China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is here in Colombo on a two day official visit. It has been very interesting and a pinking diplomatic relationship that Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation has developed since the ancient times with the Republic. Whatever may the recorded history placed before us be, one thing is certain and that is that China has played a significant role in internal affairs of Sri Lanka.
History goes back to the fourteenth century when China was under the Ming Dynasty, which developed a strong maritime network throughout the world. The Ming Shilu ( veritable records of the Ming) which, contains the imperial annals of the Ming emperors, describes how the Chinese emperor prosecuted a King and his clan of Sri Lanka after they were brought to China. This interesting story is detailed in Ming Shilu which includes trumpeting role played by the fleet admiral Zheng He.
For some reason, this valuable account of history has not been taught in the history of Sri Lanka, which has been overwhelmingly occupied by the historical events of Indo-Lanka relationship.
Now, the friendly Dragon is appearing before us yet again. Yet another milestone with “hopes” of being a great friend of the Island nation while mocking the surrounding competitors. China, the nation which suppressed every citizen in the country who has a different opinion to the government while the rulers sneak “peacefully” into every market in wider world of Diverse cultures.
For instance, the people in the Republic were commemorating the first anniversary of enforced disappearances of lawyers and human rights defenders, the day China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is preparing to meet the leaders of a country which has recorded one of highest levels of enforced disappearances in Asia.
However, Sri Lanka is in the conjuncture of transnational justice and truth-seeking, while Chinese authorities are inviting the fellow citizen to ” cup of tea” before they were taken into the abyss of the eclipse. Let’s leave this despicable inside reality aside for a moment as profits and rights hardly go together.
Minister Wang Yi enthusiastically said, that the Republic of China’s plan is to develop a Shipping hub in Sri Lanka. His statement came just hours after the complaint by one of the Marxist politicians before the newly promulgated anti-Corruption initiative, over the alleged corruption in a shipping deal with China in 2013, in which the Government of Sri Lanka bought two dry-bulk carrier ships for 70 million dollars.
Details of the complaint is not in the public domain yet, but reliable sources indicate that the deal was one of most corrupt shipping deals ever that the country has signed during the previous regime. Expert views on the subject are that the country would have saved half of the total cost expended in buying these dry-bulk carrier ships, named as MV Ceylon Princesa and MV Ceylon Breeze if not for the corruption.
The particular shipping deal was headed by a former Commander of Sri Lanka Navy, who has been accused as a Chinese Spy while holding the dual positions as Navy Commander and the Chairman of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ltd. (CSC), the National Shipping Line, solely owned by the Government of Sri Lanka. As the result, the former commander was gifted an open-value credit card and more benefits to expand his personal assets before “fleeing” to the United Kingdom.
However, under the new government, nothing has changed in the structure but the old have been replaced with men and women known to the Minister responsible for that portfolio, and his family. Some of them were imported from abroad and placed within the communications sector which has nothing to do with shipping. The minister of portfolio now stands accused of acting in breach of basic management principles to fulfil his desires, and contributing further to the deterioration of the Shipping Industry of Sri Lanka.
If the Republic of China, is going to move forward with their noble idea of making Sri Lanka a Shipping Hub, then the country must focus on eliminating corrupting bugs in the bed. Unless and until, corruption in this vast portfolio is eradicated, China will make a hub for bugs not for the genuine Sri Lankan, who is paying hard earned tax to maintain the most expensive jumbo politicians.
It is time to change the old fashioned way of pumping money and grabbing percentages, with an attractive dragon-lion diplomatic dance supported by the basic principles of management. As the newly appointed Central Bank Governor Dr Coomaraswamy prioritised – Integrity first ; Technical Excellence second and Professionalism third in the pursuit of balanced management. If Chinese diplomacy succeeds in this, then the Changjiang River waves behind would drive the waves ahead.
( Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. )