Crimes and sins of the Englishman Paul Harris
Posted on December 10th, 2013

C. Wijeyawickrema

(After reading Shenali Waduge’s essay on how Paul Harris was treated by Ranil Wickremasinghe and G.L. Peiris, I thought of re- submitting this short essay on Paul Harris saga printed by the Daily Mirror sometime back).

The Tibetan priest S. Mahinda was honoured with a postage stamp. So was the American Olcott. Recently Arthur C. Clarke was given the same honour. I do not know whether Annie Besant was given such recognition by the Indian government. We did not do so to Rhys Davis for his service to Buddhism.

A human being has the potential of becoming a saint or a devil. People find it difficult to understand why the American Dianne Fossey, spent a life time trying to protect gorillas in Africa, or why the Canadian medical doctor Norman Bethune died fighting with the Chinese red army. A young Albanian geography teacher came to Calcutta helping people suffering with leprosy to become Mother Teresa. Simon Bolivar, who liberated several South American countries from Spanish colonialism left Venezuela in frustration. Our own Anagarika Dharmapala left Ceylon in disgust wowing never to return again and spent a long time in India until his death. These are examples of a rare phenomenon in the world scene -foreigners helping other countries, often risking one’s life.

Recently, some writers proposed a hypothesis that this was an attempt to get recognition not possible in the home country! If that is the reason Paul Harris does not need it. He is recognized all over the world as an expert in terrorist wars. Why is Paul hated by the UNF government, its alleged foul-mouthed ministers and by the Sunday Leader Editor? His skin is white and he is an Englishman, and he has first-hand field experience in the Tiger borderland. The only other person with such information in Sri Lanka now is the American Ambassador, who without doubt has field operators. The funny thing about this hate against Paul is that he is not telling anything knew. All those against the present fake-peace movement know what Paul is saying and have been writing almost daily about it.

Just like in the 1880s Olcott with his white skin came to help local brown people from the white skin colonial masters, PA and UNF politicians who worship white skin via foreign embassies cannot stand another white man exposing the peace game.

PA and UNF were so successful in preventing either talking or writing against the peace process by local Sinhala Buddhists, that Sri Lanka is left with a solitary Englishman to tell the true story. An Indian, a Tamil, Subramaian Swamy, recently wrote in the Hindu about how to destroy Tigers to prevent balkanization of India, without strengthening Sinhala chauvinists! This is what Sinhala Buddhists are called by the president, prime minister, former and present cabinet ministers, the Catholic Archbishop, all the NGOs and by Prabhakaran. No one could say Paul Harris is a Sinhala chauvinist. He is telling the objective truth as he sees and foresees it.

Paul Harris visited dozens of countries, but he has decided to live in Sri Lanka and he makes me feel guilty. I left my country of birth 22 years ago and found my country of choice. I became a naturalized American citizen. I left not Sri Lanka, but the corrupt politicians, a Colombo class, exploiting the rest. JRJ made it better than Sir John’s time for the rich and the powerful. When I write a newspaper article, with all the protection given to me by this great country, my wife of 31 years says, “do not get involved in politics, they will kill you when you visit (Sri Lanka) the next time.”

This is why I admire the courage and moral conviction of a person like Paul Harris. His courage and his truthfulness have become his sins and crimes. What I studied in political geography as an undergraduate at Peradeniya, in the 1960s is exactly what Paul Harris is now saying armed with his field experience. Since I am a Sinhala Buddhist what we say has no place in Sri Lankan power circles. I have decided not to waste time writing to English newspapers in Sri Lanka. In April 21, 1998, the Island newspaper carried a research paper that I wrote as a four-part series. In that essay titled “An Alternative to the ‘Devolution’ dilemma: Move the capital to Rajarata,” I have said all that Paul said plus more. This essay is available as a Lanka Academic collection on devolution proposals. We must move the capital towards Anuradhapura and have an international port in Vavuniya, whether we have a land bridge linking South India. This is the way to mix Tamil farmers and labourers with their Sinhala counterparts. With the Pacific Century coming into prominence we must develop Trincomalee as an alternate international harbour, just like during the Atlantic centuries, when the Suez Canal was opened, Galle was replaced by Colombo.

In my paper in 1998, I pointed out how the use of river water could become a point of dispute between the Tamil country and the Sinhala country, but I did not expect the Sinhala government surrendering land the way Ranil Wikremesinghe is doing. This is what Paul identified as the greatest give away in history. If the new country obtains chemical weapons or long range rockets the Sinhala country will be in big trouble because the Tamil country is long and widespread whereas the south is compact and surrounded. Tigers who are now taxing Colombo Tamil businessmen will one day tax the Kotte-Nawala people who think they are safe with their brick walls around their houses. When Tigers killed Jaffna Mayor Duraiappa or the CID officer Bastianpillai, nobody thought that they would end up killing Premadasa, Lalith or Gamini Dissanayake.

Reminding us of this is Paul’s sin and crime. I am sure that one day, a suffering Sinhala country in the south will issue a postage stamp to commemorate an Englishman called Paul Harris for sticking his neck out, acting like a Siri Sangabo in a cruel and dangerous country. I often wonder why Paul wants to live among such cruel politicians!

For empowerment, giving power to local people, for the devolution of power, we had a simple solution. We had a local government system coming from the 1870s, if the Colombo class wanted to strengthen them with economic power. The problem was local government ministers never allowed them to grow and become strong. If local governments become truly independent with real power given under constitutional provisions, then they could become members of a district-level District-Council. This will be the best devolution remedy. No provincial homelands but several Tamil dominated districts with significant power transfers from the centre. Such a system will not create fear in the Sinhala mind of possible South Indian influence.

But for about 100 or so families who have been ruining Sri Lanka since 1948, such a simple solution would not allow continuous exploitation of poor Sinhalese, poor Tamils and poor Muslims.

One Response to “Crimes and sins of the Englishman Paul Harris”

  1. Marco Says:

    Having met Paul Harris twice in my “travels”, he would be greatly offended if he was referred to as an Englishman.
    He is a proud Scotsman.
    Nevertheless, it does not take away the message in your article above.

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