An Email Memo from Gus Mathews addressing His Schoolmate Prithi Perera, 22 September 2021 … with highlighting and End Notes being impositions of The Editor, Thuppahi
Prithi, we will not concur on this debate about Hambantota and I wish to conclude this discussion. But before I go let me take you up on India being a friendly country to Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka wants a friendly relationship with India, it does not want to be a vassal state of India.
Recent events have proved that India is not to be trusted. India trained, armed and let loose the LTTE in Sri Lanka to murder 100,000 Sri Lankan civilians. Many Presidents could not defeat the LTTE and one Sri Lankan President paid the ultimate price. The LTTE became powerful and even defeated the IPKF. Unfortunately, India will never learn that interference in Sri Lanka is detrimental to India too – my case in point is the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE. Finally, it was left to Mahinda Rajapakse who gave the political will and Gotabhaya Rajapakse who banged the heads of the Service Chiefs to strategise the ultimate demise of the LTTE.
A Memo from “Fair Dinkum” to Michael Roberts, 21 September 2021 ….with highlighting imposed by The Editor, ThppHI Nmwly, Michael
I was glancing at some of the comments on the latest Hambantota piece. I am mystified as to why some Sri Lankans are so hostile to Chinese investment.
To touch on one specific point: One person who posted a message could only highlight three instances of Chinese interventions. In truth, two of those were not intervention; namely, the 1962 India conflict and China-Vietnam conflict. India had provoked China in 1962. China decided to send a message to India. They crossed the border into Indian territory and seized 45,000 sq km of land, but then suddenly withdrew. In other words, China never intended to take control but simply wanted to show India they could do so if provoked. It’s a Chinese strategy. These two were small conflicts and were not about taking control of India or Vietnam. So, I’m afraid these are not good examples to use against China. By contrast the US has overthrown over 72 governments, were implicated in the deaths of millions in Indonesia in the 1960s, as one example, but similar patterns can be found in the other 72.
The momentous issues arising from the development of Hambantota port and its associated ancillaries has now generated some commentary from Sri Lankan patriots on the sidelines …. And, in some cases, far afield in UK and Australia. It is a measure of the common sense and intelligence reposing in personnel we could frame as “Citizens Perera or Silva” that these comments have been deemed worthy of airing in the pages of Thuppahi. While Michael Obeyesekerehappens to be related to one of my brothers-in-law (now deceased),Gus Mathews is a recent email contact (via the brothers Rajeewa — alas no more with us–and Sanjeewa Jayaweera) and Prithi Perera is a total stranger…. A Note from The Editor, Thuppahi, 20 Septmber 2021
Thuppahi is pleased to mark its intense interest in the Hambantota Port Project by listing its recent entries from a wide spectrum of authors located in Australia, England, USA and Sri Lanka. The bibliographies within these essays will also serve up further material.
When Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, the British set about creating the Port of Singapore. In time, with much hard work, the port became successful. In the 1960s, the Singapore government set about further expansions of its ports along the south of the island, with five additional gateways operating by the 1990s. It is now one of the biggest and busiest collection of ports in the world. Having visited these ports over the years, the scale of operations is extraordinary. The success of Singapore Ports was built up over time. It didn’t come easily or immediately. The same with the Piraeus Port in Greece, although it became successful and profitable quickly.
Jonathan E. Hillman, 26 August 2021, whose title runs thus: “The Secret History of Hambantota” …. Starts his write up “If Chinese loans were cigarettes, Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port would be the cancerous lung on the warning label. Some observers have pointed to the underperforming port and alleged that China is using “debt trap diplomacy,” This statement reflects Hillman’s intention of using Hambantota port to discredit China. Taking a similar line Fair Dinkum in his “American Schemes of Global Bifurcation behind Hillman’s story on Hambantota Port” is critical of the messenger rather than being responsive to the message.+++
Deborah Brautigam & Meg Rithmire, in The Atlantic, 6 February 2021, where the title is “The Chinese ‘Debt Trap’ Is a Myth “
The narrative wrongfully portrays both Beijing and the developing countries it deals with.China, we are told, inveigles poorer countries into taking out loan after loan to build expensive infrastructure that they can’t afford and that will yield few benefits, all with the end goal of Beijing eventually taking control of these assets from its struggling borrowers. As states around the world pile on debt to combat the coronavirus pandemic and bolster flagging economies, fears of such possible seizures have onlyamplified.
Lakshman Gunasekara … with highlights being the intrusion of The Editor, Thuppahi
I recall reading both these articles, or at least parts of these articles just a few weeks ago sent by you.
1) China:- I am an admirer of China (just as much as I am an even bigger admirer of India, simply because of cultural and geographical affinity) and I am specifically an admirer of China’s role in the world today as a relatively civilised and certainly civilisational (in terms of Difference) counter to the old, beginning-to-fade Western imperialism. This is not to say that I do not have problems with China’s internal, unnecessarily repressive, political system. While I am a long-time Communist and I continue to watch with interest the successes and failure of the single-party system (the Communist Party is not at all the typical western-liberal-style ‘political party’), I am surprised at the lack of more dedicated practice of electoral politics within that one-party system, especially at the higher levels of national structures. Theoretically, I prefer the Communist one-party state than the bourgeois-liberal multiparty competitive electoral system as the best way toward greater democracy and consolidating social democracy.
To the extent that we can make any confident prophesies about world affairs in this very fragile current context, it is reasonable to predict that (a) global political, military, economic and ideological competition between China and the US is going to continue to loom large and (b) Sri Lanka, for a range of historical and geographical reasons, is likely to remain caught up in that competition. We can expect to see many more partisan spats, like those between Jonathan Hillman and Fair Dinkum in relation to the Hambantota Port, counterposing good/wicked China against wicked/good US. Some claims will be right, and some wrong. My guess is that in 10 years or so, the two combatants will earn similar levels of positive and negative points.
I am unfamiliar with the work of Jonathan E. Hillman. So, I spent time researching his background before reading this article. I wanted to read the article with an open mind. With this type of article, it is important know who the author is; what his relationship is with Sri Lanka, China and the US; the organisation he is affiliated with and what their goals are; and why did he decide to write this essay and for what purpose?
Greece may be on the fringe of the EU geographically, but it has become a key focus in the intensifying scramble for global influence. Sri Lanka could go the same way. Illustration by Henry Wong
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.