G7 and Myanmar; Elephants trumpet democracy while an Ant remains trampled
Posted on June 25th, 2021

By Raj Gonsalkorale

It was always known that the self-appointed icons of democracy only pay lip service to democracy and that self- interest and the singular desire to control a global agenda of their choosing takes precedence over everything else. The recent G7 meeting confirmed this.

The G7 countries and their invitees gathered in the UK to send warning signals to both China and Russia that the high powered democratic alliance of the world, the G7 was back in business. In reality however, this was more about trade than democracy as all these countries do substantial trade with the countries they sent warning signals to. All G 7 countries and their friends will continue trading with China irrespective of what China does. So they will with Russia. This dichotomy will ensure that poorer, less privileged States like Myanmar, and stateless people like the Palestinians will always be ignored by political bigamists like the G7 and their friends.

It is no surprise therefore that while trumpeting (no pun intended) the common values, democracy, freedom and liberty, that binds this club together, not a word was said about a country whose democracy, freedom and liberty was snuffed out by a Military takeover, and the country’s democratic icon, Aung San Suu Kyi languishing in jail and is facing a bogus trial.

At least in hindsight, the G7 and their democratic friends should see why Aung Sung Su Kyi took the stand she took during the Rohingya crisis, and the eventual price she paid even after not voicing her concern and opposition to the Military led offensive against the Rohingya’s. Her failure to speak against the treatment of the Rohingya people cannot be overlooked, as a leader of her stature should have done so.

However, with the Military almost at her throat, she would have been toppled long ago had she expressed a view in opposition to the Military stance. She no doubt realises now that it would have been better to have been toppled for a principled humanitarian reason then, rather than being toppled for a cause she fought for, spent time in prison for, and for a cause she may have mistakenly imagined, the democratic power houses in the world would take note and come to safeguard what they professed so loudly to the world, the democracy and democratic rights of a small country which had fought so relentlessly to restore what they profess as an important human value.

While the world, especially the democratic high powers sleep, the people of Myanmar have not. Nearly 1000 people have died since the Military takeover for a cause they fought for decades. The open as well as rear guard action continues from within to win back what they lost. In an article titled Resistance to coup bleeds Myanmar by Ashok K Mehta in the Sri Lanka Guardian (http://www.slguardian.org/2021/06/resistance-to-coup-bleeds-myanmar.html), this resistance and the ongoing battle against the Military has been well articulated.

The people of Myanmar have fought for and won their democratic rights in democratically conducted elections. In the 1990 elections, NLD won 81% of the seats in Parliament, but the results were nullified, as the military government refused to hand over power. Aung San Suu Kyi had been detained before the elections and remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.

Her party boycotted the 2010 elections, resulting in a decisive victory for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Aung San Suu Kyi became a Pyithu Hluttaw MP while her party won 43 of the 45 vacant seats in the 2012 by-elections.

In the 2015 elections, her party won a landslide victory, taking 86% of the seats in the Assembly of the Union – well more than the 67% supermajority needed to ensure that its preferred candidates were elected president and second vice president in the presidential electoral college.

Although she was prohibited from becoming the president due to a clause in the constitution – her late husband and children are foreign citizens – she assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor of Myanmar, a role akin to a prime minister or a head of government.

The democratic elephants have allowed the Military to impose Military rule in Myanmar, imprison Aung San Suu Kyi and subvert democracy and take away their freedom and human rights, something they had fought for decades. Nothing tangible has been done to date to take action against the Military and to restore democracy in Myanmar. Although they all trumpeted anti- Chinese sentiments during their summit and professed to form a united front to safeguard democracy” and democratic values”, they have given a virtual free hand to the Myanmar military and for China, the main backer of the Military, to do as they please in Myanmar.

If this is not rank duplicity what is?

The sorry situation faced by Palestinians since a few people sat in London and decided to carve up a State for Israel in 1948 throwing the Palestinians to a virtual dustbin since, is another example of this duplicity. In this case, a people who deserved a State were not given one, and more than 70 years later, they remain stateless, and the land they lived in for centuries has been encroached by Israel, while those who profess democracy, freedom and liberty have done the opposite.

There are enough and more examples one can cite to illustrate this duplicity when it comes to people in States whose democracy, freedom and liberty has been overrun by forces practising the opposite, and of Stateless people like the Palestinians who have been ignored as a consequence of this duplicity and whose democratic rights have been denied to them.

Then, there are democratic countries like Sri Lanka, which are constantly under the microscope of clubs like the G 7 and their friends who measure human rights progress by standards even they do not subscribe to in all instances and more universally in their own countries. While Sri Lanka could do better in some areas of human rights, it certainly could teach a lesson or two to some in countries like the USA.

Human Rights in the USA

Human Rights Watch World Report 2021 states the following in regard to the human rights situation in the USA in its introductory section (https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/united-states). Other reports citing the level of gun violence the level of poverty in the US, does not demonstrate that the USA is exactly the ideal preacher who should be lecturing other countries on human rights failings.

The HRW reports says, quote Important human rights failings of the United States were laid bare in 2020.

The grossly disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, brown, and Native people, connected to longstanding disparities in health, education, and economic status, revealed the enduring effects of past overtly racist laws and policies and continuing impediments to equality. The police killing of George Floyd in May, and a series of other police killings of Black people, sparked massive and largely peaceful protests, which in many instances were met with brutality by local and federal law enforcement agents.

The administration of President Donald Trump continued to dismantle the United States asylum system, limit access to women’s health care, undermine consumer protections against predatory lenders and abusive debt collectors, and weaken regulations that reduce pollution and address climate change. After election officials across the US tallied the votes for the presidential election, determining that Joe Biden was the president-elect, Trump made baseless allegations of voter fraud

In its foreign policy, the United States worked on several fronts to undermine multilateral institutions, including through the use of sanctions to attack the International Criminal Court. It flouted international human rights law as it partnered with abusive governments—though it did sanction a number of individuals and governments for committing human rights abuses’, unquote.

Gun violence in the USA

A BBC report cited There were 14,400 gun-related homicides in 2019. Killings involving a gun accounted for nearly three quarters of all homicides in the US in that year. Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related homicide rate is 25 times higher. 

Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, among those 22 nations studied, the U.S. had 82 percent of gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed with guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed with guns.

Poverty in the USA

The website Poverty USA (https://www.povertyusa.org/facts states, quote In 2018, 38.1 million people lived in Poverty USA. That means the poverty rate for 2018 was 11.8%.  to take a closer look at poverty statistics in the United States. Poverty does not strike all demographics equally. For example, in 2018, 10.6% of men, and 12.9% of women lived in poverty in USA. Along the same lines, the poverty rate for married couples in 2018 was only 4.7% – but the poverty rate for single-parent families with no wife present was 12.7%, and for single-parent families with no husband present was 24.9%.

In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 25.7%. That’s nearly 4 million people living with a disability—in poverty.

Children in Poverty

In 2018, 16.2% of all children (11.9 million kids) lived in Poverty. —that’s almost 1 in every 6 children. In 2015, the National Centre on Family Homelessness analysed state-level data and found that nationwide, 2.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.

Poverty by Ethnicity

According to 2018 US Census Data, the highest poverty rate by race is found among Native Americans (25.4%), with Blacks (20.8%) having the second highest poverty rate, and Hispanics (of any race) having the third highest poverty rate (17.6%). Whites had a poverty rate of 10.1%, while Asians had a poverty rate at 10.1%.

In the context of hypocrisy, China does not profess to say something and do something else. Their people do not have the democratic rights that democracies profess their people do have. A philosophical argument could be had about authoritarianism and democracy, and no doubt democracy would win such an argument. It is always a difficult proposition in such an argument, to consider issues such as poverty, security of people, standard of living, income inequality, racism, all falling within the realm of basic human rights denials, to judge what is more important, all of these, or a compromise with democracy, freedom and liberty in order to provide citizens of a country their basic entitlements for a decent livelihood, education, health and other social and societal fundamentals. Many democratic countries have shown that such compromises are not needed or desired, and not many authoritarian regimes have shown that compromising has worked. What is perhaps important is for hypocrisy to end and for democracies to save each other in order to prevent authoritarianism from taking hold on account of such hypocrisy.

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