THE CURRENT SRI LANKA narrative goes like this. The ruling party made a series of bad decisions about fertilizer, petrol, and a “debt trap” (yes, from a certain country with a red flag), and, as a result, they have been chased out of office by angry citizens.
New leaders will have to be found.
Many reports blame an external player: China. “Many believe that Sri Lanka’s economic relations with China are the main driver behind the crisis. The United States has called this phenomenon debt-trap diplomacy,” said a report in Channel News Asia.
So far, so straightforward. Reports across the mainstream media are almost identical.
UNDER THE SURFACE
Now here are four things which we are not seeing in current reports.
First, ex-leader Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa migrated to the US in 1998. He has long been alleged to have taken up the presidency while holding American citizenship, contrary to the Sri Lanka constitution. He came across as very US-friendly, and so he was, at first.
When his US citizenship was exposed in 2019, he fought against the accusations. A document purporting to be his “renunciation of US citizenship” was widely distributed by internet to respond to the complaints.
But citizen journalists said it had been faked. Independent investigation of US records suggested that he didn’t actually give up American citizenship until the second quarter of the following year, long after he had the top job.
SRI LANKA IN TROUBLE
But then the story changes. In recent years, Sri Lanka has become friendly with other Asian nations, China in particular. It is no secret that this has caused irritation behind the scenes in the US.
The US showed its displeasure by deliberately leaving Sri Lanka off the guest list for an international meeting “of democracies” last year. The mango-shaped island in the Indian Ocean is famous as “Asia’s oldest constitutional democracy”. But that couldn’t save it from the wrath of the Biden Administration.
The US-organized meeting was called the “Summit of Democracy” but was actually a tool of division. “Countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative and deemed too friendly to China, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Hungary, were all excluded,” reported Phill Hynes, a Hong Kong based geopolitics specialist.
Sri Lanka and China have had a blossoming friendship. Last month, China delivered 5,000 tons of rice to the struggling country, with a promise to raise the figure to 10,000 tons. This was becoming a bromance. Which some people didn’t like.
But surely the grievances powering angry citizens are real? Yes, they are. That’s how the system works. A third point is that the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA-spin off, has been very active in Sri Lanka recently, donating literally millions of dollars to activist groups. The NED’s modus operandi is to train anti-government groups over many years which are then activated when destabilization is deemed to be in the interest of the US or against the interests of US rivals.
Identical game-plans were used in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The campaigns ALWAYS build on genuine grievances, and work in tandem with disinformation campaigns in which western media downplay or completely omit any mention the presence of western groups specializing in political interference overseas. The result: coups in China-friendly places look entirely spontaneous and references to external financing simply go unreported.
FAKE DEBT TRAP STORY
Fourth: What about the reports about the so called “debt trap” involving a port in Sri Lanka? A detailed independent examination of more than 1,000 pages of documents by specialists showed that the allegation against China was entirely false. However, it continues to be spread. Click here for a detailed examination.
Kicker: And what happened to the original 2019 “renunciation of US citizenship” document?
Factcheckers later showed it to be a Wikipedia image that had been photoshopped.
Lesson: This article is in no way a defence of Rajapaksa. It simply provides extra information to allow the reader to see get a fuller picture. The mainstream media often prefer not to dig below the surface of the “official” narrative, in case western involvement comes to light. That’s why citizen journalists and independent media groups are important.
Read widely. Keep an open mind.
Image at the top is a fridayeveryday image based on a picture by Thushal Madhushankha / Unsplash