Nothing happens in this world without some geopolitical thrust or shove. In viewing any geopolitical incident, it is necessary to see the pattern in what culminated in an incident(s) and attempt to connect the dots to understand better. With a crumbling economy, with food & water becoming global issues, the power states are fishing around for new horizons to tap. Pivot to Asia is the most lucrative means to satisfy that lust. We must identify the methodology & modus operandi with which the pivot to Asia thrusts are taking place & devise ways to mitigate them. What colonials could not do during colonial rule is now left to the neocolonials to complete. It is interesting how pivot to Asia also fits well into the plan to remove Prabakaran, strangulate Sri Lanka via UNHRC Resolutions & commitments, bring about regime change and then slowly lay ground work to turn Sri Lanka into a military-diplomatic-transnational corporate base for US allies. The dots are now easy to connect. This necessitates Sri Lanka foreign policy makers to understand the nature of how these allies are operating vis a vis relations with Sri Lanka and most importantly necessitates Sri Lanka to fine tune its own foreign policy taking stock of ground realities to ensure Sri Lanka continues to maintain its sovereignty & territorial integrity without compromise while forging mutual ties upholding the non-aligned treaty Sri Lanka is signatory to. Policy must remain Sri Lanka First.
With regime change, Sri Lanka was compromised along numerous angles. However, incremental changes had been happening since independence tying Sri Lanka & most other developing nations to being ‘dependent’ economies enslaved by loans/interest trap.
We saw the manner the US-sponsored good governance government stopped the Port City project immediately with regime change in 2015 only to recommence almost a year later. We also know that the US Pivot to Asia has meant US changing its containing China strategy to a more challenging China strategy. Be that as it may both countries cannot do without each other while US owes trillions to China. Sri Lanka does not need to be part of other people’s battles as ideally we should have mutually progressive dealings with all nations.
Sunday Times carried news of US imposing sanctions on 24 Chinese companies including companies involved in Colombo Port City project as well as Colombo Port. The Port City Project is a bilaterally signed project between two sovereign nations – why should a third party (US) sanction companies involved in it? Obviously US sees China’s One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) as a threat. Chinese embassy communique strongly expressed US ‘typical hegemonic logic & power politics’ and accused US of ‘violating international law & norms governing international relations’.
The Chinese embassy reference to US violating international law demands Sri Lanka relook at MCC again given that ‘international law’ is to prevail inspite of MCC being passed by Parliament & turned into domestic law by tweaking the constitution to incorporate whatever is advantageous to US/MCC in its bid to take over Sri Lanka’s land & resources amending Title Registration Act, denying land owners to go to court and offering compensation for land taken over. All this will result in citizens without land owned by them, without a place to live, without a means of livelihood and a government that has no land to tax or no say in a country that would be under control of MCC & its Board.
When problems start brewing up and citizens begin to voice their protest, what can the Government do? Any adverse action by the government will only result in sanctions no different to what is being slapped now on China. China has wherewithal to deal with US, but will Sri Lanka be able to?
The GoSL cannot be ignorant of world affairs nor can it ignore the important fact that countries through their multinational companies & alliances are forging ‘investments’ with poorer countries with a bigger ploy to grab land & resources offering a petty ‘foreign investment’ to seal their presence. This $480m is such a deal which invariably is giving with one hand & taking it back with the other as all procurements have to follow US procurement guidelines and purchases from with US/US friendly companies.
Poverty stricken countries are the targets. International corporations have grabbed 454billion cubic metres per year/60% of water globally by 7 countries (US, UAE, India, UK, Egypt, China & Israel). Monitor all NGOs doing projects related to water in Sri Lanka! These international companies are eyeing agriculture, biofuel & timber – watch out for Sri Lanka’s forests & agricultural lands. Foreign investors always seek lands with access to water. 1217 water-land investor deals have taken place in the past 20 years transferring 205million acres of land to foreign hands. 62% of these deals were in Africa (138million acres) – Dr. Paolo D’Odorico. Ironically, land grabbing is by organizations advocating land rights of the poor.
Sri Lanka’s policy makers toying without deciding to reject MCC must also take stock of the 2007 US Energy & Independence Security Act mandating increase in biofuels by 2022. EU has a similar goal. Biofuels are made from different types of plants & crops – most often turning corn or sugarcane into ethanol or turning palm oil into biodiesel. How will Sri Lanka be impacted by MCC?
Most land grabs come in the form of foreign investments claiming to ‘modernize farming’. Cash-strapped countries are enticed to accept an influx of money as ‘investment’ in exchange for handing foreign companies land and resources. Sudan was divided into two and MCC is involved in Sudan where Texas-based Nile Trading & Development have grabbed 1,482,632 acres of land for just $25,000
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/corporations-grabbing-land-and-water-overseas/Harvard University that did the constraints analysis claimed Sri Lanka needed to utilize under-utilized state land is also a player in international land grabs. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/harvard-university-accused-of-land-grab-violation-of-indigenous-people-s-rights-study-61563(Harvard accused of land grab violation of indigenous people’s rights)
There has been enough and more critique of the MCC for any government to decide not to pursue with such a one-sided project where Sri Lanka has over 60 obligations & commitments which includes changes to be done even to the country’s constitution before, during and even after passing the agreement by Parliament as well as making additional payments which questions the exact nature of this ‘gift’.
The arm-twisting now taking place is pretty obvious. The sanctions on Chinese companies working in Sri Lanka also gives a clear message. It should also showcase the dangers of what Sri Lanka can expect, handing over all of Sri Lanka’s basket of eggs to US. China can well maneuver itself inspite of sanctions. Will Sri Lanka be able to do same if MCC signed and US decides to further throttle Sri Lanka with sanctions if Sri Lanka does not follow US orders!
What we all should understand is that we can never understand US foreign policy except that it is one-sided and dependent on what is of interest to US corporate stake holders and the invisible others who rule US. Thus, US has forged ties with the worst of the world’s dictators while on international forums proclaiming to uphold human rights & rule of law. Most of these dictators, once friends ended up foes – some were eventually hung like Saddam, ended up dead like Osama or inside prison like Hosni Mubarak. The liberal democracies that US treated as poodles, lasted so long as they followed orders. The moment any leader acted out of line – they were removed. Perhaps that’s what happened to Ranil or US may have felt they had better options. But a good look at all of the dictators, fascists once friends turned foes and once foes turned friends, highlights the unpredictable nature of US foreign affairs adopted by either of the two main parties that comes to power. The dangers for this is that countries cannot expect mutually beneficial relationship. It will always be one-sided.
Returning to the question of sanctions against China, which aligns to the US pivot to Asia and the concentration of US military & corporate presence in Asia, requires Sri Lanka’s policy makers to seriously review all dealings with US and pro-US steering locals. It is well enough to want to adopt a pro-US line of thinking but the MCC SOFA and ACSA taken together with extended partnerships with India, Australia & Japan means Sri Lanka is slowly being throttled incrementally and the battles are now coming onto shore than at international levels, where Sri Lanka could mitigate. Little does India realize that behind the honeymoon with India, is the ultimate plan to balkanize India which becomes a piece of cake using Sri Lanka as base.
The last time the enemies were invited to shore, we lost our island nation for 443 years. The Wasteland Ordinance took away our lands. MCC will end up doing the same.
Shenali D Waduge