25 September, 2020

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Buddhism betrayed and the Norwegian peace process

By Suren Raghavan –

Even after two decades of its publication, the seminal work of Professor Tambiah is more misunderstood than anything Sinhala nationalists did not even bother to see the ‘?’ that was in the title of this unmatched research debate but declared it as an ‘!’ by Tambiah. Thus, the book is still banned in Lanka.

Norwegians and Eric Solhaim the key architecture refused to recognize the central power dynamic that created, fuelled, mobilized finally led to the repugnant military victory for GSL. That is the Sinhala Buddhist political mind set- a kind of 'Sinhalattva'.

I think reading the NORAD Review one can safely add an ‘!’ to the Buddhism Betrayed debate.

The 1990-2005 Norwegian process was blinded to the subaltern realities. So is this post-Praba review. The Peace Process was hogemonized by a naive liberal peace discourse. It gravitated around the liberalism II model of minority rights, right to self-determination and ethnic federalism etc. By which it pre constructed solutions at the cost of analysing the depth of the actual problem.

Norwegians and Eric Solhaim the key architecture refused to recognize the central power dynamic that created, fuelled, mobilized and finally led to the repugnant military victory for GSL. That is the Sinhala Buddhist political mind set- a kind of  ‘Sinhalattva‘.  The peace Samaritans possibly on the advice of the urbanite middle class ‘Civil Society’ of Lanka dismissed the role of Buddhism and the Sangha in shaping the politics of Lanka. (Eric blames CBK for such advice). Of course, this is the reason – CBK failed too. Out of her arrogance of power and hybrid ‘liberalness’, she refused to respect and recognize the role of Sangha in microcosmic political dynamic of Lanka.

Sadly the review by SOAS academics also fails on this account  The 208 page review has two mentions of Sangha ( 1 in text pp. 122 1 in footnote pp. 47) and mere four mentions of Buddhism (2 in text pp. 48, 56 1 footnote pp. 77 1 reference pp. 144). The question how Athuraliye Rathana and Chapika Ranawaka who were at the political wilderness of the periphery became Generals of a war discourse as against a heavily funded, the stylish Pakkiyasodi Saravanamuththu and Berghofian workshops is not discussed. How did the Sangha – including the most learned Walpola Rahula in his late 80s managed to mobilize a Theravada Society to 1. Dismiss this peace a federalis power sharing peace 2. To justify a military solution is not addressed in this review.

Anyone who is a student of SL politics will know the role and influence the Sangha have in to reshape a political  outcome. It is historicized and institutionalized. 1956, 1965, 1989, 1995 and 2000 at every attempt of political power sharing, the Sangha, well manipulated by the Sinhala political/trade class defeated such process. Refusing to understand the ontology of modern Sangha resistance, one that first started against the Kandy Govigama Siam dictatorship is a blindness based on preconceived framework of analysis.

In 1801, venerable Ambahapitiye Gnanawimala was refused the Upasampadaa by the Kandy Siam Nikaya based on his noon Govigama caste. With the help of the Dutch rulers of the south, he went to Amarapura then capital of Burma and received higher ordination. On his returned in 1803 he for the first time in Lanka history started a non- Kandyan/Govigama Amarapura Nikaya .Subsequent years witnessed the growth of other Nikayas like Rammna and some 30 odd sub nikaya. This was the first stage of Protestant Buddhism. The second stage in which the laity ( Dayaka/Daika) for the first time in history tried to replace the Sangha by reforming Buddhism. Anagarika and American Henry Olcott symbolized this Sasana reformation.  For the last two hundred years,  the Sinhala Sangha have gradually become protestant, political and militant often as a reaction to an outside force that attempted to alter the social /political structure of Lanka.

Without understanding this fundamental fact, any peace/democratization process is doom to fail in Lanka. The liberal outside world is still failing to recognize this. To me now there are two research questions. Why do the Sangha refuse to allow a liberal democracy in Lanka and Why do the Western scholarship refuses to accept the role of Sangha in Lanka? Both are equally within a paradoxical paradigm. Any process , review ( or Review of review such as the one done by Dayan with his unmatched hatred of Praba of LTTE but adoration of Nabha his former political boss of EPRLF) that fails to probe the actual , perceived and politicized role of Sangha in Sinhala society is will amount to a betrayal of Sinhala Buddhism – Alternatively

Suren Raghavan is a Research Fellow at Wolfson College University of Oxford.

raghavansuren@gmail.com

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    Do you know our monks not fallow lode Buddha they fallow bloody foolish politicians

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      I think CBK is correct and Solheim is wrong, he said “I am very clear we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy in Colombo and Mahanayaka in Kandy and others. The very important spiritual leaders in Sri Lanka, we were clearly adviced by Chandrika Kumarathunga not to spend too much time on the Buddhist clergy”
      They did not have any power at that time, it was CBK who mobilised them against the peace process with JVP for personnel gains, now talking rubbish and advising to the whole world. a bad woman. she is an EDUCATED CULTURED RASCAL ;) ;) ;)

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        Well said Lal, Rajapaksas are UNEDUCATED UNCULTURED RASCALS as CBK says, that is true, she is an EDUCATED CULTURED RASCAL and a Watti Amma. :( ;)

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    While congratulating Suren Raghavan on his spell at Oxford, I hope he sharpens his currently blunt skills at understanding the difference between a research question of primary importance from one of secondary importance. He criticises my evaluation of the Norwegian evaluation of the failed peace process for not probing the role of the Buddhist clergy, the Sangha. I did not do so because it was not the Sangha — whatever one thinks of its role–that went to war against the Indian peacekeeping forces despite the Accord, or murdered Rajiv Gandhi or unilaterally reinitiated war in April 1995 against the liberal Chandrika administration ( which Raghavan supported) or boycotted the Presidential elections of late 2005 or commenced ambushing Sri Lankan troops shortly after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected (as a Wikileaks cable noted, ‘giving him no chance’)! As the Norwegian study quotes Chandrika, Suren’s one time political boss, the Tigers fooled her in 1995 and let her down, and she wasn’t going to be fooled again– and therefore insisted on greater guarantees before any ceasefire.

    In short, I did not focus on the Sangha because it was of entirely secondary relevance to the topic of the failed attempt at peacemaking by Norway. this is also why the scholars who undertook the NORAD study did not spend much time on the factor of the Sangha either.

    Raghavan is using the Sangha as a red herring, to avoid the main reasons for the failure of succesive peace efforts — which i have drawn attention to– (i) the fanatical, totalitarian and fascistic character of the Tigers, and (ii) the failure of the Tamil community to marginalise or offset it as the South did with the JVP, even when there was a chance with the Accord and subsequent peace efforts (Premadasa, CBK, Ranil). The killing of Vijaya by the JVP had a much greater impact on the Southern consciousness than the killing of Sri Sabaratnam, Rajiv, Neelan, Rajani, Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran, Mrs Yogeswaran, Sam Tambimuttu and Kethesh did on and within the Tamil community.

    As a researcher, Raghavan has also got it wrong about K Pathmanabha, founder leader of the EPRLF. If he were my ‘political boss’, I could not have been the First Accused in the indictment in the Colombo High Courts on 14 counts under the Prevention of Terrorism act and the Emergency, while Pathmanabha was the 8th accused. If Raghavan is right, it should have been the other way around! Pathmanabha and I met ( as Suresh Premachandran would confirm, since he was present) in 1978, years before he formed the EPRLF. At that time he was still with the EROS/GUES ( General Union of Eelam Students). When we met again, he had founded the EPRLF that year, in 1981. Pathmanabha and I were political partners, and comrades in arms. After a decade long partnership, I wrote him a letter ( the version I sent chief Minister Perumal was published in the papers) and resigned from the North East Provincial Council ( of which I was a Minister) in the first quarter of 1989, when it was clear that it had deviated from the right path and was heading for a clash and a crash.

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      Completely agree with Dr Dayan re this Buddhist clergy issue, well said!

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    The author is correct in that the role of the ‘Sangha’ and the sentiments of Buddhists were marginalized and are footnoted largely in the post-LTTE assessments. To discount this ‘factor’ is downright stupid if not for anything the sheer force of numbers. There is however an underlying (and unfleshed!) assumption that conceding ideological (and territorial!) ground to Tamil chauvinism is somehow the ‘should be’ and ‘should-have-been’ of the process. Neither Tambiah nor his hurrah boys and girls point out the conspicuous thinness on the villainy of the ‘other’ in the equation.

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      I hope I am not labelled as one of the ‘Tambiah hurrah Boys’. I disqualify at least on two accounts.

      1. I am not a Harvard Anthropologist

      2. While respecting/appreciating Prof SJ T’s unmatched scholarship, I don’t agree with the ‘Blaming Buddhism’ discourse he initiated.

      Senevirathne’s Newtonian argument which demands the recognizing and analysis of the Separatist Tamil Terror nationalism of LTTE is valid. LTTE regenerated the militant mode Sinhala Buddhism in its present form. It may have even given birth to newer level of Sangha militancy and the acceptance of same amonsgt the Dayakas as a reciprocal spiral reaction
      I think we have travelled on this path several times. The Chicken and Egg debate of SL politics.

      I do not study Tamil Nationalism. My interests are in the Sangha. Because I studied at Buddhist schools and many were my teachers. Above all rationales,I believe that as a single group , there is no other who could influence /reshape the Sinhala society and its mind set like the Maha Sangha are able. So understanding their anxieties/fears and aspirations and working with them because fundamental.

      This, unfortunately the Diaspora Tamil agenda refuses and the TNA working modality fails to understand. My point is that majority of the Western scholarship – as revealed in reviewing of the peace process also suffers from this limitation.

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    I am also in complete agreement with Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka. Furthermore, the author betrays the lack of understanding the nuances of the Sri Lankan polical landscape.

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      Dear Dr
      Please enlighten me where I have betrayed, and what the nuances of SL political landscapes

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    WITH ALL DUE RESPECTS TO ALL THE M.D’S AND THE PHD’S ABOVE ONE GREAT MAN UTTERED THESE FEW WORDS SOME TIME AGO ” DO NOT DWELL IN THE PAST OR AS WE SAY IN THE WEST YESTERDAY IS GONE,DO NOT DREAM ABOUT THE FUTURE BECAUSE TOMORROW MAY NEVER COME MY FRIEND!!CONCENTRATE ONLY ON THE ” PRESENT” HERE AND NOW !!!!

    ANY GUESSES AS TO WHO UTTERED THESE WONDERFUL WORDS???

    PS THIS OXFORD FELLOW NEED TO LEARN PROPER ENGLISH ASAP,IF HE WANTS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

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    Suren Raghavan’s remarks amply demonstrate the gap between reality and the rhetoric of the expatriate Tamil intelligentsia. He calls the military victory of 2009 over the Tigers ‘repugnant’. That by itself reveals where he is coming from, so to speak, and that flawed perspective runs right through his analysis and observations. ‘Repugnant’ for whom? For a majority of Sri Lankan citizens? For a majority of humanity as represented in the global inter-state system, most of whose members supported Sri Lanka? ‘Repugnant’ for Asia? ‘Repugnant’ for India, the world’s most populous democracy, a quasi-federal state with 70 million Tamils? ‘Repugnant’ for the USA? Repugnant for the radical Latin America states such the ALBA group? Certainly not, going by the Wikileaks cables, the testimony of Erich Solheim, the findings of the Norway study and actual political behaviour itself.

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    COME ON BOYS,PLEASE DONT BLAME THE SANGHA FOR ALL YOUR HUMAN BUT POLITICAL FAILINGS FOR NOT GRASPING THE NETTLE,OR FOR THAT MATTER NOT HEEDING TO THE TEACHINGS OF THAT GREATEST MAN EVER TO WALK ON THIS UNIVERSE AS FAR AS WE KNOW.
    OK TAKE LONDON !! WE SPEAK 120 LANGUAGES AND 120 DIFFERENT SO CALLED ETHNIC MINORITIES AND ITS COMPARATIVELY TROUBLE FREE BARRING MAY BE A FEW SKIRMISHES HERE AND THERE,ADMITTEDLY.SO LET US STOP THIS BLAME GAME AND START AFRESH AT YEAR ZERO,DONT BLAME THE TAMILS,THE SINGALESE,THE BURGHERS,THE MUSLIMS.” THOU SHALL REAP WHAT THOUGH SOW”GOD BLESS!!!

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