Feature Article

Mystification of post-war U.S strategic engagement with SL unitary state

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 21:14 GMT]
Following the 2015 regime change, U.S strategic interests in the island have advanced to unprecedented heights. Such structural development is obfuscated through the opinions engendered by the Geneva-UNHRC based Human Rights discourse as well as the ‘reconciliation, transitional justice and development’ discourses. The highly distorted discourse that is disseminated from established international systems pivoting the U.S and their allies, paints a picture of U.S axis of powers and U.N as being saviors of a ‘victimized’ Tamil ‘minority’ sans self-determination. Tacitly this discourse attempts to purge the national character of the aspirations and grievances of Eezham Tamils and brackets their political struggle into a ‘minority issue’. It bereaves the Tamils of their democratic will, national existence and sovereignty.

A closer look at these paradigms discern the fact that these discourses are predominantly heralded by the U.N establishment, International NGOs as well as the governing global institutions of the world economy. It is an undeniable fact that all of them are centered on the strategic and economic interests of the US-led alliances of hegemons in the Indian Ocean region and beyond.

The U.S drive in structural advancement of military, geo-political and economic interests and ties with the unitary state of genocidal Sri Lanka is contingent on the intensifying global geo-political dynamics of strategic rivalry with China and Russia, from Eastern Europe to the Middle-East, the South-China Sea to the Korean peninsula. Geo-political rivalry between world and regional hegemons does not, on its own, broaden political spaces which serve the interests of oppressed nations.

As in the ‘Sri Lankan’ context, all rivals embedded in the same global economy view the unitary state as a necessity or an optimal administrative set-up to pursue their respective interests. Under contest is which regime or coalition of elites will control state-power.

The plight of the Eezham Tamils is not seen as important and their political demands for sovereignty and self-determination are seen as obstructions.

Hence the wisdom of self-organization, building a strong grassroots-based political mobilization and carving a political path of struggle directed by the democratic aspirations of the people is the call of the hour., contrary to opting to dance to the dictates of external powers in the hope of being offered crumbles which would lead the Tamil political leadership forsaking the necessity in building the foundation among the masses.

In the island, the current regime and the array of civil society actors, political parties in the Sinhala south, mainly the alliances headed by incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, as well as moderate elements and business interests within the Eezham Tamil diaspora, seem to be the local cultivators of the U.S led paradigm.

There are also Tamil-English media outlets and U.S based Tamil NGOs who are enrolled in such an operation, and attempt to canvass the Tamils into the U.S orbit of interests while obfuscating the true nature of the world hegemon’s intricate role in consolidating the unitary state system in the island.

Such a matrix of elements and activities to cement the above-mentioned paradigm merits a deconstruction for the benefit of the Tamil masses, as well as for the Sinhala masses encapsulated by the ideological forces of the unitary state and Buddhist monastic institutions.

Shedding clarity on these developments would further elucidate the Tamil masses to shape their future course of political struggle.

Such political clarity may also break the obfuscation concerning the Tamil political struggle among the Sinhala masses and open up spaces to build genuine alliances that can rationalize the Tamil national question and respect Tamil sovereignty. However, the lesson of the past is that the Sinhala establishment has no systemic ability to break such obfuscation.

The obfuscation in which the Sinhala masses are embroiled within are propagated by the state apparatuses, Sinhala Buddhist clergy and nationalist elements spearheaded by the Joint Opposition, and the Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapakse front as well the incumbent regime.

Even the JVP, which has abandoned its ‘radical’ orientation for the sake of electoral politics within the unitary state’s parliamentary system, persists in failing to rationalize the Tamil national question and the nature of the LTTE struggle.

As these players show no sign of breaking free of such an ideologically sterile mold, they repeat the historical mistake by not approaching the Tamil political struggle with genuine solidarity and in the spirit of the equality of nations.

The question rises again at this historical moment, a litmus test indeed, bringing to the foreground the fact that without building alliances with the Tamil political struggle there is no feasible manner for Sinhala progressives to create a fundament in the island to prevent imperialist interventions, whether from regional or world hegemons.

Sinhala progressives jump onto the same bandwagon in the south, all conditioned by the ideological hold of the unitary state, to falsely charge that the Tamil political struggle has been and is still in alignment with U.S strategic interests.

They believe that the Tamil political struggle’s primary goal is to orient the island into U.S’s orbit of power within the Indian Ocean and South Asian region.

This is a gross distortion of the truth since the unitary state has, since the colonial period, been safeguarded and solidified at times of crisis by U.K and later by U.S imperialist interests. But, the Sinhala masses are never going to realize this, given the lessons of the past.

Even during their tenure in power, the Rajapakse regime worked as a comprador government in charge of the unitary state, employing their lascarine military apparatuses in the service of global finance interests and geo-political and strategic interests of the west in eliminating the foremost obstacle of that time, the Tamil revolutionary political struggle led in its armed phase by the LTTE.

This coalition of Sinhala-educated elites, who claimed to be anti-imperialist in contrast to the English-educated Sinhala elites, worked in the interests of U.S imperialism in eliminating the foremost challenge to the unitary state and the global economy, the LTTE.

These elites are now sidelined by their former patrons due to their politics tilting towards Beijing’s strategic and economic interests, and indulge in Freudian projections and heavy distortions against the Tamil political struggle.

The political dynamics emanating from electoral politics and its inherent parliamentary rivalry between Sirisena’s incumbent regime, Ranil Wickremesinge’s front and Joint opposition, as well as the JVP only add more clothing to the political obfuscation rampant in the Sinhala south.

In the meantime, the so-called Tamil moderates are canvassed by external powers to communicate to struggling sections of the Tamil people. These moderates advise political aspirants among the Tamils to use a non-descript method in their political struggle, to abstain from articulating political demands since, they are taught to impart that, the threat of Rajapakse re-gaining power is looming at large.

Again, the dynamics are embedded within the electoral politics of the unitary state where either side of the coin reifies the oppressive system. Although the main patron of the unitary state, the US-led west, elaborate the above as reasons to opt for a non-descript approach it is futile for Tamils to not even articulate basic democratic aspirations and grievances.

A brief look at recent engagement of the US in the island and in safeguarding the unitary state should suffice to direct popular opinion to further investigations of ulterior motives and strategic interests of Washington.

Mangala Samarawera, the present SL Finance Minister in his capacity as SL Foreign Minister in December 6th 2015, introduced the speech delivered by U.S Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon Jr., at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute.

He said “Ambassador Shannon is the senior-most career United States Foreign Service Officer and just the 14th in history to rise to the role of Under-Secretary-of State for Political Affairs… As you all know, this has been a milestone year in US – Sri Lanka relations, and Ambassador Shannon’s visit follows a series of important visits from the US including two members of President Obama’s Cabinet: the Secretary of State, H.E. John Kerry, and Ambassador Samantha Power. ”1

In his capacity as SL Foreign Minister, Mangala Samarawera had further summarized the increased state-to-state integration between U.S and the agent-state of ‘Sri Lanka’, as high-level officials had been ushered into Colombo to cement such a ‘friendship’.

Mr Samaraweera said:

“You would recall that Secretary Kerry, during his visit in May this year, announced that the US and Sri Lanka will establish a Partnership Dialogue. At our discussions on Monday evening, Ambassador Shannon and I decided that the Partnership Dialogue will be launched in Washington DC in February 2016.”

Mr. Shannon praised the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, and underscored his importance for the U.S in building their interests in the island. He, amongst others, pointed out the importance of Sri Lanka in building alliances in terms of trade and security with regional states, through the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which he said Kadirgamar was crucial in consolidating.

It also seems, that his articulation of the U.S vision of a future Sri Lanka resonated with their strategic interests, and was coloured by increasing geo-political tension on a global scale with Russia and China.

“The United States wants to see a strong Sri Lanka, one that is a leader in the international community, contributing to the global economy, promoting human rights, justice, and democracy abroad, and helping to uphold international law.  With its entrepreneurial people, abundant resources, and strategic location, Sri Lanka is uniquely positioned to do so.”1

The US Department of State website, in a media note dated 3rd September 2017 announced the visit of Under Secretary of Political Affairs Shannon in his new capacity to initiate the second phase of the U.S – Sri Lanka dialogue programme, indicating the accelerated strengthening of formal ties between the two states.

“Under Secretary Shannon will then travel to Colombo on November 6, where he will co-lead the U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue and meet with government and non-government officials.” 2

The second meeting of the U.S – Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue commenced on the November 6th 2017, and the joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka and the U.S State Department are indicative of the resolve of such a strategic partnership to further strengthen their structural ties. This corroborates the fact that UNHRC is a mere farce, utilized in the interests of U.S geo-political and economic interests, to pressure Colombo into its orbit, and places no importance on the Tamil demand for justice or political solution. Rather, struggle-centric elements among the Eelam Tamil polity have accused the organisation of attempting to contain and detract the Tamil political struggle.3

On 9th November 2017 the Finance Minister Samaraweera presented the 2018 Budget which revolves around further liberalizing the economy and making it ‘world market friendly’ to satisfy the structural adjustment demanded by the IMF’s third-term review, and the subsequent IMF and World Bank loans granted to SL.

Furthermore, the budget for the military has increased dramatically, overshadowing military spending at the height of the genocidal war in the 2008/2009 period. It clearly indicates the future role envisioned for the lascarine SL military apparatuses by the external patrons of the unitary state.

All in all, it is a budget serving the strategic and economic interests of external powers.

Foremost among them being the U.S and allied institutions of the global economy such as the World Bank and the IMF.

The term Blue and Green economy harps on the increased emphasis of utilizing the strategic position of SL along the sea trade routes, that the maritime territories of SL are to be consolidated as the pillars of the global capitalist economy along the orientation of global financial institutions and the U.S-led alliances of hegemons.

For this purpose, there is the emphasis on facilitation of foreign direct investment in shipping, port and trade endeavours, and the aligned consolidation for the military and naval capacities of the agent-state to provide security and stability along the coast and the sea to, incidentally, territories that fall within the geography of the traditional homeland of the Tamil speaking people on the island. This exposition of external interests and the subsequent alignment of Colombo’s policies reveal the ulterior interests of world hegemons in opting for the military solution to the Tamil resistance.

Samaraweera, concluded his presentation of the budget in parliament by saying: “I am confident that the proposed changes will enable Sri Lanka to be a more vibrant and a dynamic market economy” 4

In an opinion piece which appeared in the government centric media, The Daily Mirror, Ayesh Ranawaka the Advisor to State Minster of Fisheries and of Aquatic Resources Development encouragingly wrote about how ‘Sri Lanka’ should adjust its economic and security policies towards a ‘Blue economy’, in accordance to the interests of global economy and the U.S.

The focus on exploitation of the maritime resources, including trading routes, harbour-port facilities, fisheries and the provision of advanced security to these places was emphasised. It is now known that the 2018 budget has been formed to suit such capacities of the unitary state and the geo-economic interests of global finance institutions and the U.S.

Ayesh Ranawaka concludes, with a call for the ‘Sri Lankan’ state as well as civil society actors and businesses to conjunct their efforts with the defence and security interests of the U.S in the Indian Ocean region.

These interests are mainly in seeking to foster Washington’s hegemony over the trading routes, ensure naval supremacy along those sea-trade and transport lanes and under-water lines of communication and to prevent and counter the Chinese and their allies from furthering their efforts towards the same.

“The USA has also taken steps to strengthen the diplomatic ties between the two countries. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group including the USS Nimitz, the cruiser USS Princeton and destroyers USS Howard, USS Shoup, USS Pinckney and USS Kidd is a poignant example to show the importance of Sri Lanka’s location and America’s desire to strengthen diplomacy with us. Sending such a carrier is not a one-day job. However, it has been done, because the US is interested in us. Sri Lanka has the perfect location to establish a multidisciplinary university-based centre, dedicated to research, education and training on maritime law and security and natural marine resource management.”

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External Links:
Daily Mirror: Mangala presents Blue-Green Budget
Daily Mirror: Blue Economy, USS Nimitz and the Way Forward
SL Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Introduction by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to Speech by Amb. Thomas Shannon at Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute
U.S. Department of State: Under Secretary Shannon to Travel to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka


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