Of Barbarians and Blockheads
Posted on June 30th, 2019

By Rohana R. Wasala

The true barbarian is he who thinks everything barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices. -William Hazlitt

Sunday Island columnist Sanjana Hattotuwa (‘What we are today’/June 23, 2019), as if stoned on the drug of racist hatred and prejudice against the majority Sinhalese Buddhists who constitute 70% of the Sri Lankan population (Sinhalese account for at least 75% of the population in terms of racial composition, it could be 80% or more in reality), implicitly condemns all nationalist oppositional forces including the non-political Maha Sangha as barbarians. This, of course, is  self-inflicted racism, because, as the name suggests, the person is a Sinhalese. (All ethnicities are represented among nationalists in varying proportions; nationalists are not exclusively Sinhalese or Sinhalese Buddhists; not all Sinhalese are nationalists either.) 

What SH offers the Sunday Island readers is a stinker of a scurrilous piece of writing soiled with a verbal diarrhoeal discharge absolutely devoid of meaning. Baseless implicit or explicit charges of racial supremacism, religious exclusivism, and political majoritarianism have been repeated ad nauseam against the majority community over the past decades. Today, for all their innocence of these evils, they have become hapless victims of other people’s racism, religious intolerance, and minoritarian politics of genocidal proportions. While this is the ground truth about the predicament of the majority Sinhalese at present, Hattotuwa’s great worry seems to be over the distinct probability of the nationalist forces uniting to oust the failed foreign sponsored Yahapalanaya before long. All his allegations, particularly against the majority community and the Buddhist monks, about visiting violence on innocent Muslims are baseless assertions, which seem to have  to do with some personal embitterment in life he has experienced. He deserves to be treated with understanding and sympathy; but the truth that he wants to hide, especially from the small but important English reading public, must be stated in the national interest. Hence this article is written as a reply to SH, although I feel he is not worthy of one. It is respectfully offered to the intelligent and fair minded readers of the Sunday Island and others interested, for their critical engagement and appraisal.

His Eminence the Cardinal’s urgent appeal to the Catholics for calm, after the April 21 terrorist bombings, completely neutralized any possibility of retaliatory violence by them on innocent Muslims who had nothing to do with those terror attacks. His personal call was  much more effective than whatever the government did in that respect on its own initiative. There was no reason to fear that the Buddhists would perpetrate any violence on Muslims to avenge terrorist attacks on Catholic churches. 

Those of us who are old enough can remember at least three occasions (out of many) in the past that the Sinhalese Buddhists remained calm under extreme provocation and avoided communal violence: On May 14, 1985, LTTE terrorists shot dead 146 innocent Sinhalese Buddhist men, women and children arriving at Anuradhapura to take part in religious observances at the Sri Maha Bodhi there, some of them already engaged in those activities; on June 2, 1987, 33 Buddhist monks, most of them teenaged or younger novices, were hacked to death, at Aranthalawa by LTTE terrorists; on January 25, 1998, the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, the holiest Buddhist shrine in the country, was truck-bombed by an LTTE suicide cadre, killing 17 early morning worshippers, and seriously injuring more than 25. When these atrocities were committed,  innocent Tamils or their shops and houses or their Kovils were not attacked by the Sinhalese, although that was what the terrorists expected to provoke them to do, in order to discredit the Sinhalese majority in the eyes of the world. (It should be noted that in Kandy, businesses are overwhelmingly possessed and controlled by Tamil speakers including Muslims.) 

So, is it likely that these Sinhalese Buddhist ‘barbarians’ wanted to attack  Muslims, their businesses and houses in Minuwangoda and Kuliyapitiya one month after those Islamic terror attacks on Catholic churches elsewhere that they had nothing to do with? Neutral media sources point out that the perpetrators of the violence in those places

which equally affected Sinhalese families, businesses and houses were strangers to the area, and that they were probably agents provocateurs. Opposition observers claim government involvement. Persons arrested by the police, the same sources allege, were people who were sight-seeing or were there to try and stop the violence and help out those already subjected to it, without discrimination. 

In SH’s opinion, such allegations as those about serving food adulterated with unknown drugs to Sinhalese customers who go to Muslim eateries, and about forced sterilization of unsuspecting Sinhalese mothers by restricting  the fallopian tubes by a Muslim doctor, are attributable not to the ‘domain of fringe lunacy’ but to something worse that is signalled by the statements of the (Most Venerable) Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera, presumably because the Thera has implied that these charges against suspected Islamic extremist sympathisers are credible (Here my interpretation could be wrong, but this is what I can make out of SH’s convoluted prose). SH chooses not to recognize or indulge the religious sensitivities of the Buddhist readers of his piece by avoiding respectful honorifics before the names of Buddhist monks. He grants the Most Venerable Warakagoda Gnanaratana, the Mahanayake Thera of Asgiriya Chapter, no more significance than that due to his seniority. 

The Asgiriya prelate’s attitude is an implicit indictment of the government’s failure to duly investigate the specific charges and take tangible action if they are found to be true or to reassure the vast majority of the multiethnic multi-religious population threatened by a small group of extremist Islamists. If the high monk’s stand is something worse than fringe lunacy as SH warns, what does he say about His Eminence the Cardinal who, in no uncertain terms, accuses the government of direct responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks? His Eminence repeated this charge even in Rome a week or so ago. The Most Venerable Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter, a diehard supporter of the UNP, recently chided a senior-most cabinet minister, who is a potential presidential nomination aspirant from that party, for offering surveillance  cameras for his monastery instead of doing more to ensure the security of the people. The Asgiriya High Monk’s recent candid criticism of the UNP as the party that caused the greatest harm to the country and the nation in recent times (which seems to have got SH’s goat) was evidence based, and went down well with the masses impatiently waiting for a change of government. 

As opposed to unfounded allegations hurled at the nationalist oppositional forces, there are reasonable grounds for one to assume that the serious charges that are raised against certain extremist elements in a particular community by the ‘barbarians’ are based on verifiable factual observations, although the government prefers to be in denial. That is, according to free online news media sources. SH dismisses these reported facts contemptuously without bothering to study them as part of his work in investigative journalism that he apparently wants to take credit for. Only perfect blockheads will accept his opinion regarding the matter, while rejecting the scientific fact based explanation of the allegation against the doctor in question (who has acted as a house officer in a Kurunegala hospital) by an internationally recognized young university medical professor of Sinhalese ethnicity. 

Whose views should we attach credence to? SH’s or the two religious personages’ and the medical professor’s? 

SH has also made references to Ven. Ratana and Ven. Gnanasara Theras (who are monk activists of two different models).  He accuses Ven Gnanasara of using ‘virulent words’ and doing ‘violent actions’. The truth is that though sometimes he used harsh language he didn’t mean any harm to anybody.  He only wanted people to listen to the legitimate complaints he had against the unacceptable activities of fundamentalist sects targeting peaceful Buddhists, Christians, Catholics, Hindus, and traditional Muslims. In spite of sometimes assuming threatening postures, he never indulged in physical violence on persons or property. The Islamic violence that he started warning against in 2013 materialized  on April 21 this year. That day he was still in prison. He said he cried looking at the pictures of the bodies of small children killed in the church blasts. After his release from prison, not long after, he didn’t exult claiming that he was vindicated about the passionate warnings that he had been sounding for so long. He said that he only deeply regretted that all his efforts to get the authorities to investigate the evidence he was giving them and to get them to act in order to prevent such mayhem and destruction fell through. 

On being freed from prison, he declared his intention to get back to his usual spiritual pursuits as a Buddhist monk, away from mundane affairs. He said, I have done my duty by the country. I am now tired”. But then, the young Buddhist activists who had been following him urged him to resume the work he was doing for safeguarding the country’s age-old Buddhist cultural legacy without which the Sri Lankan state cannot survive whole. It is the dominant Sinhalese Buddhist culture that ensures the peaceful coexistence and flourishing of all communities. So he relented. After all, Buddha advised his disciples to ideologically defeat all superstitions and awaken people to see things as they really are, Ven. Gnanasara says. That’s what Ven. Gnanasara will be doing in the future. He wants the Maha Sangha to remain above politicians and get them to rule righteously so that the country, the people and the Buddha Sasanaya will be saved for the good of all. 

The Maha Sangha are the spiritual leaders of the majority of the population. Yet they have been unable to provide them with the inspiring and protective moral  leadership that it is their historical duty to provide to the nation. The Cardinal provided that leadership to the Catholics, and he was immediately recognized as a national hero, most of all by the Buddhists, for playing that role with such dedication and compassion. His Eminence’s bold criticism of the suspected government’s dereliction of duty concerning national security  is just and it will go a long way towards correcting the situation soon. His praiseworthy conduct has put our leading monks to shame. It is heartening to see that they are now awakening to the reality. Ven. Gnanasara’s contribution in this connection should be recognized. 

However, three glaring defects of Ven. Gnanasara’s personality that have greatly damaged his reputation and have substantially harmed the national cause that he is championing are the impetuous nature of his temperament, his naivety and his unguarded tongue. Had he been a politician he would have controlled all these better. Not being a politico is not enough for a monk. It’s no harm having the positive qualities that successful politicians possess such as coolness, cleverness, and controlled speech.

Ven. Ratana, the scheming politician monk, put a hex on the Maha Sangha awakening that Ven. Gnanasara facilitated through his non-political activism, which, unfortunately, even led him to jail, mainly due to the aforementioned personality defects. Though Ven. Gnanasara disapproved of the other’s ‘farcical fast’ (as SH rightly describes it), he had no choice but to temporarily associate with Ven. Ratana’s demand that the three Muslim politicians he charged were connected with Islamic terrorism resign from their posts, though this was not the correct thing to be urged at that stage. Ven. Ratana’s objective was, apparently, to steal a march on the non-political monks who were just beginning to move in the correct direction. Ven. Gnanasara, after that episode including his own questionable but excusable part in it, criticised the Ven. Ratana’s realpolitik. Ven. Ratana’s gatecrashing will be an obstruction to finding a permanent solution to the crucial problem of Islamic fundamentalist threat to our country. Ven. Ratana cannot provide the political leadership that the country needs, nor can he provide any spiritual leadership either, because of the duality of his role.

If SH has any genuine concern about Sri Lanka, he must try to correctly identify the real barbarians and blockheads who are responsible for  the deplorable state of the country today. He must explain why the foreign advocated policies of the government are good for our people, if he thinks so, while demonstrating that he has a correct idea of the existential threats that they being confronted with. Please address yourself to them, not to the foreign powers who are in our region to promote what they can do there in the interest of the well-being and security of their own respective peoples back home.  

4 Responses to “Of Barbarians and Blockheads”

  1. Gunasinghe Says:

    Rohan, There is no surprise with this guy. As christi says he is a stooge of Sarawnamuttu. One time he came with SM to give a speech at Washington University in DC. I got the information and I attended this and they just yapping how bad the Sinhalese are. Dumb western attendies were listening and I was the only one raised questions. I asked SM that while he is living in Colombo how many time he was asulted or discriminated. That shut him for a while. SW talked all lies.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Funny logic by some.

    According to them the Muslim doctor who consumed Fallopian tubes of Sinhala women is not a barbarian!
    If he’s not a barbarian he must be a cannibal.

    This nation has never seen such cannibals before. Its a new cult feasting upon flesh, blood, children, money and Fallopian tubes of Sinhalese.

    Anyway he must not be stoned to death which is another barbaric cult practice. He must be hanged for war crimes. The important thing is action, not verbal exchanges.

  3. Randeniyage Says:

    World ignore the fact that “Sinhalese-Buddhists” are also human, much more humane than Christians or Muslims.
    “Sinhalese-Buddhists” are a race who are born to parents following Buddhism. Among them, similar to any other race, exist thieves, criminals, mad people and people who cannot control minds.

    Why are these FOOLS do not realise “Sinhalese-Buddhists” are eligible to kill, steal , eat and drink similar to any other ? When a Christian goes and shoot down praying Muslims his religion is not highlighted. When LTTE do the same their religion is not highlighted. When “Buddhists” do the same, they are the worse barbarians in the world !

  4. Randeniyage Says:

    World ignore the fact that “Sinhalese-Buddhists” are also human, much more humane than Christians or Muslims.
    “Sinhalese-Buddhists” are a race who are born to parents following Buddhism. Among them, similar to any other race, exist thieves, criminals, mad people and people who cannot control minds.

    Why are these FOOLS do not realise “Sinhalese-Buddhists” are eligible to kill, steal , eat and drink similar to any other ? When a Christian goes and shoots down praying Muslims his religion is not highlighted. When LTTE do the same their religion is not highlighted. When “Buddhists” do the same, they are the worse barbarians in the world !

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