Do not make Sri Lanka a Cuba, Mangala warns government

Mangala Samaraweera

Sri Lanka can not depend on China alone and follow a confrontational and isolationist policy with the international community, former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in a statement yesterday. The Westphalian concept of sovereignty was no longer valid and Sri Lanka must abide by its international obligations for the betterment of its own people, he said.

“Sri Lanka must revert to the foreign policy almost all governments have followed since independence; despite our relative “insignificance” in the International order, Sri Lanka was a much loved and esteemed member; from Washington to Beijing, from New Delhi to the Kremlin, from Downing Street to Tokyo, from Brussels to Ghana our leaders were welcomed with open arms,” he said.

Under the current administration Sri Lankans “like somnambulists” are walking towards the precipice while tumbling over one humiliation after another, and pushing the future generation towards a future of unimaginable horrors, Samaraweera said.

Below are excerpts of his statement : “China is one of the world’s greatest and most ancient countries; more a civilization than a country! The “Celestial dynasties” which ruled for millennia sincerely believed that they were the heavenly representatives sent to rule a vast kingdom – HONGUO/the middle kingdom, refined and civilized in a world of barbarians. With the advent of high imperialism in the 17th century, western powers tried repeatedly to penetrate this vast kingdom for trade/commercial purposes but China remained one of the few Asian countries which could not be colonized by the British to become a part of the Empire where the ‘sun never sets.’

“In 1839, the opium war started against China in the face of determined and stiff resistance by the Qing dynasty to open up its vast market to British opium traders. Consequently, the British ordered the blockade of principal ports in China and were poised to attack the ancient capital of Nanjing, when the Chinese sued for peace. The treaty of Nanjing of 1842 imposed on China the cession of Hong Kong to the British, a payment of $6 million in indemnity, and the opening of five ports in which trade would be allowed and westerners would be permitted to reside. Although China was not formally colonized, the treaty of Nanjing made it a de facto colony of the British Empire and the Qing court lost much of its independence in commercial and foreign policy. The principle of extraterritoriality enshrined in this treaty was to become a major infringement of Chinese sovereignty and the opium traders residing in the treaty ports would only be subject to their own countries’ laws and not that of China. Thus began, what is known in China today as its “century of humiliation.”

“Nearly two hundred years later, as the first quarter of the 21st century is drawing to a close, China is now poised to become one of the world’s leading economies with ambitions of becoming a military superpower as well. Like the East India Company in earlier centuries, the investment, trading and commercial arm of China is now the Belt and Road Initiative. (BRI) started in 2013 and incorporated into the constitution of China in 2017. According to the BRI, the initiative is “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a bright future.” In fact we know that the East India Company colonized the better part of the world with a similar noble objective of civilizing ‘savages’ and natives promising all a ‘brighter future’. The imperial powers of the west carved out a very bright future for themselves and their countries over the last five hundred years but at what cost to the countries and the peoples they colonized? Isn’t the BRI the same old concept wrapped up in brand new gift paper?”

“Sri Lanka needs FDIs and trade opportunities badly and desperately. Having an international Financial Centre on reclaimed land is a very good idea if it’s based on international law and participation, not merely serving the interests of a single country or two. In fact the first proposal for such a venture came from one of our very own Sri Lankan conglomerates in 2000. However, such proposals need not come at the cost of our sovereignty; it cannot be at the cost of our friends who provide 60% of our trade; it cannot be at the cost of diminishing our friendship with our friend and neighbor, India, 20 odd kilometres away. Sri Lanka has not been blessed with oil, diamonds, gold or copper; we have been blessed with a beautiful island and a most propitious geographical location on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.”

“Therefore it is also in our greater interest to work with all countries to ensure that the Indian Ocean remains a zone of peace and stability while taking the maximum advantage of our position to create wealth and prosperity for our next generations. In the great power play between superpowers, Sri Lanka cannot afford to be a pawn of one group or another like Cuba in the early 1960s when not ideological but financial considerations compelled the Cuban government to allow USSR to install nuclear missiles 65km from the USA nearly triggering off a nuclear war in the Bay of Pigs. Sri Lanka cannot afford to follow a confrontational and isolationist policy with the international community.”

(Source: The Island)

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