Colombo Telegraph

Can A Buddhist Monk Be Secular And Non Sinhala?

Response To Kumar David; Can A Buddhist Monk Be Secular And Non Sinhala?

By Nimalka Fernando

Dr. Nimalka Fernando

I am well aware of the intense discussions and debates taking place amongst professionals, political activists, trade unionists and among those who are shaken by the white collar corruption scandals and existence of the `SEC mafia’ re the future  political trajectory for the country.   Many platforms are raising issues of corruption, good governance, right to information, democracy, LLRC and the 13th amendment.  Most of these platforms are lead by civil society activists, religious leaders and do-good professionals.  I have also seen recently the emergence of a left kathikawaKumar even though I could have sent you a personal response to the article “Can Sobitha prevail where Fonseka failed?”  the matter you have raised has a national importance hence I decided to initiate a public debate for the good of mother lanka.

Your article, with the caption “Can Sobitha prevail where Fonseka failed?”  in a sense threw me as a political activists with a progressive tradition into an abyss.  I have no problem with Buddhist monks in politics. But, I was not aware that Rev. Maduluwave Sobhitha Thero is tipped to be the next opposition Presidential candidate, till I read your article. Are you suggesting that Ven. Sobitha should be the next “Common” presidential candidate against President Rajapaksa in 2016?

You have not nominated him directly. But there is such an implication. Am I wrong to come into such conclusion?  It looks as if you would like Ven Sobitha to contest with the expectation that he would abolish the Executive Presidency, set the motion for establishing a good parliament and then retire to his temple to practise Buddhism.

You have further adviced him.  Ven Sobitha has to ensure that he gets the support of the UNP.  You are then requesting the minorities to support Rev. Monk’s candidacy, because it is better for them to have a double chamber parliament with checks and balances. You have even gone to the extent of drawing similarities with what happened in Egypt.

Kumar have we as Marxists ever been involved in mathematical vote base justification in building our positions?  This is pure electoral manipulation with a very bizarre outcome for the future.  Even if we are desperate for change you and I know for sure it has to be transformative with substantial political agenda in it.  How would you respond if I juxtapose this statement?  If we know Mahinda Rajapakse well enough there is all probability that he would bring another amendment abolishing the Executive to creep back to the Parliament.  What next. MR will reign supreme again in another `avatara’

Can we do politics merely on personal trust and charisma?  You and I have gone along this path twice (at least I did once).   We believed in Chandrika and Mahinda.   But the bitter truth is personal charisma is only a superficial aura in politics without the in depth commitment to a vision for national reconciliation and for transformation of the present Sri Lankan state to herald in a new dawn for this country devoid of majoritarian authoritarianism.  Namely the next Presidential candidate has to come cloaked not in a saffron robe but with the hammer and sickle in his or her hand.  To thrash away chauvinism and national extremism and to plough the harvest of peace and goodness among all nationalities and communities of Sri Lanka.  Therefore we cannot get entrapped in personal trust politics.  I have nothing against Ven Sobitha thero personally. He has been a great fighter for justice. During my young days I have seen him supporting the long drawn nurses’ union struggle in the late 80s.  I was blessed enough to participate in few discussions along with other activists.  He also supported the anti-Ragama Medical College struggle of the GMOA at that time.

“And more important; I understand that Sobitha Thero is on record having made what I have called single-issue promises, but nowhere have I come across a single-issue type pronouncement from Judge Warawewa.”  Surely Kumar in politics objective conditions and alignment of forces matter more than individual performances.  Oh why do you drag in our retired Judge into this mud hole?

Also, I think taking Egypt‘s new president Mohammed Morsi as an example is also factually wrong. In Egypt, the people, mostly young men and women had settled the issue of presidency in the Tahrir Square more than one year ago in April 2011. That is when President Mubarak was ousted from power. After that also, there were lots of protests in Cairo demanding the military to hold elections and hand over power to civilian rulers. The youth actually paved the way for holding elections in June this year, for Morsi to contest and win as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.   We know that the Muslim Brotherhood party which is over 80 years old was banned during Mubarak period.  But they have worked in other front for a long period for democracy and human rights and has a mass influence. Morsi has given a face to this struggle.  He was not brought onto the stage because the dissidents or the opposition had no candidate.

I am sure you are not saying that we need a Sinhala Buddhist leader to develop the political consensus much required in the political opposition.  How will your argument to promote Ven Maduluwawe or Retired Judge Warawewa differ from the appeal made by Hon Karu Jayasuriya?  We know that there are groups and individuals who are actively nurturing   Sinhala Buddhist politics and such a representative to defeat the incumbent president Rajapaksa. Are you propagating radical Buddhist politics?  Are the objective conditions inSri Lankasame like in the middle-east?

First we all tried a war hero in uniform as a “Common” candidate with JVP, UNP and TNA, DPF and SLMC. Now you are trying to promote a Buddhist leader in saffron robes to defeat President Rajapaksa. But I have not seen JVP engaging in this promotional campaign.  I am not sure how the TNA and DPF would respond to your broad call.

I think we have to first underline the actual political challenges before us. Unfortunately we are going round and round the mulberry bush searching for leaders to ignite us.  While looking for candidates is a good thing, there is also the need to develop the mass consciousness to overcome Sinhala majoritarianism, deal healthily with Tamil nationalist politics, propagate real `politik’ of power sharing and a leader who would dare to say that this country has two nations while respecting rights of all other communities for equal share of power and resources.  It will be difficult to catch the `jinx of communal-religious politics’ once this is let out.  We have seen this with Mahinda. Do we want to repeat this?

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