, the ULS and the Old Left have advocated policies antithetical to the market consensus as well. They are against the current regime’s economic and foreign policy. This does not automatically qualify them as a worthy Opposition, however; the truth is that the Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya, as well as the SLFP along with the Dullas Alahapperuma faction of the SLPP, were in my opinion not vocal or articulate enough against the SLPP when it held power from 2019 to 2022. These outfits fell prey to the intrigues of the Rajapaksas, and though they did not go along the SLPP all the way through, they were unfortunately unable to stop the latter from taking the country down with them last year.
The ULS, the Old Left, the SLFP, and the SLPP dissident faction have hence lost credibility. However, that should not belittle the policies they advocate. The JVP-NPP will, to be sure, not join forces with the ULS: it is too opposed to coalitions to enter such an arrangement. Yet the party has been associated in the past with progressive, if socialist, policies: when it decided to support Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005, for instance, it made its support conditional on discontinuing privatisation of state assets. Rajapaksa agreed.
In that recent press conference, Kabir Hashim singled out the JVP for its former support for Mahinda Rajapaksa and the SLFP, claiming that that it too is responsible for the current economic mess. What Hashim and his peers in the SJB, who incidentally are at variance with the economic paradigm of no less than the father of their leader, have still not realised is that the policies they advocate, as the alternative to the status quo, are no different to the policies pursued by the current regime. There is at present a bankruptcy of ideas as far as alternatives are concerned in Sri Lanka. The JVP-NPP may not have the best possible policy package. But it needs to be encouraged, if at all because, as far as the Sri Lankan Left goes, it can win big at the upcoming elections. Who doesn’t like a winner?
At the same time, the SJB’s centre and centre-left flanks must be concretely encouraged to prevent the party, as a whole, from becoming a right-wing neoliberal outfit. In that sense, Sajith Premadasa’s recent intervention, his cogent critique of going all out for austerity, was a success: it essentially got the neoliberal flank of the party to reverse its pro-IMF rhetoric. Such manoeuvres may not be to the liking of MPs whose ideas for economic reform do not differ or depart substantially from the UNP’s programme. But it is essential that there be a counter to the latter policies, if at all because we cannot continue with all out austerity. To quote that old Gramscian quip, the old world lies dying and the new struggles to be born. In such a context, it would be utter madness to continue living in the old world.
The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rally the People, One Nation, One Call Free Sri Lanka:Independence Day 2023
Today we Sri Lankans are a people ransomed by successive national governments to foreign creditors and super powers who hold us Lilliputians in their Gulliver palms! Therefore come Independence Day February 4, 2023, we must ask the question, what are Independence Days that countries celebrate? The qualified answer is: they are to commemorate Nationhood free from foreign domination and the beginning of a country’s freedom from foreign powers and achievement of national independence. This in essence is the basis laid down for celebration of Independence Day by all accounts and definitions.
Sri Lanka’s indebtedness and continued process of falling into further debt to pay the immediate debts is now a spiraling Sword of Damocles on the unborn heads of generations to come. Even though an expected tranche of US$2.9 Bn bailout package from the IMF is supposed to give a short respite, today we live in a nation asphyxiated with foreign creditors awaiting payment with interest that the country is unable to deliver. It is the 17th time since Independence that we go through the rigors of borrowing from the IMF and not instituting policy measures to be sustainable and self-sufficient Nation. However the crunch time now is irreparable insolvency, finding yet no solution in sight to be free from servicing debt repayments or even finding the means to effect the same.
Decades of beggary, being beholden to foreign powers to the extent of appeasing them politically, economically and culturally are evident in the many ways this island nation has had to concede to India and China on numerous occasions. The bottom line and pressing reality for the Nationhood of Sri Lanka is any key decision on our ports, energy, security, minority interests, even the selection of Free Trade Agreements with partner countries, divestiture of national assets etc all fall prey to the interests of those money lending institutions and nations to whom Sri Lanka is beholden during the 75 years of its so called independence.
Let us take a reality check. We the people of this country are now locked into hitherto unprecedented all time record of unsustainable debt, bankruptcy, economic contraction, galloping inflation, penury, malnourishment, failing health care, rising mortality rates, school drop outs, erosion of democracy and democratic institutions to name a few. Professionals, technicians, blue collar works, housemaids leave the country in droves for earning in foreign climes.
The massive brain drain of expertise and technical capacity moving out of the country remains the highest on record. The Government Budget shows no heed of expenditure curbs. It has no credible implementation mechanism to increase revenue through pragmatic taxation of high income earners. Instead, the middle and poorer professional classes are caught in its tentacles of direct and indirect taxation policies. In essence, the Government of the day has no sustainable way forward to take the Nation out of the dark tunnel of hopelessness to which it has sunk.
Amidst this carnage of nationhood, says the President of Sri Lanka glibly, “we must celebrate the 75th Independence Anniversary, otherwise, the world will say that we are not capable of celebrating even our independence” That is the puerile and even petty justification given by an Executive President for holding the Independence Day Ceremonies with an estimated total cost of Rs.200 million at a time when it is internationally known that we are a bankrupt debtor nation beholden to the charity of our creditors, private lenders, and bilateral lenders like India, China, Japan and international lending organizations.
However, according to the President what must be advertised to the world at large is that on February 4, 1948, Ceylon was granted independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. The fact such Dominion status within the British Commonwealth was retained for another 24 years until May 22, 1972 until Ceylon became a Republic of Sri Lanka remains a factual aside to this remembrance of things past. What really is the relevance of old historical tales of the Kandyan Rebellions of 1818, 1848, the Muslim Uprising of 1915, the saga of past heroes culminating in Independence given on a platter to Sri Lanka in 1948 unlike in India where it was the culmination of the struggles of the Mahathma Gandhi and his followers.
In this context it is an insult to injury for the Government to spend the tax payers money on a mere show of strength and military grandeur by the armed forces parading in front of a President who is not elected by the people but instead supported by the now debased SLPP Party of deposed former President Gotabaya and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is a fact that the combined assault of the major political parties as the UNP headed by Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe of the infamous and defunct Yahapalanaya , now signed up to uphold the notorious corrupt degenerate governments of the Rajapaksas have over several decades run the country to debt and more unpayable debt until the nation is today groveling before the big powers with a begging bowl.
The utter mis-management of the economy since the ” glory days” of independence, the successive reliance for short term financial rolling on the International Monetary Fund and other lending organizations, Institutions, bilateral partners for funding which have led to a cumulative monetary disaster, the Machiavellian politicization of the social and economic policies, institutions, public service, judiciary, manipulation of minority and racial riots and schisms have combined to sound the death knell of our independence and sovereignty.
The call of the Lion with a brandished sword on Independence Day is therefore a strident one: Let us all as One People rise up for the free, fair and just nationhood of our beloved mother Lanka! Raise the Flag for a clean, anti-corrupt, sound governance and legitimate leadership representing the People! Victory comes not by regurgitating old victories, but in facing the battle of today: To Fight the Good Fight one and all must be the Independence of nationhood that we celebrate and prize beyond all measure.
The politics of opposing imperialism and neoliberalism
By Uditha Devapriya
One of the most important debates to emerge from the history of the Left movement in Sri Lanka – by which I include the Old and the New Left – is whether they were correct to ally with formations that were anything but socialist. Be it the LSSP’s decision to join forces with the SLFP, or the JVP’s decision to support candidates fronted by Sri Lanka’s definitive right-wing party, the UNP, these choices have divided socialist activists. History is yet to deliver a verdict on them. Until it does, I am afraid that we can only speculate.
Of course, it’s not just the Sri Lankan Left. Socialist parties everywhere and anywhere – from the US to India, and beyond – have joined forces with non-socialist formations. In Sri Lanka it is the Old Left, the LSSP and the Communist Party, that are called out for having betrayed socialist causes and allied with such formations. But other Left outfits have done the same thing: from the NSSP to the JVP. While these parties are yet to receive the same degree of criticism the Old Left has, it must be admitted that, at least from the perspective of practical politics, they all considered it necessary to enter into various alliances.
I am not sufficiently versed in Marxist literature to justify or criticise this. I am aware that Marxist figureheads of the 20th century, including Stalin, were not above forming tactical alliances with other formations. And it wasn’t just Stalin. The LSSP’s decision to support the SLFP, in 1964, can partly be traced to the shifts of opinion within the Trotskyite movement regarding alliances with non-socialist parties. It is on the basis of such shifts that parties like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have become part of mainstream outfits like the Democratic Party, which can hardly be described as left-wing.
At the local and the global level, then, the socialist Left’s main dilemma, essentially, is whether it should join forces with other formations to fight a greater evil, the greater evil usually defined as imperialism or neoliberalism.
Marxists call out on sections of the Left which support Russia against Ukraine, or China against the United States, on the grounds that states like Russia and China are no more or no less imperialist than the West. These activists argue that no one country holds exclusive rights to the concept of imperialism. As such, the task of the Left should be, not to take sides with one camp or the other, but to oppose all forms of imperialism.
There is nothing inherently objectionable with such a strategy. The task of socialist politics, after all, is supposed to be the emancipation or liberation of the masses from all forms of oppression. Viewed this way, a viable, progressive socialist movement must be prepared to oppose not just US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Russian intervention in Syria and Eastern Europe. The objective or telos of such a stance, comments Dan La Botz in New Politics, would be to secure “a world free from oppression and exploitation, one in which all human beings can have a voice and a vote about their future.”
While being generally supportive of these objectives and tactics, however, we need to be mindful whether such an outlook will create equivalences where there simply aren’t any. After all, for socialists of the Third Camp, it doesn’t matter which imperialism you oppose: no one holds a monopoly over its meaning or its deployment.
The core question as far as the global Left is concerned, then, is what imperialism entails. Third Camp socialists would contend that imperialism involves the conquest of other territories. This would include not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also China’s designs in Hong Kong. Their opponents, by contrast, would argue that imperialism, not unlike fascism, is dependent on certain criteria, such as the possession of economic and military strength – on which basis there would only be one imperialist power, the US.
These debates have shaped socialist politics in countries like Sri Lanka as well. This is especially so where critiques of right-wing nationalism, including Sinhala nationalism, are concerned. Certain Marxists, especially in the Global South, tend to erase any distinction between nationalist and neoliberal outfits, arguing that there is no distinction to be made, and that as far as the Left is concerned, it should not take sides with either.
To be sure, nationalist formations can invoke the rhetoric of anti-imperialism. This is palpably so in Sri Lanka, as witness parties like the National Freedom Front. Yet their critics on the Left point out that not only are such displays of anti-imperialism mere eyewash, but that if encouraged, these outfits can even appropriate discussions over issues which the socialist camp should be taking up. On those grounds, the New Left contends, dogmatically, that nationalist and neoliberal outfits must be equally opposed.
I understand this attitude, and to understand it is, at one level, to empathise with it. The nationalist and in particular Sinhala nationalist right – often construed as the alt-right – has done itself very few favours over the last few decades. It has attempted to raise the banner of anti-imperialism, but has failed to acknowledge a more cohesive, inclusive framing of country so necessary for anti-imperialist politics. As I have mentioned many times, in this paper and elsewhere, we must oppose chauvinism from this standpoint.
I do not necessarily agree with those who take issue with the nationalist right’s gripe with Westernisation and globalisation, simply because such agitation is a symptom of a deeper malaise: it is a variant on the same agitation to be found among blue-collar workers in the US against China. But I do agree with those Marxist commentators who chastise nationalists for framing their politics within what Devaka Gunawardena calls “an exclusivist definition of community.” For Sinhala nationalists, or a majority of them, anti-imperialism appears less directed at neoliberal politics than at other racial groups, an easier target. In targeting the latter, it even ends up borrowing the language of the imperialist: hence Jathika Chintanaya’s obsession with Samuel Huntington and his clash of civilisations agitprop.
At the same time, sections of the Left, demonstrating that purist strain which has for so long besmirched academic Marxism, appear to refuse not just to join forces with nationalist formations – in itself not execrable – but also to acknowledge the economic and material factors that led to their growth. Instead, such parties and outfits are automatically termed as suspect, and viewed with the same suspicion with which neoliberal outfits are. This is what explains the Left’s horrendous failure to address, much less deal with or resolve, the tide of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism which accompanied the neoliberal reforms of the J. R. Jayewardene and Chandrika Kumaratunga governments.
Their assumptions regarding these developments follow the same logic which Third Camp socialists deploy when equating Western imperialism with Russian and Chinese imperialism. Such logic seems to me as misplaced as the tactic of supporting whatever formation, simply because it claims to be opposed to imperialism or neoliberalism.
Let me be clear here, then. I believe that the task of socialist activists, in the Global North, is not to feign moral neutrality, but rather to recognise certain distinctions between the forms of imperialism they oppose. NATO, to put it bluntly, possesses the sort of firepower which Putin’s Russia or Xi Jinping’s China does not, as every Defence Strategy Paper authored by the Pentagon should make us realise. This is the basis on which the global Marxist Left must begin to address and confront the politics of hegemony.
I believe, also, that the task of socialist activists in the Global South is to recognise distinctions between the neoliberal politics against which they are pitted, and nationalist formations which hold up anti-imperialist slogans. This does not mean the Left should join with the latter. Far from it. But the Left must certainly acknowledge that, as powerful as the latter may be, such formations are powerless compared to the former.
In other words, the fight against hegemony must begin from the recognition of the fact that there are no competing imperial or authoritarian forces out there. It is possible to oppose Putin from a socialist standpoint, just as it is possible to oppose right-wing nationalism in countries like ours. Yet such critiques should be constructive. Third Camp socialists who feign neutrality risk not just preaching to the choir, but, more dangerously, ceding moral space to more powerful antagonistic forces. It is against these forces, at home and abroad, that socialists must bare their sabres. This should be their first priority.
The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist who can be reached at email@example.com
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