23 September, 2018

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Funerals! 

By K. Anaga

I refer to the article in the LMD Magazine of March 2018, under the caption ‘Grave Threats to Our Pluralism’ by Mr. Jehan Perera and wish to make my observations/comments.

When reading the said article between the lines and behind the lines, one is inclined to believe that Jehan supports the cremation of Venerable Meegahajandure Gnanaratana’s in the Jaffna esplanade as an acceptable practice, similar to practice adopted in the south of Srilanka. 

Further, he states that in view of the ‘protests’ by the Tamils in Jaffna against this cremation, a north- south dialogue is the need of the hour, perhaps to discuss all matters which are a bone of contention between the Sinhalese and Tamils.

Yes! But will that bring any desired results. The dialogues have been going on from 1956 on words with no tangible results being achieved. Invariably the talks were aborted half way through or the fragile agreements reached with trepidation, were unilaterally abrogated by the government due to pressure from opposing parties. 

Mr. Jehan Perera, with his knowledge of worldwide politics, and as the Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Srilanka, may make efforts to initiate a fresh dialogue among all parties with regard to all matters to the dispute. 

Mr. Jehan Perera is generally considered to be a sober writer and his articles/ views are held in high esteem by most of the readers. They are theoretically good. But could they be implemented in Srilanka? 

However, in this article under reference he says that “As long as human rights are not violated and the law is followed no cultural practice should be obstructed in any part of the country”. True. But I am sure human rights do not only mean the physical impact but the mental agony too. 

He seems to subtly justify the funeral arrangement of at the Venerable Meegahajandure Gnanaratana at the Jaffna esplanade, equating it with various religious procession which takes place in Colombo ‘blocking city traffic for hours’.

Unfortunately, whether one likes to accept it or not, there was a political and racial undertone in this funeral arrangement and a display of arrogance by the army. This may block the little cordiality existing between the Sinhalese and Tamils, not for hours but for years.

According to my knowledge no ‘Funeral Pyre’ was ever lit at the Jaffna esplanade or any other public places in Jaffna. Exceptions being, the burning of the dead bodies, by the Srilankan army and the IPKF, of those who were killed by them.

This Bhikku’s funeral arrangements were sphere headed by the army lead by the commander, who according to Mr. Jehan Perera, have had a long period of service in Jaffna. The commander, with his ‘long period of service in Jaffna’ should have known better about practice and Customs/culture prevailing in Jaffna. Instead he appears to have encouraged his men to threaten the members of the public from organizing any sort of demonstration against the funeral arrangements. Would the army have done it if not for the arrogance displayed after the war? It appears that the army has its last say in all aspects, whether it’s lawful or not.

The funeral in Jaffna cannot be taken in isolation. This arrangement should be taken in conjunction with the other Governments/Army activities such as erecting Buddha’s statues in Tamil areas where there are no Buddhists, holding on to the private lands taken over during the war and cultivating the lands belonging to the poor farmers, thus depriving the farmers of their legitimate earnings etc. While writing this article, according to press reports ‘Lord Buddha’ is being used as a tool in creating problem in the Vavunia campus, ‘asking for a priority seat’ for Lord Buddha, despite the  fact  arrangements are afoot to accommodate all  religious activities.  Similarly in Maviddapuram and Oddisuddan, Hindu temples are being demolished to make way for Lord Buddha. 

The takeover of the Navatkuli housing scheme to be given to the Sinhalese brought down from the South and arrangement to build a vihrae there in, without a permit from the local authorities, caused considerable concern for the local population. When this arrogance was challenged at the courts, the magistrate gave a go ahead to build the Vihare on the basis that Buddhism is given the ‘foremost’ place in the constitution. What an interpretation?

Similarly the Magistrate who heard the case against the funeral found a way of escapism, despite the fact there is a Hindu temple and memorials to those who were killed in 1974 by the police, during the International Tamil Conference, in the vicinity.

This is a dangerous precedent. It will not be surprising, if there is a dispute between the Nagapooshani Amman temple and the Buddhist temple in Ninatheevu (Nagatheepa) irrespective of the rights and wrongs, the Buddhist Temple could have its way as per the interpretation of the  of the constitution by the judges. May be, the judges cannot interpret the law otherwise for fear of treading on the toes of the Buddhist Government. Giving Buddhism the foremost place in the constitution could give additional problems with the passage of time.

The best and most appropriate place for Monk’s funeral would have been the vicinity of the Nagadeepa Vihara or in its premises itself in Ninateevu, where Buddha himself has supposed to have visited and a main place of worship for the Buddhist military personal, blessed by the Venerable Meegahajandure Gnanaratana from 1991 on words, until his demise. As long as the Tamil live in fear and the racial problem exists as at present, actions of this nature by the government/army will continue to be viewed with suspicion. 

Finally, I wish to state that I am an Agnostic and consider the practicing religions are the cause of innumerable problems in the world. Unless lord Buddha’s teachings are adhered to in its totality, my contention is that religion is not necessary for man to exist but man is necessary for religions to exist.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    0

    “True. But I am sure human rights do not only mean the physical impact but the mental agony too”

    Cremation of any monks in Jaffna without impacting the mental agony can only happen when we can see pigs have started to fly. How can Mr. Jehan Perera expect this in a region where the water wells have their own caste labeling?

    However, this writer has managed to cunningly hide the the casteism issue, and pass on all blames to politics and racism issue.

  • 4
    3

    HIndus creamate their dead similarly. so, what was wrong ?. what you have written is Tribalism. IF you cannot live with Sinhala people move back to south India. Check chelvanayagam and Ponnambalam history for your history in Sinhale.

    • 3
      0

      Jaffna and the Sinhala Heritage – Page 10
      E. T. Kannangara – 1984 –
      The King of Ceylon was always Tri Sinhala Adhisvara, Lord of the Three Sinhalas, a title which recalled the original division of the Island into three parts “

      The Early History of Ceylon and Its Relations with India and Other …
      G. C. Mendis – 1996
      The northern part of Ceylon was under the Sinhalese kings at least till the time of Parakramabahu the Great. It is not clear when it first became an independent kingdom

      From Coffee to Tea Cultivation in Ceylon, 1880-1900: .
      Roland Wenzlhuemer – 2008 – ‎
      Thus, the Sinhalese kingdom gradually relocated itself further to the south-west.6 Meanwhile, an independent Tamil kingdom had emerged in the north of Ceylon. During the previous centuries, many Tamil immigrants had settled in the Jaffna Peninsula and in other regions of northern Ceylon due to the proximity to their homelands

      The Last King Of Jaffna Was A Sinhala-Buddhist – Colombo Telegraph
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/…/the-last-king-of-jaffna-was-a-sinhala-buddhist/

      • 1
        1

        NIRO!
        North and East was never ruled by the Sinhalese. They were merged with the south by the Britishers for easy administration.. Thus the death bell rang for the Tamils ‘Even the last king of Kandy- Rajasinghe was a Tamil. Let us not talk about history. Various people write various opinions. That does not mean they are always right. Let us talk about the present. Neither Dutugemunu nor Eellalan stretched their rule beyond Anurathapura. What was the population of the East when we got the so called freedom from Britishers. Not even 4%. were Sinhalese . Let us see whether we can live without pin-pricks if not tackled, it might fester.

  • 3
    1

    Who is K and What is ANAGA. IS him Tamil ?

  • 3
    1

    I heard YOu either Thiruchelvam’s son or ananda Kumaraswami’s son. DO you come to parliament without any votes ? You can add a few boxes of additional votes no one will question.

    • 5
      2

      Jim softy,

      Why bother who he/she is? It is just his view. Why the Sri Lankans go by names tracing their roots and religions?

      • 4
        2

        Fathima, Beczause we do not we believe that we were created by Allah. We were created by parents and goes to our beginnings.

        • 5
          0

          Jim softy,

          So you were created, not born. That clarified my long pending doubt why you sound goofy in CT.

          • 1
            1

            FATHIMA: Allah wqaas created by you based on the image that Mohammad gave. Why don’t you tell us you ar enot going to Wahabi Land, ISIS, ISIL or Caliphate, Becuse you become a SLAVE for pervert men. Why don’ you go there and cover head to toe and start rolling out children.

            • 1
              0

              Trust me, you can’t be a serious chap, but can be a good entertainer. Why did you waste your youth in the EU while we were missing you here?

              • 1
                1

                Fathima I heard about a muslim woman who had three births for less than 6 years. that kind of bith affect mother.

            • 0
              0

              The Crux of the matter is ‘FUNERAL’. One cannot understand as to why people should descend low to attack personally. Each one will have his/her personality despite the religion he or she belongs to. Even agnostics have their own personality whether they are loved or hated.
              Let us not descend to the Parliamentary level.

  • 2
    0

    If a Hindu Kovil and Buddhist Temple can co-exist on the island of Nagadeepa, why cannot it be so in other places in the country. Each one needs to respect the other’s religion.

  • 1
    0

    Steve: On either side of the road that connects Hindu Kovil and the Buddhist Temple in the island of Nagadeepa, who are the majority of people engaged in selling those “Pooja” and other items in those rented huts? Interesting to find out that fact by all persons discussing “racial co-existent”.

    • 1
      1

      Well said indeed. But unfortunately religion has become a symbol of nationality and instead of practicing it more fervently people are flaunting it as a symbol of power. What hypocrisy in the practice of religion
      RMB Senanayake

  • 3
    0

    Religions are there to guide, not to discriminate one another. When one is dead, the body is part of the earth. Whether burn or bury it happens involuntarily. Some times people mischievously behave like the dogs who urinate at gates and car tires. Pity that even after claiming years of civilization, haven’t understood how to peacefully co exist.

  • 2
    0

    Jehan Perera has missed the bus when he says that a North-South Dialogue is the need of the hour, simply because there was a protest of Tamils in Jaffna over a cremation of a Buddhist Monk in Jaffna!
    How about the number of Tamils killed over the years , was there a North -South Dialogue?

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