by Vijaya Chandrasoma
Donald Trump has yet to concede that the Biden/Harris ticket has won the presidency by an overwhelming majority, of both the popular vote and the Electoral College. He alleges that the election has been stolen from him by the Democrats, with ridiculous statements about widespread voter irregularities. Election authorities throughout the nation have confirmed that no cases of voter fraud have been found. Trump chooses by his aberrant behavior to delegitimize not just the incoming Biden administration, but democracy itself. He is acting like a revenant, a corpse revived from death to haunt the living.
Sadly, only a handful of Republicans has advised him of the inevitability of his defeat and the need for a graceful departure.
The worst-kept secret in the world is that Trump is a terrible loser, but he does have the right to question the results of the election until it is formally certified by the Electoral College in December. However, as a Lame Duck president, Trump, instead of co-operating towards a smooth transfer of power, is engaging in the unthinkable. He is planning to burn everything behind him as he leaves the White House. His refusal to facilitate a smooth transfer of power endangers the security of the nation. It would be a great relief if he leaves/is dragged out of the Oval Office, screaming and kicking like the petty little man he is, without starting Civil War II or World War III.
Trump has already refused to release the funds necessary for the transition. He has fired Defense Secretary, Mark Esper and three senior officials in the Department of Defense. He is threatening to get rid of CIA director, Gina Haspel and FBI director, Christopher Wray, for the “crime” of not indicting President Obama, Vice President Biden and Hillary Clinton for spying on his campaign in 2016, a delusion dismissed by the FBI and the Department of Justice as having no merit whatsoever. He has filled these key security positions with party hacks who will obey his orders without question.
The security leadership vacuum so caused may encourage adversaries to take aggressive action to further their national interests with impunity and without threat of American retribution. Russia could continue to make illegal incursions into sovereign nations which were part of the old Soviet empire; China could take control of islands in the South China Sea contested by their neighbors. He has also threatened to release classified information which would jeopardize covert CIA operations in countries inimical to the interests of the United States.
Trump refuses to release the Presidential Daily Briefings, a dossier put together by the leading security agencies designed to keep the president au fait with the global security situation. Traditionally, the President-elect has access to these briefings during the transition, so that he would be able to hit the ground running from the day of his inauguration.
All the while, the pandemic is raging, with the projection that 300,000 American lives will be lost by end-January, if the present administration continues to take no steps towards its mitigation. Trump has callously remained silent about this tragedy, which shows no sign of respite.
Biden has stated his intention of relying on a science-based strategy to combat the virus. To this end, he has already appointed an Advisory Board of distinguished physicians and epidemiologists, headed by Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General during the Obama administration. Trump’s challenges to the legality of the election during the interregnum means that this Board will be given teeth to their policies only after January 20, 2021.
There is a sliver of light at the end of the Covid tunnel. Pfizer has announced they are on course to produce a working vaccine with over 90% efficacy against Covid19 by the end of the year, which could be released to the American public by end April. By which time, if preventive actions like masks, social distancing and avoidance of crowds are not taken, the nation would have suffered over a half million deaths.
Secretary of State Bill Pompeo, who visited Sri Lanka last week and gave much gratuitous advice to us on democracy and human rights, was asked, at a recent press briefing, about the charade of denial by Trump of the legality of the election and his refusal to facilitate the smooth transfer of power. He stated, against all evidence, that Trump had won the election, and said, smirking, that there will be a “smooth transition to Trump’s second term”. A frivolous statement made by the nation’s chief diplomat, who is supposed to “show the face of the country” to the world at large. He certainly has done that, and the face is as ugly as that of any banana republic. The United States has forfeited the right to sanctimoniously rail against countries committing indiscretions, even atrocities, in the name of democracy, guilty as it has been of those very crimes.
The leaders of many countries have already spoken to President-elect Biden, congratulating him on his election. These congratulatory telephone calls have come from Trudeau, Boris Johnson, Macron, Angela Merkel, and Pope Francis, among many others. There is also a stack of congratulatory messages from other countries, including Sri Lanka, which the State Department has not released, on instructions of the White House.
Among nations to have implied reservations about the legality of the election of President-elect Biden have predictably been Russia, China and North Korea, whose leaders may be distressed that the United States has reversed its four-year slide on the slippery slope towards authoritarianism.
Trump has this uncanny ability to gaslight himself, to convince himself that he is doing a wonderful job, when all evidence is to the contrary. He lives in an alternative fantasyland, in which he can do no wrong. But his great gift, one shared by many successful cult leaders and dictators of the past, is that he is able to so gaslight a vast section of his countrymen, as evinced by the 71 million Americans who voted for his re-election. He enjoys the kind of success enjoyed by Hitler, who persuaded a majority of the German people that Jews presented a clear danger to the prosperity of their country, that his obscene Final Solution was not only rational but essential for their own survival. Hitler himself believed this, and he was able to get the Germans to go to war to preserve these inhuman beliefs. Just as Trump has brought to the surface the white Americans’ innate fears of a black and brown invasion and the erosion of white privilege. He may incite his white supremacist cult, armed with military style weapons, to widespread violence during the interregnum.
Trump suffered an overwhelming defeat in this election. He lost by the exact majority of 306 Electoral College votes that he had won in 2016, which Trump had described as a landslide. The popular majority for Biden was 77 to 72 million votes, a margin never before achieved by any past president. Amazingly, after four years of calamitous leadership which has seen 245,000 Americans killed so far by his homicidal incompetence in the management of the pandemic, an economy reduced to devastation with unemployment and homelessness faced by millions, Trump still managed to garner the highest number of votes ever won by a Republican candidate. The votes so accumulated by Trump, according to exit polls, included 57% of white Americans, a sad commentary on the racial hostility that still inflicts the nation.
President-elect Joe Biden has been remarkably calm in the face of Trump’s continuing assault on the legitimacy of his election. When asked to comment on Trump’s attitude towards the election and the transition, he smiled ruefully and said, “I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly. The only thing that – how can I say this tactfully – I think it will not help the president’s legacy”. With extraordinary tact and restraint, Biden showed his decency by remaining silent on Trump’s post-election antics which are in perfect conformity with the legacy he will leave, a legacy of lies, deception, fraud, misogyny and treason.
It has been a tradition, since the 1930s, to celebrate and honor the legacy of previous presidents with a presidential library built in his home state. The only realistic memorial to the most tragic and dangerous period in the history of the United States would be the construction of a center for the rehabilitation of raving lunatics with dangerously pathological personality disorders. In Palm Beach, Florida.
In conclusion, I am reproducing below the speech of Oliver Cromwell when he dismissed the Rump (you can’t make this stuff up) Parliament in 1653. I wish I had the gift of eloquence that expresses my feelings of contempt towards Trump and his gang of sniveling enablers so perfectly:
“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.
“Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
“Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?
“Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.
“Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which, by God’s help, and the strength He has given me, I am now come to do.
“I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, GO!”
Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation
By Jehan Perera
Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.
Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”
Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.
The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”
It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.
International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.
In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”
As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.
The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.
Album to celebrate 30 years
Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.
However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.
All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.
Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.
Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.
Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.
LET’S DO IT … in the new normal
The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)
Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.
But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.
Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.
Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.
However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.
And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.
Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.
“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”
The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.
“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”
Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.
In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.
Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.
Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!
Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.
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