The USA is in the news. Exposed. Exposed to those who believed the balderdash about that country being the greatest success story of democracy, freedom and the good life. Whereas other nations as bad or worse are crude, the USA is cute in sweetening the bitter, perfuming the foul-smelling and wall-papering over the grotesque. Used to be. That would be more correct.
The protests are ongoing. Significant numbers want that country to come to terms with its sordid history and violent present. Let there be no illusions though. The racist, violent military-industrial complex that is the United States of America is resilient. Is fighting back. Will continue to fight.
Last week we had the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Aliana B Teplitz saying George Floyd’s death (yes, DEATH and not COLD-BLOODED MURDER BY RACIST POLICEMEN) would be investigated. On Tuesday, she issued a statement which bests her own standards of convolution. It was regarding a protest against the USA organized by the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP).
‘We welcome discussion on minority rights, equal protection under law, and security service accountability. But let’s do so in safe ways until there’s less to worry about from COVID-19.’
It takes some gall for a representative of the USA to talk about minority rights, equal protection under law and security service accountability, considering that ‘discussion’ of such things pale in relation to the stark and brutal articulation in their breach. Responsible protests is what she is calling for. That’s echoing what the UN chief on human rights said about protests in the USA where riots broke out after violent police provocation. It’s easy to indulge in equivalency-speak after the villains have done their work.
Safe ways, she said. It’s not as though safety was ever a cardinal principle for the USA, domestically or internationally. Safety was not an issue in dealing with COVID-19 either. Profit was. Keeping businesses viable was. And is, even now.
But let’s talk ‘safety.’ In the midst of all this, an embassy employee created a fuss at the airport, refusing to take a PCR test. Diplomatic immunity was cited. The Government was caught wrong-footed, gave in and revised protocols for testing of diplomats. The man, Wayne Hamrick, is apparently a part of the Embassy’s ‘Planning and Action Training Team’ which is attached to the office of the Defense Attaché. Nothing ‘diplomatic’ in either of these entities, but this is the USA, remember? A violent, war-like, liking-war nation whose governments talk down to other nations about human rights, but have essentially burnt that book a long time ago.
So, Teplitz’ safety-talk and moralistic grandstanding is for those who protest against her Government, but not for employees who could theoretically be a grave threat to the safety of all.
Now what if this ‘diplomat’ is in fact infected with COVID-19? What if he were to succumb to the deadly virus? What if he happened to be a Muslim? How would the US Embassy deal with death-rites? If buried, how would Muslims whose loved ones died of the virus and were duly cremated feel? [For the record, I hope he is uninfected and if indeed he is infected I wish him speedy recovery.]
COVID-19 was not anticipated. The world is being re-created as I write on account of the pandemic. Surely Teplitz has heard of the Vienna Convention and knows that its authors did not anticipate—and indeed could not have anticipated—a pandemic such as this? No one is immune. That’s the bottom line.
Let’s visit the protests. The police obtained a court order to stop the FSP protest outside the embassy. The FSP shifted venue to De Soysa (Lipton) Circus, Colombo. Social distancing was maintained. It was a low-key protest. A few had been near the embassy. The police intimidated these persons. That’s when things got hot. The protesters were provoked. Some fifty were arrested.
Teplitz cites COVID-19 protocols. So does the Government. If that was the issue, a lot more people should have been arrested for violating social-distance recommendations. Moreover, there are no laws as of yet regarding such issues. There’s also the case of crowds at Arumugam Thondaman’s funeral. What happened to COVID-19 protocols? Of course if the 5-mourners rule was imposed it is likely champions of human rights, Teplitz included, would have cried out in horror about the government being insensitive to minorities, but that’s beside the point here.
I would love to hear the rights-brigade take issue with the government for the manner in which the protesters were handled. Funded-voices, rent-a-signature petitioners, candle-light ladies, born-again-democrats and other Colombots aren’t exactly berating either the government or the US Ambassador. One wonders what the lately retired-from-politics Mangala Samaraweera would have to say?
Samaraweera has been vocal about one thing. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact.
‘Sri Lanka must fast-track the MCC grant. Worth $500 million (which is roughly equal to a 20,000 rupee grant to every household in Sri Lanka), it can kick-start the relief and recovery program,’ he says. ‘Selling or leasing these State-owned Enterprises and using the money for relief, or for settling public debt, will be an asset transfer from the state to the citizen,’ he adds.
Essentially asset-transfer to the USA is being named ‘asset transfer to citizen!’ Samaraweera knows that the MCC essentially ties the hands of the Sri Lankan judiciary with respect to the operations of the MCC. If the government had to navel-gaze over a US Embassy official at the airport, just imagine what it would have to do if the MCC Compact was in operation!
FOR THE RECORD: As presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Tuesday November 5, 2019, requested Venerable Ududumbara Kasyapa Thero to stop the fast launched over the MCC Compact. All agreements signed by the then government would be reviewed and revoked if they are not in the national interest, he pledged. The United National Party candidate Sajith Premadasa repeated these sentiments almost immediately. Samaraweera kept mum.
So has this Government ‘reviewed’? Who is advising this government? Viyath Maga? The Pathfinder Foundation? What’s their agenda? What’s their ideological position with respect to the US, neoliberal economic myth and so on? When is this government going to come clean on all this?
Let’s suspend illusions. The USA is on its knees domestically. The USA, nevertheless, is not going to roll over and surrender to reason and civilization. Teplitz and the US Embassy in Sri Lanka have tasks to accomplish. Getting the MCC Compact off the ground is top of the agenda.
This is what we have: The refusal of the US ‘diplomat’ to take a PCR test and the government agreeing to waive the requirement + government response to projects + the from-retirement please issued by Samaraweera (a US agent if ever there was one) over the MCC Compact. Need we insist, ‘do the math!’?