JVPís war on NGOs and fears of neo colonialism
Daily Mirror - 27 April 2005
The JVP propaganda secretary recently urged his party members,
supporters and all Sinhala patriots to spit on NGO activists. No
one, I am sure, would have taken this lightly as rhetoric meant for
popular political consumption.
The public antagonism that
the JVP is attempting to stir up against NGOs is deeply rooted in
its anti- imperialist ideology.
The content's of the party's
letter to US Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca have been
welcomed in some quarters as a sign of Marxists' political maturity.
The letter has also been hailed for signalling a healthy
rapprochement between the JVP and its traditional ideological bete
noire - a sea change from the days when our Marxists were so clever
that they could discern a CIA spy behind every suspicious looking
bush in this country.
This view is absolutely wrong.
The JVP is politically mature today because it has become
very flexible in its tactics. It will meet Rocca, or for that matter
even the worst enemy of the working class, if it serves the party's
tactical objective, which, right now, is to stop the SLFP from
agreeing to the proposed joint mechanism for Tsunami aid.
The JVP's political philosophy is still fundamentally posited on
anti-imperialism. As I pointed out in these columns earlier, the JVP
is opposed to the Eelam movement because it is convinced that the US
is covertly stoking Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict to gain a foothold
The JVP-Patriotic National Movement campaign against
Non Governmental Organizations is based on the premise that NGOs are
one of the chief instruments by which the US and its strategic
allies undermine the sovereign political will of countries which
they want to subject to neo colonial domination.
declared March 2 as Anti Neocolonialism Day by invoking Ven.
Wariyapola Sri Sumangala who pulled down and trampled on the British
flag 190 years ago.
The JVP sees a clear threat in the
proliferation of international NGOs in tsunami relief and
reconstruction work in the south and in Trincomalee. The party
perceives this as part of a US backed strategy to wean away its
support base among the tsunami affected and disgruntled poor in
these parts. The JVP is also concerned that potential recruits with
leadership qualities in the tsunami affected villages and towns are
being ideologically subverted with monies from USAID and US based
Last week, a very committed JVP
sympathizer, an intellectual of sorts, confronted me with a
question. "Why do you think USAID is basing itself in Trincomalee in
a big way?" he asked me. And before I could gulp down my nasty dram
of Gal arrack and soda, the man had begun his expatiation, his voice
rising above the cacophonous din of that seedy bar. My pro JVP
friend praised India's example and how that country had exercised
its sovereign power by shutting the door on all the tsunami NGOs
that were rearing to get a piece of the action there.
was involved in a big way in the US backed ouster of President
Aristide in Haiti he said. Opposing US imperialism today means
defeating the designs of international NGOs such as USAID, he
argued, explaining the JVP's stand: And by the time the barman
unkindly imposed his inflexible curfew on us, I was able to acquire
a fairly clear idea of his party's perspective on the question of
The next morning I found an email from him
with a link to a USAID report on Sri Lanka dated November 4, 2003.
This is what I found on that page.
"The U.S. Government
remains committed to supporting the cease-fire and ongoing peace
process as well as to laying the foundation for long-term
development for the country. While the relations between the Prime
Minister's UNP Party and the President's PA Party are strained, the
UNP is pro-American, giving the U.S. unparalleled access to
encourage the implementation of sustainable policies and transparent
) This year, on March 2, which the JVP declared as 'Anti Colonial
Day', James Kunder, USAID Assistant Administrator for Asia and the
Near East testified before the US Senate Foreign Relations
"USAID's overriding focus is countering the
threat posed by instability and terrorism in Asia, the Middle East
and North Africa. Conflicts permeate the region - from ongoing
insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nepal to the separatist
movements in Mindanao, Philippines and Sri Lanka. Many countries
harbor extremist groups that prey on disenfranchised populations
left vulnerable by their government's inability or lack of
commitment to meet their daily needs" Kunder said.
extremist groups grow, they threaten to destabilize their own
countries and often support terrorism directed at the United States.
USAID is an integral player in the U.S. government's response to
these threats. We will also promote economic and political
transitions in conflict-ridden countries, such as Pakistan, Nepal
and Sri Lanka", the senior USAID official told the US senate sub
committee. It is a fact that the US considers Pakistan, Nepal and
Sri Lanka major strategic allies in the South Asian region.
The testimony of Andrew S. Natsios, administrator, USAID before the
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Committee on Appropriations, US
Senate on April 21, last year is more revealing:
"The end of the Cold War and the challenges that now face
USAID have prompted the most thoroughgoing reassessment of the
country's development mission since the end of the Second World
War. We are responding with a new understanding of the multiple
goals of foreign assistance. Specifically, USAID now faces five
* Supporting transformational development *
Strengthening fragile states and reconstructing failed states *
Supporting U.S. geo-strategic interests * Addressing
transnational problems * Providing humanitarian relief in crisis
"Aid is a potent leveraging instrument that
can keep countries allied with U.S. policy. It also helps them
in their own battles against terrorism. Our tasks today however,
are broader and more demanding than just winning the allegiance
of key leaders around the world".
"We at USAID are the chief instrument of what some call the
nation's "soft power." I am not very fond of the phrase because it
unintentionally implies weakness. In any case, the President
signaled the importance of what we do when he called "development" a
critical part of a triad of foreign policy instruments", Nastios
told the senate sub committee.
USAID's motives in Sudan
where the US is trying to secure access to the country's oil and
other natural resources such as Gum Arabic have often been
questioned. The Sudanese government in Khartoum has leveled
accusations against the USAID in the past, implying that the
organization's activities have jeopardized the country's sovereignty
and territorial integrity.
In his testimony Nastios says:
"USAID boasts unparalleled expertise in Sudanese affairs. Our staff
has spearheaded strategic interventions that have brought pockets of
peace and intervals of tranquility which have allowed our
humanitarian missions to move forward and peace to gain traction".
The JVP appears to be also concerned that USAID may eventually
succeed in creating ideologically tailor made persons who would rise
to positions of power in the Sri Lankan state, becoming the key
points for consolidating US strategic influence here.
testimony of Nastios further corroborates the Marxists' suspicions:
"I am proud that among the legions of "graduates," both of our
educational programs and of our Foreign Service National workforce
(FSN), many have gone on to ministerial posts and other positions of
influence in their countries. We welcome the vice-president of El
Salvador as one, a former USAID FSN installed in office several
weeks ago in what, from a US point of view, was a most promising
election for the people of her country and inter-American relations"
says the USAID Administrator.
Perhaps the strongest and most recent evidence for the JVP's
case against USAID and other international NGOs comes from Haiti.
Here I shall submit without comment an excerpt from the report
'Haiti: Human Rights Investigation, November 11-21, 2004," written
by immigration lawyer Tom Griffin and published by the University of
Miami Law School.
"In order to obtain more insight into the
U.S. role, investigators spoke with officials at the U.S. Embassy in
Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and with employees of the
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), which
implemented a series of civil society projects as a subcontractor of
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). IFES is a
U.S.-based tax-exempt organization that claims to provide "targeted
technical assistance to strengthen transitional democracies." It has
worked in Haiti since 1990".
"According to IFES
administrators, the organization's Haitian staff members were
directed to attend and observe all political demonstrations during
the months leading up to President Aristide's ouster, on an
They were also required to write weekly
"political situation reports" based on their observations and to
provide these reports to the local office of USAID and IFES
headquarters. The investigators obtained copies of some of the
reports, which are available upon request. The administrators were
asked why Aristide, as president, could not simply stop IFES from
acting or exclude IFES from Haiti. The administrators stated that
IFES was bootstrapped to USAID, and that Aristide had to allow IFES
to operate or else he would have had to forego humanitarian and
other assistance from USAID. This would have damaged his
relationship with his own people who needed USAID services, and
further alienated Washington, they said".
"The (USAID/IFES) administrators stated that the ouster of
Aristide 'was not the objective of the IFES program, but it was the
result.' They further stated that IFES/USAID workers in Haiti wanted
to take credit for the ouster of Aristide, but could not 'out of
respect for the wishes of the U.S. government". (The full report can
be downloaded from http://www.law.miami.edu/cshr/)
years the US military too has begun to realize that NGOs could be
useful in dealing with conflict situations in a manner that could
serve American interests. In 1998 the US army's Deputy Chief of
Staff for Intelligence sponsored a study on the role of NGOs in the
Zapatista rebellion in Mexico's Chiapas region. I will quote briefly
from the study's conclusion - "The Mexican case suggests that the US
army should continue to improve its understanding of the growing
roles of NGOs in environments affected by SSCs." (Small Scale
Contingencies formerly known as Low Intensity Conflicts). Where
feasible, it may be increasingly advisable to improve US and allied
skills for communication and even coordination with NGOs that can
affect the course and conduct of a netwar" (pp. 128-29, The
Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico by David Ronfeldt et al. prepared
for US army by Rand Arroyo Center. 1998)
The JVP is wielding
its ideological cudgels against globally powerful foes indeed. The
battle lines have been drawn.
Weerawansa has fired the first
shot. But the JVP knows it can achieve a swift victory in this
battle only when its captures state power.