Cowardly use of Buddhism to denigrate Buddhists

Ramanie de Zoysa

There is an old Sinhala metaphor that says ‘Ourage malu ourage enge thiyan kapanawa’ which refers to an act of using a slain pig’s carcass as a table to cut the pig’s flesh on. We find this attitude in certain non-Buddhists who resort to a malicious use of Buddhist references to denigrate or shame Buddhists. Rev Dalston Forbes OMI writing to the Island newspaper on 26 September 2008 an article titled ‘Total Elimination of insurgents?’ falls into this category of people when he quotes “pancha sila” to shame General Sarath Fonseka, the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army for his stated resolve to kill all insurgents.

I am in no mood to explain “pancha sila” to the likes of Rev. Forbes whose interest in Buddhism seems to be limited to learning a few quotes or a few hackneyed phrases that can be thrown in the face of Buddhists whenever they want to shame Buddhists into submission or to get a Buddhist on his back foot. General Fonseka, I am sure knows his Buddhism well enough that he is unperturbed by these cheap shots. I am sure he was taught at Ananda College that Buddhism is a complete “way of living” rather than a mere religion and covers advice to monks, lay people, Generals and rulers on how to live, to interact, to seek protection from enemy, to govern, to meditate and to seek nirvana. General Fonseka, I am sure, is comfortable in the knowledge that Buddhism should not be interpreted in a superficial or a narrow manner so as to deem that Buddhists must invoke “pancha sila” to stop soldiers carrying out their sacrosanct duty of protecting the innocent civilians from death and destruction at the hands of a racist terrorist group.

The good reverend misquotes or misinterprets not only the Buddha but also General Fonseka in his letter. He states that “the General’s aim is to kill all the LTTE insurgents so that the armed forces will not lose hundreds of young Sinhala men and women.” The General is quoted to have expressed the need to annihilate all insurgents not only to stop the deaths of young Sinhala men and women of the military! All insurgents need to be killed in order to safeguard the lives of all citizens regardless of ethnicity or occupation. Insurgents must be killed in order to protect Muslims who pray in their mosques; Buddhist pilgrims observing ‘sila’ in their temples; Hindu priests praying in their kovils; poor masses who travel to work in buses or trains; farmers tilling their fields or cultivating their chena; construction workers working on dams; remote villagers catching a bus to go to the local markets. In fact innocent civilians in every walk of life in Sri Lanka have been the targets of the merciless LTTE terrorists for the last 25 years and continue to be so. As for the Reverend’s question on how killing all insurgents is going to impact on the country; I would say, the impact Dear Reverend, would be that no more killers will be left in our midst to kill and maim people and to destroy public property. The country will have a chance of returning to normal after 25 long years of suffering to rebuild and move forward.

Ceasefires should not be attempted with those who stubbornly refuse to cease firing. In 2002 Sri Lanka signed a ‘ceasefire’ only to learn that the Sri Lankan Government Forces alone ceased fire while the terrorists continued the bloodbath with impunity. But then, I am sure Rev Forbes knew this already.

Reverend Forbes says that “the end of the war need not and should not be based on the complete elimination of the insurgents, which is not possible”. The recent history of Sri Lanka is littered with proponents of this “unwinnable war” concept. The “unwinnable war” theory is aimed at pushing Sri Lanka to a state of surrender to terrorism whereby the populace accepts that terrorism is ‘normal’ and seeks to appease the terrorist because to fight it off will be but foolish. Such apathy and defeatism on the part of citizenry would keep terrorism flourishing to the detriment of the well being of the entire country and work towards a complete breakdown of all civilised values and ethos among people. Sri Lanka was well advancing towards of this state when in 2006 fortune favoured her and the country came under the patronage of a courageous administration which was able and willing to face up to the enemy.

I ask Rev Forbes where he has been when the present Government was repeatedly asking the LTTE to disarm and enter the peace process. I also wonder if he contemplates that the Sri Lankan Government must also ‘lay down arms under international military supervision’. Shouldn’t Rev Forbes be advocating that the terrorists should lay down arms under the supervision of the Sri Lankan military? Does Rev Forbes think that the Sri Lankan military is incapable of such a supervisory task or is it that you want international intervention to ‘supervise’ the Sri Lankan military?

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