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Who trumped Trump?



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.






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Buddhism and all beings’ right to life



A large majority of human beings deny the right to life of animals and other sentient beings, including insects. Why? (Sentient being is a living being endowed with mind and consciousness). The late Venerable Narada Thera in his book titled, Manual of Buddhism, states as follows- “The tolerance of the Buddha was not only to men and women but to dumb animals as well. For it was the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and admonished the followers to extend their loving kindness (maithree) to all living beings. No man has the right to destroy the life of another living being, even for the sake of one’s stomach, as life is precious to all” He quotes from the Metta Sutta: “Whatever living beings there be, feeble or strong, long, stout or medium, small, large, seen or unseen, those dwelling far and near, those who are born and those who are to be born, may all beings be happy-minded, without exception. Just as a mother would save her own child, at the risk of her own life, even so let him cultivate boundless love towards all beings.”

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi in his book, titled “The Noble Eightfold Path-Way to End Suffering” says: “The positive counterpart to abstaining from taking life, as the Buddha indicates, is the development of kindness and compassion for other beings. The disciple not only avoids destroying life, he dwells with a heart full of sympathy desiring the welfare of all beings. The commitment of non injury and concern for the welfare of others represents the practical application of the second path factor “Right Intention” in the form of goodwill and harmlessness. Abstaining from taking life (Panathipatha Veramani) – Herein someone avoids the taking of life and abstains from it. The intention of harmlessness, is a thought guide by compassion (karuna) aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive and violent thoughts. Compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering; a wish to be extended to all living beings. It springs up by considering that all living beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering.”

The Lankavatara Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism states: Quote: “For the sake of love of purity the Bodhisatva should refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood,etc., for fear of causing fear to living beings; let the Bodhisatva who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh. It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself. Meat eating in any form, in any manner and any place, is unconditionally and once for all prohibited”


The Surangana Sutra states: “In seeking to escape from suffering ourselves, why should we inflict suffering upon others? How can a Bhikkhu who goes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings? The Buddha forbade Buddhists from engaging in occupations that involve killing of animals, such as Butcher, Fisher, or Animal farmer.”

When it comes to small animals, like rats, and insects, the attitude of the large majority of humans is as if they do not have right to life.

According to Buddhism, they, too, have the right to life as human beings. While some human beings try to prevent cruelty to animals such as elephants, tigers, dogs, etc., I have never heard of any one talking of cruelty to insects. My opinion is that the first precept in Buddhism ( Panathipatha Veramani) applies to all animals, and insects, as well. They too feel pain.

I would like to obtain the observations of other readers of your newspaper on my opinions expressed above.



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A Cabinet reshuffle needed



By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

It looks as if the government did not realise the need to take drastic action to stem the tide of public disapproval. Even the most optimistic, who were overjoyed at the election of a non-politician President, followed by that of a government with an unexpected thumping majority, are sighing in despair! Although part of it is due to avoidable own-goals, there seems to be an extremely effective anti-government campaign directed by an unseen hand. Even when toxins are detected in imported coconut oil, rather than laying the blame on errant importers, attempts are made to tarnish the image of the government. All this is possible because the government seems to lack an effective communication strategy. One wonders whether the government has a lax attitude because the Opposition is blundering.

The fracas in the Parliament on the issue of Ranjan Ramanayaka losing his seat was the best illustration of a misguided Opposition not fit for purpose. Critics may argue that RR was given an unfairly harsh punishment but their criticism lacks moral authority because they opted to be silent when a Buddhist priest was given a much harsher punishment for the same offence: in fact, they were delighted! RR stated publicly that most judges were corrupt and defended his stance at every possible turn. He also refused all opportunities afforded for clarification. In spite of the Attorney General informing a while ago that RR’s seat should be declared vacant, to his credit the Speaker waited till RR’s petition for appeal was dealt with. Even though the facts were obvious, the Leader of the Opposition accused the Speaker of removing RR on the basis of non-attendance for three months, which he had to correct the following day! Those who blamed the SLPP for staging unruly protests in Parliament in October 2018, did the same on behalf of RR. Is this not laughable?

Once and for all, the question of the authority of the President was settled with the passage of the 20th Amendment and it is high time the President made use of his new powers. The most important thing he can and should do is a cabinet reshuffle, a mechanism often adopted by British Prime Ministers by way of a course correction. It need not be a major reshuffle but a minor one involving some ministers who are obviously underperforming. I have written in the past about the Minister of Health who demonstrated gross irresponsibility by partaking of an untested and unlicensed medicinal product. She is also responsible for not implementing the Jennifer Perera committee report on the disposal of bodies of unfortunate victims of Covid-19? Had this been implemented in December, much of the adverse publicity the country received could have been avoided. Perhaps, the voting during the UNHRC resolution also may have been very different. The Minister of Public Security talking of banning some face coverings did not help either. Pity he did not realize he was talking of this at the wrong time; during an epidemic when face coverings may be useful.

The Minister of Trade, who was an effective critic in the Opposition, has turned out to be totally ineffective. Even the government gazette has become a joke due to his actions. Perhaps, it is time for him to take a back-seat and allow someone else to have a go at the rice-mafia. etc. Perhaps, ex-president Sirisena may be given a chance to see whether brotherly love is more effective than the gazette in controlling the prices of rice.

The biggest failure of this government is on the diplomatic front. What most diplomats consider to be the most important diplomatic assignment, the post of High Commissioner to India remains unfilled for almost a year. Whether we like it or not, India is fast gaining the status of a world power, and not having our representative to deal with officials acknowledged to be of top calibre is a shame.

The way the UNHRC resolution was handled showed total incompetence of the highest order. We withdrew but the Ambassador decided to take part; we lost and claimed victory! To cap it all, the Foreign Minister announced in Parliament that the resolution was illegal. All the time sinister forces are at work, relentlessly, to undermine the country and force the separatist agenda on us and if we are not sharp, we may end up in disaster. For reasons best known to themselves, the government failed to utilize fully the good offices of Lord Naseby. Statements made by the Foreign Secretary no doubt irked the Indian and US governments.

For all these reasons, the need of the day is a complete overhaul of our Foreign Affairs set up, starting with the Minister. It is high time we made use of our career diplomats, who are well trained for the job and stop sending political ambassadors. The practice of utilizing ambassadorial posts as parking lots for retired service chiefs is abhorrent, as it gives the false impression that Sri Lanka has a military government in all but name.

There is still a chance for reversal of fortunes, if the President decides to act swiftly after returning from Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations. If not, unfortunately, there may not be much left to celebrate!

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Alleviating poverty, the Chinese way



China has released a white paper on poverty alleviation which outlines the success of policies implemented, the methods employed and her desire to share the unique social experiment with other developing countries. Sri Lanka being a friendly international partner of China should make use of this opportunity to study the programme and plan a scheme and send a team to China to learn the activities conducted under the scheme so that Sri Lanka will be able to handle the fight against poverty, successfully.

“China achieved the largest scale battle against extreme poverty, worldwide, as 98.99 million people had been lifted out of absolute poverty, creating a miracle in human history.” These people were living in 128 ,000 villages all over in China. China through a sustained program was able to achieve its poverty reduction targets set out in UN 2030 agenda, 10 years ahead of its schedule.

A quote from a report released by the BBC outlines the success achieved by China.

:” In 1990, there were more than 750 million people in China, living below the international poverty line – about two-thirds of the population. By 2012, that had fallen to fewer than 90 million, and by 2016 – the most recent year for which World Bank figures are available – it had fallen to 7.2 million people (0.5% of the population). So clearly, even in 2016 China was well on the way to reaching its target This suggests that overall, 745 million fewer people were living in extreme poverty in China than were 30 years ago. World Bank figures do not take us to the present day, but the trend is certainly in line with the Chinese government’s announcement. (“Another large country, India, had 22% of its population living below the international poverty line in 2011 (the most recent data available) …:”}

The people living in extreme poverty suffer from the lack of extremely basic amenities, such as food. safe drinking water, sanitation, health, shelter, and education. It is a fact that those who come under this category are trapped in a vicious circle and for generations they cannot escape the deprivations.

Some of the policies followed by China in achieving the enviable outcome are discussed in the White paper. The most important condition to be fulfilled is the acceptance of the fact that governance of a country starts with the needs of the people and their prosperity is the responsibility of the government. “To achieve success, it is of utmost importance that the leadership have devotion. strong will and determination. and the ruling party and the government assumes their responsibilities to the people. play a leading role, mobilize forces from all quarters and ensure policies are consistent and stable’.

China has provided the poor with the guidance, direction and tools while educating them to have the ambition to emerge from poverty, Through farmers’ night schools, workshops and technical schools create the improvement of skills. The government identifies the economic opportunities in consultation with the people, then provides finances, loans for the selected projects, and strengthens the infra-structure facilities, including the marketing outlets.

While the macro aspects for the poverty alleviation is planned centrally, the activities are executed provincially and locally.

Sri Lankans living under the national poverty line was 4.1% of the population in 2016 (World Data Atlas). The impact of Covid-19 in 2020-21 has dealt a severe blow to the living standards in Sri Lanka and it is assumed that the people living under the poverty line would have reached approximately 8% of the population by 2021.

President Gotabaya Rajapakasa has realised this gloomy truth in his interaction with the poor in the villages on his visits to the remote areas in Sri Lanka. I would request him to study the success story of China and to work out a similar NATIONAL programme in consultation with China. In the White Paper, China says that she is ready to share her experience with other countries who desire to reduce the poverty levels. The President should appoint a TASK FORCE of capable and nationalist-minded individuals to steer the program with given targets as PRIORITY VENTURE. If Sri Lanka can plan a comprehensive programme for poverty alleviation and implement with determination under the capable, dedicated and willing leadership of the President, nearly two million Sri Lankans who live below the poverty line will benefit and would start contributing to the growth of the nation productively.




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