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[LISTEN]The Asia Pacific Report: Sri Lankan Crisis a Red Flag for South Africans

May 26, 2022

Umm Muhammed Umar

Australia has a new prime minister, and a new governing party. Last weekend saw Australia holding elections. Radio Islam spoke to Sanusha Naidu, on the Asia Pacific report, who said that it was interesting to see, in the run up to the election, that the leaders of both contesting parties were quite clear about how they wanted to position Australia, both in terms of domestic politics, and also in terms of regional politics.

The new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, from the Labour Party, emerged victorious. Naidu said that this sent out a message of what was taking place in Australian domestic politics. She said, “One of the key factors informing the election was the question of China. And I think now we’re going to see a very interesting dynamic, because both parties had used China as a proxy in their canvassing.” She said that both were very aggressive in terms of China’s positioning in the region, but also regarding the rise of China.

Naidu said, “now we have other issues that will come to the fore, one of them being the question around Indonesia and Malaysia – what does this mean for Australian relations with Indonesia and Malaysia?” She speculated as to whether Australia would find other public actors in the region that would enable it to up the ante, not only in terms of its own regional policy, but also in terms of countering China.

Separately, US President Joe Biden has visited the region, for the Quad (an informal set up consisting of four countries – the US, Japan, Australia and India), indicating an aggressive stance towards regional security. Naidu said, “It’s quite historic that Biden has been there in the past week, essentially talking about how to increase collaboration, cooperation, and security nexus in terms of the quad and the outcome of the meeting, it was quite important to note that there was the whole question of China and Taiwan, and how the quad countries could have almost a defence pact, but also a kind of pact around regional security, pushing back China from its own security outlay in the region.” She added, “what’s important is that we’re seeing a lot of aggressiveness coming out from the way in which the Americans are responding to the Ukraine war, and this is now having a spill over effect on how they are perceiving and addressing issues that they that they need to police, or to remain as the key actor, in underpinning and underwriting stability.”

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s deepening political and economic crisis has been made worse by its currency’s vulnerability. Naidu said that what normally happens when a country starts to print more money in order to fill the gap of salaries, or circulate more money in the economy, it opens up the vulnerability of its currency; the currency becomes more devalued. She said, “we saw this in the 70s with the US, the US was printing more money to actually finance its war in Vietnam. And what this means is that it actually makes economic development harder, (and) makes the economy become much more vulnerable.” She added, “This is where Sri Lanka is at the moment, in order to try and pay salaries.” Inflation in Sri Lanka is running high, with fuel being something the country could not afford to buy. Naidu said that the new Prime Minister was talking about two days of bans on fuel before purchase. Naidu cautioned: “This is a situation we should not take our eyes off……because if you look at South Africa, we can end up in a situation where, with unions demanding for double digit inflation related wages, this could end up in a situation where as more and more austerity is placed on South Africans, it’s going to become harder for South Africans to find that money in their pocket to be able to survive.”

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