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Who trumped Trump?

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No, it wasn’t Biden, or the Democratic Party – it was Trump himself and Covid.

When the Democrats have finished dancing in the street, and celebrating their ‘great’ victory, there is a lot they must reflect on. This should really have been, as predicted, a cake-walk, if not a landslide, to the Democrats instead of a nail-biting affair. Now the inclination would be to brand Trump as a mad man, a bad man, an aberration, a nasty dream which, thank God, has come and gone. If they do so and go on believing it was a ‘great’ victory and a full endorsement by the people, they would be making a big mistake – the same kind of mistake they made in 2016 and ever since.

What does a man have to do, to make sure he loses? Insult all around him, sack anyone who disagrees with him, run a most dysfunctional White House apparatus, offer bribes to foreign leaders and, in the end, dismiss a raging pandemic as a ‘passing thing, and don’t worry, it will be alright in the summer’? And, yet, this man comes very close to being re-elected – in spite of having a very nice and decent man as his opponent.

WHY? This is the question the Democrats never bothered to ask since the shock defeat of 2016. Their behaviour has been petty and irresponsible. They wasted 3 ½ years (and lots of money) attacking Trump personally and trying to get him impeached. Instead, they should have reflected: “Why did we lose? Where did we go wrong? What did we miss? How do we beat him, politically? How do we fight him on policies?”

If they cared to ask, the answers are simple and obvious. The electorate was tired of ‘more of the same’ by the same people. The silent majority felt they were not listened to by either established party. They had had enough of the same old boring self-serving establishment. So the flamboyant outsider rides in: he speaks their language, seems to understand their concerns and priorities, promises to do the very things they wanted and to shake up the old establishment. HE is the man they were waiting for.

What if he is a rude, brassy, big-headed womanizer? Who cares? They simply wanted someone who gets the job done.

The average American is very nationalistic. They are proud of their country – the flag is venerated. They do not want to see America being pushed around and taken for granted. Trump hit the right button with his ‘Make America Great Again’ message.

They do not want a President for the world, but for the USA. They are tired of the US trying to be the world’s policeman, and of seeing their kids coming home in body bags fighting in pointless wars.

They do not want to see the country being ‘swamped’ by illegal economic migrants, masquerading as refugees; or to see the homeland security compromised by ‘imported’ terrorists.

They like to stand on their own feet. They want work and are proud to work. They do not want to depend on handouts and view disparagingly and disdainfully at those who do. They are not very high on ‘social justice’ (‘I am alright, Jack’) and resent their hard-earned money being taxed and ‘lavished’ on those too lazy to work.

(Whether WE agree with these sentiments is neither here nor there.)

This is the typical American psyche, which the Democratic Party dismally failed to read, or understand. Looking back, it is not a surprise that Trump won in 2016.

Since then, the Democrats have lived in denial. While they were concentrating on ‘how to get him impeached?’ Trump was busy doing the things he promised, albeit in a bull in a china shop fashion.

Promises and Actions:

Let us forget the man for a moment and concentrate objectively on what he promised and what he delivered:

· Reduce company taxes and red tape, thus stimulate the economy and produce growth

He cut the company taxes from Obama’s punitive 35% to a reasonable 21%. Companies which left the country returned with fresh investment and jobs.

GDP grew consistently from 2016 to 2019 at an average of 2.5% per year, compared to 1.7% under Obama, from 2008 to 2016 ()

Due to Covid (understandably), the Growth rate took a plunge in the first two quarters of 2020 (-5% and -31.4%). But made a dramatic recovery to a record high in Q3 +33.1% ()

Unemployment rates among the Whites fell from 4.5%, in 2016, to 3% in 2020, and even more dramatically for the Blacks, from 9% to 5.5%. (). For Black women it reached a record low figure of 4.4% (CNN Business – not the most Trump-friendly site)

· Stand up to China

He put up tariffs against cheap imports from China and the detractors cried, “Trade war! Reciprocal tariffs! Job losses!” Trump said, “Trade war? Bring it on! We can’t lose. We are already losing billions!”.

In the end, none of the above-mentioned happened. Instead, the trade deficit FELL from 396.0 billion USD to 365.8. ()

· Control immigration

He did not ‘ban all Muslims’ as he promised in the campaign trail. Presumably, he was persuaded that this was a crass idea, and settled for the more practical one of introducing severe restrictions for countries blacklisted by Homeland Security.

Nor did he ‘build a wall’; funds were blocked by the Congress. But he increased control at the Southern border and stood up to the threat of ‘invasion by the army of caravans of refugees’. Every sensible person knows ‘refugee’ is a euphemism for an economic migrant. While it is true that their plight must be pathetic, no US President could echo Merkel (“Let them come”) and hope to be reelected.

In the event, illegal immigration to the US fell from 84,988, in 2016, to 29,916 in 2019. ()

Significantly, while shootings, stabbings and beheadings were going on in Europe, there were no Islamic inspired terrorist incidents on American soil.

· The world’s policeman?

He did not start new ‘foreign wars’, unlike his predecessors. He was forced to deal with ISIS, which he did.

He was sick of America being taken for a ride by its NATO allies. ‘Cough up your dues or else’, he said rather rudely. They grumbled and mumbled, but eventually complied.

North Korean leader Kim had been making threatening noises towards S. Korea ever since he came to power. Nobody dared to confront him, being wary of his nuclear weapons, real or imagined. When Trump ‘took him on’, the world feared the clash of TWO mad men would lead to a nuclear war.

Then Trump did the unexpected and hit the white charm button, instead of the red one. As a result, Kim may not have halted his nuclear weapons programme, but the S Koreans can now sleep more soundly. More importantly, for the first time, in half a century, South Koreans were able to visit their long lost relatives in the North and vice versa.

(In my opinion, this is the greatest achievement of Trump. The media gave him no credit and dismissed the famous handshake as a publicity stunt. Had Obama done it, he would have been hailed as a true world leader and a great man of peace.)

There are other aspects of Trumpism, which are not so savory.

He tried to repeal Obamacare, but was prevented by legal action. He does not believe in climate change, and came out of the Paris accord. (In his defense, these were part of his manifesto.)

And then, there is the man and his manner. Where would one start?!

Still, by January 2020 Trump stood unassailable. There was no one in the Democratic landscape who could have challenged him.

Then came Covid and effectively saved the Democratic campaign.

Trump shot himself in the foot by not taking it seriously. As he was pelting his own version of ‘alternative facts’ about it, making fun of people for wearing masks and organizing rallies with no mask-wearing, nil social distancing, people could SEE their friends and relations dying around them. This is what turned the voters against him. They preferred a mild-mannered old uncle who was predictable and dependable, if not very exciting.

They had had enough ‘excitement’.

BUT, Biden and the Democratic establishment are well advised to:

Dump Trump by all means, but NOT TRUMPISM.

Otherwise, they would be in line for another rude shock, in four years’ time.

 

Dr ASOKA WEERAKKODY

Colombo

 

 

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Opinion

Amend Cabinet decision on new Rajagiriya – Nawala Canal bridge

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The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 09.11.2020 granted approval for the construction of a new bridge across the Rajagiriya-Nawala Canal (Kolonnawa Canal), connecting Angampitiya Road, at Ethul kotte, and School Lane, at Nawala.

As a resident of Nawala, I would like to make two proposals in this regard. One is to reconsider the suitability of the proposed link between School Lane and Angampitiya Road to connect Nawala with Ethul Kotte. The second is to make an additional link between Narahenpita and Nawala, by constructing a new bridge across the Kinda Canal, which flows past the Wall-Tile Showroom on the Nawala-Narahenpita Road and the McDonald’s outlet at Rajagiriya. This will provide a direct access from Narahenpita to Ethul Kotte, and at the same time avoiding congestion on Kirimandala Mawatha and Parliament Road, during peak hours.

The decision to construct a bridge, linking Nawala and Ethul Kotte, is commendable, but the selection of the site for the bridge needs reconsideration. Once Ethul Kotte is linked with Nawala, through Angampitiya Road, and School Lane, one would expect a substantial increase in the volume of traffic on these two roads. Located on School Lane is the Janadhipathi Balika Vidyalaya, a popular girls’ school in the area. Even at present, the area around School Lane has heavy traffic comprising mostly school vans and other vehicles bringing children to and from this school, in the mornings and afternoons. Linking School Lane with Ethul Kotte will make this traffic situation worse, causing congestion.

A better option is to connect Ethul Kotte with Nawala, by constructing a bridge, linking New Jayaweera Mawatha in Ethul Kotte, with Koswatta Road, in Nawala. A by-lane, branching off from the Koswatta Road leading up to the canal, at an appropriate location, could be used for this purpose. On this link, only a short distance of roadway about 250 m, needs to be developed, whereas the School Lane extension needs development of at least 700 m of roadway. Earlier, motorists used Koswatta Road as a shortcut to access Parliament Road. Now, turning right, at the Parliament Road junction, is not permitted, and hence, there isn’t much traffic on this road at present.

One advantage of extending the Koswatta Road, to Ethul Kotte is that it could be linked in the other direction, with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, on the Narahenpita side, providing a direct route for motorists coming along Thimbirigasyaya Road to go to Ethul Kotte. With this link, it will be possible for traffic to avoid both Parliament Road and Chandra de Silva Mawatha, Nugegoda, the only two access roads to Kotte, from Colombo, available at present.

To complete this access, it is necessary to construct a bridge across Kinda Canal, linking Galpotta Road with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, after extending both roadways up to the canal. This area is still not developed, except for a reservation made for a playground on the Nawala side. A new roadway, which is only about half a km distance, is necessary, and this could be built without any problem linking these two roadways. Galpotta Road could be linked with Koswatta Road via Ratanajothi Mawatha, which crosses the Rajagiriya–Nawala Road, at Koswatta Junction.

The construction of these two new bridges, one across Kolonnawa Canal and the other across Kinda Canal, will provide a direct route from Colombo to Ethul Kotte, via Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, Galpotta Road, Koswatta Road and New Jayaweera Mawatha. This link will reduce congestion, at present experienced on Kirimandala Road and Parliament Road.

 

Dr JANAKA RATNASIRI

Nawala

 

 

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Opinion

A tribute to my mother-in-law

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Appreciation

My mother-in-law, Mandrani Gunasekera, nee Malwatta, passed away peacefully in our home a few weeks ago. The funeral arrangements were complicated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation, and the resultant weekend curfew in Colombo.

It is a privilege for me to reflect on my mother-in-law and her role in our lives. Vocationally, she was a practitioner of one of the noblest professions on earth, that of being a teacher, with the responsibility of educating and molding young lives. First in the public-school system, then overseas, and finally in Colombo’s leading international schools. As someone who topped her batch at the Peradeniya University, teaching was an unusual and perhaps unglamourous choice, but it demonstrated her commitment to the service of others.

In private life, she, was a mother to two daughters, one of whom is my wife, and their strength of character are a tribute to her. Her four grandchildren, including my two sons, are, I am sure, left in no doubt, that their mothers were raised in the home of a teacher, with a strong commitment to both education and discipline. I saw first-hand, that my mum-in- law, was an enabler and facilitator, guiding and molding her family. Her eldest grand-daughter, Thisuni Welihinde’s wedding late last year, was a milestone for her and we were never sure who was more excited, the bride or her grandmother.

To me, she was always “Ammi” and having lost my own mother when I was very young, I was determined to treat my wife’s mother, as I would my own. After my father- in- law’s death, a decade ago, it was a joy to care for my mother-in- law, in our home. Ammi was retired and lived a life of leisure. Which was a good counter balance to our own lives, which always seemed to be so hectic and rushed. I also learned from my mother -in-law, that being effective did not come from being prominent.

Ammi was also regular at Church, every Sunday, and was also an active member of a mid-week ladies Bible study, and prayer group, who were also her group of friends. They always ended their meetings, with brunch if not lunch. It was special joy that we were able to celebrate her 80th birthday with a “surprise party” at home, with her friends, about six weeks before her passing.

Ammi enjoyed the simple joys of life, and of our home, whether it was meal times, the constant chatter and boisterous behaviour of her two teenage grandsons, our weekend activities or family vacations to most of which she accompanied us. She was also an avid rugby fan, especially of Royal College rugby, since her brother had captained Royal and now her grandson was playing. In fact, she used to attend many matches and the 75th Bradby encounter last year, held in the shadow of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, was her last, to witness her brother honoured on the field with other past captains and her grandson take the field, as a junior player.

This strange Covid-19 pandemic year, and its unprecedented lockdown ,enabled us to spend lots of time together, as family. Our lockdown daily routine, which included lots of sleep and rest, was centered on the daily family lunch, either preceded, or followed by family prayer. Ammi became the most committed and enthusiastic participant in our family mid-day gatherings. It was a great blessing, in disguise, that enabled us to spend the last few months, with noting much else to do, but enjoy each other’s company. While we miss her, we have the hope that she is with our Lord Jesus Christ. Her favourite Bible scripture in Psalm 91, states “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High abides under the shadow of the Almighty …. and with long life I will satisfy him and show him, My salvation”.

 

By Harim Peiris

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Opinion

The Benefits of Homeschooling

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COVID-19 has changed our normal activities. What we were used to doing in 2019, is no longer a routine in 2020. In the midst of this pandemic the schools were closed down, and the decision to reopen schools by the Sri Lankan government and the trade unions speaking against it, made me ponder on an alternative.

Education in developing countries have often been a sensitive topic, Parents would leave no stone unturned to put their child to a ‘Big School’. How many of the classrooms in ‘Big Schools’ are capable of making seating arrangements by keeping a distance of one meter in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations?

Online Teaching has been introduced as an alternative, but isn’t there something better than that?

This would be the best time to introduce Homeschooling.

Homeschooling is where parents and guardians teach and groom their children. There are many parents capable of handling children and providing a comfortable atmosphere at home for a child to grow up and learn; there are parents who are skilled in particular trades and crafts, and teaching these to their children at a younger age gives the child an opportunity to be a skilled individual.

Several decades back the role of a Governess played an important role in upbringing children in Sri Lankan households. Many would have read about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind student who went on to be a graduate; she was groomed and taught by her governess Anne Sullivan, who taught her at home, this is a successful example of Homeschooling.

It is an arrogant attitude to scoff that parents groom their children into good citizens without sending them to school. Inferior Schooling and Teaching Methods have been a bane to a child’s psychology and mentally handicapping the confidence of a child. The truth is, schools no longer groom students, they have become Examination Centres, that judge the performance of their students through results.

It will be interesting to look into some of the criticisms made by sceptics on homeschooling. One is the subject knowledge of the parents; let’s be honest, how many of us use Titration in Chemistry in our daily lives, do we even want to try it? How many of us want to know the Chronology of the Kings that ruled the Country, has it ever disturbed us?

On the other hand, Homeschooling does not mean that teachers would no longer be needed, the teacher can play a broader role as a governess or a trainer to fill in the subject gaps that the parents are unable to provide for their child.

Another criticism is that children will not learn to socialise without schools. Isn’t Covid-19 regulations discouraging socialising by asking us to avoid public gatherings and maintaining a distance of 1 meter, isn’t socialising with a bad friend as disastrous as a deadly disease?

It will be interesting to see how the trade unions are going to respond to this if homeschooling becomes successful, as they will be the worst affected. But they could always become good Governesses or Subject Experts and play a guiding role in the homeschooling venture. This country now needs more Florence Nightingales to treat the sick and more Anne Sullivans to groom the kids.

 

HASALA PERERA

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