In my readings of her past work, Shenali Waduge tended to go overboard in several of her claims, while also displaying one-sided Sinhala chauvinistic leanings in her assessments. But her recent article in Lankaweb, entitled “US in Sri Lanka since 2015 – turning Sri Lanka into a Neo-Colonial Military Base,” addresses a wide range of issues, including some that are looming over Sri Lanka today. It is also marked by considerable industry and embraces an extended sweep of time.
In inserting it within Thuppahi, I have invited several scholars and aficianados to comment on the article or aspects thereof – providing citations if possible. My own set of comments are presented here in point form as a disjointed set of thoughts rather than an integrated commentary. These comments, too, should be subject to critical review.
A = When Waduge refers to the incident in mid-2019 just after the 21/4 Easter atrocities where “two US Govt employees were detected at Hilton Colombo Residence – sniffer dogs found explosives inside their apartment. Staff security at Hilton Colombo stopped 5 US officials checking in with 6 boxes on 30 July 2019 night,” she is emphasising an event which Thuppahi noticed as well. I conjecture that this activity had little to do with the jihadist machinations of that moment. But it is amazing that local newshounds failed to pursue this topic and unravel its implications. Does it mean that they were otherwise preoccupied or incompetent? Or does it indicate the far-reaching capacity of USA to blanket investigations of their cloak and dagger operations?
B = Two different American interventions in the past are referred to by Waduge with support from two senior Sri Lankan diplomats – Izeth Hussain and Nanda Godage. Both (now deceased?) were friends of mine whose perspectives I hold in high regard. Ergo, we need to reflect on these two claims and their implications in the 1980s and 1990s: viz B1 = “US envoy James Spain told Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister not to refuse India’s Indo-Lanka Agreement (Izeth Hussein).” …………….. B2 = “We were hounded & intimidated by the US to stop the war against the LTTE” (envoy N. Godage).
C = It is widely acknowledged that from the 1970s, if not earlier, USA pressed Sri Lanka to provide devolutionary concessions to the Tamils of the north and east and that this programme was ratcheted up after the horrors of the July 1983 pogrom. This line of policy was not altered by the atrocities perpetuated by Pirapāharan and the LTTE from the 1980s through to the year 2009. The US government’s leanings, I stress here, were shared by liberals and radicals in the Sri Lankan firmament. This leaning embraced one Michael Roberts and most of the personnel participating in the Marga workshop discussions (and publications) on “A History of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka: Recollection, Reinterpretation, Reconciliation” in the period 1999-2002. All of us would have been well-advised to attend to the cautionary lesson penned by Mark Corcoran of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at that precise moment when he presented a frontispiece to Tigers at the Gate, his documentary on the LTTE filmed in 1999, that ran thus: “The truth is a political solution is as impossible as a military breakthrough because for the (Tamil) Tigers it’s all or nothing — a homeland or glorious death.” Mark Corcoran.
D = So, we peaceniks were dwelling in never-neverland. Then in 1999 …. at a moment when the Tigers deployed a female suicide bomber to eliminate a Tamil moderate working towards a compromise political path, viz. Neelan Tiruchelvam. At the very least this abysmal failure should have been clear to observers by 2005/06 when the LTTE assassinated Lakshman Kadirgamar and toyed with the “peace process” via their manipulations of the Norwegians. Waduge does not deal with these facets of the conflictual situation – no criticism this, just an endorsement of the general thrust of her essay to indicate that devolution was a chimera. Pirapāharan and the LTTE desired Eelam, nothing less. Since the LTTE’s “map of Eelam” included the Puttalam and Chilaw areas, one can conjecture that another spark of conflict would have emerged immediately afterwards if they had secured independence for the regions of Thamililam as constituted in 2005/06.
E = Set against this background, Daya Gamage’s delineation of the USA’s diehard adherence to the idea of devolution as a means of controlling the LTTE and the spelling out of this idea by Under Sec-of-State, Michael Owen as late as 5th May 2009 (check precise date?) in support of their efforts to rescue the LTTE leadership, becomes a vital ingredient for the lines of argument presented by Waduge. So, here, I am marking an important omission in her review – albeit a topic and articles which are in line with her thrusts. Indeed, another essay by Gamage includes details of the ACSA in early 2007 (involving the Rajapaksa government) that supports the thrust of several other Waduge contentions.
F = Set against this background information on US policy, some of the recent measures initiated by USA in the north of Sri Lanka and indicated briefly by Waduge, we must take a good hard look at the demands of the TNA and other SL Tamil parties today in the run-up to the Presidential election. The key question is this: do they still adhere to the theory of “traditional homelands” set out by the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (or “The Federal Freedom Party of the Tamil-speaking People of Ceylon) on 18th December 1949? A related issue for us all is whether the demand for devolution of power to the Northern Province is one step towards a unification of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Strangely, Waduge has not addressed this arena at any depth – no doubt because her survey is so omnibus and embraces a large time-span.
G = Waduge’s reference to the “American Innovation Hub (iHub)” developing “a partnership with the Matara District Chamber of Commerce and Industry” is suggestive in that it is probable that Mangala Samaraweera has a key role in this venture. We all know that Samaraweera has been a Rasputin-like figure at the highest levels of Sri Lankan governance in the recent past and that he has been in bed, so to speak, with Samantha Power and other powerful players in the US international circuit.
H = The Peace Corps: My experience with Peace Corps personnel in the third quarter of the 20th century indicates that they were usually well-meaning individuals gaining experience of other lands as part of their career or as a holiday. A few did end up in the US Foreign Service; but that can be a plus for the land they worked in as members of the Peace Corps. This may be a naïve appraisal on my part. It is intended as a jab that provokes critics of this programme to spell out chapter and verse for their contentions.
I = Waduge’s attention to the concept summarized as R2P (for “Responsibility-to-Protect”) is brief and sketchy. The International Crisis Group was founded in 1995 by George Soros et al and has its HQ in Brussels and is one of the prime movers of the concept R2P. A central figure in its work in recent times has been the former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and a key component has been its advocacy office in London where the leading executive is Alan Keenan, who is well versed in the Sri Lankan scene and has been visiting the land for at least two decades. Keenan recently inserted a critical note within Twitter talk about my disagreements with Rajan Hoole re his (Hoole’s) reading of death toll figures in Eelam War IV. However, he has avoided public engagement with my extensive writings on this topic and on Eelam War IV in the public domain.
Gareth Evans was invited by the head of ICES Colombo, one Rama Mani, to deliver the Neelan Memorial Lecture in 2007. Revisiting this speech could be instructive when it is set alongside the programmes pursued by Robert Blake and USA in 2008/09 as well as that of the Norwegians who assembled with Rudrakumaran and KP Pathmanathan at Kuala Lumpur in February 2009.
Note here that “in 2014, the journal Third World Quarterly published a special issue about the ICG and its role in knowledge production about conflict. Its briefings and reports were described as having “a generally good reputation” among policymakers in the issue’s introduction, which also notes that while academics working on conflict often cite the ICG’s analysis, there is little academic research about the ICG itself.” But, quite significantly, “in 2010 Tom Hazeldine [had already] argued in an article published in New Left Review that the ICG “styles itself as independent and non-partisan, but has consistently championed NATO’s wars to fulsome transatlantic praise” (Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Crisis_Group).
As it happens, Gerald Peiris presented an incisive survey of the R2P concept in 2010 which should be mandatory reading for students of the Sri Lankan scene.
J = In an article that is as illuminating as central, Daya Gamage has indicated that it was not only Revd Sobitha Thero and Chandrika Kumaratunga who propelled Maithripala Sirisena into the path of Presidency. USA’s involvement was central and secured Sirisena’s turncoat path by catering to his interest in reducing narcotic and alcohol usage and selecting him for a Harvard Health Leadership Award in 2013. Gamage indicates that he was just one of the many MPs or potential persons of influence who are nourished by USA in any one year. That Sirisena was an outstanding success tale for USA (till October 2018) we know only too well.
K = Among the most significant aspects in Waduge’s coverage are those tackling the implications of the following processes at the present moment:
K1: Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement or ACSA
K2: Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
K3: Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
As I know little about these agreements and the issues arising, I await critical clarification from those versed in their intricacies and implications.
L = It is the collective impact of Shenali Waduge’s review that is startling. Her listing indicates a multi-pronged USA programme directed towards cultivating and nourishing several professional cadres — from lawyers & judges to parliamentarians (and note that lawyers become parliamentarians) to entrepreneurs and civil servants and military personnel. This does not mean that all, or even most, will become American lackeys; but we must be alive to the persuasive leanings they may develop. How many potential Sirisenas are there awaiting in the American wings?
M = As a precautionary note in our readings of governmental initiatives from the powerful players in the international world, we must be alive to the hard-headed goals of these players and the occasional bite of vindictiveness informing their thrusts. When Eileen Donahue of the UNHCR in Geneva blasted Sri Lanka’s ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam in September 2011 thus: “Whether the LLRC is good or not, we’ll get you next time!” …. a threat that was not out of the blue, but just another barb in a programme where Donahue consistently refused to deal with Kunanayakam directly. So, here then, in the heartland of “the world’s (supposedly) ethical watch dog,” the velvet glove had been sheathed and BIG POWER was displaying its cutlass
P. K. Balachandran 2015 “PK Balachandran on Overt and Covert Paths in Indian and American Policies towards the Sri Lankan War, 2008-09,” 16 September 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/09/16/pk-balachandran-on-overt-and-covert-faces-in-indian-and-american-policies-towards-the-sri-lankan-war-2008-09/
Enews 2019 “Explosives! US Embassy Plot in Colombo sniffed out by Police Dogs?” May 3, 2019 · 30 April 2019, https://lankanewsweb.net/news/special-news/42367-police-dogs-render-us-diplomats-speechless ….. AND …. https://thuppahis.com/2019/05/03/explosives-us-embassy-plot-in-colombo-sniffed-out-by-police-dogs/
[Gareth Evans] 2007 “The Limits of Sovereignty and R2P. Gareth Evans in Colombo mid-2007,” 20 January 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/01/21/the-limits-of-state-sovereignty-and-r2p-gareth-evans-in-colombo-mid-2007/
Daya Gamage 2011a “Tamil Issue in Sri Lanka: US Policy Development 1981-1995,” 5 June 2011, http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/06/04/tamil-issue-us-%E2%80%93-sri-lanka-relations-proper-perspective-part-one-policy-development-
Daya Gamage 2011b “International Humanitarian Law – at all times – applicable to LTTE atrocities: Why was the West silent?” 6 July 2011, http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/07/05/applicability-ihl-provisions-ltte-violent-acts-why-was-west-silent
Daya Gamage 2019 “Gamage reveals USA’s Strategic Goals in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka’s Place via 2007 Robert Blake Cables,” 17 February 2019, ….. https://thuppahis.com/2019/02/17/gamage-reveals-usas-strategic-goals-in-the-indian-ocean-and-sri-lankas-place-via-2007-robert-blake-cables/
DBS Jeyaraj 2011 “KP’ Speaks Out. An Interview with Former Tiger Chief, Vavuniya: NERDO.
Alan Keenan 2016 “Sri Lanka Is Not Yet The Success Story That Many Claim It To Be: International Crisis Group,” Colombo Telegraph, 18 June 2016, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lanka-is-not-yet-the-success-story-that-many-claim-it-to-be-international-crisis-group/
Alan Keenan 2019 “ Sri Lanka 2010-2019: Positive Changes but Sinhala buddhist dominance still prevails—prevails,” 3 April 2019, https://thuppahis.com/2019/04/03/sri-lanka-2010-2019-positive-changes-but-sinhala-buddhist-dominance-still-prevails-alan-keenan/
Tamara Kunanayakam 2019 “We will get you” … American Threat at UNHCR in September 2011,” 27 September 2019, https://thuppahis.com/2019/09/27/we-will-get-you-american-threat-at-the-unhcr-in-geneva-in-september-2011/
Lasanda Kurukulasuriya 2019 “Uncle Sam! Sri Lanka’s Sovereignty impaired by SOFA deal with USA,” 27 May 2019, https://thuppahis.com/2019/05/27/uncle-sam-sri-lankas-sovereignty-impaired-by-sofa-deal-with-usa/
Gerald H. Peiris 2010 “The Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect: Impulses, Implications and Impact,” 30 June 2010, http://www.slguardian.org/2010/06/the-doctrine-of-responsibility-to-protect-impulses-implications-and-impact/
Michael Roberts 2011 “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011, https://thuppahis.com/2011/08/10/amnesty-international-reveals-its-flawed-tunnel-vision-on-sri-lanka-in-2009/
Michael Roberts 2016 “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” https://thuppahis.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-11221
Michael Roberts 2016 “Speaking to Gotabaya-I: Plans Afoot in 2009 to Rescue the Tiger Leadership,” 8 March 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/03/08/speaking-to-gotabaya-i-plans-afoot-in-2009-to-rescue-the-tiger-leadership/#more-20092
Michael Roberts 2016 “Saving Talaivar Pirapāharan,” 5 April 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/04/06/saving-talaivar-pirapaharan/
Michael Roberts 2017 “Revisiting Jaffna and the LTTE in mid-1999 guided by Mark Corcoran and the ABC,” 7 August 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/08/07/revisiting-jaffna-and-the-ltte-in-mid-1999-guided-by-mark-corcoran-and-the-abc/
Michael Roberts 2018 “A Response to Rajan Hoole re Reviews of Eelam War IV and Western Deceit,” 28 October 2018, https://thuppahis.com/2018/10/28/a-response-to-rajan-hoole-re-reviews-of-eelam-war-iv-and-western-deceit/
Mark Salter 2015 To End a Civil War. Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka, London: Hurst & Company.
US Embassy 2014 “Ball-by-Ball through Wikileaks: US Embassy Despatches from Colombo, 2009: ONE,” 27 August 2014, https://thuppahis.com/2014/08/27/ball-by-ball-through-wikileaks-us-embassy-despatches-from-colombo-2009-one/#more-13481
 See https://www.worldcat.org/title/history-of-ethnic-conflict-in-sri-lanka-recollection-reinterpretation-reconciliation/oclc/223043257 …. Note that over a dozen pamphlets were generated by this project –including three from that chap Roberts.
 See Gamage 2011a; 2014 and 2019. Also Roberts, “Speaking to Gotabaya,” 2016.
 If I am not mistaken Peter Burleigh even served as US Ambassador in Sri Lanka at a later point.
 I was introduced to Keenan by Jehan Perera at the latter’s home in Colombo circa 2000 and sustained cordial relations with him in the subsequent decade – inclusive of dinners at Colombo cafes.
 Keenan’s note in TWITTER runs thus “what I’ve never understood Is why Michael Roberts, a well-respected and careful scholar, doesn’t’ push hard for a proper independent investigation into end-of-war casualties. What’s to fear from an open inquiry which the Sri Lankan government has never allowed?” He was supported in this medium of twitter by Thass, Usha Sriskandarajah, David Scott and Ana Pararajasingham.
I did not join this debate because the space limits of Twitter are not suitable for academic engagements. Besides, I have presented several articles on Eelam War IV in the public domain in such sites as Colombo Telegraph and Groundviews. Keenan, clearly, does not ask himself WHY he has not taken up cudgels with my data and arguments within such portals.
 Dr. Rama Mani could be described as an intellectual entrepreneur in the international circuit and was probably recruited by Radhika Coomaraswamy when she left the ICES Colombo for an UN posting. At present Rama Mani describes herself as “Peacebuilder, Poet and Performance Artist and “Specialist in Global Security and Transformative Leadership.”
 See Gamage 2011, 2014 and 2019 as well as both of 2016 my essays.
 See DBS Jeyaraj 2011; Salter 2015: 348-49 and Roberts, “Saving Talaivar Pirapāharan,” 2016.
 Note https://thuppahis.com/2019/06/08/sofa-american-boots-in-sri-lanka-in-soft-power-insertion/ and Lasanda Kurukulasuriya 2019.
 See Kunanayakam 2019.
- Email Comment from GUS MATHEWS in London sent to Michael Roberts, 12 November 2019In many countries the USA is considered as the ‘devil incarnate’ within acceptable reasons especially in view of the recent debacles concerning Iraq, Libya and more recently Syria that was stymied due to Russian involvement. Going further into the 1950’s the ousting of a democratically elected Mosaddegh government of Iran by the USA and replacement by the demagogic Shah that even today has international repercussions.
The ‘MCC’: viewing it superficially ticks all the boxes as an altruistic grant by the USA especially for the digitising of land registry in Sri Lanka. However, as Sanjeewa intimates, whether the MCC is independent of SOFA and ACSA is a moot point that requires further investigation and it is imperative for one to ensure that it does not propel Sri Lanka into some grand plan that the USA may have for the future containment of China.
There are precedents to the practice of annexation of island countries by the USA when the USA deems it intends to be a regional power in International waters. In 1898 the USA annexed Hawaii and dethroned the Hawaiian monarchy when it decided to become a Pacific power. In similar vein will Sri Lanka become a ‘sine qua non’ servicing the need for the USA to become an Indian Ocean power purely for the containment of China?
To quote Virgil from Aeneid ‘Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes’ alluding to Homer’s Iliad that has now morphed into an English proverb as ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’