Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Candidate for a New NATO Base?

Sri Lanka, Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019: More than half a dozen bomb blasts shook the country killing from 250 to more than 350 people. Depending on who counts, the death toll varies. The devastation took place in several catholic churches and luxury hotels. Other explosions, including from – what they say – are suicide bombers, have since killed another several dozens of people. Many are children, women – christian worshippers. Why the luxury hotels? Western (Christian) tourists?

Yesterday, another explosion ripped through a suspicious building, killing 18, including children and women. Again, they, the ‘authorities’, say suicide bombers, who didn’t want their ‘cache’ to be discovered. Conveniently they are all dead – the “suicide bombers”. Nobody can ask them any questions.

There was a lot of confusion, and still is, all through Sri Lanka. Nobody claimed credit for the massacres. There were rumors that Sri Lanka’s President received warnings ahead of the attacks from foreign intelligence, but ignored them. The President denies these allegations. And the explosions continue.

Finally, the verdict is in. The culprits are an Islamic terrorist group, associated with ISIS. What else is new?

Sri Lanka’s population is composed of about 70% Buddhists, 13% Hindus, almost 10% Muslims, mainly Sunni, the Salafi version, and about 7% Christians. The New York Times reports that the accused mastermind of the terror attacks was strongly influenced by Wahhabism, the same extreme hardliners that control most of Saudi Arabia.

Hatred between religions seems on the rise. In New Zealand a few weeks ago a white supremacist assaulted a mosque, killing 50. This past weekend, a shooting in a Synagogue near San Diego, California, killed a woman. The murderer said he was inspired by the New Zealand massacre. Are these spontaneous, interreligious mini-wars part of a foreign directed ‘divide to conquer’ effort, a strategy that has been used by empires for centuries, but seems to be alive and well with the current Washington based empire?

MintPress News reports that “Sri Lanka Easter attacks are the handiwork of terrorists returning from fighting in Syria, practicing the Saudi-backed Wahhabi Salafist ideology,” adding, though not confirmed yet, they, [the attacks], are in keeping with the modus operandi of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi terrorism worldwide. [The] Saudi sponsorship of Salafi Wahhabi dogma [is found] across the globe. From Boko Haram to ISIS, and from the Taliban to Al Qaeda, a common ideological thread runs through these terror groups. This is the Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi Salafi ideology whose South Asian counterpart is Deobandi.  For abbreviation purposes, it is becoming increasingly common to term this interconnected ideology as WSD (Wahhabi Salafi Deobandi).”

May we expect a wave of Saudi-sponsored WSD terrorism in the east too?  Is the horror Saudi government protected by the US, because it does its bidding? And this bidding leads to making gradually Islam extremism the justification for NATO bases around the globe?  Perhaps in Sri Lanka, tomorrow? So far Sri Lanka is clean from NATO. Sri Lanka has not even an association agreement with NATO.

Just look at the world-geostrategic location of Sri Lanka, linking the Arabian Sea with the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka may also have a direct, open-sea connection with the small British island of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago, north-east of Madagascar. Diego Garcia hosts the US’s largest Navy base outside the American Continent. Many of the drone killings in Yemen, Syria and other places in the Middle East originate from Diego Garcia. The “civil war” in Syria was (and still is) largely directed from Diego Garcia, as well as from Djibouti.

Wouldn’t it be logical for NATO to set up base in Sri Lanka to control South East Asia? Saudi guided WSD attacks would create the necessary chaos justifying all the AngloZionist secret services – plus NATO – to descend on Colombo to create further protests and anarchy, a never-ending internal strife, giving the war industry a new never-ending flow of profit, hence, further justifying the never-ending war on terror and thereby moving yet an inch closer to Full Spectrum Dominance over Mother Earth and her hapless spectators — what western humanity has become — a bunch of complacent consumers, drenched in turbo-capitalist market ideology, too comfortable to go on the barricades.

The key and engine to all of this is NATO, whose modus operandi is killing for a living, for dominance and for profit. If there is ever to be Peace, and that’s what the vast majority of the inhabitants of this globe wants – I’m not exaggerating pretending that 99.99% of world population wants to live in peace – then NATO must go. NATO must be dismantled.

So, Europe which has the largest membership in NATO (27 out of 29 nations) has to put the money where her mouth is: Europe calls for Peace, Europe claims to be Peace-loving – really? Then put your money into creating Peace – pulling out of NATO, refusing at once to fund this killing machine under the pretext of “protecting Europe”. Protecting Europe from what? From whom? Not from Russia, despite all the highly propagandized and highly corporate-funded Russiagate/Russia phobia, exacerbated by a new artificially implanted fear – China. These countries have no history of expansion, like the west.

They only seek friendly relations of trade, of transport, cultural and research interconnectivity within the supercontinent, Eurasia, and ultimately, they promote a multi-polar world. The best example is the Chinese President Xi’s ingenuity, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that just finished its highly successful forum in Beijing, where more than 120 nations signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) and cooperation agreements with China for tens of billions of dollars equivalent. What a way of cooperating, instead of sowing western-style belligerence.

Europe and the rest of the world is not in danger, except in danger of itself for being a vassal of the US and for hosting 30-plus NATO bases which would be first in the line of fire, if the east is forced to defend itself from that permanent Pentagon-NATO driven aggression.

Europe withhold your funding for NATO, get out of NATO, dismantle NATO NOW, before NATO sets up yet another base in Asia, before NATO spreads more death around the globe.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings

The number of dead is bound to rise, already standing at more than three hundred.  The bombs, worn by seven suicide bombers, struck at three churches during the period of Easter Sunday worship, and three hotels.  As the dead were counted and the wounded accounted for, the situation through the glass darkly was a troubled one.  Information relayed had either been ignored or discounted. In some cases, it never reached necessary recipients.

While the individuals behind the bombings were hardly forthcoming about their handiwork, there were suggestions as early as April 4 from Indian security sources that one group was readying to initiate various attacks.  National Thowheeth Jama’ath, an Islamic group, had piqued the interest of police enough to lead to the identification of members and their addresses on April 11.

One of the suicide bombers, it transpired, had also been arrested some few months prior on suspicion of vandalizing a statue of Buddha.  Such acts of serious desecration were not alien to the NTJ; the use of bombings on such scale was, however, not their forte.

On Monday, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, confirmed what had already been a fast held suspicion: even after the warning of April 4, the prime minister and his associates had been “completely blind to the situation.”

The picture painted by the minister seemed a gruesome admission of defiance in the face of detailed warnings.  Intelligence agencies had “informed, from time to time, starting from April 4, 48 hours before the attacks and finally ten minutes before the tragedy struck.  They gave warnings about a possible attack on April 4 for the first time.”  From then on, the National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis kept the Inspector General Police (IGP) abreast of the “imminent attacks” having “actually informed that an organisation called ‘Thowheed Jamath’ planned suicide attacks and had even mentioned their names.”

Scenes of confusion and dangerously comic dysfunction unfolded in the government.  Despite various organs being informed about the threat – the ministerial security division (MSD), the judicial security division, and security divisions of former presidents and the Diplomatic Security Unit, there was a failure, according to Senaratne, “to warn the Prime Ministerial Security Division (PMSD) and the Presidential Security Division (PSD) of the attacks.”  When the PM attempted to convene a security council meeting, no one turned up.  When the President had made a previous effort to do the same thing, there was a delay of 20 minutes.  He had to “sit in the State Defence Minister’s room for some time.”  Nor was the Tourism Minister, John Amaratunga, briefed.  “Unfortunately, I did not know anything about it.”

Efforts to minimise, contain and deflect have become standard fare, with blithe ignorance forming the central defence.  Rich lashings of blame are also in full circulation.  This gives the air of monstrous acceptance: we bungled, but haven’t we before?  Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Monday, felt that the intelligence assessments had not warranted a serious, full security response, despite the level of detail supplied, and their frequency.  “Intelligence,” he stated disingenuously, “never indicated that it’s going to be an attack on this magnitude.  They were talking about isolated incidents.  Besides, there is no emergency in this country.  We cannot request the armed forces to come and assist as we can only depend on the police.”

Having claimed the received intelligence pointed to mere potential “isolated incidents” (the suggestion here is that a monstrous act, when seen as an isolated one, can be rationalised according to a security and ethical calculus; in short, more permissible), Fernando proceeded to normalise the entire episode.  “It’s not the first time a bomb went off in this country.  During the height of the war, when emergency regulations were in force and roadblocks installed at every two kilometres, bombs went off.  Why are you trying to isolate this unfortunate incident?”

At the highest levels, the Sri Lankan government has suffered political sclerosis.  President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have been waging wars cold and hot against each other for some time.  When Wickremesinghe was re-appointed after being sacked by the cranky Sirisena in December last year, in turn replacing a cantankerous Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President extolled his own democratic credentials.  While he held a personal dislike for his appointee, he also respected “the parliamentary tradition”.

The post-attack reaction is also proving to be an unhinged affair.  Sri Lankan authorities immediately imposed a social media blackout.  Dazed and confused as officials are, the idea of not containing an agitated public as inquiries are conducted seemed a grave threat.  Besides, a country bathed in the blood of decades of communal violence continues to teeter before the next provocation, the next inflammatory message of inspired retribution.

There was little pride in asserting that the group was “a local organisation”, with all suicide bombers having been Sri Lankan citizens.  But not wishing it to be an entirely indigenous affair, Senaratne wished to speculate that, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”  Another source of blame had been identified.

As Fernando surmised, it would be foolish to put too much stock in future efforts on the part of the government.  Yes, assistance was being sought from Interpol, the FBI and the Australian Federal Police. But he could not “take confidence with terrorism.  No country in the world can assure that it’s not going to happen.  But we are trying our best.”  A brutally frank response, though hardly a cleansing exculpation.

Lethal Fluctuations: The Death Penalty in Asia

The Malaysian government last year expressed a surprise change of heart on a policy long held dear; it would reconsider the death penalty. The case of Muhammad Lukman, sentenced to death in August for the purchase and sharing of medicinal marijuana, did much to stimulate outrage.  On October 10th, law minister Liew Vui Keong announced that it would be abolished.  Doing so would leave such last bastions as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

In other parts, capital punishment is either continuing its grim dance (in Singapore, usage is on the rise; in Vietnam, it remains consistently high) or getting back in business, singing its deadly siren song.  Killing people in the name of state vengeance is becoming vogue even as it retreats in other contexts.  The Kingdom of Brunei, despite having it on the books since the days of being a British protectorate, is only now contemplating, in all seriousness, putting people to death who have a liking for, or find themselves committing, sodomy.  (Lesbian reverie will see a penalty of 40 lashes and a potential prison sentence of 10 years.)

In the Philippines, an aggressive, insistent President Rodrigo Duterte has proven something of a trail blazer, scorching his way through human rights quibbles and filling the morgues.   In July 2017, he explained the rationale for using capital punishment without mercy in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).  “It is time for us to fulfil our mandate to protect our people.  Tapos na’yan.  For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue.  Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it’s also about retribution.”

Duterte’s view of the penal code is stripped of ornate reasoning.  It is one of vengeance and pessimism, marshalled against any hope of restorative justice or therapeutic reform.  The law, a legacy of the Spaniards and then translated into English, with revisions, “is the essence of retribution.”  The attitude there involved “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  You took life, you must pay with it.  That is the only way to even.  You can’t place a premium on the human mind that he will go straight.”

The result has been one of carnage: over 5,000 deaths between July 1, 2016 and November 30, 2018, if you believe the official figures, or the greater number of 12,000, if you believe in activist assessments.  This pool drew on a total of 164,265 arrests (“drug personalities”, no less) as part of 115,435 anti-drugs operations.

In Sri Lanka, the interest has also been rekindled, inspired, in no small part, by the blood lust of the Philippines leader.  The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena felt moved by Duterte’s efforts to combat drug trafficking, a true “example to the world”.  “I hope to carry out the first hanging within a month or two.  I appeal to human rights organisations not to try to pressure us on this decision.”  From a prison population of 1299 facing capital punishment, 48 are convicted drug offenders.

The Sri Lankan case had a twist.  While Sirisena had announced an end to the 43-year moratorium on capital punishment for drug-related crimes, complemented by Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale’s clearing of the decks for five drug convicts to be dispatched, a reality started to sink in: the state lacked the necessary trained instruments of death.  The moratorium had been so lengthy so as to make the system rust.  Expertise in breaking necks, in other words, was lacking. The last executioner to reach retirement age left the post in 2014.  Three others have spent short stints gazing at unused gallows without rewarded effort.

Advertisements to fill the vacancy were duly put out for two hangmen.  In the Daily News, a call out for applications with “an excellent moral character” was made.  They would also have to pass a test of “mind and mental strength”.

Such debates about the formalised death penalty in the Philippines and Sri Lanka avoid the obvious point.  Where to with the death squads who have donned extra-judicial uniforms?  Duterte’s encouragement of police brutality and extra-judicial killings (“my only sin,” he claims) is the stuff of legend.  Sri Lanka can also count itself as an enthusiast in the extra-judicial killing game.  In some states, the death penalty, dormant or otherwise, is a reminder about how state operatives go about their business of sowing terror when they prefer to avoid courts.

While the death penalty has, at its core, a flawed philosophy, its attractiveness often lies in its sheer conclusiveness.  Such decisions are final, doing away with the problem.  They are economic – a corpse is less of a strain on the public purse than a living inmate.  To that end, imposing the death penalty can result from trivial impulses.

Such monstrous triviality was recently in play in Thailand. In Phuket, the airport authorities have been entertaining the possibility of grave punishments for those taking “selfies” on Mai Khao Beach, a site known for sightings of low, incoming aircraft.

“People and tourists will not be allowed to enter this area to take photos,” an emphatic Phuket airport chief Wichit Kaeothaithiam has claimed.  He issued further warnings: no drones, no shining lights, quite frankly nothing at all to distract incoming planes, would be tolerated.  Violating the provisions of the Air Navigation Act was a matter, quite literally, of death.  “The maximum penalty is the death sentence.”  Distractive idiocy, the authorities in Phuket suggest, is no excuse.