Few weeks ago a high ranking delegation of china arrived to Sri Lanka despite the developing covid-19 epidemic situation. Soon after the said visit the USA state ministry issued a statement condemning the Chinese intervention to Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will be arriving in Sri Lanka today (27th October 2020) on an invitation extended by the Sri Lankan Government. During his visit, Pompeo will hold official discussions with the Lankan leadership as well as with his counterpart. Secretary of State Pompeo is the highest-level US dignitary to visit Sri Lanka during the tenure of US President Donald Trump.
In the meantime China has accused the US of attempting to “bully” countries over their foreign relations, days ahead of the US state secretary’s visit to Sri Lanka. In a statement, US Embassy in Sri Lanka said all aspects of their arrival and stay have been organized in close coordination with the Government of Sri Lanka. A senior state department official said the US is urging the country to make “difficult but necessary choices” to secure its economic independence instead of choosing opaque practises.
Meanwhile there is a debate in the country that this visit is focused to sign trade and security agreements with USA or to discuss a framework of such agreements. The Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement is one of the controversial agreements that the USA government has been insisting to sign with Sri Lanka. SOFA is a another controversial agreement the US was proposing to the Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement (ACSA) initially signed in 2007 and renewed in 2017.The signatories to the agreement were, then Ambassador of the US to Sri Lanka Robert O’Blake and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The ACSA provides for joint military cooperation between Sri Lanka and the US and includes logistic support, supplies, services and the use of airports and ports during ‘unforeseen circumstances’. While the 2007 ACSA permits US military vessels to anchor in Sri Lankan ports on an ‘on-off’ basis, the 2017 ACSA appears to be “open-ended”.
Already MCC projects have been implemented in several afriacan and Asian countries. In these countries, it is proven that the projects based on MCC were paved the way for economic invasion and environmental destruction. In Sri Lanka, the approval of the MCC automatically gives approval to the other two agreements as well. This means that Sri Lanka will be bounded by the three agreements, allowing the US to operate in the country without any objections from the government. This situation is very likely to generate a serious opposition in the country from the people to these US operations. It can also lead to economic and political instability in the country.
In terms of MCC 200 km corridor extending from Colombo to Trincomalee will be declared for the agriculture projects. It is claimed that 85% of the land in this corridor is owned by the government and most of this land is currently used by people in the area for agriculture related activities. The ulterior motive of the agriculture project is to open the door for foreign investors to purchase land in this region. It is estimated that Sri Lanka has nearly 14 million individual land units and only about 10% of this number has been so far surveyed by the Lands Department since the survey was started more than 15 years ago. The president has given an order recently to expedite the land ownership survey. Once the land survey is completed, it is likely that the current users of these lands could be the owners of the land they occupy.
President Gotabhya Rajapaksha and his political party was able to secure 2/3 majority in the parliament by the general election held in August 2020.The main slogans of the ruling party were reflected nationalistic and anti-imperial ideologies. However the groups and individuals who carried out the nationalistic slogans in their shoulders in order to bring President Gotbhya to power now openly express their views against this surrendering approach of the government.
It is clear this is not a crisis of a particular party or an individual where this is the crisis of the capitalism. Inevitably the people of the country have to face severe economic problems due to the current fall down of the economy which is further aggravated by the epidemic. Instead of understanding the crisis as a failure of the economic system the president believes imposing oppressive laws is the solutions to curb people’s uprisings. The recent amendment to the constitution has transpired the said motive.