Western role in the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) of Sri Lanka
Posted on May 18th, 2013
by Anura Alahakone, USA
It is well-known that US has taken a lead role in combating, and sometimes fostering Islamic extremism in many parts of the world. Its support for the Taliban in Afganistan by arming them against the Soviets is well known. The US has also supported Islamic groups to create tension is some African states to counter other tendencies.
In many of these moves, and in some of its UN lobbying, the US uses third parties to cover its hand. Norway has figured prominently as one of the not-so-hidden hands of Western foreign policy in this regard. Canada and Britain have figured in extraordinary renditions of prisoners who were whisked away for torture by US agents operating in other countries.
In Sri Lanka, Western policy was directed through the secessionist politics of the Tamil Nationalism. This provided a stage for global capitalism to move in, with Ranil Wickremasinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga willing partners. However, this agenda was thwarted by the rise of the Rajapaksa government which exploited the growing anger of the majority of the country that realized that the carpet is being pulled from under them, with the sovereignty and decision making in the country passing into the hands of Norway, Japan, India and internationally funded NGOs.
Rajapaksa used a policy of dividing up the opposition and offering perks to woo support, to bring most of the Sinhala polity as well as the Muslims behind him. Using a large cabinet to shield the weakness of his minority government, Rajapaksa won a war that had been declared `un-winnable’ by the West which funded the Tamil Tigers, and harboured individuals like Anton and Adele Balasingham who openly supported programs declared by the UN to be crimes against civil societies.
Western analysts realized that until and unless the Sinhala polity is divided, the Western program cannot go ahead. The Tamil nationalist program thrived in the last three decades only because the Sinhalese were divided equally between the United National party (center right) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (center left). The US keeps track of Islamic groups and knew of the Wahabist-Islamic incursions in Sri Lanka, and the growing resentment against it among certain nationalist sections of the Sinhalese.
The strategists in the Pentagon invoke their standard formula for situations like this. It lines up its defense establishment with the defense establishment of the target country (Sri Lanka), and gets one of its henchmen (e.g., Norway) to support the anti-Islamic radical groups at a variety of levels. This has been done not only by the so-called “one-shot” support given to the BBS, but also by giving financial aid to selected Buddhist temples. This is the standard approach to buying up political support where there is none.
In effect, the West needs a Buddhist NGO in Sri Lanka, just as it needed an Islamic NGO in Afghanistan against the Soviets. However, here it is playing a more subtle game, check-mating the Wahabi Islamists in Sri Lanka, gaining support from a section of Buddhists, while alienating and diminishing the power of the Jathika-Hela Urumaya that led the vanguard against Norway at Mavil Ara, and actually fielded Buddhist monks at Sri Lankan elections. Thus the rise of the BBS fits in very well with the strategy of the West.
However, some members of the Rajapaksa government, as well as some leaders of the Buddhist political program are clever strategists. They have realized that they too can use (the covertly western-supported) anti-Islamism of the BBS to their own advantage in winning back some of the assets that have been encroached upon by Islamist expansion. This is of course a popular move among the Sinhala nationalist merchant class which is prepared to compromise on Buddhist teachings for a bit more of Buddhist hegemony.
Sri Lankan Buddhists do not have a strong moral figure like the Dalai Lama who successfully maintained the Tibetan effort against China on the high moral road for many decades. Now, the Dalai Lama has retired from that struggle and how it will spiral onwards is any-body’s guess. The Dalai Lama has expressed his sadness about the events in Sri Lanka and Burma, but it is easy to dismiss him as being mis-informed. Indeed, he is not informed about these events per se. He is making his statements based on the general principles of Buddhism that demand that every matter be solved by discussion, compromise and compassion, without violence. That is the high moral road that the Buddha indicated to the Lichchavi kings in regard to governance, some 26 centuries ago, with his seven rules.
The BBS is a militant group which in effect implies that Buddhist principles have to be re-enforced by strong-arm tactics. Some church fathers as well as Western anti-Islamists who have been irked by Islam’s inroads all over the world are delighted by the new developments. They don’t have to openly sully their hands!
The withdrawal of Muslim support from the Rajapaksa government is also attended with glee by Western strategists who noted how Rajapaksa had used such support in UN fora for thwarting international sanctions against his government.
The western NGOs that existed in Sri Lanka so far have been headed by Tamils, Christians, or noted international wheeler-dealers. If the BBS can become a Southern Sinhalese NGO that can be manipulated by the West, an immediate objective of the West would be achieved.
However, some of the leaders of the BBS may prove to be artful individuals who may not necessarily tow the line of the West, just as the Taliban NGOs created in Afghanistan by the West some decades ago morphed into anti-Western agents. However, the Taliban had enough middle-eastern financial backers when the West withdrew its support. In contrast, the BBS will dry up and loose steam, as soon as it looses its financial backing.
Here we have to look at the JHU that has become a dormant entity when its financial support dried up with the JHU becoming a compliant partner of the Rajapaksa politics of accommodating all and `shaping up’ problems instead of solving them according to the rule book.