By Emil van der Poorten –
What follows is not an attempt at some intellectual exercise but some random thoughts that have arisen thanks to public perceptions and applications of the term gratitude and, on a more personal level, the practice of “gratitude,” in a variety of ways without any reference to what the sum total of cause and effect amounts to in the matter.
It has now become, thanks to a shallow and irresponsible media, graven into the granite of Sri Lankan history that the Rajapaksas, particularly Mahinda and his ultra-militaristic younger sibling whose arrogance appears to know no limit, were responsible for “saving the Sinhala Buddhists” from total decimation by the Dravidians (now followed by those practicing Islam) both of whom and even collectively happen to belong to minorities which would be considered small by any standards.
This “saving” has achieved mythic proportions ranging from Dutgemunu, in the prime of life, slaying the Dravidian devil incarnate, Elara, when the latter was something like 80 years old, to the butchery of Nanthikadal, the likes of which has never been recorded in the history of Sri Lanka.
Out of the “saving” which, given all the evidence should point to, at least, dilution of that grandiose term, what it has spawned, in the Mahavamsa tradition, is a grandiose history which seeks to diminish the reality of people other than the small chauvinistic rump that dictates public policy in this country. When they are not loudly espousing the cause of this religiosity, as do outfits such as the Bodu Bala Sena, they claim custodianship of even the Buddhist clergy whose “independence” they proclaim it is their bounden duty to “protect.” That Buddhism and its Buddhist clergy have survived more than a millennium of persecution and marginalization without the endeavours of those such as Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe seems to escape these defenders of all things they designate to be of any cultural/religious significance. Incidentally, the two terms I have just used have become interchangeable because those wielding the authority to make it so have chosen precisely that route.
The condemnation I make is not directed only at the Mahinda Rajapaksa dispensation (MR1) but at the Maithri/Ranil (MR2) horde as well. What these people have chosen to do is to distort Sri Lanka social and political history in such a manner that future generations of every ethnicity in this country are, at best, going to be seen as a bunch of Idi Amin acolytes or, at worst, the South Asian equivalent of ISIS.
The road we are treading has been justified by falling back on the application of the concept of gratitude to those who have saved us, allegedly,from a fate worse than death!
Let’s look at the matter of the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, “Tigers”) by Mahinda Rajapaksa and his siblings.
The first major fissure in that seeming juggernaut was the defection of “Colonel Karuna” for reasons that, proven by subsequent behaviour, were certainly not driven by principle of any kind but pure and simple self-interest. That said, reality dictates that Karuna’s role as a military genius in Tiger terms cannot be denied. That defection was orchestrated not by Mahinda Rajapaksa, his siblings or his minions. It was done by political forces led by those in direct conflict with that very same Mahinda Rajapaksa. And what did Mahinda Rajapaksa do when he grasped the reins of power? He made this man, accused of the cold-blooded execution of several hundred Sinhala policemen, most of whom, without doubt, defended the very national group of which he has claimed to be savior: Sinhala Buddhists. As a sidebar: the same Karuna was sent on a falsified passport to Britain by MR1 where he was unceremoniously jailed and banned from ever entering Britain again!
I will not revert to the logistical and intelligence support supplied by the now-abused “western nations” which enable Sri Lanka to sever the umbilical cord connecting the LTTE to its suppliers of arms and all that was necessary to sustain. When Prabhakaran, without Karuna’s military wiles at his disposal, chose to engaged a vastly superior military force in formal battle his fate and that of his movement were sealed. Remember, apart from the fact that the Sri Lankan government had, at its disposal, an army, a navy, an air force, police and paramilitary security apparatus which numbered about the same as the entire army of the largest country in the world, Russia, and one doesn’t require the services of any soothsayer from south of the Bentara Ganga to make an accurate prediction!
The fact that Rajapaksa, at the expense of core services such as Health and Education, in particular poured our national resources into the “war effort” cannot be denied. That he “sacrificed” his second-born to the conflict cannot also be denied though the small qualification must be added here: that worthy received training at the most prestigious naval academy in the Commonwealth at state expense and proceeded to avoid areas of conflict like the proverbial plague, a whole entourage in tow!
There is no gainsaying that the return of Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the US, abandoning what was claimed to have been an existence bestrewn with milk and honey, to serve the nation had a great deal to do with the allegedly final victory over Prabhakaran’s forces of evil. Without this man who chose to resign from the Sri Lankan army at a time of, probably, its greatest need – combating both the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s second bloody uprising and the Tiger onslaught – to seek greener pastures is a matter of simple recent history. However, it should be noted here that the timing of this departure was subsequent to the deposit of several hundred bodies in an unmarked grave in the Matale hospital premises when the same Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in command of that area of conflict. You want ruthlessness? I’ll give you ruthlessness without benefit of the Koran according to Idi Amin!
That lengthy preamble has, I hope, set the scene for a more personal and local application of the term gratitude.
I have had occasion to observe, at very close quarters, the fact that people are accused of being ingrates because they are critical and will not justify the behaviour of someone who might have been of some assistance in dealing with some issue of seeming consequence in the recipient’s life. Almost without exception, this has been in situations when the person displaying such generosity did not have to do anything of major importance or take a risk of any consequence whatsoever to perform the service or good deed.
Simply put, to expect a “quid pro quo” for such behaviour that extends to acceptance of the donor’s seeming generosity amounts to the original action becoming a bribe, even if only in hindsight.
What turns that often common scenario into something approaching an obscenity (there I go with that word again!) is that something outside the accepted canon of social conduct is converted into a good and meritorious deed!
Much of the shilly-shallying that is going on in investigation of the rape and plunder of a whole nation owes its existence to this equivocation. The public of this country are increasingly aware of which of the current regime bought protection from those they have succeeded. They owe a bunch of quid pro quos that have national implications and until MR2 begins to dispense justice without equivocation and exception we are fated to slide into the (now empty) trough of MR1’s creation!
Simple as that. And may the Aluth Avuruddha return us to a life of justice and decency in Sri Lanka!