By C.V. Wigneswaran –
A Colombo journalist asked; Sir! In recent times your comments about the Maha Sangha has created a negative situation among the Sinhalese. Is it wise to criticise the Maha Sangha?
My response is; I do not think my comments have created a negative situation. In fact, it has created a positive ambience. Lots of Sinhalese Buddhists themselves are now questioning the appropriateness of the pertinacious participation of Buddhist Priests in partisan politics. Since I am a Tamil Hindu I am in a better position to tell the truth since the Sinhalese Buddhists are reticent in this regard for fear they may be regarded as showing disrespect to the Sangha.I respect the ochre clothes even if the person wearing it is a known anti social element. The robes remind me of the Enlightened One even if the wearer does not live up to the standards expected of the Holy Sangha.
But actually the question of Buddhist Priests dabbling in Party Politics has been looked down upon by many important Sinhala Buddhist leaders as well as Bhikkus such as Dr. EW Adikaram and Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero. I had personal chats with them when they were living and had occasion to get their comments on the appropriateness of Buddhist Priests dabbling in Politics which were not complimentary to the Buddhist Clergy.
But as a Tamil Politician I am doing my duty. It is my position that the ethnic question in Sri Lanka is not getting solved because of the persistent interference by the Buddhist Priests in political matters. Actually a group of learned Buddhist Priests conversant in English or Tamil must have discussions with the Tamil Leaders to find out the difficulties of the North Eastern Tamil speaking people and why they ask for federalism.
Those Bhikkus who take part in demonstrations are quite ignorant and naive. They do not know the difference between decentralization and devolution, between a unitary constitution and a federal constitution. They do not know the history of their own language – when it started, when its first grammar book was written and so on.
When a Politician wants to sabotage the resolution of the ethnic question in Sri Lanka, the easiest persons from whom he could get the instant support to derail the resolution, would be Buddhist Priests. You only have to tell them that so and so is trying to divide the Country (Rata Bedenava) or so and so is a Tiger (uh Kotiyek) or so and so is a hand – maid of India (Indianu pandan kaaraiya) and they will immediately tuck up their saffron robes and take to the streets! No question of pondering on the correctness or otherwise of the statements made. They simply would explode like a Chinese fire cracker without understanding the real situation.
It is time our erudite Sinhala Buddhist leaders would call upon their government to bring about voluntary noninterference from among Buddhist clergy with regard to matters of importance to the Tamil speaking people or for that matter any minority group. Their exuberance coming out of ignorance and emotional instability has so far denied the Tamils their political solution starting from the time of the late SWRD Bandaranaike. Even if enlightened Sri Lankan Leaders promise certain benefits to the Tamils constitutionally, always it has been the interference by the Buddhist clergy that has denied the Tamils of those benefits.
The vast majority of Buddhist priests are being taught only Sinhala, Pali and Buddhist Civilisation. They are being lectured to by senior Buddhist priests whose knowledge too is limited.
When I started as the first Lecturer of Law in Tamil at the Law College, Colombo, I found almost all students at the end of the year repeated in their answer scripts what I had given to them as lecture notes. They hardly did any reference-reading because there were no books available in Tamil on Law at that time.
The senior Buddhist Priest lecturers today, themselves have carried what their Seniors had taught them. They had hardly done any research because most of these Buddhist Priests lack a knowledge of English and Tamil. Researches on Sri Lankan ancient history, researches on Tamil History, researches on Archaeology in India have all come out in English and Tamil. I wonder if these Buddhist Priest Lecturers have read them! The History of Sri Lanka of fifty years ago is no more valid in the light of latest researches.
I remember the late Attorney at Law SL Gunasekera referring to some portion of Professor Indrapala’s book written fifty years ago. In 2005 Professor Indrapala himself had corrected his old views in the light of new discoveries. Professor still lives in Australia and he has very clearly referred to the 3000 years old continuous history of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
How many Bhikku Lecturers are aware of the recent excavations done in Kiladi in Madurai District, South India? Like the blind leading the blind they continue to deliver lectures on archaic history. They may deliver good lectures on Buddhism but for the Samaneras and the young Bhikku monks to understand politics they must have a knowledge of Sri Lankan History, Constitutional Law and Economics. Without understanding the history of the Tamils in this Island how could Buddhist Priests make pontifical political speeches against the Tamils?
Their knowledge of the findings coming out of recent researches done by Professors and Research Students of the North and East is almost nil. Therefore their limited knowledge is not enough for them to influence the Politicians on what is right and wrong. Yet all Politicians even those who are not Buddhists dance to the tune of the Buddhist Clergy may be worried about their next election! The Buddhist Clergy must stop interfering with the administration of the Country.
It is true the Kings of yore obtained the advice of the Buddhist Clergy. But at time life was different. We did not have so many subjects to master. The questions by the Kings would have also been simple. Today the Buddhist Priests without understanding the History of the Tamils are advising the Politicians as to what should be and should not be given to the Tamils. Contrary to the teachings of the Buddha they are preaching discrimination and violence against the Tamils.
Someone has to bell the cat if this Country is to survive.If we do not look at things happening in this Country objectively and without an eye on the next election, the Buddhist Priests will go on ruining this Country. They will not allow the Country to prosper nor reconcile. I have taken up the task of belling the cat at my advanced age conscious of the consequences. It is high time right thinking persons from all Communities point out the dangers of active participation by Buddhist Clergy in affairs of the State. But certainly erudite Buddhist Priests could act as messengers of Peace between the South and the North East.
May I suggest that an English or Tamil speaking delegation of Buddhist Bhikkus meet our intelligentsia in the North in the first instance to find out what the problems of the Tamils are. Thereafter we could have inter communication between our Professors of History to share notes about the latest developments in History and Archaeology. At the same time we need to get the Sinhala Tamil Friendship Societies to arrange meetings between the two communities to meet each other at the grass root level.
Sending Human Rights Commissioners to the North would not give a correct perspective of the needs and feelings of the People nor their firm belief that any form of investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations must be with International input.