The media of Climate Anxiety and Debt Bondage: Cui Bono in a Post-Truth World?

Earth 1

 “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute’ runs a wry idiom in New England where the weather may change dramatically in minutes. However, these days blaming the weather for pretty much everything is fashionable– be it global warming or cooling, no rain, or too much rain, drought, floods or a snow blizzard in winter.

Recently the news was filled with stories of anthropogenic climate catastrophe; from ‘poisoned fog’ from land-locked New Delhi, targeting distant windblown coastal Colombo, to cattle dying due to Cold weather in the Eastern Province. Additionally, there were the bio-warfare lab made Fall Army Worms (Sena Catapillar), and Coconut White Flies destroying crops in a mysteriously coordinated attack on national Food Security this holiday season as imported goods flooded Sri Lanka on the (neo)liberal, US ‘Force’-backed, President’s orders– rapidly deepening the Dollar debt trap ex-post the Staged Default.

Meanwhile, two United Nations Climate conferences (CoP-27, CoP-15), the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), offered contradictory messages about who must bear the cost for “Loss and Damage” caused by climate change amid a global and local corporate media blitz of climate disaster stories with narratives of Famine in the background. Indeed, climate, debt and famine anxiety cross-messaging with electric car and green technology advertisements, as well as, disinformation following two years of a confusing Covid-19 infodemic increasingly characterizes our anxiety gripped ‘risk society’ in a post-truth world.

At the CoP-27 climate disaster show in Egypt last month, countries of the Global South called for the industrialized North which is currently responsible for over 92 percent of cumulative carbon emissions to pay up for “Loss and Damage” to the environment.[i] But strategic Sri Lanka at the center of the Indian Ocean on the World’s busiest trade, energy and Submarine Data Cable Routes (UDC), which succumbed to a Staged Default for the first time in its history as an independent country this year, is currently in IMF and Paris Club (PC), debt restructuring talks that include Green and Blue Bonds or “debt-for-nature” swap (DFNS), which would benefit many of the same International Sovereign Bond (ISB) creditors complicit in the debt default.

Land and Ocean Grabbing and Blu-Green Debt Bondage

A Blue-Green bond deal of up to USD 1 billion in climate-focused finance is planned according to a Reuters report. [ii] However,  Global South countries had pointed out that industrialized Euro-American nations that caused the carbon emissions and Ozone holes must to pay up for any green transition at Cop-27, rather than appropriate the forest lands and ocean resources of debt trapped countries in the name of ‘environment conservation’ that take the form of Corporate Green Bonds or DFNS.[iii]

Moreover, the valuation of the Blue Oceans and Green forest ‘assets’ to be traded are opaque, with no mention of the Submarine Undersea Data Cables in the strategic island’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),. A Corporate tax on UDC companies and clients like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon or Microsoft (GAFAM), or Ali Baba, which use Sri Lanka’s EEC and made windfall profits during Covid-19 lockdown would easily pay off the strategic island’s debt.

The proposed blu-green bond trade as part of debt restructuring would again benefit the largely unnamed international sovereign bond (ISB), holders and hedge funds of OECD countries, which include BlackRock, that staged the Default in Sri Lanka amid a triple whammy of Covid-19, climate catastrophe and Debt disaster narratives in the global and local corporate media.

Meanwhile, A recent  2020 OCED report found that the richer nations have never reached the promised $100 billion for climate financing, and what’s worse is that instead of providing the promised climate fund, a majority of the climate finance from high-income nations to low-income countries took the form of loans that deepen debt traps. [iv]

The IMF and PC are pushing for a quick debt restructuring deal in Sri Lanka that would include Green and Blue (forest and ocean) Bonds, and the un-bundeling and sale of strategic lands coastal areas and energy, transport, and telecom State Owned Assets (SOE), infrastructure amid “expert’ narratives of Famine and climate crisis. These narratives enable disaster capitalism a la Naomi Klein’s classic work ‘The Shock Doctrine’, this time with a blue-green mask in a strategic Indian Ocean island in the cross-hairs of Geopolitical tensions as Cold War hots up in the Indian Ocean region.

Some have suggested that the forests and oceans of Sri Lanka are doubly valuable, even priceless, due to the island’s Geostrategic location on major trade, energy and Submarine or Undersea Data Cable Routes (UDC), in the age of Big Data and the Information Economy. The island has been also dubbed an “Unsinkable aircraft carrier” with the country increasingly an Economic Proxy War site in the West’s confrontation with China, much like Ukraine is a proxy war site in the confrontation with Russia. The Sino-Russia pact of ‘limit-less’ cooperation in the long predicted Asian 21st Century seems to have unnerved the West!

Meanwhile in small print, there was also the news that India would enable Sri Lanka to trade in Indian Rupees, aiding the quiet de-dollarization process in this dollar debt trapped island which was till recently listed as South Asia’s only Upper Middle Income Country by the World Bank. Before the dramatic default-triggered currency devaluation Sri Lanka had the highest GDP per capita and best social indicators in the region.

Odious Debt and the Semiotics of a Chilling Killing: Cui Bono?

Recently, a member of a powerful business family was assassinated in a mafia style staged crime that seemed designed to send a chilling message and silence those among the business community and wider society who may question the official narrative about the quantum of debt, bonds, and bondscams at the CBSL. After all we live in a world where debt data like Covid-19 case and infection fatality rates, artificial Intelligence (AI) climate models and Debt numbers games generate confusing contradictory messages and anxiety a la the Disinformation Playbook.

Mr. Dinesh Schaffter, scion of a powerful and respected business family was a primary material witness at the Presidential Commission that investigated the 2015 Central Bank Bond Scam that is widely alleged to have been authorized by then Prime Minister and current President Wickramasinghe 2015, also to fund his party’s election campaign. Dinesh Shaffter, was the Managing Director of First Capital Holdings a company that had also placed bids at the time had raised questions regarding the bond auction: Subsequent court action revealed insider trading allegedly by Perpetual Treasuries, with PM Wickramasinghe’s friend Singapore Mahendran then CBSL head, and his son-in-law Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries – all part of the bond scam network.

The Semiotics of the guillotine style killing with the victim, Mr, Shaffter left in his own car at the Colombo General Cemetery (Kannatte) indicates a crime Staged to send a chilling message to those who may seek the truth or dare speak truth to power. This at a time when a group of high powered international academics have called for transparency and information disclosure regarding the identities of the bond holders whose names are kept secret while the country is mortgaged in IMF and PC negotiations including with Green Bonds to pay and benefit bond holders.

Civil society groups in Sri Lanka have called for a moratorium and ban on borrowing from private capital markets and ISBs. International academics have also called for ISB holders who lent at predatory rates claiming ‘high risk” to bear the cost of their predatory practices and take the losses and cancel the odious debt outright, rather than the IMF and colonial Club de Paris act as their Debt Collectors, while passing on the burden of this illegitimate debt transacted between two corrupt parties (corrupt Sri Lankan national politicians and ISB traders), to the citizens of debt trapped countries in the Global South who had little to do with these transactions and are denied the Right to Information on the identities of the Bond holders that benefit from these financial crimes.

It’s the Bonds, Stupid!  The Right to Information in a Post-Truth era

Forensic Audit reports on the 2015 bond scams were embargoed by Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy the Governor of CBSL at the time, who is now an ‘advisor’ on debt restructuring talks with the IMF and PC. Is it not time to first reveal the findings of the 2015 Bondscam audit reports in full to the people of Sri Lanka, and hold the perpetrators responsible rather than deepening the bondtrap?  Three Governors of the Central Bank were involved in Bondscams and/ or cover up ‘investigations’ of successive “force-backed Ranil Rajapakse Govenments: Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Arjuna Mahendran  and Indrajit Coomaraswarmy.

However, rather than call for information disclosure on ISB Bond Holders, opposition members indulge in salacious stories about beds in Parliament, bestiality, bondage and the sexual preferences and exploits of the then Prime Minister, who now as President enjoys Presidential immunity. These stories are widely circulated in social media channels to distract from the thickening plot of past and future Blu-Green bond scams with impunity and immunity by successive regimes.

The staging of the chilling killing of Dinesh Shaffter who had inside information on the CBSL bondscam of 2015 with the case now in court, and the use of the Brian Thomas story as a decoy, as well as, the semiotics of the assassination indicate powerful local and global financial interests and networks behind the crime scene and on-going investigations. Shaffter was to depart for London on the eve of his death. The perpetrators who staged the crime in broad daylight in central Colombo with numerous CCTV cameras had a sense of immunity and impunity that no investigation would touch them as the current progress of the investigation shows.

While the on-going cover up ‘investigation’ has now come up with the absurd narrative that the victim committed suicide, it is clear that Dinesh Shaffter knew too much about the CBSL bondscams and was willing and able to ask questions at a time when bond trading related to the country’s Debt Default is under scrutiny with calls for transparency and information regarding the identities of bond holders and quantum of funds held by International Sovereign Bond (ISB), traders led by BlackRock, which also got huge US government Covid-19 ‘bailouts”. BlackRock is complicit in strategic Sri Lanka’s first ever Default as Cold War hots up in the Indian Ocean region.

In the context, the chilling killing of Dinesh Shafter would above all send a message to the wider Business community and society to silence and stymie any calls for forensic investigations into various bondscams that have led Sri Lanka to the International Sovereign Bond Debt Default on the eve of its 75th national independence day celebrations and thus mortgage its economic, trade and energy policy sovereignty and National Security.

Finally, the semiotics of Mr. Dinesh Shaffter’s assassination and the ongoing cover up ‘investigation’ are similar to the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed Easter Sunday attacks that used decoys and narratives of religious violence to target Chinese assets like Shangri La Hotel where the leader, Zaharan died with another Suicide bomber in 2019. This was shortly after the World Bank had ‘upgraded’ Sri Lanka to an Upper Middle Income (MIC), country- the first in the South Asia region—denying the country access to concessionary loans and forcing borrowing from private capital markets/ bond traders, in order to recover from the hybrid economic war style Easter attacks on the tourism sector, and deeper into the sovereign bond debt trap. In short the country was pumped and dumped when Ranil Rajapakse was Prime Minister. Four years later as the same individual returned as President and armed with impunity, the smoke-screen of ‘investigations’ by various local and international intelligence agencies has thickened, while court cases ignore prima facie evidence regarding the external, geopolitical motives and local-global transnational networks that are as clear as daylight behind the 2019 ISIS claimed crime.

Finally, in post-Truth Sri Lanka, subject to Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD) and Over the Horizon Operations (OTH), or Super-imperialism, gaming the narrative after high crimes are increasingly easy with local-global networks of crime and corruption: Big data fetisism, datafication, algorithms of unknown variables and aetiology and AI -Artificial Intelligence – increasingly create virtual (Covid, climate, debt, and famine), realities and virtual truths among citizens kept in a virtual state of permanent anxiety, surveillance. and censorship that narrows the field of vision and cripples the ability to think critically. Hence, lateral thinking, with attention to empirical reality, detail, history and the logic of argument are indispensable at this time of endless cyber war.

Dr. Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake is a social and medical anthropologist with research expertise in international development and political economic analysis. She was a member of the International Steering Group on “Southern Perspectives on Reform of the International Development Architecture”

[i] https://www.fairplanet.org/story/understanding-climate-colonialism/

[ii] http://www.adaderana.lk/news/86223/sri-lanka-in-talks-for-usd-1-bn-debt-for-nature-swap-deal-report

[iii] https://www.fairplanet.org/story/understanding-climate-colonialism/

[iv] http://www.cadtm.org/Financing-the-30x-30-agenda-for-the-Oceans-Debt-for-Nature-swaps-should-be

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