Creeping Imperialism in Sri Lanka via Neoliberal Impositions and the UNHRC

Tamara Kunanayakam: “Introduction” to her academic article “Neoliberalism versus Sovereignty: The Case of Sri Lanka” in Sri Lanka Journal of Economic Research, Volume 6(1,) November 2018, pp.125-146…. [without the footnotes … and with underlining imposed]

A fundamental principle of international law, incorporated in a wide range of international and regional instruments, is permanent sovereignty over the nation’s wealth and resources and all its economic activities as a basic constituent of the right of peoples to self-determination and its corollary, the duty of States to respect sovereign equality in their relations with other States. It is a recognition that there can be no political independence without economic, social and cultural independence, “free from all forms of interference or pressure, direct or indirect, of whatever sort and under whatever pretext.” For independence to be complete, any future attempt to restore foreign influence or domination must be prevented forever.

This universal admission is the result of the historical struggle of colonised peoples for freedom, particularly of Africa and Asia, whose newly won independence had remained purely formal and fragile, threatened by the resolve of rich capitalist countries to standardise and rationalise the global economy to ensure their monopoly and control over foreign markets. The ongoing neoliberal reconfiguration of the State to facilitate global expansion of capital by imposing a single model of development and transferring decision-making on all aspects of social relations to a handful of Western oligarchs is inimical to the sovereignty and independence of nation-states. The agenda is supported by the neoconservative interests observed in modus operandi of the UN Human Rights Council (led by US neoconservatives) who promote direct, unilateral, preventive, and pre-emptive intervention, including military, in the internal affairs of sovereign States.

In examining the rapid progress of neoliberal reforms in Sri Lanka, it is essential to bear in mind this complementarity and commonality between neoliberals and neoconservatives, and their mutually reinforcing actions: their common goal is to maintain US global hegemony, and their common enemy is State sovereignty, the principle upon which the multilateral system is based; they both champion a shift of governance to corporate-controlled supranational institutions they claim are necessarily objective and apolitical, although beyond the reach of domestic accountability; they both foster elite cooperation globally through powerful, often secretive, groups; and, both make claims to a ‘moral universalism’ to justify external intervention, refining and propagating language best described as Orwellian doublespeak to promote their agenda. The sovereignty of nations and peoples everywhere is at stake, and Sri Lanka is no exception.

The present paper counters the neoliberal claim that the breaking down of nation-States and sovereignty is a natural phenomenon that is progressive and inevitable. It shows how its making and perpetuation is a continuing violation of national sovereignty and the inalienable rights of peoples and nations to determine their political, economic, social and cultural systems.

The paper begins by examining the making of the neoliberal global order by a conscious restructuring of the nation-State and the fostering of elite cooperation internationally to ensure its reproduction through, inter alia, think tanks. It will then examine some of neoliberalism’s basic claims and reality, and its impact on politics and society. Finally, it will examine the case of Sri Lanka and attempt to disentangle the complex web of relations that exist between and among think tanks, the ‘mother of all think tanks’ – the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), global corporates, the US Administration, and Sri Lanka’s transnationalised elite. The section will focus on some of the lesser known, but visible, vehicles for intervention – the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Advocata Institute, and Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC). It will conclude with certain observations on fundamental principles of international law that provide a basis for alternatives to the hegemonic neoliberal model, for the restoration of sovereignty.

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Tamara Kunanayakam is an Economist and International Relations Expert, Former Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva, Former Senior International Civil Servant at the United Nations, and Ex-Chairperson/Rapporteur of UN Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development

The Sri Lanka Journal of Economic Research is produced in Sri Lanka and available from ?????

Kunananayakam at Geneva  in the recent past….

a contrast to Samaraweera at Geneva  .





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3 responses to “Creeping Imperialism in Sri Lanka via Neoliberal Impositions and the UNHRC

  1. Pingback: Simple Blundering Simon: Gideon Haigh’s Venture into Sri Lankan Political History | Thuppahi's Blog

    Dear all,

    I read with interest the exchange of opinion re Ms Tamaka K’s publication.

    I went through TK’s article in full, and I think it is one of the most elaborate and eloquent pieces on neo-liberal project I have ever come across.

    My reading to it is that the “project” she presents is clear — If Sri Lankans fail to become far-sighted and strategic enough, our days as a sovereign nation will be numbered. Therefore, the risk has to be perceived without any bias of “party politics”….

    I also have observed many people, including our patriotic organisations”, shout against constitution, saying that, that amendment and this amendment, are leading to separatism, and call for preservation or Buddhism/Buddhist culture in SL. While they may do so, it is pathetic that they appear ignorant about the loss of sovereignty at the economic front. When Hambantota Port is given to Chinese, Mattala to India, Trinco to America/Japan/India, Colombo East Terminal to India, KKS to India, and when trade agreements with various countries compromise our fiscal flexibility and taxability of imports, what sovereignty would remain with us? Is there any purpose of having a UNITARY COUNTRY with no governing powers, or implicitly governed by foreigners ?

    I am against separatism too. I think federalism will lead to separatism, hence I am against federalism too, and I also think 13A, and the current move to bring about a 20A, including weakening of the Presidential system, are bad for the country. Yet, have not we southerners demonstrated beyond any doubt that we are clearly INCAPABLE of defending our country by being unable to stop alienation of Hambantota Port ? Surely, Hambantota is in the South, and not in any region where federalist attempts are being re-surfaced. We have been unable to defend our strategic assets in such a clear locality within our control. How can a bunch of such incapable lot claim that they should have a UNITARY nation so that the entire country can be protected by them ??? Would they not mind their “UNITARY” country run by foreign nations AS A WHOLE, rather than in federal units ???

    An old verse comes to my mind — A person who worshiped “Agni Deviyo” one day found his cattle, that were tied near a fire-place to be given to the fire-god in a “bili poojaawa”, killed and flesh eaten by thieves during his absence when he went to fetch salt (as giving bili poojaawa without salt to God would not be appropriate). He, observing that, said “apa rakinaa thaba – thopa sathu gonaa nothaba – kana thek wetha thabaa – balaa un keneki thepi atha baa” — Since then, he abandoned worshiping “gini deviyo”.

    We short-sighted Sinhala Buddhists, chasing after a 13A, 20A, etc (I am not saying those should not be shot down, …), without any regard to loss of economic sovereignty, as very eloquently addressed by Ms Tamara K, will be looked upon as such “incapable Agni Gods”…

    Budu Saranai !

  3. Pingback: Sri Lanka, 2010-2019: Positive Changes but Sinhala Buddhist Dominance still prevails — Alan Keenan | Thuppahi's Blog

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