The Credibilities Of Mr.Chris Patten Further Illustrated Towards A Disentitlement To His Dabbling In Lankan Affairs And His Wanni Frolics!
It appears that all the recent protestations of the more discerning
of the Sinhala Nation about the recently concluded European Union's
Chris Patten weren't for nothing, nor unfounded.
Between the Blinds
International relationships are conducted by individuals from putatively sovereign states. The Bush-Blair doctrine of the right to preventive war has put paid to even to this theory which has been a comforting and reassuring thought especially for small and economically week nations like Sri Lanka. Though geographically located in Asia, Japan as a major capitalist power of the world, is technically a nation of the rich North. That is why Apartheid South Africa conferred honorary white status to the Japanese, while the Chinese were classified as a yellow race. However charming and engaging they may be (like Chris Patten), in their dealings with poorer nations they are acutely conscious of their objective economic and geo-political interests. That is why in the final analysis it matters little what the political persuasions of an individual representative(conservative, liberal or social democratic) might be.
One must be wary of the modern Greeks, even when they come bearing gifts. Unfortunately Sri Lankan political leaders are turning Sri Lanka into a nation of sycophantic and supine people. It is not lack of information that has made the EU and Japan have ignore the fact LTTE remains an organisation that has neither renounced terrorism nor the campaign for the establishment of a separate state on the Island called Lanka. They are weighing their long terms interests in an united or divided Island. The three big economic blocks are pledging to smother Lanka with Aid provided it accepts their tutelage. This type of Aid is injected to spawn an Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome culturally and politically and done very 'economically'. So let's consider the great representative of the Euro block who has deigned to grace this land with an official visit.
The Unelected Jade Man
Chris Patten European Commissioner for External Affairs belonged to the centre left of the British Conservative Party. As Environment Minister he introduced the notorious Poll Tax a community charge by which a "a Duke paid as much as a dustman" The widely unpopular bill was to prove his undoing.
When John Major became Prime Minister he made Patten Chairman of the Conservative Party. As campaign manager he led the Conservative Party to victory at the 1992 elections, but Patten himself was roundly defeated in his home constituency of Bath by the Liberal Democratic candidate. Patten had held the seat from 1979. The defeat was a shattering humiliation for Patten. Even his Tory supporters had turned against him. I watched the results coming in on TV and was moved when Patten publicly wept. He was one of the nicer chaps in Thatcher's cabinet. The next time Patten struggled in vain to control his tears was when, dressed in the full regalia of a model Governor General (he would have made Gilbert and Sullivan proud) he stood to attention and to the strains of God Save the Queen watched as the Union Jack was lowered in Hong Kong. It was gingerly folded and handed to him. He then boarded the S.S Brittania and set sail for the Land of Hope and Glory. Perhaps he might have recalled how as a young man he lustily sang "Rule Brittania, Brittania rules the Waves" at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
Chris Patten was awarded the hundred dollars a year Governorship of Hong Kong as a consolation prize after he was rejected by British electors. He was the first politician to be appointed to this Post and he was determined to play politics in Britain's last colony in Asia. Patriotic Hong Kong citizens were outraged that a man who was rejected by British voters had been imposed on them with plenipotentiary powers. Patten was determined to rock the boat and leave a few incendiary devices which he calculated would explode after his departure. How one asseses Patten's performance depends on which side of the historical divide one is. Britain's passion for democracy took nearly a hundred years to surface. By the nineteen eighties Hong Kong become an economic power house in the region. Compared to Communist China, the people enjoyed considerable civic freedom.
It had a vigorous free press and a highly vocal people But none the less, the gifted and educated people of Hong were not given universal franchise. Political power was kept firmly in the hands of the Governor who enjoyed plenary Executive Power. Hong Kong had a legislative Council (Leg CO). Only a small proportion of the 60 member Council were elected but the system was skewed to ensure that opponents of colonialism could not assume significant influence in it. After bitter and acrimonious negotiations between Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Britain agreed to withdraw from Hong Kong. The future status Hong Kong was settled by an agreement between the Chinese authorities and the Thatcher government, of which Patten was a minister. Agreement was also reached on the Basic Law, the instrument by which Hong Kong would be administered. The Chinese pledged to accord Hong Kong the status of a Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the slogan One Country Two Systems. The territory would enjoy a high degree of autonomy especially in the economic field. In brash defiance of the Agreement Patten announced plans to democratize Hong Kong and introduce fully elected representation to the Leg Co. For decades pro democracy activists led by Martin Lee had been fighting political battles with the colonial authorities for the creation of pluralist system in a preferably independent Hong Kong. He and his colleagues found an unexpected ally in the new Governor.
Patten went ahead with his plans despite Chinese warnings that they would dismantle his LegCo after they took over. The whole exercise however was intend to provoke the Chinese into brinkmanship. But with a six thousand year old historical memory, one hundred years of British rule was a blip and five years of Patten was less than a minor irritant. The Chinese however reacted angrily and threatened to revoke the treaty and not implement the Basic Law. They hurled vicious and colourful invective against the stubborn Brit, perhaps the least insulting is their dismissal of him as a "jade faced whore". China stated it would abolish the Patten LegCo. And it has. Amidst hysteria in the British press and political establishment about Chinese totalitarianism and anti-democratic instincts, few seem to have queried why it took the 'mother of all parliaments' 150 years to deliver even an approximation of democratic rule to one of its colonies. And why Britain's rush of democratic blood to the head occurred only after it had agreed to the transfer of Hong Kong? For most of its 150 year history, Britain ruled Hong Kong in much the same way as the Chinese intended to. An unelected governor enjoyed the powers of an absolute monarch. Advice was furnished by an unelected body of civil servants and businessmen - all appointed to their posts by the governor.
Leung Kwok Hung, a leader of the April 5th pro-democracy movement, was arrested no less than eight times by the colonial administration for participating in "unlawful assemblies." Anti-Chinese discrimination was also widespread. For many years, Chinese were barred from membership of exclusive clubs, such as the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, just as they were prohibited from residing in certain designated areas of the territory. In addition, people without 'competence in English' were barred from serving on juries. As the head of Hong Kong's Law Society commented: "Is that a right to trial by one's peers?" As one commentator observed Patten's gung ho approach would serve nothing more than to relaunch his political career on his return. It has.
The Partitioning of China
As Patten shed tears at what the British press variously called the 'Fall'. the 'Take Over' and even 'Death' of Hong Kong, one wonders if his Oxford history taught him how Britain came to possess these territories? Hong Kong fell into British hands as a result of the infamous Opium Wars. Opium became the tool by which the British traders eventually broke open the Chinese market. This should be an object lesson to champions of the 'free and open market' like Milinda Moragoda, how this system was established consolidated and globalised. Britain had been buying increasing quantities of tea from China which was at the time the largest tea producer and exporter in the world, but it had few products that China was interested in buying by way of exchange. A resulting steady drain of British silver to pay for the tea was eventually stopped by Great Britain's ascendancy in India. Because of a rapidly increasing demand for tea in England, British merchants actively fostered the profitable exports of opium and cotton from India. An increasing Chinese addiction to opium fed a boom in imports of the drug and led to an unfavourable trade balance paid for by a steady loss of China's silver reserves. In the light of the economic effect of the opium trade plus the physical and mental deterioration of opium users, Chinese authorities banned the opium trade. At first this posed few obstacles to British merchants, who resorted to smuggling. But with stringent enforcement of the ban toward the end of the 1830s ( stores of opium were confiscated, and warehouses were closed down), British merchants turned to the British authorities to compel the Chinese open up the Chinese market for the sale of opium. In June 1840 the British fleet arrived at the mouth of the Canton River to begin the Opium War. The Chinese capitulated in 1842 and the resulting Treaty of Nankingthe first in a series of commercial treaties China was forced to sign over the yearsprovided for: (1) cession of Hong Kong to the British crown; (2) the opening of five treaty ports, where the British would have residence and trade rights; (3) the right of British nationals in China who were accused of criminal acts to be tried in British courts; and (4) the limitation of duties on imports and exports to a modest rate. Other European countries soon took advantage of this forcible opening of China; in a few years similar treaties were signed by China with the United States, France, and Russia. Taking advantage of the heroic Taiping Rebellion (185064) pressed for even more favourable trade treaties, culminating in the Second Opium War with France joining England against China (185660).
China was compelled to sign the Tientsin treaties which provided, among other things, for the right of foreign nationals to travel in the interior, the right of foreign ships to trade and patrol on the Yangtze River, the opening up of more treaty ports, and additional exclusive legal jurisdiction by foreign powers over their nationals residing in China. Such unequal treaties were extended over the years to grant further privileges to more and more Western nationsincluding Germany, Italy, Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and Austria-Hungary. Almost all of them members of the European Community today. By the beginning of the 20th century, some 90 Chinese ports had been opened to foreign control. The consulates in these 'concession territories' exercised legal jurisdiction over their nationals, who thereby escaped China's laws and tax collections. The foreign settlements had their own police forces and tax systems and ran their own affairs independently of nominally sovereign China. In these enclaves of White supremacy and white boards outside exclusive residential areas and clubs read: 'Chinese and Dogs Not Allowed'. such was the subjugation and humiliation of a great people in their own land. The 'coolies' trade of impoverished Chinese became a lucrative source of wealth for European merchants. These coolies were forced to forced grovel and kow tow before their white master even more than they did their own feudal overlords.
That is why whether they supported Communism or not a thrill of national pride shot through every Chinese around the globe when after winning the Revolution Mao Zedong declared from the balcony of the Imperial Palace "The Chinese People have stood up and they shall never, never bow their heads again". Ministers of the present government make a song and a dance about the fact that China has opened up its markets for free trade, to Multinationals and had allowed a measure of private enterprise. But it is doing so on its terms. It does not allow the World or IMF to dictate its national budgets. Or sell it heritage for a mess of pottage.
Chris Patten may have shed a tear when Hong was lost but when he flies away from Lanka, it may with the comforting thought that the West is about to 'Regain' another strategically placed Asian Island, ideally speaking, - divided into two zones of influence.
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