Posted on May 22nd, 2019

By Rohana R. Wasala

This is a concerned ordinary Sri Lankan’s response to two statements coming from the West regarding Sri Lanka. No sane Sri Lankan would deny that the country has been brought to the brink of disintegration and destruction, to the boundary (the event horizon) of a black hole from which no return is possible. These are the Note to Correspondents: Joint Statement on Sri Lanka by UN Special Advisors on Prevention of Genocide and Responsibility to Protect”, New York, 13 May 2019, published in the official website of the UN (https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/note-correspondents/2019-05-13) and the EU statement of May 16, 2019 issued by the Political and Commercial Communication Section of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and Maldives in Colombo on behalf of the governments of France, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Germany, Norway and Netherlands, and the European Commission (https://reliefweb.int/files/resources/190516_-_joint_statement_-_sin_1.pdf). The ideas expressed here are my personal opinions, for what they are worth. I think they are shared by many other patriotic Sri Lankans.

The UN Special Advisors’ Joint Statement authored by Adama Dieng (from Senegal), United Nations Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, and Karen Smith (from South Africa), United Nations Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect claims to be on ‘attacks against religious minorities in Sri Lanka’. To make such a claim is exceedingly misleading. It only refers to certain belated artificially created violent incidents in the Kurunegala and Gampaha districts almost three weeks after the ISIS terror attacks on churches and hotels in several places in the country. Sources in the social media and even some in the mainstream media suggest, with or without justification, that the government itself  is behind the violence that the biased West is focusing on in order to push its own agenda involving Sri Lanka. In his weekly column  in the Sunday Island/May 19, 2019 under the title ‘What the Muslim community lacks,’ veteran political commentator C.A. Chandraprema makes this observation: ‘The furious outpourings on Facebook, accusing those involved in the violence of being pro-government conspirators probably had more to do with putting out the fires ignited by a few organised gangs than the curfews and arrests made by the government’. (President Sirisena’s unthinking, rather habitual imposition of a ban on the social media, whenever violent incidents are reported in which Sinhalese are falsely implicated, is counterproductive. It seriously harasses the hundreds of thousands of poor Sri Lankans (at least 90% of them are from the majority community) employed abroad, especially women who work as domestics in the Gulf countries. Such a ban always adds to the suffering of these people by depriving them of the cheapest means of frequent communication with their loved ones back home. What Chandraprema describes as ‘furious outpourings on the Facebook’ (presumably against reported attacks on Muslims) are from these poor people as much as from other young netizens. Social media banning is adding insult to injury as far as these humane minded Sri Lankans are concerned.)

If I found this document (the Joint Statement of UN Special Advisors) elsewhere (that is, in a source that is not connected with the UN), I would have thought that it is a libelous piece of propaganda against Sri Lanka in the form of a rather clever forgery that has nothing at all to with that august world body and that it has been composed by some naturally irresponsible hireling of a terrorist organization hell bent on deepening the current crisis in the country out of some ulterior motive. That impression was created in me by the palpable falsehoods that it contains; the deliberate untruths seem to be designed to cry wolf or raise a false alarm about non-existent dangers emanating from perceived deficits in democracy and good governance allegedly inherent in the Sri Lankan political setup, for which the blame is hypocritically attributed to so-called ‘nationalist extremism’. What these UN advisors implicitly assert as undeniable truths about Sri Lanka are flagrant falsehoods that have acquired a kind of Goebbelsian authority through repetition by the racist Tamil separatist propagandists over the years, nay, decades. This would be obvious to any impartial observer with a correct and clear idea about the history of Sri Lanka with its glorious ancient Buddhist civilization and the treacherous ground realities that its philosophically highly cultured people must tackle today under conditions of inglorious intervention in its internal affairs by external geopolitical players active in the region. It is most likely that the two aforementioned Special Advisors believe that they are reflecting the truth about the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka. We need not blame them for that. But it is clear that they have been seriously misled by the sources of information that they implicitly trust.

According to the Special Advisors’ Statement, they

‘…..  noted a recent spate of attacks against Muslim and Christian communities in Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist country’.

This is a deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Why this unnecessary reminder that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist majority country? Isn’t it an attempt to incriminate Sinhalese Buddhists, by implying that it is they who  are committing violence against the minority Muslim and Christian communities?. TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran, in a knee jerk reaction to the bombings, seemingly justifying them, said that the attacks were due to Sri Lanka’s failure to address minority grievances! The suicide bombers from the ISIS-sponsored National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ) who detonated bombs in three churches and three hotels in different places in the country were from among the Muslims (the only ethnic community identified as such in Sri Lanka exclusively on the basis of religion). The attacks on churches directly targeted Catholics, but those on hotels were indiscriminate ones; the dead and injured included foreigners as well as locals. So, on the whole, the vast majority of the victims of these attacks were Sinhalese. This fact was evident to the Sri Lankans themselves at once. But there was no sign of any revenge attack by the Sinhalese on Muslims. Instead, everywhere it was the Sinhalese who led voluntary rescue work including blood donation and the cleaning up of damaged churches. One young Sinhalese businessman offered to rebuild one of those churches at his own expense, which however, the Cardinal politely refused to accept (source: a video on the internet).

The Islamic terror attacks brought all the grieving communities together as when the final assault on separatist terrorists was in progress in the first few months of 2009. It now appears that the reconciliation mongers want to wreck the steadily emerging calm despite the discovery of suspicious hoards of weapons such as swords and knives in or in the vicinity of mosques as shown in local news channels.  Social media say that, according to the local residents, the attackers involved in the recent violence in Kurunegala and Gampaha districts (committed more than three weeks after the bombings) were from outside areas. It is certain that agents provocateurs were at work at the behest of someone. Colombo district MP of the UNP Mujibur Rahaman says that the government must accept responsibility for the attacks on Muslims, and is threatening to leave the government unless the problem is addressed soon. It is interesting to point out that he is one of the four prominent Muslim politicians (others being Eastern Province Governor Hisbullah, Western Province Governor Azath Salley, Minister of Industry and Commerce, All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Badiuddeen) that the Opposition is accusing of complicity in the Wahhabist terrorism that inspired the attacks on April 21. Even a motion of no confidence (NMC) against the last named had been entered in the Order Paper in Parliament by the time of writing/May 20.

The UN Special Advisors note that  

 ‘The attacks committed on this weekend of 11 May follow deadly attacks carried out on Easter Sunday of 21 April 2019, against churches and hotels in various parts of the country in which more than 200 people were killed and hundreds were injured.’

And then they observe that

 ‘The recent violence in Sri Lanka has highlighted a growing influence of nationalist and extremist views of identity in the Asia region, putting religious minorities at risk.’

The subtle implication here is that the Catholic community who were the target of the ISIS attack are not to be suspected for the violence that was committed three weeks after that attack, because if it was revenge  from them, it should have come much earlier. These dishonest brokers imply, without any real evidence, that the blame should be attributed to alleged nationalist extremists (of the majority community).    

There is absolutely no need to invoke the UN’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P) commitment in respect of Sri Lanka. We the sovereign people of Sri Lanka comprising the three main racial/ethnic groups of Sinhalese (75% of the population/2012 Census), Tamils (15%), and Muslims who are a mixture of Tamil speakers (the majority of them), and Sinhala speakers, can manage this crisis by ourselves. The religious breakdown of the population is roughly 70% Buddhists, 12% Hindus, 10% Muslims and 07% Christians. These different ethnic and religious groups have always lived in peace and harmony for centuries. No more proof of interfaith and inter-communal  harmony in Sri Lanka, ‘a Buddhist majority country’, is necessary than the fact that all ordinary Sri Lankans, without an exception, look up to His Eminence Cardinal Malcom Ranjith for protection at this critical moment. His brave, nonpartisan and just criticism of the powers that be including the government in view of the current situation, has gone down well with the masses. He has become a national icon. For years now, His Eminence Cardinal Ranjith has been robustly defending the Budddhist cultural foundation of Sri Lanka, particularly, in the context of attempted international threats to it, for he recognizes the fact that that foundation ensures the peaceful flourishing of other religions as well as Buddhism.

If there were a few occasional conflicts between the communities, they were invariably of a political nature, but not of any racial or religious significance. Communal harmony remained intact even during the three decades of civil war (that was ended in 2009) amidst devastating terrorist bomb blasts and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets killing hundreds of innocent citizens belonging to all ethnicities. The peaceful and humane ethos of the pan-Sri Lankan society is no doubt mainly the result of the unobtrusive influence of the age old Sinhalese Buddhist  culture of the island supported by the traditional Hindu religious values of kindness and nonviolence among the Tamils, who form the largest minority community. It is up to the Special Advisors, if they so wish, to check whether this statement is a biased assertion of a racial or religious zealot, by consulting truly authoritative sources (But please exclude the mercenary NGO intellectuals, and the few members among the eminent emigrant Sri Lankan Tamil intelligentsia domiciled in the West, who being human, but forgetting their native cultural heritage of humaneness and belief fair play, succumb to baseless anti-Sinhalese Buddhist prejudices, and make it their mission to distort history in order to lend intellectual and moral  support to the unjust cause of separatism/federalism in the island).

Just as there is no conflict between the diverse ethnic groups, there is no evidence of any religious disharmony among them. Even the most uneducated Buddhist never looks down upon people who follow other religions for that reason. They don’t care whether non-Buddhists reciprocate that attitude so long as they do not try to impose their beliefs on them by force or encroach on their ancient places of worship or vandalize them. If any person among the Buddhists wants to embrace any other religious creed, they recognize that person’s right and freedom to do so. There is no concept of apostasy, which is punishable with death in some religion. Buddhism is not your typical religious doctrine. In fact, it is not a religion at all.  Buddha endeavoured all his life to save people from religion and help them follow the path of enlightenment, which is an inner process independent of supernatural help. Of course, the ritualistic Buddhism that is the shell that protects its ethical philosophical core among the ordinary followers has much in common with other major religions. Proselytizing zeal is something alien to Buddhism. Sinhalese Buddhists get unfairly denounced as extremists when they react to the unacceptable activities of certain small fundamentalist groups polluting the peaceful Christian and Muslim mainstreams.

Buddhist monks and lay Buddhist activists have been pointing out what these unacceptable activities are those that certain Christian and Muslim fundamentalist groups richly financed from outside are carrying out and they have been trying hard to engage the attention of the political authorities about them. However, Sinhalese politicians in power fear to do anything about these complaints for fear of losing the block votes that these communities represent; those out of power take care not to commit themselves to the necessity of finding solutions to the legitimate grievances of the Buddhists against religious fundamentalists because of the same fear. So, the handful of Muslim politicians who are able to command support among the Muslims in the form of a block vote through the patronage of small fundamentalist groups who are held in fear by them become kingmakers under the existing electoral system. The survival of the present  government depends on the participation of the few Muslim MPs who are being accused of sponsoring Islamic terror. This is not to say that all Muslims are religious extremists, or that all Muslim politicians are supporters of terrorism. The vast majority of Muslims (who account for nearly 10% of the population) want to live in peace with the rest of Sri Lankans. This is a matter of vitally important for them. Muslims are associated more with trade than anything else, though they enjoy their fair share in every other sphere of national life as well, for example, in education, administration, justice, communication, sports, and what have you. The majority of Muslim politicians are good patriotic  politicians like Kabir Hashim of the UNP, and Mohamed Musammil of the National Freedom Front led by MP Wimal Weerawansa (Musammil is NLF’s media spokesperson). Personally, I feel that Musammil is fit to be the prime minister or the president of the country. 

The two UN Special advisors have ‘offered  their support to work with the Government on inter-faith and inter-religious harmony and inclusivity’.  They conclude by stating that Sri Lanka has a pluralistic society. To be a Sri Lankan is to be a Buddhist, to be Hindu, to be a Muslim, to be a Christian. All these communities are entitled to their identity, to freely exercise their religion and to live in peace and security in Sri Lanka, as recognized by the country’s Constitution. We call on all Sri Lankans to respect one another.” This is redundant advice to perhaps the most ancient and the most peacefully multicultural nation in the South-Asian region, if not in the whole world, except for temporary disturbances introduced by foreign intruders.

This reply will go for the statement from the European Union (May 16) as they also harp on more or less the same themes against Sri Lanka. They are more straightforward about their real concerns than the UN Advisors. Their focus is their own national trade interests, not Sri Lankans’ human rights including the right to live. While adopting foreign policies based on their own respective national interests, these Western nations denounce Sri Lankan nationalists as extremists who ill treat  the minorities.  Sinhalese nationalism, over the millennia, has been territorial. ‘Sinhalay’ was the ancient name of the country. The European name ‘Ceylon’ is derived from that. All those who made it their home were regarded as members of one nation, though it was recognized as the original and only homeland of the Sinhalese race. The Buddhist culture that evolved in it from about the arrival of Mahinda Thera 2300 years ago made it possible for people speaking different languages and having different religious beliefs and ritual practices to live together in amity. Prince, later King, Dutugemunu (161-137 BCE) launched his long drawn war that he concluded victoriously against South Indian Chola invader Elara, said, according to the Mahavamsa or The Great Chronicle, written in Pali in the 5th century CE: My endeavour is for ensuring the survival of the Buddha Sasana for perpetuity (in the land)”; he did not speak about aggrandizing his own Sinhalese race. His decree that all music must stop when processions pass by the grave that he had built for king Elara, the invader enemy he defeated, out of respect for him, is honoured to this day as a somber tradition. It is those same values that inform the dominant Buddhist cultural foundation of Sri Lanka.

The EU calls ‘on political, religious and other community leaders to continue to speak out against violence and all those inciting unrest and distrust and to make every effort to promote understanding and harmony between communities’. They do, without being admonished by any outsider, except the ones who serve the interests of antinational elements. If you let us mind our own affairs without interference, we can easily resolve these unnecessary problems that have been foisted on us.


  1. jay-ran Says:

    “BUT! DHITTA! DHAMMA!! VEDANEEYA KARMA!!! WILL PUNISH THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    “THERE IS NO CHILD FOR HIM”???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  2. Vaisrawana Says:

    Please see how SL’s Permanent Representative to the UN articulates the same themes more diplomatically as reported in the Sunday Island of May 26, 2019, if you have not done so already:


    UN Special Advisors joint statement ‘skews the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka’
    Envoy says SL taken aback by the oversimplified narrative of events

    Responding to the joint statement by two United Nations Special Advisors, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera, says that their “prejudiced statement only serves to sensationalize issues at a time the government is taking stringent measures to maintain law and order and quell unrest in the interest of safety of all”.

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