By Lakmal Harischandra –
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The unfortunate events which followed one after the other, weeks ago, from Ampara to Digana made me wonder how gullible and emotionally charged we Sinhalese become. Those at the grass-root levels still believe that there is truth in the story spread by the so-called Amitha type ‘patriot groups’ that Muslims are conspiring to reduce our numbers through various means; this time Wandha Pethi as was recently seen in Ampara. Then, they tried to raise our emotions in Digana by saying that Muslim businesses are all over and they have to be dealt with, if the Sinhalese have to continue their dominance in this Dharma Dweepa. These are however not flashes in the pan. There were clear signs of meticulous planning to achieve the vicious ends of disgruntled political elements , ably supported by their ‘Jathyalaya’ gangs in the Police and the STF. Many at the low strata and grass-root levels fell for it and many are languishing in jails while those master planners are having the last laugh. Victory for the Jathyalaya! As we as the majority community always did by silently applauding our ‘boys’ who showed their firepower on other vulnerable communities since 1983. May be, it is what Mahinda Deshpriya meant when he said ‘Most Sinhala people were happy about the anti-Muslim violence. For sure, I wasn’t one of them who applauded. I felt ashamed and infuriated instead!
It was in the aftermath of the Digana violence that Minister Kiriella said in Parliament that Sinhala people should apologize for the anti-Muslim violence and many of our Maha Sangha and some politicos spit fire. Why should we apologize? They screamed!. Well; they were correct for once. Yes! I will not apologize too ; rather I felt very hurt for dragging me to do so on behalf of these barbaric and loot-happy gangs and politically bankrupt elements who are using ‘Jathyaalaya’ and the name of my race to achieve their own ends. I need not. I also felt shameful and would disown them as part of our people. Amithas, Saliyas, Dan Prasads , Ampitiye Sumanes, Gnanassras should not be considered as representing our voice ; to save the Sinhala race. They are a disgrace to our race ; the race which talks proudly of Dutugemunu who dealt in a gentlemanly manner with Elara and the people who subscribe to the peaceful teachings of Buddha; not the Sinhala Buddhism which grew out of the Mahawamsa mentality.
I for once, now understand how the Muslims all over the world felt and empathize with them when they were asked to assume collective guilt when ISIS and Al Qaeda were terrorising and killing in cold blood, innocent people in the name of their religion. When they said then that they need not apologize for the acts of those barbarians who killed in the name of Islam, for they did not belong to their faith , I then did not understand what they meant . They virtually disowned them quite rightly for ISIS did not represent the majority of Muslims . Now, I know what they meant and in the same manner and tone, I also join the majority of my people to say: Hey the ‘Jathyalaya gangs! You do not speak in our name. You do not speak for us though you sport Sinhala names’. Let us therefore awaken from our slumber and say ‘enough is enough’ and yell at them ‘Stop claiming you represent us: We do not want Sinhala Bin ladens like you to speak for us!’ True! many of our monks and intellectuals spoke against this mayhem which wreaked havoc on our brotherly Community-the Muslims, who have been living amongst us peacefully without any invading intentions for centuries. But the silence of our majority community at the grass-root levels gave impetus to these vile elements to do what they did and they will continue to do so and tarnish our image if we maintain our silence, although we did not follow their lead in our areas.
When will we learn lessons? Who can forget the fact that all community leaders voted together leaving their communal interests aside for a moment when the Independence vote came up. I remember the patriotic words of TB Jayah and Muslim leaders for example and the words of gratitude of DSS and SWRD for having voted for Independence going beyond their communal interests. Ever since then, the political parties have carried a well-planned strategy to gain Sinhala votes by raising emotional base instincts based on the survival of their race. After 70 long years since Independence, where are we as a nation? Are we not on the verge of becoming a failed state? It makes me think that it was rather British who got Independence from a moronic lot we subsequently proved ourselves to be; not the other way around, looking at the mess we have put ourselves to be by subscribing to a majoritarian model of government through our majority vote .It was in 1956 , when our people neatly fell for the political gundu of SWRD and voted for a Ceylon where Sinhala Buddhist supremacy was institutionalized. Sinhala Only made things worse for the majority Sinhala people while SWRD’s children went overseas for higher education. What political hypocrisy? Two years later,Ceylon witnessed the first ever anti Tamil riots and SWRD finally felt a victim to his own dose of medicine when he was assassinated by a Buddhist monk in 1959. Then, many agreements with the Tamil leaders fell through, giving way to pressure from rogue sections of the Maha Sangha which led the way to the disgusting anti-Tamil violence in July 1983, which made an indelible black mark on the Sinhala people.
In 1983, when Cyril Mathew ( is it a Sinhala name or a borrowed one? For a start) and his rowdy gangs killed, looted and set fire in the name of our Sinhala race, the ‘Sinhala government’ and the Sinhala people showed apathy and reluctance to publicly disown them although many of us helped the innocent Tamil brethren who became the targets of these racist groups. For 30 more years, the image of the Sinhala people were ripped apart in international forums as murderers, and supremacists who made the country a hell hole for the minorities . Yes! LTTE was ruthless and the Tamil leaders were short-sighted and cunning as well. But it is left for the majority community to show political maturity and long vision and treat all citizens alike and make other communities feel like such. Our Sinhala leaders throughout history on the other hand were only furthering their own nests, giving two hoots for the long term interests of the country. In the process, all communities suffered; including the Sinhalese as well. They have not got a good deal from these corrupt politicians either.
As some blogger said, ‘The War did not stop; it was only a brief stop over’. When Mahinda Rajapakse announced that he will consider all communities alike as equals; I for once believed him as a visionary leader. He did a volte face for selfish reasons, and tried to project himself as a champion of our race without being the Head of State. We Sinhalese once again fell for this gimmick . Many catspaws emerged in the form of hate gangs which began targeting and attacking the next biggest minority community- the Muslims. It became a virtual hell hole for the Muslims creating a climate of fear and insecurity. When Gnanasara Thero – the ruffian monk in robes ultimately announced in Aluthgama in 2014 that this country is Sinhala, the army is Sinhala and Police is Sinhala and it is abasaranai to all other communities, those at the Sinhala grass-root levels silently nodded their heads in approval , falling a victim once again to the machinations of the political forces who wanted to make racism their way to power. Aluthgama 2014 thus became another PR disaster for Sri Lanka at the international level and another black mark for the Sinhala people .
Now, another government comes to power in 2015 giving another set of promises and the many ministers who were in MR cabinet switched their seats. We have Champika who earlier led us to believe that Gnanasara was correct in his outbursts against Muslims and many Muslim ministers who also promoted Muslim enclaves in the East sat with the new champion –Sirisena. Though we Sinhalese voted out Gnanasara gangs in the election, we continued to be led by wolves in sheep (Yahapalana) clothing and therefore the same hate gangs under different names continued their anti-Muslim hate campaign, with help from ‘Sinhala leaders’ and Sinhala Police and Sinhala STF ( although the Head of STF is a Muslim. In fact , there was a Tamil IGP too during 1083 riots!). From Gintota to Digana, these hate groups were given a free hand to kill, loot and set fire as they did in 1983. The law enforcement and government moved in later after the horses have bolted and helped themselves ( there were charges of connivance too). The Dharma Dweepa once again was branded as a pariah state on international bill boards. Minister Mustafa in a ‘tongue in cheek’ way announces that this is only a rule of law issue and not a racist issue. It certainly is Minister Mustafa! if you care to look with interest at the developments and trends since 1948! As is known you are part of that political opportunistic class which has brought immense harm to our country. We remember how during the last government you tried to assume ignorance of the destructive role played by the BBS!
It is therefore high-time that the intellectuals among the Sinhala community assume leadership abdicated by the political leadership ( I think this applies to other communities too- Tamils and Muslims) and begin a process of self-reflection and post mortem to identify ways and means of recovering back the good image of Sri Lanka in general and Sinhala people in particular. There should be a conscious process of education to be undertaken at the grass root levels to lay bare the diabolical racist machinations of the politically disgruntled class to keep themselves in power and loot the resources of this country, and inculcate in our people specially the younger ones the imperative need to live and let live other brethren communities in a spirit of brotherhood and mutual understanding. Our young generation should be taught that hate is taught to them by destructive elements to gain power and that hate begets hate and that there is much happiness and success in mutuality.
Our grass-root level people should be encouraged to undertake joint projects which will promote mutual understanding and common good. What Mr. Mohamed did to bring together people of all races to buy a EPT scan machine for the cancer hospital was really inspiring. This is the way forward! This can only become a reality if the Maha Sangha gives their blessings and be involved. Unless pressure is applied by the intellectuals and progressive sections of the Maha Sangha together, on the narrow minded corrupt political class to think Sri Lankan and not use the Sinhala race to achieve their ends , the latter will continue to take Sri Lanka up the blind garden path to a point of no return. Sinhalese people are by nature a tolerant race and the narrow political and hate elements among them should therefore no longer be allowed to use their name and play games with the prestige of the Sinhalese race which has more than 2500 years of history. Other communities should be made to feel at home ,safe and secure at a challenging point of time where they are feeling alienated due to the actions of (still) fringe elements among the Sinhala people. Sinhala people should as a community come out of their silent hibernation and speak out . Otherwise, there are signs emerging that the disgruntled elements among the Muslims too will respond back in ways which may not be peaceful, like how the Tamil youth did earlier. This sordid state of affairs will make Sri Lanka another Somalia where different war lords will rule with a puppet government in power like we have at the moment.