Three headed American Hydra and Srilanka

A half-millennium since the Portuguese arrived in South Asia, the Indian Ocean has once again become the centre of global maritime trade. China, the US and India and other rich and powerful states, are striving for influence over Sri Lanka, which is in the geographic heart of the Indian Ocean. The sea lanes of the Indian Ocean are considered to be the busiest in the world, with more than 80% of global seaborne oil trade estimated to be passing through them. Just 6-10 nautical miles south of Sri Lanka runs the East-West shipping route, through which regularly travel over 60,000 ships carrying two-thirds of the world’s oil and half of all container shipments.  Additionally, Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka is among the finest natural harbors in the world.

Sri Lanka is also a participant in the Maritime Belt and Silk Road Initiative which is  China’s extensive network of ports and maritime facilities connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

China’s expansion in the region is seen as a major threat by US ,hence Washington administration is aiming to counter Chinese ‘threat’ with Indo-Pacific security expansion project. As an integral part of that initiative, the US has been converging it’s economic and military power to turn strategically located Sri Lanka into a “military logistics hub” and the centre of its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region Policy.”

Sri Lanka has already entered into an open ended 83-page Acquisition and Cross-Services

Agreement (ACSA) with the United States in August 2017. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a pact, if signed, would establish a strong US foothold in the island and bring American military boots into Sri Lankan soil. Connected to all these is the now pending – and under review – Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact

In other words, ACSA, SOFA and MCC is a multiheaded Hydra designed to destroy Sri Lankan sovereignty and to established US military foothold in Srilanka. These three agreements are complexly interconnected and the true danger to Srilanka come from the combine operation of these agreements. If the Millennium challenge compact is signed , then there will be no turning back as MCC , SOFA, ACSA agreements are a compact in itself. 

Though the MCC compact can’t be discussed in isolation of SOFA and ACSA ,My focus In this article would primarily drawn to MCC agreement and expecting to do an in-depth analysis on SOFA ACSA agreements in a later article.

The MCC, as it came to be known, was created by the US Congress in January 2004. The MCC’s approach is a hard-hitting structural adjustment programmes. The Organization disbursed money in the form of grants, not loans, to specific countries that the MCC select as eligible for funding. 

MCC is ready to sign a “compact” with Sri Lanka to facilitate so called private-sector investment and economic growth .but The MCC programmes have never been about assisting economic growth of developing countries . Rather they are turning poor into sellers of their lands, paving the way for investors to come in and, at bargain prices, take over strategically important lands for largescale industrial projects.

Proposed Srilankan MCC compact will be composed of two projects: a Transport Project and a Land Project. Of the total $480 million MCC grant, $350 million is for the transport infrastructure project while $67 million is allocated to the land administration project

The Transport Project aims to increase the relative efficiency and capacity of the road network toreduce the cost of transporting passengers and goods between the central region of the country and ports and markets in the rest of the country.

The land administration project is to map and survey State lands and enter data in the Government’s e-State Lands Information Management System. two new laws, the State Land Bank Bill and a Land (Special Provisions) Bill, are to be enacted in conjunction with the MCC Compact. The proposed Land Bank would bring all publicly owned land under a single entity, making it available to private investors including foreign parties. The proposed Land (Special Provisions) Bill would grant absolute title to state lands held by citizens holding land grants.

Hence it’s crystal clear that the stage is being set for a massive transfer of lands currently being used by the poor to a wealthy elite and to foreign investors. Proposed land amendments acts as pointed above would facilitate the handing of our lands over to Multinational Companies for their exploitation. It is also for exploiting our natural resources. Sri Lanka is endowed with a variety of industrial minerals such as graphite,Ilmenite, Rutile ,Garnet and Zircon.It’s also noteworthy that Seruwawila copper deposits and recently discovered  presence of gold ore within the Seruwawila copper and iron deposit in an area of about 100 km in Arippu and Kollakulam,is located in the proposed Colombo-Trincomalee economic corridor.

In 2004, Madagascar became the first country to sign a Compact with the MCC. Madagskar’s national land reform process oriented towards decentralised land management and the allocation of land certificates  had already begun before the MCC’s officially arrived. the government of President Ravalomanana and the MCA–Madagascar programme  came to an abrupt  end in March 2009 by way of a coup after it became apparent that the Ravalomanana’s government that was using MCC funds to allocate certificates to thousands of rural farmers under the National Land Programme was also selling off nearly 50% of  Madagaskar’s cultivatable land (1.3 million hectares) to the Korean company Daewoo Logistics through a system of long-term leases (up to 99 years) that it established in 2008 as part of a new investment law supported by MCC.

MCC -Madagascar saga  is one powerful example of the kind of damage that  MCC capable of doing to a country and it shows why we need to work together to out manure this new tool of American neo-colonialism .Our refusal to learn from history and unrealistic optimism towards a known devil would not only be economically catastrophic but turn srilankans into refugees and slave laborers in our own homeland.

By the look of it, MCC Sri Lanka Compact is basically a commercially-oriented document that is intended to manipulate the regulatory environment so state and private lands can be more easily provided to the private sector for exploitation purposes. The agreement has been carefully drafted to give the false sense of security to the people that no military strings are attached to MCC.but Investments will naturally have to come from overseas as Sri Lankans do not have such investment capacity to justify a return for the $ 480 million that the MCC Sri Lanka Compact will invest in Sri Lanka as a grant. 

The safety and security of such overseas investments and the investors will have to be protected and the US authorities too wouldn’t hesitate to raise exaggerated concerns regarding the security of their assets . this is potentially where the  Status of Forces Agreement come in to play. In the past, US has launched  covert operations to appear as if it was undertaken by another party by disguising the US direct responsibility. The Operation Northwoods was a such proposed false flag operation against the Cuban government where US planned to launch a fake Cuban terror campaign included suggestions to sink a boatload of Cubans fleeing to Florida . Given the strategic importance of Srilanka to US ,who could guarantee that the US would not resort to such tactics to established their military foothold in the island ?

Few weeks ago ,Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells when asked   about the SOFA said that SOFA could be discussed after the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections .Hence it’s clear that the SOFA agreement is not dead, but hidden behind curtains until the time becomes right to introduce them and get them signed. It’s a no secret that the US has been extensively pushing for a renewal of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) it signed with Sri Lanka in 1995, but with new provisions. The new clauses would permit American military bases and provide free access and immunity for all US forces operating in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lankans, like many others in the world have seen the aftermath of US entry into several countries in the name of championing democracy. Their involvements and unlawful interventions in countries like Iraq and Libya have caused unprecedented havoc in middle east and killed thousands of innocents civilians .The US blatant disregard for international law and agreements was very much evident when US refused Iraqi parliament’s request for talks on troop withdrawals, when trump administration audaciously demanded billions of dollars as a compensation from Iraqi government as a prerequisite to leave the very country, they invaded in 2003 and plundered for years. Given all these US precedents, Can we at all be  blamed for being sceptic and thinking that the seeming generosity of the US is a diplomatic trap ? 

Sri Lankan civilization spans about three millennia with a recorded history of over 2,500 years. In our history, we have had several periods of stress and trial. But we have always had the courage, fortitude and commitment to come out of situations of stress .Most of all our kids must not be inherited a war tone Srilanka and proxy battleground of warring super powers. Therefor We have no choice but to resolve to conquer the three headed American hydra with brave resistance.

Nalin Beligaswatta