Above: The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka (middle) meets with a select group of journalists in her residence on July 8, one day before protestors stormed the Presidential residence in Colombo.
20-07-2022: Appearances can be deceptive in nature, society, science, religion – and especially in times of political upheaval. On the surface, the events in Sri Lanka over the last several months seem to indicate a bona fide uprising of suffering people against an administration which caused and presided over the worst economic crisis since the nation gained its independence in 1948, after a century and a half of colonial British rule. In reality, Sri Lanka is currently enduring yet another colour revolution orchestrated and covertly funded and directed by the US state department, as part of its now hidden now open multi-pronged war against Red China. “Colour revolutions”, of course, are not genuine revolutions at all, and benefit only the corporate elite behind them. US imperialism is not in the habit of backing any variety of genuinely progressive politics but is well practiced in clandestine regime change operations under a façade of “good governance”. Colombo is only the latest target.
“Civil Society” false front for subversion
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the “public relations” arm of the notorious CIA, has been funding “civil society” organisations (CSO) in Sri Lanka for years. In 2021 alone, the NED admits to spending almost $1 million on a string of legal, human rights, environmental, journalism and “youth leadership and political engagement” organisations throughout the country. The notion that the US government is aiding and assisting young Sri Lankans to gain knowledge and practical experience in political, legal and journalistic endeavours with no ulterior motive is absurd. The barely veiled reality is that Washington is politically interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka to bring about a political class which will be 100% loyal to the geopolitical interests of Wall Street, as part of its ongoing hybrid war against the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Even though the Rajapaksa political dynasty has not at all been anti-US, and has often collaborated openly with it, both former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and now resigned President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were perceived by the US state as being too pro-China for opting for PRC based infrastructure development and loan agreements.
The subversion often takes place in broad daylight. Prior to the storming of the Presidential residence in early July, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka – Julie Chung – met with opposition leaders and various organisations involved in the protests. She tweeted that it was “great to chat with Sri Lankan digital creators about fighting disinformation (!) & promoting truthful reporting (!!)”. On June 29, Chung met with the opposition Samaji Jana Balawegaya to “hear their perspectives…on promoting transparency and good governance.” On July 5, Chung met with representatives of the Ministry of Justice of Sri Lanka. On July 7, Chung met with journalists to express “US support for Sri Lanka’s efforts to address the economic crisis” and the alleged US “unwavering commitment to free speech” (!). Later that day the US Ambassador met graduates from the US funded International Military Education and Training Programme, where she expressed support for “efforts to ensure the military remains accountable to the people and upholds the country’s democratic ideas.” (!!!) It is not difficult to see what is going on.
Blueprint for toppling governments
One reason why the world has witnessed a string of colour revolutions over the last several years is that in 2019, the US Congress increased its annual funding of the NED from $180 million to $300 million. Subsequently, there have been attempted colour revolutions in Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, Myanmar and Thailand, to name but a few. In Sri Lanka, both the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IR) have offices operating, and both are directly funded by the NED. The NDI was headed by the late Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State and Iraq sanctions apologist, and the IRI was led by the late Senator John McCain, the arch war hawk who openly backed Nazi organisations in Ukraine. The IRI office in Sri Lanka has links to the local governments in the Hambantota, Akkaraipattu and Jaffna municipalities, and has reportedly been given access to the electoral registers. One can only imagine what the reaction would be in the US media if a Chinese government funded NGO (Non-Government Organisation) was working with county offices in the USA which was then forwarded databases containing lists of US voters!
The protests over the last several months in Sri Lanka were promoted by NGOs operating in the country, who were blaming the Sri Lankan government for working with the PRC government instead of working with the Western funded International Monetary Fund (IMF). The NGOs in turn, were invariably funded by either the NED or the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In mid-June, at the height of the protests, the USAID announced a “partnership” to train around 600 Sri Lankan public sector accountants and audit professionals. Several days later, the USAID announced an extra $5.75 million dollars to provide “cash assistance, short-term jobs and agriculture supplies such as seeds” in response to the economic crisis. That is, assistance to “help” with a crisis they themselves are fuelling! To top it off, the USAID baldly states that “USAID activities in Sri Lanka align with the US Government’s vision to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all nations are connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure.” Needless to say, a “free and open Indo-Pacific” is one dominated economically, politically and military by the US, relegating Red China to the margins.
USAID “assistance” to Sri Lanka’s Parliament began in 2015. Since then, US government funding reaches not only into the Parliament, but the Bar Association, Local Government and the Judiciary. These “projects” then outsourced to US based companies, one of which – the Development Alternatives Inc or DAI – is alleged to be a CIA front. These “projects” once taken on by US based firms, are not accountable to anyone in Sri Lanka. Again, we can only imagine the outcry if the Chinese government commissioned one of its state-owned firms to consult and advise on improving the governance structures of the US legal system! Patently, the US ruling class is seeking to block Sri Lanka’s capacity for self-rule, more than 70 years after it had achieved its independence. As Shenali Waduge comments, in Sri Lanka or elsewhere, how can an NGO which is funded by a foreign government actually be “non-governmental” ? These NGOs are only accountable to the foreign governments funding them, and not at all to the people of the country where they are located. These “NGOs” are then reviewed for their “performance”, by the foreign government, which leads to more foreign funding. Plainly, US government funded NGOs in Sri Lanka, as elsewhere, are being used to underwrite, subvert and eventually overthrow the government. That they use impressionable youth on the ground who may not be aware of just who and what is behind their protests is immaterial.
Wherever the NED and USAID operate internationally, invariably the billionaire anti-socialist regime change specialist George Soros and his “Open Society Foundation” (OSF) follow. Sri Lanka is no exception. The OSF has been active on the island for years, and through the front they admit to funding – Transparency International Sri Lanka – the OSF was able to “persuade” the government to put in place Right To Information (RTI) legislation in 2016. Like a Freedom of Information procedure, the RTI process allows citizens to access official government correspondence and records. Far from a disinterested concern for democratic and civil rights for the Sri Lankan masses, this was one of many OSF manoeuvres which puts in place triggers for surreptitious anti-government destabilisation.
Economic crisis blamed on China
None of this background can deny that there is a dire economic crisis in Sri Lanka, including a 39.1% inflation rate in May. Yet the Western media amplified the contrived cries of the foreign funded NGOs in attempting to blame the PRC for fuel shortages and its alleged “debt trap diplomacy”. Yet only 10% of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt was owed to China, whereas the remaining 90% was owed to financial institutions in the US, the EU, Japan and India. In fact, some of the largest foreign debt holders in the form of international sovereign bonds include the notorious US firm BlackRock, alongside JP Morgan Chase, as well as the UK firms HSBC and the Ashmore Group. While Western vulture capitalists extracted Sri Lankan debt, the Rajapaksas made the rational decision to turn to Chinese lending, which in turn financed a diverse array of infrastructure projects, including roads, power plants, railway extensions, a port, an international airport and a cricket stadium. The Lakvijaya power plant north of Colombo actually provided some rural areas with access to electricity for the first time in history.
If anything, Beijing’s economic assistance to Sri Lanka over the last decade prevented it from sliding into economic malaise and helped stimulate some growth. While PRC firms do make some financial return from such projects, the state backed socialistic economy of mainland China, where the major means of production are publicly owned and administered under a Five-Year Plan, enable it to offer overwhelmingly favourable terms of trade. For example, Western pundits often cite the Hambantota Port as an example of the PRC’s supposed strategy of “debt trap diplomacy”, given that a Chinese firm (CM Port) has a 70% stake and a 99-year lease in its operation. However, the port is still owned by the Sri Lankan government, so it is far from being “seized” or “bought” by the PRC. Moreover, it was the Sri Lankan government which approached Beijing for a loan, after India declined an offer to invest.
Left parties alibi Western meddling
In almost all Washington organised colour revolutions, there is a catalyst which triggers the US state into action. For Gotabaya Rajapaksa, that moment probably came when last August when he requested the drafting of a bill enabling the introduction of new legislation to replace the Voluntary Social Service Organisations (Registration and Supervision) Act No.31 of 1980. The replacement legislation would effectively tighten the requirements for all NGOs and CSOs to be registered with the government and to disclose their funding sources. Ironically, under the RTI Act of 2016 – which the OSF championed – NGOs and CSOs are still subject to requests for public information, in the same manner as RTI requests to the government. If all of the NED and USAID funded organisations had to provide information on their funding and details of their activities, the undermining and subverting of the Sri Lankan government to the advantage of the US state department would soon become clear. For Washington, this, along with increasing levels of economic and political co-operation with Beijing, meant the die was cast – Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to go.
Many ostensible left parties have acted as cheerleaders for the subsequent CIA obtrusion in Sri Lanka. The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), despite having a section in Sri Lanka itself, notes that US Ambassador Julie Chung tweeted on Twitter about a “peaceful transfer of power”, but does not see the forest for the trees. The US Ambassador is not just working with the Sri Lankan government, but also facilitating the “uprising” along with the Washington funded NGOs and CSOs. Socialist Alternative (SAlt), from very early on, directly linked the Sri Lankan events to the US backed colour revolution attempts in Myanmar and Thailand – for which they also enthusiastically waxed lyrical. The Socialist Alliance (SAll) waffles about a “people’s movement” which supposedly led to a “convergence of spontaneous protests” !! They remain oblivious to the years, if not decades, of assiduous preparation carried out under a clear sky by the US Empire under the guise of “aid”. As one of the most ardent members of the fear pandemic left, the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) sheds crocodile tears for Sri Lanka’s shutdown of their tourist industry due to “Covid” and further aids the US-led plot.
The July days in Colombo are yet another example that capitulating to Western led nonsensical Covid hysteria is no guarantee that you will not be targeted by Washington for regime change or even imperialist war. Gotabaya Rajapaksa waged a brutal war against the Tamils and the Tamil Tigers, and his administration is partially responsible for some of the economic woes Sri Lanka now faces. Yet when a movement claims it has no allegiance to any political party or organisation, flies only national flags, and has basically only one demand (for the President to “go”) – something else entirely is afoot. Whatever the problems may be, it is impermissible to strive for the same goals as the NED, USAID, and the US Embassy !! Workers in Sri Lanka need to form a tactical bloc with the PRC against the internal subversion perpetrated by Washington’s duplicitous “NGOs”, without endorsing the conservative Stalinism of the CPC. Real socialism can only be built in opposition to imperialist interference, and there must be a complete break with all those who consciously or unconsciously serve it. The need for workers’ vanguard parties based on genuine Leninism has become critical.