Gridlock and Hocus-Pocus in Sri Lanka underwritten by Prejudice, Exclusion plus False News

Michael Roberts

This is an expanded version of anarticle sent earlier toColombo Telegraph and this expanded version will be sent to the print media in Sri Lanka as well as Col/Tel. It is test case: are the political lines associated with the present crissi so sharp that Editors shut out perspectives that question their political leanings?

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Suri  Amarakeerthi  

It is the fashion for Editors of prestigious newspapers and for authors themselves to impress their credentials when presenting articles in newspapers. When Amarakeerthi Liyanage wrote a Letter to the Ambassador for China and presented this text in The Island, he was “Professor Amarakeerthi Liyanage.” When a friend recommended Suri Ratnapala’s readings of the present constitutional conundrums in Sri Lanka to me, he stressed that Suri was “a much-respected Professor of Law.”

Though I have fallen into this line of formality on occasions, as the editor of Thuppahi I have tended to avoid an emphasis on credentials and let readers assess articles on their intrinsic merits. The throbbing debate on the constitutional imbroglio in Sri Lanka highlights the importance of this common-sense principle. Highly credentialed legal experts are on opposite sides. Worse still the visceral hatred towards Mahinda Rajapaksa (doubtless not unjustified) in powerful media and international circles weights the scales in favour of the Yahaapalana Combo and the Jayampathy Wickremaratna constitution.

I am a rank and file layman on the issues arising within this particular type of minefield. I have a certain caution towards legal jargon – at times amounting to disrespect. From this sceptical position it seems to me that Ratnawalli has got Jayampathy Wickremaratna and his constitutional product by its testicles: its internal discrepancies seem to have been pinpointed. Why her article has not seen print in Sri Lanka or abroad in, say, Colombo Telegraph, is a PUZZLE of some consequence in our assessments of the weight of powers-behind-the throne. This outcome suggests the play of gigantic prejudice. 

Speaking now in cricketing metaphors, Wickremaratna’s constitution seems to have hit its own wicket. Apart from its problems in the world of English, the issues at stake call for a reference to the Sinhala version of the constitution – presumably the overriding version (raising another problem). As a cricketing heckler, I am tempted to add that we should throw a Tamil version into the boiling cauldron of this constitutional melee. That would please MP Sumanthiran:  it means that we Sri Lankans may have to admit the “Constitutional Justices in the Court of the Enuits in Norgreenland”[1] to adjudicate on the fate of this island of Sri Lanka.


Powerful themes in the Western media circuit in the world and in their Sri Lankan trickles stress that (a) Sri Lanka has fallen into the Chinese debt trap and (b) Hambantota is in the Chinese pocket and can serve as their naval base. These outcomes are laid at the door of the Mahinda Rajapaksa governments.

The second claim seems to be as outlandish as stupid. As far as I know, the port agreement – renegotiated and signed mind you by the Wickremasinghe government – is a joint enterprise; while its security is in the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy. The most recent effusions by Abi-Habib of the New York Times and Patrick Quintos of ABS- News have clearly not bothered to read the Verite Research Director, Nishan de Mel’s searching analysis of Sri Lanka’s external debt situation in January this year…. And one wonders if any of the leading Editors of Sri Lankan print media are familiar with the central specifics spelt out by de Mel.

That is the problem is it not. The far-flung and wide-reaching Western media machinery can simply ignore small players and roll on regardless. As Nupur J. Sharma has shown from India, even the BBC has indulged in “fake news” on Indian affairs. If India can be victimized in this manner, what chance has little Sri Lanka?

A Kiwi friend who speaks Chinese and is familiar with the Malay/China world has responded to my items on this topic by asserting that “it is not the ‘so-called’ China debt trap that is causing difficulties for poor countries, but Trump’s stupid trade/economic war;” and added that “the Asian style of leadership is far less confrontational in its use of language [thereby] allowing for more constructed and better negotiations; while the language of the West has always been about confrontation, blowing things up [in situations of rivalry].” I only wish our news editors in Sri Lanka could have an extended exchange with him. Alas, he has to remain anonymous.

Another academic friend in Melbourne, Tony Donaldson, responded favourably to two of my articles[2] and added this note: “[they remind us] that the US., its diplomats and think tanks which operate in the guise of academic institutions, do not present global or universal values as they pretend or claim, but a deeply entrenched relativist one that is tied to US interests.”

Among the powerful ‘keys’ deployed by the Western powers are the apparently neutral banners of representative democracy, human rights and multiculturalism. These high-minded principles become partisan weapons promoting and protecting capitalist privilege and Euro-American hegemony. One has to look no further than the R2P programmes[3] pursued by the International Crisis Group and the public comments on Sri Lankan affairs of its key front-man, Alan Keenan,[4] to witness this bias. It has seduced a whole line of Sri Lankan scholars, from Jayadeva Uyangoda to Sasanka Perera to Amarakeerthi Liyanage to agitate for conflict resolution, inclusivity and shared heritage within the Sri Lankan scenario.

From the 1990s this well-intentioned programme agitated for moderation and appeasement of the LTTE-led Tamil cause. Its advocates missed the key lesson gathered by Mark Corcoran of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation when he spent time in Jaffna and made the documentary film TIGER BY THE TAIL in 1999. His point was simple: Pirapaharan would settle for nothing short of full independence. The idea of “political devolution” was one step towards this ultimate goal.[5] 

The demise of the LTTE does not mean that Pirapaharan’s goal has been jettisoned by the Tamil intelligentsia at home or abroad. Nor does it diminish the geo-political interests of USA and its allies in the Indian Ocean. The articles by such individuals as Maria al-Habib (of the NY Times) and Patrick Quintos are marks of the US government’s strategic interests. In aiming at the Chinese and forgetting this dimension, Liyanage is being as idiotic as partisan. It can be surmised that he was among those at Peradeniya University who recently shut out Vivek Chibber after inviting him to serve as a keynote speaker at the recent “International Conference on the Humanities & Social Sciences” and replaced him with Uyangoda. Chibber has hit the world headlines with his book Postcolonial Theory and Spectre of Capitalism (2013) – a “stunning critique of postcolonial theory as represented by the Subaltern Studies school” according to one reviewer, Robert Brenner.[6]

So, what we see is wheels within wheels. Slippery reading for ordinary mortals.

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Liyanage Amarakeerthi: “An Open Letter to the Chinese Ambassador in Sri Lanka,”17 November 2018,

Gerald H Peiris: Peiris Confronts Samarasinghe and Other Pundits,” 19 November 2019,

Suri Ratnapala 2018 “Sacking RW, Appointing MR & Dissolution of Parliament are unconstitutional,” Colombo Telegraph, 19 November 2018,

Darshanie Ratnawalli 2018 “Utter Constitutional darkness in Sri Lanka. A Sunday Times Editorial falls prey,” 19 November 2018,

Thuppahi 2018 “Western Neo-Colonialism Today: An Incisive Note from Tony Donaldson,” 12 June 2018,

Mark Corcoran see ABC

ABC 1999 “Sri Lanka Tigers at the Gate,” A Documentary Film, 29 June 1999

 Michael Roberts 2017 “Revisiting Jaffna and the LTTE in mid-1999 guided by Mark Corcoran and the ABC,” 7 August 2017,

Gerald H. Peiris 2010 “The Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect: Impulses, Implications and Impact,” 30 June 2010,  AND

Michael Roberts 2014Lilliputs in a World of Giants: Marga and CHA bat for Lanka in the Propaganda War, 2009-14,” 18 November 2015,

Michael Roberts 2018a The Western World’s Cumulous Clouds of Deception: Blanketing the Sharp Realities of Eelam War IV,” 16 October 2018,

Michael Roberts 2018b A Response to Rajan Hoole re Reviews of Eelam War IV and Western Deceit,” 28 October 2018, tps://


Maria Abi-Habib 2018 How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port,” 25 June 2018,

Patrick Quintos 2018 “Sri Lanka as cautionary tale: Analyst warns vs China debt trap,” 20 November 2018, …. NOTE THE TIMING

Nishan de Mel 2018 “Lanka’s External Debt: 2010 and 2016 in Comparison …. There is no Chinese Gonibilla Monster,” 29 January 2018,


[1] The Enuits are the mythical people in the mythical country of Norgreenland where everything is as pure and white as snow and the diplomats are as simply trusting and malleable as the snow. The New York Times considers them the cat’s whiskers.

[2] These were Roberts: “David Miliband’s Imperious Intervention in Lanka left in Tatters,”   5 July 2016,  ……  AND “Ambassador Blake in Never-Never-Land: Misreading LTTE Capacity in Early 2009,” 26 August 2015,

[3] See Gerald Peiris 2010 and Roberts 2015.

[4] Keenan’s Twitter comments on my article on “The Western World’s Cumulous Clouds of Deception: Blanketing the Sharp Realities of Eelam War IV,” were a clear indication of this bias – a reading confirmed by a confidential email item  e sent me in response to my direct communication (not secret) by email See Roberts  addressing  Hoole for a further dimension

[5] I stress here that I was among those who – naively now in retrospect—believed that some form of devolution was called for in the 1990s and early 2000s. It took a sharply analytical point by Dayan Jayatilleka and my experiences in the Jaffna Peninsula and Kilinochchi in November 2004 to perceive that devolution was unworkable with the LTTE in command.

[6] Chibber has been criticised by Gayathri Spivak, but been assessed favourably by Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zisek according to the Wikipedia summary.


Filed under accountability, american imperialism, authoritarian regimes, British imperialism, centre-periphery relations, China and Chinese influences, constitutional amendments, cultural transmission, disparagement, doctoring evidence, economic processes, fundamentalism, governance, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, landscape wondrous, legal issues, life stories, military strategy, modernity & modernization, nationalism, Responsibility to Protect or R2P, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, Tamil migration, Tamil Tiger fighters, the imaginary and the real, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, world events & processes

2 responses to “Gridlock and Hocus-Pocus in Sri Lanka underwritten by Prejudice, Exclusion plus False News

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