Sri Lanka Express

"Sri Lanka might become a Libya or Cyprus"

Gammanpila on "foreignization" and growing U.S., Chinese, Indian presence

Member of Parliament Udaya Gammanpila on  a whirlwind 5-day visit to Southern California to attend the stupa-unveiling ceremony at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara managed to squeeze in a meeting with a group of expatriates  (report below) and attend a special Buddha Puja commemorating Sri Lankan war heroes while plying between Los Angeles and San Diego, where his family members live, a distance of 120 miles each way.    Arriving on May 18 he boarded the Colombo-bound 23-hour flight from Los Angeles on May 22.  
    L-R: Udaya Gammanpila, Ajantha SriRamya, Kirula Hettigoda, Kalu Gune
Sri Lanka Express News

Visiting Member of parliament Udaya Gammanpila speaking to a group of expatriates about the current situation in Sri Lanka emphasized the threat to the nation’s sovereignty from deals being struck with outside powers.  

“We are not greatly concerned about issues like privatization, especially of non-strategic assets.  The biggest concern is that portions of the country are being given away to foreign nations.  This government made deals just to come to power.  And now we are facing the consequences.  Foreignization is the most alarming issue for Sri Lanka,” he said at a meeting May 18 at a conference hall in Marina Del Rey..

He warned that with India, China, and USA each staking various claims and demands at the same time, Sri Lanka will turn into a Cyprus or Libya before long.
There’s a great deal of interest in Sri Lanka because of its strategic importance and its potential to succeed Singapore as a trading hub.  With India virtually getting control of Trincomalee and China taking over Hambantota, Sri Lanka is losing control of its resources and its ability to leverage its location.   China and India are both emerging superpowers and once they get a foothold it will be almost impossible to shake them off.  

“We can undo agreements made with smaller nations.  What can we do if China refuses to leave?”

He said the demeanor and attitude of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Sri Lankan earlier this month was a foreshadowing of things to come.
“He spoke as if he was the ruler [of Sri Lanka] and our prime ministers was more like a chief minister or appointed governor.”

An example, said Gammanpila, was Modi’s announcement on the extension of Indian ambulance services currently being provided free in Sri Lanka’s western province. 

“Mr. Modi who was supposedly in the country to celebrate Vesak, made an announcement that India had made a decision to extend ambulance service to other provinces, nationwide.  Sri Lanka is a sovereign state.  How can another country make decisions for us unilaterally? “

The Indian prime minister has been making similar statements about the controversial “Hanuman Bridge”and other economic and transhipment ties with Sri Lanka while Prime Minister Wickremasinghe is denying them, he added.  

Regarding proposed constitutional changes from a unitary to a federal system, Mr. Gammanpila said it is not attracting sufficient attention because the constitution is not viewed as having a direct impact on special-interest groups such as doctors or trade unions.

 “There are interest groups engaged in issues such as pensions and Employee Provident Fund (EPF), SAITM (South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine), etc., but the most critical issue, which is the proposal for a federal constitution, is being sidelined,” said Gammanpila who is also the leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya.
Further, the controversy over Buddhism being given “foremost place” in the constitution is being used to distract the public from the more important federalism issue.   The reference to Buddhism is just a sentence in the constitution. 

When the debate on a new constitution gains momentum, there is bound to be an uproar and the Buddhism issue will be a bargaining chip for the government.

“The government will “compromise” and agree to retain that sentence in the constitution assuring prominence to Buddhism while the bigger issue of federalism will be allowed to pass.”

Gammanpila expressed concern that the government is trying to buy the silence of  monks, who might otherwise protest these changes, by offering temples throughout the country grants ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to 30 lakhs.