So are we famous, being taken note of and reported on by the most prestigious of news relaying services in the world? You will have to excuse my partisan-ness. I am an Anglophile and rather conservative so give me the BBC any time in preference to CNN, Fox News and Al Jazeera, even our own news channels.
To continue that query posed at the beginning of the article – is our unique quality of serendipity again in the forefront? Have we been voted all over again as the best tourist destination? Has Sri Lankans achieved great heights academically, in research, a discovery, an invention or excelled in sports or the arts? Not one recently except for a male sprinter.
We are featured by BBC because we are infamous; a failure in the world; a nation with immense potential pushed way down to hit rock bottom. And was it a natural disaster or quirk of nature that hit us? Not at all! Our decline, degradation and disgrace is man-made; the ordinary population a victim of the mismanagement of those in power; the greed and insatiable grabbing of VVIPs and foolishness of some.
During the height of the Aragalaya, the BBC sent its Indian news reporters across to Colombo. One girl and then a male reporter strolled along Galle Face Green reporting and interviewing people, which was telecast in BBC news programmes.
Then we had those news item runners passing along at the bottom of the picture and narration of the news of the day. The latest runner I saw a few days ago was that the Minister of Power had said the country had run out of all fuel.
About four days ago I watched a BBC documentary. The short film was about whether Sri Lankans are stifled and suffering so much because the country has been caught in a Chinese debt trap? Of course it cannot be said the Chinese were the sole culprits. Sri Lanka welcomed their generous offers of loans and expertise. Thus the relevant Governments of Sri Lankans are more to blame for getting into the trap by heavily borrowing from China. It is plausible and believable. Time was when the Government spent freely, indebting itself heavily to China. And China allowed it, nay encouraged it fully. It was a trap with a promise of honey within. And so leaders like Mahinda Rajapaksa, with hubris and believing his name had to go down to posterity placed in large letters across all sorts of structures, got the Chinese to build an airport now dubbed ‘the loneliest in the world’; a harbour visited once in a way by a ship and a cricket ground, gardens and stadiums. We got into colossal debt for these and then the yahapalanaya Government that followed had to bear heavy repayments. Unable to do so a further advantage was offered the Chinese: a 99 year lease of harbor and total management.
Most of this was clearly included and made clear in the documentary. When I phoned someone about it, I was told the documentary was first shown some time ago.
Other countries have been in similar situations. Myanmar was a country that relied heavily on Chinese construction and development, of course at a price. Certainly no free lunches in international relations. I remember reading about a dam built by the Chinese and found to be severely wanting by the Government of Myanmar. The builders were in disfavor and asked to leave the country. I don’t know whether China is back in favour and including Myanmar in his Belt and Road Project. African states have benefitted vastly from Chinese money and skills.
One alarming feature we saw, and see, when a project is undertaken by the Chinese, they bring all the labour they need. Thus the vast number of Chinese men roaming our streets whether in Hambantota or Colombo Fort. They spread themselves, some said to be prisoners. The sight of them in numbers causes consternation since they will, in all probability, take mistresses and produce a hybrid sub-population. Next step: settling down: neo colonialism.
Beware those who come bearing gifts is an apt saying in the context of this article. It originated with the story of the Trojan Horse which helped the Greeks to finally defeat the Trojans, But very applicable in this globalised world of now.