16 July, 2024

Blog

Sangha-Led Buddhist-Tamil Dialogue Takes Shape

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Some readers may recall that about six months ago I reported in this column that a group of Sangha (Buddhist monks) had taken the initiative to visit Europe and the UK and meet Tamil activists of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) as well as other groups and gone on to Washington where they had held discussions with US Government officials. In their view “Enough is enough”: A stop has to be put to mad communal butchery in which thousands of lives are sacrificed every few years. They opined that the Buddhists as the senior partner who hold the whip-hand must take the initiative to end this state of affairs. Upon returning to the Island they took their case to the higher councils of the Sangha, the Mahanaykes, and received encouragement. Under the name “Sangha for a better Sri Lanka” they have now launched a “Road Map for the Development of a National Conversation”.

Their continuing efforts has become broad based and evolved into a nationwide Road Map, an action plan. Many distinguished persons in public life have undertaken various tasks under the Road Map.

The tasks envisaged in the Road Map include;

* Forming 25 coordinating committees

* Establishing interfaith coalitions

* Identifying and meeting youth groups and small groups of opinion makers

* Probing the possibility of securing multiparty political endorsement

* Establishing mechanisms for interacting with State (Government) policy makers

* Sustaining the support of foreign governments

* Engaging the support of Sarvodaya and National Peace Council for grass-roots level work

* Seeking the additional support of South Africa, India and China

* Creating a Secretariat

This is an ambitious set of tasks and Sri Lanka expects that every man and woman will to do their duty.

Dangerous Directions

However, there are also dangers. I have in mind the ever present possibility of a reactionary Buddhist extremist backlash. What concerns me is not the opposition of irresponsible reactionaries but rather the possibility of injudicious missteps by the left, that is, the JVP and the NPP. There are two sides of the matter to be concerned about. The JVP cannot be described as a movement with a powerful and credible reputation of opposition to racism as one would expect from a left party. This goes back all the way to Wijeweera, the JVP’s violent opposition to the Thirteenth Amendment and the antics of the Somawansa period. Even now the JVP prevaricates on devolution of administrative powers, the return of properties grabbed (and trashed) by the military and treatment of Muslims by Sinhala extremists in some areas. I suppose asking the JVP to make a commitment to the devolution of power at the present time is a waste of time as it seems unwilling to stand against populist nationalism.

The JVP’s flirting with the military is quite shocking considering that under the Ranasinghe Premadasa and JRJ presidencies as many as 60,000 youth, mostly JVP cadres, were massacred by the military. This lends credibility to the theory that faith and ideology have a greater hold over the human mind than logic and material self-interest. For example Israel today is on road to the destruction of the God given “Promised Land” as a Jewish state because a majority of its people cannot reconcile themselves to a contiguous Palestinian State. Israel as a Jewish outpost in defiance of a sea of Arab and Muslim lands is surely a time limited project.

Does the ingrained emotional grip of a Sinhala-Buddhist psyche inherited from birth (I am inclined to say, metaphorically and culturally from before birth) dominate the minds of some JVP leaders? Otherwise how explain the ideological hold of Sinhala-Buddhist piety over purported Marxists? Are they only playing the game of power politics, ready to dump all this mumbo-jumbo when the time comes? I am not sure. For example how many will openly declare themselves as atheists or agnostics?

This is complicated by the absence of a clear and unequivocal commitment to democracy in the NPP programme. I am referring to democracy in the conventional sense; a commitment to regular elections and an assurance of change of government by elections. Call this bourgeois democracy if you will – indeed it is – but it is also an absolute minimum that is essential in modern times. I call upon the NPP to issue such an assurance before people loose trust in it.

For a balanced assessment of the present international context click here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 8
    5

    Are you in Singapore, Hongkong, Australia, Langkang……..
    Last week you were the common candidate in the NPP. This week you write this. Amazing! This is what one calls a true communist duplicity. Today only you were enlightened that 60, 000 JVPyers were killed by the Rapist Army, but Anura turning out to be the Stalin of that Army, today?

    At the end of the journey, you too have joined the Kooli Padai? Anyway, what were you foretelling about in your essay, appeared in CT 6 months ago? I didn’t see that, though I have seen many’s foretelling that Tamils’ future in Language will be effectively ended by Evil by an unintelligible, undefinable master game. Before Evil brought the Internet Unsafety Bill, separately, he threatened that anybody who would talk against his Monster Child VAT18, would be prosecuted. I have been having some internet troubles here in New York, after I openly opposed the Multimillion-dollar Multinational game Suren Surendran has started with some Bald Heads’ blessings. (But I didn’t know you too were in that). Today CT links reports that it is forbidden in the US. I am having difficulty in reaching CT today.
    Does that have any connection with your new enlightenment? The link you have provided at the end of the essay tells me it has no homepage. Was it a fake link without a homepage?

    • 1
      10

      Mallaiyuran, Yours is a special kind of cooking!

      • 1
        10

        When short I walk; When not, I run!

        • 4
          1

          “When not, I run”
          Nathan,
          Only walking? Sounds like watching your weight. Good, stay healthy and live long. But not (running)that fast. You might have seen in the media what happened to Sanath Nishantha? Anyway, 150 m/h is not walking or running, but road racing. Puttalam to Colombo is too long to swallow even for ministers (, especially for Langkang’s Slap Party Ministers). Nishantha because he fattened himself too much with Old Rowdies’ cooking, he ended up like this. Did you hear about Suriya Chari when he was returning from giving the Old Rowdy’s Kappam(Tribute) to Leader Pirapaharan? Now Tiran Alles threatening anybody doing crimes will be punished, including Old Rowdy, Hitler King……without considering their authority. Tiran will be safe anyway! Accidents happen, I agree. But no fear, I do not use egg or even peanut in my foods! So, recommending just walking through everything and tasting it with tip of the tongue. Even enemies evaluate it as entertaining!

          • 2
            1

            This is a delaying tactics and hoodwinking exercise to take off the pressure from Geneva Human Rights body. Ranil sought help from Eric Solheim and Cyril Ramaphosa on this matter, and this Himalaya declaration is the outcome, financed by Norway and supported by South Africa. When no self respecting Tamil overseas will go anywhere near it, they had to get financially and politically bankrupt people on board. GTF was abandoned by Tamils in UK after their betrayal during Yahapalana regime. I hear Canadian Tamil Congress has split on this issue. Therefore those Tamils on this program have no mandate. Forming of committees and planing road maps are empty ventures. There is no mention of the basic demands of Tamils regarding autonomy. Except a few, rest of Sinhalese are not in favour of sharing land and power with Tamils in a just and effective manner. Six months ago, Ranil appointed a Sinhala person to start the process of reconciliation, who wanted one year to set up the mechanism, but nothing has been heard about it. These fraudulent methods will not go far.

    • 6
      0

      “I suppose asking the JVP to make a commitment to the devolution of power at the present time is a waste of time as it seems unwilling to stand against populist nationalism.”
      Coming from a member of the NPP, I suppose we have to take that statement seriously. Those who claim in this forum that the JVP will magically cure all our ailments, please take note.

      • 4
        0

        OC,
        they would hardly respond to our questions, letalone talking a commitment to the devolution of power.
        .
        Btw, this below video I came across just now. Who funded that trip of RAJAPKSHEs if not tax payers.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSkG-GEQY30

      • 2
        1

        old codger
        “But, NPP has to promise National Reconciliation for it to win the Election”.
        (My comment under ‘RW, IMF & The Economy’, by Ameer Ali.)

        • 6
          0

          Nathan, LM
          No politician who promises to raise taxes or cut subsidies will get elected.
          No politician who promises concessions to the minorities will get elected.
          The JVP is just another set of politicians. They want to get elected.

          • 5
            0

            OC,
            These should be taught to our “most naive Bandarawela JVP loyalist”. He should open his eyes even wider, if not today, then when?
            This could be the reason why JVP-NPP does not address these issues in their public speeches.
            -nevertheless they make every effort to JVP-NPP to be the panacea to all of our complex issues.
            We have learnt lessions. Gota was an empty vessel in many ways. However, srilanken mlechcha media inflated himt o be the panacea and let 22 millions in astray. World experts should interfere and help srilanken people to become rational thinkers.

            1) They Do NOT say a single word against the shaved-head uncles, regardless of whether they are the cheapest recruiters for Rajapakshes parades – JVP believes if they would outloud it, they will loose the voters.
            .
            2) They dont Say a single word about how they would bring about reforms so that long-standing ethnic problems are finally solved in a sustainable way; nor do they talk more about ” srilankeness” to all. Are they too sinhala racists ?These are not pronounced by them, erasing the fake image, that the minotiries have set on them.
            .
            3) They dont utter a single word about how they would migically create a “dollar rain” to cover the $50 billion or more in debts.

      • 2
        0

        oc
        It is in the Trotskyist tradition to learn everything the hard way.
        Comrade Bahu was fooled twice, that was after being almost killed by a JVP gunman.
        Much later, and after criticising Bahu for his folly, Kumar David wooed the JVP for a long while and then recklessly put his foot into it.
        A faction of the LSSP joined the NPP and now has its doubts, but will not utter a thing in public.
        One can support the JVP without illusions, more importantly not giving the public any illusions.
        That will be honest. More honest will be to tell the public the risks involved.
        The JVP will not offer any bonuses for honesty, but a serious Marxist cannot sell his soul.

  • 4
    8

    The proposed road map is clueless about the class interests that operate in keeping the national question in a confrontational mode.
    * Seeking the additional support of South Africa, India and China for what?
    India seeks South Asians hegemony.
    China will not meddle.
    South Africa? It lost all interest long ago.
    .
    * Engaging the support of Sarvodaya and National Peace Council for grass-roots level work
    So it is Sarvodaya to the rescue?
    Does not this suggestion tell us something about the lighthearted nature of the ‘roadmap’?

    • 0
      6

      Part 1: Jaffna and Hindutva
      I have been noting Hindutva take-over of Jaffna for some time. Around the middle of December a Pastor K. Muareetharan (the husband of GA Batticaloa) and another Pastor commonly known as David Uncle as Coordinator, had planned a large gathering for training Pastors. They had booked the Jaffna Public Library and a follow-up event at the Sarvodaya Hall in Trinco.
      They later confirmed the bookings with the Jaffna Public Library before printing notices. The Library had asked for a formal request addressed to the Municipal Commissioner. But 4 or 5 requests to the Municipal Commission went unreplied.
      Then out of the blues after many arrangemnts had been made based on verbal confirmation by the Public Library, the Municipal Commission wrote declining the request stating that they do not give the hall for religious or political events whereas I have seen political events being hosted there. Indeed, this was a meeting to train pastors who were coming from all over.
      As complained to me by Pastor Kirubai of Trinco new notices were printed with new venues pasted over the old. As David Uncle tells me, sensing from the long delayed response from the Municipal Commissioner, a deep-seated Hindutva opposition to a Christian meeting was felt. And not wishing further disruptions, the Sarvodaya Hall meeting was also shifted to a new venue.

      • 0
        5

        Part 2: Sarvodaya
        However, I am surprised by the suspicion of Hindutva sentiments at Sarvodaya because a large hall at their building is rented to one Mr. Reginold Thileepan (who has titled himself as Rev. without even a Diploma in Theology) to run a church. Sarvodaya does not seem to care how its name is used to swindle poor folk who give generously to what they think is a bona fide church. With that title and church, a witness told me that one person counts the till-money on Sundays and gives it to Thileepan who goes home with it, without further accounting. Pastors who run proper churches allege that Thileepan gets over Rs. 100,000 from Canada which he misuses.
        I am personally aware that he rented Baldaeus Theological College in Adukkubar to a Pastor Balakumar in Canada for Rs. 450,000 in Jan. 2023. The Board was not involved. Nor did the college see the money. Again in July 2023 he has run a Youth Camp for Rs. 350,000 without a Board decsion. He has similarly run other private camps at the College and the College has not seen a cent of that income. I am on the Board of the College. We were never asked permission..

      • 0
        5

        Part 3: The AoG and Trinco Pastors’ Fellowship
        I once reported such swindling by a Pastor Jeyaraj, then Trinco Coordinator at LEEDS working in cahoots with Thileepan. Most fellow Board Members were angry with me for ruining the name of Christians but never once asked Thileepan or Jeyaraj for an explanation. Being a Pastor in Trincomalee is good business to some but an albatross round the neck of good pastors.

        There is a Trincomalee Pastors’ Fellowship. President Prasanna of the AoG wanted his pal Rames Tharmalingam elected Secretary. (There is a Magistrate’s Court case for fraud against him). A foreign donor was asked to give a Christmas gift of Rs. 5000 to each Pastor. Then Rames distributed the money personally and got elected.
        In Trinco where land grabbing is all too common, Rames has filed a false report with the Nilaveli Police that his church established Baldeus and has put him in charge. What will be Pastor Prasanna’s next move?

        • 2
          7

          Quite revealing. Having read many comments here I was under the impression swindling money and hoodwinking people are the domains of chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist racists! It appears the phenomenon is universal. God bless Thamil Ealam!

        • 7
          1

          I do not know what all this is in aid of.
          That Sarvodaya has been a shady operation from the very outset was known to many. Naming Sarvodaya as am honest broker makes eyebrows rise. that is all to it.
          *
          Hindutva is a weak force in the North. It is too divisive to be acceptable to a sizeable section of the population.
          To see Hindutva in everything is no sign of a healthy mind.

        • 1
          1

          Plight of the Ceylon Tamil society over long long period is that its continuing bifurcations along faith lines and the potential and actual effect of the Saivite society to the extent that thankfully the Sinhalese society has not been subjected:

          Ceylon Tamil society (aka the Jaffna society) is solely responsible for this tragedy due to it old trade related divisions within them hence some being so silly excluded from the mainstream, and hence the massive intrusion of conversions.

          Islam in Ceylon was totally within the the Tamil society only and the Sinhalese society was untouched. Once a portion of the population is carved out, they are renamed and out of the mainstream Tamil society except in the use of the language. There is no social unions like marriage, etc., or cultural unity due to rigid faith customs.

          True Saivites wouldn’t care as they are committed to the principles that you can pray anyone you like as every path leads to the same God. Except that it has split the community politically as well.

          The same applies to various Christian faiths with one major exception that it being not mutually exclusive. You can be a Tamil as well as a Christian and both are indistinguishable. It happens within inter-family and intrafamily situations. The most respectable leader of the society has been SJV Chelva, a true Christian.

          • 1
            0

            You are correct in some way and but not entirely accurate. Islam in Ceylon Tamil society was totally within the Tamil society only, correct but it was not from the indigenous Sri Lankan Tamil society but largely arrived with immigrant Indian Tamil converts to Islam who started to arrive on the island, after the fall of the Madurai Delhi Sultanate in the late 14th century to the then Tamil Northwest coast of the island, that was part of the Jaffna Kingdom. However most or 50% of them only migrated to the island during the 19Th century from South India. Unlike Christianity, very few indigenous Tamils converted to Islam.

            • 2
              0

              This is also the reason they unlike the indigenous Tamils have no real love for the land and will never fight to safeguard this or the Tamil heritage/history associated with it, as they think it does not belong to them, and they have also now been brainwashed to consider their religion as their main identity and to justify this have created an imagined blanket Arab origin that they hardly have. Therefore, they will cynically and selfishly side with anyone who provides them with any benefits or advantage to them, even if it is at the expense to the rest of the Tamils, as they do not relate to them, just only to themselves. Not even to the Indian origin estate Tamils, with whom they share a same origin.

          • 0
            0

            “Islam in Ceylon was totally within the the Tamil society only and the Sinhalese society was untouched.”
            Not very precise.
            Most Muslims have all along lived among the Sinhalese, but not in large concentrations as in the East and North West.
            They chose Tamil long ago for good reason — trade and presence of a large Tamil Muslim community in South India — but they were not really part of the Tamil society as they became in Tamilnadu.
            Jaffna Muslims integrated better with Tamils than the rest.
            Some of the reluctance is result of the negative attitude of the likes of Sir P Ramanathan.

            • 0
              0

              SJ
              Isn’t Muslim Tamil quite different from the Jaffna dialect?

              • 1
                0

                oc
                There is no uniform Muslim Tamil.
                Jaffna Muslims speak a Tamil dialect that is much tidier than most Tamil dialects of Jaffna.
                Eastern Muslim Tamil is different from Western.
                There are some words relating to relationships, marriage, death etc. that are from Arabic and used by all Muslims.
                Interestingly the words for fast (nOnbu) and prayer (thozukai) used by all Muslims are truer Tamil than what Tamils use.

        • 3
          0

          Your concerns may be correct but in reality, it may only be confined to a few, most Sri Lankan Tamils tend to be secular and will reject the Hindutva doctrine. It is really a very weak force. However, on the other side of the coin there are Christian extremists who are trying to create a lot of problems and take advantage of the current situation and the pathetic plight of the ordinary Tamil people in the north and east, to protolyze and convert them to Christianity, with the promise of economic aid to alleviate their plight. Especially a lot of these Fundamentalist Charismatic churched and this is creating a lot of anger and friction. Hope you acknowledge this truth to instead of constantly bashing Hindus.

  • 14
    2

    “Sangha”

    Only ol’ Mao practiced Buddha’s teachings to the letter ……. and put them to do some useful work …… till fields, plow rice paddies.


    “to visit Europe and the UK and meet Tamil activists of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF)”

    European/US Tamils represent the salt of the Lankan earth Tamils …….. as much as Native and Ranil represent the salt of the Lankan earth Sinhalese. …….I’ve met them and they are totally different.

    Speak directly to the Tamils who were in the frontlines on the ground and were unspeakably brutalized …….. and are still there.

    There is not much difference between most Sinhalese and Tamil pols/reps ……….. they feast on their respective people’s miseries ……

    • 10
      1

      Native, where are you ???, at last I got the meaning of “Thesiyam”. Take a look at yesterday’s much awaited , ITAK / TNA meeting ( verbal / physical altercations ).

      • 0
        0

        Native, it appears ” Thesiyam “, has fast moved to Canada. Reportedly Canadian Tamil Congress in Toronto was vandalized on 28th.

        • 0
          0

          By whom and why, may I ask?
          I am not a follower of Tamil politics in exile.

  • 16
    2

    The JVP or NPP do not believe that the vast majority of shaven people dressed in yellow robes is anything short of parasitic, feeding off the gullibility of the stupid masses. Therefore, any pandering to them is merely to keep the cattle herds in the compound, without stampeding around. The long term project is to wean the people off these parasites, and get most of those imposters to grow more food tilling the fields. They must begin to produce food, to compensate for the years of eating free food from poor people.

    • 0
      0

      Lasantha Pethiyagoda
      If ‘the vast majority of shaven people dressed in yellow robes is anything short of parasitic, feeding off the gullibility of the stupid masses’, is the Bhikku Front of the NPP
      ‘is merely to keep the cattle herds in the compound’?

  • 3
    0

    I think it is the need of the hour to have good senior leaders or senior professionals to act like the current president of Germany who recently publicly appealed that Germans should not respect any form of dictatorship. We have some of them, but they are not given the media coverage to do the job because Rajapaksa’s hidden forces have captured the mlechcha media.
    There should be new laws against mainstream media scams, not just internet bills. Visual media is misleading the nation in favor of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.
    That’s because anti-immigration forces are rising fast in Europe. The AFD (Radical Nazi-like Movement) in Germany is on the rise today, as experts clearly state.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c5CpTcHQes

    • 3
      2

      Proff. David

      Isn’t it a bit late for the yellow robes to talk about “Enough is enough” & ”A stop has to be put to mad communal butchery”? Were they asleep during the height of the butchery & just woken from slumber or is it a new set who have decided to take the bull by the horns & talk with the Tamil diaspora, & even, with US officials? Wonder if they had the blessings of the Govt. to intervene with foreign officials & who funded the trip.
      You may not be familiar with Buddhist doctrine but in my understanding of Buddhism, a monk is a person who has taken monkhood after rejecting material world & is expected to provide spiritual guidance, not dabble in politics or even broker deals, even for peace. Everybody is equal in Buddhism, therefore, ‘interfaith’ is not applicable & compassion being an important principal, so is the ‘peace’ aspect. Certainly they can do more in their community without interfering with govt. affairs. In my humble opinion, they should stick to the temple & provide guidance to those in need because a monk has no ‘patriotic’ duty to a country, therefore, “Sangha for a better Sri Lanka” & “Road Map for the Development of a National Conversation” is beyond their scope.

  • 1
    0

    The million dollar question is whether the Sangha could be trusted to be fair and impartial when experience have proved otherwise.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.