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The Republican Party showing signs of fracture?

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by Vijaya Chandrasoma

Former president Donald Trump made one of the most breathtakingly incendiary and dangerous speeches at a rally in Conroe, Texas last week when he protested that “Mike Pence could have overturned his election defeat by Joe Biden”. Perhaps his first admission of his electoral defeat. There is also separate evidence that Trump had met with Vice-President Pence on January 4, to so “persuade” him.

He falsely stated that he (Pence) had the power to overturn the election when he presided over Congress at the Capitol on January 6, to carry out the constitutional function of formally certifying the November 2020 election results and the Biden presidency. Mike Pence demurred, as he had concluded, rightly, that he did not have the constitutional power to overturn the votes of the electors.

Hence the slogans from the insurrectionists on January 6 to “hang Mike Pence”, with a gallows built on Congress grounds for this specific purpose. Trump doubled down on his lie about Pence’s failure to “do his duty” in a subsequent statement, that Pence should be investigated for his failure to overturn the election. An election which has been confirmed by all the election authorities and the courts of the land, including the Trump stacked Supreme Court, as one of the fairest in the history of the nation.

At this rally, Trump further incriminated himself by announcing that he had incited the January 6 assault on the Capitol, declaring that he would pardon the convicted felons who had participated in the insurrection if he wins re-election in 2024. An admission of complicity in the insurrection that presents the January 6 committee with all the evidence it needs to indict Trump for seditious conspiracy, if not treason.

One of his staunchest supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham, took exception to Trump’s determination to pardon those criminals who had violated the Capitol on January 6. Graham made a public statement to this effect, saying “No, I don’t want to send any signal that it was okay to defile the Capitol….And those who did it, I hope they go to jail and have the book thrown at them because they deserve it”. Senator Susan Collins agreed with Graham, saying, “I don’t think President Trump should have made that pledge to do pardons”. She added that “it’s very unlikely” that she would support Trump for president in 2024 given the “many other” qualified Republicans.

These comments by Graham and Collins immediately met with Trump’s wrath, and he used the worst insult in his lexicon to describe them, that of being a RINOs (Republican In Name Only).

To complete the trifecta, Trump threatened all-out mayhem in the streets of Washington DC, Atlanta and New York, if he is arrested by law enforcement and justice personnel of these cities, who have been investigating criminal activities during his presidency. Trump’s chilling words: “If these radical, vicious racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal (translation: their job, by arresting him), I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington DC, in New York, in Atlanta, and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt”. A clear signal to his base for violence if he is arrested.

The Texas speech explains Trump’s modus operandi, the ploy he has always used to maintain his continuing standing with his supporters. He loudly and proudly proclaims his involvement in the very crimes of which he is accused, so that his supporters are led to believe that there cannot be anything wrong or illegitimate in his actions if he publicly owns up to them. The statement he made during his election campaign in 2016, when he boasted “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” is illustrative of his contempt for the rule of law, indeed his conviction that he is above the law.

Earlier, the January 6 committee stated that it is scrutinizing White House papers recently released by the Archives, on orders of the Supreme Court. These papers indicate that Trump was involved in the drafting of a “national security finding”, which typically is used as a prelude to an Executive Order, for the security agencies to seize voting machines after the election. The papers also contain false assertions about foreign interference in the voting systems in the 2020 election, to conclude that Trump had “probable cause to direct the military to begin seizing voting machines”.

An interesting fact about the White House papers released by the Archives is that most were torn up before submission; the Archives had to “repair” them before releasing them to the committee.

Both the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Secretary, Ken Cuccinelli and Attorney General, William Barr, both ardent Trump supporters, had stated that seizing of voting machines had no legal authority.

This is a reiteration of the Big Lie, which, against all evidence, is still believed by a majority of Republicans. A defeated, disgraced former president continues to command overwhelming support among a considerable section of the American people and the majority of the Republican Party, a staggering concept in the backdrop of overwhelming evidence of criminal action by Trump, up to and including sedition and treason.

The present situation in the country, under the Biden administration, contributes to the popularity of the Trump controlled Republican Party. It is widely felt that Biden is unable to rule effectively and pass legislation as he is unable to control his own Democratic Party.

The first few months of the Biden’s presidency were most successful, with the passing of Part 1 of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), “a once-in-a-lifetime investment in our physical and social infrastructure and competitiveness”. Part 1 of this Plan, the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion relief and stimulus package passed in March, 2021, provided financial relief to the most vulnerable Americans who needed help to meet their basic needs. It also served to give a jump start to a lagging economy. President Biden’s actions in controlling the virus, with an approach completely based on science, brought the hospitalization and death tolls down, a great improvement on the criminally incompetent virus mismanagement of the previous administration.

The country’s economy and job numbers remain strong, though a recent jump in inflation has caused concern among consumers and disapproval among voters. Biden’s approval rates have dropped to its lowest levels, at 43%, largely because of his inability to pass Part 2 of the Build Back Better legislation and the Voting Rights Act. Both bills have been voted out by the minority, intransigent Republican Senate, with help from two Democratic Senators. Manchin (West Virginia) and Cinema (Arizona) have voted with the Republicans in the Senate to turn down these two vital pieces of legislation proposed by President Biden. Senators from two traditionally Red states, they worry more about their re-election than their loyalty to the Democratic Party or the welfare of the nation.

The Build Back Better Plan, a campaign promise of President Biden, is designed in its entirety to “set the United States to meet its climate goals, create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the workforce, and grow the economy from bottom up and the middle out”. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2021 would restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and combat the Draconian legislation recently passed by many Republican controlled state legislatures, especially in the “battleground states”, to suppress the right to vote of minorities and the poorer classes.

However, the present rantings of Trump, admissions of crimes and threats of further insurrections if he is found guilty, reeks of the desperation of a man who feels that the walls are closing in. Recent criticism by Senators Graham and Collins perhaps shows a chink in the popularity of Trump’s white supremacist base. Such disapproval of Trump will surely be followed by other centre-right Republicans, when they feel that Trump’s criminal and authoritarian behaviour is beginning to loosen the iron grip he once held over the Party.

There are increasing tensions as to why the former president has not been indicted by the Department of Justice in the face of convincing evidence against him. Does Attorney General Garland fear that such an indictment would unleash political violence in multiple cities by domestic terrorists who form the Trump “base”? As undoubtedly it will.

With a likely meltdown of the blind loyalty of moderate Republicans as evidence of Trump’s complicity in a violent coup, and his obvious ambitions of dictatorship, grows, the former defeated, disgraced and desperate president may be left with his armed, violent white supremacist base to carry out his orders for countrywide insurrection. Americans should fasten their seat belts, they are in for a rocky ride in these months leading to the midterms in November, 2022.

Donald Trump will not “go gentle into the good night”.



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Is it impossible to have hope?

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So, a woman has lost again to a man. I refer here to Matale District SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne having to concede her bid for Deputy Speaker of Parliament to some bod of the Pohottu Party, who, sad to say makes only a negative impression on Cass. Conversely, Kaviratne looks competent, capable, trustworthy, able to communicate and command, and most importantly speaks and conducts herself well balanced. So different from most of the MPs, particularly of the government side, who lack education, and in appearance and behaviour – decency. Please, take my word for the fact that I am not a party person. What I want in our representatives is education and decorum. And they should at least once in a while use their own heads and make decisions that are good for the country and not follow the leader through sheep like, sycophantic obedience. Of course, even more than this is self interest that prompts the way they act and decisions are taken, especially at voting times.

Rohini Kaviratne made a bold statement when, as Wednesday’s The Island noted, she told Parliament “the government was neither run by the President nor the Prime Minister but by a ‘crow.’” Utterly damning statement but totally believable. Deviousness as well as self-preservation is what motives action among most at the cost of even the entire country. And, of course, we know who the crow is – kaputu kak kak. Cass lacks words to express the contempt she feels for the black human kaputa, now apparently leading the family of kaputas. Why oh why does he not depart to his luxury nest in the US of A? No, he and his kith are the manifestation of Kuveni’s curse on the island. Strong condemnation, but justified.

You know Cass had a bold kaputa – the avian kind – coming to her balcony in front of her bedroom and cawing away this morning. Normally, she takes no notice, having developed sympathetic companionship towards these black birds as fellow creatures, after reading Elmo Jayawardena’s Kakiyan. She felt sorry for the crow who cawed to her because his name has been taken to epithet a politico who landed the entire country in such a mess. And he is bold enough to attend Parliament. Bravado in the face of detestation by the majority of Sri Lankans! Cass did not watch afternoon TV news but was told father and son, and probably elder brother and his son attended Parliamentary sessions today – Wednesday May 18. May their tribe decrease is the common prayer; may curses rain on them. Cass recognises the gravity of what she says, but reiterates it all.

I am sure Nihal Seneviratne, who recently and in 2019, shared with us readers his experiences in Parliament, moaned the fact that our legislature always lacked enough women representation. Now, he must be extra disappointed that political allegiance to a party deprived Sri Lanka of the chance of bringing to the forefront a capable woman. Women usually do better than men, judging by instances worldwide that show they are more honest and committed to country and society. The two examples of Heads of Government in our country were far from totally dedicated and commitment to country. But the first head did show allegiance to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in fair measure.

As my neighbour moaned recently: “They won’t allow an old person like me, after serving the country selflessly for long, to die in peace.” Heard of another woman in her late 80s needing medical treatment, mentally affected as she was with utter consternation at the state of the country. One wonders how long we can be resilient, beset on every side by dire problems. But our new Prime Minister was honest enough to voice his fears that we will have to go through much more hardship before life for all Sri Lankans improves.

Thus, my choice of pessimistic prediction as my title. Will we be able to hope for better times? Time will be taken but is it possible to have even a slight glimmer of hope for improvement?

There is much debate about the appointment of Ranil W as PM. We admire him for his knowledge and presence. But the greatest fear is he will defend wrong doers in the R family. Let him be wise, fair and put country before saving others’ skins. He has to be praised for taking on the responsibility of leading the country to solvency. He said he will see that every Sri Lankan has three meals a day. May all the devas help him! The SJB, though it refuses to serve under a R Prez, has offered itself to assist in rebuilding the nation. Eran, Harsha, and so many others must be given the chance to help turn poor wonderful Sri Lanka around. And the dedicated protestors, more so those in Gotagogama, still continue asking for changes in government. Bless them is all Cass can say at this moment.

Goodbye for another week. hoping things will turn less gloomy, if brightness is impossible as of now.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line

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Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer

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Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.

Stephanie

had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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