Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sri Lanka is in the news again. All for the wrong reasons as usual.

Why is there no good news when Sri Lanka is highlighted in the international news? It is always bad news. The curse of allegations arising from the end of hostilities in May 2009 has not been closed and finished. The Govt. is using it to their advantage, when I firmly believe that they could have resolved this satisfactorily within months, without dragging the Country through years of agony. They don’t appear to me to have any desire to resolve them, because if they do they have little electoral appeal to continue winning elections.

I believe that much of the infrastructure projects have NOT benefited the people, as they can neither use them, nor have they obtained employment through them. The extra carriages on trains just don’t seem to have lessened the overcrowding, as more and more people are commuting the distances to their employment. 

Suddenly, the exorbitant rise of basic foodstuffs have shocked the populace, mainly urban, but also rural, into realizing that few except the wealthy have benefitted from the party and unless one has the benefit of a remittance from a relative overseas, one is in deep trouble to survive!

It is working people who live from hand to mouth. From paycheck to paycheck. The apologists for this Government will soon have to eat their words. They say this country has never been so successful, looking at the vehicles on the road, quadrupling in a matter of 6 years! No easy task, but reflective of money and economic activity. However it is merely one of debt, keeping up with the Jones and the necessity of a motorbike due to the long hours of work and the lack of public transport especially after hours, and in many rural areas.      

The last vestiges of the war victory still have some mileage left, and the President is mining it for all he has left, as shown in the last election campaign, where the President was on the campaign trail and few of his henchmen in Govt. were giving him support. In fact it appears that they have quietly stayed aloof because they have not been able to face the people, reserving their campaigning to a Govt. friendly press.

The results of the forthcoming elections, may speed up the need for a General Election and Presidential or delay it, depending   on how the Govt. interprets it. Especially with a financially bankrupt opposition, making headway!

There is a silver lining where we are now able to accommodate more tourists, and therefore the numbers seem to show a substantial increase, though the actual spend per se is not going up in the right direction.

There is an ongoing drought, which hopefully will come to an end shortly. It has affected some of the farming communities, and the hoped for surpluses of rice have diminished.

There is some retrenchment in employment opportunities, and it is the overseas job that is keeping a lid on agitation of the youth, who nevertheless are generally able to get something somewhere and only those who are left, find it a struggle to get a job that pays a living wage.

The university students are agitating for a few more benefits, as the costs of living affect them badly and most of their parents are not able to support the Rs15,000 a month that is required for board and lodging and their essentials.

The Government servants are those who have suddenly felt the pain of living, as their increments have NOT kept pace with inflation and they moonlight to survive or start taking bribes for small tasks that they control, to supplement their income.

The bloated state sector is a huge drag on the Govt. coffers, and it is seriously not productive nor give a return that is tangible, even with Good Service or other measure of productivity.

They still support the Govt. because they fear that the UNP may reduce the numbers by restructuring the service, much in the way they did in their 2002 Govt. It is therefore important that they state that they will NOT get rid of any person against their will as they will be able to show that new employment opportunities in the private sector at vastly higher remuneration will draw some from the public service to the private. Further the increments the Govt. gave in the past years are only for allowances, and NOT basic. SO it will not increase their pensionable salaries, which will wipe their pension values.

The Govt. electoral benefit is short lived, the pressure is likely to be exerted gradually more by innuendo, that will affect the credibility of our leaders in the international sphere, and no matter what they state, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world and have to be involved and face their music too!!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

UN vote on Crimea – How did Sri Lanka vote? The Russians are angry!

Minutes after the UNHRC vote in Geneva on Sri Lanka, where Russia voted against the resolution, the United Nations General Assembly in New York, adopts a resolution, “calling upon states NOT to recognize a change in status of the Crimea region” in short NOT accepting Russian Annexation or Crimean Independence!

There were 100 Votes for the resolution, 11 against and 58 abstentions, with another 24 not turning up to the debate and are marked as absent. Sri Lanka is either absent or abstained, and as of this moment cannot find out which it was!

The Countries that voted with Russia are: Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe! Why I wonder they are not in my list of countries, I would ever want to visit! Though I have been to Russia, in the days it was called the Soviet Union and before the break up!

It is purely coincidental, but also very ironic that these two resolutions were voted on the same DAY!!!! Does that foretell something in the future? Anyway, how would Russia feel that SL did not vote with them on this?

My blog entry a few days ago here, mentioned this very fact, and our commitment in that regard. I know if we had voted for, there would be hell to pay in our future foreign policy, however being absent or abstained does not give a clear message about partitioning countries if the people living in the area of partition vote to secede. I am pretty sure we did not vote for that resolution!

Russia is NO doubt isolated in this case, as the people or countries voting with Russia are somehow dependent on Russia for their survival, and were helped by Russia in days gone by, and had an obligation.

I further stated a few days ago, that we don’t need Russia, for anything. So it was time to uncouple our relationship from them. I am sure this vote is indicative of that thinking and now that we have at least drawn a line in the sand as to how far we will go to support Russia, the latter knows how far they can push us due to our non dependence on them anymore for anything! A fat lot of good it did for SL in the UNHRC vote, as Russia was NOT able to influence more countries to vote against the resolution and so support Sri Lanka.

If any further evidence were needed that the first salvo has been fired of our intentions, this is it, coming on a day of immense significance for SLs future.           

Monday, March 24, 2014

Let us better manage the Chinese influx to benefit Sri Lanka

Chinese projects, investments and contracts in Sri Lanka means that Chinese of all levels of income and wealth have now descended on Sri Lanka, many living for 5 to 10 years, who will no doubt never want to leave. Not just prisoners working out their sentences here. Just ask the Commissioner of Immigration how easy it is to let the Chinese live here, as they are attached to all sorts of companies, and standard letters mean that their stay is almost rubber stamped, when it is much more detailed for Westerners to live here on resident visas. Over 15,000 Chinese have work visas!  

Ironically it is Sri Lanka that is paying for the Chinese to live here, and it costs us dearly to pay them as it is on high cost investments that they are here. For Westerners they are NOT permitted to work here and have to show how much they bring from overseas!! What my real point is that Sri Lanka is far more of a livable place than China, and with the Beijing pollution resulting in an exodus of foreigners and then any Chinaman who can get out, there will be pressure from Chinese to live here in large numbers. It is easier for them to come here and live than in any other Country, due to our lax policies on Chinese, and the easy methods to “persuade” our politicians to give a letter to the Commissioner of Immigration to grant them a resident visa due to their valuable contribution to that politician’s “welfare and survival”.

Yes they are now renting apartments and houses in Colombo and soon there will be more, once the northern highway project gets under way. It will help the apartment owners rent their properties and help the rich get richer. So let us think how it can help Sri Lanka and not just a few wealthy individuals.

It is simply called supply and demand, and as they don’t pay taxes in Sri Lanka either for living and working here, nor do they have to pay duty for the 4 or 5 luxury cars that they import to SL on their project accounts, it is only fair to find an alternative way to raise some revenue for the ‘privilege’ of their staying here.

I know of Chinese who want to marry local women, so that they can legalize their stay here, as they on balance realize that it is a paradise, they cannot find at home, where they are mere surfs in a huge country. Nobodies, trying to be somebodies here, due merely to the position they hold, the company they work for and the leverage they have over a local to give him a subcontract in a Chinese project.

Let us not forget that Sri Lanka is really paradise on earth for many who are NOT Sri Lankans, and we must ask them to pay a price to live in Paradise.     

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Time for a U turn in Foreign Policy – Stop backing losers!

As if we have no shame in backing dictators, we continue merrily backing such regimes, which then fall and we still have NO shame! perhaps because we are also in that same mentality of our rulers not being able to put Country before self.

Let us dump Russia as a friend. We don’t need them for leverage, or for that matter for anything. There is NOTHING we want from them or give them. By being forced to back them in their annexation of Crimea, we will only invite the same from our enemies who wish to divide Sri Lanka. So let us remove ourselves from their orbit, before we come to regret such later.

Russia is now the sick man in the world. They have lost all power, the people of Russia are dejected. They have 140 Oligarch Billionaires who have stolen the wealth of the poor, and now only have a life expectancy of 60. The 143 milion Russians are a nation in DECLINE. In fact, the quality of life of Sri Lankans are higher than Russia, so why are we desperate to be friendly with them? Just for their veto in the UN!! That is a silly reason. Just stop Sri Lanka being sold to the rich.

Assimilate all the latest news. Russia is HURTING already in a few days!! Yes a few days! due to the sanctions imposed by the West for annexing Crimea. I am NOT denying the fact that the Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to secede, just as the Northern Tamils would, if a referendum was held today, but we cannot conduct policies on referendums, where does it stop? That is a very bad precedent for any Country. The Russian stock market dropped drastically as a result. 

Understand why Putin gets elected! Similarly to why our President gets elected, for isolationism, for suppressing freedoms, and for instilling fear in the people for non-existent threats. So it is not based on any goodness on their part or love for country.

 Sri Lanka will be forced to back Russia in the UN in supporting their annexure of the Crimea, a most embarrassing, if NOT disastrous step in our foreign policy. Before we are forced into such an action, let us just take a stand against this unacceptable practice of annexing areas, just because the people who live in an area wish to be annexed, as we cannot change this policy when it does not suit us.

In a future administration, Russia will be forced to hand back Crimea, as it will become a problem, but as long as Putin is in power, it is about Putin first and Russia second, and we are only backing another Dictator, against the sovereignty of a Country in the UN. At least the Chinese are the dictatorship of the proletariat!  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We have no friends! Only those who use us for their ends – so who will protect us? That is a question that smart diplomacy could have avoided.

All Sri Lankans MUST realize that we are now completely isolated in this world, with no country that we can call our friends. We appear to be making a habit of isolating ourselves wherever we go! At least the Americans have two friends at least those of Canada and UK, who need each other for their own benefit and vice versa, but we cannot say that of India, China or Russia.

If you think China and Russia are friends you must be delusional. They don’t do anything that is NOT advantageous for them just like in the case of the Western Powers. So now it is payback time for Sri Lanka to vote with Russia, in the new resolution in the United Nations on the illegal annexure of Crimea. YES we will have to vote for with Russia, saying it is OK to annex Crimea!!! What a twist in the knickers that will be for the President’s foreign policy, because that precedent alone is enough to compromise Sri Lanka, and lead us down to separatism.

How can we ask Russia to defend us when the resolution to break up SL is put forward by our enemies, if you believe what the JHU says, a constituent party of the UPFA governing coalition? The JHU is just sound pollution.

China WILL NOT vote with Russia on the break up as they have Tibet that they annexed, who if they vote independently will vote for separatism! At a stroke we have compromised and sold our souls to the new imperialists!

We should have kept our non alignment as a reality and not as fiction, and created a foreign policy that is MOST beneficial for Sri Lanka, like Singapore has in its case. Singapore has designed their usefulness in such a way, that NO country wants to make Singapore an enemy, they all want to be friends, so why could we not be the same as we are in a strategically more important position on the globe than even Singapore is!!! 

To put it simply, we are ISOLATED and all this is due to the policies of arrogance of our Government. The Friendship that is bogus with Russia has just been bared open, when Crimea voted to be independent something we cannot permit in the world of diplomacy, due to the implications of Northern Tamils seeking a separate state. Of course the Russians have double standards, but the precedent that their action has created, is very worrying in the Sri Lankan context as they will NOT be able to support Sri Lanka in future and VETO a prevention of a break up.

China on the other hand ONLY wants Sri Lanka for no other reason than for their own sphere of influence with no special love for Sri Lanka in particular.

If one really looks at China’s relationship, there IS NOTHING of value to SL. They are NOT a trading partner of Sri Lanka, instead they are a rival and competitor, which is worse. Further they seek a free trade deal with Sri Lanka for a destination for their goods, and not as an export market for ours, no matter what the JHU says or thinks, by dreaming that we can easily diversify our dependence on a few Western Countries for our a destination for our manufactured exports.

GOSL relationship with India is at its worst ever. We had a chance to cement our relationship with India, by resolving our issues with the Tamils, but we chose not to and instead have decided to ally ourselves with China as a counter to India, BAD CHOICE!!

We must never forget that we are culturally, and economically within the Indian sphere of influence and we can benefit hugely with being friends with India, as we can access its markets, and be a HK type satellite for India, which will form a commercial hub for Indian commerce, as an entreport and docking point for large container carriers.   

We have enough experience of relations with India, and will able to manage the relationship to our advantage if we are able to solve our mutual interests, by giving a level of autonomy, that will ensure permanent unity of the Country as One Nation. This must also be in India’s self interest as they have far more diverse and troublesome ethnic communities who may wish to secede given half a chance.

This is a GOOD point for the Opposition to expose the hypocrisy of our so called friends, and inform the people that a middle path of non-alignment that we have followed all along is a better solution in the longer term interests of Sri Lanka, and we can leverage the increasing geopolitical advantage we have to our benefit.

The hysteria generated by the Govt. is a red herring, and merely meant to win votes back home to falsely pontificate to the world that their action has been endorsed by their electorate, and they do not have to answer to the international community.

The outcome of the UNHRC is willed by the GOSL to be against SL so they can continue their current behavior with impunity. It is regrettable that the best interests of Sri Lanka are not the primary motives, with longevity of power being at the top. I just hope the people begin to realize that which is self-evident.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

It is time the Commonwealth exert some pressure to an issue that is being stonewalled by an intransigent GOSL

Letter to Kamlesh Sharma – Secretary General for the Commonwealth  (sent 16th March  2014) 
Dear Mr Sharma

I view with trepidation the comments attributed to you in the link below, which if true merely point to the fact that the Commonwealth as interpreted by your statement does not wish to uphold Commonwealth values. I am well aware that your hands are tied, and you have limited scope to express your personal opinion, as compared with what you can say in a diplomatic way. However it is ONLY you and no one else who can quietly but FIRMLY tell the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) that you are most unhappy with the deliberate stalling on ALL fronts in the quest for a solution to the relatively minor issues of reconciliation required, as compared with other more important matters in your area of concern.

Why you may ask is the GOSL being so deaf to rational action? It is simple. It is in the best electoral interest of their survival to behave in this manner, and antagonize especially the TNA. It is called survival within. The only way that will achieve permanent survival in power is by attacking TNA as LTTE in mufti!

There is NO such thing as gradual coaxing of an intransigent GOSL. Their intention is quite clear, as giving into the TNA demands is considered political suicide back home in SL! There is no indication of the ruling elite in SL putting country before self, and the money and power being amassed by them puts the previous Marcos regime to shame.

You fail to understand the dynamics of Sri Lanka. They are a very passive but passionate set of people, who cannot be coaxed out of their armchairs watching Govt. supplied TV material, to go out and vote. The US$10B per annum free money the Country receives from its overseas workers and the unlimited funds available from the usurious Chinese Banks is keeping the Country in a state of Clover that will ensure that a lot of corruption carries on, as anyone can be bought.

The only way that the issues can be resolved is with the Opposition, who to win the next general election scheduled for next year, will require the voters realization that they have been had or to put it in simple colloquial words, taken for a ride!
That is easier said than done, because the Tamil Diaspora with the TNA and their unreasonable stance, are part and parcel of why this Govt. ensures its survival.

You are fully aware I am sure that there is limited pressure that your office can put on such leaders, and only something that will affect their pride is one they may understand in relation to ensuring a change of behavior. One has to realize that to a degree they just reflect criticism by merely returning to sender! The tried and tested ways of saying if I did this what about you, speak for yourself!

It is therefore NOT criticism of action or inaction that one must indulge in, but merely that of agreeing that they fall into the same category of HR abusers as those they accuse, and by comparing their abuse to that of the LTTE they have effectively sought to lump them in the same mould as the odious LTTE, when it comes to crimes against humanity, and it appears that they wish the same fate by their very words, unless they act with statesmanship.

If they wish to aspire to one of Governments with the proper Rule of Law being enforced, then the usual rules of checks and balances in most democratic countries applies to them too, and the Diaspora requests be relegated to one of terrorist demands. This will check mate the GOSL to lose face, both externally and most importantly internally, so that democratic change can take place.

The platform of all opposition parties of, abolishing the executive presidency will go a long way in ensuring a return to normalcy, however that can only take place when the firm vice like grip exerted by the present regime, that goes against all norms of democratic governance is removed, or at least loosened somewhat for the regime to re-establish some of the checks and balances that they removed in their quest for autocratic rule.

I am sure in your many years of experience you must have come across similarly disposed regimes, that followed the same formula, and who can initially be tantalizingly gracious with Country’s resources, but are later upon realization turn to be no more than common criminals out to loot the treasury. International law will eventually bring them to task, but in the interim a whole rich and promising country is held to ransom and possible break up owing to the actions of a few.

I trust my analysis goes towards furthering your resources to make an effective contribution towards the well being of Sri Lanka, which is divorced from the longevity of a regime in order to bring about constructive change, without a destructive disturbance occurring in between.

It is time to encourage all stakeholders, especially the main opposition to participate in the collective actions needed to bring about a just and enduring peace in Sri Lanka, one which is the only barrier to the rise of a great nation, a senior member of the Commonwealth and a very rich one at that.

Thank You.     

Sunday, March 16, 2014

GOSL Geneva stance will lead to a Crimea situation!

Imagine you are an UN Ambassador from a country that has membership of the UNHRC, other than the big powers with vested interests! What would you make of the case put forward by the GOSL in defense of the allegations?

Firstly Navi Pillay, who is a UN staffer has been attacked mercilessly for being a puppet of the West with an agenda. Secondly the 4000 plus demonstrators in Geneva from the Tamil Diaspora have been attacked as being LTTE sympathizers and therefore terrorists! And then when the elected representatives of the Tamils in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province come to Geneva, the GOSL attack their credibility as being terrorists in colorful saris. When they complain about a woman activist, who is known as forceful in holding the GOSL to account for the disappearance of her 15yr old son, being held under PTA on at best dubious grounds, misusing the reason for having the PTA on the statute books, what would you be inclined to believe? In this internet age a Google click will update you to the discussions.

Any sane Ambassador will say, there is a huge ethnic problem, and the GOSL is only representing Sinhala Buddhists, and is discriminating against all other groups not adhering to their tune, and thus have a serious HR issue not just at the end of the conflict, but today as well. It is a slam dunk case of the GOSL selling SL down the gully for their survival pure and simple. They cannot use democracy as evidence as it involves majoritarian means to suppress minorities and the fact that they will win the elections to be held a day after the UNHRC vote does not count for a hill of beans, and in fact re-enforce the lack of governance.

Using their divisive politics, they are likely to drive the UN to demand that NPC be given autonomy, in much the same way that Crimea has autonomy already within Ukraine. In today’s referendum, declared illegal by the UN Security Council but for Russias veto, and China’s abstention, Crimea will vote to secede!

THAT IS NOT GOOD for Sri Lanka, past present or future. It is no one but those representing GOSL, namely the President who MUST shoulder all the blame for this state of affairs. You do not shoot the messenger, you try to explain the flaw in the message, and there you have failed by your incompetence and inaction on the area of reconciliation, and reform of democratic institutions. The only logical explanation then, is the desire to be in power at all costs, at the expense of the people, and those who cannot see this clear act of treachery are themselves traitors of the Country. It is time that those who love our country, not just a trumped up non existent race, rise up, and re-take the podium to preserve our unitary state.           

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Crimea – will it or wont it secede? How it will affect Sri Lanka’s future?

It is important to note in the matter of international relations, actions of other nations can affect how something is perceived at home, even though the conditions and ground situation is very different. This is because interested parties use precedent to their advantage, no matter the rights and wrongs of that action.

With Ukraine which was in the Russian orbit, now through an internal insurrection, deposed their Russian financed front man. They now want more independence from the Russian Influence, but it is proving a little difficult, as the both the Russian warm water port in Crimea on the Black Sea is home to a large Naval Base, which the Russians want to keep at all cost, and the majority of the people in Crimea are Russian or Russian speakers, along with a sprinkling of Muslim Tartars of the famed horseman of yore.

Putin is hoping that the referendum on Sunday in Crimea to secede will go his way, as it obviously will due to the overwhelming pro Russian and Russian speaking majority in that state. IF they secede and it is recognized by the world, it will be a disaster for the SL Govt. as it will create a precedent for Tamil separatism demands, even though both India and Sri Lanka are against that!

THE US has put pressure on the Russians to leave Crimea alone, and not interfere in Ukraine, and have threatened Russia with sanctions which despite the overwhelming size of the Economy will nevertheless be felt amongst its citizens despite their oil and gas reserves. The Russians still need western technology and don’t want to upset the apple cart, and Obama is hoping that Putin will see sense, but don’t count of it due to his Soviet mentality of a KGB agent which has still not left him.

Without Crimea, Ukraine will NEVER return to the Russian Orbit and would more likely want to join NATO, and now there is an excuse to do so for security reason, so Obama is counting on that eventuality to stop Putin from annexing Crimea. Only time will tell what happens, but the fact that Putin is sending troops into Crimea in mufti, means he wants to be ready for a quick exit if the need arises, and is not intent on showing a Russian takeover as yet.

Sri Lanka would do best to learn from this experience, that balancing a level of autonomy within the Unitary state, will prevent separatist tendencies and a good rapport with India will put paid to any rumblings of separatism which will be forcefully cast off by any Indian Govt. even the Modi Govt. expected later on.