The Janatha Vimukthi Peramina’s (JVP) protest on Friday (February 8) in Colombo demanding the ceasing of imperialist oppression of Venezuela by the USA is of much importance to Sri Lanka.
This is because this is a time when the USA is showing a great interest to establish a military base in Sri Lanka. Critics point out that this all boils down to sowing the seeds of US imperialism in Sri Lanka soil.
Both Venezuela and Sri Lanka share a common feature; they are debt-ridden and are exposed to seeing themselves being controlled by the global super powers. Venezuela is an oil rich country, but of late its economy has crashed with the country’s inflation rising to as high as 2000% in 2018. Apart from the hyperinflation that cripples this nation, the US has made life miserable in the country by imposing ‘sanctions’.
What’s to the advantage of the USA is Premier Wickremesinghe’s healthy relationship with the West. This mentality of Wickremesinghe compels him to say yes to America
The USA has a way of tightening the screws on a nation it dislikes. At present there is a food shortage in Venezuela. People are also carrying less cash and using mobile phone apps and credit cards as preferred modes of payment. President Nicolas Maduro introduced a digital currency, but US President Donald Trump stifled that initiative by signing an executive order and calling the scheme a scam.
The USA is quite persistent in promoting its interests in other countries. The Americans are hellbent on establishing a military base in Sri Lanka. This will enable them to secure supplies and services on the seas. For this to happen the US must be granted permission to establish a logistics hub in Sri Lanka.
But the talk now is that the Americans are eyeing on building a military base in Sri Lanka. History has it that the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) had some time during the past accorded permission to the US Navy to use the island as a military base. But that facility which the Americans enjoyed ceased to exist when the civil war in Sri Lanka intensified in 1983.
The USA is once again intending to build a military base in Sri Lanka because it intends including the island in its security ring. There has been some dialogue between the two nations and the US recently sent a military ship to the island on a goodwill mission. The UNP is now accused of taking the country back to the times when imperialist forces were in control of her. The US Embassy has been quick to deny that America intends to have a military base in Sri Lanka.
Three countries China, India and America have shown great interest in establishing their presence in the island nation. Already China has made a claim to the Hambantota Port. The port was given over to the Chinese on a 99-year lease after the GoSL failed to settle loans obtained from China amounting to US $ 1.4 billion. The Government of India too is involved in certain pivotal construction work in the country; which leaves USA itching to have a stake in the island and be counted.
What’s to the advantage of the USA is Premier Wickremesinghe’s healthy relationship with the West. This mentality of Wickremesinghe compels him to say yes to America. Already the USA has showed concerns about China’s increasing presence in Sri Lanka. Wickremesinghe has consoled the Trump Administration by rejecting claims that the Chinese might set up a ‘forward military base’.
USA has an ally
Sri Lanka is vulnerable to foreign influence given that its geographical location makes it important from a naval strategic point of view. The problems will surface if the GoSL starts opposing the views and requirements of the USA. This is what has happened in Venezuela. The USA and Venezuela benefited from a bilateral agreement which aided trade and investment. But the trade ties were badly strained in January when Venezuela pulled out as a party to the agreement. This was in protest of Trump announcing that he recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president.
Right now the USA has an ally in Wickremesinghe where Americas’ interests in Sri Lanka are concerned. The USA might not cause disruption in the island as long as the Sri Lankan premier accommodates America’s wishes. Wickremesinghe like how former President Mahinda Rajapaksa played the balancing game, in dealing with foreign forces, must keep America happy and content. Americans like diplomacy and cooperation, but love to go to war against weak nations that are led by arrogant leaders.
The JVP protest nudges the Wickremesinghe Government that this regime can accommodate the USA, but not in a manner which destroys the country’s hard earned peace
Right now the Americans see no avenue to cause disruption in the island because their method of using the opposition won’t work. Wickremesinghe on the other hand is under pressure because the country’s masses have been vociferous about his Government’s business dealings and leasing agreements with other nations; his detractors echoing that he is selling national assets through these deals.
In this context the protests staged by the JVP in support of Venezuela carries much importance because this nudges the Wickremesinghe Government that this regime can accommodate the USA, but not in a manner which destroys the country’s hard earned peace.
Sri Lanka’s Marxist JVP or People’s Liberation Front supporters shout slogans outside the US Embassy in Colombo in protest against USA’s imperialist oppression of Venezuela. (AFP)