The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, on the outcome of the US presidential election:
The importance of the results of the United States election on this occasion is more a reflection of the overwhelming rejection of the way in which America has been run in the recent past, particularly during the Bush administration, than merely a victory for Barack Obama. The overwhelming enthusiasm before the election, as well as on the announcement of his victory, reflected how bad things are in the United States. The almost universal enthusiasm throughout the world, including Asia, was a clear expression of how badly the actions of the United States have affected the rest of the world.
There are many things bad that have been happening but the most remarkable of these is the way that so-called anti terrorism has been manipulated to serve the interests of the greedy and those who are inclined towards authoritarianism at the expense of democracy, rule of law and human rights. The negative initiatives that came from the United States in the aftermath of 9/11 has generated many forms of global, psychological warfare against every assertion of human dignity, human freedom and the struggle for the improvement of living conditions.
This milieu which was within the world’s most powerful country was exploited to the maximum by the cynical leaders of other countries, mainly to deprive their own populations of basic freedoms and democracy. In many of these countries ‘the axis of evil doctrine’ was manipulated to portray that freedom of expression, publication, organisation, and the rights against torture and extrajudicial killings, against illegal arrest, illegal detention and deprivation of fair trial as subversive endeavors. Through what are called ‘prevention of terrorism laws’, all these freedoms were sacrificed under the pretext of national security. In fact, the recent times have been the most insecure times for many of the countries.
The existence of a group that might be portrayed as terrorists became a boon to unscrupulous leaders. In fact, the creation of terrorist responses through state sponsored terror became a common element in the ruling strategies in many places. The ‘war against terror’ was not something that was meant to be won. It is, in fact, meant to be continuous so that the populations may be continuously suppressed. The society that George Orwell foresaw in his novel 1984 is being realised in all too many places.
The manipulation of the media under the pretext of anti terrorism has become more sophisticated than ever. Many techniques are constantly used in order to create confusion in the minds of people about themselves and their neighbours. By repeating various suggestions doubts are created in the minds of the people as to the authenticity and credibility of any person or group that advocates democracy, rule of law and human rights. A favourite theme is about those who indirectly support terrorists. Anyone who wants information about things related to life and society are portrayed as those who, intentionally or otherwise support sinister plots of terrorists. Then the doubt is further manipulated to create doubt as to the intentions of such persons. It is so extended even to include the lawyers, judges, journalists and every other intellectual. The only good person under these circumstances, are those who allow themselves to be so manipulated.
In Asia the example of Sri Lanka is the most glaring example in this connection. The extension of anti terrorism laws and actions have now been extended even to deprive legal services to ‘the enemies of the state’, as was demonstrated by a letter distributed to human rights lawyers by a group calling itself Mahason Balakaya (The Battalion of the Ghosts of Death). Various death squads, operating under different names have been part of the lives of the people who have to endure the conditions of a national security state. In fact, such a state closely resembles a police state. Similar conditions of terror have also been experienced in places such as Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, just to mention a few.
The issue now is as to whether the overwhelming impression created by the American people in their rejection of the type of rule in which anti terrorism was the core issue can be articulated clearly and effectively in order to generate enthusiasm for democracy, rule of law and human rights. The overwhelmingly positive response from countries outside the United States also implies a deeply felt need for America to get its priorities right. The exorcising of the fear psychosis, cynicism and the negative spirit and replacing it with a belief in the possibility of cooperation and human solidarity are aspirations that are now being expressed.
This means that what really matters is not what the administration of Barack Obama will do. What is more important is what the freedom loving people throughout the world will want to do by creatively responding to the energies that has found expression during these times. Transforming such aspirations into actual deeds can result in the defeat of the type of extremely bad conditions that have been prevailing in the world in recent decades.
We urge that the movements for democracy, rule of law and human rights take note of the enthusiasm that is prevalent in the world at the moment to create better conditions and develop strategies to give the highest priority to human freedoms and human welfare. If the world passively waits for the next US administration to take the lead it is quite obvious that a great opportunity for a great change will be missed.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.