By Muttukrishna Sarvananthan PhD*
I have read with great interest Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake’s well-crafted conspiracy theory on the Easter Bombings in Sri Lanka in a two-part viewpoint dated November 2020 and April 18, 2021. There are a few factual inaccuracies or deliberate hyperbole to insinuate that the United States of America (USA) was directly or indirectly responsible for the carnage.
My humble opinion is that Rajasingham-Senanayake’s insinuation is a far-fetched conspiracy theory rooted in anti-colonial/anti-imperialist (i.e. anti-USA/Europe) phobia of certain elites in Colombo, some of whom co-incidentally are American-Sri Lankan dual citizens or American green cardholders.
For example, Rajasingham-Senanayake claims that “Police sniffer dogs had found US diplomats with bomb materials at the JAIC Hilton residencies in Colombo” in the aftermath of the coordinated Easter Bombings. What was reported to have been found was explosive detection devices and not “explosives” or “bomb materials”. See https://thuppahis.com/2019/05/03/explosives-us-embassy-plot-in-colombo-sniffed-out-by-police-dogs/ Moreover, the source of this information Rajasingham-Senanayake has cited does not appear to be credible.
Secondly, she also mistakenly claims repeatedly that one of the targets of the suicide bombers, namely Shangri-La Hotel, is Chinese-owned. In fact, Shangri-La Hotel is Hong Kong-headquartered multinational hospitality company founded by a Malaysian tycoon in 1971.
In one place Rajasingham-Senanayake did mention that it is “Hong Kong-owned”. Besides, it was also reported that the Chief Security Officer of the Shangri-La Hotel Colombo at the time of the suicide bombing was a former chief of national intelligence in Sri Lanka.
Thirdly, either mistakenly or mischievously, Rajasingham-Senanayake claims that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was “created by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and the Intelligence Bureau?” Of course, RAW armed and trained the LTTE, but I am afraid RAW did not create it.
If indeed the USA wanted to stage a terror attack on Sri Lanka (by “weaponisation of religion”) in order to convince Sri Lanka to host a US military base or allow access to US armed forces in emergencies through an Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement (ACSA) as claimed by Rajasingham-Senanayake, it should/would have facilitated a terror attack on Buddhist temples.
Because only the intended fears of the Buddhist majority community could/would have convinced or propelled any Sri Lankan government to agree to a formal military alliance or agreement with the US or any other global power. The attacks on churches and upmarket hotels frequented by western (including American) tourists indicate anti-Christian and/or anti-western force/s behind this.
Besides, the Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) between Sri Lanka and the USA was signed in 1995 during the Presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga long before the 9/11 attacks in/on the USA and the alleged “weaponisation of religion” by the former imperial powers (European and American) in Asia and the Pacific.
Rajasingham-Senanayake’s claim of assassinations of political leaders in Asia and Africa by the CIA during the cold war could be true, but her insinuation that Mahatma Gandhi and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was likely killed by imperialist powers is again far-fetched and a conspiracy theory.
Rajasingham-Senanayake appears to laud the rise of China in the Asia Pacific region as a necessary counterweight to American/European imperialism. But I have my serious apprehensions/reservations about China’s rise (and indeed I am weary of a potential rise of India as well in the future). The last time an Asian power aspired to become an imperial power, namely Japan during WWII, it was deadly to many East Asian and South-East Asian countries including China and South Korea.
China’s flexing of muscles throughout Asia and Africa (and in Latin America as well), its intransigent behaviour on the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic (China took nearly a year to allow a team of investigators from the WHO to enter the country for investigation), and its undemocratic governance within its territory and Hong Kong are all signs that it cannot be trusted to lead the Third World (let alone the world).
Moreover, the docking of an ocean liner laden with radioactive materials at the Hambantota port on April 20, 2021 en-route to China is an onerous indication of the implications of leasing out that port to China in 2018.
Ironically, the present government of Sri Lanka, which had earlier rejected an outright grant of USD 500 million of from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the USA on the pretext that it could violate the sovereignty of the country, is in the process of enacting the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act of 2021 and handover the management of the Colombo Port City to the Chinese state-owned company that invested in the reclamation of the land. http://www.ft.lk/columns/Colombo-Port-City-Economic-Commission-Bill-2021/4-716362
This proposed Act has been challenged in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka because of its violation of the Constitution. There is no doubt that attracting investments to the Colombo Port City is of paramount importance to the economy of Sri Lanka. However, it cannot be in the form of the current draft Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act of 2021.
Moreover, an agreement signed by the governments of Sri Lanka, India, and Japan in 2019 for an Indo-Japan joint-venture to upgrade the Eastern Container Terminal of the Colombo harbour was scrapped by the incumbent government in early 2021 due to protests by the employees of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). The Colombo Harbour is one of the handfuls of profitable state-owned enterprises in Sri Lanka, thanks to the transhipment trade from India, which accounts for around 70% of the revenue of the harbour.
Sri Lanka cannot afford to adhere to double standards for receiving Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China, an outright grant from the USA, and a concessionary bilateral loan from Japan. The government’s foreign investment policy should create a level playing field for potential foreign investors, donors, or lenders whether they are from the East or West. Preferential treatment to any one country would not go down well in this globalised world economy.
* Muttukrishna Sarvananthan PhD (Wales) MSc (Bristol) MSc (Salford) BA (Hons) (Delhi), Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA. October 2008–July 2009, Endeavour Research Fellow, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. September 2011–February 2012. Co-Recipient of a British Academy Award under its Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling Global Challenges Programme. January 2021-January 2023.