By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Dinesh Gunawardena, MP is an old friend and neighbour of mine. A good man he is, and I always respected him. His Dad was a youthful hero for me. However, it is with a mixture of amusement, bemusement and dissapointment that I observe his behaviour since the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The newspapers report that he has organised a trip to the Seeni Devale in a little island in the South noted for occult practices and black magic performed by desperate persons to supplicate an imaginary god and typically pray for harm to enemies.
Dinesh has moved to prayer in order to stop the “revenge,” on the Rajapaksa family, which according to him now takes place. He wants to curse the yahapalanaya government and bring it down without even the votes of the people.
The Yahapalanaya government set up by President Maitripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe had sought and won a mandate from the people to investigate charges of corruption and abuse by the Rajapaksa regime.
There was absolutely no doubt that the broad electorate and independent civil organisations had been traumatised by the daily gossip about alleged huge corruption by that regime. Besides the gossip, the very conduct of the regime had been full of impunity, irresponsibility and extravagance that were in such magnitude that these acts hit the very sensibilities of right thinking and socially conscious people and seemed to confirm the perceptions of corruption, abuse and murder.
External behavioural manifestations of conduct unveiled a lot. The disregard for the law and for due process was shocking. Critical incidents included the arrest of war warrior General Sarath Fonseka and the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. There were numerous other incidents that could be listed with ease.
It was evident that Mahinda Rajapaksa, having given political leadership to the war, was on a personal course of self-aggrandisement. Mahinda, instead of using the success of the war to turn the country around and turn our relationships with Tamil brethren around, took a different course. Mahinda rode a blind horse of power driven by personal greed although cloaked in nationalist slogans.
Dinesh and his ilk should have done a world of good if they warned MR and tried to put him right. The success in war was a Kalinga moment for Sri Lanka,which if used that way, could have given automatic eternity to Rajapaksa rule instead of resorting to the hideous 18th Amendment. Yet, Dinesh did not do that warning to his Monarchist friend. Now they have all fallen along with Humpty Dumpty.
Like the desperate ordinary person referred to earlier, Dinesh and his crew are desperate. Only ignorant persons engage in Black Magic. Imploring deities like this was a practice of the pre-scientific age of man. It was widely practised during the days of the Vedas in India 2000 years BC. Sri Lanka still has remnants of that early folly and Kapuralas, otherwise unemployable, earn good money whether in Kataragama or in Seeni Devale.
People have always had Gods. When the first person saw lightning strike a tree and start a fire, that person needed a way to make sense of what they had just witnessed.Since they had no concept of electricity, positive and negative charge, or static, they needed to explain to themselves and others, what had happened, in terms they could understand. A God was born.
So people prayed to the gods following the elaborate ritual of the pooja. One essential element of the Vedic pooja is to offer ‘upachara,’ or gifts to the god. The god would not be moved without a bribe. In Dinesh’s pooja hundred thousand coconuts will be offered! The Grama Seveka in the area charges that 700 counts had been stolen from a government property. But the god wouldn’t mind people stealing to give him upachara. It is a selfish god.
Barren Sinhalese women have harmless poojas like the offers to Pattini – a woman deity in order to seek fertility. Incidentally the Goddess Pattini is the deification of Kannagi, who is the central character of the Tamil epic Silapadhikaram of Ilango Adigal, written in India after the 2nd Century CE. After a short time, it was introduced into Sri Lanka and absorbed earlier deities such as Kiri Amma (‘milk mother’). Historians attribute the introduction of goddess Pattini to the island to Gajabahu I, a Sinhalese king who ruled Sri Lanka from 113 – 135 CE..
Such pre-scientific beliefs have got embedded into the collective psyche of ordinary people so much that Buddhist temples are full of them. The Buddha rejected a creator God and he considered that deities are only a higher order of life in samsara. There is little they can do and they are also subject to death and disease. However, that wasn’t a comfortable idea to Buddhists who, instead, opted for the Vedic God. Mahayanic forms of Buddhism and Vajryayana are full of deities and celestial Buddhas. In the pre-scientific age the Vedic god concept and the Mahayanic forms offered more meaning to Buddhists in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Temple Buddhism in Sri Lanka has not got rid of these superstitions.
Isn’t it amusing, therefore, to see Dinesh going back to the dark pre-historic times and leading the so-called Joint Opposition to the altar of the god at Seenigama? Aren’t these leaders wanting to rule the country and to guide it? With rubbish like this in their heads, they cannot have the cognitive capacity to meet the complex activity of governance. For any county to prosper the ruling class must be enlightened; must be modern;must be open to scientific solutions. This is why Plato urged that Philosophers should be kings. It seems Dinesh and his men are closed and closed and closed.
The Joint Opposition have a simple solution to their worry about investigations against the Rajapaksa family, namely, to allow the enquiries to proceed so that the Rajapaksas are cleared?
If the Rajapaksas are innocent why be terrorised by ongoing investigations?