Senior US official visits Sri Lanka to strengthen strategic ties

Earlier this month, the head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, paid a three-day official visit to Sri Lanka, allegedly to provide humanitarian aid to farmers and other people seriously affected by the worsening economic crisis in the country. The real purpose of his visit, however, was to strengthen Washington’s strategic influence in Sri Lanka.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power, right, speaks as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung speaks during a press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Sunday, 11 September 2022. [AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena]

Power’s trip came just after President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government signed a staff-level deal with the International Monetary Fund to impose harsh austerity measures on the masses in exchange for a $2,000 emergency loan. $9 billion. It also came as Wickremesinghe faces mounting opposition from workers, youth and the rural masses, following the months-long mass popular uprising against unbearable social conditions that forced his predecessor, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, to resign.

Referring to Power’s visit, the USAID webpage said, “The United States is committed to addressing the urgent and intermediate needs facing Sri Lankans and to supporting a return to stability, and strengthen USAID support for inclusive development that promotes human rights, democracy, and good governance”.

Power, who shed crocodile tears over “the severe challenges” facing Sri Lankans, had discussions with small-scale farmers and sharecroppers, as well as women heads of households and their poor children. This was to “hear directly from you, Sri Lankans, the serious economic circumstances you are facing”, she said.

Anyone who believes that Power is a living angel flying to Colombo to alleviate the poverty that afflicts most Sri Lankans is seriously mistaken. Power is a conscious representative of US imperialism that has deliberately allowed COVID-19 to kill over a million Americans and is recklessly escalating war with Russia in Ukraine, which could lead to the nuclear annihilation of humanity.

Under false pretenses of preserving “democracy” and defending “human rights”, the United States has devastated the lives of millions of people, including countless children, through its endless military interventions and wars in Middle East and elsewhere over the past three decades. Wherever it intervenes, Washington’s posture on “poverty”, “human rights”, “democracy” and “good governance” serves to camouflage the ruthless predatory geopolitical interests of US imperialism.

In Colombo, Power announced $40 million to provide fertilizer to one million farmers, or $40 per farmer, and $20 million in additional aid to 5.7 million people. These are miniscule amounts compared to the more than $50 billion in military equipment and aid granted by the Biden administration to the Ukrainian government for the war against Russia.

Underscoring the Biden administration’s goal of fully integrating Colombo into the US-led NATO war against Russia, Power blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for rising food prices in Sri Lanka. In fact, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted global supply chains, leading to scarcity and inflation, was a response to Russia’s provocative and aggressive encirclement.

Heavily dependent on trade with Russia, the former Rajapakse government publicly refused in late February to “take sides” in the war in Ukraine. The Wickremesinghe regime still maintains this position.

In line with Washington’s attempts to tie Sri Lanka tightly to its military-strategic offensive against China, Power also used his visit to indirectly blame Beijing for the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Power told a press conference in Colombo that the United States was ready to help restructure Sri Lanka’s debt, but added: “It is imperative that all of Sri Lanka’s creditors, including the People’s Republic of China, cooperate in this process openly and on comparable terms with each other. .”

Power’s insinuating comment should be compared to the belligerent remarks she made about China last July in India. Speaking in New Delhi, she directly criticized China for “offering often opaque loan deals at higher interest rates than other lenders and funding a series of headline-grabbing infrastructure projects with an often questionable practical use for Sri Lankans”.

During his three-day visit to Sri Lanka, Power held talks with President Wickremesinghe, parliamentary opposition party leaders, representatives of various civil society organizations and private sector business leaders.

When meeting with Wickremesinghe, Power said, “Political reform and political accountability must go hand in hand with economic reform and economic accountability. In other words, the demands of the IMF, the United States, Europeans and other foreign and local creditors, for cuts in social protection, public sector jobs, as well as the privatization of State and higher taxes must be ruthlessly imposed.

Despite the mass working class opposition this will produce, Wickremesinghe, who has an unwavering record in implementing all previous IMF and US directives, will meekly follow Power’s orders.

In his discussions with opposition parliamentary parties, Power insisted that “spaces” should be provided for Sri Lanka’s “vibrant civil society” and opposition parties “to make their voices heard and hold the government accountable.” Put simply, this means that the leaders of the opposition parties must ensure the political stability of the Sri Lankan bourgeois regime and contain the mass opposition.

Among those meeting the powers were Sajith Premadasa, opposition leader Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), MA Sumenthiran, a parliamentarian from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem and parliamentarian Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Harini Amrasuriya.

While these opposition parties – SJB, TNA and JVP – fully support the demands of the IMF, they fear that direct support for the highly discredited Wickremesinghe regime will erode their support bases and attempt to maintain some political distance from the government.

Power insisted, however, that there could be no hesitation over IMF-dictated austerity and that the demagogic critique of Wickremesinghe must be dropped.

Any “lack of unity, polarization, division, is going to make it even more difficult to attract the kind of investment needed” and “perpetuate the impression of instability”, she said.

In other words, they must all line up and provide the Wickremesinghe government with the political stability it desperately needs in the face of growing popular opposition from workers, youth and the rural masses.

The increasing efforts of the United States to fully integrate Colombo into its military-strategic offensive against China and Russia highlight the reality that the entire region is caught in the vortex of global geopolitical tensions that is leading to a catastrophic world war, this once fought with nuclear weapons. .

These developments forcefully pose the urgency for the working class of Sri Lanka to join with their class brothers and sisters across South Asia and around the world to build an anti-war movement based on the struggle for socialism. international.

About Christopher Easley

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