Brutal operation of power
Posted on August 26th, 2016

By Rohana R. Wasala

The Tamil problem started decades before independence as a result of the unequal treatment of the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils, the former being at the receiving end of particularly harsh colonial suppression reserved for a conquered subject. Generally, while Sinhalese leaders agitated for the independence of the whole country, Tamil leaders were in fear of losing the privileges they enjoyed under the British, once the Sinhalese came to dominate state power as the numerical majority. The push for federalism started with the formation of the Federal Party by SJV Chelvanayagam et al in December 1949, hardly two years into independence. The name Federal is a deliberate misnomer meant to make the ultimate aim of the party appear less unacceptable to Lanka’s communally mixed electorate. The correct translation of the Tamil name of the party ‘Ilankei Tamil Arasu Kacchi’ is The Lanka Tamil State Party”.

The majority feel that federalism is only a halfway house between a unitary state and a divided country. So, the push for a separate state started soon after independence. This unjustifiable demand grew in its vehemence in the wake of successive major policy changes in Sri Lanka in 1956, 1972, and in 1978, which were introduced in good faith for the benefit of all communities without discrimination. At the centre, the two communities managed to find mutually satisfactory solutions to Tamil grievances through parliament, with the exception of the unreasonable demand for federalism. This was not due to lack of trying to arrive at a mutually acceptable settlement. Three decades of bloody terrorism followed, met with an internationally sanctioned, legitimate, and ultimately successful military response from the state, which set an example for other nations caught up in similar situations to emulate.

All Sri Lankans, brought together by shared suffering, breathed a sigh of relief when mindless violence was finally brought to an end in 2009 at an excessively heavy cost in terms of blood and tears inflicted, not on Americans or Indians, but on innocent Sri Lankans of all ethnicities. Since the conflict was not between ordinary Sinhalese and ordinary Tamils, but between the state and a non-state group that used terror as a weapon, there had been no friendship lost, except that normalcy was seriously disrupted. Reconciliation, human rights, and war crimes issues were artificially created by the powers that be in the world today as it is. Apparently, the horizon is darkening for us again, threatening to reverse the gains of that historic victory in 2009, a final result to which all governments since the beginning of the crisis contributed in varying degrees. We are victims of the brutal operation of power against us by Americans and Indians, which seems to have transformed the real victims of racism into racists, heroes into villains, violators of human rights into champions thereof, and felons into paragons of virtue. We are being treated as a primitive tribe of humanoids in need of being civilized.

About 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. Of them the majority are Sinhalese, who account for 75% of the total population of the country according to the 2012 census. The Sinhalese have only one homeland, and it is Sri Lanka, known in the hoary past as the island of the Sinhalese or Sinhale, which became Ceylon in European pronunciation. Buddhism was officially introduced under Emperor Ashoka of India to the island more than 2300 years ago (But now scholars tell us   that it was not unknown to the islanders even before that date). By that time, the island had already been the home of the Sinhalese for centuries, and for their direct ancestors for countless millennia. The official introduction of Buddhism is considered the origin of the Sinhala Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka. The Mahavamsa account of the coming of Mahinda Thera, the re-coronation of the island king Devanampiyatissa (Devanampiya ‘Beloved of the gods’ was also the title in front of Ashoka’s name), and the establishment of Buddhism in the kingdom under royal patronage marks the beginning of the Sinhalese Buddhist culture, which is so closely bound up with the unitary Sri Lankan state. The Buddha sasana thus established is the solid foundation on which the historical island civilization stands.

I am not talking about an island civilization that once was and is no more; I am talking about its latest manifestation as the multilingual, multicultural, multiracial community of people that populates the unitary state of Sri Lanka, which is inherently infused with the essence of the ethical values of Buddhism. These moral standards are eminently compatible with the ideals of humanity, democracy, freedom of thought, and fair play in all spheres of societal activity. My endeavour here should not be dismissed as an attempted atavistic regression to an unrecoverable past age. As a person who has spent most of his working life abroad among educated colleagues from different parts of the world and from many cultural backgrounds, I have often heard them invokingTheravada Buddhism as a sound basis for establishing justice and peace around the world, using it without prejudice to existing religious and other creeds that people adhere to, which they follow as a matter of inheritance or conversion or conviction.

Let us not forget that it is the ‘Buddha sasana’ that the current Constitution pledges to ‘protect and foster’, while Buddhism is given the foremost place. Buddhism itself needs no protector, because it is a form of experiential knowledge and an ethical philosophy to be verified through individual self-realization. Instead of being in need of protection, it protects. Dhamma protects those that follow the dhamma. Its predominant Buddhist culture is characteristic of Sri Lanka. Not that every Buddhist is a bodhi satva (one who is ideally good as a Buddha-aspirant). Typically, too, our culture has been easily and unselfconsciously accommodative towards people who follow other spiritual traditions and ritual practices.

A state that gives prominence to Buddhism is effectively secular. Aren’t America and Britain ‘Christian’ nations, but still considered secular democracies? The UK monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and in a special context, also the Defender of the Faith (Fidei Defensor), of symbolic value though these titles are considered to be today.

However, in spite of our proud history, we have been having our share of trouble from invaders down the centuries. We are still struggling to come out of the baleful influence of the last of these, the West. We have somehow managed to preserve our basic cultural identity as a predominantly Buddhist nation. If the former British premier David Cameron claimed with legitimate pride and confidence that the British are a Christian nation, and few of his fellow British accused him of harming the secular image of the state by making such a ‘chauvinistic’ claim, and if Americans are proud about their Christian cultural identity (both these powerful modern nations have a far shorter civilized history than ours), why should we feel self-conscious or apologetic about our Sinhalese Buddhist cultural identity?

The Sinhalese, particularly those of them who refused to abandon their Buddhist identity, were denigrated, first by the British colonialists (the last of the European powers to invade our historic homeland), and subsequently by the westernized local elites in the colonizer’s service, and sections of the minorities privileged by the departing occupiers over the Sinhalese from whom they had wrested control of the country (the same infamous ‘divide and rule’ strategy used against us even today).

The larger Sinhalese masses were labelled as savage, indolent, stupid, xenophobic, traditionalistic, retrograde, arrogant, crooked, chauvinistic, etc. because of their national pride and spirit of independence, and because of their evident chafing under the foreign yoke. Generations of all communities have been brainwashed to believe such libelous invective as expressions of fact. This was to ensure the continued subjugation of the Sinhalese. Such courageous  Sinhalese Buddhist leaders  as Anagarika Dharmapala were attacked as rabid racists, religious fanatics, and enemies of modernization, even though the evident truth was that they exemplified the opposite values in their private and public life. Anagarika Dharmapala, for example, while broadly championing the cause of the revival of Buddhism, especially in the country of its birth, India, focused on liberating Sinhalese Buddhists from the ‘mind-forged manacles’ they had inflicted on themselves due to enslavement by the colonizing British. He tried to do so by enlightening them on their historical birthright of a great culture and a great nationhood; he wanted their children to be given a modern scientific education that included mastery of their native Sinhala language, Pali (the language of Buddhism), Tamil, and English for higher knowledge acquisition and international communication.

The dominant role he played, however, was as an international Buddhist missionary, something that becomes clear from the fact that 75% of his writings and speeches were in English. He severely criticized the Sinhalese who had been demoralized by centuries of foreign domination for their seemingly accustomed laxity and defeatism. Sometimes he used harsh (but within limits of decency) language to awaken them. Ignorant, easy-going Buddhist monks who had forgotten their historic religious role in the national sphere became a special target of his criticisms. He himself was attacked by anti-Sinhalese and anti-Buddhist elements who always did what they could in order to thwart his endeavours. Eventually though, his example inspired the later nationalist leaders who succeeded in freeing the country from foreign occupation.

Prof. S.J. Tambiah of Harvard University, author of ‘Buddhism Betrayed’ (1992), a work of sociological ‘research’ not worthy of his prestigious university, was able to write about the Anagarika’s confinement at the instance of the Ceylon government in Calcutta for five years following the (wildly misinterpreted) 1915 Sinhalese-Muslim disturbances, (frustrating for a missionary used to freely wandering across three continents – Asia, America, and Europe – in the course of his life’s work): Dharmapala was duly interned in Calcutta in 1915 for his political efforts and his previous activities in Ceylon” (emphasis mine). More recently, a paid anti-Sri Lanka propagandist in the form of Gordon Weiss (who was UN spokesman in Sri Lanka during the last phase of the separatist war), in his book The Cage” (2011) unduly condemns such important Sinhalese political leaders as D.S. Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, D.A. Rajapaksa, and the much junior Rohana Wijeweera as (opportunistic) beneficiaries of what he calls Dharmapalan nationalism”! The truth is that Sinhalese nationalism did not start with Dharmapala, for Sinhale (Ceylon) had been there for over two millennia already.

Tambiah and Gordon represent two important sources of Goebbelsian misinformation against the Sri Lankan state: respectively, Tamil intellectuals playing the role assigned to them of promoting the separate Tamil state project declared in the 1976 Vaddukkoddai Resolution adopted under the leadership of Chelvanayagam and the so-called international community fishing in troubled waters of Sri Lanka’s internal politics in pursuance of America’s geopolitical schemes in our region enmeshed with India’s selfish economic and security interests. Super-power interference is the greatest obstacle to restoration of normalcy to our country.

Reconciliation, human rights, accountability etc. are just catchphrases that mean what Americans say they mean; so those terms mean little to us ordinary Sri Lankans in this context. But we know what they should actually mean if they are used for our benefit. Let there be reconciliation between people who had been fighting against each other, if there are any such. But there has not been an ethnic feud between us Sinhalese and Tamils. Of course, there has been a separatist problem. Our immediate need, however, is an early return to normalcy in communal relations.

As for human rights and accountability issues, we are concerned about the human rights of all our fellow Sri Lankans including those of the 300,000 displaced Tamil civilians who had escaped seeking the protection of the army and who had been taken care of as well as humanly possible for a not so rich country like ours, not forgetting the rights of those combatants on both sides who had allegedly been subjected to enforced disappearances. The previous Rajapaksa government appointed a commission under a retired Sri Lankan judge (the Paranagama Commission) to investigate complaints regarding missing persons. The fact that they received some 20,000 complaints means that the affected people had no problem with the reliability of the domestic commission. In its final report the Paranagama Commission has proposed that a Special High Court and a Truth Commission be set up to deal with persons charged with human rights violations. Why should the government timidly agree to foreigners who poke their nose into our internal problems?

Sky News just showed (August 21) an irate Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte excoriating Mr United Nations” as he called it for its stupid” criticism of his anti-drugs campaign, which is alleged to be already responsible 1000 extra-judicial killings since he came to power in May this year. If you can say one bad thing about me, I can give you ten (about you)” he said, if you were true to your mandate you could have stopped all these wars and killings”. What have you done for the world, Mr United Nations?” Duterte challenged. He even threatened to leave the UN in protest.

The rightness or wrongness of the Philippines president’s actions and words does not concern me here. But I recalled how the world body had employed its spokesman in Colombo Gordon Weiss to (effectively) collect incriminating information/evidence to accuse the Sri Lankan authorities of possible war crimes committed in the last few days of the humanitarian operation. Actually, our military could have greatly reduced their own casualties had they adopted a more nonchalant attitude towards minimizing civilian casualties. If, on the other hand, had the UN cared to get the rebels to agree to a proper surrender to the Lankan military (but not to a third party as they suggested), so much life and property damage could have been avoided. Such damage is usually written off as collateral damage if the military involved is American, but not so in the case of weaker nations like us.

The UNP-SLFP government has already launched into a rough sea of opposition for passing a series of controversial bills into law. The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) bill is deemed passed according to the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, but the Joint Opposition does not accept that on the ground that the proper procedure was not followed. Whatever apologists say in support of it, I, for one, cannot bring myself to believe that the particular bill is good for our country. Indications are that the same bulldozing tactic may be resorted to in parliament in the future, which will be a negation of the democratic rights of the people as a whole.

To any observer with average intelligence, the scale of public disaffection with the UNP-SLFP coalition would have been evident in the sharp difference in their numerical strength between the Joint Opposition’s Paada Yaatra (July 28-August 1) from Kandy to Colombo (the same people did not walk all the way down, except some including the main organizers) and the poorly attended anniversary rally of the government at Matara (August 19). So, clearly, writing is on the wall for the people currently at the helm. What the government and its importunate foreign sponsors must try to do is to involve, if possible, the Joint Opposition (the true opposition as opposed to the official opposition which is only an appendage to the government, representing regional, and marginal Marxist interests) in the president’s Aluth Gamane” or ‘new journey’ (whatever it means) in order that the majority community also have its say in changing the destiny of the country.

2 Responses to “Brutal operation of power”

  1. plumblossom Says:

    Mr. Udaya Gammanpila Sir,

    Apart from highly commending you for taking legal action against the treacherous CBK (Chaura Rejina) regarding the defamatory and utter lies she keeps repeating to defame her rivals, legal action should be taken against her for stating that she will definitely devolve more powers to provincial Councils within the new constitution. Does this evil woman CBK think she owns Sri Lanka and that she is the one who is going to draw up the new constitution of Sri Lanka (according to the wishes of the imperialistic US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, the racist TNA and the separatist terrorists)? The constitution of Sri Lanka should satisfy first and foremost the majority of people of this island i.e. the Sinhala people and the Sinhala people firstly do not want to draw up a new constitution nor do they want any more powers whatsoever be provided to the provincial councils especially land, police and fiscal or to illegally merge the North and the East.

    Someone has to go to the supreme court and take action against treacherous CBK for suggesting that she will definitely devolve more powers to provincial councils within the yet to be drawn up constitution since this means the treacherous Ranil, Sirisena, CBK and Mangala have already drawn up a constitution to satisfy the imperialistic US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, the racist TNA and the separatist terrorists which is illegal.

  2. plumblossom Says:

    When looking at Sri Lanka’s history, it is extremely obvious that from 600BC to around 1400AD there were three kingdoms, all Sinhala Buddhist, Ruhuna, Pihiti or Rajarata and Maya or Malayarata. Rajarata encompassed today’s North Central, North Western, Northern and even the Central Province. Ruhunu rata encompassed today’s Uva, Eastern and Southern Provinces. The Kandyan Kingdom from 1400AD encompassed most of the island inclusive of today’s Northern and the Eastern Provinces except for the Jaffna Peninsula. Even the Jaffna Peninsula was invaded and occupied by force by Aryachakravarthi (Pandyan) and actually did belong to Rajarata earlier and later the Kandyan Kingdom.

    Today’s provincial boundaries were drawn up by the British colonialists as per their divide and rule policy and the Sinhala people were not consulted when drawing up these provincial boundaries. In the meantime, most Sri Lankan Tamils of today were actually brought over during Dutch and British times to the Jaffna Peninsula and elsewhere to work on tobacco and indigo plantations which were planted extensively in all the colonies since they were much sought after and made a lot of money for the colonialists. Therefore they are recent arrivals and cannot claim homelands or separate states whatsoever.

    The usual practice when a colonial power hands over their former colonies is to hand it over to its original owners. Therefore the British colonialists should hand over the Kandyan Kingdom to the Kandyan Sinhalese from whom they took it by force. Since the Kandyan Kingdom encompassed the North and the East, these provinces too should be handed over to the Kandyan Sinhalese who are its rightful owners. Even the Jaffna Peninsula should be handed over to the Kandyan Sinhalese since it was part of Rajarata and was forcefully occupied by Aryachakravarthi (Pandyan).

    Since this has now been done already, the TNA and other separatist terrorists or the US, UK EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India cannot demand that present day Northern or even the Eastern provinces be provided any more powers or be made into federal states since this is totally going against the history and archaeology of the island and totally going against the rights of the Sinhala people who also have fundamental rights to claim the entire island inclusive of the North and the East as their homeland first and foremost. Therefore, the TNA , the separatist terrorists, the US, UK, Norway, Sweden, Canada and India has to respect the history and archaeology of the island and accept that the present day provincial councils are more than sufficient to run the affairs of the provinces. Sri Lanka must be a unitary state and no more powers should be provided to the provincial councils. In fact, when talking about the 13th amendment, the concurrent list subjects must be included in the national list. The provision where two provinces can merge should be deleted. The bogus claim of the North and the East being the homeland of the Tamil speaking people should be deleted. The entire island should be declared the homeland of all its peoples.

    Sinhala people should be resettled in the North in quite a large number if there is to be peace and harmony within the island since Sinhala people have every historical right to live in the North as well as the East. It is only due to ethnic cleansing of the North of Sinhala people by the LTTE and the other separatists that Sinhala people are not at present living in the North. Many thousands of landless elsewhere in the island especially Sinhala people should be provided land in the North since most of the vacant land in the country is in the North and in the East since both these provinces encompass over 28% of the land area of the island. Then only will there be peace since when people mix, there is more harmony. This is the only way towards peace and development in the island.

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