16 May, 2022

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Gauntlet For A Showdown

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The 74th Independence Day celebrations were somewhat subdued in pomp and pageant, partly because of the pandemic, which, contrary to what the government claims, is still spreading in spite of vaccination, and partly because of an unprecedented economic crisis without an end in sight. Although the first exacerbated the second, the severity of the latter was the combined outcome of mismatched policies from misunderstood theories implemented by misfit administrators. The regime conveniently scapegoats the pandemic for its diabolic mismanagement of the economy. Enough had been said on this and no need for further elaboration.

One would have expected therefore that Lankaeeswara Padmavibushan Gotabaya Rajapaksa (LPGR) the President would have shown some remorse in his Independence Day address for past mistakes and a fresh resolve to change direction towards better policies and governance. Instead, all that one heard was an arrogant determination to continue with the same strategies and blaming those who do not want to change, while colour coating his ideas with Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalistic pride. That pride underlined every point he made about Sri Lanka’s ancient past and recent history, and it was the most disturbing part of his address. In a sense, it drew out the regime’s battle line for a showdown with its opponents.

After naming, “Great Kings such as Dutugemunu, Valagamba, Maha Parakumba, Vijayabahu and Parakramabahu the Sixth”, without mentioning the Nayakkar Kings of the Kandyan Kingdom, who also “fought against foreign invaders”, and mentioning the vast stupas and irrigation tanks built by ancient Buddhist kings, omitting to mention the temples and reservoirs built by Tamil kings in the North, LPGR jumped to the recent victory against Tamil separatism and criticism of “forces against natural leadership”. Nowhere in his address the President even indirectly inferred to contributions made by minority communities to the economic growth and development of Sri Lanka. Instead, “When steering the country in the right direction”, he continued, “we know that the support of each and every person in the country cannot be expected. We are not ready to abandon our plans to the country’s future prosperity by looking upon those who will not change. Our objective is to do what is right by the country, and not to … please everyone”. Obviously, it was not an address intended to unite the nation but to divide it and his message was directed to be heard by that compartment of Sri Lankans who brought him and his government to power. The Fascist tone and dictatorial arrogance of the president was present in every bit of his address. He is appearing to be someone between Il Duce and der Fuhrer.

The greatest folly or rather crime committed by all national leaders of Sri Lanka since independence was the planned neglect to build “civic nationalism”, which derives its “political legitimacy not from ethnicity, religion, language, culture, or any of the immutable trappings that people acquire from birth, but from the consent and active participation of their citizens, as free members of a democratic polity” (Shashi Tharoor, The Struggle for India’s Soul, Hurst & Company , London, 2021, p. 15). “Whereas ethnic nationhood inheres in the body, civic nationalism appeals to the mind; it is a nationalism of constitutions and institutions you respect, rather than identities you are born into” (ibid). It was a planned neglect because political Buddhism, a radical ideology with little or no relevance to Buddha’s principles of state governance, played the most crucial role in making and unmaking governments with leaders prepared to listen to its call.

One thing that political Buddhism was not prepared to concede was to share sovereignty with other communities in the polity. A multi-religious and multi-cultural polity is anathema to political Buddhism. LPGR’s address to the nation is a total repudiation of civic nationalism and an open endorsement of ethnic nationalism shaped by political Buddhism. Prime Minister MR’s gauntlet thrown a few days ago from the Buddhist cultural capital Anuradhapura, at his “power hungry” opposition, gave the clearest indication of how the battle line would be drawn and what shape would it take when an electoral confrontation erupts.

During the last two years, in spite of repeated failures in economic management, clean government and foreign relations, the regime had shown an absolute commitment to strengthen its Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist credentials and a determination to take Sri Lanka ultimately towards a Buddhist state. Rajapaksa regime represents the acme of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Accordingly, not only that the regime spent public funds lavishly in constructing new and renovating existing Buddhist temples and stupas all over the country but it also encouraged Buddhist priests and their followers to vandalize and destroy holy places and shrines of other religious communities if those markers were found occupying venues of Buddhist remains. For example, the desecration of Neeraviyadi Pillaiyar Temple in Mullaitivu by cremating within its premises the dead body of a Buddhist priest and building a vihara next to it , the removal of Aathi Ayyanar Hindu Temple in Kurundoormalai and replacing it with a vihara in the same district, moves to destroy a mosque in Kuragala in Balangoda, stealthily planting Buddha’s statue in the vicinity of a mosque in Nelundeniya, confiscating the mosque in Mahara and converting it into a centre for Buddhist worship and recreation for prison guards and security forces – all these with the knowledge of the President – and the President’s exaggerated and highly publicized visits to Buddhist temples and veneration of Buddhist monks, are all aimed at demonstrating to the Buddhist public that Rajapaksas are the ones who would protect and promote Buddhism in this country, as if Buddhism is under some imminent danger of being wiped out.

While a disunited opposition concentrates attacking the regime on economic mismanagement, corruption and foreign policy bungling and expects that attack to sway the masses to its side, the regime dismisses all that as mere short-term difficulties that could be overcome in the long-run, and distracts Buddhist attention on prevention of threats to internal security, sovereignty and Sinhala Buddhist hegemony arising from “forces against national leadership”. What forces could they be other than diaspora communities working through the international community?

The President continues to reiterate his insistence on fulfilling duties first before claiming rights, and demands minorities to help in his development efforts, which in his view is the route to solve all ethnic problems. He is therefore not going to waste time addressing specific grievances raised by Tamils, Muslims and Catholics, thus leaving these communities no choice but to remain disconnected to the regime and seek help from outside. The regime is trying to sell this to its backers as organized sabotage by the disgruntled. With a pampered military to protect and battalions of pro-regime Buddhist monks – amongst a total of nearly 45,000 in that community – who would do door knocking to canvass support to the regime when they are summoned as in 2019, Rajapaksas are confidently readying for a final showdown. The opposition, which is disunited and unsure of how to respond to the vile aspirations of majoritarian nationalism is certain to face a tough challenge. The confrontation may even be bloody.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Management & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 25
    1

    A bloody confrontation can only happen if the people are starved or deprived of essential basics to an extent of desperation. No political party will engage violently with another party in power. As Ranjan Ramanayake said repeatedly, they are all friends, brother…they will not go against each other except compete at elections, despite the fiery rhetoric. The trade unions also seem to be disunited in their campaigns. Elections will merely perpetuate a parasitic system that merely serves the political-industrial-religious complex.

    • 18
      0

      Dear Lazantha
      You are very right. Those the power houses would look after each other no two words about it.
      As I have always insisted that power is the most drug for the human psychic 8
      The citizens in most part are starving
      Yet they support the vulures feeding on the dead.. Very sad indeed.
      Trade unions are bought over a chieap
      and intoxicating kasippu drink.

      Likes of Bala Thambu , NM, Colvin R de Silva , Peter Canamon are very rare in Srilanlka at present.

      As long a the politicos play the race card there is no soltion for coexistance. Divide and rule is the Mantra

      • 10
        0

        Dear RN,
        Never lose hope. There is a cycle in Nature that mixes good and evil, rich and poor, strong and the weak et al, over time. For anything to exist, change is paramount or total decay sets in over time.
        Delving into the past and yearn for the greats who have left us, is futile.
        Reminds one to read ‘A Psalm of Life’ – H W LONGFELLOW.
        Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
        Let the dead Past bury its dead!
        Act,— act in the living Present!
        Heart within, and Hope o’erhead!
        Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
        And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time.
        (One word adapted to suit my philosophy of life.)

        • 3
          0

          Thank you, My View. Both poetic and philosophical
          I am glad there are still a few optimists left in the land which is a good sign of hope

          • 4
            0

            Dear RN,
            Thanks.
            Not for me to be described as an optimist – one who hopes for the best always – but more a realist believing in ANICCA – impermanence. Not today, not tomorrow but eventually, things will change. Fair wind follows the foul one.
            I am hopeful, yes, but may not be in my time as an octogenarian.

    • 3
      0

      Dear Readers All,

      The politicians keep talking and try to make us also their partisans. This is one forum on which people from all the communities of Lanka interact.
      .
      Of course, we pay a price for that. It is only the English-speaking who interact in that way. Heroic efforts are made to overcome those limitations by some. See how Jit and “leelagemalli” are using Sinhalese here, on CT:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/udan-fernando-11-february-2022/
      .
      Some CT readers may not even be aware that there is a Sinhalese section to this site. And Tamil? Here’s a very young man who says he is effectively teaching Tamil to those whose mother tongue is Sinhalese, and doing it in Kegalle.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFCIpHBQxec
      .
      That is half an hour of interesting Sinhalese! Inspiring! But don’t ask old me to participate. Get realistic!
      .
      People come here to interact in English, which may be the only Lankan language that they understand. So, here’s half an hour of Faraz Shaukat Ali talking to the eloquent Harini Amarasuriya in English:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRZ2eAAVwwY
      .
      We must do some fresh thinking!
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

      • 3
        0

        Dear Panini
        Thanks for those YouTube clips
        Keep on the battle my friend the nation needs you. Long live liberty and freedom

    • 1
      1

      lasantha

      “Elections will merely perpetuate a parasitic system that merely serves the political-industrial-religious complex.”

      is there a better way.If we dump the election system instead of improving it we may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.We must try to get the switzerland model which is the most democratic of all countries and make this the switzerland of asia.I hope in the new constitution they are looking at the swiss model to copy.

  • 11
    0

    Is the remark, ‘One would have expected that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the President, would have shown some remorse for past mistakes’, justifiable. How do you expect remorse from someone who imagines that he knows better!
    .
    That the regime had shown a resolve to strengthen its Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist credentials and a determination to take Sri Lanka towards a Buddhist state is only in appearance. Their true resolve is to keep power within the family, for ever.
    .
    Gotabaya is fortunate that he has Mahinda to pull wool over the eyes of the masses, who are ready and willing to buy every word about an imagined past glory.

  • 3
    19

    Political Buddhism. My foot!

    Muslims are trying to clean their blood-soaked hands from crimes committed against Sinhala Buddhists who saved them from persecution from Portuguese and allowed them to settle down in their country starting from 1915 by putting the blame on Rajapakshes and Sinhala Buddhists.

    • 4
      0

      “My foot”

      Sinhala Buddhism is like a cheap slipper. So it should fit well on your foot.

  • 3
    19

    “That pride underlined every point he made about Sri Lanka’s ancient past and recent history, and it was the most disturbing part of his address.”

    Is it taboo for indigenous Sinhalayo who have a proud history running into thousands of years to talk about that simply because camels who were allowed to put their heads in to the Sinhala tent do not like that?

  • 2
    17

    “…vandalize and destroy holy places and shrines of other religious communities if those markers were found occupying venues of Buddhist remains.”

    AA completely ignores the damage done by Tamils and Muslims who came from Hindusthan and settled down in Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo to Sinhala Buddhist heritage sites in the North and East and talk about attempts by Sinhala Buddhists and the Government to save them from further damage.

    Ven. Medhananda Thera’s 540-page tome on the Sinhala Buddhist Heritage in the East and the North of Sri Lanka (Colombo ; Mount Laurel, N.J. : Dayawansa Jayakody & Co., 2005) vividly explain the damage done to Sinhala Buddhist heritage sites. Hindu Tamils have built Kovils demolishing Buddhist temples and Muslims have built Mosques on Buddhist heritage sites.

  • 2
    16

    “The confrontation may even be bloody.”

    Is this a threat to Sinhala Buddhists?
    Are Muslims planning to use those 3000 odd swords hidden somewhere in this country?

  • 11
    1

    Whatever Rajapaksa – cronies talk ,no body trust them because they beg and borrow money from India and China etc , to manage thier administration for some more time. As the entire donor countries know very well, these brothers are untrustworthy and will not pay their dues within their lifetime and waiting the best time to play their power; to over- throw this regime either by encroaching parts of Sri lanka into their hands , posssibly Kachative, Trinco. Colombo , Hambantota harbours etc and the poor citizens who still trust them would have to pay very high price!

  • 3
    17

    “…contributions made by minority communities to the economic growth and development of Sri Lanka.”

    Minorities ruined the opportunity Sinhale had to become one of the prosperous countries in Asia by resorting to separatism, violence and terrorism after Sinhalayo gained independence from British. They destroyed political stability and peace which are essential for economic development that give confidence to entrepreneurs to invest.
    Tamil terrorism that dragged on for three decades discouraged foreign investors investing in Sinhale. Japanese who were keen to invest in Sinhale changed their mind and went to Thailand after Tamil terrorists killed 13 members of the Sri Lanka Army and ignited the riots in 1983.
    Colossal amount of scarce resources that could have been used for development had to be wasted to get rid of Tamil terrorists, resettle Tamil IDPs, renovate or rebuild infrastructure destroyed by Tamil terrorists, pay compensation to missing persons and projects on reconciliation. Government had to borrow to buy arms and other equipment to fight against Tamil terrorists and increased the debt burden.
    Terrorist attacks by Muslim terrorists ruined peace and stability prevailed after eliminating Tamil terrorists, completely ruined tourism and tarnished the image on Sri Lanka among foreigners.

    • 6
      0

      Eagle fu..g shit what kind of development was there before Tamil liberation fighters began their liberation struggle after late 1970? Zip zero you lazy bumps were living on handouts from every body on the earth who will give, it continues even today. Leave the Tamils to the NE they will develop their motherland 100 time better than you frauds, robbers, looters, and rapists, in 10 years.

  • 13
    0

    The fact that the govt is meandering without a set policy is obvious and living for the day.
    ..….pandemic, which, contrary to what the government claims, is still spreading in spite of vaccination…..
    Not a surprise when the govt wants to advertise their “Port City” and show off to the public what a great thing it is, by organising a big musical yesterday (sunday) for Valentine – it was a free show at that, to attract as many as possible.
    There were no health guidelines with no masks, no distancing being enforced.
    On the one hand the govt. urges restraint in using electric power but allows all the waste of it like this musical show while advertising health guidelines. If we are to tighten belts, do we need musicals except to distract people from their woes, even momentarily, to buy time to go around with the begging bowl.

  • 2
    0

    Also forgot to mention the king who converted to Buddhism Thevanai Nambiya Theesan or Prakritised to Devanaam Piyatissa is the son of Thamizh Naga Saivite king Mootha Sivan meaning the great or venerated Lord Siva. So-called Chingkalla hero Dutta Kamini is a Thamizh Naga Buddhist son of Kakai Vanna Theesan or Kaavan Theesan both pure Thamizh names. former meaning the Thessan who is the colour of a crow or Black Thessan and the later meaning the King or the great protector Theesan. A king protects and is often called Kaavan orKaavalan in Thamizh. Therefore Kaavan Theesan means great protector of king Thessan in Thamizh. Duttan in Thamizh means someone who is wayward, wicked, or evil. This word is still used in Thamizh to describe someone wayward, wicked, or evil. We call him a Duttan. Dutta Kamini means wayward or wicked Gamini as he did not obey his father’s wishes and went against him. Any king with the title Bahu has a Pandian Thamizh ancestry. Like Prakrama Bahu and all other Bahus. Good article Ameer Ali. Your articles/columns are worth reading.

  • 4
    0

    Violation of the constitution by not allowing the Tamil Language in the independence day celebration alone would show the world the cheap, low-level mentality of the Rajapakse Family. It’s sad that even the Americans – Gota and Basil do not get this! They are continuing to behave like a village thug living inside their own family bubble.

  • 2
    1

    The regime has already started to talk about internal and external plots to use for their next election gimmick. Similar programme was carried out with Easter Bombing. They targeted western hotels and Christian churches which took 250 lives. It is unpredictable what form of plot they going to do to come back to power. Power is their focus. For that they need money. Robbing this country is their way.

  • 2
    1

    We here that GANA ACCA The political advisor to RJAPAKSE Family has been transported to colombo from anuradapura for FACIAL AND NAIL POLISHING AND FOR ENGLISH CLASSES TO GET HER READY TO BE SENT AS A LEADER OF A DELEGATION TO UNHCR TO CHARM THE HEAD AND MEMBER COUNTRIES TO STOP THEM WORKING AGAINST SRILANAKA.

  • 2
    0

    ……………With a pampered military to protect and battalions of pro-regime Buddhist Monks…………….

    What better recipe to go the Myanmar way when the time is ripe!

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