To get out of this socio-economic and political quagmire, Russia needs bold new leadership ready to forget world dominance and territorial claims and willing to keep corruption under check.
We get so mired in our own problems that we forget how troubled the outside world is. Not that it’s any comfort. The problem is that, while the epicenters of violence which threaten world stability, such as the Ukraine, get all the media attention, other troubled nations are quickly forgotten and left to stew in their own misery. Myanmar, Iran, Belarus and Palestine are prominent examples, while no one even mentions Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Haiti or Albania.
Russia is still a world power capable of rattling the West. Once a great nation, it doesn’t belong in the above list but has done most things wrong under autocratic President Vladimir Putin and is set on a self-destructive course. One year after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Russia, I can see how mistaken my initial assessment was. The invasion was a mistake but I thought Russia’s massive armoured forces would easily overrun Ukraine. It has proved to be otherwise. That assessment was based on Soviet era Red Army capability, now obviously eroded by corruption and selection of inept generals and strategists by Putin, who can’t put this right because he’s very much part of this self-serving and self-consuming system.
While there are no clear victors in this war (now reminiscent of stagnant World War I warfare or the Iran-Iraq war started by Saddam Hussein, the Ukrainians can claim the moral high
Aung San Suu Kyi
ground with their fierce resistance. When the war ends, it will face huge problems because of terrible infrastructure damage, people’s mental and physical health and other issues. Russia, despite talk of a powerful Moscow-Beijing alliance, has in fact become an economic satellite of China, a humiliating fate to a country which got its then backward ally started in her drive to be a military-industrial power under Mao Tsetung.
To get out of this socio-economic and political quagmire, Russia needs bold new leadership ready to forget world dominance and territorial claims and willing to keep corruption under check. Unfortunately, the country’s best democratic hope for this has been jailed under trumped up charges, much of the opposition and free press silenced. China checked corruption with brutal efficiency. Those convicted of bribery or siphoning off public assets were executed by firing squad, and the victim’s family had to pay for the bullet.
Putin can’t do this because he will have to shoot his own friends. Of course, in Sri Lanka, we find such solutions unacceptable because this is a democracy which guarantees the rights of those politicians responsible for economic crimes and unsolved disappearances.
Ominously for the rest of the world, Russia’s more prosperous ally too, is focused on territorial claims – Taiwan and the Spratt Islands, and is a nuclear power. That gives this duo an awesome power which the old Axis powers – Germany, Italy and Japan – never had.
Of the other troubled nations mentioned above, it’s Myanmar which provides the most heartbreaking example. After decades of military rule, it remains poor and underdeveloped, with per capita income rarely going above US$1400. Administrative services, health and education suffer severe problems as the country’s military rulers, with Chinese backing, pour money into lucrative mega projects such as highways and a new capital, profitable to themselves and their business backers.
Aung San Su Kyi, daughter of assassinated national hero Gen. Aung San and Myanmar’s democratic hope, was finally freed three years ago after spending most of her life in detention. In November 2020, her National League for Democracy (NLD) won General Elections with more than 80% of the vote. Striking a deal with the military, she was appointed ‘national councillor’ or de facto prime minister and Myanmar began walking a perilous path to democratic rule. But, though the deal still gave them power in parliament and several key portfolios including defence, the military simply could not get used to civilian rule.
They ousted her government in a coup in February 2021, placing Suu Kyi under house arrest. She was subsequently arrested under sham charges, facing 18 months of trials on 19 charges. A Myanmar military court has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to a total jail time to 33 years. She is now 77 and, unless a miracle occurs and she goes free, the military clearly want her to die in jail. Her trials have been set behind closed-doors where the public and media are barred access and her lawyers were banned from speaking to journalists. This was in effect a military kangaroo court.
Large parts of Myanmar descended into chaos after the latest coup, displacing more than a million people. More than 2,900 people have been killed during the junta’s crackdown on dissent, according to monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
40,000 homes have been burned down, 8 million children are no longer in school, and 15 million people (of a total of 53.8 million) are judged by the UN to be dangerously short of food.
Much of the country is caught up in a brutal civil war. Yet the military is still refusing to negotiate with its opponents, as it promised to do in a meeting with neighbouring countries shortly after the coup.
Instead, it has plans for an election which would almost certainly exclude Suu Kyi, and much of her party.
Those loyal to her are calling on citizens to boycott any poll organised by the military, arguing it would be illegitimate and impractical. The UN says these would be “sham elections”.
Many members of Suu Kyi’s party are among more than 16,600 people who have been arrested by the junta since they seized power - 13,000 remain in prison, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
Recently, the UN Security Council called for an end to violence in Myanmar and the release of all political prisoners. China and Russia abstained from the vote and did not use their veto power following amendments to the resolution’s wording.
With no hope of fair elections or the military showing any signs of compromise, young people have taken two different paths of protest – one of ‘silent protests’ in the cities where they hold placards. But those with less patience have taken to violence.
With typical harshness, the junta has executed suspects and passed a draconian law under which the properties of those on trial for terrorism will be confiscated, forcing families to state publicly that they have disowned family members, be they sons, daughters or spouses, accused of such ‘crimes against the state.’
Soon after she became national councellor, Suu Kyi lost her standing in the West for not standing up to the military when they began brutally persecuting the Muslim Rohingiya minority. Oxford University which awarded her an honorary degree, removed her portrait and she was widely condemned as racist and unfeeling towards the Rohingiyas.
But it’s clear now why she remained silent. If she had spoken out, the coup which ended Myanmar’s all too brief experiment with democracy and rule of law, offering a glimmer of hope to millions of long suffering citizens, would have come sooner rather than later. The military were simply waiting for a chance to get back to the driving seat. When she didn’t give them one, they quickly made it up.
European Wednesday, 15 March 2023 12:30 AM
Excellent article mr. Akmeemana. I am sure you traveled around and saw more of the world than only Sri Lanka.
Sangaralingham Thursday, 16 March 2023 10:41 PM
The world as we know 10 years ago is changing.look close and far no country enjoying life simple things in life.constant complains serious mental distress even among youngsters elders.lack of family social unity. Prices moving up quote millions in many cases.where the money come from for majority of world populations running to Europe Australia where native have their own problems.politicians survive not by honesty truth but lies glorious speeches hard to keep.come now go tomorrow.no oncoming forward to direct the nations.old guard stay where they are but think their contribution fading.family members creeping in why.new faces with new vision honesty integrity hope need for future.things change nothing permanent.young minds need to grow prosper humanity conflicts low grade attitudes must change
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