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Dr.SHIVA LIVE People in Sri Lanka Are Rising Up: What’s It About?
- Dr.SHIVA Ayyadurai, MIT PhD – Inventor of Email, Systems Scientist, Engineer, Educator – has a conversation with three guests about the people of Sri Lanka uniting and rising up. One of the guests on the ground shared what she saw and experienced.
- During the 92 day protest in Sri Lanka Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims for the first time united to protest against a corrupt family that has been running Sri Lanka for many years. Protesters camped out even in the midst of food and fuel shortages.
- For many decades an ethnic war was fueled by different powers, brutally pitting regions and religions against each other while economically destroying Sri Lanka.
- After the British left Sri Lanka “democracy” was introduced and the majority got to rule and could do whatever they liked to the minorities so the first protests were the minority and things became racially polarized. Turns out Tamil and Sinhalese are actually genetically identical but had differences in religion.
- This polarized population split into minorities fighting for their rights, versus the majority wanting to retain their rights. This led to wars, huge amounts of life loss, instability, and rise of communal politics.
- Sri Lankans have realized that they’ve all been divided. And money has been siphoned off and they’ve all been divided and brought ruination. Now the natural uprising of people in hopes of true democracy is long overdue.
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Dr.SHIVA Ayyadurai, Sivam, Dr. PL., Nithya
Dr.SHIVA Ayyadurai: Alright everyone, this is Dr.Shiva Ayyadurai. Today we have a very interesting story. It’s just happening immediately. We’re going to be talking about Sri Lanka rising up, and what’s it about? So, I typically schedule these. So, we’ll just do it. And then we’ll copy this on other media. But we have some very, very interesting people. We have someone who was just in the protest. We have a couple of other people, very accomplished people, who know the history of Sri Lanka.
One of them being a friend of mine, who’s an Alumni from MIT. So, we’re just going to go right into this. And I just want to introduce people. We have Sivam in Australia; we have PL in the United States. We have Nithya, who’s literally in Sri Lanka, and she was involved in the protests. So, she’ll give us some quick updates.
What I want to do is just give people a quick overview. Where is Sri Lanka for people who don’t know geography – But here’s India, Sri Lanka is down here. And this is the island of Sri Lanka. And Colombo is the capital, which is right on the West Coast right here. And this is where the protests have really been taking place. And this is pretty historic, what’s occurred. Quick background, these are some pictures that we’ve gotten live, that Sivam has gotten from Nithya, and others.
This is physically what’s going on in Sri Lanka, within the last 24 hours, where working people of Sri Lanka are tired of the nonsense that’s been going on for many, many decades. And everyone will share what’s been going on. But this is what’s literally happening live in Sri Lanka. And these are pictures that are coming to us directly from people down there.
By way of background back in 1986 Sivam and I organized one of the largest protests at MIT. That’s what I’m saying, something that’s been going on for decades, when the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka came to visit MIT. And one of our close friends Ram, who was an MIT Physicist was tortured by the Sri Lankan government. We held a massive protest at MIT, we chased away the Prime Minister, we confronted him.
And these are some things going on there. And there’s Ram. Ram will be joining us tomorrow. But we met massively marshaled support, and fortunately, we were able to get them out. But Sivam, you sent me this picture. Why don’t we start with you? Some of you want to just explain this picture here. Go ahead.
Sivam: Yeah, so I think what happened is Sri Lanka had, after the war had returned to a dynastic rule, an entire family pretty much ran the government. So it’s a bunch of brothers accountable to nobody, running essentially a dictatorship, which is majoritarian, undemocratic, and corrupt.
Dr.SHIVA: So, Sivam, just to give the players here, this guy Mahinda Rajapaksa the guy with the Hitler mustache up here, right? He is the guy who was the after Premadasa that Prime Minister We chased away from MIT 1986. Give a little bit of a history of what took place after that.
Sivam: PL, maybe you can run that through.
Dr.SHIVA: Maybe, maybe before we do that, maybe Nithya because of your connection to theory there. Nithya is going in and out. But go-ahead PL, give us sort of the background. And Nithya is average. She’s literally in Sri Lanka at the protests. Go ahead. Sri Lanka. Go ahead.
Dr. PL: So, the camera PL Yeah. So, the Sri Lankan situation is very interesting. So, I mean, despite having a Civil War, the people always were able to exercise their vote. So, they voted in governments, and they voted out governments. And that has been going on for some time while the Civil War was, you know, happening. And in a sense, you know, electoral democracy has been exercised by this by the people of Sri Lanka. And that’s been going back since independence in 48. Now, you know, pray with us. You know, I mean, there are lots of skeletons in the cupboard, right, especially when you have a hot civil war going on.
Now, I want to fast forward to 2001, after 911. When I was, you know, senior adviser to Kofi Annan at the UN and I was also in the Counterterrorism Committee, where I was dispatched to negotiate the 2002 ceasefire, with the means, that Tamil separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE.
And I remember doing 15 trips in 2001 and 10 trips in 2005. Sorry, 2002. And, you know, we had the two unilateral cease fires that were fine. And that was in place till 2004 when the Civil War restarted when the Tamil Tigers, you know, abrogated whatever agreement that was made and went back to war. The war went on from 2004 to May 2009, when the LTTE was militarily defeated in the northern east of Sri Lanka, with the last time happening in Mali by calling in Politico. Since that time, you know, there have been a couple of governments.
You know, there was President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was president. Her mother was the world’s first woman prime minister. Mr. Sirimavo, Bandaranaike. And then that was after that it was Mahinda Rajapaksa who came as the president he was elected. And that went on. He lost power. And then his younger brother Gotabaya was elected in this current mess.
Now, the situation in Sri Lanka is not so much about playing musical chairs. But I’m telling all my compatriots that it’s a macro economic restructuring that is needed to solve the problem.
Dr.SHIVA: So yeah, can you hold on one second? We’ll come back with you. So can you tell us Nithya you’re one of the protesters or who was involved there. Right. Tell us what’s been going on? Go ahead.
Nithya: So today, they stormed the president’s residence.
Can you hear me doctor? I’ve been involved in the protests since I think it spearheaded, because of organizers, Guardiola for Democracy on the fourth of April, and since then, I think we’ve had significant rather, people have stepped down on the ninth of April, the ninth of May start rather than ninth of May to June and hence to the ninth of July.
So, there is a collective effort, because I think last week, we felt that our, or rather for the past three weeks, we felt that with the fuel shortages, the food shortages, people were disheartened. They were losing hope they’re losing hope, to think that there would actually be any systemic change, that there will be a change in the regime or the government anyone would fall, no party national government.
So that being said, I think this week I saw on social media, a lot of people said, you know, it’s our last chance. It’s the ninth of July. Let’s do the best we can as the people, and that’s exactly what they did this morning.
They still stormed the president’s office yet we have not heard of resignation from him, despite that being that happening. And we were, I wasn’t present in the morning, but I was there when they decided to storm Mr. Rouhani Vikram Singhas house.
So, it was never the intention, I think of the protesters there to actually move into his residence. It was pretty peaceful. It started at about 4:30, which was the usual. We had the barricade of the SDF on his residences on the Fifth, on Fifth lane, which is near Papaa Road, which is central Colombo. And it was, it was fine. I think it was the usual thing you would have this different diversity of protesters in and out though they were very peaceful as well themselves.
It got to a tipping point I think when the SDF, they were lined up at the entrance of his house, and they decided to move away. And the protesters gained access to the first barricade, as they did with the President’s house, I think they tried to topple that barricade. And that’s when they started firing tear gas. Tear gas was fired, I think, probably 20 canisters at the first round. That’s when a lot of people moved down, because I think no one was prepared for that eventuality. I don’t think they thought it would go that far.
I think things really… the time and the environment that changed when there was a news first reporter that was beaten by SDF and another woman. That is when I really saw a change in a lot of protesters. I think they thought a day, I mean, after all, because a lot of the dialogue that was going between the protesters and the SDF was, you know, you are here as well. Who are you protecting, you’re to protect the people, you’re here for the people and not for anyone else. That was happening. And I think when they hit things with the reporter and the woman, I think a lot of protesters decided that they’re not going to give up.
So, they were rallying people from all sides of Colombo. And then the tear gas, I think he, I think, a peak, because there were at least about 100 to 200 people, maybe 500, again, who were trying to dissipate the gas, because what you do when it’s fired at you, you douse it with water, and usually put a track on over it. It’s really uncomfortable. It starts itching.
I think if you’ve been in it, you know what it’s like, if you haven’t thought about two minutes, but it’s uncomfortable and works. The police. I think the charge twice a dozen I saw the protesters move back. But then they moved back in because I think the crowd was so big, they couldn’t control it. I think some of the protesters then decided to break the barricade, and that’s when the SDF decided to take a step back, and they moved to the secondary. They moved to the second barricade, and I think this was going on for about four hours. This is around, this would have happened at eight o’clock, 8pm.
And after they moved to the second barricade, I think they ran out of tear gas. They took over a trap, the water cannon track. And that’s when the protesters stormed Mr. Rouhani Singhas in his office. And it’s upsetting that I think what started off as a non-violent day, it had to come to this.
I think a lot of people – because I was there in it, and they were quite elated with what had happened. ACOTA Obama, I think they were as a people, I felt like they had you know, their voices were heard. But after all this, I think a lot some people feel like I mean, at the end of the day, it is damaged to a private property. After all, it is against the law. And I don’t think anyone expected it to get that far.
Dr.SHIVA: So Nithya. Let me just ask you a question. So we have a bunch of people signing in and listening.
So, if we take a big step back, Sivam you were sharing this on our phone call, right? What, as I understand for 92 days, people were camping out, right in Colombo, in open areas. So that’s something we need to remember. And they were doing, it was a very communal event, people from all different backgrounds, religions, everyone was coming, right. That’s been happening for 92 days. And it was only recently when the police went in, right, which is a few days ago, is that right? Right.
And, when we look at this diagram here, just so people understand, because a lot of people are new to this, this family, a very corrupt, BRUTAL family has been running Sri Lanka for many, many years. Right. So, Mahinda Rajapaksa, he was the one who was a Finance Minister. Right. Sivam. Prior to this,
Sivam: Mahinda, was a former Prime Minister his brother is, was the President. And Chamal Ambassador was the Finance Minister.
Dr.SHIVA: Tell us a little so people understand the tyranny, the brutality of these people. This guy go to buy as a War Criminal, right? Who was running the government? Is that right?
Sivam: Yeah, he was accused to have murdered a large amount of Tamil minority population unnecessarily, and knowingly. Right. So I guess he’s considered a War Criminal.
Dr.SHIVA: But these people together, when you were telling me the history, Sivam, was there’s a very interesting history here, that the, there were various groups in the 80s, late 80s, when we were at MIT, who were fighting it out in Sri Lanka, primarily fighting for, the fighting against the genocide that was taking place to the northern Tamils a minority there. But even in that movement, I remember back in the 80s, there were people saying, hey, the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese should come together and really fight against the brutal regime.
But the level of brutality with the fact there was so much noise, you couldn’t really speak to the Sinhalese population in the Tamil on this, even though they’re very well minded people wanting to do this. So, you had Rajapaksa. The Indian government, as you said, came in and took over the northern part of and that’s what you were saying Right? PL the northern part of India, and then
Dr. PL: no northern east of Sri Lanka, it was this, the Indian peace keeping force. The IPKF
Dr.SHIVA: That was in the late 80’s, right early
Dr. PL: ’87, 15 of August 87. Like now 1990, ’91 when they pulled it out,
Dr.SHIVA: Right. So for people to understand, you have a minority in the north called the Tamils who are being brutalized by this family and other previous Prime Ministers. So, there’s an ethnic quote unquote, war, which was fueled by different powers. And then in the 80’s, and 90’s, the Indians came, we said, in ’87. The Indians came right PL, in the Northeast parts to be the peacekeeping force.
And interesting enough, Sivam, you said that the government enlisted one of the Tamil groups called LTTE to actually go fight the Indian government. And in fact, they actually blew up, they actually assassinated the Prime Minister of India, called Rajiv Gandhi. This was in what late 80’s. That was 1990, early 90’s or so.
So, after that, this group LTTE, themselves were wiped out. And then you went back to the same brutality, which his family was operating for many, many years, that continuation occurred.
But what we’re talking about now is Nithya, what you’re talking about as these protests were spurred on by the economic realities, right? Because this family has essentially been selling out the country, all these leaders, for how many ever decades. So now it has affected both the north and the south. The protests had nothing to do with an ethno or regional conflict. In this case, it had to do with pure economics. Is that right? Yeah, and PL and Sivam. The reality of this economic syndrome, you were saying that they were, this guy was cutting off the hands of people and brutalizing people, they released people out of prison.
I just want people to understand who don’t know about Sri Lanka, the brutality of this regime and the economics.
And then PL and Sivam maybe you guys can also share with people the huge value of Sri Lanka, you know, as a port, what’s going on with China. I think it’s really important for people to give that background. But Nithya maybe you can just share the economics or any one of you go ahead, just jump in. So maybe first, you know, in a very simple way, perhaps, yeah, that’d be good.
Sivam: So basically, you know, after the British left Sri Lanka, without too much of conflict, you know, introduced democracy, which means that the majority gets to rule, which means the majority can do whatever they like with the minority, because they’re already right.
So, the first protests was by the minorities in the very same place, politicians, and they were brutalized. And this, I think, is a cause of Sri Lanka’s downfall, in that the country got racially polarized.
And because of the voting system, where the majorities could vote, a polarized population, it kind of split into two things and minorities fighting for their rights, versus the majority wanting to retain their rights. And this led to wars, and this led to not only wars, a huge amount of life loss, instability, and rise of communal politics.
So finally, Sri Lankans have realized that they’ve all been divided. And money has been siphoned off and they’ve all been divided and brought ruination.
So, this has brought all Sri Lankans together. We are seeing working together, religious groups joining hands. We are seeing things that has never happened before in Sri Lanka. So, for the first time we’re actually seeing a multi-religious, multi-lingual. Perhaps we will even call it Sri Lanka, which is what it’s supposed to be. So it’s really inspiring what happened, all of this happened without bloodshed, after decades of terrible bloodshed, has been accosted.
But I think Sri Lanka is now going through, in terms of its realization, on all sides, also realizing change and becoming a modern nation.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, thanks so much for giving that background. Does someone want to give an idea to people the strategic value of Sri Lanka and with China, what’s been going on. Go ahead, PL.
Dr. PL: Right. I first want to address the economic situation. Because what I have maintained all along to my Sri Lankan compatriots, as well as people at the UN, and the British government is that what is needed in Sri Lanka is a macro economic restructuring, a reset and that cannot be done by street protests and changing the politicians, you know, musical chairs. You know, whoever you get whether you chase the President out, get them to resign, it doesn’t solve the problem, because the problem is macroeconomic.
And the reasons are as follows. This is the backlash of the COVID 19 pandemic. Okay. What happened is that tourists don’t come, the Middle East workers were sent back, so remittances don’t happen. So the Sri Lankan Exchequer doesn’t have dollars. There’s no dollars coming in.
Then on top of that, you have the Ukraine war, which has increased fuel prices, food shortages, etc. And then you add on top of that, the rampant corruption. So, if you put all of that together, it’s a perfect storm. And that’s the reason why not a single politician in Sri Lanka can solve the problem.
Okay, now, Sri Lanka from a geostrategic point of view, is it’s very important. It sits along the trade routes, the oil routes from the Gulf of Aden, to, you know, Southeast Asia, Singapore, on to China.
And that’s why, you know, the southern part of hermantra was so important. And the Indians and the Chinese and the Western powers, there have been interests.
And the Chinese have played a great role and in fact, in suppressing the Tamil separatists uprising. The Chinese basically bankrolled the Sri Lankan army. You had Norinco coming and setting up shop, you know, heavy artillery, you know, ammo given by the Chinese. And, you know, after the war, the Chinese of course, had a free hand.
But it’s not only the Chinese that helped the Sri Lankan government defeat, *the Tamil separatists fighting them, the Indians helped them, the Pakistanis helped them, the Israelis helped them, the British and the Americans to some extent with intelligence.
And so, it was like a collective effort in taking that on. So you got to understand all of those things, you know, the strategic importance going forward. And the more that Sri Lanka is on its knees means that one of these powers, either the Indians or the Chinese are going to pick us up for cheap.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, PL I think the key point you’re saying is, first of all, Sri Lanka, I remember, back in the 80’s, when we were organizing the protests, I was at the MIT library, and there was a book that popped out, called The Strategic Value of the Indian Ocean. It’s 4000 miles by 4000 miles. And Sri Lanka is right in the middle of that. And it has what’s called the natural port, which means that anyone who has access to Sri Lanka, literally what you just said, controls the trillions of dollars of flow of goods in that region.
So, what you’re sharing is that during the genocidal war that took place by the government, backed by imperial powers, the Chinese were also backing that because they wanted to get favor with this Sri Lankan government plus other powers. Is that your…
Dr. PL: Yeah, and not only that, I mean, weapons were got from everywhere from Belarus, from Russia. I mean, you name it.
I mean, if you look at the Sri Lankan army military kit, it’s from everywhere.
You had DORA, SWEPCO DORA, and the Navy. You had Chinese APCs tanks, multi barrel rocket launchers from Belarus. I mean, you name it, you know, helicopters, helicopter gunships, you know, fighters, fighter bombers, you know, all of that was there. And the Tamil separatist movement, the Tamil Tigers in particular, lost the plot, because I remember 2002 negotiating. I think what was the best deal for the Tamil minority, the 2002 season unilateral ceasefire, but the Tamil Tigers made a mockery of it.
And that was because the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, simply couldn’t survive in a peaceful environment. He needed, you know, continuous war all the time. So, it takes two hands to clap Shiva. So, you got to keep all of those things in mind. And actually, the Tigers, the Tamil Tigers, they killed more Tamils than put together the Sri Lankan military. So do not forget history.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, and I think that one thing we need to recognize there were movements even among the Tamil people who wanted to unite with the Sinhalese to expose the brutality, the government. And unfortunately, those movements weren’t that advanced at that time or didn’t get that much play.
But I think today Nithya the Chinese, as I understand, have put massive amounts of money, and put Sri Lanka into debt. Is that right? That’s what Sivam was sharing?
Nithya: Yeah. That’s right.
Dr.SHIVA: So, the Chinese own one of the big ports, and everyone listening, whoever owns a port in Sri Lanka, essentially has, basically they’ve conquered the Indian Ocean in some sense, right? They have huge imperial control of the entire Indian Ocean. And so China has literally come in there.
And essentially, Sivam you were saying that they’ve owned – Can someone give China’s involvement and how this essentially how much billions they put in there that went into this corrupt family? And then they put the country into debt? Can someone talk about that?
Nithya: Actually, Dr. Shiva, I am informing, but we’re losing power in this area. Okay, my connection will be cut off. So I will have to log off now. But thank you so much for having me on today. Thank you so much, Thank you so much..
Dr.SHIVA: Thank you. Thanks so much you guys. So Sivam, PL thank you. So that’s Nithya right from the protest site in Sri Lanka. Can any one of you just give again, a little more background?
Sivam: In context? China? China is a growing power in Asia and obviously wants to develop its power. And it’s very unfortunate that Sri Lanka, you can’t really blame China altogether because, you know, these loans are not forced on anybody. Right? The government happily borrowed billions of dollars, built highways into nowhere, built airports, in jungles, built towers, and all kinds of wasted money with no return.
So it is really the fault of the Sri Lankan governance to essentially manage that money. That money could have been managed well, and that could have led to prosperity. So I think we have to look at that in the context of Chinese interest, Indian interest, and the caliber of people who ran the country.
Now, I think PL and I perhaps differ. PL is taking a very economic view of the thing. But I think there’s something called modernity. Right? And I think, you know, a lot of countries have through ages of – I mean look at America. Right? Of trauma and the horrible things that they did to the minorities in those countries and native people in those countries.
I mean look at Australia, right? They have gone through a historical process, and they have come out of it. Right? It still has foros, it still has deficiencies, but they’ve come out of it. And I think that is really something really important to build economic prosperity. If you don’t have that, you will have the kind of wars, the bloody wars Sri Lanka had, and the bloody wars that many other countries are having.
So, I think, to me, the most interesting thing that has come out of this is people realize what’s important. Because what these politicians did, is that they were extremely good at dividing people creating hatred, creating paranoia and just benefiting from it. Right?
I mean, Sri Lanka, the moment you had democracy, we had somebody called Bandaranaike who made Sinhala the official language in 24 hours.
Dr.SHIVA: Yup Sivam, Sivam. Let’s just give a quick background by what you’re saying. So, there are two ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, right? Sinhalese and Tamil…
Dr. PL: Three, three
Dr.SHIVA: And what’s the third Muslims?
Sivam: Yeah. Let me tell you a funny story. The Tamil and Sinhalese are genetically identical, they are in fact South Indian genetically, right? There’s no genetic difference. So in a global scale, the people in Sri Lanka are like off each other by point 00000%. Right. But it’s a world of difference why one is Buddhist, one is Hindu and so on. So but they also share a common culture. So, this is completely artificial history. Obviously, you know, like what Britain did, there wasn’t India. Britain, England, created India. England, in a way, created Sri Lanka. But then it introduced democracy.
And our prime minister is on record. He was an Oxford educated Prime Minister who couldn’t speak his own language, he is on record saying in Parliament, at least the Indians fought for their independence. He says, “One day we woke up and the British gave us independence” and said, “you’re independent now.” Right?
And we hear about, you know, national heroes. These guys didn’t even fight, right. They were just given independence. Right. So what do they do with it? How do we get votes? This is Democracy Now. Now we get votes. Okay, we are the majority, we get the votes, we screw the minority. Very smart idea. Right? And then what happened? The same game went on and on and on and on. The polarizing minorities, the minorities tried democratically first..
The first protests wasn’t the goal place, the same place, right. They were beaten up thrown into the bayralay. Right? And Tamil youth rebelled. Right now the Sinhalese
youth are rebelling, but they’re not shot. They’re not machine gunned. Right? Why? Because it’s a Sinhalese Army, right. But when the Tamil youth rebelled, they were brutalized.
So you have the brutalization of the North, which led to the terrorists, the separatist movement, which unfortunately ended up worse animal then what was there before it became, you know, there was an element of fascism in the Tamil liberation movement, right? And they were murderous, right? So that further separated the Sinhalese, created more tension.
And then you had a war hero who finally got rid of the Tamils. And that war hero is Gotabaya Rajapaksa. So the Sinhalese wanted him blindly. Because he was a war hero. He liberated them. Right. And they believed that he was their Savior. Right? Now, there’s a beautiful Turkish saying that the three things, the axe is their friend, because the axe is made out of wood. Right? So this is what the Tamils did.
They thought Venupillai Prabhakaran is there to save them, he is their war hero. And the Sinhalese thought that, okay, we have Rajapaksa, he’s our war hero, he’s our man. Like, see what both these “our” men did? They screwed everybody over. They screwed their own people over. Right. So this is a learning that has happened. And this immense value comes with a huge cost. And I think this will do Sri Lanka a lot of good. I think it’ll create Sri Lanka, because you can’t just call a country, and everybody thinks they’re all different.
Dr.SHIVA: I think you’re bringing up something really interesting that occurred throughout the colonial, post colonial period, right? You had the colonial powers who were in India, or Sri Lanka, or Africa, all these nations. And a couple of things took place, which is I think what you bring out, which is a very important observation is that those people in those countries during colonial times were actually suppressed from ever having their own Bottoms-up movement.
And whenever they were actually building a Bottoms-up movement, they typically projected some bogus leader onto them to suppress that. And then one day, like you said, they had a parliamentary process, which said, “Now you’re all free” occurred in India, right? And the Indian documents were called Transfer of Power. It looks like the same thing occurred in Sri Lanka. You actually never let a Bottoms-up movement come up where a real nation emerges.
Sivam: That’s correct
Dr.SHIVA: And I think what you’re bringing up here is, what we’re seeing now, is that pent up demand, which never took place, the natural uprising of people, which is what a true democratic, it’s not democracy, where you just transfer power from one from white men with crowns, to the brown men….
Sivam: Absolutely Shiva, I think it’s the realization that we are on one island, and we are one people. And we better hang in together. Right? Yeah. And dividing us is no longer the game. Right? And I think that’s a huge realization. And I think that will stay because it has come at a huge cost.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, but I think the feature in Sri Lanka that people can learn that’s happening right now is the division of people. Muslims, I think, as you said Tamilians, and let’s say Sinhalese, when they were probably brethren, they are brethren. Right? And many levels, that these divisions actually support imperialism, right at a very deep level or exploitation, economic exploitation. Because as long as you have people fighting among each other, you have the Sinhalese in the south, looking the other way when serious genocidal issues are taking place, right? And then you have when you have a fascist come up in the north among the Tamils, and then that fascist actually gets used against the people themselves.
People look the other way. And these divisions, I think, the way I think you intersect what you’re saying Sivam, the issue of division and the fact that a natural uprising never took place to unify people. And I think what PL said about the economic realities, the intersection is that the division of people is actually used to promote the economic advancement of, in this case his family. And this is what’s happening in the United States.
By the way, there was a report that just came out. Just came out one week ago and no media has covered it by the University of Chicago, which is no small school. The report said that 28% of Americans want to take up arms against their own government in the United States. And moreover, this was done by Democrats and Republicans and 20% were Democrats. Okay. 50% independents.
But it also said that⁹ the mainstream news media, which we know is just agents of the government has been promoting this left right narrative. So every issue in the United States right now is divided though, one group of the white working class against another group of the white working class, etc. And it’s directly related to the economic conditions right now, so much money was pumped into the US economy, close to $6.9 trillion by Trump.
All of it went to the stock market. So you have a boat and in PL, you were talking about the, the pandemic during the last two years, 600 billionaires increased their wealth to $2.3 trillion. So no one talks about this, and yet Americans are at each other’s throats. So it is a very powerful vehicle of having people fighting among themselves.
The difference between America and I think Sri Lanka, America actually went through this process where they did have a mass, at least some uprising, and they did seize power and they truly did a Bottoms-up democratic movement. By and large, you can make some arguments. But in places like India and Sri Lanka, we never had. It’s almost like our growth was stunted, India or particularly Sri Lanka.
Sivam: And in Sri Lanka, what happened is, you know, they didn’t, I mean, they kicked Gandhi out of the train, right? They kicked his bum out of the train. I mean, till then everything was fine.
Dr.SHIVA: In South Africa, you’re talking about in South Africa,
Sivam: You thought hey, what’s going on? And they didn’t, they didn’t let the Indian you know, elite into the cricket clubs, right? And that was their problem.
And same with our Joker’s in our Sri Lankan elite. You know, they were perfectly fine. They were happy and independence was dumped on them. Because Gandhi was making severe nuisance in India. They didn’t really know what to do. So they just wanted to grab notes, grab power, and it’s been the same game and then centralize power to move back to kingship, what we have now, what is just collapse is a kingship, right?
You have family, you have dynasty, and you have corruption, and you have no rule of law. The king decides kingship has collapsed in Sri Lanka. That’s all it is. It was glorifying the past and going backwards in history saying, this was the ideal condition. So people have now realized what the ideal condition was.
Dr.SHIVA: Yes Sivam, I think the point again, if you go, it’s almost like we’re going back to colonial rule. And the war never really was allowed to begin or end, meaning during colonial times. You’re the king who ran, the kings left, the white kings left, and they replaced them with brown kings.
And those brown kings like this family have been running Sri Lanka, right, as you see here. And they ran the country through ethnic divide and rule. And now you have this recognition among all sectors. I think what you were saying was pretty fascinating among all religions.
This has never occurred before. Or I think, on that lawn that you were saying is a pretty big lawn – let me bring up that picture. This area, people for 92 days, of all different ethnic backgrounds are there right. So, they feel it wasn’t just any one ethnic group? This is pretty historic in Sri Lankan history. Am I right, or no?
Sivam: I think it has never happened before. Yeah. First time.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah. So, I think that’s what’s profound here. And it’s, in many ways, what’s occurring in Sri Lanka, is probably a good lesson for the rest of the world. We are living in a world right now that massive, massive transfer of wealth in two years has taken place. And I just wanted to share with you guys this diagram, and maybe PL you can speak to this. Let me share this diagram here. This is a very interesting diagram. Can you guys see this? What this diagram is, it’s talking about, I mean, you could probably map this out globally.
But you look at the first period during the 1940’s to 1970’s. During this period in the United States, there was massive prosperity. The economy grew, GDP grew, and people’s wages grew. Okay, right here you can see that. And during this period, the labor movements across Black, White were very, very vibrant in the United States.
So as the economy grew, everyone’s wages grew because during this period, there were close to 11,000 strikes in the United States, a very vibrant working class. 50 million people.
In 1970 the Left and the Right divided up the American working class. In the 1950’s, they said if you supported trade unions, and you were a worker, you were branded as a communist. And they busted up the Bottoms-up movement in the United States.
Dr.SHIVA: And starting in 1970, Reagan came in the 80’s and he started busting up all the unions on the right wing. So, if you were saying you were supporting the unions or workers’ rights, you must be a quote unquote, a communist. You couldn’t be something indigenously occurring Bottoms-up. And then the Left took over all the top down unions, what you were saying Sivam, centralized all these trade unions.
And they didn’t even strike anymore. So during this period in American history, there were only 900 strikes during this period of 11,000 strikes. And what do you see going on in the United States, and I bet you have the same map, probably even worse, in Sri Lanka, during this period, you have total, the GDP has actually grown massive productivity.
So, the Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, these guys have made trillions. But over here, the wages of people have not grown and this is in the United States. And during this period, you have no Bottoms-up movement anymore. And so I think in Sri Lanka, there’s something to be learned here. PL would be interesting to speak to. From an economic standpoint, I think, in Sri Lanka, you never really had a chance even for any of this to develop.
But the economics were never there. But I don’t think there was even a Bottoms-up. I don’t know how the trade unions are organized. But I don’t know if they were organized in Sri Lanka. But economically, how was the working class organized in Sri Lanka, but were they always divided into Tamil and Sinhalese and Muslim?
Dr. PL: They were, you know, the unions were affiliated with whichever government was in power. All the different parties that government had unions supporting them. And so, it’s not really a Left Right thing. It’s what kind of benefits whoever the ministers are in power that can give to the people who support them. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a kind of a patrimony, where, you know, there’s a patron-client situation between the people in power, and the unions that support them. And that’s no different to what happens in England, for example.
So, you know, that there’s a strong relationship between unions and politicians. So, these are some of the things that we need to keep in mind.
By the way, since you were talking history, I just like to point of record that the first prime minister after the British left in Sri Lanka was my stepmother’s uncle. So that just shows you the placing myself in the whole historical context. And of course, you know what we did in Sri Lanka, to try to change the status quo unsuccessfully. But at the end of the day, you know, still being taken seriously enough to try to see how we could bring some kind of ethnic – multiethnic harmony in Sri Lanka. And that’s very important.
And, you know, the micro economic solution is the resolution is needed to save Sri Lanka. The future belongs to all the communities of Sri Lanka, multi
Sivam: That’s working together.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, by the way, everyone joining us, we have two guests here we have Sivam. And we have PL, both of them are natives of Sri Lanka, both of them have participated in ways to improve the country at various points in their life. One of the things I want to, I think emphasize is that and we should probably close up,
I think people got a pretty good background, those of you coming in should probably go watch this video, you’ll get a pretty good understanding.
We had Nithya on, who was physically on the ground with the protesters. And this protest that’s taking place has never occurred before in Sri Lankan history. All groups are coming together in a multi sort of cultural, multi religious, multi political background against the government. So, it’s pretty cool. The issue is let’s, let’s wrap it up by where does this go? What is going to be the solution? Where do you guys see this going?
Sivam: I think Sri Lanka is already poor, it is going to be poor, but it’s going to be enlightened. It’s going to be a modern nation. And I’m very hopeful that out of this mess, you will have a new country emerging, a country that I’ll be proud to be a part of.
Dr.SHIVA: When you say that Sivam, what you’re saying is that people are going to finally wake up and realize that they have to build a country by themselves Bottoms-up.
Sivam: Yeah, people will realize that, you know, people will realize that work together. And this division is a game of the dirtiest politicians, the filthiest politicians divide people. The great politicians unite people. And, you know, on one side, you feel you know your person will get you the goods. Right. Both sides felt that in Sri Lanka, through terrible wars and decades of conflict, they realize that, that takes nobody nowhere. It is a formula for collective rumination. So expensive learning, I hope that rest of Asia will also learn from this terrible and sad example.
Dr.SHIVA: And not only Asia, not only Asia, Sivam, but the United States. You have massive division now on every issue in the United States perpetuated by the Left and on the Right. And it’s essentially pit the working class against each other in this country. But I think people can look to Sri Lanka with what’s happening with some hope.
Dr. PL: I’m also hopeful for the country because the people on the ground have set the reset button as far as politicians are concerned. But unfortunately, we have a bunch of crooks and criminals in Parliament. So how much that would be a solution? I don’t know. But we need the younger generation to come to the front. All these crooks from the past need to be sent packing. And that has to go in tandem with a macroeconomic solution.
As I’ve been saying, the Sri Lankan population is young, educated, versatile. And that’s the future. But we also need to get away from being hooked on tourism, and Middle East workers sending remittances back and tea, rubber coconut. That’s simply not enough to take a country of say, what 23 – 25 million people forward.
So, we need to have, say, for example, manufacturing industry, like what has happened in Vietnam and other places. We need to have that in place in order for the success story to happen. And we need a new younger generation of Sri Lankans coming to the fore to run the country. So, the future belongs to the youth.
Dr.SHIVA: Let me ask you one question on that – Sivam, you were telling me earlier we were talking that one of the industries of Sri Lanka was exporting women. Is that right? I’m sorry. So, Go ahead Sivam.
Sivam: Exporting domestic maids. That’s the backbone of the Sri Lankan economy for quite some time. See tea and rubber coconut doesn’t pay for petrol. Right. So, bulk of the revenue was from maids, labor of maids in the Middle East.
Dr.SHIVA: So how did the country make money from me? So, they export women to Middle East countries?
Sivam: They leave, get a job and then they send money back, right?
Dr.SHIVA: I see
Sivam: Yeah, that’s correct.
Dr.SHIVA: And there’s some horror stories of what took place, right. In those situations, how people, actually the women were abused, right? In those conditions.
Sivam: Yeah, that happens. When you, Yeah. When people escape and families are split, it has a social cost as well.
Dr.SHIVA: What is the debt that Sri Lanka owes right now to the Chinese and the World Bank? What does that debt look like?
Dr. PL: 52 billion, which is a rounding error in US economic terms.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah. And what is the GDP size of Sri Lanka?
Dr. PL: No, I’m not sure about the GDP. But what is owed, the debt is $52 billion.
Dr.SHIVA: Right? Well, I sent them, and I were, apparently there’s some proposal for a coalition government to come in. I was saying, and you guys may differ on this. I would say one of the first things that the coalition government should do is to say we’re not paying any of this debt to the Chinese or the IMF and clean their balance sheets. To me that would show some balls. And I think anything less than that would show that you still want to accommodate the previous garbage that took place. What do you guys think about that?
Dr. PL: Won’t happen because we are not self-sufficient in hydrocarbons. We don’t have petrol diesel, you know, so we thought and cooking gas and things like that, and that you can’t have if you alienate the International, you know, your trading partners.
Dr.SHIVA: Uh huh. So, Sri Lanka has no ability in the Indian Ocean to get its own oil gas now, none of that? I know you have the Reliance guys, the Indian guys. I mean they build huge offshore platforms.
Dr. PL: Not in the Mannar Basin.
Sivam: I say, Yeah, but why is there no – that’s why there is no light rail? Why, why is Sri Lanka consuming so much petrol? Right, everybody buys a car, government taxes set these massive roads, with loans. I mean this is so wasteful, so, so silly, right? I mean, if you have good public transport, you reduce the petrol costs that was never done, not even contemplated. So the things that need to happen to wean Sri Lanka out of gas?
Dr.SHIVA: Well, one of the things we talked about some, as many of you know, we’ve, since I ran for office Sivam. You’ve known me for a long time, and I’ve always been very, I’ve been an activist most of my life. We were roommates at MIT. We organized against MIT’s involvement in South Africa. There’s a picture of me many years ago, burning the South African flag we organized.
We chased out the prime minister of Sri Lanka. But I never, you know, it was only recently that I participated in electoral politics. And we won our Republican election. It was clearly stolen from us. I mean, I won’t get into the details of that. And there’s enough written. We won a major historic lawsuit. Mainstream media never covered it.
But we’ve created a movement now a global movement, there’s close to 400,000 people who’ve joined our movement, it’s for Truth Freedom Health®, where you intersect that these battles for freedom and infrastructure, economic health, infrastructure health, as well as science are all intersected. And one of the things you just said, Sivam is that. The infrastructure, so all of these jackasses, they steal money, they put the countries into debt, but they don’t build even basic infrastructure.
To your point, they didn’t build any public infrastructure. And you take a country like Sri Lanka, which is beautiful, as I understand, I haven’t been there. You’re sitting in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there are so many industries that can come out of from the ocean. I remember many, many years ago, I met one of the senior advisors to the prime minister of Mauritius. So, the Prime Minister, Mauritius said I want to be like Silicon Valley, and he goes, Look, you’re an idiot. Your land, if you look at all the ocean mass that Mauritius owns, it’s equivalent to the size of India, he goes, “Why don’t we do innovative things using the ocean?”
You know, there’s so many things, products from the ocean, so many of these fools who run these countries, because they’re just into corrupt and owning cars and exploiting women, etc. They never even look at what’s around them. Right? Didn’t you say that with the Chinese Sivam, they built a airport with the bird sanctuary, something
Sivam: The government built an airport and a bird sanctuary. And I think one or two planes that landed – the waste has been humongous.
And you know, just meaningless highways were built in, you know, for no, no economic return. So, it’s been a huge waste. And I think still Lankans for a generation or two are going to pay the price for these mistakes.
Dr. PL: Oh, definitely. The country will take at least 10 years to get out of this mess. And talking about marine resources. You know, Shiva, that fishermen are starving, because they can’t put out the sea because there’s no diesel to put out to sea.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. When you look at the contradictions in these places. And probably people are starving. People are starving when there’s so much fish out there. Right? You have, you’re in the Indian Ocean, you have access to massive amounts of seafood, kelp, I mean, all these amazing resources, and people can’t even get that and people are starving.
Dr. PL: But there’s a thing called IUU fishing, illegal unrecorded, unregulated fishing and the Chinese, the Taiwanese, these huge motherships, they’re overfishing the Indian Ocean. So, it’s not that many resources that you have. So therefore, the Sri Lankan fishermen, they can’t go out in their, you know, sail row boats to go and do fishing. They got to have diesel to go deeper and deeper into the ocean to catch fish. So no diesel means no catch. No catch means fisherfolk families go hungry. And same for people who want to have a nutritious diet made from fish and fish products.
Dr.SHIVA: One of the things you said I don’t know. Sivam intersecting what you said. Didn’t you say that? The former prime minister of Sri Lanka said no more urea no more, he banned it…
Sivam: The President banned chemical fertilizers overnight. Despite the opposite of so many people, academics and so on. It was a moment of complete idiocy.
Dr.SHIVA: Yeah, I mean, we all want organic food, which is good. But this guy does it overnight. The key thing is, the reason I wanted to bring this up is diesel. There’s a huge shortage occurring in the United States. In order for diesel to work properly in the modern engines, you have to add something called DEF. And the main component of that is urea, which is used for fertilizer.
So even if you have enough diesel, you need the urea. And obviously, the number one creator of that in the world is India. But India uses it internally. Russia is the second biggest creator, and most of that they restricted going out. So, all these economies are very closely interconnected.
And I think when I saw these pictures this morning, PL and Sivam, it was pretty frankly cool. Seeing these people, particularly this people coming together, in masses uniting together, and starting to build these Bottoms-up movements. It’s not terrorists, it’s not violent, you know, there will be people will try to obviously make them violent and not be Bottoms-up. And those are probably supported by different Imperial forces. But this is for 92 days, people have been organizing this. And it’s pretty inspiring.
So I think, in closing, I hope everyone who’s listening got a really good lesson on what’s going on in Sri Lanka. Yes, Sri Lanka is a small country. But the lessons there are quite profound that I think can reverberate across the country, even in the United States about how division takes place. The economic issues are put under the rug. So people don’t want to come together and unite. And I think that’s the message that you’ve hit upon them and same with you PL.
And I know both of you guys have struggled there, in your own journeys there. So, thank you for coming on such short notice. Okay. Tomorrow, we’re going to have Ram on to those of you listening. My good friend, Ram, myself and Sivam were alumni at MIT. And Ram was actually jailed and tortured by the Sri Lankan government. And I think we’d lost PL, that’s okay. But Sivam you and I can wrap this up. But Ram was jailed. We were fortunate.
The protests did help. And he was finally led out. But tomorrow we’re going to have Ram, who has become a sort of a policymaker, right. So if I’m a thought leader, and he is heading from the Netherlands to Sri Lanka, right now, as we’re speaking, so he wanted to be on here, but he wasn’t able to come but we’ll have him on and he’ll give us some more insights. But Sivam thank you. Anything else you want to close on?
Sivam: My pleasure. Thank you so much, Shiva. Nice talking to you.
Dr.SHIVA: Okay, thank you. We lost him. Alright, everyone. So that was a quick review for everyone – on what’s going on in Sri Lanka, I was very fortunate Sivam, my good roommate and alumni from MIT for many, many 40-30 years ago, was able to bring some people in we, as I said, we were fortunate to have one of the women who was actually a protester, she shared with us what’s going on there.
Hopefully, everyone got a break history analysis. And tomorrow, we’ll continue this. And if you guys have any other questions, please email me. And many of you know that we are creating a global movement for Truth Freedom Health. And I encourage everyone to be part of this as Sivam said, “We need to unify people.” And our movement essentially says if you’re going to fight for freedom, free speech, that cannot be divorced from innovation and science.
Because without freedom, you can’t really get to the truth. And without truth and freedom. You can’t really talk about your physical health, infrastructure, health, etc. And without physical health or infrastructure health, you don’t have the wherewithal to fight for freedom and truth. So, what’s happening in Sri Lanka is quite profound.
I also invite everyone every Thursday at 11am EDT for people on the other side of the world and at 8pm we hold an orientation to invite people to be part of this movement, which aims to unify people Beyond Left & Right. And, and I think what the people of Sri Lanka are doing, they’re doing that unification. It’s a tough thing. I think you said that, right. It’s not something that’s easy, right? Because you have to go back to fundamentals. You can’t sort of short circuit things. I hope everyone takes advantage of that. Be well, and have a good evening or good night, wherever you are. Thank you.
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