Michael Roberts meets Anaagaarika Dharmapala
Posted on August 14th, 2016
C. Wijeyawickrema, B.A (Hons.), LL.B., M.A., PhD
In response to an essay that I wrote in Sinhala, on the above heading, which appeared on Lankaweb, Michael Roberts (MR), owner of the Thuppaiya website, sent me a private e-mail, copied below. MR once said that he gave lectures both in Sinhala and English, but because of his complaint that he is in better shape if he could use English, I thought of providing him this opportunity to disprove the historical truth that I presented against his opinion. However, his second complaint that I was not coherent had to be ignored because, my essay has a larger objective of bringing true background information to the Sinhala people against what I consider the anti-Mahavamsa Movement, of which I consider MR is a life-long supporter. For example, he was behind the plan for a Tamil language national anthem.
|2:42 PM (2 hours ago)|
You seem to be spoiling for a fight. It is basic principle in the strategy of war that one chooses the terrain and site on which to engage in pitched battles. While I am reasonably competent in Sinhala, my capacities in English are much better, I can be more precise in my English composition. Precision is vital in bombing and artillery strike and in fact in all military operations.
Moreover, your composition is all over the shop – to the point of being incoherent. If it was an essay presented by some undergrad I would give a “Fail.” So, why should I waste my time warring against an idiotic enterprise? I am not going to take up your challenge…..”
MR says that Sinhala Buddhists claim Sinhale, which was translated as Ceylon by the colonial master (but Sri Lanka to MR), completely and totally for them, instead of sharing the island real estate with minority communities. This he identifies as Sinhala Buddhist extremism or according to his Eurocentric, black-white thinking, Sinhala Buddhist majoritism. Of late, he has discovered that even educated Sri Lankan Tamils are infected with a germ called Tamilness, which I interpret as “there are moderate Tamils only until the right opportunity comes.” This Tamilness, which is the mindset of Tamil majoritism, allowed Tamils at least secretly, to admire battle victories of Prabakaran. We now know how this inner feeling burst out with a vengeance, when Wignesvaran brands Prabakaran as Tamil Keppetipola.
What MR is trying to propagate is the same hackneyed phrase of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism, first used by the Marxist Vishaka Kumari Jayawardena in the 1970s. Very few people knew that this Vishaka is the daughter of an English woman, grew up in London. It was like that people thought Ananda Tissa de Alwis was an ardent Buddhist. So in demanding that the Island-pie should be shared, MR says that he was able to locate the origin of this deadly sin of not sharing. He located an essay written in English by Anaagaarika Dharmapaala (AD) in 1912, in which he found the words “we Sinhalese” (api Sinhala jaathiya?). This was his great discovery!
It is strange that MR finds these two words created an ideology so damaging to the peace and good governance in Ceylon then, and to Sinhale today. This reminds me how H L Seneviratne in his book “the Work of Kings” blamed two solitary monks, Vens. Yakkaduwe Pragnaraama and Walpola Raahula, as the two creators of all (ethnic?) ills in the island after 1948! In 1832 the colonial master introduced communal representation even though the term Tamil was not in official documents until Arunachalam added it in 1911 or so to his first Census Report (communalism became part of the Indian colony under the Government of India Act of 1935). Before that the Tamil-speaking people were all known as the Malabar inhabitants. Communalism was a colonial game, and what did MR expect AD to use to identify people of his race? In fact, the word Tamil came from the word Damila found in the Mahavamsa.
British colonialism had three instruments (weapons?): Bible, sword and the bottle (arrack). But, there was another dirty weapon, unseen. This was the game of humiliation of natives conquered in a subtle and systematic fashion. Western writers recognized and wrote about it only in the 1960s. But AD understood this psychological weapon at least 50 years before, and gave a simple remedy: make a puppet using hay or banana trunk, paint it white, place it in front of the house and kick it in the morning and evening shouting para sudda, para sudda. Once a magistrate questioned him as to why he insults white rulers calling them para sudda, and he explained that para means foreign and not like in para balla (dog). So if MR wants to find fault with AD it should be for AD trying to remove the inferiority complex of the Sinhala people using non-violence sabotaging the very basis of colonial rule. Thomas Friedman of the World Is Flat fame (2005), mentioned about this humiliation weapon used by the west against Russia (after the fall of Berlin Wall) and the Arab world (after the Iraq war). Former colonies all over the world have a class of people called the black-whites, who are mental (and physical) prisoners of the Euro-centric (Europe is superior) thinking. For example, otherwise, who would suggest inviting the PM of Portugal to celebrate 500-year anniversary of cruel and wicked Portuguese arrival in 1505?
Likewise, I think, Galle Dutch Fort is MR’s Sigirya, and he would never understand the psychological impact of AD on the Sinhala mind (Sinhala Buddhists and the poor Sinhala Catholics). I do not think AD experts, former civil servants, the late Ananda Guruge or Sarath Amunugama with his 2015 book on AD, understood this vital psychiatric role played by otherwise their hero AD. AD was never a racist, but a nationalist. His friends and supporters were an international community spreading from Japan to Brazil. He never discriminated against minority communities, but pointed out how Sinhalayas have become victims in their own motherland in the hands of greedy foreigners. He did not provoke people to do what the UNP government did in July 1983 or the JRJ-Dudley Imbulgoda march against Tamils in 1958 or the NM-Colvin Kollupitiya march in 1968 again on the same topic against Tamils. What AD said then is what Sinhala Buddhists (the late Ven. Soma and the Bodu Bala Sena) are asking today.
Since 1505, Sinhala Buddhists faced murder, genocide and planned discrimination under a white and black-white control system, and they expect the restoration of their lost rights, with reasonable accommodation for the minorities. Instead, since 1931 and after 1948, Sinhala Buddhist did not get “independence” but more and more of step-motherly treatment. In fact, in 2012 for the first time, it was Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which publicly disclosed that the green, red and blue black-whites have been treating the Sinhala Buddhists, the same way that some men treat kind-hearted women. It was this kind of militant Buddhist reaction (compared to temple bana preaching of Ven. Soma) that led American Ambassador Michelle Sisson to visit Ven. Maduluwave Sobhitha’s temple in Kotte. Gandhi and Martin Luther King in USA were two leaders who were militants, but peaceful, and BBS awoke a sleeping nation.
Australian-living Devadasan Nesiah, did doctoral research at Harvard and concluded that, “discrimination with reason is legal (and just).” He used Malaysia, India and USA as case studies. Similarly, if Devadasan did a case study using Sri Lanka, would he find the removal of systematic discrimination imposed upon the Sinhala Buddhists of Sinhale unreasonable? This was done violating the Agreement of 1815. And, section 29 of the 1947 Dominion Constitution was a fraud perpetrated on a victim majority by a Christian white and black-white Colombo crowd. It was reported that a draft of that constitution was given to the Catholic archbishop for perusal! Was it given to the Mahanayakas at least for their namesake?
This section 29 was removed in 1972, but did black-white rulers remove disabilities and barriers imposed upon the Sinhala Buddhists and the Sanga community? What had happened to the reports of the commissions appointed to study Buddhist grievances? So my challenge to MR was how he could say the majority was trying to eat the whole cake, when they did not get even a half of a hopper they justly deserve? Not only that, the 2015 world religious report of the American State Department questions why Ven. Galabodaatte Gnanasaara is still free for trying to stop American dollar and Arab oil-based unethical religious invasion on Sinhala and Hindu people.
In addition to promoting communalism in Ceylon, the colonial master tried his best to create Tamil-Malabar settlements in the Vanni which was prevented by the malaria mosquito. They divide the island into nine provinces starting with five in 1832 which had no geographical or ecological basis. Would MR agree that this artificial division should be nullified? Would he agree that the capital of the island be moved to the Raja Rata region? What is his position on a suggestion to re-demarcate grama sevaka niladhaari units (GSN) on an ecological basis so that other higher civil, political and administrative units will have natural boundaries, and will be language, religion or ethnicity-blind?
Lastly, I must educate MR against him displaying a superiority complex. At the last count I had 13 universities and university colleges in three countries directly linked with my professional life and he cannot be my tutor in this birth!
- Wijeyawickrema, B.A (Hons.), LL.B., M.A., PhD