29 September, 2020

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US Riots Show That Double Standards Rankle

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Unrest and rioting in cities in throughout the United States, the world’s largest economy and one of its richest, have been going on now for a week. Protests have taken place in at least 75 cities and have reached the gates of the White House. The immediate cause for these riots was the killing of an African American man by a white police officer in an especially brutal way by keeping a knee on his neck. This killing was filmed as it was happening in public on the roadside and showed other police officers looking on while people passing by plead with the police to get off the dying man.

The scale of the public agitation and violence hark back to the late 1960s and the imposition of curfews has been reported to be more than at any time since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. American society was able to overcome that setback because that was a time of progress. There was hope in the air. The civil rights laws had been passed that gave equal rights to all. Affirmative action policies were being put in place that enabled people from disadvantaged communities to get places in universities and better jobs.

In the 1980s when I was a student in the US the black-white divide persisted in fact despite the laws and affirmative action policies. This was most evident in the freshman dining hall for first year students. There was a series of long dining tables in the hall where students could sit wherever they pleased. But it soon became evident that there were two rows of tables on a side towards the back where only African American students would sit, though sometimes a white student or two would join, and at other tables there were black students sitting too.

One year I had African American roommates and one of them invited me to his home in a prosperous suburb of New York. The suburbs in the US are very livable spaces where the better off sections of the population live in large houses that have large gardens. My friend’s father was a successful professional in one of the largest US-based multinational corporations in the world. He had succeeded in life and his son was also on the path to success. But I observed that whatever topic the family began their discussion on, it would invariably turn towards the issue of racial relations, inequalities and prejudice.

Permanent Problem 

The triumph of Barak Obama at the presidential elections of 2008 and his subsequent re-election in 2012 seemed to signal a new phase in the integration of American society. The US has been described as a “melting pot” to which people came from all parts of the world as immigrants but within a few generations became wholly American and imbibing a common culture and values. But there were components from the very beginning of American history that did not melt in. They were the African Americans, and the other the indigenous American. They could not adequately benefit from the social contract that offered equal citizenship, equal opportunities and equal protection of the laws.

The influx of new immigrants from across the border in South America and from Muslim countries has brought other communities with distinct and unmeltable identities and who cannot be ignored or suppressed. The challenge for the US is to integrate them as well into the larger society and ensure that the social contract is implemented. In the face of this challenge has come the insecurity and fear that each community has of the other it does not know with the majority feeling threatened by the minority even as the minority feels marginalized and discriminated against by the majority. This is a phenomenon which we in Sri Lanka are familiar with.

President Donald Trump has been able to mobilise the fears of the white majority by focusing on their fears of the other communities with whom they have minimum engagement. Law enforcement are suspecting that outside elements from both far-right and far-left groups are playing a significant role in the unrest that has spread to cities all over the US. The parallels to Sri Lanka can be seen during time of riots when community members cannot withstand violent action instigated by people who come in from outside. The most that can be done by them in these unfortunate circumstances is to heal the wounds after those powerful instigators from outside have left, which is what our inter religious committees in many parts of the country have done.

Framework Missing 

There are lessons for us in Sri Lanka from the ongoing events in the United States. The end of the war in 2009 ended the armed uprising against the state by the Tamil ethnic minority which followed many non-violent protests from 1956 onwards. But it did not end the ethnic conflict. From 2015-19 Sri Lanka had a framework for reconciliation in UNHRC Resolution 30/1 of 2015 which the then government co-sponsored. It consisted of new institutions to meet the needs of those who had suffered in the war, such as the Office of Missing Persons, and reform of laws on the one hand, and addressing the roots of the conflict through constitutional reform on the other hand. This reconciliation framework was being implemented by the government, albeit slowly in view of political resistance by the opposition, both by hardline Sinhala nationalists as well as by Tamil nationalists who refused to cooperate.

In March 2020, following the change of government, Sri Lanka informed the UNHRC that it was withdrawing from the resolution. Speaking in Geneva, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena stated “Notwithstanding withdrawing from co-sponsorship of this Resolution, Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving the goals set by the people of Sri Lanka on accountability and human rights, towards sustainable peace and reconciliation.” However, the government’s promise of achieving sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process has yet to materialize. There is hardly any public discussion about this lacuna. Looking at the US, it is timely that this discussion begins.

The statement by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that he was elected by the majority Sinhala population was balanced by the president concurrently declaring, at his swearing in, that he would be the president of all Sri Lankans. The differing treatment meted out to the funeral of the hill country Tamil leader Arumugam Thondaman, at which no Covid-related restrictions seemed to apply, as against the strictness of the enforcement of rules to other communities constitute a double standard that will rankle deeply. It is essential that the grievance of the minorities are addressed as early as possible which may be easier than the challenge facing the United States. The communities in Sri Lanka have been living in proximity for centuries unlike in the American case and they share many common values. With the correct leadership South Africa under Nelson Mandela was able to perform a miracle of political transformation. So can Sri Lanka if our present leadership puts its heart and mind to the task.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    3

    Mr Perera
    /
    “With the correct leadership South Africa under Nelson Mandela was able to perform a miracle of political transformation. So can Sri Lanka if our present leadership puts its heart and mind to the task.”
    /
    Your theory is flawed. Mandela fought apartheid and secured political power for majority Black South Africans a.k.a. majority rule.
    /
    If that is what you are advocating for Sri Lanka, why not you say so without ambiguity?
    /
    If not, don’t compare apples with pears.

    • 0
      0

      Mandela made a deal with the Apartheid regi=me and its foreign partners and went back on his pledge to give land to the landless Africans, and free the country of imperialist economic control.
      The plight of the Black man is as pathetic as it was before the ‘transformation’.
      Some top figures of the ANC did make a quick buck and are very rich now.

  • 2
    1

    Even in Sri Lanka similar discriminatory action exists between Singhal police or Army officer and Tamils peaking civilians, There are several such cases in Sri Lanka That is why many cases of HR violations. Gotabay, when he was in CA US, would have experienced similar racist actions after coming to Sri Lanka and becoming president he never changed from that policy What explanation can he give as an impartial President It is the mistake of majority Singhala Buddhist voters to vote him and elect him

  • 6
    2

    Sad sorry Lanka has the ideal weapon to teach the Yankees the lesson of their lives.
    They should export forever and ever wimal modawansa with a packet or two of Maliban lemonpuff and a bottle of sparkling mineral water or he will even drink with glee his own judha or urine or piss to draw the much needed attention and glorify himself.
    The Yankees will be mermized by his clownish circus acts.
    What an export ?

  • 6
    10

    Jehan Perera,
    “It is essential that the grievance of the minorities are addressed as early as possible which may be easier than the challenge facing the United States.”

    Can you please give a list of grievances of the minorities and possible solutions?
    Then it is possible to check whether they are genuine grievances or cooked up grievances to deceive the International Community and check whether the proposed solutions are feasible and acceptable to Sinhalayo who are the Native people in this country.

    TNA politicians keep on using the terms such as ‘National Question’, ‘Tamil Problem’, ‘Minority Problem’ but they do not elaborate what they mean by them. Recently when TNA politicians met the Prime Minister they requested the PM to release LTTE cadres and solve problems in North and East. Are they ‘National Questions’? or are they using these terms as we call in Sinhala ‘Higannege Thuwalaya Wagei’.

    • 8
      1

      Eagle,
      You keep asking these questions. Just answer these questions and you will have some answers:
      1. What is the proportion of Tamils in
      the population?
      2. What is the proportion of Muslims
      in the population?
      3. What is the proportion of Tamils in
      the armed forces /police?
      4. What is the proportion of Muslims
      in the forces/ police?
      5. What is the proportion of a) Tamils.
      b) Muslims in government
      employment ?
      6. Can a Muslim or a Tamil start a
      business in ANY part of the
      country?
      7. Sinhalese are given free land in the
      East but Tamils /Muslims don’t get
      free land in Hambantota. Why?
      I have kept it simple to suit someone with arrested development.

      • 2
        3

        old codger,
        • When a Tamil or a Muslim becomes a Minister, they flood all the institutions under them with Tamils and Muslims. A good example is CWE under Rishard B.
        • Tamil and Muslim cowards do not want to join the Armed Forces.
        • Tamils and Muslims can start business in any part of the country but Sinhalayo who are the Native people in this country cannot start business in Yapanaya and towns in the East. During LTTE terror campaign, Sinhala businessmen from North and East were chased away. Tamils did not allow them to return to Yapanaya and Muslims did not allow them to return to East.
        • Sinhalayo get free land because the land owned by Sinhalayo in the East were grabbed by Muslims. There are lots of forged deeds in the East.

        • 1
          0

          Eagle,
          So you can’t give straight answers to my questions, as I fully expected Except one : “Tamils and Muslims can start business in any part of the country”
          Okay then, tell me the names of two Tamil businesses operating in Kiribathgoda.
          Since you now can’t pretend not to know what some minority grievances are ( there are more), I expect that you will stop wasting CT’s space with what you imagine to be smart questions.

          • 0
            3

            old codger,
            You always come out with Kiribathgoda as an example but do not see how many ‘Thosa Kada’ owned by Demalu all over Colombo apart from various other businesses.

            • 1
              0

              Eagle,
              You are the one who said “Tamils and Muslims can start business in any part of the country “. Don’t try to wriggle out. I have pointed out one place where they can’t. Be a man and admit you are wrong.
              So, can I hope I won’t see you posting that stupid question again?

      • 3
        0

        old codger

        “Sinhalese are given free land in the East but Tamils /Muslims don’t get free land in Hambantota. Why?”

        Actually land belonging to the people of the area are being grabbed with the support of Saffron brigades and under the protection of Ranavirus.

        • 0
          0

          Native,
          The likes of EE know perfectly well what is going on But they are too dumb to find plausible justifications. Did you know that “temporary residents” in Colombo have been asked to register with the police? How much are you betting this doesn’t apply to a certain community ?

        • 0
          1

          Native (Fake) Vedda,
          Land in Sinhale belong to Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo (not fake) who are Native people. ‘Para’ Dem malu and ‘Para Mus lings grabbed land belonged to Sinhalayo. North and East where Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwa Kingdoms existed was the cradle of Sinhala Buddhist civilization. Yet, Dem Mala dumbos claim North and East is their ‘Traditional Homeland’. I will not be surprised if Mus lings claim East is their ‘Traditional Homeland’ in time to come.

      • 2
        0

        Old Codger

        Let me add 2 more questions with regard to Muslims

        1. Since the defeat of LTTE in 2009, Muslims have been attacked by Sinhala Mobs several times, the worst being in Dambulla, Aluthgama, Beruwela, Gintota, Ampara, Kandy, Minuangoda and other places causing Deaths, Injury, Destruction of Property with damages running into Billions of Rupees while the Law enforcement officers just watched in most such attacks. Even Mosques were vandalised. The monstrous attacks were led by well known people and NO ONE has been brought before the Law. Why?

        2. For quite some time now, Public Media led by Derana and Hiru had been carrying out a Full Blown, Vicious Hate Campaign against the Muslims in Blatant Violation of Laws Against Hate Peddling as laid down in ICCPR Act of 2007 and other Laws. How come NO ACTION has been taken against the Media outlets under existing Laws? By a joint letter dated April 12, 2020, to the IGP, several Muslim Organisations have requested Action against these Media outlets but so far, there is No Sign of any Action. Why?

        • 0
          3

          Muhandiram,
          In the ‘Yahapalana’ Government there were several Muslims holding ministerial posts. Rishrd B. was a very powerful Minister with 43 institutions under him. It was their responsibility to take these matters with persons/agencies concerned. Because the Government survived relying on Muslim politicians, they could have put pressure on the Government to take action. Blame you own guys for not doing their job. May be their priorities were different and these things were trivial matters to them.

          • 2
            0

            Eagle,
            Muhandiram is right. In this country, the law is different if you are a minority. I pointed that out to you earlier with proof and you had no answer. So please stop making a fool of yourself with incoherent arguments.

    • 0
      1

      Eagle Eye,

      “Higannege Thuwalaya Wagei”

      Another term for the Tamils creating trouble is Alu Yata Gini.. (Never ending trouble they create)

  • 2
    1

    I cannot breath,

    There are lessons for us,

    Exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority

    If you want to know who the oppressed minorities the terrible tyranny of the majority. We all have our harps to play. And it’s up to you to know with which ear you’ll listen, will president trump listen. why not before this.

  • 2
    0

    Police
    Protection of life in case of emergency
    Police
    Public Officer for Legal Investigations and Criminal Emergencies.
    Non allowing to breathe Terrorize the communities. handcuffed black man dies while white police officer kneels on his neck, three others keep looking.

    What is the value of the police for attacking the handcuffed man unable unsderstand he was becoming motionless this shows the The differing treatment.

  • 3
    3

    The grievance of the African Americans and the Tamils are poles apart, African Americans want fairness. Tamils, on the other hand, want to be designated the superior race

    • 0
      0

      a4445 aka Helios aka Chow,
      So , in the view from your asylum, who is superior?

  • 1
    0

    Well said JehanPerera

    Black lives matter!

    I cannot breathe!

    We could not be indifferent to this democratic struggle against an oppressive regime-USA who claims that they are the high priests of democracy, freedom and human rights.

    Why all the international human rights guardians are silent?.

    American Constitution claims that all men are equal!

    Men include all, not only whites, but Afro-Americans, Latin-Americans, Red Indians and all other immigrants as well.

    This has gone for long – the continuous police brutality with the law enforcing officers conniving with the perpetrators and the accused police escape without any punishment.

    . USA must reform itself before lecturing to others.

    Otherwise America may collapse like all other powerful nations due solely to internal contradictions,

    This is a forewarning to USA to be cautious!

  • 0
    0

    I saw a dog also carrying a small board in its mouth entitled’ Black lives matter’. There was a news item that a Police Officer warned Trump, that if he cannot make anything concrete, to keep his mouth shut. I don’t know whether Trump is digging the grave for himself or the USA.

    • 0
      0

      The USA dug its own grave by electing Trump.
      It would have even if elected Mrs Clinton. (The Democratic Party bosses cheated to grant her the nomination.)
      Imperialism has its own logic of self destruction. It seldom learns from its experiences.

      • 1
        0

        Common Denomintor is so called DEMOCRACY. I truly believe that DEMOCRACY is in place in the USA and Europe, but in SL or the like minded hells ?
        .
        Is that not the need of the hour – At least in terms of holding elections – it should be subjected to changes.
        .
        So called democracies of our nature focus and talk about democracy only at holding elections. After grabbing the votes, not the little seems to be fulfiled.
        :
        Best example – incumbent GOVT that is doomed by every means as of today.
        :
        One Law to MaRa (Southern Thondeman) and another law to commoners – but caravan seems to be moving forward .. why ?

        • 0
          0

          What can elections have to do with democracy if a candidate without financial resources cannot even save his deposit in a election?
          Media mould public opinion. Those who control the media control public opinion.
          Democracy can work if it is implemented at local community level where people have a say over their daily lives.
          Choice cannot be between two or three big power alliances which are often controlled by vested interests with wealth and power.
          If the US can have utter cheats presidents like Nixon and Trump what kind of democracy does the US have?
          If we could end up with JRJ as president why complain about having the Rajapaksas? One led to the other.
          Devolution of power can give us a semblance of democracy. But politics has firstly to become everybody’s business.

      • 0
        0

        SJ,
        Capitalists are so greedy that they will even sell the rope to hang them.

        I have forgotten who made this famous statement.

        Please help us

      • 1
        0

        SJ,

        “The Democratic Party bosses cheated to grant her the nomination.”
        The Democratic National Committee head was a Florida Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schutlz, and she did some things to favor Clinton. The party also has a system of “super delegates” who can vote for a candidate of their choice in addition to the delegates who are selected based on actual voting in the primaries.

        While both of this worked against Sanders, even without those negative impacts, he would never have won the nomination, because the voters in 2016 weren’t ready. Indeed, the DNC was forced to be more impartial in 2020 by watchful Sanders supporters, but he still lost to Biden. Sanders has a lot of support among voters who are 40 or younger, but that is not enough to win the nomination.

        • 0
          0

          Agnos
          Thanks for the trouble to explain.
          I am willing to concede that Sanders may have been denied Democratic Party nomination by the voters.
          But the point is that the DNC played dirty to ensure that Sanders was defeated.
          *
          There has been much wheeling and dealing going on in 2016:
          For example, the Democratic National Committee was forced to issued an apology to Bernie Sanders and his supporters over leaked emails that showed bias among party officials towards his opponent.
          See https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/25/debbie-wasserman-schultz-booed-dnc-fbi-email-hack.
          *
          The way the results of the Iowa primary results was handled this year too raised much suspicion.
          The establishment is utterly biased against any even slightly left of centre candidate.
          *
          Frankly, I had low expectations of Sanders, even if he got elected as President.

  • 1
    0

    Sri
    I think that Marx himself said that capitalism led to the creation of a class that will destroy it.
    Similar thoughts would have been expressed by Lenin and others.
    A system that relies on human greed cannot survive forever.

    • 1
      0

      I googled and found out!See below;

      The Capitalists Will Sell Us the Rope with Which We Will Hang Them

      Vladimir Lenin? Joseph Stalin? Karl Marx?

      Dear Quote Investigator: A quotation about imprudent greed and near-sightedness has been attributed to three prominent communists: Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Karl Marx. Here are three versions of the statement:
      • The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.
      • When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope.
      • The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.

      How prophetic?

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