17 September, 2021

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Narrow Nationalism Can Unfairly Discredit Sri Lankan State 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Sri Lanka is currently being discussed at the level of the UN Human Rights Council along with notorious countries such as North Korea, South Sudan and now Myanmar after its military coup.  There is no question that it is unfair by the Sri Lankan people and the Sri Lankan state to be bracketed with such countries. This has happened due to the failure of successive governments to deliver on pledges made to address the longstanding ethnic conflict and to repair the psychological and developmental damage caused by the three decades of terrorism and war. The present UNHRC resolution refers back to the pledges made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2009 when UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon visited Sri Lanka at the end of the war.

Sri Lanka is today a different country to what it was a decade or more ago when the war was raging. A most significant feature of this change is the way in which people of different ethnicities and religions move together freely and without harassment in all parts of the country. There are exceptions, as there would be in any part of the world, but these are few and far between.  There is visible unity in diversity which the Sri Lankan state’s social welfare delivery system epitomizes. It reaches all sections of the people with some exceptions (Sathosa and Osu Sala are not in Batticaloa, for instance) and again, largely without any discrimination based on ethnicity or religion.

Last week I stood in line for several hours for a Covid vaccination and so had a good opportunity to observe the ethos of people when placed under considerable strain. The line was long and moved slowly and the sun was bright overhead. However, the queue system was generally respected, though the inevitable SUV with dark tinted glasses periodically made their appearance and swift departure. After three hours those of us still standing in line were told that the vaccine was only being given to those resident from that specific area and the rest should leave. There was subsequent argument and rethinking and finally those from other areas were permitted to stay, although in a lower priority line. There was no discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender.

Vested Interests 

There are other accounts of Covid vaccine queues and their travails. My experience was a positive one and reflective of what the Sri Lankan state can and must be to its people. Once those in line got through the gates, and there was no pressure to be a gatekeeper, the government staff were helpful to all. The soldiers inside were pleased to help the less literate citizens to fill in their forms.  It is therefore understandable that the state officials who are dealing with the UNHRC in Geneva are getting irate with those from the international community they see as portraying the country to be on par with North Korea. Unfortunately, there is also another side to the Sri Lankan state that is also in evidence, and which needs to become more fair-minded in its approach to dealing with controversial issues.

Last week a cause of extreme grievance among the Muslim population of the country was finally mitigated when the first Covid burials in nearly a year too place in a cemetery in the east. This was on land specially provided for that purpose by the local authority of Ottamavadi for the purpose of Covid burials. This offer by the local authority and its acceptance by the national health authorities averted a potential cause for future conflict that had been brewing due to the government’s insistence on a cremation-only policy. The cremation-only policy had also put Sri Lankan in an unfavourable international light as possibly the only country in the world to enforce the cremation of Covid victims.

The sense of grievance within the Muslim community in Sri Lanka was palpable and unified the community as no other issue would as it concerned their religion and their loved ones. This had the potential to become a festering sore in the body politic with the seeds of religious hatred ready to be planted and exploited by those who might have wished to set community against community for their own political benefit. The vested interests in keeping the issue alive was so strong that even ruling party parliamentarians were willing to openly contradict Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reassurance that burial would be permitted. This seemed to suggest that powerful forces wished to continue with the cremation-only policy notwithstanding its lack of support in science, religion and humaneness.

Nationalist Politicians 

The impression that there are forces within the government that are forces within the government that are opposed to any relenting on the cremation-only policy was strengthened when the government took more than two weeks to operationalize the Prime Minister’s declaration that Covid burials would be permitted. This was followed by the announcement that such burials would only be permitted on the islet of Iranaitivu off the northern coast. This small island has traditionally been inhabited totally by Tamil Catholics and is currently shared with a navy camp set up during the war. During most of the period of the war, the Tamil inhabitants of Iranaitivu had been displaced from their homes and could only return two years ago.

The selection of an islet for Covid burials to be performed so far from the main places of inhabitation by the Muslim community who were the primary affected population made no sense. It made even less sense when the place selected to place a graveyard was one totally inhabited by Catholics. There seemed to be a perverse desire to set one minority community against another, in a replay of the Easter 2018 bombing where Muslim suicide bombers specifically targeted Catholic and Christian churches and killed 250 of them.  In fact last week was significant also for the unprecedented Black Sunday protest by the Catholic Church against the inadequate investigation report on the Easter bombings which targets those who did not do enough to prevent it while saying nothing about those who masterminded the attack.

Fortunately, better sense has prevailed within the government and it has agreed that Covid burials may take place in Ottamavadi in the east, which is a Muslim inhabited area, and where the local authority has itself offered its land for burial purpose. It is noteworthy that the government decision to permit the burial of Covid victims has been accepted by the general public and there has been no public agitation against it. A conclusion that can be drawn is that the opposition to Covid burial was an artificial one with a political motivation. It was not due to prejudice against one community from within the general population, which is also borne out by the way in which Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christian, and the 19 or more other ethnic and religious minorities coexist peacefully with one another, until some nationalist politicians find it opportune to divide them. 

In considering constitutional reform at the present time, it may be relevant to consider the spirit of Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution under which Sri Lanka obtained independence to protect the country from the politics of narrow nationalism. The Soulbury Constitution prohibited the making of laws “that make persons of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions are not made liable; or confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions.” This spirit of non-discrimination and equality is present in the religious values that underpin our civilization. They need to be affirmed by our national leaders. This may be same where other national issues are concerned when policies favouring one community or denying another are promoted by politicians who espouse narrow nationalism thereby undermining the pluralistic values shared in the community and country at large.  

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Latest comments

  • 22
    1

    The burial took place just days before Geneva deciding ( voting) A typical story out of Lankan play book.. Going to Osusala and other salusala alone dosent mean national integrity. What comes out of Rajapaksas and their racist supporters gutter mouth matters. Pardoning and Releasing a court sentenced child murderer matters. Shooting point blank and killing surrendered civilians matters. Lanka has lot to relate with North Korea and Myanmar.

  • 17
    2

    From 1956 there were several pogroms against Tamils where thousands of innocent Tamils were killed, raped and their properties destroyed by Sinhalese thugs. Were they brought to justice by the governments? In fact in most of those pogroms against Tamils the security forces including the police force aided and abetted with the rioters!

    Impunity for crimes, especially massive crimes is acceptable to the rulers for several decades now. Even the Sinhalese society is indifferent to this perpetration of lawlessness by the security forces and the governments.

    How will you justify 6.9 million Sinhalese people voting to power the mass murderer Gota, who murdered Sinhalese and Tamils in large numbers, to lead the country?

    Sri Lankan state, its armed forces and the government are Sinhalizing the North East at an accelerated pace now. Tamil peoples’ protests are ignored by successive governments.

    The Sinhalese society has become decadent and immoral getting sadistic pleasure by inflicting pain on the minorities and grabbing their lands and temples.

    Sri Lankan state is lawless. The only forum available to Tamils to bring up their grievances for justice is in the UNHCR.

    Don’t feign Mr Perera as if everything is well in Sri Lanka.

    For 73 years Tamils have been undermined in every respect by the state and its rulers.

  • 12
    2

    I am intrigued by the following declaration(s) by Jehan Perera:

    ‘A most significant feature of this change is the way in which people of different ethnicities and religions move together freely and without harassment in all parts of the country’.
    .
    How genuine is this perception.
    .
    Even when the attention of the world is focused on Sri Lanka, if the situation in the country is tense, what would it be when the attention is removed.
    :
    ‘There was no discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender’.
    .
    If you truly understand how the virus spreads, is it even thinkable that the Covid vaccination queue could be subjected to such partiality.

  • 7
    0

    We live with family, friends and others in this world for mutual benefit. Why can our nation not do the same with other nations too for mutual benefit rather than rejecting and rebelling with pride than humility. That we need the global family has been amply confirmed with this global Covid19 pandemic, shaking everything that can be shaken except righteousness and justice of the ruling kings of the world. It is not war that we need to sell arms and hoard money, but peace and wholeness for all humans to live with food and provisions. Depopulating to control will never be a solution as this pandemic will show quite clearly. Already nations are helping each other. Ulterior motives of control with hidden wicked belief systems are not welcome, as it is our belief system which finally controls our behavior, whether good or evil.

  • 10
    1

    JP, are you asking that the UNHRC have a rating-scale for HR offenders? If you agree with what is on the UNHRC commissioner’s report, does a rating matter? Why aren’t you griping that the UNHRC resolution is not matching the severity that the commissioner’s report begs?

    It seems to me you too want to take the edge off the bitter truth and cut an underserving slack to the regime which has only eroded away much of the gains made.

    Your perspective on how better things are is heavily from the perspective of your own locality. Poor judgement to extrapolate!

    There too needs to be consideration of overt versus covert threats of the state against the segments under persecution when appraising whether SL is less worse than N.Korea/Myanmar/S.Sudan.

    The perspective of thousands in the North/Northeast is a far cry from what you’ve presented. For example; do you understand the draconian impact of your home and land being withheld by the state for 10+ years?

    Ground realities have to be acknowledged in their totality. The poetry of positives shouldn’t be to whitewash the urgent/dire needs of the persecuted who wait endlessly for equitable treatment and justice.

  • 1
    8

    Mr. Jehan Perera,
    .
    With all due respect real question we should ask is “Narrow” in who’s standards…..?
    .
    In who’s eyes it is Narrow “Nationalism”

    • 2
      0

      S. C. Passqual

      “With all due respect”

      Have you ever lived with or worked for Mafiosi?
      You have picked a phrase that is used by them?

      Are you working for them as run around boy?

  • 2
    12

    Mr. Jehan Perera,
    .
    With all due respect real question we should ask is “Narrow” in who’s standards…..?
    .
    In who’s eyes it is Narrow “Nationalism”…..?

  • 4
    12

    Every country is nationalist. The problem is Tamils do not have a nation to rule.

    Why not divide the island into 3 parts equitably and relocate people into these based on ethnicity? Everyone will have a nation and the chance to rule themselves.

  • 2
    13

    Dear Jehan

    Thank you.

    The last few sentences seem completely in contradiction to your earlier part of the article.

    As a man born and brought up in Karainagar we had a great country you described in earlier part of your article in the 70’s and on the way to be a first world Nation too.

    This was all violently brought to an end by the FP/TULF thugs who sold our “children” to foreign scums to be abused against their wish and had them vote too for a separate state mandate in the 1977 elections. Ever since this has been a unbearable struggle for the GoSL to retain the statehood.

    Now the help we need is “development work” to deliver social justice to all….not get dragged into any other Geo Political dirty deeds that we know of…..only UN activity left is to investigate Tamil Nadu/FP/TULF and all the killing in Jaffna from 1970-1977-1981 and then evaluate the need for the rest of the investigation following all the justice in the world all of us will support…because it is our land/language/culture/inheritance we are discussing as Sri Lanka that we all paid with our life to preserve/protect to date.

    • 1
      8

      If you arguing for these thugs to run the show in their ghettos because you do not want to bear the burden of the geo political mafia categorising/penalising SL then we have a problem…please do not sacrifice us to these thugs thank you.

  • 2
    13

    Wider and deeper nationalism is the way! After 30 years of Tamil terrorism and 2019 muslim terrorist attacks, minorities can’t be trusted anymore. When the time comes minorities (Tamils and Muslims of Tamil ethnicity) will come out and side with their mother land Tamil Nadu-India.
    /
    Just 20 miles off Jaffna, there are 90 million Tamils (estimated for the year 2020) and grows by a 1 million a year. And around the world, there is said to be 110 million Tamils.
    /
    There is something called “Indian expansionism”. 30% of Sri Lankans are of Tamil Nadu origin. So now Sinhalese have to drop the gullible village idiot attitude, and secure and strengthen Sinhala Buddhist race and Buddha Shasana in the new constitution. Buddhism should be the official state religion and Sinhala language should be the only official language. Otherwise minorities of Tamil Nadu origin will soon overwhelm 15 million Sinhalese with the help from Tamil Nadu/India.
    /
    If there is no risk at all in burying, then why is W.H.O providing body bags for corona deaths?
    Science and common sense say cremation is the safest.

    • 0
      4

      Be patient, Rome is not made in one day. Rajapaksa Dynasty (They will rule this country for at least 100 years) because now, Sinhalese Aryans know this country belongs to Sinhalese Aryans. Out of 225 Members of Parliament, nearly 200 MPS are Sinhalese MPs. The whole world knows now what is happening in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Fiji Islands. Another 20 years time no more Whites in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and no more Indians in Fiji Islands

  • 8
    2

    Jehan Perera
    SL may not be a North Korea or Myanmar yet but the way the country is heading, it will soon be. The war ended decades ago but are we any better off economically or socially? The country is more divided on ethnic & religious lines, the govt. is clueless on the pandemic issue, & economically, in the worst ever situation. Despite the initial strict 5 week continuous curfew (even boasting how better than in developed countries) & not allowing burials of COVID victims (only country in the world to my knowledge), the distancing rules are relaxed, the pandemic is now rampant & the vaccination process seems to be chaotic in your own words.
    There was no curfew in UK but enforced strict lockdown regulations which did not inconvenience the public very much with ‘essential’ shops open as before. Although, the regulations are now being eased gradually since there has been a significant drop in infections & deaths with mass vaccinations (average of 400,000 vaccinated daily), distancing precautions & social activities are still restricted, unlike in SL. Last week, I received a letter to book an appointment for the vaccination & had it on Sunday. There were no queues, no filling of forms & I was out in less than 10 minutes.

  • 7
    1

    J.P
    Here is one that you must take into consideration re SL Politics:

    Army crimes as revealed by Retired Army Officer in his 741- page book (Economynext 10-9-17 news)

    “Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that Gunaratne’s book published a day after he retired from the army last year provided “evidence” of war crimes committed by Sri Lankan forces while battling separatist Tamil Tigers.

    The 741-page “Road to Nandikadal” was a catalog of atrocities committed by government forces since the early 1980s, Samaraweera had said. Setting fire to homes of Tamil civilians, killing innocent civilians, and plundering valuables from homes under the guise of cordon-and-search operations have been listed by Gunaratne in minute detail.

    The minister said the language used by Gunaratne also indicated that he derived pleasure from seeing the death and destruction around him, and in his own words he had admitted that as an officer, he did nothing to discipline soldiers under his command.

    Gunaratne’s original army unit, the Rajarata Rifles, was disbanded for indiscipline and excesses, but Gunaratne himself escapes punishment according to his book and the unit emerges as the “mighty Gajaba Regiment.”
    (COLOMBO, September 10, 2017) “

    • 5
      0

      Dear Punchinilame:
      Here’s the link to the article you have cited;
      https://economynext.com/sri-lanka-generals-book-becomes-war-crime-dossier-fm-7234/

      There were many Kamal Gunaratne’s, and much worse.

      • 9
        3

        I was medico-legal officer in war zone in the early stages and thus a medical witness to war crimes committed by SL security forces on non-combatant Tamils. Government arranged ships to help transport goods looted by security forces from Tamil homes to the south. Mannar mass graves took place during my tenure, where Tamils including father Mary Bastian were arrested following a bomb blast outside Murunkan post office in 1984, and taken to Thalladi army camp at the site of CWE store and all have gone missing. When questioned late Athulathmudali sarcastically said father Mary Bastian had run away to India. Though there is blanket denial of crimes of security forces, everything is on record. Those apologists who say everything is well in Sri Lanka, wait till UNHRC sessions finish, when terror will be unleashed on Tamils. Jehan Perera is fast losing his credibility as a fair minded person who will speak out for truth and justice.

        • 2
          1

          Nothing more important than the eyewitnesses speaking out and sharing the frontline realities. Once is never enough. Needs to shared until it has served its purpose. Thank you Dr. G.S. for doing so.

          Your forewarning of what is to come post-UNHRC sessions is a prediction that I hadn’t come across before. I can only hope that those states supportive of the resolution, including the U.S.A., will ensure that such an unleashing of vengeance doesn’t come to fruition.

          • 1
            0

            Already it has started. Power outage was created, and in the darkness, files of land registry in Jaffna have been taken to Anuradhapura. Land ownership will be altered and land in Jaffna will be given to Sinhalese individuals and companies.

  • 8
    1

    Jehan PhD, in 2017, went to Geneva with Tilak Marapana to pull Lankawe out of UNHRC. The PhD Consulted the 4/21 Launcher, White Flag Murderer, New King to take Lord Naseby’s hand to defeat the Resolution 30/1. Now writing to fool everybody of what happened in Muslim’s burial. Old Nasty is the PM when the parliament passed to burn Muslims’ body. After the UNHRC’s Sitting 46 started, Old King wanted to use it against the King, who has been marginalizing Old Nasty for some time. So Old King, to put King in trouble, announced that the “Muslims Can Bury”, but did not describe the circumstances. When King’s side increased the bullying on Old King, Old King side interpreted the statement was only about “Muslims Burring” their bodies but not about Covid 19 cases. So far there is no denial of this in media from Old Nasty that “I meant only burring of the Muslims Covid-19 victim”. So all Muslim leaders, including the ones, Harris & Nazeer, who led Muslim MPs voting for 20A and destroying the whole country in order to seek permission to bury Covid 19 victims. Now Muslim MPs have sold the country to War Criminal Royals, under 20A, only to bury the Covid-19 victims. But how long this can last?

  • 5
    0

    After seeing the video clip of what happened to Ranjan today, it is beyond doubt the UN, UNHRC involvement in the country is absolutely necessary. Ranjan is a Sinhalese person; He is hero of many Sinhala and Tamil Movie goers’. If he is being treated like that in public, Tamils’ story need not to taken to count. It is time for Buddhist Sinhalese to act.

  • 3
    5

    No Matter what you choose to read in Sri Lanka , which social platform you step on, it seems filled with total negative attitude, it’s nothing to do with majority or minority, it is somehow, something regretfully deeply rooted in all of us as Sri LANKAN.

    All you read , is full of hate for each other and complaints ,.Not one single line of forgiveness and reconciliation.

    It’s hardly 2 years and people want regime change .

    People must not play into politics of the opposition.

    Leave politics and law to deal with their own Thing.

    Compare the positive side of this government leader’s initiatives with the previous.

    Look how clean the Country has become since they took over, the entire Colombo, especially fort, it use to smell so bad, garbage dumped everywhere, even near tourist hot spots ,by the beaches of Mt.lavania,open racism and bigotry , even a. accident on the road between a muslim and Sinhalese ended up in almost an Islandwide riot and as usual the UNP did nothing to end it for days , never punished those responsible.

    Hardy any beneficial developments.

  • 3
    5

    Black magic, witchcraft and other superstitions have great risks.

    But it can never be banned , because for many , not just Buddhists and Hindus , even for Christians , Chatholics and large segment of Muslims, especially the Malay community , Borhas and other Moors , especially who recognise their creed as Sufism, Withcraft is considered apart of Religous traditions and beliefs it is obvious these superstitions have been adopted by these people through generations.

    The only alternative is to consider Medical Anthropology , it should be considered to be implemented through a legal system, where a SORCER is required to treat his clients along with side by side with medical professionals.

    That is the only solution, while Sorcery is a huge source of income to those who practice it, it is also considered Godly and sacred by Buddhists, Hindus , Chatholics , Christians ( of cause by those who indulge in it , but the numbers are very large) Borhas and Malays consider superstition and black magic very real and powerful and only possible to be ward off by sorcerers.

    So Medical Anthropology must be adopted asap , so that the sorecerors can be brought under surveillance of Medical experts.
    ,Such a decision can help avoid future incidents like the case of the pathetic death of the 9 year old child and yet not denying their right to practice their rituals and maintain their livilihood.

  • 2
    2

    To add little more to the above ,
    It is also important for medical experts not to try to use science to raionalise or discredit black magic with patients or the Magicians/witch doctors , as it’s extremely sensitive,.because it’s has become a part of each ones religion, I been quite shock to hear the deep belief A large segment of Muslims have in it , and realised not to criticize or try to reason with people who believe in it anymore, as the repercussion can be very harmful , like with any beliefs.

    It’s best doctors consider the part of the sorcerer’s rituals as placebo and monitor the patient , as long as the rituals are not harmful to the nervous system or cause physical abusive, it is okay.
    ==========.
    Psilocybin also known as MAGIC mushroom has been used by ancient witch doctors on their patients, I am not sure if it is used in Sri Lanka too.
    It puts the user on a temporary trip , up to date there are no medical evidences of long term damage to the brain, and in fact Scientist are currently doing a clinical research on it,as they believe it could be more effective, if it is used as a medication to treat depression, but only if it is approved by scientists and goes through the normal process of becoming an approved medicine.

  • 0
    0

    Jehan Myanmar has become another Lanka. The Junta made up charges against Aung saying she hid 6 kg gold and half a million cash in US dollars without any evidence, that too after her party won recent elections with clear majority. How convenient.

    • 0
      0

      Netizen, I get it. Just curious are you on Psilocybin or psilocynin ?? When consumed people may “hear colors and smell the music notes” says the pharmacology book. Your vivid description of current situation/ anduwa matches. ( look at the beach and smell of Rose’s instead garbage on street ). I guess you didn’t notice the decapitated body in Armour street.

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