By Lionel Bopage –
There is nothing new in the propaganda and psychological warfare activities that have been launched against protest movements and political opponents in Sri Lanka for demonising and isolating those movements from the ordinary people prior to suppressing them.
Given this unpalatable political fact, any analysis of the current situation in Sri Lanka has to start from the following factual positions.
1. The regime is corrupt, incompetent and devoid of political legitimacy. They are driven by personal and family agendas of embezzlement and aggrandisement, rather than based on a policy platform and a program of actions formulated in the interests of the country and its people.
2. The immediate root cause for the discontent in society and the opposition against the regime is the issue of the day to day survival of the people. The protests were initiated by social segments belonging to the urban and semi-urban middle class and lower middle class, but the protests appear to be gradually filtering through to other social segments.
3. Political crises that are in existence have created a polarisation between some groups within the ruling elite, but the Rajapaksas and the Wickremesinghes appear to be working hand in hand.
4. Whenever there is an internal crisis of this proportion, it is obvious that the powers that wish to exert their influence in the Indian ocean region will try to make maximum use of it.
5. So, the Chinese, the Americans and separately the Indians, who wish to expand the influence they already have in the region, will make use of these developments to satisfy their interests.
6. The problem is the governance system, and the unsustainable practices that generate the worsening socio-economic issues. These are created by the neo-liberalist policies and institutions developed based on the 1978 Constitution. This constitution allows one person to make all executive decisions, bypassing parliament. Notorious examples being the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which was pushed through parliament in a single day; and the recent fertiliser issue amongst countless other unaccountable decisions made by a single person.
7. The solution lies in abolishing the 20th amendment which provides extraordinary powers to the president. Also, in abolishing the executive presidency, and rescinding the 1978 constitution, replacing it with a new constitution, one that should be developed via a constitutional assembly elected by the people themselves and through participative mechanisms.
In a nutshell, if anyone does not wish to see external powers interfering in our internal affairs, then his or her main advocacy should be to demand the regime to address the socio-economic issues and political concerns that are currently affecting people’s lives and their futures. These issues have been created by the successive ruling regimes in doing everything possible for safeguarding their own interests and privileges.
So, we need to expose the true nature of the coverups the regime, its cohorts and collaborators are trying to make use of in order to deceive the masses once again.
There is and will continue to be a lot of propaganda that will attempt to link the spontaneous protests that have arisen in Sri Lanka as designs for ‘regime change’ sponsored or abetted by the west, in particular, the United States and its agencies. To brand any protests or agitations against a ruling regime as sponsored or abetted by its opponents overseas is also nothing new. Anyone leading political protests in Australia, the European Union, the UK or the USA can be branded as Chinese or Russian agents. Anyone politically protesting in Russia, China, Syria or Iran can be branded as sponsored or abetted by the west, notably the USA.
In the Indian Ocean, there are three powers attempting to get the upper hand. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Americans have become more brazen and China is becoming more assertive. India has been pro-Soviet for a very long time, and that linkage can be seen to continue to date to a certain extent between the current Indian regime and the Russian Federation. However, the Narendra Modi regime has been following the neo-liberal political and economic model that was commenced under the previous regimes led by the Indian Congress.
The nature of foreign policies of the Sri Lankan regimes successively established by the UNP and/or its coalitions have been openly pro-American and pro-west. Most of the regimes established by the SLFP and/or its coalitions have followed a more subtle approach. They usually followed a non-aligned foreign policy. Such policies have been either more pro-Soviet, pro-Russian or pro-Chinese and were covered under the banner of “non-alignment”, which was a design of the then Indonesian President Soekarno under his Pancasila ideology. These regimes had an underlying advantage.
They could manipulate the Soviet and Chinese camps and the US led western camp to dance according to the whims and fancies of the ruling elites of these “non-aligned” regimes. The typical examples were the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the seventies. The ruling elite was able to “convince” the US led western camp that the political opponents were either KGB sponsored, or pro-Soviet or pro-Chinese. At the same time, they were able to “convince” the Chinese leadership that the very same political opponents were either KGB or CIA sponsored. Moreover, they were able to simultaneously convince the Soviet leaderships that the same political opponents were CIA sponsored. That is how Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s ruling classes were able to get all three camps to support them at the same time, financially, materially and militarily to mercilessly crush and decimate their political opposition.
In Sri Lanka, those currently holding power at the top of the governance structure are US citizens or they can become so at any time they wish. When they came to power in 2019, they had the direct or indirect backing of the US agencies. The Sri Lankan regime has been able to play the same game that the previous regimes have been playing under the “non-alignment” banner, and make the US, Russian, Chinese and Indian regimes simultaneously dance to their corrupt and incompetent tunes.
During Indira Gandhi’s reign, India towed a strong pro-Soviet line. The J R Jayewardene regime in Sri Lanka at the same time followed a strongly pro-US line. That led to intensifying the ethnic conflict into a fully drawn out war, as the Sri Lanka’s ruling elite was not prepared for sharing power with any of the non-majoritarian communities, so that they could live as equals with dignity in their land of birth. It is unfortunate that even today we have people not only in Sri Lanka, but also people who have been living in multi-cultural, pluralistic societies for so long, who are still deaf and blind towards the needs and aspirations of non-majoritarian communities.
These are the sentiments the Rajapaksa regime, their clan, their collaborators, cohorts and henchmen are playing with, to arouse either a nationalist phobia or the foreign interference conspiracies phobia. Let us earnestly hope that the citizens of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankans overseas and their well-wishers will not be fooled once again by the Sri Lankan regime’s divisive propaganda. Make no mistake! They are preparing groundwork to isolate the protest movement so that they could militarily crush the youth once more.
Don’t be misguided by the regime’s propaganda intended to tarnish those who protest as agents sponsored or abetted by covert US led attempts for regime change in Sri Lanka. Do not get your hands dirty yet again with the blood of another younger generation who are protesting for wanting of a better Sri Lanka for themselves and for future generations.
The Chinese appear to have acquired a new role in protecting the Rajapaksa clan, playing this subtle game of tarnishing the protestors as sponsored and abetted by the US interests. The sole aim is nothing but to kill the “GotaGoHome” project. Those political movements and leaders who are only inwardly-focussed, and/or solely engaged in their self-growth projects in the current environment are virtually helping the ruling elite in one way or another to deviate the attention away from the protest movement.
Their propaganda is clever because they use the atrocities and economic and physical devastation caused elsewhere by the Americans and their willing coalitions; take for example, from Vietnam, Chile, Iraq to Afghanistan. The list is too long to cite here. Haven’t the Russians committed similar crimes and devastations in Hungary, Chechnya, Syria and now in Ukraine? None of these military powers are worried about the suffering of the people, but their own geo-political interests, and the resources they require in terms of satisfying the needs of their military industrial complexes and fossil-fuel industries so that they could maintain their economic systems.
Let us do all what we can to defeat the attempts of the Rajapaksa Propaganda Machine to internationalize this slander campaign; to misinform Sri Lankans everywhere; to distort reality and create fake news. It is the corrupt Rajapaksa family and their cohorts that are now bleeding the people to penury and starvation. This is amply attested by the fact that there are chronic shortages of food, fuel, electricity, communication and no healthcare.
In conclusion, let us focus on the real culprits, the Rajapaksa regime and their cheer leaders who got us in this mess. Let us not let them continue their disastrous embezzlement and self-aggrandisement agendas. The aim of their propaganda is to divide us first, crush the protest movement and then to carry on with their agendas as usual.
Let us not be deceived by the false propaganda. Let us strengthen supporting the people who are fighting to build a better future for themselves as well as for their future generations in Sri Lanka!