Sport and Politics don’t mix – or do they?

 

Mobi-Babble

My health is continuing to improve apace, and after a prolonged period of ‘weight stagnation’ I was pleased to note the other day that I have lost another kilo or so and am now below the psychological level of 90 kilos. Some of this reduction  is no doubt down to all my recent illnesses, but I’ll take the weight reduction, whatever  caused it, as it has encouraged me to re-double my efforts in this regard.

The weather is starting to heat up nicely and a few days ago we had the ‘mother’ of all electrical storms. It just flashed and thundered non-stop for about two hours and the rain was so heavy that my pool overflowed – a very unusual occurrence. The dogs were terrified and the power went off, then on, then off, then on. On the third time it went off it was out for the count and we had to wait several hours for reconnection.

One of my smartest purchases of the past few months was a power surge/UPS for my computers and screens, and it has been working very well during all the lightning flashes and power surges and cuts. I have suffered so much damage in past years due to these storms.

 

But evenings are still quite pleasant. As soon as the sun starts to set over the horizon, which this time of year is at about 6 pm, a nice little breeze springs up around the lake and while still quite warm, the gentle zephyrs create a pleasant atmosphere for my evening walks.

There seems little doubt that my heart condition is slowly getting worse. Some days are better than others, but as a general rule, after I walk at a steady pace for about 10-15 minutes, I start to feel tired and sometimes I get some pains in my arm and chest – not big pains, but I can feel them. When I eventually get back home, usually after about 40-50 minutes’ walk, including a slow-ish 10 minute stroll with the dogs, I am pretty well done in and it takes the rest of the evening to recover.

Roll on my new valve…..

 

Sport and Politics don’t mix – or do they?

Like most of you I suppose, I am generally not in favour of sportsmen or sports organisations becoming involved in politics. By this I mean some individual or sports body criticising an aspect of government policy or espousing some political dogma, or protesting against some law of the land, just because they don’t happen to agree with it.

In my opinion they are abusing their fortunate position of being in the public domain, in much the same way as actors and other celebrities sometimes do, to promote their own personal views. For the most part I abhor this, and the consequent, slavish attention given to them by the world’s media. Just because they can run the 100 meters in 9 seconds or because they have a pretty face and  they can make a few millions starring in a movie, does that make them God’s own oracle on the political issues of the day?

But in this increasingly fractured world of ours, where all manner of terrible crimes are perpetrated by so-called legitimate governments, then I am obliged to concede that the world’s major sports organisations, with their enormous power to influence the minds of their millions of dedicated followers, should not always simply sit on the side lines, and by their silence, imply endorsement of wrongdoings.

 

We have seen mass action by sports bodies in politics for many decades; probably the most famous of these, and also the most effective, was the sports boycott  put in place against South Africa, which, by general consensus, was hugely instrumental in helping to bring an end to apartheid in that country.

Of far most dubious success was the American led boycott of the Russian Olympics in protest against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. History now shows us what a farce that invasion and the subsequent Olympic boycott turned out to be. And we all know whose armies are there today….

In recent years, you will be aware that I have been an avid opponent of staging a Formula one Grand Prix in Bahrain, as it just seems to give credence to a viscous, totalitarian regime that is utterly determined to subjugate the majority Shia Muslims by whatever means imaginable; including, intimidation, torture, rape, incarceration without trial and horrendously long prison sentences for folks who merely ask for justice.

 

The crimes in Bahrain have been well documented by the international community and it is to the world’s shame that more isn’t done to ‘persuade’ the unelected rulers to either change their ways or step down.

Of course the mere presence of the US 5th Fleet in the Bahrain would have absolutely nothing to do with the muted protests from Washington on these continuing and grave violations of basic human rights – now would it?

Last year, that nasty little multi-billionaire midget – Bernie Eccleston ‘The Great’ – tried his damnedest to have his racing day in the gulf; and for most of the season, it was an on again – off again saga, ably supported by his ignorant and trusted lieutenant, Jackie Stewart. Both of these gentlemen tried to convince the world that there was absolutely nothing wrong in staging a race for the rich and indolent of the world’s celebrity classes to enjoy, in a country where women and children were being raped and tortured in prisons while billionaire racing drivers drove round and round a stupid track in their  million dollar auto-mobiles.

In the end, common sense prevailed and the race was cancelled, but this year – who knows? We have already had a number of murmurings that Ecclestone is back lobbying for reinstatement, along with his good mate, the murderous Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.

You can find a lot of commentaries on Bahrain in my previous blogs and if you are interested, here’s a link to get you started.

Viva Formula One! – may your billions be forever tainted…

 

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields

There is another country, where, until quite recently, there was also very little public outcry about what is proving to be one of the greatest war crimes of the still young 21st century.

The name of that country is Sri Lanka.

The nature of the crime?  It has been conservatively estimated that upwards of 40,000 innocent men, women and children were deliberately slaughtered during the closing stages of the civil war which ended in 2009.

I confess to being one of those who tended to close my eyes and think of other matters whenever reports of the hideous crimes being committed in Sri Lanka ever made their way into the world’s media. Like so many in this cruel world of ours, I was feeling a lot of ‘compassion-fatigue’ and just didn’t want to hear about any more atrocities.

I well recall my interest being aroused when I read in the Daily telegraph of a graphic and gripping documentary that was made by Jon Snow of UK’s Channel Four, entitled ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ and I was moved at the time to download it.

 

But I never watched it – until last night.

It wasn’t only me – it seems that hardly anyone watched it when it was first aired, but now due to a late and sudden upsurge in interest in what was really going on in this idyllic tropical tourist destination, Channel 4 broadcast the programme again this week and slowly the world – and Mobi – is trying to come to terms with what was going on there 3 years ago – and still is, to some extent, to the current day.

If you do decide to watch this truly harrowing and sickening documentary, then I advise you not to watch it on a full stomach, as there is every chance you will lose much of the undigested food in your gut.

The Channel 4 documentary is a very difficult programme to watch, but what sticks in my mind was the blatant shelling of makeshift medical centres in the ‘No Fire Zones’ set up for innocent civilians, mainly women and children, trapped in the conflict. Time and time again, the wounded and dying are blasted to smithereens by shells from government forces, and in the end, the wounded are abandoned to their fate by doctors and medical staff as it was a totally hopeless and lost cause.

 

How did the Sri Lankan army know precisely where to shell? They were provided with the coordinates by the International Red Cross, as the idea was that these areas, above all others,  should be considered no fire zones…..

Towards the end of the programme, some of the most shocking footage emerges, most of it taken on mobile phones by the perpetrators themselves. It includes the slaughter of countless men women and children, by bullets to the head or by slitting their throats with primitive knives and we see the unspeakable sexual mutilation and abuse of naked young women whose bodies are defiled and thrown into heaps with kicks of disgust and hatred.

There is also much evidence shown in the film that countless numbers of Tamils, who surrendered in good faith – many of whom were not soldiers but part of the civilian Tamil regime, were tortured and murdered in the most barbaric fashion. Also killed indiscriminately, were the leaders’ children, babies – anyone who had any connection with the rebel regime.

Now, at long last, nearly 3 years after the cessation of hostilities, there is an American-led initiative calling on Sri Lanka to account for the carnage that ended its civil war.

 

The arena for this is the United Nations Human Rights Council, where the United States has put forward a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government  to address serious allegations of violations of international law by initiating credible and independent investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for such violations.

A United Nations panel said last year that the Sri Lankan Army, in the course of what the government called a “humanitarian rescue operation,” caused the deaths of as many as 40,000 civilians in the final stages of the war against the Tamil Tigers insurgency. The panel’s report found credible evidence that both sides in the conflict had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Human rights groups have now seized the opportunity to air allegations of continuing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, affecting not only the Tamil minority but also any government critics. Amnesty International released a report last week listing 32 abductions or disappearances in the country since October, and criticized what it called a sense of impunity for security forces.

 

The group says that hundreds of people are still being detained without trial, often held incommunicado and frequently tortured. Independent journalists and human rights defenders have been harassed and attacked. Draconian security laws inconsistent with international standards remain in place.

Amnesty International, in a report launched in Geneva on Tuesday, said dozens of people in Sri Lanka have been abducted and tortured by security forces since 2009, and hundreds are being held in illegal detention without contact to the outside world. Among those detained are suspected Tamil Tigers, but also lawyers, journalists and human rights activists.

The Sri Lankan government, at the international level, has been able to get by without real accountability for the severe human rights violations, the war crimes and crimes against humanity and that impunity has sent a very clear signal to security forces throughout Sri Lanka that they can get away with abduction, torture, even murder, without having to fear that they will have to suffer any consequences for it.

Where does such barbaric and evil cruelty come from? We have seen it throughout history; from such unspeakably wicked leaders such as Atilla The Hun, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. In recent years, we have lived through the crimes against humanity perpetrated in such places as Kosovo and Ruanda and we are currently standing impotently by, while similar crimes are hotting up against the innocent citizens in Syria, where it is estimated that over 10,000 civilians have already perished.

 

Meanwhile, back in that beautiful island paradise, our gallant English cricketers are warming up for their forthcoming test match series against the wily Sri Lankans, and in doing so, are providing this Tropical Island Nation with a veneer of respectability that it does not – by any stretch of the imagination – deserve.

Maybe it is right that sport has no place in politics, but in this humble blogger’s opinion, international cricket has no place in Sri Lanka. Not until all the innocent people are freed from jail, not until human rights are respected for all the citizens of Sri Lanka, but most of all, not until all those guilty of all those terrible crimes against humanity are brought to justice.

The more the world community lets these monsters get away with it, the more they will continue to perpetrate their crimes with utter disregard for the rule of international law.

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…Sometimes, I wish that I didn’t give a hoot!…but I do….