EYEWITNESS: As the world turns…


…some can stop it

No…no…no! Your Eyewitness isn’t getting into that biblical morass as to whether God did in fact stop the Sun on the bequest of Joshua or whether technically it should’ve been the earth that had to be stopped to lengthen the day!! Naaah! The topic de jour is the fact that the US was able to stop the world by its representative to the UN merely putting up her hand in the Security Council!!

While they try to make the fact low keyed, the UN isn’t exactly the democratic institution they “boast and brigah” about! In fact, it’s an organisation steeped in the inequity of caste! The 193 countries on planet Earth that belong to the UN General Assembly are told they’re EQUAL, with equal votes and suchlike, all right. But the real power doesn’t lie with them – it lies with the Security Council, which has just five PERMANENT members and 10 other members elected every two years.

But even the Security Council which has the final say over the resolutions of the General Assembly – has its caste characteristics. The five permanent members – the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom – have a “VETO POWER’ over the Security Council’s decisions – and by implication, over the rest of the world! The “veto power” thus confers the imprimatur of legitimacy to the decisions of the “Fabulous Five”, over the rest of the 188 other members!!

This power was exercised last week when the US used its veto to kill the General Assembly’s resolution calling on countries to avoid establishing Embassies in Jerusalem. The vote was 14 against and 1 for – the “1” being the US, which was willing to thumb its nose at even its closest allies like Britain. President Trump, of course, had earlier declared it was moving its Embassy to Jerusalem – fully aware this move was implicitly backing Israeli’s position over the Palestinian’s, in the tense Middle East.

But the US hasn’t been the only permanent member that’s used its veto power – which was given to the victors of WWII – 72 years ago!! In November, Russia vetoed a commission investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria; in February, China and Russia vetoed UN sanctions over chemical weapons there, while back in December 1989, the US, France and the UK vetoed a draft resolution condemning the US invasion of Panama.

In the 21st century, it’s high time democracy enters the chambers of the UN, with the General Assembly of the 193 nations of the world finally having the last say!
Well, with a New Year coming up…we can wish, can’t we?

…continuity and change

Since the forties when it pioneered the independence movement in the British Empire, India’s held a special place in our political thinking. And since apartheid was overthrown under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, South Africa shared that iconic status. Interestingly, South Africa was the testing ground for Gandhi’s political strategy of “civil disobedience” or “satyagraha” before he unfurled it in India. We’re all connected!

Over in India, the BJP, which displaced the Congress Party as the dominant all-India party after almost 50 years, continued its winning ways in two key states. But the Congress showed resiliency in Gujarat – the home state of PM Modi himself!! That’s positive because democracy needs competitive party politics.

Over in South Africa, Cyril Ramphosa beat out the ex-wife of President Zuma to become the candidate of the ANC in 2019 elections. Some fear the ANC might be split. If it does, that’s also positive – since like in India, the overweening all-encompassing “Independence Party” can become undemocratic with no opposition.
Power to the people!!

 …City Hall remains unchanged

Talk is, City Hall will not be able to pay salaries in time for Christmas. But the Mandarins there might be able to stop them feeling devastated like sugar workers.
How about cutting present salaries to fit the budget??


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