2 July, 2022


Are The Militant Sinhala & Tamil Diaspora In Melbourne Loosing Steam ? – Reflections On A Failed Protest Campaign

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Before movements and institutions fall apart they become objects of laughter. Many thinkers of the past have commented on the valuable function of humour, laughter and mockery in social life, namely that they help to rectify and to correct course. Henri Bergson’s theory of humour amounted to this. Stendhall said that the aim of comedy in theatre is to expose man to the mockery of the audience and thereby induce corrective action. Charlie Chaplin has also remarked that the function of comedy is to sharpen our sensitivity to the perversions of society. The protest organised around the Federation Square at Melbourne city against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who arrived to deliver an oration before an audience of legal academics indeed did exhibit the mutation of a once serious militant Diaspora of the communities into objects of laughter.

Two days prior, Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe was awarded an honorary doctorate from Deakin University, Melbourne at its Geelong Campus graduation ceremony. I was present. The ceremony itself had been full of pomp and dignity. It was the first time after six decades that a Sri Lanka Prime Minister had set foot in Australia. When suitable foreign dignitaries are given awards like this it has not been the practice to play the national anthems. Australians this time saw it appropriate to break with tradition and we herd our dear anthem sung, followed by the Australian anthem.

The hall was full to capacity with wigs and gowns worn in different colours, Scottish and aboriginal musical performances and so on. Ranil made a speech which shone powerfully for its substance and brevity. He received an echoing and re-echoing applause from the audience. I was in the audience and I felt proud to be a Sri Lankan-although now a domesticated Australian. Ranil cited the Dhammapada and the poet Rudyard Kipling and concluded by encouraging the new graduates to “make it” in this challenging new world of the technological transformation.

On the other side of the divide some militant elements of both the Sinhala and Tamil Diaspora were readying themselves for a big protest when the Prime Minister arrives in Melbourne for his oration. One Sinhala militant announced over the local SBS channel that hordes of protestors are to gather. It looked like Ranil’s Waterloo was going to come. Another announced that the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister is due to come soon. “We will surround him,” the guy threatened. The Tamil radio channels and grapevine were also getting charged.

One can understand the tamils who are still smarting after the fall of their LTTE leader. But the militant Sinhala critics kept flaying the University for granting Ranil the doctorate. I have in my possession some of the numerous email that went out from them. One, by a prominent militant of the past who I will disguise with his initials as RS states that, ‘Ranil can use his doctorate only in his relations with Deakin University.’ Another words the honour is of limited value. RS also mentions the Bond case

Another, MK, said, ‘Deakin has not done its research well,” and he doubts Ranil’s intelligence. A well-known lawyer, DW, claimed to be able to assess Ranil well as he is related to him and knows him well. He also boasts of having being in Royal.This guy is in the habit of boasting relationships with important Sri Lankans. PG said that, ‘Ranil is honoured for something he didn’t do.’

Now, the funny thing is that these varied persons claim to be patriots. Here, they assault the University for giving Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister this special honour. And they denigrate the Prime Minister personally. It is a case where Australia honours and Sinhala patriots dishonour a leading son and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. They also cannot see any good in Ranil Wickremasinghe.

Came the 16th of February, yesterday. I was present here, too. I have presented to the Colombo Telegraph editor an image of the Sinhala protestors that shows a crowd of around twenty only! To be honest, this image was taken at around 5.30 pm -about 30 minutes prior to Prime Minister arriving for his oration. Some more crowds would have trickled later; but presumably it would not have been anything significant. The Sinhala group had been allowed well outside the hall, at the back and well away from Ranil’s arrival route. They carried slogans that cried out against ‘revenge over war heroes,’ ‘selling the country,’ and a ‘proposal to have a Federal State.’ No such proposal is out and the draft constitution itself is unknown; but they like to protest at the unseen. Wimal Weerawansa’s arrest may have been in their minds. Indeed! Wimal is a hero!

The militant Tamil Diaspora mostly employed young Aussie socialists. Socialism is stone- dead in Australia; yet there are some fair numbers who keep shouting for it. There were only a few tamils in the group. The number in total would not have exceeded fifteen. I tried to take a photograph but I wasn’t allowed by the organisers. These protestors managed to get themselves heard, unlike the Sinhala fighters outside in the sun.

The comedy here was hilarious: Both our Sinhala nationalists and Tamil nationalists had become strange bedfellows. By having Ranil as the common target their shared the bed!

However, the weak wails from both sides stopped well before Ranil arrived and the Prime Minister could deliver his speech without any interruption at all. We heard no noise at all while inside the hall.

Hon Dr Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke on a rather technical subject this time: “Freedom of Navigation in the Indian Ocean.”

The hall was full to its capacity of 400. The audience had been selected after prior registration. From the Vice-Chancellor downwards it was a gathering of celebrated legal academics. Some prominent Melbourne solicitors were also seen. Another bona fide honour for our Prime Minister! He received another huge applause by all and sundry. Another occasion for Sri Lankan pride!

I wonder if there be any Sri Lankan Parliamentarian today who could have matched the quality of presentation by our Prime Minister. Ranil evinced his intellectual grasp and his marination in practical politics over forty years. Our protesting elements would have benefited by getting inside and listening to the erudition of their Sri Lankan leader and sharing the honour he bequeathed to us, instead of dehydrating and languishing in the outside summer – sun.

Something of the following from Guttila Kavyaya seems applicable:

ඉඳ ඉඳ එක වෙහෙර
විඳ විඳ දහම් මනහර
සිඳ බිඳ දුක් සසර
අනේ දෙව්දත් නොදුටු මොක්පුර

A sharp thought pricked me: Isn’t Ranil Wickremesinghe the last chance for Sri Lanka?

*The writer can be contacted at sjturaus@optusnet.com.au

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Latest comments

  • 2

    (Apparently, many Sri Lankans)…”did not participate in these protests because they do not want to have unnecessary trouble from the current administration when they come to Sri Lanka.”
    This shows how democratic is RW’s Yahapalanaya. Then, Selva Gnanam’s challenging comment:
    “I, as an independent observer challenge Shyamon to let me publish the photographs I took on that day as against the deceptive photo he has published. When both sets of photographs are published let the readers decide. Shyamon, you can use any expert to authenticate my photographs and I will bring them to any place in Australia. If you back out the readers will know that you are a fake.”

    Are you ready Shyamon?

  • 2

    Shyamon wrote: “One can understand the tamils who are still smarting after the fall of their LTTE leader.”
    Oh! my god! I thought, on those gloomy days Ranil was in Thoppigala admiring the fauna and flora!
    As I remember, he said that Thoppigala was just a jungle and there was nothing strategically important for the Sri Lankan army there. Tamils in Australia must be protesting over his ‘Thoppigala comment’?
    Ane Sako Balalo!

  • 2

    Shyamon, do NOT try to wriggle out of this challenge by hiding under a mountain of hollow words. If I were “bankrupt” I would not challenge you openly in this forum or before any independent body. Anyway, I take it that you have backed out of the challenge and admitted that you have mislead the readers. If not, name the place and time to sort this out and I WILL be there. I will not back out. Come on Shyamon, do the correct thing. Good luck again.

  • 4

    “Socialism is stone- dead in Australia; “

    Really? If a ‘Berne Sanders’ like Social Democrat was to rise in Australia (sadly there are none on the horizon), they will truly capture the hearts of Australians.

    I can understand why Tamil nationalists are protesting, the RW government has delivered little or nothing for their brethren back in SL, why were the Sinhala nationalists protesting? RW hasn’t sold the country to the Tamils, never will.

  • 1

    Was there a crowd or no? The fact that this has been a controversy shows the large element of doubt about any sizeable crowd being there. I have seen all the photographs both the writer’s and the others. It was evidently a very poor showing. The Spur people organized this campaigning and because their name has now lost all appeal they hide under the Mawbima Surekuma label. There is no such organization.
    Hats off to our Tamil brothers for not insulting our Prime Minister. But the Spur insulted him and even insulted the University that gave it.

  • 1

    Shyamon, Shyamon, Shyamon , not ready to authenticate your claim of a low turn-out of the “militant Singhala diaspora” Its just simple Shyamon. You bring your photos/video clips, and I bring mine. We display all before an independent audience on a big screen and let them decide who is lying. It is almost impossible to deceive the audience unless the photos/video clips have been altered. Then again, any expert on the subject will be able to tell on inspection of the material. Simple my friend, so do NOT back out or write comments to lead the readers astray and dilute the issue. Put your money where your mouth is. Are you apprehensive that your FAKE JOURNALISM will be exposed?? Good luck

  • 2

    These protestors failed because they had nothing to protest. They know nothing of the proposed constitution and we know nothing. But they protest. The real reason is they are the Boru Raja’s suckers in Melbourne. They are now hoping Gota will be installed the new Raja. He will be the king of jail birds soon. Wait and see. He killed Lasantha. He was behind many other killings and disappearances helped by his special intelligence service.

  • 1

    Now they are trying to show photographs to prove crowds. The photos don’t prove big crowds at all. What they should have done was to get a pic from a Melbourne gay protest and put that up

  • 3

    Hurrah for the LTTE boys who did not utter one word against the honour given to our Prime Minister! Down with Spur protestors for insulting our man of the soil!
    We should be proud to have Ranil who is a world-class Parliamentarian. I agree with the writer that Ranil is Lanka’s last chance

  • 1

    All Spur movement guys in Melbourne who organized the protest against Ranil Wickremasinghe, our Prime Minister, and who unreservedly condemned the Honorary doctorate Ranil received from an Australian University as undeserving should take note of the following statement made by Mailinda Seneviratne- a well-known journalist and equally well-known backer of MR:
    “Here’s an extract from an article of Malinda Seneviratne, well-known journalist and equally well-known MR fan. See yourselves what he says in honesty about Ranil’s award, which you guys from RS onwards have been running down. The full piece is in Colombo Telegraph: “His detractors may say he was undeserving. That’s politics. He is, after all, no Mervyn Silva or the innumerable doctorate holders who have in word and deed brought much disgrace on all spheres of scholarship. They need to drop the tag, not Wickremesinghe but on the other hand it’s because they cling to it that dropping it demonstrates as much wisdom as it does humility. Let there be no debate over this: Ranil Wickremesinghe is one of the more well-read of our parliamentarians if not the best read. If we consider all the prime ministers since Independence and if we were to assess doctorate-worthiness of them all, on the counts of intellect and vision (and not ideological bent or the balance sheet on delivery), only a handful are deserving. There’s D.S. Senanayake, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in their own way J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa, and there’s Ranil Wickremesinghe.

    Let us applaud.”

    Malinda has and is an open critic of Ranil.

    Protestors should feel ashamed of their behavior and they should realize how bigoted they are.

  • 2

    Hey Shyamon, De facto Its Ranil’s final chance I want to tell you, just like in Maname.

  • 1

    Not ready to authenticate your claim Shyamon? Don’t worry about what Malinda Senevirathne or anybody else says.There was no comment about Ranil’s “Doctorate” in any of the placards carried by the “militant Singhala diaspora” That is another BIG LIE. So don’t try to steer this issue in a different direction. Just front up to the challenge or admit to the readers that you are a FAKE JOURNALIST who engages in CORRUPT JOURNALISM. All the best in your future attempts at massaging the truth. I rest my case, my dear Shyamon.

  • 2

    I must confess that I’m NOT a great fan of Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, but I greatly admire the way Shyamon writes.

    However, not in this instance. It may be that I haven’t read every article by Shyamon. This is too much of a panegyric. I must acknowledge, also, that I’ve been puzzled by some comments that I have seen on other articles in which commenters ask Shyamon if he can ever be critical of Ranil W.

    Significantly, I read this article only today, five days after it appeared, although I knew of this Deakin PhD from media reports. I have misgivings regarding all these Honorary Doctorates given to politicians. Therefore, I read it rather critically.

    Not only is the praise for Ranil too fulsome, but also, the writing itself is not up to Shyamon’s standards. He was present at the event. Given that fact Shyamon’s use of tenses is puzzling at times, capitlisation of proper nouns inconsistent. I admire his writing greatly; perhaps he would care to check on this aspect of the article.

    In terms of the ethnic politics of Sri Lanka, I realise that Ranil is right now on the correct side. I don’t think it was so in 1983. However, his permanent leadership of the UNP and, more recently, his role in the Bond Scandal do cause misgivings. I read this article because it was by Shyamon; my disappointment is because it is so one-sided.

  • 0

    Agree that ranil is the last chance for srilanka

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