By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“One must accept that a nation that suffers or wishes to suffer from national hysteria and political ambition has occasional clouding of the spirit and disturbance of the mind, attacks in which it briefly takes leave of its senses.” – Nietzsche[i]
The Rajapaksas are creating for Sri Lanka an expressway to disaster.
The news of a woman of 103 being bludgeoned to death by a boy of 13[ii] demonstrates the degree to which the larger society has become infected by the virus of violence.
The BBS-Wirathu alliance foretells the violent future which awaits this country at Rajapaksa hands.
Monitoring Parliamentarian Gunawardena attacked High Commissioner Nonis physically, in front of witnesses, because he knew that he could get away with it. In the Rajapaksas universe there is only one universal crime – unfaithfulness/opposition to the Rajapaksas. That is always a crime, and one beyond forgiveness. Anything else – including torturing, raping and murdering civilians and prisoners-of-war, tying a government official to a tree, killing a presidential advisor or igniting a religious riot – can and will be shrugged aside if the perpetrators are loyal and useful to the Rajapaksas. Except perhaps when there is constant international pressure, as in the Khuram Shaikh case; since Her Majesty’s government is unlikely to interest itself in the wrong suffered by Dr. Nonis, Parliamentarian Gunawardena has no cause to worry.
The conduct of High Commissioner Nonis is illustrative of the qualities necessary to survive and thrive in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka. A man with an iota of self-respect would not stay in his post after such an indignity. Dr. Nonis reportedly resigned and reportedly took back his resignation. Did he decide to stomach this intolerable insult because he values his job above all else? Did he knuckle down because he fears Rajapaksa vengeance?
According to Dante, the inscription at the entrance to hell ends with the line, ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’[iii]. ‘Abandon all shame, ye who join us’, should be the Rajapaksa watchword.
If Mahinda Rajapaksa is unwilling to investigate the attack on one of his handpicked diplomats, he will not investigate attacks on civilian Tamils during/in the immediate aftermath of the Fourth Eelam War; or any other political crime committed by his kin, kith and acolytes. If Chris Nonis cannot get justice from the Rajapaksas, what hope can victimised Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese have of justice? Presidential conduct in the Vass Gunawardena-Nonis tragicomedy proves that in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka even a sliver of justice is impossible without external pressure/intervention.
In Plato’s eponymous work, Greek philosopher Protogoras argues that to prevent mankind from destructing itself, Zeus bestowed two gifts, aidos (a sense of shame/conscience) and dike (respect for rights of others/sense of justice) on all humans. A civilisation which lacks these two qualities ceases being civilised. Rajapaksa Sri Lanka is becoming such a place; the Vass Gunawardena-Nonis incident, the murder of an old lady by a child and the BBS-Wirathu alliance are only the latest milepost in that expressway to destruction.
BBS, Black Shirts and Hindu Sidekicks
On the BBS Facebook page there is a picture, of Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera standing proudly surrounded by brawny black-clad young men[iv]. The caption invokes merit on this thuggish cohort for providing security for the BBS gathering.
Is this the Rajapaksa/BBS version of Brown Shirts? Will we see them attacking the opposition and terrorising ethno-religious minorities, especially during upcoming national elections?
The title of the BBS gathering was ‘The Way to Build the Nation’.
As many speakers, starting with Kirama Wimalajothi Thera, emphasised, ‘Nation’ is not Lankan, or even Sinhala, but Sinhala-Buddhist. According to the CEO of the BBS, “There aren’t many nations in this country. There are only Sinhalese in this country. The Muslims in this country must be called Sinhala-Muslims and the Tamils must be called Sinhala-Tamils.”[v] Only Sinhala-Buddhist culture should be allowed in this country, he said; and Wesak Day must be made the National Day. (So are casinos in or out, as per Sinhala-Buddhist culture? What about popular colonial legacies from trousers to trains to tea?).
The BBS is planning to prepare a new constitution, according to its CEO: “We will bring this draft and create a discourse about it. The name of this country must be changed to Sinhale. The country needs a new constitution to protect the rights of Sinhala-Buddhists.”
What a red-herring that would be during the election season! What better way to prevent Sinhala-Buddhists from focusing on real problems than to create a season of minority-bashing!
According to Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera, “An NGO clique which wants to destroy Buddhist Renewal is behind Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero. Sobhitha Thero is supposed to become the joint candidate. Is the executive (presidency) the problem in this country?” Obviously the Rajapaksas still fear a joint oppositional candidate committed to abolishing the presidential system; impeding this seems part of the BBS’ duties.
Another task the BBS is trying to perform for the Rajapaksas is to create dissension between Hindu-Tamils and Christian/Catholic-Tamils and to reignite Tamil-Muslim clashes. Gnanasara Thera proclaimed that the BBS is “ready to become the leader of the Hindu people”. President of Sri Lanka Hindu Association, N Arukkanthan, was a speaker at the BBS gathering. According to Mr. Arukkanthan, who has become Gnanasara Thera’s Hindu sidekick, “The Hindus must unite with Sinhala-Buddhists. (I) propose that the South Asian region should be proclaimed a Hindu-Buddhist region. All Buddhists must unite to prevent conversions. Bodu Bala Sena is doing good work for it.”
If Tamils can be divided along religious lines, if Tamil-Muslim clashes can be reignited, it will be of enormous benefit, politically and electorally, for the Rajapaksas. Most Tamils are as susceptible to lies, false threats and non-existent enemies as most Sinhalese and most Muslims. Thanks to the LTTE, there is a history of Tamil-Muslim animosity, which can be mined by the BBS. The possibility of the BBS reaching out to RSS type Hindu fanatics in India as a way of building an anti-Islamic/Christian bridge to Premier Modi cannot be ruled out either.
A lay speaker at the gathering referred to ‘Sinhala Monkhood’ (Sinhala Bhikshu Wansaya). He is more right than he realised. According to the Buddha, “He who controls his hand, controls his foot, controls his speech and is well-controlled in al respects, delights in meditation, is composed, solitary and content – him they call a bhikku.”[vi]
Going by that criterion, the BBS convention was not a gathering of Buddhist monks, but a gathering of Sinhala-monks. They are guided not by the Buddha’s teachings, but by the apocryphal tales of Monk Mahanama. And it may take decades, if not more, and perhaps a catastrophe or two, to remove the poison they are sowing from the politico-psychological landscape.
Gnanasara Thera lauded the ‘boys and girls on the internet’ for greatly strengthening the BBS. A recent report by the CPA demonstrates the sort of work these ‘boys and girls’ are engaged in[vii]. Perhaps the most deadly contribution of the BBS will be the envenoming of the minds of the next generation – a necessity for the Rajapaksa dynastic project and a disaster for the nation.
[i] Quoted in The History of Germany since 1789 – Golo Mann
[v] These and all other direct and indirect quotes are translated from the report of the BBS gathering published in the Lankadeepa of September 29th 2014
[vi] Dhammapada – Bhikku Vagga