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Recovering from Sri Lanka’s present crisis: Challenges and possibilities



Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa delivering his budget speech

By Chandra Amerasekare

The recently introduced Budget for 2022 shows some of the reasons why Sri Lanka fell into the present crisis. The pandemic affected the entire world, but its impact was worse in Sri Lanka as the present government failed to take the right decisions, at the right time, to manage it. Thus Covid-19 contributed to the present situation as the Government closed the barn after the horse escaped. It was pure mismanagement of governance that pushed the country into this mess. This government failed to implement appropriate policies to stabilise the economy and upgrade the standard of living of the masses. On the contrary, by following contradictory and ill-advised policies that defeated the very goals the government was aiming to achieve, and failing to listen to the woes of the people, it made the situation worse for the people and led the country towards bankruptcy, besides selling valuable resources to foreigners. As a result, the entire nation is now on a survival mode: political parties looking for ways to survive and come back to power and the general public struggling to survive in a situation of exploding cost of living and increasing police brutality.

Even in 2015, the country handed over to the Yahapalana government, by the previous Rajapaksa regime was falling apart due to mismanagement of fiscal and monetary policies, from 2005 to 2015, which destabilised the financial system and emptied the Treasury, limiting the incoming government’s ability to run the country. Ill-conceived policies and vanity infrastructure projects created a huge debt burden. By borrowing expensive Chinese loans, with short pay back periods, to construct large projects with no return on investment, like the Hambanthota port and the, airport etc., the Rajapaksa government caused annual debt servicing obligations to escalate sharply, making it impossible for the incoming Yahapalana administration to meet debt repayment obligations from the resources available at the time. The government was forced to go for early elections, hoping for a stable majority in Parliament.

Sri Lankans expected the new Yahapalana regime to bring the culprits, who plundered the country, before the law, but the Yahapalana government failed to do that. Did the lack of co-operation between the two partners of the Yahapalana government lead to this failure? The public continues to blame the UNP for allowing the Rajapaksas, and their supporters, to evade the law, and other political leaders are trying to exploit this to win votes by discrediting the UNP and accusing its leader of deals with the Rajapaksas. The report of the Commission on the April terrorist attack shows how some public servants performed their duties to the detriment of the country and this report might be a guide to understand why the Yahapalana regime failed to bring offenders before the law.

The current Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime, concerned with staying in power, has not changed direction after regaining power in Nov 2019 and continues to tread the same path as before taking the country towards bankruptcy, and the people to despair, spending time in queues to obtain the daily essential at unbearable prices.

People waited for the 2022 budget hoping for some relief. Sadly, this Budget has not given any relief to the people. It contains policy conflicts, shortsighted decisions, weak fiscal measures, statements to camouflage the truth and no substantial proposals to change the direction of the economy, to set it on a growth path, or address the critical issues holding back progress. The budgetary allocations among the Ministries show lack of far sight and concern for the people. The Budget does not say how it will bridge the gap between government expenditure and income in 2022.

During the Budget speech, the Finance Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, stated that the public service is a burden to the country, implying it is costly and bloated. Then in the same breath, a policy extending the retirement age for public servants up to 65 years and promising employment to all graduates next year was unveiled; is an example of blatant policy contradiction. Government has not learnt from its policy mistakes during the past two years. The number of gazettes issued and later withdrawn by this government is proof of this government’s shortsightedness, ineptness and inefficiency. Contradictory and foolish policies, such as import ban, including the ban on chemical fertiliser, price controls and then completely abandoning price controls of essential food items thereby creating blackmarkets, fiscal measures, like tax reductions, which reduced government income, while helping the politicians and government supporters to make money at the cost of consumers, are glaring policy mistakes proving this government’s inefficiency. The government is trying to survive by printing money, leaning more and more on China, selling valuable land to foreigners. All this make Sri Lanka’s future extremely bleak.

Almost 80 percent of the budgetary allocations are for Ministries under the Rajapaksas,including highways, and other departments with a lot of construction projects. The allocation for the military has been increased while the allocation for the Ministry of Health has been reduced in a situation where there is no war, but the pandemic is predicted to continue and become worse in 2022! Already the fourth wave of Covid has been noticed in China, Germany, Sweden, etc. In the US, an increase has been identified. Sweden is going for a country-wide lock down.

Education, too, is not sufficiently provided for, compared to the present need to improve online access to education for all children. Sri Lankan children have missed school for two years, and the majority of them have no access to online education as they are without internet facilities, phones, tabs or even the TV. Does the government realise that children are the future of the country and disruption to education for two years has enormous effects on this generation’s future and mental health? This Budget will not be able to make any difference in the country next year.

To bridge the gap between expenditure and revenue in the Budget, the government will probably resort to selling more and more valuable land, and other assets, to foreigners in the guise of bringing foreign investment. They might opt for more Chinese loans as other donors and multinational agencies are unlikely to support wrong policies that do not benefit the people and unproductive projects which only serve to boost the ego and fill the pockets of corrupt politicians.

Can Sri Lanka recover from this crisis situation?

As things are, it will take at least two years to turn around the economy by any government provided the next variation of Covid does not devastate the country and the world. The scientific community seem to believe that the new Omicron variant, now spreading, might be even more contagious. They also doubt the efficacy of the current Covid vaccines against new variants of the virus. It is difficult to expect a visible change for the better for the next two years if the Covid situation in the world does not improve. However, things could turn around for the better if people follow the instructions of the Health Ministry, and government acts sensibly. The chances of recovering from the current crisis depend on whether Sri Lankan voters succeed in bringing a leader into power who has the capability, experience and the overall knowledge required to manage the economy to get the maximum benefits from global trade and international aid programmes to stabilise the financial system while replenishing the reserves and finding affordable capital to finance development projects.

The challenges to economic recovery

1. The biggest challenge to recovery is the lack of dollars to do international transactions, be it private or governmental, and lack of capital to invest in projects to increase production. It is important to understand that Sri Lanka is an import- dependent country. There is no sector in the economy that can function without an imported input. Imported raw materials and machinery are needed for industries, agriculture, transport, construction and even banking. Dollars are required to import food and oil. The country depends largely on foreign employment, tourism, plantation and garment exports for its foreign exchange earnings. What are the prospects of an increase in income from these sources?

2. Impractical monetary policies that keep the rupee exchange rate artificially low for “show” are driving foreign exchange earners to use unofficial traders/brokers such as the Hawala system; thereby bypassing official channels and reducing the influx of badly needed foreign exchange into Sri Lanka. It is time to incentivise foreign exchange earners to transfer funds into the country through official means, and enact pragmatic monetary policies that balance all of the issues that are affected by exchange rates.

3. With disruptions to the global supply chains and low expectations of global economic recovery after the pandemic that stretched for two years, it is unlikely that global tourism will come back to the normal level, even in a year, since the fourth wave of Covid is already spreading in some countries. Local tourist hotels, except a few, need a substantial injection of capital to resume functioning smoothly. There is no capital available to revive this sector at the moment. Remittances from foreign employment in the Middle East, may not increase for another year or so because of the fears of another wave of Covid and the economies of these countries also have suffered due to global trends. Production in the tea plantations has already gone down due to the fertiliser policy.

4. Everybody knows what is happening in the garment sector. The threat of losing GSP + means losing the market for the garment sector and the industry will collapse. The market for apparels is in the west as most Asian countries and Latin American countries are garment exporters. The Middle East countries prefer branded western products and their traditional dresses. Hence the prospects of an increase in the dollar earnings from the present sources mentioned above are rather gloomy.

5. Attracting foreign investments is one way of overcoming the dollar crunch and lack of capital needed to finance projects that generate employment and exports. Investor confidence in the government of the country where their money is going to be invested is a precondition to attract investors. Enabling a policy environment which allows security for the investors’ profits, ease of doing business and political and economic stability in a country where there is good governance are the important considerations for investors to invest money in a country. This is the very thing that Sri Lanka lacks at present. Only an honest leader who commands the respect of the international community and has the ability to understand future trends in the global economy can succeed in creating such an environment to attract productive foreign investments (not casinos) to Sri Lanka.

6. Foreign aid in the form of loans with payback periods of 25 to 50 years at interest rates less than 2% and outright grants is the best way out for a country, like Sri Lanka, now burdened with external debt and lack of capital. China or Russia does not provide such loans. Only the West, international agencies and Japan provide such assistance. But a lack of good governance; a goal-oriented long-term development plan that does not contradict the donor criteria for giving aid; and a leader who is acceptable to the international community as reliable and experienced who honours international agreements; is preventing Sri Lanka from receiving such aid. Some politicians and opinion-makers, in Sri Lanka, who advocate rejection of help from “‘Imperialist West’ and the IMF and insist that Sri Lanka should depend on local resources, probably have no idea that even Russia and China have depended on foreign aid from the West to develop. US government and Japan still give aid to China considered as their potential geopolitical rival, to promote democratic values, such as free choice through Chinese voluntary organisations. China uses the aid at regional levels to overcome local opposition to some projects and for the technical knowhow that comes with the aid (Dr. Philippa Brant, Research Associate of Lowey Institute titled ‘Why does China still receive foreign aid’ and paper by Issac Stone Fish, both published in in 2013.)

7. The 20th amendment to the constitution created the possibility for a President to become a despot. The independence of the Commissions responsible for; a) conducting free and fair elections, b) disciplinary control, transfers and promotions of judges, c) transfers, disciplinary control and promotions in the public service, has been virtually revoked by the President by appointing his nominees to these Commissions. This amendment has given the power to militarize the administration. These Military men are in a position to override the decisions of civil administrators. These developments flowing from the 20th Amendment are not acceptable to donors or the UN as good governance is an important criterion for giving aid and democracies in the free world stand for human rights and rule of law.

8. Political culture in Sri Lanka is the last but not the least stumbling block to recovery. The voters responsible for making and breaking governments hardly consider policies or past performance of parties when they decide who should get their vote. They hardly think of the interest of the future generations. Their priority is to get an immediate benefit for the family. Sometimes they have a select memory that enables them to forget grave offences of some politicians while remembering the minor failures of other politicians. So, they keep electing the wrong people to parliament and rejecting better representatives. As a result, lawbreakers, sex offenders, thieves, drug dealers and even murderers go to parliament and its doors are closed to honest and educated people. Voters’ ability to take an enlightened decision is further stunted by the way politicians mislead them by lying and the way some electronic media houses playing the role of kingmakers, present their programs in a manner to mislead the viewers. Politicians know that most voters can be swayed by emotion at the last moment and they resort to using religion and race to sway the voters in their favor. Under normal conditions voter’s priority is to get immediate relief and the majority of them tend to vote for the candidate who promises employment for a family member or a free gift.

On the other hand, there is no visible alternative to this government at the moment. The main opposition has not presented a long-term plan to address the problem other than making promises. The JVP is acceptable to those who consider bringing the culprits who robbed the country’s wealth is the primary objective of changing the government. But JVP also has not talked of the ways to handle the ailing economy. On the other hand, they do not have even a limited experience in governance and economic development or dealing with the international community. Mere book knowledge of economics and organizational ability will not be sufficient to help the country at this juncture. This was proved by the mistakes of the current regime advised by Viyath Maga. The UNP has presented a skeletal plan and the leader is experienced and well received by donor countries and the international financial institutes. But the UNP has been rejected by the electorate at the last election. A coalition between the UNP, SJB and the JVP might be the last slim hope for the country.

(The writer is  retired CAS officer, who has served the country for over three decades working in the Finance Ministry and as a representative of Sri Lanka in the UN in New York (1991 to 94 )


What’s in a Suit? That which is substantive can be delivered in a Bush Shirt!



Anura Kumara Dissanayake meeting Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar in New Delhi. (File Photo)

by Rajan Philips

Never mind what Anura Kumara Dissanayake wore in Delhi. Never mind what Ranil Wickremesinghe wears daily. What the people want is not the word salads of sartorial politics by Sunday pundits, but the proffering of substantive politics by contenders for political office. As the pre-election dust takes its own time to settle, two figures are emerging as the primary contenders.

On the right, where he has always been, is Ranil Wickremesinghe. On the left, where he seems inspired to be, is Anura Kumara Dissanayake. If there was any chance of someone racing up the middle, that chance and the politics of that candidate are fast withering. The political house of Sajith Premadasa is a house divided according to insiders and outsiders. Mr. Premadasa will have to put his own house in order before he can be a serious contender for public office.

The impending contest between Ranil Wickremesinghe and Anura Kumara Dissanayake will be a very different one when compared to past presidential elections. First to be noted is the organizational disarray of the mainstream political parties and their electorally opportunistic alliances. The disarray is obvious and needs no elaboration.

It also explains why President Wickremesinghe, the nearly 50-year veteran of a 77 year old party, is still looking for a political launcher for his presidential candidacy. Officially, he will be a UNP candidate with the elephant symbol, but he is looking to be acclaimed as the candidate of a grand alliance. Media columnists are writing about such an alliance, but there are no signs yet of any alliance, let alone a grand one.

The support for President Wickremesinghe is mainly based on his successful stabilization of the economy from where his predecessor left and ran away. Those who are genuinely and perhaps exclusively concerned about the economy do think that Ranil Wickremesinghe should be elected as President to continue managing the economy. But this premise has at least two limitations.

A tentative candidate

One, while it is fair to give Mr. Wickremesinghe credit for what he has done, it would be a stretch to claim that what he has done is something miraculous and that he should contest and be elected President for a new term to continue performing economic miracles. The economy cannot be restored by magic or miracles, and no one should lose sight of the fact that the current stability is primarily due to the moratorium on debt payment. What happens when debt repayment is restarted?

The second limitation to the Wickremesinghe candidacy is that the support for Mr. Wickremesinghe is neither broad nor deep. Otherwise, he should be the one who is topping opinion polls and creating the buzz that Ranil is the man to beat. Mr. Wickremesinghe himself is quite coy about his candidacy. Either he is keeping everyone guessing, or he is guessing himself.

It may be that the President is looking for a broad appeal imploring him to contest the presidential election to keep saving the economy. Similar to the circumstance in which he acceded to the desperate request of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for a helping hand. But there is nothing like that happening now. No appeal by any credible alliance for Ranil to be a candidate. The whole tentativeness of the situation is a symptom of the disarray of the political establishment.

That brings me to the second unique aspect of the upcoming presidential election. That is the emergence of the JVP/NPP as real contender for winning power democratically, and whose unity of purpose and organizational discipline stand in stirring contrast to the opportunism and disarray of the mainstream parties. The JVP’s emergence as a viable contender is as much due to its own maturity as it is due to resonating objective conditions.

The aragalaya that drove Gota away may have turned the tide for the JVP. But it goes beyond that, and it shows the people’s real hunger for an alternative political leadership. And it shows that the people are not warming up to Ranil Wickremesinghe in spite of all the learned views about his capabilities as an economic manager.

AKD’s leadership

The consolidation of the JVP and the emergence of the NPP as its electoral front also owe a great deal to the seemingly collegial leadership of Anura Kumara Dissanayake. He is unique in Sri Lankan politics as the one political leader who has filtered up through the social layers among the Sinhalese without being part of a mainstream political party – the UNP, the SLFP, and later the SLPP. The devolution of political leadership in Sri Lanka – i.e., the transitioning of political leadership from the decadent upper strata of society to the emerging generations – could be a study in itself.

The fact of the matter is that such a transitioning has not been as common in Sri Lanka as it has been in India. There is a long trace of leadership transitioning in India – from the rise of K. Kamaraj as Chief Minister of Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) in 1954, to the ascent of Narendra Modi first as Chief Minister of Gujarat and now the soon to be ‘threepeat’ Prime Minister of India. There is nothing common about their politics, but they represent the shifting of leadership from the upper echelons to the lower strata of India’s hugely stratified society. The example of President Premadasa could be cited as an exception, but it was an exception that could not become a trend.

The JVP and the LTTE interventions could be seen as violent and misplaced efforts to force a transitioning of leadership. Both efforts ended in failure, but the reality now is that even the traditional leadership formations have now imploded. There was a much touted recent transitioning in Tamil political leadership, but that seems to have got mired in legal battles in district courts.

The saving grace here is in the recourse to court battles instead of gun battles. There have been shifts in leadership among the Muslims and estate Tamils, but even the new organizations representing the two communities have become mere appendages to mainstream alliances. They too are suffering from the organizational disarray of their mainstream principals.

In this scheme of unfolding disarray, it is fair to acknowledge the leadership and organizational achievements of Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the JVP and the NPP. This is not to say that they are going to win the upcoming elections and that they are going to provide a pathbreaking new government for Sri Lanka. Those proofs will come in whatever puddings they make.

For now, as a point of political observation, what AKD has done so far needs to be acknowledged. India seems to have done that, and it is irrelevant to the current argument why India may have chosen to do that. More to the point, there has been no Indian invitation yet, not even a hint of it, to the newly elected leader of the ITAK.

The gripe over AKD’s Indian visit is really a symptom of the uneasiness in political circles that are unable to come to grips with the disarray among the mainstream political parties and their alliances. Not to mention that for a host of good and bad reasons, the arrival of the JVP/NPP as a palpable parliamentary force is not palatable to many in the commentating business. It is again a symptom of the mainstream disarray that criticisms of JVP/NPP are emanating almost exclusively outside of parliament and from outside formal political organizations. Conversely, it is this vacuum that the JVP/NPP is filling up much to the irritation of its socio-genital opponents.

Their politics and ours

The task for Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP/NPP is to respond to the sartorial politics of their critics with substantive politics of their own. “Their Politics and Ours,” the title of an old pamphlet that Dr. Colvin R de Silva wrote in the early 1950s, takes a different meaning in the new context in which the JVP/NPP is emerging as a real parliamentary contender.

Dr Colvin was intervening in the perennial debates within the left movement in the heady days of the Old Left. That was then. Now, Anura Kumara Dissanayake does not have to get into polemic battles with anyone on the Left. He is in fact the only one on the Left, electorally speaking. He has to differentiate his politics from that of his media critics.

There is another difference between the heady days of the Old Left and Sri Lanka’s desperate times after the Rajapaksa yugaya. The challenge today is not to advance the cause of socialism but to salvage the economy from the pits that it has fallen into. Sri Lanka’s economic irony cannot be any stalker, in that Sri Lanka and Pakistan are two economic laggards in South Asia that is now seen as the principal growth region for an unevenly sputtering world economy.

India is virtually the sole economic engine of the South Asian region, and the challenge facing Sri Lanka is to get in stride with ongoing regional growth instead of lagging behind it.

The challenge facing JVP/NPP is to generate confidence about its abilities for managing the economy the same way it is demonstrating its abilities for political mobilization. As a political organization it does not have to rely on its leaders to read economic textbooks the way Che Guvera read them after the Cuban revolution.

There are enough economists and economic thinktanks in Sri Lanka and the JVP/NPP should not feel shy about tapping them for ideas and as resources. There should be reaching out to professional resources in a very public way to enhance public confidence at the national level, the same way retired military and police officers are reportedly being enlisted at the electoral district levels.

Besides the economy, the JVP/NPP leadership will have to deal with the question of constitutional reform and clarify its position on what could still be called the island’s national question. On the question of abolishing the executive presidency, Mr. Dissanayake has provided a convincing response: there is no time to do it before the presidential election.

President Wickremesinghe has said the same thing, but the difference between the two is that while Mr. Dissanayake is committed to abolishing the presidency, Mr. Wickremesinghe is not. That is a big difference, and one on which Mr. Dissanayake could and should publicly challenge the interim President.


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Leading Restoration: WNPS at the Forefront of Conserving Mangrove Ecosystems



Awareness creating among school children at a mangrove restoration site

One of Sri Lanka’s six RAMSAR wetlands, the Anawilundawa sanctuary is surrounded by a colorful coastline, enhanced by the lush mangroves that shield it, and supported by freshwater sources that are essential to life. Numerous plant and animal species can be found within the confines of this sanctuary, in addition to neighbouring communities whose survival depends on the health of this ecosystem for their survival.

The intricate root systems of mangrove forests bridge both land and sea, serving as a powerful ecosystem that supports life and growth. Mangroves are vital towards building the resilience of a nation, by safeguarding our coasts from natural disasters, while enabling livelihoods and empowering communities. Their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide in greater quantities than other non-coastal ecosystems position them as an important source of blue carbon that is crucial to the fight against climate change.

Unfortunately, unsustainable shrimp farming and other human activities had taken a toll on the environment. This now-abandoned landscape was altered by the use of dangerous chemicals, and until 2019, about 45 hectares of what was once a lush forest were dead and bare. Restoration was the need of the hour, yet many challenges lay in store.

Firstly, no formal mechanism for mangrove restoration had been established. Accordingly, the Department of Wildlife, the Forest Department, and the Ministry of Environment partnered with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka as its principal science partner. With more than 129 years of experience advancing conservation and research throughout the island, the WNPS was ideally positioned capitalize on the strength of teamwork, the rigor of science, and the tireless dedication of its people and partners to develop a sustainable solution.

“The WNPS has long established science as the core foundation of all of its work. The Society also served as the catalyst to bring together diverse stakeholders under the mantle of restoration by bringing in government entities, NGOs, academia, the private sector, surrounding communities and the youth to actively participate in these efforts. In doing so, they ensured that the right science is implemented in this restoration site, while demonstrating the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration to achieve lasting, viable results,” said Professor Sevvandi Jayakody, Science Lead of the Project.

A veritable force of diverse people and organizations transformed a once deserted habitat into a hive of research and activity. Under the direction of the technical team, on-site nurseries were established, experiments were carried out, and natural processes were replicated. A topographical map of the area was created with the help of the Sri Lanka Navy to construct canals that would channel water effectively into arid land. Research labs were constructed on the premises and modern equipment was procured with the collective support of the public sector, business community, and non-governmental organizations. Community members and leaders were mobilized to strengthen these efforts further.

“An intriguing feature of this project is that research is not merely being applied to regenerate these mangrove forests. The science also flows into sustainably enhancing and uplifting the neighbouring community’s livelihoods, while nurturing future youth restoration leaders, with the goal of maintaining these vulnerable environments in the long run,” stated Graham Marshall, Chair of the WNPS Marine Subcommittee

Soil core sampling below ground biomass

The WNPS was further instrumental in shifting from traditional one-time interventions towards long-term partnerships, particularly with respect to obtaining essential private sector funding.

To date, a diverse and growing team of partners have joined hands with WNPS in the journey to restore this vital ecosystem, comprising the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), the Department of Forests, the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, the Hydrography Unit of the Sri Lanka Navy, Lanka Environment Fund, Hayleys Advantis, CEFAS (UK), CSIRO (Aus), Hemas Consumer Brands, Biodiversity Sri Lanka, Star Garments, US Forest Service, and CMA CGM Shipping. Thanks to this coalition for conservation, a previously desolate region has begun to demonstrate signs of life once more. Studies on specific species are yielding encouraging results, and habitats are being progressively restored.

The WNPS and its partners are heartened to note that its trailblazing approach towards the restoration of mangrove ecosystems have contributed towards Sri Lanka being awarded as a UN World Restoration Flagship in 2024, and look forward to advancing the future of sustainable ecosystem restoration in the years to come.

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by Vijaya Chandrasoma

February is Black History month, celebrated for over a century to focus attention on the history of the origins, the cruelty, the travails, the sacrifices, and achievements of the enslaved people brought from Africa to the Land of the Free White Supremacists in the early 17th century.

However, February has brought nothing but grief to The Donald. Trump was ranked, on February 20, by 154 scholars connected to the distinguished American Political Science Association, as the “45th and rock bottom” of US presidents in history. Even more humiliating was President Biden’s ranking at no. 14, with his most important achievement listed that he “rescued the presidency from Trump”!

The month of February also saw the courts shattering Trump’s dreams of presidential immunity, that he was above the law and therefore immune from the 91 felonies committed during his presidency.

Trump has already been hit with penalties from two civil trials in New York – $83 million for the rape and defamation of E. Jean Carroll and $355 million for inflating the value of his assets and defrauding the US government. Of course he will appeal these judgments. The problem is that any such appeals have to be accompanied by full or at least a substantial percentage of the damages awarded, in cash or bond. Unfortunately, no issuer of bonds will trust Trump with any such transaction.

Many may think that Trump had hit rock bottom when he was, at a campaign rally last week, making a fevered pitch to sell “beautiful” gold painted pairs of sneakers at a “bargain” price of $399 a pop, presumably to help raise the money due as damages on the above judgments.

The price of a high-end pair of Nike sneakers runs at around $100; but, according to Trump, his brand name increases the price of any commodity exponentially. Like the many properties he has illegally overvalued, which is the reason this former president and billionaire has been reduced in status to a Footlocker shoe salesman. A comparison which will likely be resented by those salesmen.

No doubt he’ll raise the necessary funds from his Russian and Saudi Arabian buddies who will be happy to pay millions of dollars for some of the top-secret documents he still has stashed away in one of his Mar a Lago toilets.

I will never forget a statement Trump made in one of his pre-2016 campaign rallies:

“I am really rich. I will be using my own money. I won’t need any contributions from anyone for my campaign or any other reason. I built a very small loan into a company that’s worth many billions of dollars, with some of the greatest assets in the world”.

Only Trump can squeeze in so many lies into a few sentences. The “very small loan” referred to was an inheritance of over $300 million from his father in the late 1990s. His election campaigns have been funded almost entirely by donations from his supporters. After his electoral defeat in 2020, he has been milking his supporters every time he was indicted on felonies, with lies that the crooked Biden administration was persecuting him, on a perennial witch hunt. With all the evidence of his criminal, even treasonous, behavior staring them in the face, members of his cult, even so-called moderate Republicans, continue to humor and fund him.

Trump has long been threatening, if he wins re-election, that the USA will resign from NATO, the most durable and powerful military alliance since World War II. He alleges that fellow NATO members were not paying the minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for their common defense. In fact, last week he said that he would encourage Russia to “to do whatever the hell they want”, even invade any NATO allies who were delinquent in the payment of their dues.

Trump’s love affairs with the despots of the world, right-wing dictators like Russia’s Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban have been an open secret, his admiration and envy of these murderers boundless.

When the tragic news of the death of Putin’s nemesis, Alexei Navalny, was announced last week by the authorities of an Arctic penal colony, the leaders of the United States and most nations of the world condemned Putin for the murder of the leader of the largest anti-Putin movement in Russia. President Biden called Putin a “crazy son of a bitch, a killer, a butcher and a war criminal”, and promised to impose stringent sanctions on Russia as a result of this murder.

In spite of demands from his family that his body be released for humane and private burial, Russian authorities refuse to do so, probably awaiting the disappearance of traces of the poison used to kill him.

And Trump? He was speechless for a week, reluctant to criticize his mentor. When he finally found his tongue, he mentioned not a word against Putin, but predictably made a statement short on grief and sympathy, and long about himself and his mythical grievances. He described himself, with not an ounce of irony, as “the Navalny of the United States”, the victim of oppression, battling the persecution of the ruthless dictatorship of Crooked Joe! Hardly surprising, this is the narcissistic maniac who had previously compared himself to Nelson Mandela, and most famously, to Jesus Christ.

Actually, the analogy couldn’t be more antithetical. Alexei Navalny was prepared to sacrifice his life for democracy. Trump, on the other hand, was prepared to sacrifice the life of his Vice-President Mike Pence to destroy democracy.

It never ceases to amaze me that a felon already convicted of rape and fraud, indicted in four jurisdictions and on conditional bail for a world record of 91 felonies, has the gall to call Joe Biden CROOKED, as he described “Crooked Joe” in a tweet after Navalny’s murder. It’s like the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial murderer who made a delicious meal of his victims, describing a vegetarian as a monster!

February also brought a confession by Alexander Smirnov, former FBI informant, on whose information Republicans based their allegations for impeachment of President Biden and his son, Hunter. Smirnov had previously stated that the Bidens had received millions of dirty dollars from the Ukrainian company, Burisma. He has now confessed to the FBI that his story about the Bidens was a complete fabrication, an invention of Putin’s Russian intelligence. He has since been exposed by the FBI as a “Disinformation Agent” of this Russian spy machine.

Many prominent Republican Congressmen still shamelessly lie that they have complete confidence in Smirnov’s credibility, in spite of the fact that FBI Director, Christopher Wray had warned them two years ago that Smirnov’s credentials were highly suspect. Smirnov is now under indictment for lying and providing falsified documents to the FBI. His testimony has completely undercut the Republicans’ case, and their desperate attempts to impeach President Biden have finally blown up in their faces.

There is no doubt that Hunter Biden was a flawed human being, who acted unethically in accepting money from an Ukrainian company, taking advantage of his father’s position as the Vice-President. Hunter has also admitted there was a period in his life when he was guilty of substance abuse and tax evasion, crimes for which he is in the process of paying his debt to society.

There is absolutely no evidence that President Biden was involved in any way with the activities of his son, a private citizen, during his two terms as Vice-President.

Interestingly, Republicans turned a blind eye when Trump’s children were defrauding the government for billions of dollars, when his daughter, Ivanka and husband, Jared Kushner, were senior employees in the Trump administration.

This complicity of Russian intelligence with Trump’s Republican cult leads to the terrifying conclusion that the Russians are, yet again, attempting to interfere in American elections. The stakes for Putin could not be higher. The re-election of Trump, his lap-dog, to the US presidency in November will open the doors to his ultimate dream of the re-emergence of the Superpower glory of the now defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). And Trump will attain his dreams of dictatorial power, and use that power to rival Putin as the richest man in the world.

Alexei Navalny’s simple message to his supporters, as shown in the 2022 Oscar-winning documentary, was as ominous as it was inspirational.

“You are not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong. We need to use this power”. He ended his message with a maxim often attributed to Edmund Burke, widely known as the philosophical founder of British conservatism: “All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing”. A message that has guided Navalny’s life, and may prove to be even more powerful in his death, if it inspires the good people in Russia to continue the struggle against Putin’s evil regime and build a better future for Russia.

The good people of Germany ignored the evils of Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s. They did nothing although they saw – and smelled – the smoke of burning human flesh billowing from the ovens of Germany’s many concentration camps. This gruesome evil was finally vanquished, though with international, including American, intervention. But not before the extermination of six million Jews.

Today, the good people of the world, even in Israel, are watching in horror but doing nothing as Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu and his right-wing cabinet intent on a one-state solution in Israel, are continuing to wreak vengeance on innocent Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza (29,000 killed as of date, and counting) for that one day on October 7, 2023. A day when Hamas, a terrorist organization, tortured and killed 1,200 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, kidnapping 140 hostages of various nationalities.

Revenge in the form of indiscriminate air and ground onslaughts by the Israeli Defense Force are beginning to metaphorically smell awfully like the noisome smoke that emanated from the ovens of Auschwitz. And who knows? Netanyahu might succeed in his ambition to wipe out all the Palestinians where Hitler failed in his ambition to exterminate all the Jews. A genocidal parallel, brimming with irony, that will not be lost in the history books of the future.

The tragedy is that this very same scenario exists in the greatest democracy in the world today. The good people of the United States of America are looking on in apathy, doing nothing, as Trump and the American equivalent of the Nazi Brownshirts harass, threaten and attack, not only Jews, but all brown skinned immigrants from “shithole countries”. They listen with enthusiastic anticipation to Trump listing all the Hitler-like measures he will implement to “preserve the pure white blood” of European Americans when he wins re-election.

These domestic terrorists will not surrender the white privileges they have enjoyed for centuries without using every means, domestic and Russian, politically deceptive and criminally violent, to perpetuate their illusion of white superiority.

The good people of America have eight months to wake up to what could well mean the end of their democracy and the position of their leadership of the free nations of the world. And the sad fact is that most people who read this will think I am being alarmingly fear-mongering and hyperbolic. Let me assure you, I am not. Trump’s “movement” presents the greatest danger the United States has faced since the Civil War, basically, for the same reason – preservation of the dominance of White Supremacy. This time around, however, the modern version of the soldiers of the Confederacy will be armed not with muskets but with military style killing machines. And led by an ignorant psychopath.

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