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GOODBYE, MR. TRUMP. ENJOY YOUR SECOND TERM. IN THE BIG HOUSE.

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by Vijaya Chandrasoma

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the day that white supremacist terrorists, egged on and incited by the sitting president of the United States, stormed the Capitol of the United States, was one of the darkest days in American history.

Thousands of these terrorists had been assembling in Washington D.C. before the day scheduled for the ceremonial certification of the electoral victory of Joe Biden and his formal anointment as the 46th President of the United States.

Trump knew this day represented, in his deluded mind, his last opportunity to overturn the results of the November election. He had spent weeks whipping up members of his cult with lies of voter fraud, culminating in a call to a march on the Capitol, the nerve-center of American democracy, on the day that the final nail into the coffin of his ambitions was being driven.

On December 20, Trump tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild”.

Over 3,000 pro-Trump thugs, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Proud Boys, gathered in DC days before January 6. Trump and his attorney, Rudy Guiliani addressed thousands who were to participate in the assault of the US Capitol. Trump spoke for nearly an hour during the “Stop the Steal” rally, at the Ellipse, a park near the White House, one hour before the attack on the Capitol.

Extracts from his rant:

“Our election victory was stolen by the radical left Democrats and the fake news media….We will never give up. We will never concede. When you walk down to the Capitol, I will be there with you.”

There was, in fact, no election theft involved. Vice-President Biden won the November election by a landslide, by 81 to 74 million popular votes, and 306 to 232 Electoral College votes, in what has been described as the most secure election in history. Trump’s spurious allegations of voter fraud have been thrown out by the courts, including his hand-picked Supreme Court, because of the lack of a shred of evidence.

Guiliani also raised allegations of widespread election fraud, saying, “Let’s have trial by combat”. He neglected to explain what exactly he meant by “trial by combat’, but the implication is obvious.

And so began events of violence and anarchy which has reduced the greatest standing democracy the world has ever seen to just another Banana Republic, an unparalleled national humiliation. Violence that enabled terrorists to breach the hallowed grounds and building of the Capitol, while the lawmakers of the nation were in session.

Violence and anarchy that Trump had encouraged before and refused to condemn after.

Violence that has our adversaries beaming with delight at the chaos caused by a president they had helped to elect. Their work was done.

Franklin Roosevelt called the unprovoked Pearl Harbor attack by Japan on December 7, 1941 a “Date which will live in infamy”. Current Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, stated that January 6, 2021, the day the Capitol of the United States was stormed by domestic insurrectionists for the second time in its history, was also such a “Date which will live infamy”. The first time was during the War of 1812, when the British breached and burnt the Peoples House. Over 200 years ago, during a war. By the enemy. This time it was by domestic terrorists, incited by the President of the United States.

Trump has so divided the nation to an extent that “we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us”.

Perhaps the biggest scandal of this armed insurrection was the massive breakdown of security – intelligence, military and police. It was known to everyone that armed groups had been gathering in DC before the certification ceremony on January 6. It was also known that these white supremacists were present at the behest of President Trump, “standing back and standing by” on his orders for violence.

On an occasion as widely publicized and momentous as the ceremony to mark the certification of the 46th President of the United States by members of both Houses of Congress, impregnable security measures were of utmost importance.

Strangely, armed insurrectionists were able to break into the Capitol premises with impunity and little resistance. These thugs were photographed vandalizing Speaker Pelosi’s suite of offices; even the main conference hall of the Capitol, where the meetings were being held and several offices were also breached.

Most videos of law enforcement clearing the Capitol premises show the insurrectionists treated with consideration, even courtesy. One particularly brazen photograph showed a policeman posing for a selfie with a terrorist within the premises. Hardly treatment deserved by armed insurrectionists, when their apparent crimes were sedition and treason. I dread to think how law enforcement officers would have behaved had the Black Lives Matter protesters attempted to storm the Capitol. Not this courteously and gently, I dare say.

During the insurrection, one woman was shot in the chest, and died in hospital. Another woman and two men died in “medical emergencies”. A policeman was killed and several others injured.

A few arrests were made, mainly on curfew offences. The insurrectionists were released and allowed to go home. Perhaps they were treated to a five-course farewell dinner at the Trump International Hotel in DC before their departure. With the bill sent to the taxpayer, of course.

Prosecutors are said to be looking at all actors, including Trump, as charges are being filed against some insurrectionists. The post mortem of this total failure in security is also ongoing. The Chiefs of Police of the Capitol have resigned. Too little, too late. The horse has already bolted.

While the violence at the Capitol was in progress, Trump remained silent, until he was persuaded to address the anarchists in a call to end the violence. Predictably, he expressed his sympathy and encouragement for these terrorists. “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. But you must go home now, we must have peace now. So go home. We love you. You’re very special”. Hardly sentiments to be displayed in addressing terrorists who had just breached the symbol of Democracy of the nation.

Several White House officials have already resigned from their posts after this insurrection, and many more, notably Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, former Chief of Staff, Mike Mulvaney, Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, some of Trump’s most vocal defenders in the administration, and many others are seriously considering resigning. The rats are jumping from the ship which sank on January 6. Where were they when the ship was sinking, the past four years?

It is now becoming increasingly obvious that Trump is no longer mentally fit to carry out the functions of the presidency. He has been diagnosed to suffer from malignant narcissistic pathology, a polite, psychological way of saying that he is batshit crazy. Although he will be removed in two weeks’ time, he is still capable of causing serious damage to the country, and to President Biden’s fledgling administration. It is too late to impeach him or invoke the 25th Amendment. He should be arrested on mental grounds and installed where he belongs, in a lunatic asylum.

Trump is the Frankenstein, the creation of the modern Republican Party. The GOP, the Party of Lincoln, will be grappling with the abominable legacy of Trump for generations to come. The Party has been so completely emaciated by Trump to an extent that it may not be able to exist in its present form.

The US Congress, led by Vice-President Pence, has now formalized the election of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. Biden as the 46th President, and Kamala Devi Harris as the 49th Vice President, of the United States. Harris is the nation’s first woman Vice-President and the first Vice-President of color. Objections made on the basis of election fraud in Pennsylvania and Arizona were shot down in flames by both Houses. Vice-President carried out his constitutional duties flawlessly, no doubt awaiting the tweeting wrath of President Trump.

Trump’s desperation to remain in the White House reveals his terror of the dozens of prosecutions on a variety of crimes he will face when he will no longer have the immunity of the presidency. He may be able protect himself with a self-pardon, which will only give him immunity against federal crimes. Presidential pardons do not give protection against state crimes. He will face a multitude of charges on state crimes, including the New York District Court investigations into tax and bank offences, hush-money allegations, real estate fraud, emoluments and sexual misconduct cases. Georgia also may be considering charging Trump with abuse of power in threatening election officials to subvert state elections. And charges of sedition may also be on the table after his complicity in Wednesday’s insurrection.

President Biden’s task has just been made easier by the almost certain election to the Senate of two Democrats from Georgia. Reverend Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff beat off the incumbent David Perdue, at the run-off Senate elections on Tuesday, January 5. The Senate is now tied at 50 – 50, but Vice-President Harris acts as the President of the Senate, and has the casting vote in case of a tie.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer will be the Majority Leader, and the obstructive shadow of Mitch McConnell will disappear into the impotent hell of the Minority Leadership. This unexpected flip of the Upper House presents President Biden with a wonderful opportunity to push forward the progressive agenda of the Democratic Party.

I would like to take the liberty of ending on a personal note. I have, since Trump’s comments at Charlottesville when he described white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “very fine people”, labeled Trump as one of the most evil men in the history of mankind. I have long been perplexed by those Trump supporters, especially of the brown-skinned Sri Lankan variety, who have been in awe of an obviously narcissistic, criminal, ignorant, raving white supremacist. I hope recent events have persuaded them to open their eyes. I take no pleasure in this “I told you so” moment. But I did tell you so.



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Features

Credibility in governance through elections and not security forces

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Ranil Wickremesinghe

By Jehan Perera

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that he is prepared to declare a state of national emergency and use the military to suppress any public protests for change of government would reflect the pressures he is under. The manner in which he has used the security forces to deal with the protest movement has been unexpected. His words and deeds are contradictory to what he has previously stood for as a five-time former prime minister. This is especially true in the case of the ethnic and religious minorities who have consistently voted for him and his party at elections. They have felt safer and more secure under his governments which always sought to reduce the heavy hand of state oppression in which national security is given pride of place. He has always promised them much though he has been unable to deliver on much of what he promised.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate rhetoric and actions of the present time the belief still persists that President Wickremesinghe is the best of the available options. Recent pronouncements of the president have reignited hope that he will address the problems of the religious and ethnic minorities. He has stated that he does not want to leave this problem to the next generation. He has said that he wants to resolve this intractable national problem by the country’s 75th independence anniversary on February 4 next year. The hope that the president will make a fresh effort to resolve their problems has led the main Tamil party, the TNA, to desist from voting against the budget which passed with a relatively small majority. Their spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said in Parliament that due to the president reaching out to them, stretching out his hand, they did not vote against the budget although they disagreed with it.

It is not only in words that the president has reached out to the ethnic and religious minorities. Reports from the north and east indicate that the Maveer (Heroes) Day commemorations this year took place without incident. During the past two years scores of people were arrested and a massive presence of security forces blocked the people from participating in public events. On this occasion the security forces did not get involved in any attempt to stop the commemorations. University students distributed sweets and even cut a birthday cake to celebrate slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. The analogy that the president drew to himself being seen as a Hitler who exterminated ethnic and religious minorities is misplaced. The release of those held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for engaging in similar acts in the past would further contribute to the reconciliation process.

WORSENING CRISIS

In this context, the president’s use of militaristic rhetoric can only be understood in relation to the growing economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. The anticipated IMF bailout package is at risk of getting indefinitely delayed. It was initially anticipated to come in September then in November but now January is being targeted. Japan’s top brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, has warned that seven countries – Egypt, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Hungary – are now at a high risk of currency crises. Sri Lanka is in third place on the table of risk. The next devaluation of the rupee could see another spike in inflation that will make the cost of living even more unbearable to the masses of people.

The president is on record as having said that the economic crisis will get worse before it improves. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that it is indeed worsening. University teachers at the University of Sabaragamuwa reported that attendance in their classes was down by at least a quarter. Students who come from other parts of the country are unable to afford the cost of meals and so they stay at home. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies has shown that about four percent of primary, 20 percent of secondary and 26 percent of collegiate students had dropped out of school in the estate sector, which is the worst affected. The future costs to the country of a less well educated population is incalculable and inhumane.

As it is the situation is a dire one for large swathes of the population. Research from the University of Peradeniya has revealed that close to half of Sri Lanka’s population, 42 percent (up from 14 percent in 2019) are living under the poverty line. Professor of Economics Wasantha Athukorala has said there is a dramatic increase in the poverty level of over three-hold across the past three years. In 2019, nearly 3 million people lived below the poverty line, but that number has increased to 9.6 million in October 2022. In these adverse circumstances stability in a polity can be ensured either through legitimacy or through force. It would be tragic if the latter is the choice that is made.

ELECTORAL SOLUTION

President Wickremesinghe has been stressing the importance of political stability to achieve economic development. His recent statement that the security forces will be used to negate any unauthorised protest is a sign that the government expects the conditions of economic hardship to escalate. The general public who are experiencing extreme economic hardship are appalled at the manner in which those who committed acts of corruption and violence in the past are being overlooked because they belong to the ruling party and its cliques. The IMF has made anti-corruption a prerequisite to qualify for a bailout, calling for “Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.”

It is morally unacceptable even if politically pragmatic that the president is failing to take action against the wrongdoers because he needs their votes in parliament. As a start, the president needs to appoint a credible and independent national procurement committee to ensure that major economic contracts are undertaken without corruption. Second, the president needs to bite the bullet on elections. The country’s burning issues would be better accepted by the country and world at large if they are being dealt with by a statesman than by a dictator. Government that is based on the people’s consent constitutes the sum and substance of democracy. This consent is manifested through free and fair elections that are regularly held. Local government elections have been postponed for a year and are reaching their legal maximum in terms of postponement. These elections need to be held before March next year.

Elections will enable the people to express their views in a democratic manner to elect their representatives for the present. This would provide the government with guidance in terms of the decisions it is being called to take to revive the economy and place the burden in a manner that will be acceptable to the people. The provincial council elections have been postponed since 2018. Democratically elected provincial councils share in the burdens of governance. The devolution of power that took place under the 13th Amendment was meant to promote ethnic harmony in the country. The president who has taken the position that he is for a solution to the ethnic conflict should seriously consider conducting the provincial council elections together with the local government elections se their financial costs. By doing so he will also gain legitimacy as a democratic statesman and not a dictator.

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WEDNESDAY – Movie Review

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The Addams Family is back with a new tale to tell! Originally created by Charles Addams as a comic strip published in The New Yorker, it offered readers a sarcastic take on the ‘typical nuclear family’ by substituting it with a more macabre bunch of strange and eerie individuals. Since then the titular family has been adapted on to the big screen many times, from live action movies to animated versions, the Addams Family has gained many fans throughout the years. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton working on four episodes of the eight-part series, Wednesday is a welcoming tale for young fans, but unfortunately fails to think outside the box and remains anchored to the floor with a messy storyline.

Dead-eyed Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is a stubborn, independent and intelligent teenager in this new series. Her penchant for attracting trouble wherever she goes alarms her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). With an already strained relationship with her parents (specifically her mother), Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore, an academy for outcasts like herself. Having attended the academy themselves, Morticia and Gomez are hopeful that their daughter will ‘fit right in’. Caught between trying to build her own identity and other teenage complexities, Wednesday soon finds herself in the middle of a twisted mystery.

This is the first time audiences are introduced to a teenage Wednesday, which allowed the creators to build a new world on their own terms, but while keeping true to the original nature of the character. The creators do a fair amount of world building by introducing other outcasts like the Fangs (vampires), Stoners (Gorgons), Scales (sirens) and Furs (werewolves), among others. Nevermore Academy itself is beautiful and comes with the classic package of creepy crypts, hidden rooms and secret societies. The series also offers a decent amount of gore, although they could have added more given Wednesday’s proclivity for gore-related activities. The series deals with classic young-adult tropes which includes teenage crushes, bullies, relationships and even prom, among other things. The series navigates through Wednesday’s journey of self-discovery, which is a new avenue for both the character and the fans. From understanding and displaying her emotions to discovering her identity and understanding her peers, the series takes a deep dive into heavy material.

Ortega’s performance as the titular character plays a major role in keeping audiences glued to the screen. This is also the first time viewers are shown a teenage Wednesday Addams, which works to Ortega’s benefit as she depicts more dimensions to the ghoulish, morose character many are associated with based on previous renditions. Her facial expressions and ability to deliver on seriously emotional moments strengthens her role as the lead. The rest of the Addams Family, even with limited screen time, lack the eccentricities their characters should have. Hopeless romantics Morticia and Gomez seem incompatible in this version and Uncle Fester is far less crazy than he ought to be. The only member worth mentioning is the Thing—a severed hand— who brought more character and spirit to the series acting alongside Ortega. With barely any room to develop a majority of the characters are prosaic and tedious, even though they remain vital to the plot.

Apart from Ortega, Gwendoline Christie and Emma Myers deserve honorable mentions for their roles as Nevermore’s head teacher, Larissa Weems and the peppy Enid Sinclair respectively. Enid quickly became a fan favorite as the character was the polar opposite to Wednesday. Her character is vital to Wednesday’s character development and their journey to find common ground as mismatched individuals is amusing.

Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 90s returns as ‘normie’ teacher, Miss Thornhill and unfortunately barely stands out and this in large part due to the messy storyline. The series is bogged down with numerous subplots and overlapping tropes and the characters with potential for growth are completely overlooked. With love triangles, bullies and killer monsters on the loose, the series self-destructs and the climax sinks into disappointment.

At the end of the day, Wednesday plays to the beat of the new generation and touches on new themes, which is welcoming seeing as the character should grow up at some point. While not everyone may relate to Wednesday’s teenage perils, it is interesting to witness her growth and her journey as an ‘outcast’ or ‘weirdo’. And while Wednesday doesn’t exactly offer a distinctly unique story, it gives audiences a small taste of what Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday is capable of. Creating a story around a well-established franchise is a difficult task, and in this case the creators fail to add value to their visions. If the series continues, the creators will have the opportunity to think further outside the box and push the limits to Wednesday’s character and give audiences a bone-chilling experience. Wednesday is currently streaming on Netflix.

 

 

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Stage set for… AWESOME FRIDAY

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The past few weeks have been a very busy period for the new-look Mirage outfit…preparing themselves for their big night – Friday, December 2nd – when they would perform, on stage, for the very first time, as Donald Pieries (leader/vocals/drums), Benjy (bass), Niro Wattaladeniya (guitar), Viraj Cooray (guitar/vocals), Asangi Wickramasinghe (keyboard/vocals), along with their two frontline female vocalist, Sharon (Lulu) and Christine.

They have thoroughly immersed themselves in their practice sessions as they are very keen to surprise their fans, music lovers, and well-wishers, on opening night…at the Peacock, Berjaya Hotel, in Mount Lavinia.

Action starts at 8.00 pm and, thereafter, it will be five hours of great music, along with EFFEX DJs Widhara and Damien, interspersed with fun and excitement…for the whole family!

Yes, opening night is for the whole family, so you don’t need to keep some of your family members at home – kids, especially.

Working on their repertoire for Friday, bassist Benjy says “what we will dish out will be extra special, with lots of action on stage.”

It would be interesting to see Sharon (Lulu) doing her thing with Mirage, after her early days with the Gypsies, and, I’m told, a dynamic performance from Sharon is what is in store for all those who make it to the Peacock this Friday

Edward (Eddy) Joseph (centre) with Donald and Benjy

While the band was at one of their practice sessions, last week, they had a surprise visitor – Edward (Eddy) Joseph, a former member of the group Steelers, who is now based in Germany.

Eddy is here on a short visit and is scheduled to return to Germany, tomorrow (30).

He spent an hour with Mirage, at their practice session, and says he is disappointed that he would not be around for the group’s opening night.

However, there is a possibility of several well-known personalities, in the showbiz scene, turning up, on Friday night, to experience the sounds of the new-look Mirage, including Sohan Weerasinghe and Joey Lewis (from London).

Rajiv Sebastian, too, says he is keen to be a part of the fun-filled evening.

You could contact Benjy, on 0777356356, if you need to double check…their plans for AWESOME FRIDAY!

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