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Hambantota Port Deal – Timely Turning Point For Sri Lanka

By Trevor Jayetileke

Many have commented about the Hambantota Port built with Chinese loans as a bad investment and say it is a mistake and term it a ‘White Elephant’. In my perception I look at it differently and opine that it is an opportunity that we have again been given to regain our rightful place in the World.  The previous opportunity we got was the Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 that wrecked us as a Nation but a great opportunity to rise out of Adversity was squandered when it was used for personal gain of a cabal who are still under investigation for fraudulent use of Tsunami Funds. The tsunami which devastated the Eastern Seaboard while awakening the people in those provinces who were in isolation so long after the British left the Naval and Air Base in Trincomalee in the late 50’s, also brought with it much goodness  through the alchemy of the sea bed by Tectonic  Subduction  giving us  an enhanced bonanza of  mineral sands and oil/gas resources. Today the SL agents of the VESTED INTEREST posted to the vital institutions like the ‘Think Tanks’ and Wizards of sorts developing our petroleum resources till very recently playing a dubious role to deviate and also delay  unearthing of our natural resources which will benefit the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and still remaining Burghers alike  to enjoy its benefits and live like a happy family without any strife.  In the meantime SL is in ICU on the Triple drip of the WB/IMF/ADB lest we look for alternate Saline.  Just because we are a Logistic Power Point in the Indian Ocean we are meat in the Geopolitical  sandwich  of  the two Players who wish to have a firm grip  on the International sea lane from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca  that has been  under the Pacific Command of the US but since the ditching of the TPP by President Trump the status of Pacific Command in the Indian Ocean and this void is  been contested by both China and India who assumes that it is their back yard and that China has to show reciprocal respect to the Indian stance that the South China Sea is the backyard of China. But both China and India share the same Bottleneck in their expansion plans of their economic- orbits though in two opposite direction in crossing this bottleneck which remains a Dilemma for both.  So it in the best interest of the Asia Pacific that India and China corporate for the common good of all. My personal opinion is that the Asia Pacific needs a new Sea Route that deviates from the International Sea Lane at Hambantota and find its way into the South China Sea through the Kra and could be beneficial to the entire Asia Pacific community and specially to the Mekong trio Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and also  the Bay of Bengal countries Bangladesh and Myanmar and with the ASEAN  after 50 years  with nothing much to celebrate except the Dragon.

The World GDP is about US$75 Trillion but has debts of over US$200 Trillion while  the total debt of Sri Lanka that is now  about  75% of its total GDP (US$75 Billion)  in comparison is  like just a Teardrop in the Indian Ocean when one considers the Logistics Leverage potential Sri Lanka has to connect   as a Linchpin  to the Xi Jingpin’s  Mega plan of the Road Belt Initiative and new Maritime Silk Route to expand the Chinese Economic Orbit into Africa, Middle East and Europe.  With the Hambantota Port deal between China  and Sri Lanka signed/sealed on the 29th of July 2017 Sri Lanka could has much hope left to face the future.  China with a sovereign wealth fund of US$6 Trillion  has  spent half of it so far promoting  the ‘Xi Jinping  Thoughts’ and  chosen  Sri Lanka  to be its Running Mate as we share the Relics of the Orient giving us a opportunity we just cannot ignore.

Mao Zedong had a Vision or Thoughts for China and his thoughts would have just remained as thoughts if President Nixon of the US did not take the initiative to go to China in 1972 and   meet Mao who was so ill and  mostly in Bed looked after by a ‘Gang of Four’ Women who drove the 10 year Cultural Revolution had to give him a complete makeover with intense exercise  to be ready for that Big Day when Mao was just able get up and walk towards  the advancing Nixon and shake hands and  mutually agree that the US and China could do business together and the Free Market was born for China, and Chou En-Lai the PM took over from there and the rest is History with China building  a Sovereign Wealth Fund by been since the Manufacturing Hub for the US.  China had helped the US to ease out of the Vietnam War and thereafter recognised the People’s Republic as One China.

Mao unlike the Buddha did not transcend meditating under a Bo Tree but under the teachings of Confucius. Those who have visions for their countries and not prepared to reach for high standards of Ethics cannot have it both ways by trying to live on ground where Bo trees grow and also in skyscrapers from which one could only be enlightened by celestial bodies like the Sun, Moon and Stars in the Sky which are temporary sightings.  On the 21st of August the citizens of 14 states in the US will see an rare eclipse of the Sun which will last less than three minutes which will transit at a tangent from west to east but cause complete  Darkness at Noon. The famous Cicero stood against  the mighty Roman Emperor Ceaser  and said that  ‘Nothing is Good except what is Morally Good’ , and our own Leaders (Politicians and Bureaucrats) need to have a good Introspection of their  Moral fibre and see whether they are only elected to  perfecting the  art of politics  by doing next to nothing   for its People.  The free market in Sri Lanka born through the thoughts of JR in 1978 has still to show its human face to the trodden classes of Sri Lanka in the four corners while mainly catering to the elite class in the centre (Western Province) and to see in this Modern Age the NP with the best resources and brains not even contributing 4% to the total GDP of Sri Lanka is unacceptable for a country blessed with the Tooth Relic  of the Buddha.  Going back to the sands of Time King Moggallana l ruled Ceylon religiously for 18 years between 491-508 AD and coincidentally the baby Elephant named Migara (Moggallana’s confidante) was gifted by MR to China during his visit to China in 2007. This King was the first to have coast guards (Naval Force) for protection of Ceylon from invading forces. The Arms Bowl of the Buddha (the Relics of the Orient) was with us till we gave it to China when Marco Polo visited Ceylon between 1292-94 which pleased the then Mongolian King of China., and that bond has lasted the test of time, and even helped negotiate the Rubber Rice Barter between us in Nov’1952 with Goodwill to follow.

The Forum we have to focus on most is the ‘Galle Dialogue which should be renamed the ‘Hambantota Dialogue’ this November, and held in Hambantota not Colombo or Galle as before. In Constitution making we could consider ideas such as parts of the Eastern province been merged into the part of the Southern Province and in turn giving up Trinco Port to  be a part of Rajarata, and even cede the Hambantota Port to the Eastern Province and  call the merged province as the Ruhuna, making  a total of 5 Provinces with Japane, Mahaveli and Mayarate,  and this Plan of  Lanerolle/Fernando ‘Development orientated  Model’ was mooted way back in the 60’s. Development by devolving of Central Political Power to the Periphery is a long ignored need that has led us to this abyss and if not for the timely arrival of China we would have ended up in pieces.

Finally coming to the Saga of oil exploration the PRDS another Government Monopoly also fell victim to the ‘High Rise Syndrome’ when it moved  from Flower Rd. to the Ceylinco Tower in early 2013., and spent more time  building personal Ivory Towers than Drilling  for our Natural Resources creatively.

It is time we take serious note of the remarks of our erudite Governor of the Central Bank when he has cautioned us of an impending bubble and the China Sri Lanka Hambantota Port Deal could not have come at a more expedient time  when we needed to divert our efforts of using Brains and Matter more productively and connect with Supply Chain Solutions in the New World Order led by China.

Trevor Jayetileke  (former Advisor to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources Development of SL)

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