28 November, 2020

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Our Fairy Tales And An Explosion Of Religious Hatred

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Not even during the entire three decades of the war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government troops has communalism and race hatred been displayed so openly by Government protected groups of men wearing yellow robes as in these most unhappy times.

BBS being let out like a genie from a bottle

During that period, churches were not attacked and kovils were not robbed. Obscenities were not openly screamed by rabid forces like the Boddu Bala Sena (BBS) against Muslims and Christians. Ironically it was only after the ending of conflict in 2009 that the gathering of religious extremist forces came into their uncouth splendor, crawling out of the woodwork as it were. Even brave Buddhist monks of the true discipline who oppose them are not spared. And interestingly while the BBS was silent for a period leading up to the vote of the Geneva based United Nations Human Rights Council, they were no doubt let out like a particularly unpleasant genie from the bottle this week.

Scarcely had the rejoicing over the Sri Lanka multi-ethnic cricket team’s victory in the T-20 finals subsided, when a group of monks led by the BBS General Secretary Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera stormed a press conference at a Colombo hotel where a strong critic, Watareka Vijitha Thera from Mahiyangana was holding a press conference with others. The purpose of the press briefing was to explain that illegal resettlement was not being carried out within the Wilpatttu National Park by Northern Muslims who had been chased out by the LTTE.

Covering up a multitude of sins

But the Government protests in righteous indignation that religious minorities are not being targeted by extremist forces before the Geneva based United Nations Human Rights Council. Laughably, it points to constitutional provisions ensuring the right to religious freedom. These and other fairy tales, dealt with in these column spaces last week, are not hitting their target this time around however. The Government’s massive propaganda machine which had been successful in covering up a multitude of sins under a cloak of lies and bluster is slowly but surely failing in its task.

Protestations of religious pluralism sound extremely unconvincing when, in practice, the reality encompasses rampaging BBS monks openly victimizing religious minorities with impunity. Even at this week’s threats by the BBS aimed against another monk, the police were unable to afford effective protection. Later and predictably, it was reported that the BBS was called to give a statement by the Slave Island police on a complaint made by the abused and clearly shaken Watareka Vijitha Thera. We all know however what will happen to the outcome of these ‘investigations.’

Not sporadic incidents

In its response in Geneva, a sanctimonious claim is made by the Government that attacks on religious minorities are only ‘sporadic’ and that ‘whenever credible information relating to incidents has been made available’ it has ‘taken appropriate action’ (see paragraphs 30 and 33 of the Government response to the report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/HRC/25/G/9). It also takes the curious position that such ‘sporadic incidents’ anyway occur in any society that is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious and that Sri Lanka should not be unfairly judged on that basis (ditto, paragraph 35).

But the External Affairs Minister who appears to have forgotten basic tenets of law and the Government which he so badly represents should be reminded of certain crucial factors that cruelly distinguish Sri Lanka in this regard. First, the incidents are not sporadic. Rather, there is a dangerous political scheme that is becoming more and more apparent in these manifestations. They emerge at particularly apt periods and then retreat as suddenly as they come.

Second, it is not an answer to cite that only a few make official complaints and that therefore, the police cannot proceed (ditto, see paragraph 30). Such childish games at covering up the truth truly beggars belief. The fist principle of the law is that any offender of the law should be dealt with by the law. The threats and obscenities leveled by the BBS are recorded for full viewing by the Government. In certain instances, some brave complainants have in fact, come forward.

What are the punishments?

It is no answer to say merely, as the Government has done, that cases are proceeding or that some have been concluded. The question is, what are the punishments meted out to these offenders of the law? It is a joke that when the existing law cannot be implemented properly, Cabinet Ministers like Vasudeva Nanayakkara who has metamorphosed into a veritable caricature of himself can indulge in fantasies of new laws against hate speech.

There are those who protest that reports of such religious extremism are vastly exaggerated. Such complacent souls should embark on a cursory web search which would throw up enough and more recordings of BBS threats against religious minorities, using language that can only come from guttersnipes and hopeless inebriates. The question is that this group is so powerful that it can even attack Cabinet Ministers in public threatening them with bodily harm.

A lamentable reality

The fact that these threats are recorded on tape and broadcast for the world to see, is immaterial. Indeed, the BBS can threaten hosts and producers of television stations who, to the limited extent possible today, expose their leaders. It can threaten to disrobe Muslim women wearing their traditional dress. It can even threaten to disrobe moderate Buddhist monks who oppose the BBS. In fact, as Watareka Vijitha Thera quaintly but tellingly posed the question some month ago ‘I am not sure why the BBS is so intent of pulling the clothes off everybody.’

The point is that the BBS can engage in such abhorrent behavior undeterred by the law. Cabinet Ministers threatened by the BBS have to grin and bear it.

Such is the lamentable state of government today.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    The author blames the Buddhist monks for the ills within Sri Lanka. True, that some behave most ignobly, and a few even criminally. Shenali Waduge is equally adamant with some justification, that the Christian priests are to be blamed, not just the Tamil priests who have been in the news.

    Muslim and Hindu priests as yet are deemed innocent. How long will it remain so, looking at the rest of the world.?

    As for the offenders being dealt with by the law, that is our expectation, but we’ve seen recently British diplomats (both in India and Sri Lanka) interfering at the highest levels in police matters, in protecting a Canadian alleged drug smuggler.

    • 2
      1

      Dear Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

      “Not even during the entire three decades of the war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government troops has communalism and race hatred been displayed so openly by Government protected groups of men wearing yellow robes as in these most unhappy times.”

      This is what Prophet Karl Marx said in the 19th Century. he was thinking primarily about the Judeo-Christian religions. He was ignorant of Buddhism and Hinduism.

      While it is not correct to put the blame entirely on Sinhala Buddhism, or rather Monk Mahanama “Buddhism”, and its imaginations, it is the new exploitation by the neo-Sinhala Buddhist racists, after SWRD Bandaranaike, that they are exploiting.

      How do you confront con artists?

      You expose them.

      Yes, Expose the con artists, the con politicians.

    • 2
      1

      Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena ,

      “The author blames the Buddhist monks for the ills within Sri Lanka. True, that some behave most ignobly, and a few even criminally. Shenali Waduge is equally adamant with some justification, that the Christian priests are to be blamed, not just the Tamil priests who have been in the news. “

      The data supports that. Thomas Jefferson recognized that 230 years ago. Karl Marx wrote about it. Religion is the Opium of the Masses. The priests and Monk are exploiting this imagination. and sell promises of after life.

      This was long recognized by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, the American Revolution , the French Revolution and by Turkey, Kamel Ataturk.

  • 3
    0

    Gnanasara the Violent’s actions are condemned by most people who feel that it is time the President steps in. But he does not. In Sri Lanka’s recent history it is seen that many Heads of State baulked at taking action during times of strife because they did not have the courage. Bandaranayake, Dudley Senanayake, and JR are good examples. We see the same situation with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Despite his braggadocio he just does not have the spine.

  • 2
    1

    Mr. Ram
    It is obvious you are not a “Ram” but a rabid Sinhala Buddhist. Why else would you drag in priests of other religions into this when there is not a shed of evidence against them. So if you can find a flaw in some British law enforcement , do we have to allow Buddhist thugs to rule our lives. Is that how you justify the actions of your priests who are are a disgrace to Buddha,an Indian saint.

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