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US re-joining UNHRC: American attitude towards terrorism and human rights

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‘The US returns to UNHRC, ahead of 46th session’ was a leading news item in The Island of 10.02.2021.

The US of A does what it needs to do, to serve its cause as best as possible, at any given time.

When being with the UNHRC was not convenient, it left the organization. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, did not mince her words, announcing the decision, calling the council a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation”. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44552304 . Now the time has come for the US of A to rejoin the UNHRC to propagate its international agenda!

It would be worthwhile at this juncture for us to remind ourselves of how the US of A behaves when it comes to terrorism and human rights.

The response of the US of A to the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001 was the PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty – uniting and strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. It is well documented that multiple violations of human rights such as water boarding, physical torture, sexual abuse, to name a few, have been committed by US troops against suspects of terrorism (Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse (https://enwikipediaorg/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse ). Under the PATRIOT act, all these violations were deemed ‘acceptable’. For example, The Geneva Convention prohibits prisoners’ rights being abused. However, with the use of the PATRIOT act, the term prisoner was not used. Prisoners were referred to as ‘enemy combatants’ (Enemy combatants. https://wwwhumanrightsfirstorg/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Enemy%20Combatantspdf ). Therefore the Geneva Convention rules did not apply. The ‘enemy combatants’ were ‘tortured’, kept in custody indeterminately without been given legal representation, the hearing of their cases was postponed indefinitely etc…. Furthermore, when these enemy combatants, who were imprisoned indeterminately, committed suicide out of sheer desperation their deaths were not investigated as suicides in custody but were called ‘manipulative self-injurious behaviour’ (Ratner M. America’s Disappreared Detainees, Secret Imprisonment and the ‘War on Terror’) and as an ‘act of asymmetric warfare’ committed against America. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jun/18/usa.guantanamo.

The other legal manipulation that the US of A employed was to do with sovereignty – the deniability of its actions as a sovereign country. For example, if one takes the Guantanamo Bay Naval Camp, one of the sites where abuse of ‘prisoners’took place, the camp was not based on American soil. Therefore on the one hand, the US of A proclaimed that none of these so called atrocities carried out against ‘enemy combatants’ was on American soil where the sovereignty, rules and regulations of the country apply; therefore no American laws as such were broken. At the same time since these ‘atrocities’ were not carried out on American soil, the normal rules and regulations of the US of A did not apply either. A win win situation whatever way you looked at it!

It is because of this ‘clever legal manipulations’ that at no point during this period were George W. Bush (President), Donald Rumsfeld (Defence Secretary), George Tenet (CIA director), John Ashcroft (Attorney General)- all whom were well aware of what was happening – were ever asked to account for these atrocities that were being carried out (https://wwwhrworg/report/2011/07/12/getting-away-torture/bush-administration-and-mistreatment-detainees).

As to the US of A approach to human rights; all one has to do, is to look at the ‘birth’ of the US of A. The declaration of Independence in its second paragraph states that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This was at a time when slavery still flourished in America. Freedom for the slaves did not matter. There were no qualms in the signing of the declaration of independence with 41 out of the 56 who signed the declaration of independence owning slaves! (Slave owners among those who signed the declration of independence. http://wwwmrheintzcom/how-many-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-owned-slaveshtml.) So how was the reality of these “self- evident truths” resolved? The answer lies in the wording in the final paragraph where the newborn US of A state their premise of separation – “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;”

Very elegant. For everyone knows that, what gives context to a land is its occupants and one cannot constitute free and independent states from slaves that are neither free nor independent. Therefore this issue of freedom, independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the intentions of the declaration, do not apply to slaves; just the free men who represent the US of A.

The UNHRC should be ashamed to take guidance from such a nation. I would like to ask the Tamil diaspora and our own Tamil politicians who are supposed to represent the rights of the Tamil people in this country, by standing with the UNHRC and the US of A on this matter, are you acknowledging that this is the kind of justice you seek?

 

Dr. Sumedha S. Amarasekara



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Opinion

Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches

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The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.

But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints

Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.

The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.

 

D.C.Atukorala

Colombo

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Opinion

‘Post turtle’ revisited

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I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago. 

And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:

“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.

The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.

The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”

Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.

What a fitting and symbolic representation, 

I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.

Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised! 

And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.

Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.

Now I have only one question for you before I end this:

When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?

Laksiri  Warnakula  

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Opinion

Abuse of use of title Professor

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I read with much interest the letter by Mr. Nissanka Warakaulle, regarding the above matter, in the issue of the Sunday Island of 18th April 2021. I agree fully with the contents of his letter. He should be very familiar with the regulations as he is a former Registrar of the University of Colombo. I wish to highlight another instance where it is abused. In the 1970s, the title of Associate Professor was created. Until then there were only three categories of Professors. Firstly the holder of the Chair, secondly a co-Professor and thirdly, an Emeritus Professor. There were also, Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers. The title of Reader was replaced with the title Associate Professor, which is meant to be a designation, to be used after the name. However, this category of academics started using it as a pre-fix, dropping the word Associate!

Profesor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya MBE
Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics,
University of Colombo

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