28 October, 2020

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The Impunity Pandemic

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men”: George Orwell (The Adelphi – January 1939)

On January 2nd, 2006, five students were murdered in the Town of Trincomalee. The government initially claimed that these were LTTE cadres who died when the bomb they were carrying exploded, prematurely. The cover-up backfired unexpectedly, when a courageous Judicial Medical Officer revealed that the five young men had been shot to death, execution-style. Forced to acknowledge the crime, the regime resorted to subverting justice; judges were transferred, witnesses intimidated and victims’ families harassed. The case was shifted to a court in another province, and allowed to die.

Gen. Sarath Fonseka was the Army Commander, and a member of the de-facto ruling triumvirate, when the Trincomalee murders happened. Indubitably he would have known of the plan to subvert justice and save the Trincomalee-murderers. Equally indubitably he would have seen nothing wrong with that exercise in impunity, because the victims were Tamils and the suspects were men in uniform[i].

Four years later it was his turn. On 8th February 2010, the military police and the army raided Gen. Fonseka’s political office, assaulted and handcuffed their former commander and dragged him away to incarceration like a common criminal – or terrorist – suspect.

Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was an Advisor to the President and the Kolonnawa SLFP Organiser when Gen. Fonseka was arrested and his family persecuted. He did not condemn the criminal-injustice Gen. Fonseka was subjected to. Perhaps he even organised a demonstration in his electorate decrying Gen. Fonseka as a traitor.

Less than two years later, Mr. Premachandra was dead, killed in a gang-battle with Parliamentarian and Monitoring MP of the Defence Ministry Duminda Silva.  The regime used the same concoction of tactics as in the Trincomalee murder case to subvert justice and save Mr. Premachandra’s alleged killers.

The five students killed in Trincomalee were Tamil. The very Sinhala-Buddhist Army Commander who enjoyed the power of life and death over all Tamils would never have believed that their fate foreshadowed his own.

Mr. Premachandra would have considered himself even safer. After all, he was not just a Sinhalese and a Buddhist but also a SLFPer, a Rajapaksa loyalist and a friend of the President. When Mahinda Rajapaksa was sidelined in his own party, Mr. Premachandra risked the displeasure of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and stood by Mr. Rajapaksa. Given this history, he had every reason to believe that he was immune from the germ of impunity.

Today Duminda Silva is strutting about, revelling in his ill-gotten freedom. But even his impunity is conditional and impermanent. He will be above the law so long as he retains Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s patronage. The day he ceases being a Rajapaksa-pet or outlives his uses, his impunity would end.

In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, impunity works in concentric circles. The outermost circle is occupied by the Sinhalese who are more protected than Tamils or Muslims; Sinhala-Buddhists are safer than Sinhala Christians; SLFPers are less likely to be persecuted than non/anti-SLFPers; Rajapaksa loyalists enjoy far greater leeway than even senior SLFP leaders; Close Rajapaksa kith and kin have more impunity than Rajapaksa loyalists.

But it is the Ruling Siblings – and their intimate family members – who enjoy total impunity, permanently. Everyone else, including Rajapaksa-pets of the moment, enjoy only a conjunctural, transient impunity, which is conditional on their capacity to retain the affections/fulfil the demands of their patrons.

The fate of the military intelligence officer, who, inadvertently, caused the ire of Minister Mervyn Silva’s son, is a morality tale about Rajapaksa Rule.

The lesson is simple: no citizen can acquiesce in the persecution of a fellow citizen without undermining his own right to justice. We cannot oppose abuse and injustice piecemeal, because impunity knows no borders and respects no differences. Every act of abuse and injustice must be opposed and resisted, irrespective of the identity of the target/victim. Because what happened to the Tamil students in Trincomalee can happen to any young Sri Lankan, anywhere; the fate of Sarath Fonseka can be the fate of any Rajapaksa opponent, as the sudden arrest of Asath Sally, (a vocal critic of the Ruling Siblings and their BBS-cohorts) demonstrates; even senior SLFP leaders cannot think themselves safe, after the manner in which the Bhratha-Duminda saga ended.

In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, only the Rajapaksas are really, truly safe.

Self-inflicted Ills

A war which involved saturation bombing and incessant shelling of highly populated areas was called a humanitarian operation. A zero-civilian casualty myth was maintained by imposing the Tiger-label on all those killed by Lankan bombs and shells. Barbed wire camps, incarcerating more than three hundred thousand civilians, were called welfare villages.

These were such obvious, impossible, outrageously ludicrous lies, which went against reason, intelligence and decency. And yet we, the Sinhalese, accepted all that and turned a blind eye to the suffering of a segment of our own populace.

Without the ‘humanitarian operation’ myth, the ‘traitor’ label could not have been affixed on Gen. Fonseka; without the ‘welfare villages’ lie, Impeachment could not have been passed off as ‘due process’.

If Tamil society held Mr. Pirapaharan accountable for his wrongful acts during the First Eelam War, he many not have had the opportunity to develop into the monster he eventually became. But Tamil society, by and large, did not, because of its justifiable anger at the Lankan state and the Sinhala South over Black July. The Tigers were more effective than their competitors at challenging Colombo and punishing the South; and for these reasons their budding intolerance and nascent despotism was glossed over by most Tamils. Once the Tigers turned themselves into the only game in town, it was easy to equate opposition to the LTTE with disloyalty to the Tamil cause. By then it was too late to rein the Tiger in.

Just as the Tigers justified the unjustifiable in the name of national liberation, the Rajapaksas justified the unjustifiable in the name of patriotism and anti-terrorism. This is how they resolved the yawning-gulf between their rhetoric about a zero-civilian casualty humanitarian offensive and the starkly different reality of the Fourth Eelam War.

This is the manner in which they are resolving the abysmal gaps between their words and deeds in the South, from the impeachment-travesty to l’affaire Duminda, from price hikes to corruption and waste.

The Southern ‘patriots’, who danced in the streets and ate kiribath to celebrate the victorious end to the war, without sparing a thought for their Tamil compatriots languishing in fear and want, would never have dreamt that someday ‘Ape Anduwa’ would turn on them.

We have become a nation of ostriches. We have learnt to shut our eyes and close our ears and dull our minds to the proliferation of abuse, injustice and impunity. We prefer blindness to sight, deafness to hearing, insensibility to awareness and ignorance to knowledge, so that we can sleep undisturbed and wake up untroubled by nothing other than the purely personal and private.

Until an accidental encounter with some Rajapaksa acolyte can transform even the most un-political Sinhala-Buddhist into a criminal, a traitor or just a victim.

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Latest comments

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    There is a time for everything. And a season for every activity under the Heavens. Ecclesiastes 3 – The Bible

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    Tisaranee, be careful!

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      Agree.

      Nobody is safe any longer.

      Sri Lanka is a ruthless, family run dictatorship right now. With all trappings of an established democracy.

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      I’m not surprised that this is all a Rajapaksa acolyte is left with after reading this article. A wailed threats, just like those from GR, with the hope that they can silence those who are revealing the workings of their underhanded methods.

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    Another brilliant and courageous piece. Hats off to you Thisaranee!
    Indeed Sri Lanka has hit the lower depths with the help of the cowardly regime in India which by supporting Rajapassa on CHOGM has further embolden him to land grab and engage in more crimes against the minorities while talking about PC elections to sooth doddering Manmohan..

    Meanwhile Rajapassas puppet Weerawansa is doing his dirty work and calling for the further erosion of the 13th Amendment which is the only block of the dictatorship.. Oh what a bloody awful mess!

    The curse of Kuweni is stronger than ever in this cursed land now under a military dictatorship, with another dictator in the opposition UNP..

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      The worst is yet to come. When the Queen attends the CHGOM all tube lights would glow-Ape Anduwa!

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    Thank you Thisaranee for analyzing facts and presenting it very skillfully. But unfortunately how many Sri Lankans would understand what you are saying here.
    Anura

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      Why the so called high literacy srilanka has such deaf ear?

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    Tisaranee

    Week in and week out you keep getting in to justified tantrums about the Rajapaksa family, their corruption,nepotism, marauding and dictatorial ways etc.

    No one denies the facts, except that your diatribes appear to have now descended into more of the same.

    For once your admirers (I am one of them) would like to read a sober commentary from you about how the citizenry could overcome the current state of affairs.

    Of course, the Opposition is in tatters, with many bought over.

    Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

    Or is the Rajapkase saga an oncoming train which will smash us into smithereens, despite your weekly screaming warning us about it?

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      MNZ,

      Light at the end of the tunnel does not appear like that. We need to find a way out of the tunnel. Let us light a candle and not curse the darkness inside the tunnel.

      I understand your frustration and share it too, in a way.

      We need to build up a broad rainbow coaltion- TNA, Muslims, UNP, CBK, SF, Shirani B, SLFP dissidents who grow in numbers everyday, Indian Tamils, Leftists in Government and outside (JVP, FSP), Sobitha Hamuduruwo etc. I think the abolition of the executive presidency will be a good common issue for all these people.

      We need to be creative and even dream. I am not very optimistic but not pessimistic either. Economic issues are coming up and MR cannot play the nationalist card all the time.

      Let us push the political parties and leaders to agree on a common broad platform.

      If we think
      we cannot do it, then we will never do it.

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        Thanks Nihalsena.

        I hope Tisaranee will pick up the threads from your excellent comments, and give us some perspective in her next piece.

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        Yes, if the opposition parties and peace loving ones could convince the majority of the folks, specially the gullible masses (vote base of Rajapakshes) that it is imperative to have a big change to face the future challenges, we could build up as you suggest a colourful coalition. But until then, awareness programs are the need of the hour. Opinion polls can help in finding what people have to say in this regard.

        I truly believe, masses in the country today do want to have a law respecting society. Then only general public would feel secure in the country. So I firmly believe apart from the common slogan as you mentioned,- abolition of EP – I would like to add – enforcement of rule of law and order. To get this latter done, there will need more amds to the prevailing laws in the country. Former CJs, Lawyers collective and all law respecting bodies will have to work closely through regular discussions – in finalizing those AMDs.
        Many of the european countries, there is no space to any minister sons of families to go against law. It is common to everyone. I know it in Germany, Switzerland and several other countries, their rigorous laws have let no space for drug dealers, human smugglers or any other abusive business people. In our country, today, needless to say that politicians are bound with police to run illegal business. Those politicians should be investigated as criminals – if leaders want to develop the country, they can if they want, making and sacrificing wholehearted efforts.

        If there are rigorous laws in actions, nothing can go wrong, but that should be equal to everyone regardless them being ministers, minister family members OR even to current president of the country who is obviously the king of all crimes that come to light these days.

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        Nihalsena, What you are suggesting is what many respected, decent peace loving people anticipating hopelessly or rather dream of. All those elements you mentioned about must get together if they are genuine in saving this country from the SATANS. As at now not a single opposition party could challenge single handedly this rogue regime because of their fake propaganda mechanism even if that opposition party could win.
        If conduct a servey today I bet my bottom dollar that Rajapakse is no longer accepted. He cannot even run a Bulath kade. But how to chase him and his 4000 thieves? its UNITY.
        If the opposition cant get united and fight as one in order the topple this Modachoon King Kekille then its the duty of every intelligent educated peace loving people from every community must take the cue. Are we ready?
        If RW or Sajith or SF or JVP are hasitate, lets chase them out first.

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      MNZ,

      I see where you are coming from, but why leave the task of “devising a method to overcome the current state of affairs” only to Tisaranee? Without waiting for others (UN, West etc.) to solve our problems, shall we, for once, pick up the shovel and get down to work ourselves?

      First step is to get people to see the shit-hole we’re heading to if we stay on our current path (oh yeah, there’s no light at the end of that tunnel, that’s for sure). Tisaranee is doing a great job of presenting alternate views and reasoning, but I wonder how much of that ever reaches the rural public who are otherwise saturated with a steady dose of gov. propaganda. Talk to them and you’ll feel like watching a gov. TV channel; they regurgitate the same BS because they know no other. Therefore, it is up to each and everyone of us to make sure the alternate thinking reaches the public. Either that or the alternative may be a horrible one; NO PRESSURE.

      Oh, and keep in mind, that blaming the opposition is a gov. tactic to deflect blame way from them; they surely don’t need our help on that. Remember? NOT ENOUGH OF US VOTED FOR THE OPPOSITION (be it UNP or JVP or what ever)? Hey, if all you paid for was a goat, don’t be surprised when you can’t use it to plow your field. We better get in the field ourselves and start plowing it this time, hah?

      My guess is that the crux of the problem is selfishness. We love to blame the West on these things but people in Sri Lanka are extremely selfish. Just notice the selfishness when you get on the road next time. This carries into other aspects of people’s lives for sure. See how many people supported their politicians for selfish reasons and it is no surprise that we have ended up with a bunch like the Rajapaksas. Religious leaders may be busy burning down each others churches and temples; so it may be up to us to teach each other the perils of being selfish.

      Here’s another quick nugget… if people are not kept desperately poor, will politicians be able to gather them with a bun and a packet of milk? Will they barter their vote for a packet of Buriyani? Do fuel and electricity hikes make sense? Think about it.

      Oh, love to keep writing but have got to go…

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    @MNZ

    You say, “For once your admirers (I am one of them) would like to read a sober commentary from you about how the citizenry could overcome the current state of affairs.”

    The majority, (and I am not talking about those living in towns) the ones living in villages have to grow a couple of more brain cells in their heads. These idiots can be so easily bought. Look at the thousands who were got down for the May day rally by the RogerPox family by only offering them a lunch packet, booze and transport. They are so gullible that they believe in the necessity of a new harbour and an airport. They believe anything and everything that is said on Rupavahini, ITN and SLBC if it is mentioned that there are international conspirators out to get us because they are jealous because we won the war. They believe crap about how the Muslims will take over this country (idiots in towns also believe this story)…they are so gullible it is unbelievable in this day and age that such a vast amount of people could be so foolish.

    There is no way that the Roger Pox family will give up power after bringing in an 18th amendment. Look at that funny red satakaya that only the PresiDunce and his family members wear…it makes them stand out from the rest and probably makes them feel like royalty. No other MP would dare to wear a satakaya of the same colour. This country will only be able to get rid of this despotic family through a peoples revolution similar to what happened and is happening in the middle east. Those of you who think that the Roger Pox family can be toppled at the elections, are just as naive as the dumb villagers who believe the “Wonder of Asia” tall story.

    As long as the idiotic villages get a good price for the rice and vegetables they produce…as long as they get the ‘pohora sahanaadaaraya,’ as long as they get their Samurdhi money, and as long as from time to time some roads are made or repaired, they are perfectly happy if the Roger Pox family rule them forever and ever.

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      Point taken, but like Nihalsena commented we cannot just lie back and die!

      Let us also establish a mechanism by whatever means to educate and mobilise even our village idiots.

      Every little grain of support will help our cause.

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    TG has put Rajapakses’ on the dock.”In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, only the Rajapaksas are really, truly safe.”

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    In reality, it is the responsibility of the media and the opposition opticians to get of this mess. But the problem RW, can he do that , I doubt.

    If media is courage enough to expose the regime to the masses and the opposition do their part. YES WE CAN.

    I point finger at both…. They are not doing their part…. If continue like this, It will be a disaster.

    How long RW going to wait?

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    In reality, it is the responsibility of the media and the opposition politicians to get out of this mess. But the problem RW, can he do that , I doubt.

    If media is courage enough to expose the regime to the masses and the opposition do their part. YES WE CAN.

    I point finger at both…. They are not doing their part…. If continue like this, It will be a disaster.

    How long RW going to wait?

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    Excellent piece of article by Tisaranee and how true

    Over to Leela (of Lee Potter housing fraud fame),Hela,Mahesh and Sumanasekera for their idiotic comments

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    @ Author,

    Please be safe, hope you dont stay in SL

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    Why to point the finger only at RW ? Sure he is the leader of the main political party. But the fact is since the bunch of thieves – crossed over the very same bunch are leading today´s abusive regime under the leadership of MR. So, we have every reasons to see that UNP is weakened because of the mentioned reasons. And Sajith and his fraciton is politically matured enough to face the challenges either.

    My question is where have the third force -JVPers been ? Why cant they bring evidence clarrifying whether Duminda was in fact head injured to the manner that his lawyer and treating medical professionals have explained to the media recently. If a patient following severe kind of brain surgeries, can become like reborn within a short period of time like not even just after few weeks of their last communique ? That is an incident BMJ (British Medical Journal) or any other high IF journals to publish more about the issue.

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      Typo:
      And Sajith and his fraciton is politically NOT matured enough to face the challenges either.

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    Sama – You fail to realise that even Ranasinghe Premadasa,
    the illustrious father of Sajith,(not illustrious or enlightened)
    did not like the idea of his son entering politics. That is why
    he kept him away from politics. He was different from Mahinda
    Rajapaksa who has a club of his own progeny.

    Sajith cannot see beyond his nose politically. That is why he has
    to be a toy in someone’s hand. Premadasa used the Maharajahs. But
    Sajith is being used by the Maharajahs.Even a man who had close
    connection to the LTTE, Tiran Alles is a Sajith ally. So that crowd
    has a different agenda from that of Ranil and the other UNPers. RW is
    a weak, indecisive leader. But remember, other than his personal friends no one can use him like a toy with the exception of MR.

    That brings us to the next man, Karu Jayasuriya. He is old and has
    never had any strategy. He is gullible and publicity crazy. The only
    one he believes are astrologers. One of them said he would become the
    unquestionable leader of the UNP. He contested RW and was convincingly defeated. For RW, it was a betrayal for Karu had been pardoned, taken
    back and given the deputy leadership. That was a stab in the back. People around Karu keep boosting his ego and he floats.

    So who else is there for the UNP. I for one don’t think the voters at
    large would vote for RW even if they are disgusted manifold with MR and his progeny. They may rather wait at home.

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    LET US ALL SHAVE OUR HEADS, WEAR A YELLOW ROBE, SCREAM OUR HEADS OFF WITH SHITTY SLOGANS, CARRY WEAPONS LIKE SOMARAMA THERO AND [Edited out]

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    Madam, change your tune. It’s becoming predictable and boring. What are you getting at ? How do you suggest a credible change in the status quo . Or would you rather have this current regime continue with their countless meanderings so that you can continue to write to please the audience that eagerly Waits such rants for reasons best known to anyone with a modicum of intelligence ? Give us something more constructive and intuitive next time around. Not hyperbole with various innuendos. The likes of you provide fuel to the regime to do what they do. They know that you all collectively blow hot air.

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      Michael pereira:
      May I suggest a return to English 101 before your next foray into criticism of Sri Lanka’s bravest, most skilled and most principled political commentator? Your very thinly-disguised effort to disparage Tisaranee is nothing but yet another exercise in b.s. by someone seeking to shield his master!

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    This writer’s analyses and insights need no second-guessing. Given that, perhaps she should address what a future scenario might entail for her motherland.

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      The Impunity Pandemic

      High time you LP got off your pedantic high horse and stopped bullshitting us and try to write do something yourself without pointing your finger at one fearless, sensible, rational, logical and analytical and would dare say the best writer on the SL predicament addressing what you have asked her do.

      Yours and some peoples problem is that your cultural baggage and your mematic virals in your brain won’t let you ‘see things as they are for TG’, me or any other sensible reader.

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    Brilliant Madam, ‘What goes around, comes around’!

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    Come in Mihin air this is the control tower.
    Can you please give me your height and position please?
    Err, Err I’m about five feet nine and I’m sitting up the front.

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    Travel down south and what you see may suggest that the country is indeed being split in two, a new harbour duplicates the Colombo Port while a new airport duplicates Colombo airport katunayake. From world class hospital to international cricket stadium and everything in between is either being planned and constructed or already in first gear! When they would be in full gear if they succeed with the blessing of the neuter, all forgiving and short-memoried Sri Lankan sinhala buddhist majority populace of which I am also a minute constituent there will be two governments in this so-called “eksesath” or unified Sri Lankan state. The already recognised Colombo government and the new emerging Hambantota “government”.With infra-structure almost fully in place and a willing populace of “subjects” rather than objective citizenry the only other pre-requisite is an “Emir” to run the Hambantota government. Look around and see those eye-catching hoardings and cut-outs “advertising” the Mattala Airport depicting it perhaps as a children’s playground and unmistakably the now familiar smiling face therein would give you a clue.

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    An excellent analysis from a discerning person of discretion. Bensen

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    A drug dealer and a ring leader in the photograph. They are of the same breed and their days are numbered – less than sixty days.

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    Thisaranee

    Many comments above echo my observation that now we need to find a way out. Hope you would state your views on that in your future writings.

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      I hope, I will live to see the natural justice !

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      The Impunity Pandemic

      Vide my response to LP; is this another name for Lasantha Pethiyagoda, which even the CT editor may not know if one uses another e-mail address or another person with a similar mindset wanting the crushed and minced up banana pushed and fed through the mouth to the anus? Or would it be that things really are beyond their ken and heavy cultural baggage that needs even greater simplifications for them to apply their majoritarian, chauvinistic and brainwashed mindsets to nit-pick?

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        Further to the above would it be that some pretender’s to be dumb want to show the “White van” thugs and tools of the power’s that are the road to TG’s home?

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    Birds of a feather flock together…. goes an old saying… time and again proved so right

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      The Impunity Pandemic

      Not only birds of a feather there are other idiots, morons, imbeciles, religionists, racists, monkeys, bacteria, viruses and whole host of others. Whist is the use of tripe, inane and stupid comments like these from another lower order of life form hiding under a false name.

      May be to feel good that he or she too is intelligent and partaking with other birds of a similar feather to keep comfy and cool in a delusionary world of false superiority even as many others do under various religious, racial, national and linguistic and other garbs for their survival and thrival, in this as much a “dog eat dog world” that contradicts the original claim in a more realistic unfair and amoral world where life lives on life for its survival and thrival.

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