Beware of billionaires with political links


India these days is spoken of in terms of billions. The population is now around 1 billion-plus something and it is anticipated that at any moment a newborn Indian baby’s squeal to the world would announce that India has overtaken China as the most populous nation on planet Earth. India’s economic growth rate is spoken in terms of billions of dollars (US) and even the disbursement of loans to less fortunate countries like ours is in terms of billions of dollars.

Indian businessmen in recent years have been bursting out to the front ranks. In the Billionaire Race, in January this year, an Indian businessman Gautam Adani was ranked the world’s third richest man — some said he was the richest. While Adani was basking in his glory and Indians with Indophiles in his reflected glory, a wicked stroke struck his dollar-lit luminescent empire plunging it into an invisible black hole. Some economists doubt whether the Adani Empire is still functional but Adani and his companies say they are alive and kicking and will continue with all the major projects they have undertaken.

What caused the blackout of the Adani Indian Empire was that Hindenburg Research, an American company investigating global business empires, alleged that financial institutions of companies based in Mauritius linked to the Adani family were manipulating the group’s stock price. Immediately investors took fright and $100 billion in market value evaporated says The Economist magazine in its editorial (Feb 11-17, 2023). Tens of billions have been wiped off the tycoon’s personal wealth, and the company was racing to show it can meet its debt payments, The Economist says.

This columnist’s interest in this event is not the business practices of the Adani Group or the allegations made by Hindenburg Research but the fact that the Adani Group is intimately involved in the phase of development of Indian capitalism that is now evolving and its impact on less powerful countries in the region.

Readers will recall the furore that resulted in August last year when the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government approved two wind power energy projects to the Gautam Adani conglomerate — a 286MW project in Mannar and a 234MW project in Pooneryn. This approval was resisted by some trade unions of the Ceylon Electricity Board and social activists claimed that the approval bypassed tender procedures and was clandestinely signed between the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government and the Adani conglomerate.

The climax of the issue came when CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando was questioned by Parliament’s Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on the award of the project to the Adani Group. He said President Rajapaksa had told him that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pressured him to hand over the project to the Adani Group. Both President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa denied the Indian Prime Minister had done so and consequently Ferdinando resigned from the chairmanship of the CEB.

Before these events, there was speculation that a Chinese company was to be awarded these two wind power projects and this had caused much concern to India whose border was not many kilometers away from the locations of these projects.

Gautam Adani and Narendra Modi had been close associates when Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. When Modi became Prime Minister for the first time, he flew from Gujarat to New Delhi in Adani’s plane. Between then and the release of the Hindenburg report, Adani’s personal fortune mushroomed from around US$ 7 billion to US$ 120 billion, The Economist notes.

Adani’s business empire runs some of India’s biggest ports, stores a third of its grain, operates a fifth of its power transmission lines, and makes a fifth of its cement. It was among India’s top ten biggest non-financial firms, by assets and had been projected to grow rapidly, The Economist says.

Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) are longed for, wooed by developing countries for rapid economic development and welcomed by even big powers. Thus, a cash-strapped country like Sri Lanka would be expected to look at investment from a group like Adani as manna from heaven, some would say. However, vulnerable countries should look at FDIs with intense scrutiny particularly because such investments may be wrapped up in garbs of political, national and strategic interests of investors.

Modi is now on the trail to become India’s prime minister for the third time. He has also visions of making India a world power. The mantle of being the prime minister of the biggest democracy in the world does not deter him from violating basic democratic norms such as his move to remove the provision of a special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Constitution with his preponderant parliamentary majority and split it up into two states–Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. It is now ruled from the center deploying tens of thousands of armed personnel.

India had not shown much interest in the development of economies of its neighbouring countries, certainly not of Lanka, although interference in political affairs has been quite regular. But India came to the rescue of Lanka at the time of the economic meltdown and signed agreements with Sri Lanka for loans amounting to around 4 billion dollars which had enabled Lanka temporarily tide over the dire crisis. The Indian government continues to pledge its support to Sri Lanka along with the United States, Japan and some Western states which would enable the IMF to release the 2.9 billion dollars requested by Lanka to face the crisis.

This good neighbourly act has to be appreciated by Sri Lankans but the general public is yet unaware of the details of the agreements signed with India. For example, the media have not carried reports on the progress of the two power generation projects which the Adani Group was entrusted with. Is Lanka’s national grid being fed with new power generated by the projects? If not why and when will that happen?

What’s the agreement on the Oil Tank Farm in Trincomalee and the Trincomalee Harbour, if any? Will they be presented to parliament for approval? Or is it the Executive Privilege of the president? What will be the total accumulated debt to India since Indian assistance came in after the meltdown?

It is not done to ‘Look a gift horse in the mouth’ but in today’s international finance, there is nothing called a free cup of tea.

Meanwhile, The Hindu newspaper carried a report (reproduced in the Lankan media) of ‘Indian Business Leaders in Colombo’ saying that ‘despite the meltdown and the consequent political turmoil’ it is still a good time to invest in the cash-strapped economy.

Business expertise is not called for to assert that the best time for a deal is — such as in boxing — when the opponent, is lying on the canvass and is willing to be pulled back onto his feet and raises his hands.

Some Indian businesses in Lanka have certainly helped local industries such as those that came in in the late sixties and continued thereafter and even the more recent ones not linked to political interests but what of those like the Adani Group who are unabashedly committed to helping the implementation of political visions of the ruling party that envisage Sri Lanka as a component to India’s geopolitical strategies?

Trade unions are vehemently opposed to the sale of state-owned properties which they call ‘national treasures’ — even colossal loss-making institutions such as the national airline. While no interest has been evinced in such loss-making projects, it appears that some of the vital national interests may be up for sale such as the Ceylon Electricity Board which owns the national grid, and even the Mahaveli Diversion Scheme’s hydropower generating projects which also irrigate vast acres of rice producing fields. The sale of these projects will be tantamount to the sale of Sri Lanka itself.

FDI has been welcomed by some small nations — but with huge revenue-earning potential — such as the UAE that can use such investments to make them global economic powers. Sri Lanka has no such proclaimed ambitions and shouldn’t it limit itself to sustainable development which all political parties have accepted as their goal?

To Overcome Economic Crisis, Sri Lanka Needs “Less Democracy” For Sometime

What to make of the mindset and approach of these politicians in Sri Lanka?   Is it their  case  that international intervention is necessary to ensure local body elections?

by N.S.Venkataraman 

Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has suggested that local government polls in Sri Lanka  should be postponed, in view of the economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka. The government has explained the   difficulty in mobilising necessary funds to hold elections.  The Government Printer, too, informed that it was unable to print ballot papers due to lack of funds.

Instead of appreciating the issues and cooperating with the government, some political parties  and some activists in Sri Lanka are demanding that local body election should be held as per the schedule.  They are threatening to organise protests and launch agitation to demand elections.

The entire world knows that Sri Lanka is facing  unprecedented level of economic crisis , bordering bankruptcy The country is  facing  humiliating condition of having to ” beg”   for   loan from international financing institutions  and appeal to those countries which have earlier extended loans to defer the repayment schedule, so that Sri Lanka will not end up as a loan defaulter. 

In such circumstances,   Mr. Wickremesinghe  was  elected as the country’s President  in July 2022.  With long years of exposure  to political and economic scenario  in Sri Lanka and with reasonable level of personal   credibility, the President has been trying his level best to sail Sri Lanka out of the rough water and restore it’s dignity as a vibrant nation in the global arena.  The task is not easy, as the President has to start virtually from a scratch.

In such conditions, in a matured democracy, all political parties and citizens in various walks of life are expected to show understanding and support to the President, as the urgent task and challenge is to retrieve Sri Lanka from the brink of economic collapse.

Several elections have taken place in Sri Lanka in the past and delay of one more election for a few months in  such adverse scenario   should not be viewed  in any irresponsible manner as to state  that  “such attempts to prevent elections mandated by law represent an unprecedented attack on democracy and the rule of law and pose a grave threat to the electoral process in the future”

The ground reality is that democracy in any country can not thrive on  “empty stomach”.  Therefore, giving precedence to   exercise people’s franchise, at the cost of national economy which is on the brink   and is facing distress conditions impacting day today life of millions of poor people ,is  absolutely unacceptable and against the national interest.

The commitment of some politicians and civil society members and  the members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to   the  nation’s interest  and their capability to appreciate and understand the grim situation,  has created some doubts   about them, in the view of discerning observers not only in Sri Lanka but across the world. 

It is particularly disturbing to note that some politicians have written to Colombo-based diplomats seeking their intervention in ensuring the timely conduct of   local body elections.  What to make of the mindset and approach of these politicians in Sri Lanka?   Is it their  case  that international intervention is necessary to ensure local body elections?  Can there be more humiliating act for the people of Sri Lanka than such approach of such politicians who want global intervention in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs?

It is seen in many democratic countries that the politicians are not the best of people among the citizens and they occasionally cause havoc due to self centredness, parochial approach and sometimes even adopt  unethical methods to grab power.  In such circumstances, many thinkers  and political researchers  across the world are veering to the view that a controlled democracy will do world of good particularly to developing countries ,  in place of uncontrolled and chaotic democracy.

Today, if the elections were to be held in Sri Lanka, there would be acrimonious debates  , hate politics, corrupt  methods to win elections and perhaps even violence due to political clashes. These are the  possible developments that

Sri Lanka need to avoid at any cost. 

The focus of the country has to be on economic development  and economic development only. 

Sri Lanka has the most experienced person as the President and he needs time and support  to restore Sri Lanka’s glory.  This is the time for less democracy in Sri Lanka. If postponement of local body polls would mean less democracy, let it be so and it is in the interest of Sri Lanka.

Beyond the China balloon?


The flavour of the month is not Ukraine, but China, the pundits in the West, state Chinese State intelligence gathering has grown in ambition and scale, leaving the West to catch up.

The Chinese balloon which was first shot out of the sky off South Carolina on 4 February 2023 has now triggered a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing. But the subsequent “hysteria” has led to at least three more unidentified being also shot down.

President Biden has said that the Yukon Territory, Canada and those taken down over, Deadhorse, in far Northern Alaska and Lake Huron in the US since the Chinese balloon incident, were not thought to be surveillance vehicles. They seem to be called UFO’s or UAP’s, perhaps sent up by balloon hobbyists in the US. Note the pun in “dead horse”.

Speaking in Japan, Liz Truss in her first public speech since her resignation addressing the Inter –Parliamentary Alliance on China has called on the international community to agree on a coordinated package of defence, economic and political issues on China’s back yard, Taiwan.

More hawkish Conservative MP’s have called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to reclassify China as a threat, instead of a “systemic competitor”. P.M. Sunak has tried a new way to keep lines open with China for his own reasons, although he originally wanted to placate the hawks in his party,

According to Hindustan Times, China has specified American high altitude spy balloons have flown in Xinjiang and Tibetan skies as well, at unspecified times. China has also vowed to take counter measures against US entries, which undermine Chinese sovereignty,

What is all this spat about?

What the balloon crisis exposed, Washington’s heightened sense of alert as the standoff over the balloon delays were efforts to re-set bilateral relations, according to Reuters.

While US is blowing hot and cold with Vice President Kamala Harris warning against Chinese support for Russia in Ukraine, President Biden has said he does not believe relations between the two countries, US and China, were weakened by the incident.

We note that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who postponed a planned trip to Beijing over the balloon, is considering meeting Chinese top diplomat, Wang Yi in Munich this weekend.

At the same time Japan and China hold security talks on the side lines of Munich Security Conference on 18 February 2023.

In a word, the balloon incident is the over-reacting whether China is provoking a new war in the Indo-Pacific region, some say as evidence in the South China Seas off Philippines, on 5 February 2023.

A new world order is in the making?

A new axis of World Powers – China, Russia and Iran is coming into being. Although some analysts say it is a myth, we may soon see the formation of an informal “alliance of convenience” between these three nations, perhaps, not to join in the Ukrainian war, but for other reasons best known to themselves.

Unexplained Aerial Phenomena – Some Policy Issues


Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not alone.  Both are equally terrifying.  Arthur C. Clarke

All sorts of sightings seem to hover over American and Canadian skies these days.

On 13 February 2023 Brian Eversteen reported on Aviation Week that “President Joe Biden has ordered his national security team to begin a review of the policy implications of the series of sightings of unidentified objects that were then downed by U.S. fighter aircraft, as both U.S. and Canadian authorities attempt to recover debris and determine what the objects are.

U.S. fighters shot down a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon on Feb. 4. Then, over the course of three days (Feb. 10-12),they downed three other unidentified objects in Alaska, northern Canada, and Lake Huron near Michigan. Debris from the latter three objects have not yet been recovered, as crews face treacherous sea ice, wilderness and deep waters in the locations”. 

It has been reported that some of these objects are “benign” – whatever that means, and also that they may not be alien objects. However, it has also been reported (in Free Press Journal FPJ) that the “Chief of the US North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command, General Glen VanHerck stated that he has not ruled out the possibility of extraterrestrial origin behind the recent series of shoot-downs of unidentified flying objects in North American airspace”.

In this context, it is relevant to note that the military shoots down unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) primarily because of the threat they may post to civilian air traffic. Another reason might be that these  UAPs could pose a security threat to the country.

Some experts have (perhaps correctly) said that the appearance of the Chinese balloon should not have prompted the scheduled postponement of the Secretary of State  Of the United States to Beijing, arguing that diplomacy must go on. Purely from both a geopolitical and strategic perspective, the idea of increased surveillance  seems appropriate.  However, President Biden’s call for a policy review on such sightings sounds both pragmatic and politically  appropriate, given that the existing policy should first be carefully considered.

In  2021 The Office of The Director of National Intelligence of The United States  issued a Preliminary Assessment: of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – Airborne objects not immediately identifiable. This assessment stated: “The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP…in a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics. These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis. There are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviors described in the available reporting. Our analysis of the data supports the construct that if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved they will fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall “other” bin”.

International Policy 

International policy regarding UAPs emanating from terrestrial sources can be seen in Article 8 of the Chicago Convention of 1944 which provides that no pilotless aircraft can be flown over or land in the territory of a State without authorization of that State.

There is seemingly no known international policy or agreements on unexplained or unidentified arial phenomena that are of extraterrestrial origin. Avi Loeb writing to Scientific Journal in April 2021 says: “If extraterrestrials eventually arrive at our doorstep, the question is: how should we respond? Clearly, interstellar affairs are not an imminent policy concern for any nation at this moment, so there is no international protocol issued by the United Nations for what to do”.  Much would depend on international policy and law on State sovereignty over airspace and the law and policy of individual States.

If in a hypothetical context, one of these UAP is brought down or arrive on land with beings on board, there is some policy that has been  propounded, though not in a formal sense.  In 1953, Andrew Haley – US attorney and former vice president of the International Astronautical Federation – put forward in an article he published some basic tenets that should be followed if we were to encounter aliens  at wherever the meeting takes place: The principles Haley enunciated were a mixture of humanitarian law and natural law to the effect that aliens should be treated as any human would want to be treated, despite the fact that they come from somewhere else. This principle, later recognized as “metalaw had the following aspects: humans should not harm aliens; aliens and humans are equals; humans should recognize the will of aliens to live and to have safe space in which to do so.  

There is also no known international policy on who would own extra-terrestrial resources or technology that falls on earth or is brought down.  The international community may have to scramble (presumably in the United Nations) to carve out some principles.  In this case, the fundamental question would be : would the State in whose territory the property lands own the property? Or, would the international community ascribe analogy that lies in the Outer Space Treaty (OST) – that property that comes from outer space is the province of all mankind? Would the analogy be taken from the Outer Space Treaty ( which incontrovertibly applies to activities in outer space) that  prohibits  national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means? Alex Gilbert and Morgan Brazilian writing in The National Interest say “While the ownership and use of space resources under the OST remains hotly debated, prevailing legal opinions increasingly indicate the use of space resources may be permitted”.

It remains to be seen.

National Policy

In the case of UAP that has its genesis terrestrially and falls on the territory of a sovereign State the picture is somewhat clearer as principles of State sovereignty – which have been extensively discussed and established – would take over, giving way to applicable laws within the territory of that State.  In pursuance of Article 8 of the Chicago Convention, a State flown over can exercise its sovereign right to take measures as deemed fit to protect the interests of its people and of that State. Article 1 of the Chicago Convention provides that all States (not only those that have ratified the Convention) recognize that States have sovereignty over the air space above their territories. The Permanent Court of International Justice, when requested for a definition of “air space” in the 1933 Eastern Greenland’s Case, was of the view that the natural meaning of the term was its geographical meaning. The most fundamental assumption that one could reach from this conclusion is that air space is essentially geo-physical, meaning that it is space where air is found. Simplistically put, “air space” has been considered as going upwards into space from the territorial boundaries of a State and downwards to the center of the Earth, in the shape of an inverted cone. This theory, advanced mathematically, in terms of space where air is found, would encompass the atmosphere, which has is layered into components starting from the troposphere (from sea level to about 10 kilometres); the stratosphere ( from about 10 to 40 kilometres up); the ionosphere ( from about 40 to 375 kilometres); and the exosphere ( from 375 to 20,000 kilometres). Based on this methodology, a recent development in aerospace – the sub-orbital flight, which goes up to about 62.5 miles (100 kilometres) above the landmass of the Earth, would hover somewhere in the lower level of the ionosphere, has prompted the conclusion that it is a space flight traversing outer space, while others would maintain that the vehicle does not leave the Earth’s atmosphere and therefore is airborne.

This inexorably ascribes to States the sovereign right to enact domestic laws to the exclusion of other States.

Assassinations of intellects in Sri Lanka during the social upheaval


The assassinations of intellectuals in Sri Lanka during periods of social upheaval have been a tragic and troubling feature of the country’s recent history. These targeted killings have taken place against a backdrop of political violence, ethnic conflict, and social unrest, and have had a profound impact on Sri Lanka’s intellectual community, as well as its society as a whole.

One of the most notable examples of these assassinations took place during the Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2009. During this conflict, many intellectuals and academics, including journalists, activists, and human rights workers, were targeted by both the government and separatist groups for their critical views and opposition to the conflict. The assassinations of these individuals had a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression, and contributed to a broader climate of fear and repression.

Another period of social upheaval in Sri Lanka was the period of political violence and civil unrest in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time several intellectuals and academics were targeted for their political views and activism. The assassinations of these individuals were often politically motivated and were aimed at silencing dissent and opposition to the ruling regime.

In recent years, there have been concerns about a resurgence of targeted killings of intellectuals in Sri Lanka, as the country continues to face challenges and tensions related to ethnic and religious conflict, human rights abuses, and political corruption. The assassinations of these individuals have a devastating impact not only on the individuals themselves and their families, but also on the wider intellectual community and society, as they undermine the free and open exchange of ideas and the critical discourse that is essential for a healthy and thriving democracy.

In conclusion, the assassinations of intellectuals in Sri Lanka during periods of social upheaval have been a tragic and troubling feature of the country’s recent history, and have had a profound impact on its intellectual community and society as a whole. It is critical that these targeted killings be investigated and brought to an end, and that the perpetrators be held accountable for their actions, in order to ensure that Sri Lanka remains a free and open society where intellectual freedom and expression are valued and protected.

Chomsky and Prashad: Cuba Is Not a State Sponsor of Terrorism


Cuba, a country of 11 million people, has been under an illegal embargo by the United States government for over six decades.

Despite this embargo, Cuba’s people have been able to transcend the indignities of hunger, ill health, and illiteracy, all three being social plagues that continue to trouble much of the world.

Due to its innovations in health care delivery, for instance, Cuba has been able to send its medical workers to other countries, including during the pandemic, to provide vital assistance. Cuba exports its medical workers, not terrorism.

In the last days of the Trump administration, the U.S. government returned Cuba to its state sponsors of terrorism list.

This was a vindictive act. Trump said it was because Cuba played host to guerrilla groups from Colombia, which was actually part of Cuba’s role as host of the peace talks.

Cuba played a key role in bringing peace in Colombia, a country that has been wracked by a terrible civil war since 1948 that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. For two years, the Biden administration has maintained Trump’s vindictive policy, one that punishes Cuba not for terrorism but for the promotion of peace.

Biden can remove Cuba from this list with a stroke of his pen. It’s as simple as that. When he was running for the presidency, Biden said he would even reverse the harsher of Trump’s sanctions. But he has not done so. He must do so now.

Credit Line: This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Sri Lanka: A reflection on the similarities between 1971 and the current crisis


As the 75th anniversary of independence gathers steam, it will be important to reflect on the gradual erosion of checks and balances and the rule of law. No crisis, be it in 1953, 1971, 1983, the long civil war, or the current crisis, has seen a desire for accountability, good governance, commitment to social justice and economic competence from the three families that have ruled the country since independence. Instead, they have demanded more centralised and unaccountable power. Currently the Rajapaksa clan and several notable personalities from the UNP have combined to crush the demand for meaningful political change, using the draconian power enshrined in the Executive Presidential constitution, with such repressive legislation as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, whereby a person can be held without charge for up to two years.

This essay will look at the economic and structural reasons that lay behind to the 1971 JVP insurrection and led to the current economic crisis.


Like the current crisis, the economy in the seventies was characterised by sinking export income, growing foreign debt and escalating unemployment. Throughout the 1960s the size of the industrial sector remained static and hovered between 12 and 13 per cent, with the majority of income derived from the service sector and agriculture. In the export sector there was a fundamental dependence on agricultural products. The country was caught in a classic economic pincer movement and still is – declining export prices and rising export costs.

The country’s debt rose from Rs 95 million in 1957 to Rs 349 million in 1966, and again to Rs 744 million in 1969. Then as now, the money to pay for the foreign debt came from foreign loans and the running down of the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

Like today, foodstuffs made up a large part of county’s imports around 53 per cent.

Unemployment continued to rise in 1971. Out of a labour force of 4.4 million, 585,000 were officially unemployed. The economic authority of the time, Dr N.M. Perera, estimated the figure to be around 700,000.

Out of the 585,000 who were unemployed, 460,000 were in the rural areas and 250,000 were aged between 19 to 24. 167,000 of these had received a secondary education or went on to tertiary level.

The children of the era which began in 1956, the “beneficiaries” of the Official Languages Act, were not given the economic fruits promised to them. As a result of government repression in 1971, though never acknowledged by the country’s rulers, around 10,000 to 15,000 young Sinhalese were killed and tens of thousands more were imprisoned and tortured without due process. In contrast, according to the government, 61 civilians and 63 members of the armed forces lost their lives. The security forces’ extra-judicial killings and torture escaped scrutiny and impunity became the norm.

To prosecute the leaders, of whom I was one, the rule of law was trampled on, habeas corpus was waived and confessions gained by torture were admissible. The murder of countless thousands of Sinhalese youth by the security forces has never been examined.

The repressive playbook was set: an unwillingness to examine and fix structural issues, be they economic, political and judicial, accompanied by ever more restrictive and unaccountable measures and a marked reluctance to investigate crimes committed by the state.

An economic snapshot before the second coming of the Rajapaksas.

By the 1980s the economic direction changed, neo-liberalism became the mantra, and welfare provisions were gradually dismantled. Lanka now relied on tourism, garments, remittances and tea. National debt continued to rise

Billions of dollars were spent on vanity projects by the ruling clan: airports, stadiums, freeways, convention centres and a seaport, with no thought of who would need or use them.

Debt by the 2000s had risen to 79 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It continued to rise and rise, reaching 100 per cent just before Covid struck. The economic instability is exacerbated by the fact that the top 20 per cent of the population have 42 per cent of the Island’s income, whilst the lowest 40 per cent make do with 17.8 per cent.

Accession of Gotabaya and the latest Resurrection of Ranil

The economy contracted after the fall in tourism as a result of the 2019 Easter bombings, putting a strain on the country’s foreign currency reserves. Gotabaya Rajapaksa exacerbated the crisis by cutting taxes collected from a very small base, costing the country hundreds of billions of rupees. Next, he banned the import of fertilisers, partially due to the lack of foreign exchange to pay for them. Agricultural production declined at an alarming rate, in particular vital export earners like tea and rubber. The economy went into freefall, with a shortage of food, fuel, medicine, cooking gas and other essentials. Whilst the top 20 percent had the economic means to cope, for the vast majority the burden was catastrophic.

A spontaneous protest movement erupted which forced the resignation of the then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the installation of the veteran serial aspirant, Ranil Wickramasinghe. Instead of opening dialogue with the protestors and dealing with their legitimate demands, we got state repression and the scapegoating of the protestors. The same people who looted the public purse and were ineffectual economic managers are in charge of the recovery!  Solutions on offer do not deal with the heart of the problem: the mismanagement, corruption and wastage prevalent in the economic and political system. Those least able to pay will be forced to shoulder the burden, and the structural issues, if not addressed, will lead to another economic and political crisis.


It is vital that celebrations to mark the anniversary of independence be tempered by reflection on how the country got to the current crisis and how it should be fixed. Otherwise, we will be forced to relive past disasters. As 1971 and 2020 remind us, the failure to change the system comes with enormous costs, both at a personal and economic level. It is the least we can do for those thousands of young people being detained on spurious grounds and those nameless 15,000 young people who lost their lives at the hands of the state in 1971.

The Survival Instinct: What does it feel to be Prime Minister of 100 days in UK?


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak marked 100 days in 10 Downing Street on Thursday, February 2, 2023 pleading to restore trust, confidence, and integrity in politics. But how does it feel to be first among equals as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, today?

Mr Sunak’s premiership began on October 25, 2022 after former Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after just six weeks. He was the runner-up in the summer Tory leadership race and was the only candidate to receive 100 supporting MPs in the second contest. Despite support among the Tory party, he has no public mandate, many state. “The Southampton-born former investment banker had served as an MP for his Yorkshire constituency of Richmond since 2015 and been a cabinet member for two years before becoming the youngest British Prime Minister in over 200 years and the first of Asian descent”.

The most pressing issue upon entering office was to stabilise the economy after Ms Truss left it in a volatile state, wiping £30 billion from it in less than three months. Alongside his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Mr Sunak has lowered inflation, despite its remaining high, and worked to increase growth and get public finances back on a sustainable path. Mr Sunak promised to clear up Tory sleaze but has still been faced with several issues. Last week Mr Sunak sacked his Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs after an independent investigation. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is also the subject of a formal investigation into bullying”. This is called the “balancing act”.

He also is finding it hard to unite the Conservative Party, as there are rumblings within and outside.

Politics and Position in Britain

Being Prime Minister for 100 days today in Britain, is like being “top dog” for 100 years. Or so it seems?

 Many feel the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain is a poisoned chalice? Economically, the UK is viewed by some abroad “less a poisoned chalice and more a poisoned barrel”. By some assessments, the UK is already in recession with a massive hole gaping in its public finances. Soaring inflation is hitting the public and the Bank of England has raised interest rates to keep pace from 3.5% to 4% on 2 February, to bring inflation down to BOE official target of 2%. But it is a far cry, as inflation is in double figures today and not expected to come down until December 2023.

Higher energy costs are starting to hit households hard this winter. Gas meters have been compulsorily installed in homes of “the vulnerable” unable to pay their bills and there is a big hue and cry by Labour.  Meanwhile, there is nationwide industrial unrest, including in postal services and transport, nurses, ambulance drivers, doctors, even Civil Servants.

Like many fellow Conservatives, Sunak is suspicious of China. He considers it “the biggest threat, more than Russia” to the UK and has called for the shutdown of Confucius Institutes in Britain. Whether he will prosecute policies against the world’s No 2 economy as Prime Minister, remains to be seen.

No one will believe it if I say, a lucrative future awaits him in the United States, at any time of his choosing? That does not mean, he will jump ship anytime now, as he has many friends in the “business world,” who would egg him on to stay on at least until the next General Election in 2024.

Being Prime Minister is a stepping stone to returning to United States at some foreseeable future as he is quite young, capable, enthusiastic and willing to work to the bone.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, is watching and waiting in the wings to take it on, “as the “empire strikes again,” and if and when it becomes vacant?

Independence and Fraternity – A thought on Sri Lanka’s independence day


Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” Thomas Paine

Independence Day in Sri Lanka has now both a national and an international connotation.

It is indeed curious that the 4th of February each year marks the commemoration of Sri Lanka’s independence which Sri Lanka achieved from the ruling British Raj in 1948 and The International Day for Human Fraternity, which was the collective initiative of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in 2021.   The United Nations Resolution which adopted The International Day for Human Fraternity – which was co sponsored by 34 Member States of the United Nations – expressed deep concern for acts that advocate religious hatred and undermine the spirit of tolerance and recognized “ the valuable contributions of people of all religions and beliefs to humanity and underlines the role of education in promoting tolerance and eliminating discrimination based on religion or belief. It commends all international, regional, national, and local initiatives and efforts by religious leaders to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue”.

In recent times many significant attempts have been made by the religious leaders of Sri Lanka to eliminate discrimination based on religion or belief. Tolerance, recognition and respect for the Christian faith has been nobly demonstrated by the members of the Buddhist clergy and this recognition has been reciprocated by the Christian church leaders, thus bringing together a collective rejection of religious and cultural bigotry.  Both Buddhism and Christianity have commonalities, as was said by James Fredericks of Loyola Marymount University: “Practices that Buddhism and Catholicism have in common include monasticism and clerical celibacy, meditation and chanting (we call it the “rosary”). Catholics have lots of devotions. Buddhists also like devotional practices. We should teach each other about the Blessed Virgin and Kannon Bosatsu”. Pope Francis in 2020  called  on Catholics to “reach out to those who follow other religious paths” encouraging Catholics to enter into what he calls a “dialogue of fraternity” that is calculated to work together in the wider community to promote the common good and human flourishing.

One instance that brought to bear this empathetic trend was seen in   the aftermath of the Easter Sunday devastation on 21 April 2019 caused in three churches in Sri Lanka, as well as in  three luxury hotels in the commercial capital, Colombo.  More than 100 people were killed in the three churches as well as  39 tourists outside.  In a rare gesture of fraternity Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders joined the commemoration of the destruction on Easter Sunday at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, where they offered prayers and observed a two-minute silence to remember the dead.  Monsignor Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo said:”“ Catholics of Sri Lanka should play an active role, along with other religious communities, in creating a united country, giving space and respect to different ethnicities, faiths and political organizations”. Two years after the bombing, on Easter Sunday during Mass, Cardinal Ranjith is reported to have said: “ “Today Holy Father Pope Francis has visited Iraq and has had a discussion with the Shia leaders (in Iran). It shows religious leaders in the world think about unity and brotherhood, not about creating strife. Therefore, I request anyone inclined to create conflict on account of religion to give up that idea”.

Another significant milestone in the demonstration of fraternity was seen politically where, irrespective of religion or ethnic background, thousands of Sri Lankans demonstrated peacefully in what was called “ Aragalaya” in 2022 – an independent and collective effort of people power without visible single leadership – which forced the political leadership of Sri Lanka to vacate office.  The Aragalaya was a signal combination of the independence of the citizen demonstrated with abiding fraternity. The thousands of youth and elders invoked   what is now called “collective leadership” – a form of leadership that has become a trend where multiple individuals exercise their leadership roles within a group whereafter the entire group collectively provides  group leadership to the entire populace involved in protesting. Collective leadership has been further explained by David Trafford, Co-author of Beyond Default and Managing Director of Formicio, a strategy and change management consultancy, and Peter Boggis, Co-author of Beyond Default “It’s a fluid and flexible approach to leadership, where roles and resultant accountabilities evolve in response to changing circumstances”.

Aragalaya brought to bear the true meaning of independence of the people and was pursued by all without racial, religious and ethnic barriers. The protesters gave a valuable lesson in the context of the words pertaining to the extinguishing of impressions created by the flaws of constitutional democracy.  When they fought for removal of the existing leadership, the argument given by the rulers was that leadership could be changed only through a constitutional process which allowed the leadership to remain for a couple of years more.  The implication was that the people had no independence to summarily throw out an unacceptable regime. The attempt to kill the principles of the protesters by the argument seemingly based on democracy was obviated by the protesters who showed collective strength of the principle “salus populi est suprema lex” (the welfare of the populace is the supreme law). The Aragalaya has also did something very significant and valuable for Sri Lanka and its present and future generations: it finally put to rest the perceived implacability of the so-called democracy and parliamentary process behind which mendacious leaders take solace.  The protesters exposed  this fallacy and demonstrated their true independence.

True independence of the nation (people) was eloquently  elaborated by the Hon. D.S. Senanayake, then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka when the Union Jack was finally lowered to make way for the Lion flag on 4 February 1948: “Freedom carries with it grave responsibilities. Our acts and omissions henceforth are our own. No longer can we lay the blame for defects and errors in our administration on others. It is, therefore, the duty of every citizen of Lanka to grasp this opportunity and to strive and toil willingly for advancing the happiness and prosperity of the country. Our nation comprises many races, each with a culture and a history of its own. It is for us to blend all that is best in us, and to set ourselves with the resolute will to build up that high quality, and to join with the other nations of the world in establishing peace, security and justice for all peoples.”

If this isn’t a testimony to independence and fraternity and their symbiosis, nothing else is.

Writing About a Joy That Invades Jenin


Israel calls its latest military campaign Operation Break the Wave, a lyrical description of a brutal reality. This year, 2023, will be the seventy-fifth year after the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948 when Israeli troops illegally removed Palestinians from their homes and tried to erase Palestine from the map. Since then, Palestinians have resisted against all odds, despite Israel’s formidable backing by the most powerful countries in the world, led by the United States.

Operation Break the Wave started in February 2022 with the assassination of three Palestinians in Nablus (Adham Mabrouka, Ashraf Mubaslat, and Mohammad Dakhil) and continued with terrible violence along the spine of the West Bank, spreading into brutalised Gaza. On 26 January 2023, Israeli forces killed ten Palestinians – including an elderly woman – in Jenin and in al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, and then shot at an ambulance to prevent it from assisting the injured – a clear war crime. The Jenin massacre provoked rocket fire from Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza, to which the Israeli Air Force responded disproportionately, shooting at the densely populated al-Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of Gaza. The cycle of violence continued with a lone Palestinian gunman killing seven Israelis in the illegal settlement of Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem. In reaction to that, the Israeli government has put in place ‘collective punishment’ systems – a violation of the Geneva Conventions – which allows the state to target the gunman’s family members, and the Israeli government will make it easier for Israelis to carry firearms.

The Israeli government launched Operation Break the Wave in response to habbat sha’biyya (‘popular uprisings’) that have begun again across Palestine and express the frustration generated by Israeli pressure campaigns and the near collapse of economic life. Some of these uprisings took place not only in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza where they are more common, but amongst Palestinians living inside the 1948 Green Line of Israel. In May 2021, these protestors gathered under The Dignity and Hope Manifesto and called for new agitations, a ‘united Intifada’ which unites Palestinians in exile, inside Israel, and in the Occupied Territories. These moves and the gains of Palestinians in the United Nations system indicate a new dynamism within Palestinian politics. Most recently, on 31 December 2022, the UN General Assembly voted 87 to 26 to ask the International Court of Justice to provide an opinion on Israel’s ‘prolonged occupation, settlement, and annexation of Palestinian territory’. The new phase of Israeli violence against Palestinians is a reaction to their achievements.

In the midst of all this, the Israeli people voted Benjamin Netanyahu into office to form his sixth government since 1996. Already, Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for over fifteen of the past twenty-seven years, as he heads into another seven-year term. His government is fiercely far-right, although from the standpoint of the Palestinians there is steady continuity in Zionist state policy, whether the government is led by the far-right or by less right-wing sections. On 28 December 2022, Netanyahu defined his government’s mission with clarity: ‘The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea, and Samaria’.

Netanyahu’s maximalist standard – that the Jewish people, not just the Zionist state, have the right to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – is not something that has appeared precipitously in this government’s statements. It is rooted in Israel’s Basic Law (2018), which says, ‘The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established’. This legal manoeuvre established Israel as the land of Jewish people, not a multinational or multi-ethnic territory. Furthermore, every administrative definition of the ‘State of Israel’ asserts its control over the entire territory. For example, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has, since at least 1967, inaccurately counted any Israeli living to the west of the Jordan River, even in the West Bank, as an Israeli, and official Israeli maps show none of the internal divisions produced by the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Israeli state policy, rooted in a settler-colonial mentality, leaves no room for a Palestinian state. Gaza is throttled, the Bedouins in an-Naqab are being displaced, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are being evicted, and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are growing like a plague of locusts. Netanyahu’s governmental partner Otzma Yehudit (‘Jewish Strength’) is willing to conduct Palestinicide in order to create a Jewish-only society in the Levant. The promise of Oslo, a two-state solution, is simply no longer factually possible as the Palestinian state is eroded and contained. The idealistic possibility of a binational state – made up of Israel and Palestine with Palestinians given full citizenship rights – is foreclosed by the Zionist insistence that Israel be a Jewish state, an ethnocentric and anti-democratic option that already treats Palestinians as second-class residents in an apartheid society. Instead, Zionism is in favour of a ‘three-state solution’, namely expelling Palestinians to Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.

In 2016, the United States and Israel signed their third ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on military aid, which runs from 2019 to 2028, and under which the US promises to provide Israel with $38 billion for military equipment. This aid is unconditional: nothing in the agreement prevents Israel from using the equipment to violate international law, kill US citizens (as it killed Shireen Abu Akleh, a reporter), or destroy humanitarian projects funded by the US government. Rather than mildly rebuke Israel for its ethnocidal policies, US President Joe Biden welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu, his ‘friend for decades’, to assist the US in confronting illusionary ‘threats from Iran’. Furthermore, just after Netanyahu’s government deepened Operation Break the Wave, the US military arrived in Israel in force to conduct a joint military exercise called Juniper Oak, the ‘largest and most significant exercise we have engaged in’, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder. Backed to the hilt by the US and nonchalant about condemnation from international bodies, the Israeli state continues its fatal project to erase Palestine.

Maya Abu al-Hayyat, a Palestinian poet living in Jerusalem, wrote a beautiful poem called ‘Daydream’, which settles into a rhythm of Palestinian life and geography defined by little towns in the West Bank. There are children playing, women dancing, life where life is denied by an occupation that has lasted for generations and generations, where the screams of the occupied mimic the loud alarm of the Palestine Sunbird, the national bird.

I’ll write about a joy that invades Jenin from six directions,
about children running while holding balloons in Am’ari Camp,
about a fullness that quiets breastfeeding babies all night in Askar,
about a little sea we can stroll up and down in Tulkarem,
about eyes that stare in people’s faces in Balata,
about a woman dancing
for people in line at the checkpoint in Qalandia,
about stitches in the sides of laughing men in Azzoun,
about you and me
stuffing our pockets with seashells and madness
and building a city.

My pockets are filled with rage and hope, an expectation that our struggles of solidarity alongside the Palestinian people will prevail, because the ‘process of liberation is irresistible and irreversible’.

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