diplomacy

ADB in Sri Lanka’s Debt Crisis

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The following article is based on the speech by the author as a Government of Asian Development Bank and President of Sri Lanka in their 55th Annual Meeting

It is my privilege to address you today, as the chair of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank. Today, members of ADB have gathered in-person, after three years, here, in this dynamic city of Manila for the Second Stage of the ADB Annual Meeting. First of all, let me express my sincere appreciation to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Philippines for organizing this prestigious event. Amidst an unprecedented economic crisis that Sri Lanka is currently undergoing, we missed the opportunity to host the second stage of the Annual Meeting in Colombo. However, we are eagerly looking forward to welcoming you all in Colombo in the near future.

The ADB has made a very positive impact, which is being profoundly felt across the entire region. In 2021, the ADB committed $22.8 billion to members, and has mobilized an additional $12.9 billion in cofinancing through partnerships with other sources. The ADB’s Strategy 2030 seeks to respond to global challenges, including climate change and natural disasters, food and energy insecurity, whilst also embracing opportunities in the digital economy, sustainable energy, and leveraging technology for inclusive education and healthcare. Thus, the ADB has a crucial role in helping to shape and finance policies that improve people’s lives and livelihoods across Asia and the Pacific.

The supply chain shocks created by the COVID-19 pandemic is compounded with the prices of global commodities mainly food, fuel and fertilizer skyrocketing due to the Ukraine war. Higher food and energy prices are leading to stuttering the growth of middle class and has resulted in further insecurity amongst the vulnerable communities in the Indian Ocean region.

As a result of these shocks, there has been a spike in sovereign debt distress across emerging markets. The growth targets, both in East Asia and South Asia, have been revised downward. If this is not promptly addressed, it risks creating contagion of debt distress that threatens growth and financial stability across all economies. Countries with pre-existing economic vulnerabilities, including Sri Lanka, are the most affected. Therefore, creditors and debtor nations must work collectively in an equitable manner to ensure economic and financial stability across the region and indeed the world.

The developments on the global stage have further aggravated the self-inflicted economic crisis in Sri Lanka resulting in a political outburst that led to a change in Government. Today, we have stabilized the economy and many countries and stakeholders are keenly monitoring how we resolve this crisis. Many nations are keenly watching developments in Sri Lanka to see how we work with all stakeholders to resolve this crisis. We are well aware that the evolution of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis includes both domestic policy elements as well as external shocks. It follows that the resolution of the crisis also requires both domestic efforts and the support of external partners. It is incumbent upon Sri Lanka and our creditors and partners to set an example of how collaborative and good faith action can result in sustainable and equitable solutions to sovereign debt issues.

Towards this end, we have already undertaken major macroeconomic policy reform measures. I am pleased to inform you that we have now reached a Staff Level Agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a four-year program supported by the Extended Fund Facility. The programme is aligned with the commitment of the Government to implement an ambitious and comprehensive package of reforms that will help restore the sustainability of our public finances, addressing external imbalances, and restarting our growth engine through structural reforms and improvements in governance. Amidst major economic stress, Sri Lanka is undertaking an unprecedented fiscal effort as part of our commitment to restoring the country’s debt sustainability. It is our hope and expectation that Sri Lanka’s creditors, and all stakeholders, will support us in these efforts to restore our debt sustainability and help put the country back on the path of inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Whilst Sri Lanka undertakes these deep and often painful reforms, we are experiencing rising unemployment and reduction in purchasing power of consumers. The Government is cognisant of the adverse impacts on the most vulnerable members of society. Accordingly, every effort has been taken to allocate greater financing and resources towards targeted support for social protection.

Asia has still to overcome the present global economic crisis. Unlike the financial crisis of 2008, in this instance, the economic levers alone are insufficient to stimulate global economic recovery. The factors underlining the main crisis is not only of economic origin but are also the consequences of evolving geopolitics. The result being the absence of cooperation amongst the G20 unlike the earlier crisis.

The Ukraine war on one side and the United States-People’s Republic of China rivalry, spurred on by military, trade and political differences, on the other side, are key contributors to this breakdown in cooperation. Added to this geopolitical rivalry are the droughts, floods and pandemic which are still present in Asia. All these challenges are compounded by the absence of global leadership – a time when the global economy is stuttering. As this global rivalry intensifies into a new cold war, which will determine a new global power balance by 2050, the inability of the major countries to give leadership to the mitigation of the global climate change crisis is becoming more apparent.

Can South Asia’s future be any different?

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A mild flutter ensued after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent meeting with his Turkiye counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York on September 21 when it came to be known that Cyprus figured in their discussion. Jaishankar highlighted it in a tweet. 

The Indian media instinctively related this to Turkish President Recep Erdogan making a one-line reference to the Kashmir issue earlier that day in his address to the UN GA. But Jaishankar being a scholar-diplomat, would know that Cyprus issue is in the news cycle and the new cold war conditions breathe fresh life into it, as tensions mount in the Turkish-Greek rivalry,  which often draws comparison with the India-Pakistan animosity, stemming from another historical “Partition” — under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) that ended the Ottoman Empire.

The beauty about peace treaties is that they have no ‘expiration date’ but the Treaty of Lausanne was signed for a period of a hundred years between Turkiye on one side and Britain, France, Italy, Greece, and their allies on the other. The approaching date heightens the existential predicament at the heart of Turkiye’s foreign policy.

The stunning reality is that by 24th July 2023, Turkey’s modern borders become “obsolete”. The secret articles of the 1923 Treaty, signed by Turkish and British diplomats, provide for a chain of strange happenings — British troops will reoccupy the forts overlooking the Bosphorus; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch will resurrect a Byzantine mini state within Istanbul’s city walls; and Turkey will finally be able to tap the forbidden vast energy resources of the East Mediterranean (and, perhaps, regain Western Thrace, a province of Greece.)

Of course, none of that can happen and they remain conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, the “end-of-Lausanne” syndrome remains a foundational myth and weaves neatly into the historical revisionism that Ataturk should have got a much better deal from the Western powers.

All this goes to underline the magnitude of the current massively underestimated drama, of which Cyprus is at the epicentre. Suffice to say, Turkey’s geometrically growing rift with Greece and Cyprus over the offshore hydrocarbon reserves and naval borders must be properly understood in terms of the big picture.

Turkiye’s ruling elite believe that Turkey was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 and the “Treaty of Lausanne” in 1923 and thereby concede vast tracts of land under its domain. Erdogan rejects any understanding of history that takes 1919 as the start of the 1,000-year history of his great nation and civilisation. “Whoever leaves out our last 200 years, even 600 years together with its victories and defeats, and jumps directly from old Turkish history to the Republic, is an enemy of our nation and state,” he once stated.

The international community has begun to pay attention as Turkiye celebrates its centenary next year, which also happens to be an election year for Erdogan. In a typical first shot, the US State Department announced on September 16 — just five days before Jaishankar met Cavusoglu — that Washington is lifting defence trade restrictions on the Greek Cypriot administration for the 2023 fiscal year.

Spokesman Ned Price said, “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken determined and certified to Congress that the Republic of Cyprus has met the necessary conditions under relevant legislation to allow the approval of exports, re-exports, and transfers of defence articles.”

The US move comes against the backdrop of a spate of recent arms deals by Cyprus and Greece, including a deal to purchase attack helicopters from France and efforts to procure missile and long-range radar systems. Turkiye called on the US “to reconsider this decision and to pursue a balanced policy towards the two sides on the Island.” It has since announced a beefing up of its military presence in Northern Cyprus. 

To be sure, the unilateral US move also means indirect support for the maritime claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, which Turkiye, with the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, rejects as excessive and violates its sovereign rights and that of Turkish Cypriots.

Whether these developments figured in Jaishankar’s discussion with Cavusoglu is unclear, but curiously, India too is currently grappling with a similar US decision to offer a $450 million military package to Pakistan to upgrade its nuclear-capable F-16 aircraft.

Indeed, the US-Turkey-Cyprus triangle has some striking similarities with the US-India-Pakistan triangle. In both cases, the Biden administration is dealing with friendly pro-US governments in Nicosia and Islamabad but is discernibly unhappy with the nationalist credo of the leaderships in Ankara and New Delhi.

Washington is annoyed that the governments in Ankara and New Delhi preserve their strategic autonomy. Most important, the US’ attempt to isolate Russia weakening due to the refusal by Turkiye and India to impose sanctions against Moscow.

The US is worried that India and Turkiye, two influential regional powers, pursue foreign policies promoting multipolarity in the international system, which undermines US’ global hegemony. Above all,  it is an eyesore for Washington that Erdogan and Prime Minister Modi enjoy warm trustful personal interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The photo beamed from Samarkand during the recent SCO summit showing Erdogan arm in arm with Putin must have infuriated President Biden. Modi too displayed a rare moment of surging emotions when he told Putin at Samarkand on September 16,

“The relationship between India and Russia has deepened manifold. We also value this relationship because we have been such friends who have been with each other every moment for the last several decades and the whole world also knows how Russia’s relationship with India has been and how India’s relationship with Russia has been and therefore the world also knows that it is an unbreakable friendship. Personally speaking, in a way, the journey for both of us started at the same time. I first met you in 2001, when you were working as the head of the government and I had started working as head of the state government. Today, it has been 22 years, our friendship is constantly growing, we are constantly working together for the betterment of this region, for the well-being of the people. Today, at the SCO Summit, I am very grateful to you for all the feelings that you have expressed for India.”

Amazingly, the western media censored this stirring passage in its reports on the Modi-Putin meeting!

Notably, following the meeting between Modi and Erdogan in Samarkand on Sept. 16, a commentary by the state-owned TRT titled Turkiye-India ties have a bright future ahead signalled Erdogan government’s interest to move forward in relations with India.

India’s ties with Turkiye deserve to be prioritised, as that country is inching toward BRICS and the SCO and is destined to be a serious player in the emerging multipolar world order. Symptomatic of the shift in tectonic plates is the recent report that Russia might launch direct flights between Moscow and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state supported and recognised only by Ankara. (Incidentally, one “pre-condition” set by the Biden administration to resume military aid to Cyprus was that Nicosia should roll back its relations with Moscow!) 

Without doubt, the US and the EU are recalibrating the power dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean by building up the Cyprus-Greece axis and sending a warning to Turkiye to know its place. In geopolitical terms, this is another way of welcoming Cyprus into NATO. Thus, it becomes part of the new cold war.

Can South Asia’s future be any different? Turkiye has so many advantages over India, having been a longstanding cold-war era ally of the US. It hosts Incirlik Air Base, one of the US’ major strategically located military bases. Kurecik Radar Station partners with the US Air Force and Navy in a mission related to missile interception and defence. Turkey is a NATO power which is irreplaceable in the alliance’s southern tier. Turkey controls the Bosphorus Straits under the Montreux Convention (1936).

Yet, the US is unwilling to have a relationship of mutual interest and mutual respect with Turkiye. Pentagon is openly aligned with the Kurdish separatists. The Obama administration made a failed coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

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India: Reviving Congress

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What a week where the Congress party has all but made a laughing stock of itself. Ashok Gehlot has landed himself in serious trouble. He is 71. A comeback is unlikely.

He has been an active, reliable, astute leader, with a mass following. I have known him for over 40 years and have great affection and regard for him. In these four decades he did not put a foot wrong. The “neutral” Sonia Gandhi obviously knows Dante well, who wrote, nine hundred years ago, “The hottest place in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality”. She shed her neutrality in no time. So long as she lives, she will have deity status. She is an expert at back seat driving. Can she revive the Congress? No.

Of the two contenders for president of the Congress party, Mallikarjun Kharge and Shri Shashi Tharoor, I have never met the former. He is 80 years of age. The younger voters will certainly not opt for him. Shashi Tharoor, I have known him for several years. He is a fine orator and an outstanding author. He deserves to win. But he will not. He does not have the blessings of Mother Superior. Besides, unlike Kharge he is not rooted in the Congress. Oddly, none of the G-23 are supporting him.

Digvijaya Singh has been deprived of the Presidentship by Shri Kharge, who did not play fair with the former CM of Madhya Pradesh. He would have, as President put some life in Congress. Surprisingly he made one serious mistake. As far as I know, he did not meet Shrimati Sonia Gandhi. He paid the price.
The Lok Sabha elections are to be held in 2024. At present the Congress party had fifty-two members in the Lok Sabha. That number is not likely to go up as of now. Not with Kharge at the helm.

PM Narendra Modi will remain Prime Minister till 2029. His international standing is high. Within India he faces no challenge.


Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS, made headlines when he met Imam Umer Ahmed Illyas a few days back. It was a courageous and wise move. It would have given millions of Muslims much comfort. How many non-RSS non-BJP Indians recall the fact that during the rule of the Bhartiya Janata Party, since 2014, not a single communal riot has occurred? This is amazing achievement.


The External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has done India proud at the United Nations and during his visit to Washington. He did not mince words, without flouting diplomacy. I would give him high marks for his stellar performance. One caveat. He is over optimistic about the United States genuinely asserting itself to make India a permanent veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council. The brutal reality is that the People’s Republic of China will always exercise its veto to keep India out. If I am not mistaken, President Joe Biden in one of his speeches said that India and Brazil should be Permanent Members of the Security Council.

The reality is somewhat what more complicated. Any expansion of the Council must include a country from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Muslim world. Who from Africa—Nigeria, Ethiopia or South Africa? From the Muslim World the contenders will be Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt.


The most alarming problem the world is facing is climate change. One has only to look at the havoc rain and hurricanes are playing in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In Switzerland, glaciers are melting, in Italy, rivers are drying up. For nature’s fury no easy answers are in sight.

The recent floods in Pakistan have been a calamity. As often happens, the poor have been worst hit. Pakistan was a near bankrupt country. Only the rich Islamic countries can provide funds to rebuild the infrastructure, colleges, schools, hospitals, industries. It’s a long haul.


India, in a few years, will become the most populous country in the world. Yet, no one is seriously talking about it. No talks of birth control, none of population control. Yes, poverty has been vastly eradicated but the quality of life has not improved. Educational standards are low. The legal system needs to be made more efficient. Civil cases go on for decades. We have some of the best doctors in the world but the hospitals are in need of drastic upgradation.

The great Jawaharlal Nehru is to some extent responsible for India becoming an over populated country. Soon after taking over, he made the astounding pronouncement that India was an under populated country. By the time of his death it was on the road leading to over population.

A Case for “Soft Demonetisation” Now in India

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Prime Minister Modi launched massive demonetization measures in 2016, which was praised by the pledged admirers of Modi and criticized by the sworn critics of Modi. In any case, after a few years now, the overall view towards the demonetization strategy has changed, with the consensus view emerging that the objective of the demonetization measures was positive and well-intentioned, though the strategy for implementation could have been better fine-tuned.

The principal objectives claimed for the then demonetization measure was to eradicate corruption, eliminate black money circulation and identify and remove the fake currency.  Of course, it was even then said that the demonetization exercise was the first step to eradicate corruption and it would be followed by several other measures.

Now, after around six years of demonetization exercise, it appears that the situation is back to square one.

According to present data, notes in circulation in terms of volume rose to 13053.3 crore pieces from 9026.6 crore pieces between the end of March 2016 and March 2022.  Similarly, the value of the currency in circulation went up to Rs. 31.05 lakh crore from Rs.16.41 lakh crore.

Further, it is also reported that the counter currency seized in the country between 2016 and 2020 surged to over 8.35 lakh from 2.81 lakh.  The value of fake notes seized went up to Rs. 92.17 crores from Rs. 15.92 crores. Obviously, the benefits of the demonetization measure achieved in 2016 have been effectively undone now, by a huge increase in the volume and value of currency circulation in the country.

In recent times, there has been much-repeated news appearing in the media about the enforcement directorate and Income tax department seizing large value of currency notes during raids, which on several occasions exceeded more than rupees one crore in several such raids.

The huge money in circulation is directly contributing to the generation of black money in the country and consequent hoarding of goods and properties as well as evasion of tax.  The large circulation of currency is also one reason for enabling corruption at many levels in transactions.

During the demonetization discussions, the government said that rapid digitalization would eliminate cash transactions and curb corruption to a significant extent. While digitalization has taken place, it is still at an insignificant level compared to the overall transactions in the country today.  Perhaps, large currency in circulation has become a disincentive for digital transactions.

The huge currency in circulation could also be a contributor to the price rise and inflation in the country to some extent.

It seems that the government has indiscriminately printed currency notes in the country in the last few years in the post-demonetization period, to provide cash subsidies to the vulnerable section of society during the COVID period. This strategy appears to be short-sighted and counterproductive, as is evident from the consequences leading to the present fiscal situation in the country.

To curb corruption and black money and fake currency, what is urgently required is that the currency in circulation should be brought down steadily to the level achieved during the demonetization period in the year 2016.

Obviously, if the Government of India were to choose to reduce the currency in circulation, it would be scary to use the term demonetization, as the term demonetization has become controversial and much misunderstood now.

The government can still do it by resorting to what can be termed as “soft demonetization”, by slowly and silently reducing the high-value currency notes in circulation and not replacing the damaged ones and at the same time increasing the low-value currency notes such as Rs. 10, Rs. 20 and Rs. 50.

Of course, this would lead to complaints about a shortage of currency circulation in the market but this would force people and organizations to go for digital transactions in an increasing way.  Less currency in circulation will not and need not have an adverse impact, as digitalization which has already become a byword in the country will elegantly keep the economy moving in a much cleaner way than at present.

With the present Aadhar linkage in bank transactions and a greater amount of digital transactions, there would be a positive impact on reducing corruption in the country as well as black money generation and fake currency circulation.

 In effect, the difference between the 2016 demonetization and the soft demonetization suggested now is that all currency would continue to be legal tender and with much less currency in circulation, leaving no scope for “political controversy”.

Tech Billionaires Are Actually Dumber Than You Think

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In mid-September, for just a few days, Indian industrialist Gautam Adani entered the ranks of the top three richest people on earth as per Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. It was the first time an Indian, or, for that matter, an Asian, had enjoyed such a distinction. South Asians in my circle of family and friends felt excited at the prospect that a man who looked like us had entered such rarefied ranks.

Adani was deemed the second richest person, even richer than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos! A Times of India profile fawningly quoted him relaying his thought process in the early days of his rags-to-riches story. “‘Dreams were infinite but finances finite,’ he says with engaging frankness,” according to the profile. There was no mention of the serious accusations he faces of corruption and diverting money into offshore tax havens, or of the entire website, AdaniWatch, devoted to investigating his dirty deeds.

Adani made his money, in part, by investing in digital services, leading one economist to say, “Wherever there is a futuristic business in India, I think… [Adani] has a stronghold.”

The moment of pride that Indians felt in such an achievement by one of their own was short-lived. Quickly Adani slipped from second richest to third richest, and, as of this writing, is in the number four slot on a list dominated by people who have made money from the digital technology revolution.

In fact, ranking multibillionaires is a meaningless exercise that obscures the absurdity of their wealth. This year alone, a number of tech billionaires on Bloomberg’s list lost hundreds of billions of dollars as the gains they made during the early years of the pandemic were wiped out because of a volatile stock market. But, as Whizy Kim of Vox points out, whether or not they’re losing money or giving it away—as Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott has been doing—their wealth remains insanely high, and most are worth more today than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are they doing with all this wealth?

It turns out that many are quietly plotting their own survival against our demise. Douglas Rushkoff, podcaster, founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism, and fellow at the Institute for the Future, has written a book about this bizarre phenomenon, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

In an interview, Rushkoff explains that billionaires worry about the end of humanity just like the rest of us. They fear catastrophic climate change or the next pandemic. And, they know their money will likely be of little value when civilizations decline. “How do I maintain control over my Navy Seal security guards once my money is worthless?” is a question that Rushkoff says many of the world’s wealthiest people want to know the answer to.

He knows they ask such questions because he was invited to give private lectures by those who think his expertise in digital technology gives him unique insight into the future. But Rushkoff was quietly studying them instead and has few flattering things to say about these wielders of economic power.

“How is it that the wealthiest and most powerful people I’d ever been in the same room with see themselves as utterly powerless to affect the future?” he asks. It seems as though “the best they can do is prepare for the inevitable calamity and then just, you know, hang on for dear life.”

Rushkoff explores this tech billionaire “mindset” that he says has resulted in a generation of people who are “almost comedic monsters, who really mean to leave us all behind.” Adani is a perfect example of this, having invested in the very fossil fuels that are destroying our planet. He has large holdings in Australia’s coal mining industry and has sparked a massive grassroots movement intent on stopping him.

The admiration that some Indians feel for Adani’s ascension on Bloomberg’s list of billionaires is based on an assumption of cleverness. Surely, he must be one of the smartest people in the world in order to be one of the richest? Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man by far (with twice as much wealth as Bezos), has enjoyed such a reputation for years.

Those who are invested in the idea of merit-based capitalism can justify the unimaginable wealth of the world’s richest people only by assuming they are intelligent enough to deserve it.

This is a façade. Rather than smarts, the wealthiest people on the planet appear to be rather small-minded idiot savants who share a common disdain for the rest of us.

After being around tech billionaires in private, Rushkoff concludes that they are invested in “this notion that they really can, like puppeteers, kind of control society from one level above,” and that this approach is “different than the era of Alexander the Great, or Caesar.” If the question that vexes them most of all is how, in a disastrous future, will they control the guards they hire to protect their hoardings, then our economic system is a farce.

“Even if we call them genius technologists, most of them were plucked from college when they were freshmen,” says Rushkoff. “They came up with some idea in their dorm room before they’d taken history, or economics, or ethics, or philosophy” classes, and so they lack the wisdom needed to oversee their own perverse amounts of wealth.

Having spent time with many tech billionaires, Rushkoff worries that “their education about the future comes from zombie movies and science fiction shows.”

Billionaires are not simply drawing their wealth from a vacuum. According to data from the World Economic Forum, “the world’s richest have captured a disproportionate share of global wealth over recent decades.” This means that, if you were rich to begin with a decade or two ago, you are likely to have seen your wealth multiply by a greater amount than middle-class or lower-income people.

Not only are tech billionaires undeserving of their wealth, but they also are fleecing the rest of us—and fantasizing about hoarding that wealth in the worst-case scenarios while the rest of humanity struggles to survive.

The danger is that if society valorizes such (mostly) men, we are in danger of internalizing their childish, selfish mindset and giving up on solving the climate crisis or building resiliency on a mass scale.

Instead of relating to them, we ought to feel sorry for a group of people so cut off from humanity that their vision of the future is a very lonely one.

“Let’s look at these tech-bro billionaire lunatics. Let’s laugh at what they’re doing… so they look small rather than big,” says Rushkoff. He thinks it is critical to adopt the perspective that “the disaster they’re so afraid of looks entirely manageable by more reasonable people who are willing just to help each other out.”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Obnoxious Behaviour Against Sri Lanka

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4 mins read

Sri Lanka is a resilient nation. That’s almost a given. A constant. All talk of peace, human rights, democracy, good governance, reparations and other such goodies emanating from Washington, London and other empiric capitals are disingenuous and laughable. Constant. Meddling, self-righteous and downright obnoxious North American and European diplomats: well, almost par for the course, with the US and UK specimens ensuring an above average score on such attributes.

Sessions of the UNHRC. The USA and others in the global thugs club bad-mouthing Sri Lanka while Russia and China lauding the restraint shown in dealing with brigands, highway robbers, arsonist and murderers operating under the, yes, legitimate banner of agitation. Yes, the kind of restraint that the USA never exercised when dealing with protests and not just the Capitol Hill theatrics of Trumpites. Constants, all.

And India! The country that reneged on the very agreement her leaders penned and stuffed down a pliant, unimaginative and clueless J R Jayewardene demanded that Sri Lanka implement in full the illegal 13th Amendment. This is what the Indian delegate told the UNHRC: ‘India seeks full implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, delegation of powers to Provincial Councils and holding of Provincial Council elections at the earliest.’ No one, not even the diehard federalists and separatists either operating as pawns of India and the rogue nations of North America and Western Europe or are downright communalists have uttered one word calling for PC elections. Not a word about democracy being challenged by elections not being held. And yet, India wants Sri Lanka to inhabit India’s version of Sri Lankan reality. Constant.

To nutshell-capture, North America, Western Europe and India closed ranks against Sri Lanka while Russia and China, despite being snubbed no end by leaders without backbone defended Sri Lanka resolutely. Constants.

We could add to that Colombots, Candle-light Ladies, Rent-a-Protest Agitators, Funded Voices and other Kolombian sects. They’ll cheer most things that carry a Western/White token. They’ll wax eloquent about colonial rule, praising ‘accomplishments’ such as roads and railways, never mind that these were the yield of taxes paid and labor provided by Sri Lankans. They mourn the death of a woman who was the beneficiary and symbol of genocide and plunder. Constant.

So why bother talking about such things, one may ask. Well, certain things need to be reiterated and placed on record simply because we can forget to remember history. Simply because we can be fooled by sweet-talk. Simply because true citizenship requires us to observe, understand, share and agitate, one way or another.

A single example would do, actually. A two syllable name, actually. China. Now we know that China, a country which along with Japan owns US and Western European debt, is the No 1 target for Washington’s spin doctors. In fact US foreign policy in 2022 seems to be framed by a desperate need to vilify that country. So it should not come as a surprise that an outfit outrageously named Freedom House (it is primarily funded by USAID and the US State Department!) has ‘found’ that ‘Pro-Beijing influencers have increased their activities in the social media space—particularly their outreach to younger Sri Lankans—and new agreements with elites, including in the think tank space, have shaped conversations in the media.’

This is not outrageous, it is hilarious. When have US influencers ever held back their activities, in social and mainstream media? Washington, directly (through the Embassy) and indirectly through the latest avatar of the CIA, the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has its proverbial fingers thick in the Sri Lankan media space. Verite Research and Advocata, if they are honest, can do some insightful research on the subject.

When have US influencers ever neglected younger Sri Lankans (and young people in other countries similarly targeted)? Just the other day Julie Chang, now quite adept at putting her feet in her mouth, confusing ‘danger’ with ‘dangerous’ when tweeting about peacocks, was bragging about young people in the strangely named ‘American Corner Matara.’ What Canada, Central America and South America would have to say about pernicious appropriation of the proper noun ‘America’ we do not know, but while it is bullish to mark territory in that manner, it is not the case that US influencers have limited operations to getting a foothold in the Southern Province. They are as thick as thieves with think tanks, politicians, so-called civil society organizations and media personnel, especially outfits and individuals who believe they are at the epicenter of social change in Sri Lanka. Social change, mind you, is but an easy proxy for ‘change sought by US paymasters.’

Freedom House (sic) is upset by China’s alleged close ties with elites. I suppose they believe the US gives local elites a wide berth. They whine about ‘aggressive diplomatic push on social media.’ Maybe they’ve not heard of Julie Chang and the local foot soldiers hired to do US propaganda. They are also worried about China Radio International reaching out to Sri Lankan audiences in Sinhala. Well, all it means is that the Chinese, if not less vile than the USA, are way smarter. Anyway, it is not that the US has no footprint in Sinhala media or no social media operatives either engaged in China-bashing or genuflecting before Uncle Sam. In Sinhala.

There’s more of course, but it’s all about the US being annoyed that China has cut in on their action. George Carlin, the US comedian once said that wars are mostly about white people killing brown people and the only reason that white nations fought Hitler (a white man who killed white people) was that he had cut in on their action. Same same.

And when Samantha Power, currently attached to USAID, says ‘USA wants countries to be independent, she’s being comic beyond belief. How many countries does the USA have military bases in, Samantha? How many countries have the USA invaded over the last two centuries, or let’s say the last two decades? How many proxy wars has the USA funded? How many terrorists has the US supplied arms to, do you know? How many elections in how many countries has the USA interfered in? How about arm-twisting in multilateral agencies? How about the operations of the CIA and more recently, the NED? And you want countries to be independent? Well, lady, it’s simple. Just leave the room.

All this, pretty consistent with the way the world has been for decades. One difference. The USA is jittery. Now that’s a good sign, not just for Sri Lanka but the entire world. And India, if it wants to do better than the USA, would do well to learn. Things pass. Regimes change. Thugs are ousted. World powers of other eras have been brought to their feet. Such things happen.

Sri Lanka is resilient. That’s a constant that’s not boring. It gives us hope.

Glory of Sri Lanka-China Friendship

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Following are the excerpts adapted from the speech by the author at the event held yesterday in Colombo to celebrate the 73rd Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China Hosted by five major friendship organizations working for enhancing Sri Lanka – China friendship.

It brings me great joy and honour to join the Glory of Friendship Reception this evening. The reception is not only a Gala for friends but also a Reunion of families. Because all the guests present tonight from all walks of life in Sri Lanka, have always been following and supporting the development of China and China-Sri Lanka relations! You are the backbone of the friendship between our two people! On behalf of the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka, I would like to extend my sincerest greetings and most heartfelt thanks to you and your family.

Tonight, we are gathering here to celebrate the 73rd National Day of the People’s Republic of China. Over the past 73 years, China has gone through a long way, with continued hard-working, reforming and opening up, and has risen to the second largest economy in the world. In the past decade, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has made great achievements in various sectors, eradicated absolute poverty, and realized the first centenary goal. All of you have witnessed, participated, and contributed to this great process in human history. At this crucial historical juncture, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will be held after two more weeks in Beijing. It will not only draw up a new grand blueprint for China’s development but also bring the international community stronger confidence and higher expectation of China. Let’s jointly wish Congress great success!

Tonight, we are gathering here to celebrate the  65th anniversary of China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations, and the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. In the face of the current challenging international situation, the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact, namely “independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support” becomes ever more significant. And the traditional friendship between our two countries and two peoples is more precious. As we say, amity between the peoples holds the key to better state-to-state relations.

In the past decade, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has made great achievements in various sectors, eradicated absolute poverty, and realized the first centenary goal.

I have been listening carefully to your speeches and stories, and deeply impressed and moved. We sincerely commemorate late Minister Philip Gunawardena and Madam Kusuma Gunawardena who pioneered the exchanges with China, and late Minister R.G. Senanayake who signed the Rubber-Rice Pact for their great contributions to China-Sri Lanka friendship; We are also highly gratified to see pupils from Devi Balika School in Colombo, Caihe No.3 Primary School in Hangzhou and many others from the younger generation, are now carrying forward our friendship in the new era. What a joy!

In the past year,  my colleagues and  I have set foot on all nine provinces of the island. We laid the foundation stone of “Hope Village” in Hambantota down the south, and distributed food packs to estate workers in the central district of Nuwara Eliya. We visited local villages and financed a housing project for underprivileged families on the eastern coast of Batticaloa, and donated fishing gear to poor fishermen in the Northern Province. I feel myself the severe challenges facing Sri Lanka at the moment, but I’m also deeply touched and greatly encouraged by the positive minds of its people. It’s worth mentioning that, when the Chinese Scientific Vessel Yuan  Wang  5 finally docked at Hambantota  Port last month, big crowd from both countries joined me and welcomed the vessel in Hambantota. It makes our belief even stronger that neither the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis, the domestic political change nor the external interference can obstruct the friendly exchanges between our two peoples. Withstood all these challenges, our friendship will only grow unbreakable!

Brothers, Sisters, and friends, Challenges are only temporary, and we will work together to overcome them. Please join me in a toast, To the prosperity of our mother countries; Long live! China – Sri Lanka friendship!

Exclusive: Reaffirming our Unswervingly Stand with Sri Lanka

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Following excerpts adapted from the speech by the author as the President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) at the event celebrates the 73rd Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China Hosted by five major friendship organizations work for enhancing Sri Lanka – China friendship.

It is my great honour to be invited to attend the reception hosted by five Sri Lanka friendship organizations with China celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. On this occasion, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), my cordial greetings and best wishes to the brotherly people of Sri Lanka, and express my heartfelt thanks and high respect to friends from all walks of life who have been long committed to China Sri Lanka friendship.

This year is an important year for both China and Sri Lanka to commemorate.70 years ago, China and Sri Lanka, two newly born countries, overcame difficulties and obstacles and signed the Rubber-Rice Pact, opening the door for friendly exchanges. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations 65 years ago, the governments of China and Sri Lanka have always abided by the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, treating each other with equality, mutual trust and sincerity. The two sides understand, respect and help each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns and firmly safeguard our respective and common interests.

Last year marked the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. President Xi Jinping solemnly declared that through the concerted efforts of the Chinese government and people, China has won the fight against poverty on schedule, achieved the first centenary goal on schedule, and built a moderately prosperous society in all respects on schedule. The 1.4 billion people have been lifted from absolute poverty and embarked on the socialist modernization path of common prosperity for all.

Under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, China has created two miracles, namely rapid economic development and long-term social stability, which have not only benefited the Chinese people, who account for nearly 20% of the world’s total population, but also provided new options and more cooperation opportunities for developing countries including Sri Lanka. China has become an important force in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.

For building a better world, President Xi Jinping has put forward the important concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind, as well as new ideas and measures such as the “Belt and Road” Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, and the Global Security Initiative. With the vision of new development, China is committed to win-win cooperation for common development with all countries.

We are pleased to see that important progress has been made in the cooperation of the Belt and Road Initiative under the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.  China has become Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner and a major source of investment and tourism.  Our friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation has brought tangible benefits to the two peoples. Colombo Port City, Hambantota Port comprehensive development project has become a flagship of jointly building the Belt and Road. The project has created more than 100,000 local jobs and trained thousands of technical and management talents and laid an important foundation for Sri Lanka to further realize its independent and sustainable development.

We have noted that “natural disasters” such as the global COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical “man-made disasters” such as the Ukraine crisis are coming one after another.  The security and stability of the global production lines, supply chains and capital chains have been severely undermined. The global energy, food and financial crisis have triggered crises in terms of production, life and survival, especially for the people in underdeveloped countries. Sri Lanka is one of the victims.  In this difficult time, please be assured that the Chinese government and people unswervingly stand with the government and people of Sri Lanka to overcome the difficulties. 

Facts have repeatedly proved that maintaining and developing friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Sri Lanka is conducive to the development of our two countries, conforms to the fundamental interests of the two peoples, and embodies the painstaking efforts of successive leaders of the two countries and the common aspiration of the two peoples.

In more than 10 days’ time, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will be convened. The congress will comprehensively and systematically summarize the historical achievements of the past 5 years, and scientifically plan the development goals, tasks, major policies and policies for the next five years and beyond. It will definitely have great and far-reaching significance for China and the world in the future.

The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries will never forget those old friends and good friends who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of China Sri Lanka friendship over the past decades.  We are very sympathetic to the temporary difficulties faced by Sri Lankan friends. However, we are confident that Sri Lanka will achieve development and revitalization by giving full play to your regional advantages, natural resources and human resources. We are willing to share with Sri Lanka unreservedly China’s experience in reform and opening up and poverty reduction development, provide help to Sri Lankan friends to overcome difficulties, and support Sri Lanka to achieve independent and sustainable development and completely get rid of poverty.

The CPAFFC is willing to work with friends from all walks of life in Sri Lanka, uphold the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact, and actively promote friendly exchanges between local governments, friendly organizations, friendly personages, think tanks, media, youth and other non-governmental areas of the two countries, promote mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, science and technology, culture, education, capacity building and other fields, and contribute wisdom and strength in pushing forward the China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership featuring sincere mutual assistance and everlasting friendship to a new level.

I look forward to leading a delegation to visit Sri Lanka at an early date. At the same to time, we warmly welcome all our friends in Sri Lanka to visit China at an appropriate time. Let us work together to create a better future for China-Sri Lanka relations!

May the friendship between China and Sri Lanka last forever! May Sri Lanka enjoy prosperity and its people happy lives!

Quandary of West’s ignorance of China

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Over the weekend, a baseless story, created by Falun Gong linked twitter accounts, went viral on twitter. Without any evidence whatsoever, the rumour stated that there had been an internal coup in China and the Chinese leader was under house arrest, citing an out-of-context video clip of military vehicles in an unspecified location. Despite the fact that the story was complete nonsense in every aspect, it was still widely shared throughout the platform and even trending. Several mainstream media outlets, including CNBC and Newsweek, even reported on the phenomenon. To anyone with a serious knowledge of China, the experience of this saga was, to say the least, frustrating.

But it shouldn’t surprise anyone. This might be the most explicit example of such, but it is by no means the first completely fake story about China that has gone viral on social media, rather it is just one of many that regularly occur. Western audiences are frequently indulged in sporadic fake news and misinformation across social media when it comes to China, exposing their lack of basic knowledge, quick prejudices and critical thinking on the subject. Western media and governments like to try and frame China’s own government as a source of misinformation, but the reality is in fact the exact opposite.

To understand how such fake news proliferates, without going into detail on the various groups and organizations responsible, we should take a look at a neighbouring country as an example: North Korea. Although it is of course an extreme example given its isolation from the outside world and much smaller scope, it is nonetheless a pivotal demonstration of how a country that is poorly understood by the west, abjectly demonized and vilified, and of course, few objective and impartial sources of information exist, becomes a breeding ground for absurd, unverified and even ludicrous rumours which would never fulfil basic standards of reporting for anything in the west itself.

In fact, western audiences literally believed that Kim Jong-un died in 2020, that everyone had to “get his haircut”, that they pretended to win the world cup in 2014, that people get executed for the most minor of misdemeanours and so on. There is no serious fact-checking mechanism whatsoever, which makes the country an easy target for low-information threshold tabloid journalism which exploits the country’s seeming absurdity for readers and clicks. This has only been more deeply compounded in the social media era. When it comes to such countries, western audiences will truly believe anything.

China of course, is a different case altogether but also has many similarities. Despite the fact that it has the world’s largest population and it is otherwise deeply integrated into the world, its government nonetheless becomes a useful target for conspiracy-led reporting due to its opacity and the perceived “secret” nature of the country, which although not like the DPRK, nonetheless attracts western cynicism and prejudice. This has always been present, yet it has got aptly worse with the open US and media-led demonization of the country and media campaign against it which sought to openly frame it as culpable for things such as Covid. The Anti-China agenda has legitimated and emboldened, deliberately often, the spreaders of misinformation, on a much, much larger scale.

As a result, social media has become filled with such falsehoods. Clips out of context purporting to show covid situations in China have often been sporadic, such as claims people are being “welded in their homes”, as well as false material depicting the apparent torture or mistreatment of the Uyghur minority. In 2019, I remember an English person sharing an out-of-context clip of an African child crying, the claim attached to the video was that he was “being forced to learn Chinese”. It was completely false, yet it is just one of many disturbing examples.

Although social media companies often claim they now oppose “misinformation” and even crack down on accounts purporting to push the narratives of China or Russia, they tend to give rumour-mongering accounts against designated enemy countries a free reign to spread misinformation, which has on many occasions been amplified by leading public figures. Likewise, posts on Chinese social media itself, such as Weibo, are frequently cherrypicked in order to frame very specific narratives to portray the country in a bad light.

In conclusion, this farce of a non-existent “coup” is annoying, stupid and ridiculous to anyone who has insight into the topic, but for the public at large, it is a believable and plausible event stemming from an entire misinformation machine dedicated to smearing China wherever possible. It demonstrates the gullible nature of the western public when it comes to understanding these topics, and shows in turn how easy it is for them to be manipulated by even the most obvious falsehoods, let alone the more crafted and sophisticated fakery of the mainstream media at large.

Views expressed are personal

Four Straight Years of Nonstop Street Protest in Haiti

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A cycle of protests began in Haiti in July 2018, and—despite the pandemic—has carried on since then. The core reason for the protest in 2018 was that in March of that year the government of Venezuela—due to the illegal sanctions imposed by the United States—could no longer ship discounted oil to Haiti through the PetroCaribe scheme. Fuel prices soared by up to 50 percent. On August 14, 2018, filmmaker Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. tweeted a photograph of himself blindfolded and holding a sign that read, “Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a???” (Where did the PetroCaribe money go?). He reflected the popular sentiment in the country that the money from the scheme had been looted by the Haitian elite, whose grip on the country had been secured by two coups d’état against the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (once in 1991 and again in 2004). Rising oil prices made life unlivable for the vast majority of the people, whose protests created a crisis of political legitimacy for the Haitian elite.

In recent weeks, the streets of Haiti have once again been occupied by large marches and roadblocks, with the mood on edge. Banks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—including Catholic charities—faced the wrath of the protesters, who painted “Down with [the] USA” on buildings that they ransacked and burned. The Creole word dechoukaj or uprooting—that was first used in the democracy movements in 1986—has come to define these protests. The government has blamed the violence on gangs such as G9 led by the former Haitian police officer Jimmy “Babekyou” (Barbecue) Chérizier. These gangs are indeed part of the protest movement, but they do not define it.

The government of Haiti—led by acting President Ariel Henry—decided to raise fuel prices during this crisis, which provoked a protest from the transport unions. Jacques Anderson Desroches, president of the Fós Sendikal pou Sove Ayiti, told the Haitian Times, “If the state does not resolve to put an end to the liberalization of the oil market in favor of the oil companies and take control of it,” nothing good will come of it. “[O]therwise,” he said, “all the measures taken by Ariel Henry will be cosmetic measures.” On September 26, trade union associations called for a strike, which paralyzed the country, including the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

The United Nations (UN) evacuated its nonessential staff from the country. UN Special Representative Helen La Lime told the UN Security Council that Haiti was paralyzed by “[a]n economic crisis, a gang crisis, and a political crisis” that have “converged into a humanitarian catastrophe.” Legitimacy for the United Nations in Haiti is limited, given the sexual abuse scandals that have wracked the UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti, and the political mandate of the United Nations that Haitian people see as oriented to protecting the corrupt elite that does the bidding of the West.

The current President Ariel Henry was installed to his post by the “Core Group” (made up of six countries, this group is led by the United States, the European Union, the UN, and the Organization of American States). Henry became the president after the still-unsolved murder of the unpopular President Jovenel Moïse (thus far, the only clarity is that Moïse was killed by Colombian mercenaries and Haitian Americans). The UN’s La Lime told the Security Council in February that the “national investigation into his [Moïse’s] murder has stalled, a situation that fuels rumors and exacerbates both suspicion and mistrust within the country.”

Haiti’s Crises

An understanding of the current cycle of protests is not possible without looking clearly at four developments in Haiti’s recent past. First, the destabilization of the country after the second coup against Aristide in 2004, which took place right after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, led to the dismantling of the Haitian state. The Core Group of countries took advantage of these serious problems in Haiti to import onto the island a wide range of Western NGOs, which seemed to substitute for the Haitian state. The NGOs soon provided 80 percent of the public services. They “frittered” considerable amounts of the relief and aid money that had come into the country after the earthquake. Weakened state institutions have meant that the government has few tools to deal with this unresolved crisis.

Second, the illegal U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela crushed the PetroCaribe scheme, which had provided Haiti with concessionary oil sales and $2 billion in profits between 2008 and 2016 that was meant for the Haitian state but vanished into the bank accounts of the elite.

Third, in 2009, the Haitian parliament tried to increase minimum wages on the island to $5 per day, but the U.S. government intervened on behalf of major textile and apparel companies to block the bill. David Lindwall, former U.S. deputy chief of mission in Port-au-Prince, said that the Haitian attempt to raise the minimum wage “did not take economic reality into account” but was merely an attempt to appease “the unemployed and underpaid masses.” The bill was defeated due to U.S. government pressure. These “unemployed and underpaid masses” are now on the streets being characterized as “gangs” by the Core Group.

Fourth, the acting President Ariel Henry likes to say that he is a neurosurgeon and not a career politician. However, in the summer of 2000, Henry was part of the group that created the Convergence Démocratique (CD), set up to call for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Aristide. The CD was set up in Haiti by the International Republican Institute, a political arm of the U.S. Republican Party, and by the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy. Henry’s call for calm on September 19, 2022, resulted in the setting up of more barricades and in the intensification of the protest movement. His ear is bent more to Washington than to Petit-Goâve, a town on the northern coast that is the epicenter of the rebellion.

Waves of Invasions

At the UN, Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus said, “[T]his dilemma can only be solved with the effective support of our partners.” To many close observers of the situation unfolding in Haiti, the phrase “effective support” sounds like another military intervention by the Western powers. Indeed, the Washington Post editorial called for “muscular action by outside actors.” Ever since the Haitian Revolution, which ended in 1804, Haiti has faced waves of invasions (including a long U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1930 and a U.S.-backed dictatorship from 1957 to 1986). These invasions have prevented the island nation from securing its sovereignty and have prevented its people from building dignified lives. Another invasion, whether by U.S. troops or the United Nations peacekeeping forces, will only deepen the crisis.

At the United Nations General Assembly session on September 21, U.S. President Joe Biden said that his government continues “to stand with our neighbor in Haiti.” What this means is best understood in a new Amnesty International report that documents the racist abuse faced by Haitian asylum seekers in the United States. The United States and the Core Group might stand with people like Ariel Henry, but they do not seem to stand with the Haitian people, including those who have fled to the United States.

Options for the Haitian people will come from the entry of trade unions into the protest wave. Whether the unions and the community organizations—including student groups that have reemerged as key actors in the country—will be able to drive a dynamic change out of the anger being witnessed on the streets remains to be seen.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

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