16 May, 2022

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Holy Violence With Unholy Motives

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The nature and speed of Sri Lanka’s economic decline during the past two years and its consequences could be a rich topic for a Doctoral thesis. Outlandish visions about prosperity and splendour, policies on the run dictated from the President implemented by his team of handpicked experts and military officers with little or no understanding of the complexities of managing an open economy, and with an etiolated Central Bank headed by an accountant – all in the midst of a pandemic generated global economic depression – had driven the country into a state of financial anarchy and economic misery. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s (GR) two years alternative way of development is in tatters. At last, with all his grandstanding, the President seems to have relented and given in to the view that without IMF’s assistance the country has no economic future. His Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa (BR) is now reported to be waiting for the earliest opportunity to fly to Washington. The cost of GR’s stubbornness and cabinet’s dilly dallying would certainly be felt by the people once IMF lays out its remedial plan to BR’s team.

Once a rich, fertile and peaceful island, which attracted the envy of three Western powers, each conquering and ruling it successively for a total of roughly 450 years, regained its independence in 1948. Even at the time of independence, the country was wealthy and resourceful enough to build a solid economic future for its people and become a power house like modern Singapore. Instead, successive governments and their leaders wasted their energy and national resources in fighting political battles on divisive issues such as language and religion, which ultimately led to a civil war that lasted nearly one quarter of a century and drained the economy. One would have thought that the civil war might have taught a lesson to the victors who are now back in power that without the unity and cooperation of all the communities in the country prosperity and splendour could only remain an unachievable dream. Sadly, that lesson has not been learnt, and the war is still continuing on a different footing adopting a different but holy mantle. This new war is not fought with military weapons and soldiers, but with religious paraphernalia led by a saffron army of Buddhist monks under their Commander-in-Chief, President GR himself. GR fought his election campaign by whipping up Buddhist fervour and since becoming president he had declared himself as the guardian of the Sasana and champion of Buddhism primarily to win the Sangha hierarchy to his side. That hierarchy has now ennobled him as Lankaeeswara Padmabushana, the most prestigious title ever awarded to any leader in Sri Lanka. Yet, one need not be a rocket scientist to realize the political drama behind this holy tamasha. Having failed to deliver his promises to bring prosperity and splendour, GR is masquerading in religious garb and seeking asylum in Buddhism to extend the life of his regime. Buddhism is being prostituted for political purposes.

This marriage of convenience between Buddhism and politics had been the running cause of religiously inspired violence, which had intensified during the last couple of years. As one contributor to this journal noted, there had been a “Stubborn Push for Siege of Hindu Temples in North-East of Sri Lanka” (Colombo Telegraph, 25 Feb. 2022). Such push is encroaching into mosques and churches also. The latest manifestation of this aggression was the overnight destruction of the minaret in Daftar Jailani mosque at Kuragala in Balangoda. Even Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was the chief architect to award Buddhism the foremost status in Colvin’s Republican Constitution, had the magnanimity to respect the religious sentiments of Muslims and allowed that mosque to exist. Her benevolent gesture gained added significance when one realized that Balangoda is the heartland of the Ratwatta clan to which she belonged. Today, that mosque is in rubbles, thanks to the saffron army emboldened by GR’s order to renovate and expand the nearby Buddhist temple. Following this, there is increasing fear amongst Muslims that a mosque in Dambulla would also succumb to similar fate.

Neither the conversion of Hindu temples into Buddhist places of worship, based on dubious archaeological findings, nor the destruction of mosques by demagogues, and not even bombs found inside Christian churches had raised any concern, let alone condemnation by the President. In fact, his Archaeological Task Force filled with more Buddhist zealots than qualified archaeologists, was intended to encourage such brazen encroachments in areas where the minorities are concentrated. GR’s other creature, One-Country-One-Law Task Force, headed by the ex-prisoner Gnanasara Thera, is performing the supplement task of homogenizing the heterogenous cultural landscape of this country. In short, what the Hindu saffron warriors are trying to achieve in India with the patronage of Modi regime, their Buddhist counterparts in Sri Lanka are accomplishing with blessings from the President. With nearly two thirds of the population remaining devout Buddhists and close to 14,000 viharas and 45,000 monks in 1998, Buddhism in Sri Lanka is vibrant, irremovable and would remain the most dominant member of the island’s religious and cultural mosaic. Lately however, it is on a warpath with other members of that mosaic.

Religion is an ultra-sensitive issue and has the potential to create more passion than any other cultural element. History is replete with horrible episodes of inter-religious and intra-religious violence and their detrimental consequences. In fact, every religion is stained with blood, and more people had been killed in the name of religion than in the cause of anything else. A country that has gone through series of riots and a civil war over language and ethnicity does not need any more in the name of religion.

The arrival of Buddhism was a blessing to this island. According to legend, Buddha himself visited Sri Lanka three times. His message of compassion, universal love, tolerance and abstinence, which are needed today more than ever before, could not find permanent abode where he was born, but became the guiding light and philosophy of governance in this country for thousands of years. True, even ancient Buddhist monarchs nurtured unholy motives of capturing and retaining political power through patricide and fratricide. But they did not engage Buddhism in a war against other religions, as the current regime is doing today. This is the tragedy in Sri Lanka. Buddhism has been politicized to such an extent that it is used as a cleanser of unpardonable crimes and a weapon to counter political challenges. Buddhist zealotry is used as cover to hide the regime’s gross mismanagement of the economy. The result is economic and social chaos. It is this chaos that had induced a whole generation of young, talented and skilled men and women, the most valuable asset of any country, to queue up in front of foreign embassies to get visas to migrate. They see nothing but despair and hopelessness in the chaos ruling here, and their decision is an eloquent testimony to the ruination caused by the current regime.

When, how and by whom redemption would come?

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

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Latest comments

  • 11
    11

    Dr Ameer Ali,

    You seems to be having a chip on your shoulder in relation to Modi Government in India. In your previous article, you referred to the destruction of Babri Masjid Mosque. That mosque was built by Mughal king Babur after demolishing a Hindu temple which was there at that location for many years. You seems to have conveniently forgotten this piece of history. The destruction of Hindu temple by Babur is cruel, dastardly and reprehensible act. The so called Hindutva Modi Government ( as you delightfully describe) has allocated 5 acres of land in Ayodhya for a mosque to be built and the government is providing all the assistance including financial help. Please get your facts right, don’t conceal any part of the facts or come out with garbled version in your tendentious writings.

    • 4
      0

      V P Singam

      What are the purposes of Hindu temple or Mosque?

      Is it to provide accommodation for homeless God(s)?

      • 4
        0

        Native, days ago Moragoda had discussion with RSS heads. Initially I thought to discuss Ukraine crisis bot now it looks like they were discussing Ayodhya matters. Lets wait to see what Ayodhya residents think when they vote this week in state elections.

        • 4
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          chiv

          “days ago Moragoda had discussion with RSS heads.”

          I also watched the clip.
          I wondered why anti Indian Morogoda is spending his time with RSS fascists.

    • 3
      1

      VPS
      Good to hear you again.
      Do you know the number of temples Raja Raja Cholan looted to raise funds for a temple to glorify himself?
      I can give you plenty on Saivaite cruelty to Jains, Buddhists and Vaishnavaites.
      Please check on the acts of religious intolerance against Muslims and Christians under Modi.
      *
      I have been critical of Ameer Ali on many a matter.
      But I know that the last thing he has is a ‘chip on his shoulder’ of the kind you imagine.

    • 3
      1

      V P Singam,
      There is nothing called historical facts or lies. Even now the lies have written as historical facts. In our country we couldn’t still find who master mind the Easter Bombing. History may be written that it was some. Muslim Terrorists who are part of ISIS bombed three Christian churches and 260 civilians killed and all terrorists were suicide bombers. Is it the fact? You may have heard that recently ministers, Monks, with Military and Police protection secretly in a night went and destroyed a Hindu Temple and established a Buddhist Temple. Why it is happened with this way? We all think that we are more educated, more cultured, more civilised but the truth is power greediness is much worse than the period of Kings and queens. This island was almost five centuries under the European governments. Now it is under the Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalists.

  • 16
    1

    President Gotabaya and his Saffron Brigade is an Unholy Alliance that is slowly but surely taking Srilanka to the brink of Disaster……………….

    • 2
      0

      Not so slowly, Plato. Who would have imagined that senior employees of the government would speak out with such little fear or restraint:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APZdqqDyGbU
      .
      I have an old motor-bike; getting petrol in Bandarawela doesn’t seem to be all that difficult, but I was wondering why there were such long queues for Diesel, and why there were guys with cans. Now I realise that there’s machinery of all sorts that people have come to depend on for a range of purposes.
      .
      I’m hoping that Dr Wijewardena, who wrote this article, will comment on how crazy this life of ours has become. Isn’t it partly because we are so obsessed by “innovation” that we are blind to the rise of dictatorships? (Sigh!) It’s so difficult to distinguish between causes and symptoms.

      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-future-of-the-agriculture-the-agriculture-of-the-future/

      .
      I can’t find another video that I saw which will tickle old codger no end: tuk tuk fellows saying that they will pump in Octane 95 from IOC sheds, and they’ll have to charge extra from their passengers.

    • 2
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      His capabilities are not it’s all cracked up to be . No doubt Dhammika paniya maker/ as another being controlled by kaliamma or Ghanakka/ could do lot more if elected by fake publicity.
      .
      I ve been waiting to hear bugger Gota /mandasena pulled the trigger at him not being able to come out of his permanent asylum room- Presidential office/ 🐃😌🐕🤔🤥

  • 8
    0

    Ameer Ali,
    You ask: When, how and by whom redemption would come?
    .
    You mar your excellent piece, (if not for the final para) with this futile question!
    .
    Redemption implies the action of being saved from evil.
    .
    In turn, let me pose a question.
    What hope one could have of a dreadful leadership producing men who could change their destiny!

    • 2
      0

      Dear Nathan,
      .
      Redemption should have happened OR better said started in the very first years after CIVIL war against nothern rebells were declared as ended.

      However, Mahinda Rajapakshe’s doggy administration did not allow it happening because his family greed to stay in power made him an ultra selfish man.

      Modayas (stupid marjority) adulated him on and on and his family for their so called victory, but to our eyes it should not have been named as such.

      In fact, they did not fight a war against other nations but against minority rebells. Yet today, srilanken govts have failed to thank Europeans, Americans, Australians and other developed nations to have supported and the lives of millions of srilankens that sought refuge on their soils.

      Main stream local media sowed the seeds of hatreds not thinking twice. This is the nature of srilanken media, which also paved the way high criminals to return power and ruin this nation.
      .
      Yet today, SRILANKEN main stream media dont seem to see it right. It will be too late if they ever take the very side of the PUBLIC and contribute hugely changing the public opinion against brutal Rajapakshe family.
      :
      I see something, that will be an imminent danger, but people should slowly realize how stupid they are.. not all but the majority. They cant let SINHALA BUDDHISTs MODAYAS to mislead them again and again.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxcxQifLJYo

      • 0
        0

        Dear leelagemalli,
        The saga of rebels is so complicated, let me skip it for now.
        You are correct. Mahinda Rajapaksa has hurt the country grievously.
        The injury caused by him is costing us our country.

  • 1
    0

    Sri lanka once described as the pearl of the Indian Ocean by Dudley Stamb a world reknown Googhapher ; had now been degraded into an island of poverty where people having only two meals a day, whilst politicians in power are unable to manage the bankrupt country and begging other countries for help. However, Rajapaksas are the worst punch of cheaters who took to power by spreadig racial and religous feelings on the majortiy communitiy, are now reaping their harvest.

  • 4
    1

    Another good article by Dr. Ameer Ali. I regret what they are doing to these mosques. However also remember that the island’s Muslims, who are really of Tamil ethnicity, until recently in the name of their religion and Arab culture, were openly siding with these Sinhalese Buddhist racists and fundamentalists, from the time of independence. Many Muslim MPS were hand in glove with the Rajapakses, especially in the Tamil east, where they were used by them as a tool to marginalize the Tamils who are the real indigenous population in the east and still the largest population. They were deliberately given a lot of power over the larger Tamil population and used this to marginalize the Tamils, destroy Hindu places of worship, one openly on Video boasting about this and Islamizing and Arabising the ancient Hindu east. In the north, it was no better. One Muslim MP/Minister who was given immense power was used to this to deliberately take over abandoned Tamil people’s lands, thousands of outside Muslims along the Wilpattu corridor, and other places where there was no record of any Muslim settlement, on the pretext of settling displaced northern Muslims.

    • 4
      1

      Around 62000 Muslims northern Muslims were displaced, however many Muslim politicians and organizations, saw this as an opportunity to flood the north with Muslims in many strategic coastal areas and the Vanni and claimed 200000-300000 Muslims were displaced and need to be settled and were going even canvassing many western nations and embassies with this fake figure. 62000, within 30 years, with births and deaths could not have become 200000-300000. Humanly impossible and many of these 62000 do not want to return.

      Many Muslim politicians and organizations saw this as an opportunity to flood the north with Muslims in many strategic coastal areas and the Vanni and claimed 200000-300000 Muslims were displaced and need to be settled and were going even canvassing many western nations and embassies with this fake figure. 62000, within 30 years, with births and deaths could not have become 200000-300000. Humanly impossible and many of these 62000 do not want to return. Many Muslim MPS were also seen visiting with many of these very same Sinhalese Buddhist fundamentalists and so-called Archeologists from the Archeological Department, these ancient to these ancient Hindu temple sites in the north that have now been forcibly converted to Buddhist places of worship, using fake concocted history, and the resources of the government and the occupying Sinhalese armed forces.

  • 1
    4

    “…could be a rich topic for a Doctoral thesis.”
    *
    What is so precious about a doctoral thesis or a PhD.
    I have seen plenty of PhD crap.

    • 3
      0

      Is that you? The PHD crap? I knew about being crappy but now realise just not crappy but a PHD crap.

      • 0
        0

        PK, typical of Prof. With just one liner our PhD made the rest look like 10 th graders. Ì love it. Even Trump will be embarrassed.

  • 2
    0

    SJ
    You have missed my point. What I indicated was the fact that Modi government allocated 5 acres of land in Ayodhya for the construction of a mosque, has been conveniently ignored by the writer Dr.Ameer Ali. Why he has failed to take cognizant of this act of magnanimity let alone appreciate it.
    Does such thing happen in Sri Lanka?

    • 2
      0

      SJ is right on this. What is your point VPS?? Someone demolishes your temple and offers land in Lanka and that is ok with you?? Govt did not, it’s the Supreme Court which allocated after negotiations between concerned parties. There is no magnanimity, the difference between Lanka and India is the SC. Does such thing happen in Lanka ? Hell No. It’s time you focus on your own issues and leave the Ayodhya to the voters.

      • 3
        1

        I also agree with you and SJ is right in this instance. Demolishing the Babri Masjid Mosque was a crime. It has been there for 450 years. They could have given the 5 acres of land to build the Hindu temple to mythical Rama and Seetha

  • 2
    2

    Native Vedda
    Please read my comments carefully. Did I say anything about the purpose of Hindu temples or Mosques? – No, not at all. So, why are you asking me such question.

    • 2
      1

      V P Singam

      Please re read my comment.

  • 1
    0

    Native Vedda

    I have. But you have not answered my question yet.

  • 1
    1

    Siva Sankaran Sharma

    Rama and Seetha could be mere mythical figures to you, but not to the millions pious Hindus all over the world. Anyway that is not an issue here. My point is why Ameer Ali is silent on the treatment meted out to minorities (Hindus,Christians & Shikhs) in Pakistan and Bangaladesh.

    In 1947, when India was partitioned, the Hindu population in Pakistan was about 24%. Today it is not even 1%. In 1947, the Hindu population in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was 30%. Today it is about 7%. Probably even less. In contrast, in India, Muslim population has gone up from 10.4% in 1951 to more than 14% today whereas Hindu population has come down from 87.2% in 1951 to less than 85% in 1991. See, how India is tolerant towards its minorities. Ammer Ali won’t say anything about these matters. Why?

    • 0
      0

      Vishvanath Prathap Singh commonly called VP Singh( Singam ) the seventh Primininster of India and was against the Babri Masjid destruction. I am aware of what happened to the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh and how their population drastically declined, due to forced conversion to Islam or deliberately chased away to India. Just like the way the Tamil population declined from 26%, at the time of independence to the current 15.4%. Due to killings, ethnic cleansing, and many Tamil communities down south and along the North West coast, forced to convert to the Sinhalese identity to survive. However, all this does not justify the destruction of the 450-year-old Babri Masjid, stating that there was an ancient Hindu temple there, which no one knows for sure.

  • 0
    0

    This is what the Sinhalese Buddhist Fascists are now doing in the north and east too. Deliberately concocting or misrepresenting history to convert ancient Hindu temples that have been existing for thousands of years to Buddhist places of worship, with the support of the government and the occupying Sinhalese armed forces. Do you support this too? Using the same principle. Are you aware that the Sri Lankan Highcommisioner is now courting the Hindu extremist RSS and they also entertaining him, as both support these so-called Aryan supremacist fascist ideas? The RSS only cares about the Vedic Aryan Vaishnavite Hinduism and not the more ancient Tamil Saivite Hinduism, which is an anathema to them. Caring only about the mythical Rama and Seetha trails in South Sri Lanka and not about the deliberate destruction of ancient thousands of years old Saivite temples in the north and east of the island by the Sri Lankan state and armed forces. Sri Lanka also courted Fascist Aryan supremacist Hindu extremist organizations, whilst destroying ancient Hindu temples in the North East of the island to deliberately erase the history and identity of the Eelam Tamils. Who are you? Their spokesman?

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