Letters & Opinion

Wrong Can Never Be Right!

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By Earl Bousquet

Three reprehensible acts in the past week drew much world attention, but attracted very unequal reaction.

The first was the assassination of Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Japan, while campaigning ahead of last Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Abe was a charismatic politician, shaped both by lineage and his own often-demonstrated willingness to adapt to changing times, but never at the expense of his hardly-held positions.

Abe’s life was cut short last Thursday by a lone gunman with a home-made gun in a society where gun violence only exists on screens — and after he’d retired from active public service for health reasons.

And then on Saturday, in neighbouring Brazil, a senior member of the leadership of Lula DaSilva’s Workers Party (PT), was shot dead while celebrating his 50th birthday, by a police officer ranting opposing political clichés, as the country races towards the upcoming presidential race pitting popular ex-president DaSilva against incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro.

Interestingly, President Bolsonaro missed death during the last presidential campaign that he won, after being stabbed with a knife by an attacker close enough to him; and the PT politician and the policeman both died in the hail of bullets between them.

Gun violence has become an unfortunate norm in the USA, where President Biden is up against a powerful gun lobby emboldened by a recent pro-gun Supreme Court ruling, in an increasingly worried nation with an amazing 1.2 million guns for every million inhabitants and there have been over 300 mass shootings for 2022.

Gun violence, also present to different extents in Africa and Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Latin America and the Caribbean, has reached Tokyo’s doorstep, which will certainly lead to expected belated responses during and after Abe’s funeral on Tuesday.

CARICOM Leaders joined the rest of the world expressing condolences and recalling Abe’s hosting of a summit with the region’s leaders in Trinidad& Tobago, during which he reconfigured Japan’s aid policy towards the region.

The third reprehensible act was the invasion of the Presidential Compound in Sri Lanka, which is being portrayed as a demonstration of ‘The Power of the People’, but one that could have ended-up quite differently if the presidential guard had offered any resistance while the President’s life was endangered.

The Rajapaksa family is one of several involved in Sri Lanka politics and the two brothers both having been more-than-once elected to the two top posts (President and Prime Minister) in free and fair national elections is proof-positive that they were popular.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa resigned much earlier than President Rajapaksa, who has a strong military background and was credited with successfully taking the fight to militant extremists engaging in religion-based violence.

Sri Lankans, forced by the country’s acute financial, economic and cost-of-living crises to live for weeks without fuel for transport and energy for home use, were understandably fed-up, with every right to pour their anger into Colombo’s streets.

But, leading an unarmed and unprotected mass crowd to attack and occupy a heavily-guarded presidential compound could not be right, as it’s no less than the January 6, 2021 invasion of the US Capitol in Washington by Donald Trump’s supporters, where police officers died doing their job of protecting the building from invasion by a mass mob trying to overturn a presidential election.

The last presidential palace to be stormed by a misled mob was that of then Bolivian president Evo Morales, against whom external political forces had colluded with local politicians and the army to implement a coup d’état to prevent the democratically re-elected indigenous leader from taking office.

In both cases (Bolivia and Sri Lanka) the world looked on in astonishment as poor people splurged in the spoils of the momentary pleasures of bathing in the president’s swimming pool or lying in a presidential bed, with those responsible for security simply looking on.

Worse, in the Sri Lanka case, the home of the Prime Minister appointed to replace PM Rajapaksa was burned, even after he promised to resign – and the crowd occupied the presidential palace even after President Rajapaksa fled and promised to resign on Wednesday (July 13).

The simple but major fact is that no invasion of a presidential or prime ministerial compound, or the burning of a prime minister’s residence can be deemed acceptable, whatever the circumstances — and if only because such actions amount to anarchy that no society can justify.

The killing of a politician while politicking is inexcusable, whether in Japan or Brazil; likewise, the torching of a prime minister’s home or occupation of a presidential compound.

Fact is, the situation in Sri Lanka developed over time, from pre-COVID times, into the Supply Chain crisis and then the Ukraine war, which only aggravated a very bad economic situation.

Poor people occupying a presidential compound might have looked and sounded good on TV, but what happened in Sri Lanka on the weekend were both unjustified and inexcusable from the standpoint of defence and promotion of a peaceful and democratic order.

It’s simply a case of good luck that nobody died and the entire occupation proceeded without incident, but the bottom line is that it could have been worse, and the presidential guards must be commended for having been coaxed into not doing their job of protecting the compound by all means, against all odds.

It’s a fact that the Rajapaksas can, will and should be blamed for the failure of the government to provide for the people in time of greatest need, but in the circumstances, the effects of the COVID-inspired Supply Chain problems and after effects of the Ukraine war are having similar effects everywhere else that governments don’t have access to the ready cash or financial back-up needed to shore-up economies from similar effects.

Europe, the USA and Canada, the G7 and G20 – all are facing and each feel the COVID and Ukraine War effects, which affect poor nations hundreds-fold worse.

The Caribbean is no less affected and similar crises are likely in the region in the future, with no limit or cap on expectations, so here’s hoping the lessons from Japan, Brazil and Sri Lanka are learned properly, as each and every situation, never mind surface similarities, is always different at the core.

Wrong is wrong and wrong approaches to difficult situations can never be made right!

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