Eagle, Dragon and bony Lion

Wednesday 26th June, 2019

It is said that when elephants fight grass suffers. Nothing describes the predicament of Sri Lanka, which has become a big-power battleground, better than this African proverb. The US is all out to exact much more than China has got. At this rate, Sri Lankans will be left without ports, airports and land before long.

President Maithripala Sirisena, speaking at a recent function, launched into a tirade against the suppliers of sand and soil, calling them racketeers who posed a grave threat to the environment. His vow to deal with them severely must have gone down well with the public. But what action does he propose to take against those who hand over vast extents of state land to foreign powers?

The President was instrumental in leasing the entire Hambantota port and thousands of acres of land around it to China for 99 years. The adverse impact of that disastrous deal has already been felt. The Ceylon Electricity Board has had to dismantle its Hambantota wind turbines, located in an area which is now under the Chinese. The previous government went so far as to deploy the armed forces to enable a multinational banana company to acquire land here. It gave the army headquarters land to China, which was also allowed to reclaim land from the sea to build the Colombo Port City. This, the former rulers did while wrapping themselves in the flag and claiming to be true sons of the soil.

Now, as if trouble caused by the Dragon were not enough, the Eagle has landed. The malnourished, bony Lion is cowering.

The US is planning to carve out what it calls an economic corridor from Trincomalee to Colombo. It never rains but it pours. The American Bar Association (ABA) is also doing its damnedest to hang out its shingle here.

In a dramatic turn of events replete with irony, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), which campaigned hard to bring the current government to power, has let out a howl of protest against the ABA move. Having failed to achieve its objective owing to protests, the ABA is said to be seeking registration as an NGO. One effective way of controlling a country is to manipulate its legal system. The Sri Lankan legal fraternity should beware of Trojan horses.

Last month, an Opposition MP claimed, in Parliament, that a high ranking American official had tried to interfere in the Sri Lankan judiciary by influencing a group of judges who attended a workshop in the US. The government has denied the allegation. The benefit of doubt should accrue to the judges concerned. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the Sri Lankan state ought to bear the cost of foreign training, travel, etc. of judicial and public officials so as to ensure their independence.

A former top diplomat has drawn heavy flak for working for Parliament and furthering the interests of the US, which pays his salary. What about those who are promoting the interests of the US at the expense of Sri Lankans who pay their salaries? They are far worse than the ex-diplomat under a cloud. It is they who have signed the ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement), etc., heavily loaded in favour of the US. How should they be dealt with?

Let the politicians who plunge feet first into signing agreements with foreign powers be urged to heed the fate that befell the people of Diego Garcia; they were expelled from their own country, four decades ago, for their land to be acquired for the construction of a US military base. Having already reached the age when they should be put out to grass, these grandees living in clover may not care a damn about what will happen to the country after they go the way of all flesh, but parents must be gravely concerned, for it is their children who will have to face the consequences of the present-day rulers’ despicable actions.



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