By Hema Senanayake –
The phrase “suspension of disbelief” or “willing suspension of disbelief” is defined as follows: “The willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable.” Or “sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.”
This phenomenon usually takes place in a movie theater. We know what we see on the screen of the movie theater is not real. If we believe that what we see is not real then we would not be able to enjoy the movie. Therefore in the movie theater, a special mental phenomenon takes place to enable us to enjoy the movie; that is, the viewer “willingly suspends the disbelief.” This was what we did when we watched the racist and mob like behavior of BBS in recent past; we willingly suspend the disbelief of the actions of BBS and the president might have enjoyed it until the image of the country is tarnished once again after the Black July of 1983, on the 15th Sunday of June. The movie was over; sadly with perish of many lives, mayhem and the destruction of property. Black July was re-orchestrated, in this time it was a Black-Sunday in June that happened under the watch of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In the recent past, especially after the wining of war we, the Sinhalese majority, I think including the President himself, perhaps excluding the Defense Secretary, behaved as we were watching a movie when comes to see the acts of BBS. We willingly suspend our own critical faculties and believe the unbelievable, i.e. BBS was no danger for communal harmony and BBS was playing an important role in the country. Now that behavior cost at least three innocent lives including one baby of a few months old. The country’s image was tarnished as was happened in Black July of 1983. On the black Sunday of June 15th, the war victory was turned around by BBS instigating Sinhalese to attack Muslims; many of the international community would have been convinced that this is not a country for minorities, ethnic or religious.
Increasing the damage done already, Gnanasara of BBS betrayed the country and Sinhalese once again when he said to the press that, “we are not a party to the violence and riots took place between Sinhalese and Muslim extremist.” He was telling the world that Sinhalese are extremists or there are Sinhala-Buddhist extremists in the country. The whole country rejects this notion, I think including minorities. But modern Sinhala-Buddhist extremism is a political project of a top administrator; and as we know from the world history, some political cannibals want “low intensity conflicts” to achieve their ambitious political goals no matter how bad innocent civilians suffer.
The president was proud when he say, “right to life is more important than any other right.” His gesture and facial expressions show that he really believed it. On the 66th anniversary of national independence he proudly declared what he believed on the freedom to live without any fear. He said;
“The Buddha gave a valuable lesson to the Brahman, Ambetta, based on a female bird named ‘keta kirilli’ commonly known in villages as Gomariththa (common wagtail). It is a bird that builds its nest in the soil that is overturned when ploughing. The Buddha said; “Latuki – kapiko Ambatta sake Kulawake Kamalapini hothi”. This means the keta kirilli too should have the freedom to live as it wishes in its nest. It should be the same for the Sri Lankan people. People in my country too should have the right to live freely in this country.” (President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaking at the 66th Independence Day celebration.)
Did he really mean this? Those who live in Sri Lanka and the international community now might think after the riots against Muslims that he really doesn’t believe on what he says. Let me think otherwise. At least a good majority of Sri Lankans including a good part of minorities believed that was what he truly believed. Then how did he not foresee the possible communal violence against Muslims which has been foreseen by many others, in view of the past actions of BBS.
Many professionals, writers and even Cabinet Ministers have warned that the actions of BBS might lead to a communal riot like what was happened in 1983. Even the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had foreseen about it. “During her visit to Sri Lanka in August 2013, and in her subsequent reports to the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner warned about the rising level of attacks against religious minorities and the incitement of violence by Sinhala Buddhist nationalist groups”. The danger was clear and real. But the president did not see or he was made to “willingly suspend the disbelief.” Who convinced the president to suspend the disbelief willingly?
There were no communal riots in Aluthgama until the BBS held its rally on Sunday the June 15th. In the rally Gnanasara thundered, “If any Muslim (his choice of derogatory word is “Marakkalaya) hands on any Sinhalese that will be the end of Muslims.” Immediately after the rally Sinhalese began what Gnanasara intimated. They started stoning, looting, setting fire on properties owned to Muslims and killing Muslims. Media was censored.
Well knowing the danger of allowing the BBS to hold a rally the OIC of the Police Station of Aluthgama wanted to stop the rally or at least to change the venue. It has now been reported that he was made to believe that “nothing will happen.” He being a reasonable officer might not have “willingly suspended the disbelief” but he had to “unwillingly suspend the disbelief.” Who made him to do it?
It has also been reported in some media that IGP was disturbed after hearing reports from his Officers in Charge of the situation in the area. Officers on the ground after explaining the situation have sought IGP’s advice to stop the BBS rally. In turn the IGP had sought advice from defense ministry officials. IGP too, it seems, was ensured that “nothing will happen.” He unwillingly suspended the disbelief. Who convinced or made him to do it?
I have no clear answer to any of those questions raised above as to who convinced all those responsible to suspend the disbelief willingly or unwillingly. But I can give you a clue; perhaps many people including cabinet ministers already have that clue. Recently, in an interview Hon. Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara had clearly said that the president is listening to his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa than anybody else. If he put the president into the suspension of disbelief willingly or unwillingly then he could have done it easily with IGP and other law maintenance officers on the ground in Aluthgama and Beruwala.
Also we know directly from Gotabaya Rajapaksa that he willingly suspended his own critical faculties and believed the unbelievable when comes to BBS and Gnanasara. He was the Chief Guest at the opening of Meth Sevana, the Buddhist Leadership Academy of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). In his speech Mr. Rajapaksa said that he decided to attend the event “after realising its timely importance”; according to him, “these Buddhist clergy who are engaged in a nationally important task should not be feared or doubted by anyone” (Sri Lanka Mirror – 10.3.2013); this is clear evidence for his “willing suspension of disbelief.”
Now, finally after the carnage and mayhem Gotabaya might still be in a mindset of “willing suspension of disbelief.” He might still be in the theater watching the movie but we the rest of Sri Lankans are not. The horrors created by riots are real for us, bad for the country’s image internationally.
Being unable to prevent a communal riot which was foreseen by many people is no small matter. To me, communal and religious riots are worst kind of them. Such riots show the level of civilization of the country. If I were Gotabaya, I would have resigned; this is my “willing suspension of disbelief”, because the country feels that if Gotabaya had resigned in the morning, the BBS would be history by evening and the country would be relieved in the night. Let us be honest and accountable for our actions especially in governance.