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Colin Powell – The reluctant warrior



by Vijaya Chandrasoma

General Colin Powell died Monday, October 18 of complications caused by Covid 19, at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He was undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a terminal cancer of the white blood cells, and early stages of Parkinson’s disease. His treatment prevented him from getting a third booster vaccination, which he was scheduled to take the previous week. Powell is survived by his wife of almost six decades, Alma.

Powell was born in Harlem and raised in the ethnically diverse section of the South Bronx in New York. His parents, both of Scottish/African lineage, were immigrants from Jamaica. His father, Luther Powell was a shipping clerk, his mother, Maud a seamstress. Their son, Colin, embodied the spirit of the American Dream, that once beckoned all immigrants, “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

The American Dream is becoming increasingly illusory in modern times. National racism against immigrants of different hues, and the cruelty of the scenes at the borders of the Shining City on the Hill, seem to indicate that the flame in the lamp of Lady Liberty may be flickering, the golden door beside it a tad tarnished.

Powell, a self-admitted average scholar, left high school with no career plans. He got his degree in geology from the City College of New York. He also participated in the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) at CCNY, and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the army upon graduation in 1958. Powell described the ROTC program as one of the happiest experiences in his life. “I not only liked it”, he said, “but I was pretty good at it”.

Powell served two active tours in Vietnam. During his second tour in 1968, he survived a helicopter crash, in which he rescued three other soldiers from the burning wreckage. His experience in Vietnam helped define his future military and political strategies. A professional soldier throughout his life, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general, and was Commander of the United States Armed Forces in 1989.

Powell was the first black National Security Adviser to Reagan (1987 to 1989), the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush Senior (1989 to 1993) and the first black Secretary of State in the cabinet of Bush Junior (2001 to 2005). He won numerous US and foreign military and civil awards and decorations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (twice) and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Powell was the consummate American soldier, whose military record and his national reputation prompted him to consider a run for the presidency in 1995. The Republicans saw him as their only hope of defeating Clinton, the national polls were extremely favourable. He finally decided not to run, on the grounds of a “lack of passion for politics and campaigning”. The real reason, of course, was that his wife, Alma, whom he married in 1962, was against his candidacy, and ordered him not to run. He may have been the celebrated Commander of the US Army, but it was clear who was the general at home.

Powell was always concerned about America’s involvements in military battles, especially in the Middle East. He oversaw Bush Senior’s Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf war against Iraq in 1990-1991. But he also formulated the “Powell Doctrine”, which “limits American military action unless it satisfies criteria regarding American national security interests, overwhelming force and widespread public support”.

A doctrine which he himself spectacularly violated in 2003, during the Bush reign of error.

In his capacity as the US Secretary of State, Powell gave a speech at the United Nations in February 2003, replete with fabrications about the urgent necessity for military action against Iraq. He made the Bush/Cheney/Military Industrial Complex case for military action against Saddam Hussein, on the basis that there was incontrovertible evidence that the Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which he intended to use against his neighbours and his own people. An assertion later proved to be a bald-faced lie, sadly one that Powell himself knew to be so during his address to the United Nations.

Completely out of character, a man who had won international respect, he deceived the world with a pack of lies. He was not just horribly misled or mistaken. He knowingly used fabricated evidence and ignored repeated warnings that what he was going to say was false.

His speech of deception swayed the world, and his lies got the congressional support Bush needed to declare war against Iraq. His words sent thousands of Americans and her allies to kill and die in Iraq. Powell – and Bush/Cheney – have never been held accountable for what were basically war crimes. And they never will be so indicted, for they are Americans.

A lifetime of honour tainted by one act of dishonesty. He voiced public regret for his speech, calling it a “blot on his record” and was fired by Bush in 2005 for expressing such regret. A moderate Republican, he endorsed Barack Obama for the presidency in 2009, despite his decade-long friendship with Republican candidate, John McCain. He condemned the Republican Party for moving unrecognizably to the right under Trump. And he enjoyed the ultimate honour of being denounced by Trump.

None of these may remove the stain from his record of that one mistake he made in 2003. But we mourn his death because he lived and ended his life as a decent and honourable man, and all the good he has done will live after him.

Speaking after Powell’s death, Trump spewed the regular and churlish comments he reserves for the passing of anyone who has dared to criticize him. Making Powell’s death, like everything that happens in the world, all about himself, he called Powell a classic RINO (Republican In Name Only), saying “it was wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday”.

Please don’t hold your breath, Mr. Trump. General Powell made just one mistake, out of misguided loyalty to the greed of another Republican villain. A grave mistake he immediately and publicly regretted, showing genuine remorse for which he has received universal forgiveness. He did not continue to commit, like you, crimes against the state and humanity as you have your entire life.

You will suffer the death of a Julius Caesar for all the crimes you have committed. Like Caesar, you will be stabbed by 40 Senators “amid fears that you planned to claim the title of king, overthrow the Senate and rule as a tyrant”.

There will be no lack of Brutuses for you to echo Caesar’s famous last words, “et tu, Brute”. There will be no Marc Antony come to praise you, just Foxes, Cruzes and Hawleys come to bury you. The evil that you have done will live after you. There is no good to be interred with your bones.

These men may have loved you once, for evil cause. When you ceased to be of any use to them in the pursuit of the cause you initiated, the death of democracy, they began to hate you. They are all ambitious white men and you finally got in the way.

There will be no heart in the coffin with you, no beautiful treatment in death by the Fake News Media, when that joyous day finally dawns. Your memory will forever live in hatred and misery.

To err is human, to forgive divine. The one error General Powell made during an honourable and decent life has been forgiven, by man and God. His memory will forever live in honour.

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Economic crisis: SLPP MPs who endorsed tax concessions also responsible -Kiriella



By Saman Indrajith

The SLPP MPs who did not oppose President Gotabaya Rajapaksa granting a 681-billion-rupee tax concession to big companies were also responsible for bankrupting the country, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament yesterday.

Kiriella said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had granted tax concessions to big companies that funded his election campaign and that had contributed to the country’s bankruptcy. “The Supreme Court determination has pointed out that the decision to please mega companies resulted in a loss of Rs 681 billion to the national economy. The MPs who were in the SLPP then should have opposed it.

They did not do so. As such they too are responsible for this crisis.

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Godahewa says President by his erratic behavior has become misfit to run country



Dr. Nalaka Godahewa

Member of Parliament Dr. Nalaka Godahewa says that even in this budget, the President’s plan to break a part of the opposition has failed. He said so at a recent press conference held at the Nawala office of the Freedom Janata Sabha on the budget and the current political situation.

“We are in temporary relief like a debtor who hides until the police catch him for not paying back the debt to the creditors. To tell the truth, we are on top of a volcano. Even if the future is not planned properly, even if it happens in early 2022, this crisis is going to explode in a more terrifying way.

Therefore, basically, what we expected from the budget was:

* How can the government reactivate the economy and push for growth?

* How can the government bail us out of the debt trap?

Here are the answers to these problems.

But instead of a budget that will reduce the debt burden of the country and reactivate our economy, the President presented a budget that will increase the country’s expenses further. Instead of reducing the debt burden of the country, which consists of some kind of election gundu (handout) to please the people, it will greatly increase the debt burden. In short, this was presented not as a budget but as a series of loans.

The estimated expenditure of next year is 6978 billion rupees. Let’s say roughly Rs 7000 billion.

It was during the last year before we faced the crisis that is 2021. The actual annual expenditure was 3851 billion rupees. Let’s say approximately 4000 billion rupees.

So, the government is waiting to spend 3000 billion more than before the crisis. The cost increases by 75%.

But the country’s economy has not developed during this time. It has continuously contracted in these three years. We said that we increased taxes and increased government revenue, but we got that tax revenue by robbing the people and businesses of the country.

According to the government’s estimates, the income that can be earned this year is only 4000 billion. In that case, another 3000 billion will be added to our debt burden.

So in such a situation, can the government’s economic differentiation be justified?

That is why we voted against the budget.

During the presentation of the budget and afterwards, the President said several times that 2024 is an election year. He hinted that not only the presidential election but also the general election is likely to be held. I believe that when Chanda Gundu prepared the budget, he might have been waiting to do so. But the final result of the budget was not what the President was waiting for.

He waited and waited to see if a certain group of the opposition would be able to join the government during the budget poll. He also hoped that a large number of the opposition would be abstain from the vote. We have heard that some members of the opposition had discussed this with his agents. But in the end, the government received fewer votes than it received during the previous domestic debt restructuring. Many MPs from the opposition who did not participate at earlier votes came that day and voted against the budget.

This is a kind of personal defeat for the President. He hoped that this time SJB would split. In order to go to the polls without the Rajapakses in the future, it is essential for him to gather a certain group of MPs from opposition. But this final vote proved that it is still just a dream.

Now he cannot bear this. He can see that the SJB team is very strongly with the opposition leader today. He thinks that is because of the influence of the independent groups in the opposition. He thinks that the main opposition, which abstained from voting against the IMF agreement when it was first brought to parliament, is now continuously voting against his economic program because of our influence. That is why yesterday he insulted me and Mr. G.L. Peiris by name in the Parliament. As the opposition leader said, we understand the President’s mental discomfort. He is in a difficult situation. But we have nothing to do with it. We continue to advocate for the economic philosophy we believe in. Fortunately, it seems that the leader of the opposition also stands for the social democratic economy that we believe in. That is why his group has taken a strong stand against the budget without falling into the trap set by the President.

Recently, the President came and spoke twice in Parliament. The first time he got into an argument with the leader of the opposition and left the debate midway. He came to Parliament again yesterday and got into a long argument with the leader of the opposition. In my opinion, the President suffered a defeat on both occasions. So I wonder why this President comes to the parliament in this way and gets involved in debates demeaning his position.

Perhaps as the person who has continuously represented the Parliament for the longest time, he is bored without coming to the House. But I think that he misses a lot of work that needs his attention. As the President is also the Finance Minister and Defense Minister of the country, he has a lot of work to do on a daily basis. But what he is doing is enjoying himself like the retired presidents of America by giving lectures on all necessary and unnecessary topics inside and outside the parliament, traveling all over the world. If this is what he wants to do, then he must appoint a full-time finance minister.

The problem of this government is its inability to implement the policies, more than the fault of the policies.

On the one hand, the government is talking about the need to develop industries, while on the other hand, by increasing the electricity bills, it is making it difficult for industries to function.

On the one hand, the government is talking about the development of small and medium enterprises, while importing even eggs from abroad.

The people are not able to bear the cost of health, and at some time they are preparing to introduce the 18% VAT which will affect the health sector as well.

The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Look at the cricket board dispute. The minister says one thing, the president says another.

Now, this country needs an honest agenda.

What we need now is an integrated economic development plan. This country cannot be rebuilt with unrelated proposals like throwing stones at the mango tree, thinking that a mango will fall by some luck.

This country needs proper leadership. It is not a government that depends on a single person, but a unity of a group of skilled leaders is needed. We need an honest, skilled, and experienced group dedicated to rebuilding the country.

We need a team with an understanding of economics. We need a team that understands the ground reality. We need a team that understands the strengths and weaknesses of the government as well as the private sector.

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MR blames economic crisis on Yahapalana leaders



Mahinda Rajapaksa

SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (28) hit back at critics, claiming that a robust economy had been built under his presidency. He said the UNP-SLFP government which ruled the country during the 2015-2019 period should be held responsible for the current economic crisis.

The following is the text of a statement, titled ‘the origins of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis’ issued by former President Rajapaksa: “A heated discussion is now taking place about those responsible for the present economic crisis. The Central Bank reports will show that during my nine years as President, economic growth averaged 6% a year during the four war years, from 2006 to 2009, and it increased to 6.8% in the five post-war years, from 2010 to 2014. Hence Sri Lanka’s per capita GDP increased threefold from USD 1,242, at the end of 2005, to USD 3,819 by the end of 2014. The contribution that my government made to Sri Lanka’s per capita GDP was well over twice that of all other post-independence governments, from 1948 to 2005, put together. Though the per capita GDP came down to USD 3,474 in 2022 as the pandemic caused the economy to contract, that statement remains valid to this day.

The debt to GDP ratio was a very healthy 69% at the end of 2014 having being brought down from 90% at the end of 2005. The All Share Price Index rose from 1,922, at the end of 2005, to 7,299 by the end of 2014. This economic boom was achieved despite the war, the global food crisis of 2007, the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the highest crude oil prices in world history. Crude oil cost an average of USD 74 per barrel throughout the entire period from 2006 to 2009 and an average of USD 103 from 2010 to 2014. The IMF Country Report No. 14/285 of September 2014 stated firstly that Sri Lanka’s “Macroeconomic performance has generally exceeded expectations”. Secondly that “Sri Lanka has made notable advances in recent years, and appears to be on its way to joining the ranks of upper middle income countries”. Thirdly that “Sri Lanka’s economic growth has been among the fastest in Asia’s frontier and developing economies in recent years”.

Hence the fact that I left behind a very robust economy in January 2015 is well documented. After I was voted out, the economic growth rate dropped to 4.2% in 2015 and ended up in the negative range at 0.2% below zero by 2019. Sri Lanka’s total outstanding external debt had increased by nearly 28% from USD 42,914 million at the end of 2014, to USD 54,811 million by the end of 2019. The debt to GDP ratio which had been brought down to 69% by the end of 2014, had increased to nearly 82% by the end of 2019. The All Share Price Index declined from 7,299 at the end of 2014 to 5,990 by the end of October 2019. Yet during the entire five-year period from 2015 to 2019 the average price of crude oil was USD 60 per barrel – the lowest in recent history.

There were no external reasons for Sri Lanka’s economic decline between 2015 and 2019. India and Bangladesh experienced average growth rates in excess of 7% and the Maldives over 6% during this period. Even developed countries like the USA and Germany experienced robust economic performance during those years. However, Sri Lanka’s average growth rate between 2015 and 2019 was just 3.5%, equal to the growth rate recorded in 2021 at the height of the pandemic. The accumulation of foreign commercial debt between 2015 and 2019 particularly in the form of International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs) was by far the worst disaster to befall us during that period.

When I was defeated in January 2015, outstanding ISBs amounted to USD 5,000 million and it was amply covered by our foreign reserves of USD 8,208 million. However, between 2015 and 2019 outstanding ISBs increased threefold to USD 15,050 with borrowings of USD 2,150 million in 2015, USD 1,500 million in 2016, USD 1,500 million in 2017, 2,500 million USD in 2018 and USD 4,400 million in 2019. Of this, USD 2,000 million was used to rollover ISB’s taken during my tenure, thus the total amount in new ISB’s issued between 2015 and 2019 is USD 10,050 million. Despite the build-up of the stock of outstanding ISBs to USD 15,050, Sri Lanka’s total foreign reserves was just USD 7,642 million at the end of 2019.

Thus, when I became Prime Minister again in November 2019, our government inherited an economy that was already on its last legs. It was in this weak and vulnerable situation that the Covid-19 pandemic hit Sri Lanka in early 2020 – the consequences of which needs further discussion. In any discussion of the economy, it is vital to note that the per capita GDP is the most fundamental economic indicator used to judge the economic situation of a country and the contribution of my 2006-2014 government to increasing Sri Lanka’s per capita GDP is more than double that of all other post- independence governments put together. The people of this country should base their decisions on proper data and facts and not on noise, lies and propaganda. Sri Lanka cannot afford another political mistake like that of January 2015. “

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