Lanka's new Nordic overlords
By Sesha Samarajiwa
If you think we live in a post-colonial world, think again. Colonialism is alive and thriving. I was born in post-colonial Ceylon as it was then known. The country re-adopted her ancient name, Sri Lanka, in 1972. But the vassal status of this and numerous postcolonial countries like her testifies to the continuing dominance and rapacity of the West.
The sorry flags of 'independence' flutter wimpily from Latin America to Africa to Asia. But for all their swagger and bluster, the reality is that the lords of the earth are today, as they were yesterday, the West, a West tightening its stranglehold over the rest. Their armadas still rule the seas and their robber barons, under the guise of globalism, spread their tentacles of exploitation as they have done for 500 years; only now their men-of-war prowl the seven seas and, as befits the times, makes the occasional PR foray, as their war planes bomb the natives into submission.
When Laurenco De Almeida's ship washed ashore in Colombo Bay in 1505, the first thing the young Portuguese captain the first European to set foot on Lanka -- did was to carve a cross on a rock and vow to convert the heathens of this island to Catholicism. For about 150 years, our first overlords from Europe went about the task with gusto, their cross bearing priests backed by gun-toting soldados.
The Portuguese came to this part of the world to profit from the lucrative spice trade. To do that, they had to oust the Arabs and rule the seas. Having accomplished that, they soon set about consolidating their power, first by erecting a fort, then through canny priests interfering in local politics with Machiavellian ruthlessness. Thus began a long history of European dominance in Lanka and a chronic Uncle Tom mentality among the locals.
The Dutch came and whipped the Portuguese. Then they held sway for another 150 years or so until the British decided it was their turn to bleed Lanka. The British stuck around without a by-your-leave, much less a visa for about 150 years until a combination of Gandhian satyagraha politics and Bhosian violent resistance made the Raj go sour on the British. After losing the Raj in 1947, it was a matter of course for Ceylon to be granted independence. That happened in 1948: the British granted independence to Ceylon on a platter, having made sure that power was in the hands of a native elite of Brown Sahibs who rode horses in top hat and tailcoat, mimicking their masters: the comprador class.
Although the country reclaimed its ancient name, the Ceylon Tourist Board and the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board carried on regardless. They still sell Ceylon Tea. Sadly, waiters overseas inquiring about one's beverage of choice still ask whether one wants English Tea, even as the tea bag label bearing a soggy lion flops over the cup. That, however, is another matter.
What matters is the country's chronic, abject neocolonial status. Granted the World Bank and the like play their role insidiously, tightening the noose of perpetual subjugation around Sri Lanka's neck. Our latest European overlords, however, dominate local affairs with impunity. What we have is a group of citizens are waging war against a duly elected government with the avowed intention of setting up a separate state.
Lofty though the aim may seem, it's nothing but a land grab by a formidable warlord, ably assisted by Kautilyan counselors, robotic suicide bombers, dope pushers and 'tax agents' collecting kappan from the Tamil Diaspora. Their calling card is murder and mayhem, their signature symphony suicide bombings, assassinations, destruction of state property and armed rebellion. Undoubtedly, they are good fighters who, on more than one occasion, routed the in-fighting Sri Lankan armed forces.
The Tigers have now acquired aerial capability. Ironically, it was not Sri Lankan intelligence that made the detection; the kudos must go to veteran investigative reporter Iqbal Athas, who had to keep ringing alarm bells from the rooftops until our leaders paid any attention. Even after publishing (and republishing) a solid dossier of proof, Madam President expresses incredulity. So much for leadership, but Air Tigers is a scary prospect.
So when the Sri Lankan government finally wakes up to the threat and threatens to bomb the Tiger airstrip, as any government has the right to do in defense of its citizens, the Norwegians go "No Way, Jose." They have to ensure that the airstrip remains functional so that Air Tigers can take off on murderous missions at will. Bizarre peace monitors these.
Let me cite just two cases to illustrate Norwegian partiality to the Tigers. Indian Intelligence in the form of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has provided raw data that is irrevocable proof that the Norwegians are not an impartial bunch of goody-two-feet: they are partial to the Tigers, their blue-eyed black boys.
When female Tigers shot dead a young soldier who strayed into no-man's land, a Norwegian woman peace keeper was quick to defend the Tiger woman. Never mind that the poor sod was the sole breadwinner for an extended family now in dire straits. As far as this patronizing ice queen is concerned, the soldier boy got what he deserved.
If we fellow islanders can't resolve our differences between ourselves, why can we not invite a neutral Asian power? Why not give exclusive responsibility to the Japanese to keep the peace, if we are hesitant to place full confidence in Big Brother next door? Is it because a white skin still signifies a status a higher than that of a mere Asian, even if it be the Japanese who have earned their status through sheer grit, acumen and, more importantly, by having shown that the West is not invincible militarily or economically.
Not long after they began industrialization, the Japanese sank every last ship in imperial Russian armada that came to grab some Japanese islands. We don't need to elaborate the ferocious fight they put up during WWII. There are more Japanese automobiles in the West than local brands. They also seem to have a genuine affection for Sri Lanka. Consider their largesse in the form of hospitals and introducing TV to Sri Lanka.
If we were too take an overly cynical view of the latter benevolence, we could say that they were investing in opening a new market for their TV makers. Even so, it has not been a bad deal. By and large, people are delighted with their TV, not least the politicians who use it as a propaganda tool. So, if we need foreign peacemakers, could we not consider placing our considered faith in Japan? Whatever the case may be, is it not time to shake off the shackles of white worship?
Norway's sinister agenda bodes ill for Lanka. Behind the suave façade beats the heart of a marauding Viking. It is time to learn the lessons from the long history of European subterfuge, for those who refuse to do so are doomed to repeat them.
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