By V. Kanthaiya –
People have to pretend you are a bad person so they don’t feel guilty about the things they did to you – Charles Bukowski.
During the wartime, the Sinhala language based media would reiterate only one theme. The government and the security forces are fighting to liberate the Tamil people from the LTTE. Sri Lanka is one country and we all are Sri Lankans. LTTE does not represent the Tamil community. It is a terrorist element and is a threat to the unity of all the ethnic groups and should be handled by the security forces.
The LTTE was completely annihilated in May 2009. So theoretically the country should be in peace right after that and ethnic harmony should prevail. But is it the reality?
Once the LTTE is eliminated, instead of focusing on building up the ‘Sri Lankan’ identity and one Sri Lanka for all communities, the country started sporadic violence towards Christian and Muslim minorities. Over the time period these sporadic incidents formed a pattern. In regards to Christians, there will be a rumor or an incident saying the Christian missionaries are in the act of converting Sinhala Buddhists into Christianity and some militant monks would be in action to safeguard Buddhism and the age-old culture of this country. The church or the house of prayer would be attacked by a violent mob. The police would be at the scene after the melee to record the statement and provide protection to the already damaged house of prayer.
In the case of the violence against Muslims, the reasons vary a high degree. It may start with the proposed construction of a mosque or prayer house in the Buddhist holy land (Dambulla and rest of Sri Lanka ) or cattle slaughter or even a rumor of contraceptive pills ( which are yet to be invented) being mixed in Muslim food outlets with a view to reduce the Sinhala Buddhist population. The reasons may be ridiculous to a person with common sense. But in Sri Lanka, a lie becomes the truth, wrong becomes the right and evil is considered to be good, just because it is accepted by the majority of the majoritarian community.
I would also like to take the honor of explaining the ‘real Sri Lankan’ democracy explained by the renowned political scientist of the country Dr.Dayan Jayatillake. The democracy in simple terms means the collective decision by the majority. The Sri Lankan democracy is a collective decision by the majority of the majoritarian community, thus the present ‘Yahapalanaya’ government which is elected by the majority of the minority communities and the minority of the majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist community is illegitimate.
I have to discuss all these strange phenomena of Sri Lanka to explain the current public outrage in the southern part of the country regarding the Mullivaikal Remembrance Day. The event in which the Tamils mourn and remember the death of their loved ones in the final phase of the war is portrayed in the south as an event commemorating the dead terrorists like the way the south commemorate the soldiers killed in the war. Dr. Rajitha Seneratne, the only politician who justified that Tamils, as the citizens of the country, do have the right to mourn for the death is subsequently branded as a terrorist sympathizer by the smart patriots and their media.
It is understandable why no one else would dare to assert the rights of the Tamils and explain it to the majoritarian populace. Every moderate in the Sri Lankan politics who dare to be sensible regarding the ethnic issue have been successfully branded as a ‘Ponnaya’.
So far this outright racism by the smart patriots has been a political issue and did not directly affect the day to day life of the Tamil people in the North & East. But remember when you don’t raise your voice against an individual’s racism, convincing yourself that it is his/her opinion, it will grow into a collective opinion. Then it will become the political opinion and the policy of a political party. Once racism becomes the policy of a political party, it becomes the policy of all political parties competing for the same vote base. Once the party wins, the racial discrimination will be mandated and becomes the state policy.
The present development is that even corporates have started to adopt racism as a key policy. The incident where two HNB staff were taken disciplinary action and suspended from work for holding an event to remember those killed in the war. The moderates, again can justify this saying the bank has the right to take disciplinary action against the staff who violate the rules and regulations of the entity. That is completely acceptable. But the incident unfolded in a different way. This event, which included five or six staff lighting a lamp in their office and held a moment of silence for those killed was one of the hundreds held in the North & East on that day. One of the staff shared it on the social media. This was noted by a Sinhala Buddhist right-wing group and they started a pressure campaign to force the bank to take action against the staff otherwise, they would brand the bank as a terror supporter.
In response to this the bank officially apologized and released the following statement.
“HNB takes very seriously any sentiment or act that is in violation of, or poses a threat to the morale of citizens of Sri Lanka. As a Bank that stands for all Sri Lankans, our goals, interests and initiatives are all aligned to the vision and greater good of our Country
We regret an unauthorized incident that took place recently in one of our branches, which does not reflect the values of the Bank. The matter has been investigated and necessary action taken”.
The statement was released only on English and Sinhala languages. The intriguing phenomena are that the bank says that it considers any activity to remember the loved ones killed in the war by the people in North & East is against the greater good of the country. The event did not have any link to the LTTE. It was just a few people lighting an oil lamp paying their respect for the dead. The bank should have explained how this is a threat to the morale of the citizens of Sri Lanka.
The Rajapaksa clan and the Sinhala Buddhist nationalists are hell-bent on denying the mass atrocities committed to the Tamil civilians. The denial that a genocide ever happened is the last part of a genocide, as per the 8 stages of genocide model presented by Prof. Gregory Stanton. It is not surprising that an extremist group adopting that agenda. But in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala Buddhist moderates are reluctant to accept the atrocities committed to the Tamils, and they are forced to accept that any event to pay respect to those killed in the war is an attempt to revive terrorism. Now that belief has become a formal policy and a corporate entity which depends on the Tamils for its existence and growth has deliberately denied a fundamental right of its two Tamil Staff purely due to their ethnicity.
We are advancing in technology. The societies are more committed to preserving human rights, diversity, tolerance and living in harmony. Countries seek to solve issues through diplomacy. Non-violence has become an accepted norm of protest. But the Sri Lankan society is moving backward to an apartheid society, branding an entire ethnic group as terrorists and enemies of the state. The denial of their fundamental rights being legitimized and racial discrimination has become a social norm.