By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Writing to The Colombo Telegraph, Sharmini Serasinghe, well-known journalist, has this to say:
“It is indeed ironic and tragically hilarious, that while Sri Lanka boasts of a 2500 year-old culture, and one of the highest literacy rates in Asia (the ability to read and write), those claiming relationship to a four-legged beast (lion) today; its ‘Sinha-Le’ tribe, is unable to separate allegory and myth, from fact. After all, the ability to read and write doesn’t guarantee intelligence, common sense or wisdom, does it?
What is most hilarious is that, by claiming bloodline to a beast, they are also admitting to being subhuman, the qualities of which, they have no qualms about displaying unashamedly, in the public arena. Is this what our 2500 year-old culture has produced?”
Sharmini picks the latest searing slogan in Sri Lanka: “Sinha Le” (blood of the Sinha or lion). It is not really the latest. It is, rather an old war cry of the fundamentalist mindset.
To a people who have restricted economic opportunities around to seize and grow personally this kind of war cry does appeal from time to time. In wealthy countries like Australia individuals are too busy working in profitable ventures and seeking chances to enrich themselves and their families and trying to enjoy the good life that comes in its wake.
On the other hand, most Sri Lankans have plenty of time to waste and hang around. As prosperity grows in a country its people find their horizons widen and they tend to realise that even in a finite world there is room for everyone to practice the common social life-sustaining philosophy of “live and let live.”
On the other hand, there are “opportunities” of a different sort for leaders who stir the primordial clannish passions of their followers. Such leaders come from typically lower middle class persons who have the ambition to move up the class ladder by seeking political power and the uplifting social levers that such power brings. Once reaching their political positions such persons who are devoid of talent to make wealth by their own business acumen, take the option of eking income from the successful business classes.They become parasites on those who have genuinely made it to the top. These politicians when ensconced in power utilise their positions of power in order to rip off commissions and bribes from suppliers in business. The political elite become a new class of parasites preying on businesses.
This state of affairs has been developing for some decades in Sri Lanka but under the regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa the new parasitic class grew exponentially given the fact that Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family looked the other way when corruption allegations surfaced. Now that he is out of power there are scandalous allegations about Mahinda and his family. How much of such charges would be proved is yet to be seen but the mere conduct of the regime during its ten year rule left much suspicion and conjecture. For instance, the agencies responsible for ensuring accountability of government were brought under the President’s control by the 18th Amendment and that tragic act dismantled checks and balances on executive power. Under the umbrella of executive power even politicians in rural areas shared spoils and abused power.
With the single most dominant party, the United National Party, sticking to its original ideology of a multicultural united nation the parasitic political class seeks more and more to lean on the narrow ideology of fundamentalist Sinhala Buddhism as its line of strategy to garner votes. The silence of Mahinda Rajapaksa both in power and out over the antics of the BBS and its rowdy saffron leader, Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, is indicative of where his ideological stand is and where his strategy lies.
There is little doubt that the Sinha Le moment is tailored to gather votes for another Mahinda comeback effort. BBS and the broader Sinha Le campaign will march separately and come together. Slogans are on the walls in public places with Sinha Le cries. Hired and fooled media personnel work day and night to try and create an avalanche out of these sectarian sentiments. Similarly hired and fooled “intellectuals,” have come to the dance of the devils. Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a public speech named these accompanying orchestra.
Such violence-prone forces aren’t interested in what happens to the future of the island. They try, as was done in the past to fan fear among the Tamil population. Such fear and anxiety can only generate Tamil extremism and Tamil militancy thereby setting the stage for another civil war. Back to square one.
And what of the ordinary people who are being canvassed like this? As Sharmini Serasinghe points out, our possession of a high literacy rate does not guarantee a common sense or a critical perspective among the people. Our people have many times in the past failed to pick the fake from the real. The Sinha Le people rely on the gullibility of its mass audiences. As the quoted passage at the start says Sinha Le is not real but phoney. It is meant to dupe and win.
Will they succeed in this new prank?