By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
In his penultimate photographs, 12 year old Balachandran Pirapaharan glances away from the camera. The empty look in his averted eyes, the slump of his plump young shoulders speaks of defeat and of a loss which is beyond hope, and beyond fear.
He is alone, he is helpless and he knows that.
Unlike his older brother and sister, Balachandran never joined the Tigers, never bore arms against the Lankan army. If he was executed in cold blood, it was not because of anything he did, but because of his ethnicity and parentage. It’s collective punishment taken to a brutal barbaric extreme.
If Colombo ordered Balachandran’s execution, then there is something toxically rotten in the state of Sri Lanka. If we, the Sinhalese, are not affected and outraged by the possibility of such a crime, or if we lack the courage to condemn it, then we are a nation lost. We will not know peace or development. We will look on apathetically, as other fanatics commit other crimes in our name and push this already bloodied land from one violent crisis to the next.
And the last laugh will belong to Vellupillai Pirapaharan.
In Sri Lanka, protests outside embassies happen only with the active participation or the tacit consent of the Ruling Rajapaksas.
Three days after the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) had its incendiary meeting in Maharagama, its partner organisation Sinhala Ravaya (SR) marched from the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre to the Iranian Embassy. ‘Our discontent of (sic) banning Buddha Statues in Iran’, screamed hand-drawn placards while printed ones in Sinhala claimed that by banning Buddha statues, Iran had ‘insulted the Buddhist world’.
But Iran has not banned Buddha statues, according to Saeed Jaber Ansari, Secretary of the Headquarters for Supporting and Protecting Cultural Works and the supposed author of the ban: “Unfortunately, my remarks have been misinterpreted… I just meant the illegal imports of certain cultural works and items and in violation of the customs (rules and regulations). From our point of view, disrespect for the beliefs of other regions is unacceptable” (FNA – 20.2.2013).
Iran is a key ally of the Rajapaksas; Tehran came to Colombo’s rescue time and again with weapons and oil, at concessionary prices. All Colombo had to do was to check with Tehran about the supposed ban. Instead, a molehill was turned into a mountain; and the SR allowed to demonstrate against a key ally.
Are the fanatics beyond Rajapaksa control? Do they represent an independent power bloc which even Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is loath to antagonise?
If the Rajapaksas are still in control, why are they allowing BBS and SR to sow the seeds of a religious conflict nationally and antagonise a key ally internationally?
Perhaps the answer to this question can be gleaned by examining what issues BBS and SR focus on and which ones they ignore.
BBS and SR (and JHU) never protest against the dispossession of Sinhala-Buddhists, when the expropriators are the Rajapaksas.
For instance, these self-declared guardians of the ‘Sinhala nation’ were mute about the violent eviction of Sinhala-Buddhist villagers of Ragamwela and Shastrawela, in Ampara; or about the destruction of 200 acres of chenas belonging to Sinhala-Buddists of Panama.
Defending the Sinhala inhabitants and the Buddhist heritage of the East is said to be a paramount task of BBS-SR-JHU types. So why the reverberating silence about the dispossessions and evictions in Ampara? How come these eternal vigilantes are not up in arms against the Navy’s bulldozing of the ancient Samudra Giri Vihayara in Ragamwela?
Why are BBS and SR silent about the Rajapaksa plan to hand over the Norochcholai plant to the Chinese? Will they march on the Chinese Embassy in protest?
What about the selling and leasing of prime lands in Colombo to foreigners? Where are the defenders of Sinhala patrimony?
Why the silence about the plight of the Sinhala Buddhist victims of child abuse and rape? Is this all important issue of no concern to the BBS/SR because Sinhala Buddhist children and women are being victimised not by Muslims or Tamils but by Sinhala Buddhist men?
The JHU-BBS-SR types are cautious about what and who they criticise. They are yet to oppose the excesses of the Ruling Family; they have nothing to say about corruption or inflation. They vanished into the woodwork during the impeachment.
When Sinhala interests are being undermined by the Rajapaksas, when Sinhala-Buddhists are being victimised by other Sinhala-Buddhists, the JHU-BBS-SR types remain dormant and mute. They become virulently vocal and offensively active only when they can scream against this or that minority.
Until about a year ago, their main enemy happened to be Christians. They screamed about Christian conspiracies and charged that Christians were trying to convert innocent Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims by unethical means.
Suddenly, inexplicably, they changed tracks. The Christian enemy is a thing of the past. Now their Satan is a Muslim. He eats Halal food, practices polygamy, breeds incessantly and plans to takeover Sri Lanka!
Dinesh Gunawardane is a Sinhala Supremacist, albeit one who retains some sanity. When the BBS’s planned Maharagama meeting was discussed in cabinet, he had wanted it banned. The President reportedly disagreed, claiming that leading BBS monks assured him that they do not have an anti-Muslim agenda.
Is the President being duped? If so, a passing look at the BBS Facebook page or its You Tube videos will enlighten him.
Or is he the organ-grinder for the BBS’s Dance Macabre?
This time last year, anti-Americanism/Western imperialism was the Zeitgeist. Washington was readying to present a resolution on Sri Lanka at Geneva. The resolution asked for the time-bound implementation of LLRC recommendations and the Americans invited Sri Lanka to participate in the drafting process.
The Rajapaksas acted as if they were being ordered to succumb to colonial-subjugation or condone territorial-decapitation. Geneva was turned into a life-and-death battle. The Siblings expressed willingness to sacrifice their lives to defend the country from an American invasion; ministerial acolytes screamed their determination to ride the same tumbrel with the Siblings all the way to the guillotine. Demonstrations against the West and the UN became a daily occurrence.
This year the regime seems to be ignoring Geneva, almost. Though Washington is drafting a follow-up resolution on Sri Lanka, there will be no mammoth delegations or organised-hysteria.
Colombo has other, bigger, concerns.
Today Islamophobia is the Zeitgeist. The demonstrators target not Western invaders but Muslim encroachers.
With the Tiger defeated, the Rajapaksas have no more use of Lankan Muslims. Thanks to anti-Iranian sanctions, Colombo has very little to gain from a special relationship with Tehran.
The Rajapaksas have their own brand of deranged-logic, dictated by their power-mania. Are they trying to conjure an Islamic enemy as a patriotic cover for their repressive rule and their oppressive economics? Are they promoting the myth of an Islamic threat to win an entrée into the West?
Are we going to sleepwalk behind these demented Pipers, to a new doom?