ISSN 2330-717X

Who Caused Today’s Crisis In Sri Lanka? – OpEd


Whoever it is – whether a medical doctor, lawyer, engineer, economist, politician or anyone else – if they do not consider the root cause of an issue/problem, they won’t be able find a durable remedy. The months-long crisis in Sri Lanka should be approached by identifying the root cause of the problem. This article aims to highlight the culprit of decades of manipulation targeted at achieving their long term plan, which has not been considered or realised by many. 


In fact, the foundation of today’s crisis was laid in the ’60s when late Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranayke was the Prime Minister of then Ceylon, present Sri Lanka. Following the assassination of her husband SWRD Bandaranayke, in 1960 her political party won the elections and Mrs Bandaranayke was sworn in as the Prime Minister. She served from 1960 to 1965 and undertook reforming the island from unsettled colonial affairs into a leftist Socialist path.  

This paved the way for those who were waiting to dominate the Island. It was the beginning of today’s crisis in Sri Lanka. This article by no means intends to find fault with either leftists or Socialists in Sri Lanka.  

Even though Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranayke had cordial relationships with Indian Prime Ministers – Jawaharlal Nehru, Gulzarilal Nanda, Lal Bahadur Shasthri and Mrs Indira Gandhi, she was gradually moving towards China and Pakistan.  

In 1963 and 1972, she visited the People’s Republic of China – PRC and met with leaders like Mao Tse Tung, Chou En-lai and others. In return, Chinese leaders visited Sri Lanka. It was the same with Pakistan and former Soviet Union, present Russia.  

The Soviet Union used its power of veto twice (18th August 1948 & 13 September 1949) against Ceylon’s membership of the United Nations. This shows that the then Soviet Union and Ceylon didn’t have a good relationship. 


PRC needed Sri Lanka 

PRC uses every available opportunity to dominate Sri Lanka. One of the reasons is PRC’s long-standing hostility to India, Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour. Therefore PRC needed Sri Lanka by any means. 

The PRC made their first attempt to dominate Sri Lanka in the late ’60s. During that time, the United National Party – UNP was in power and received intelligence report that PRC was busy trying to plant a pro-Chinese government in Sri Lanka.  

Then in late ’69 and early 70′, the Ceylon Police alerted the government that a pro-Chinese group known as Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), also known as ‘Che Guevara’, were preparing to over-throw the then government. In May 1970, when Mrs Bandaranayke came to power, the JVP was in its final stages to start an armed revolt to capture the government. 

For this purpose arms were brought into Sri Lanka in two ways in preparation for this armed struggle. One was under the pretext of the PRC building/donating a memorial hall in the name of Late SWRD Bandaranayke (BMICH). Materials to build BMICH were freely allowed without going through any formalities and it was believed that some of the JVP arms were brought via this channel.  

The other route was that in May 1970, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK established relations with Ceylon and opened an embassy in Colombo. Some publications distributed by the DPRK helped the JVP to develop their armed struggle. Many incidents linking the JVP and North Koreans came under the spotlight. In March 1971, the Ceylon police discovered that the North Korean embassy had withdrawn approximately $300,000 U.S dollars from overseas banks. However the Police failed to trace the original sender of these funds.  Eventually the North Koreans were forced to leave the country on 15 April 1971. 

JVP’s attempt 

During this period there was a Chinese cargo vessel bound for Tanzania, in the Colombo Harbour. This cargo vessel carried weapons for the JVP. In the same period, an unfamiliar ship was spotted in the Matara coastal area where the JVP was very popular. These were handled by the Indian warship then patrolling the coastal areas of Ceylon. 

As the JVP started their armed revolution against the government on 5th April 1971, the Prime Minister Mrs Bandaranayke sought the help of India and other countries. The JVP’s attempted armed revolution ended in failure. However, the project of the BMICH progressed well and the memorial building was opened in May 1973. 

As the first attempt by the JVP had been a failure, they began a second attempt, this time making use of the accord signed between India and Sri Lanka (Indo-Lanka) in 1987. It was believed that this was also carried out with the backing of PRC. There were many disturbances in Colombo and its surroundings areas – burning, looting and rioting, under the pretext of opposing the accord. 

The JVP’s revolt continued against then pro-Indian President J.R. Jayewardene, but his Prime Minister R. Premadasa was an anti-Indian who later became the President of Sri Lanka. Under the guidance of Premadasa many ugly and shameful incidents took place in Sri Lanka including the attempted assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi. This took place in the present of Sonia Gandhi, many Indian diplomats and the President of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene. Once again the uprising of the JVP failed and came to an end in December 1989. This was the second attempt by the PRC to gain a government which would be in their favour. 

From ’90s onwards, the armed struggle in exercise of the right to self-determination of the Tamils intensified in the North and East. The PRC took this opportunity to supply unlimited arms to Sri Lanka.  

One should keep in mind that weapons supplied by friendly or other countries, whether presently to Ukraine or earlier to Sri Lanka, are neither gifts nor donations. Eventually, the receiving country has to pay the supplying countries. 

Since the PRC’s earlier attempts totally failed, the PRC changed its strategy, making Sri Lanka fully dependent on their arms supply which gradually increased by million and billions of dollars. Countries like the PRC prolonged the ethnic conflict for three decades in Sri Lanka with their ulterior motives. 

Ethnic conflict prolonged 

Many, including politicians in Sri Lanka did not realise that these affairs ‘behind the scenes’ were happening. The protracted war resulted in so many human losses and so much economic damage to individuals in the island. Some political leaders in the South got fed up with the war, wondering what the next step should be.  

In 2005, there was change of Presidency and government in Sri Lanka. Here, the PRC found the weakness of the President, his family members and the cabinet members and took advantage of it. PRC started to supply further arms and ammunitions, perpetuating the war and also giving unlimited loans on various terms and conditions. In the meantime, they ‘looked after’ the President, his family members and others. 

This was the beginning of the PRC’s ironhanded involvement in Sri Lanka. With the Chinese full flow of arms and with the involvement of the international community including India, the armed struggle of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE came to end. This is the only war on earth where enemy countries – US doesn’t agree with North Korea and China; India doesn’t agree with Pakistan and China – all united to suppress the Tamils’ armed struggle for their right to self-determination.  

With the end of this bloody war, people especially in the South blindly supported Rajapaksas family without knowing the truth. Most of them thought that members of the Rajapaksa family were the ‘war heroes’.  

The PRC made use of this opportunity and signed many accords and contracts in their favour, looking after the Rajapaksa family well.  Rajapaksa’s family members were travelling to PRC very often and got caught into fulfilling the PRC’s long-standing dream. With the help of Rajapaksa’s family the PRC’s influence in Sri Lanka started to flourish. 

With the unexpected change in Presidency and government in Sri Lanka in 2015, the Rakapaksas became the financial advisors to the PRC, especially on Sri Lanka. During 2015 and 2019, both Mahinda Rajapasa and his brother Gotahaya Rajapaksa frequently visited PRC and advised them how to grab territory in Sri Lanka.  

Hambontota on 99 years lease 

As pressure mounted on the government in power, it was obliged to give Hambontota away on a ninety- nine years lease to PRC as a settlement for those loans, etc. The Hambantota area includes a harbour and an airport built by the PRC and was brought under the control of the PRC in July 2017. The PRC obtained one third of Southern Sri Lanka.  Throughout the ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka insisted internationally on its ‘sovereignty and integrity’, which it ‘lost’ to the PRC. The silence of the JVP and many others, who agitated against the Indo-Lanka accord, deserves questioning. 

Here, one might laugh at Indian diplomacy. In 1974 India voluntarily donated one of its strategically important islands ‘Katchaithivu’ to Sri Lanka, whereas the PRC grabbed a significant proportion of Southern Sri Lanka. In other words, this proves that Indian diplomacy failed and is failing in many affairs in Sri Lanka. 

The Rajapaksas came back to power in 2019 – in both Presidency and government. The PRC started to take more advantage. They started to influence the replacement of the Tamil language with the Chinese Mandarin language. All over Sri Lanka – name boards/sign boards on roads, railways stations, airports, government buildings; China-backed Colombo Port City, etc. are displayed only in Sinhala, Mandarin and in English. Tamil, a living language for thousands of years has been systematically removed.  

For the mistakes and greediness of the Rajapaksa family along with the PRC, now the noble citizens of the country pay a high price without essential items like food, medicine, electricity, gasoline, etc. 

Democracy in Sri Lanka legalised nepotism and corruption, resulting in the Rajapaksa dynasty taking their ill-gotten wealth abroad and investing it in foreign countries. 

Now it is too late to realise that the PRC’s relationship with Sri Lanka is always fishy and has ulterior motives.  

Isaac Newton’s theory started to work in Sri Lanka – ‘whatever goes up has to come down…’. As the ‘Karma’ of the Rajapaksas and the PRC’s misuse of hospitality in Sri Lanka show, their dark days have arrived.  

While writing this article, after going through an interview with Kumar Gunaratnam, the General Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party – FSP,  published in an English language news paper –  I’m puzzled whether there is another PRC agenda brewing or what….? One has to see this interview with binoculars. There is a deeper danger lurking – the contents of this interview are covered with beautiful icing. The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) is a break-away group from the JVP and they are partly organisers of the protest taking place at the Galle Face Green.  

Veteran politicians and others should take note: remembering Mullivagzhal in Galle Face Green, and former President Chandrika lighting a candle at her home, are not going to bring either equality or co-habitation in Sri Lanka. Once again, these could be tricks to divert international sympathy away from the Tamils in Sri Lanka.  Tamils have suffered and learned enough. Therefore, it’s not easy to cheat them again and again.

*S. V. Kirubaharan, Founder General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR.

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