About: the world this week, 8 May to 14 May 2022, Tiger country burning, Laws of motion, going under-cover, re-unification dreams, climbing the highest mountain, a forbidden country isolates, bongbong country, and Dinosaurs that went extinct.
Sri Lanka: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright
Early in the week Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister (PM), Mahindra Rajapaksa, resigned following severe unrest when crowds went on a deadly rampage across the country. His ancestral home was set on fire, along with his superb Lamborghini car collection; a gold statue of the father of the Rajapaksa brothers was pulled-down reminding us of other fallen statues across the world. People are running wild on the streets and shoot-on-sight orders issued in the State of Emergency already declared. The protestors are demanding the President also resign and that the Rajapaksa family returns whatever they have looted, to the country’s coffers.
No other political dynasty, in this part of the world, as been as nepotistic as the Rajapakasha clan. During Mahindra Rajapaksa’s second term as President from 2010 to 2015, there were more than 40 Rajapaksa family members in government posts, apart from the cabinet.
When he was a first time President, Mahindra Rajapaksa earned his stars, comprehensively destroying the ruthless terrorist organization, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ending a 30 year horrible, bloody civil war that ravaged Sri Lanka. That unbelievable victory gave him something of a Demi-God status and perhaps went too deep into his head. He took Sri Lanka away from India’s ‘Elephant cool’ friendliness into China’s ‘fire-breathing Dragon’, doing loan-wrecking business with them. Among the many reasons touted, the tragedy unfolding in Sri Lanka is directly the result of persistent trade deficits and accumulated debt. And Sri Lanka has little leverage over its creditors: a victim of unbalanced globalisation?
Late in the week, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, appointed a new PM, Ranil Wickremesinghe, a 73 years old lawyer-turned politician who has been in Parliament for 45 years. He is the 26th PM of Sri Lanka and has made a remarkable come-back nearly two years after his United National Party was routed and failed to win a single seat in the general election held in August 2020. Sri Lanka would need to squeeze all his experience to crank its economic engine again. India’s Uttar Pradesh State has a double-engine economy, and maybe it could spare an engine? Ask India!
Talk about putting out the fire of the Tiger and starting a new fire!
Ukraine and the Laws of Motion.
I was watching a talk with best-selling Ukrainian Author Andrey Kurkov, known for his satirical ‘Death and the Penguin’ and ‘Grey Bees’, tell us about the situation in Ukraine. He has stopped writing fiction as there are so many real stories to write about during this unprovoked Russian aggression in Ukraine. He is devoting his time to writing and explaining what’s happening in the country, has refused to leave Ukraine, and lives in the capital Kyiv, travelling all across to listen and record tales.
He made a roaring point when he said Russia and Ukraine are very different. Ukrainians know the meaning of Freedom, experience and savour it, while Russians look for quiet stability and do not understand true freedom-or, it does not matter to them at all. Ukrainians have had five Presidents during the near about 22 years rule of Russia’s Vladimir Putin (as either Prime Minister or President). He added that the only way the war could be stopped is by the ‘death of Putin’ and if a Russian Oligarch takes over, the war could end sooner, whereas if a politician leads it could be more complex.
Newton’s famous Laws of Motion say that a body in motion tends to be in motion – endlessly enjoying the ride – while a static body tends to stay put – endlessly enjoying sitting it out – unless forces act upon them.
Now we know where the Russian and Ukrainian forces are acting – or must act! Do we have to force Newton to do something? Apple it out?
Under Cover in Afghanistan
It’s raining narrow-minded Islamic law interpretation in Afghanistan and the covers have been rolled out with the ruling Taliban moving to strictly and harshly enforce the full-body covering of women, in public.
Under the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001, women had to cover up, could not work, and girls were banned from school. But after seizing power in August 2021, they vowed to respect women’s rights. Some even said they may turn the proverbial ‘new leaf’!
However, the Taliban backtracked on opening high school for girls, saying they would remain closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law- including design of suitable uniforms for the girls. Then late last week the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, said that if a woman did not cover her face outside home, her father or closest male relative would be visited and face potential prison or firing from Government jobs, if working for them.
Meanwhile, it more than 238 days since girls have been locked out of school – denied education-while the academic year surges ahead. And this is one of the biggest human rights violation anywhere in the World. The World needs to uncover its mouth, face the Taliban, and speak up for the girls!
Northern Ireland… Belfast…Belfast
The Political Party, Sinn Fein, led by Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou MCDonald won a stunning election in the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections for the first time pushing the Democratic Unionist Party into second place. Sinn Fein is a nationalist party that wants Northern Ireland-capital, Belfast-to leave the United Kingdom (UK) and reunite with the independent Republic of Ireland-capital, Dublin. This means that Michelle O’Neil will be entitled to become a First Minister in the UK, which is unprecedented for a nationalist.
The title of First Minister is used to refer to the political leader of a devolved national government, such as the administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The term literally has the same meaning as Prime Minister but is typically chosen to distinguish the office-holder from a superior Prime Minister.
The Northern Ireland Act 1988, states that Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom and shall not cease to be so without the majority of Northern Ireland voting in a poll.
This victory does not mean Irish reunification – also known as a Border Poll – would be imminent. But you never know. We need to watch this border space – first to last.
Mounting Mount Everest: Kami Rita and Lhakpa
Mount Everest in the Himalayan Mountain Range is Planet Earth’s highest mountain on land, soaring to a majestic 8,848 metres(m) above sea level. And for many, it epitomises the greatest challenge Earth has to offer: climbing it and touching the peak is a crowing achievement in a mountaineer’s life. Mount Everest is also known as ‘Chomolungma’, and ‘Sagarmatha’.
Remember, the tallest Mountain on Earth is Mauna Kea in Hawaii, USA measuring 10,205m from its base on the sea floor to its peak – 4,205m above sea level.
Mount Everest was first ascended-conquered- on 29 May 1953, by New Zealand’s Edmund Hilary and Tibet’s Tenzing Norgay. Since then, nearly 6,000 people have followed in their footsteps. And more than 300 people have died trying to scale Mount Everest.
Nepal’s Kami Rita Sherpa (Thapke), 49, has made the most ascends by any individual, scaling the peak 24 times.
This week, Sagarmatha grew warmer, with Nepal’s / USA’s Lhakpa Sherpa, all of 48 years, climbing Mount Everest for the 10th time, thereby becoming the first ever Woman in the World to achieve this stunning feat. Her first ascent to the peak was on 18 May 2000.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognises the Himalayan achievements of Thapke and Lhakpa Sherpa.
Lhakpa, a Nepalese single mother was born in a cave, had no formal education, and worked as a janitor. Climbing climbs in her blood. She had grown-up living within sight of Everest, and began portering ever since she was 15 years old, carrying heavy mountaineering gear between camps in the Himalayas. She lived in a village more than 4,000m above sea level in the Makalu region of Eastern Nepal. And is a member of the Sherpa ethnic group, descended from nomadic Tibetans, who are used to living in hostile high altitudes.
She married United States (US) based, Romanian-born climber George Dijmarescu, moved to the US, and and scaled the peak with him five times. But the relationship ended in acrimonious divorce in 2015. Lhakpa now lives in Connecticut, US, with her two daughters. She also has a son from a previous relationship. During her initial expeditions she used to plant the Nepali flag at the summit. This time, she carried the US flag.
During her 2003 climb, she was joined by her brother and sister, becoming the first three siblings simultaneously on an 8,000m high mountain.
Initially her achievements failed to attract media attention and sponsors. For many years she was lived unrecognised, and worked for minimum wage, taking up jobs such as caring for the elderly, house cleaning, and dish washing. I do hope she climbs up these mountains as well. That’s quite a height!
The Philippines is an archipelagic country consisting of about 7,640 islands in Southeast Asia, in the Western Pacific Ocean. It once went by the name of Las Felipinas, until the great Portuguese Explorer, Ferdinand Magellan whose then sailing expeditions was sponsored by Spain, came along and claimed the country for Spain in 1521. He named the country ‘Philippines’ after King Philip II of Spain. It was under Spanish rule for 333 years and under the control of the United States for a further 48 years before being let loose as an independent Republic.
Ferdinand Marcos, a horribly corrupt Dictator, once ruled Philippines with an iron fist for about 20 years, in the 1970’s and 1980’s. His rule was marked by human rights abuses and plunder of the state coffers. In 1986 he was toppled by a popular uprising, the People Power Revolution, and forced to leave Philippines in disgrace. American helicopters airlifted the family from the Malacanang Palace to Guam, then into exile in Hawaii, as protesters populated the streets.
Crowds stormed the abandoned palace and were shocked by the extent of the family’s opulence: grand artworks, boxes of gold coins, lavish jewellery, hundreds of gowns, and, infamously, an enormous collection of designer shoes belonging to the then first lady, Imelda Marcos.
Ferdinand Marcos Sr died in Hawaii in 1989. Several of his family members, including his wife Imelda, have since returned to the Philippines where they have served as elected leaders.
Enter Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of former disgraced President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. He has won the 2022 Philippine Presidential election by a landslide bringing the Marcos dynasty back to the Malacanang Palace, 36 years after the family fled the mass uprising. Marcos Jr’s running mate for Vice President is Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of populist outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte. Many of their supporters are voting to see a continuation of Duterte’s policies, including his controversial ‘war on drugs’. Philippines elects its Vice President separately from the President.
Known as ‘Bongbong’ (a childhood nickname) in the Philippines, Marcos Jr’s rise is the culmination of a decades long attempt to rebrand the Marcos family’s name and image, most recently through social media. He tied his campaign to his father’s legacy, with his slogan ‘rise again’ tapping into the nostalgia of some who saw the period under Marcos Sr as a golden era for the country.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr was educated in the Philippines and at a boarding school in England. He studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford, but, did not complete a degree course and was awarded a special diploma in social sciences.
After University, Marcos Jr became the vice-governor of his home province, Ilocos Norte, on the north-western tip of Luzon, at the age of 23 and later Governor. He was 29 when his father was ousted. In later years Marcos Jr began to re-establish his political career, again becoming Governor in Ilocos Norte, the family’s stronghold, a Congressman, and a then a Senator. In 2016, he ran for Vice-President, but lost.
Marcos is married to Louise Araneta-Marcos (Liza), a Lawyer, with whom he has three sons. He has been unapologetic about his family’s past and has downplayed or denied abuses under his father’s rule. He praised his father as a ‘political genius’, and his mother Imelda Marcos as the dynasty’s ‘supreme politician’.
On winning, he said, “Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions. It is my promise to be a President for all Filipinos”. Well said. He needs to keep that promise. And mind those shoes!
The Forbidden Country
During the Covid19 pandemic there was one country which claimed it was unaffected by the virus: its splendid isolation status suited it well. And it went about the ‘business as usual’ of testing missiles. North Korea had insisted it had not recorded a single Covid19 case since it closed its borders at the start of the pandemic, more than two years ago. That move cut off trade with China and inflicted severe damage on an economy already battered by, among others, UN sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear and missile tests. That’s up to now.
This week North Korea announced an ‘explosive’ Covid19 outbreak that has killed six people and infected more than 350,000, prompting fears of an impending and deadly crisis in the isolated and impoverished nation. This comes a day after the country reported its first-ever coronavirus case, calling the situation a ‘major national emergency.’
Experts believe none-or very few-of the country’s 26 million people have been vaccinated, and there are growing fears that a significant outbreak would quickly overwhelm the country’s poorly equipped health services. North Korea has shunned offers of Covid vaccines from China and Russia, and via the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covax scheme, apparently because administering the jabs would require outside monitoring. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered a nationwide lockdown on Thursday, calling the outbreak the ‘gravest national emergency’.
Will they launch a missile to finish off the virus? I worry about the mutations – being a largely unvaccinated country. Glad, they are isolated!
The Asteroid that Finished-Off the Dinosaurs
It’s widely accepted that the Dinosaur Era on Earth ended when a giant asteroid, about the size of a mountain, hit our Earth 66 million years ago – a turning point in the history of the planet – causing Dinosaurs to go extinct. This was at the end of the Cretaceous Period. Until then, Dinosaurs had been living on Earth for near about 230 million years! Worth juxtaposing: the human species is about 2.5 million years old and surviving modern humans, Homo Sapiens, are only about 13,000 years old.
There were about a thousand species of Dinosaurs at that time and not a single species was left alive – they just vanished in the thin air.
Now a tiny fragment of that disastrous asteroid may have been found encased in amber – a discovery that US’s NASA has described as ‘mind-blowing’. It’s one of several astounding finds at a unique fossil site in the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota that has preserved remnants of the cataclysmic moment that wiped out Dinosaurs. The fossils unearthed include fish that sucked in debris blasted out during the strike, a turtle impaled with a stick, and a leg that might have belonged to a Dinosaur that witnessed the asteroid strike.
The story of the discoveries is being revealed in a new documentary called ‘Dinosaur Apocalypse’ which features naturalist Sir David Attenborough and paleontologist Robert DePalma and airs Wednesday on the Public Broadcasting Show (PBS) show ‘Nova’- a popular American science television program.
More stories rising-up in the weeks to come. Navigate and explore with World Inthavaaram.