23 May, 2022


Sri Lanka Must Emerge From Its Tragic Contemporary History

By Lasantha Pethiyagoda

Lasantha Pethiyagoda

Lasantha Pethiyagoda

Passing an age of decimation of civil liberties and individual freedom, carried out in the name of fighting manufactured enemies of choice, any civic choice will have shackled citizens to an interconnected police and security state, unprecedented in contemporary Sri Lankan political history before the previous regime.

In a tyrannic serfdom, the freedom of the wild ass is no freedom at all, as the popular dictum exclaims, while the search for unbridled power and unlimited terms of office, symbolised these in explicit form.

Modern tyrannies are deceptive. In the age of technology, it has to do with the need to hide its true nature from the eyes of those on whose support and indifference its maintenance depends. Successful tyrannies excel at hiding reality from public view, turning the truth on its head and criminalising its manifest victims.

The greatest purveyor of corruption, vice and violence in the country must surely have had state patronage not merely to survive but thrive. Its varied mechanisms, as well as being the leading exponent of the deadly arrogance that has poisoned the atmosphere for so long and having been whitewashed from the discourse must constitute the biggest threat to civil society.

Sri LankaIf not for its timely end in January it would have installed a far deeper malady within the Sri Lankan spirit than had hitherto been experienced. No significant social problem – wealth inequality, underworld violence, racial and religious disharmony- could be resolved while the state remained an entity that continues year in year out, spending more money on military “defence” and grandiose projects than on programs of social upliftment – a most certain recipe for a spiritual death of the nation. It should be incandescently apparent that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of Sri Lanka could have ignored that status quo.

This is the overarching point that drives our current debates about injustice and militarism even through today. The debasement of the national psyche, the callousness toward continuous targeted killing and violence, the belief that the state has not only the right but the duty to bring violence anywhere in the land that it wants: that is what lay at the heart of Sri Lanka’s embrace of endless militancy. A rotted national soul does indeed enable leaders to wage endless wars of attrition, but endless violence also rots the national soul. At times this seems to be an inescapable, self-perpetuating cycle of degeneration and degradation.

Sri Lanka’s elite despised the subjugated, poor, malnourished and weak. They felt unequal and wanted a discriminatory system that lacked any sense of common decency. They were pretentious and cowardly; they encouraged religious bigotry without morality or compassion. They helped the authorities to criminalise independence and freedom; abuse women and children; revel in vulgar exhibitionism of wealth and opulence, largely in bad taste.

For Sri Lankans to endure what lies ahead they will have to harness the human imagination. It is this imagination that makes possible transcendence from darkness to light. In order to nourish and sustain this imagination, the people need to form a basis for common grounds.

These will be the forces that they will have in place of the freedom they lack. The oppressed would be the first, because they know their fate, to admit that on a rational level such a notion might seem absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they or their future generation will survive.

The collective consciousness of ordinary citizens is the most potent power that can turn the tide towards a saner environment.

How this is inspired and sequestered by responsible forces, from within or without in the various factions, will determine what follows in the decades to come.

The powerful elite were particularly interested in moulding their younger generation into becoming a chosen people. They wanted their offspring to be individuals who esteem power and strength with awe while despising and being contemptuous of economic, physical and social weakness in their serfs.

This young generation will be incapable of being outraged with indignation of a society in which the powerful, influential and rich would invariably have had their way while the marginalized majority poor and powerless masses were denied even their impotently ineffectual say; a new generation habituated into perceiving intolerance as the moral-ethical standard and raw violence as the only solution to all problems or differences; future generations only focused on ‘getting ahead’ and incapable of resisting the unrelenting tide of injustice.

Working against this endogenous imperialism is the privilege and the burden of all who deem themselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than the superficial nationalist humbug of racist bigots headed by some militant saffron clad traitors, and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We must speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those the ruling elite fictitiously referred to as the enemy.

For centuries, minorities and the marginalised had little control over their destinies. Forces of bigotry and violence kept them subjugated by the majority aristocrats. Suffering, for the oppressed, was tangible. Death was a constant companion.

For a state whose leaders had historically been guided, in most cases by nobler dictates and motivations, like the ten leadership qualities (dasa raja dhamma), and the general populace’s belief that all blessed things, like timely rains, fair weather and bountiful harvests, and general well-being and prosperity of the populace follow when rulers reign justly and righteously (devo vassathu kalena, raja bhavathu dhammiko), our contemporary history leaves much to be desired, for many good and obvious reasons.

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Latest comments

  • 9

    This will not happen during our generation.

    Hopefully the next generation will look at it differently.

  • 6

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda –

    RE: Sri Lanka Must Emerge From Its Tragic Contemporary History


    According to the Ancients and the Christian Church, the Sun went around a stationary Earth, and Epicycles were invented to explain the retro motion of some planets, called moving stars. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus published his Heliocentric Planetary Model and caused great commotion, and came Galileo, Kepler, Newton and finally Foucault experimentally demonstrating the validity of the Heliocentric Model and the rotating Earth. However, even today, about 25% of the Westerners and about 40% of the Easterners believe in the Geocentric Model.

    1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says



    In Sri Lanka, among Sinhala Buddhist, there are many false beliefs about Lanka, The Land of Native Veddah Aethho claimed by walking to the Land.

    Later Para-Arrivals, Para-sinhala and Para-Tamils, came up with their own convoluted stories and chronicles. One such Famous or Infamous chronicle was written by one Para-Monk Mahanama, called Mahawansa, that took materials from previous Chronicles like Dipawansa and Other Stories, “Attha Katha?, True Stories?

    The Root of the Tragic Contemporary History of Sri Lanka goes to Mahawansa and its lies and imaginations written on it. Just like the Ancients and the church promoting the Geocentric Universal Model, The Mahawansa and its lies and imaginations should be discredited, for Sri lanka to move forward.

    Europe did that with the Enlightenment and the Age of reason and science.

    Sri Lanka needs to do it almost 5 centuries later, almost 15 centuries after monk Mahanams’s lies and Imaginations in Mahawansa.

    Want to Know More about Mahawansa and Sinhala Buddhism? Read Below.

    Mahavamsa- An Insult To The Buddha! By Sharmini Serasinghe –
    December 21, 2013 |

    Caution- The following is more suitable for the broad-minded and the wise. Others are kindly advised to pass!

    Wonder if ours might have been a wiser, and a more ‘humane’ society, had our ‘ancient’ history, been based on Aesop’s Fables, instead of the Mahavamsa. For if not for the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese may not have been endowed, with the reputation, of “Sinhalaya Modaya (The Sinhalese are Fools)”!

    In this “wonderland” called Sri Lanka, and in this day and age, one still comes across ‘academically’ educated, and supposedly intelligent ‘Buddhists’, but sadly lacking in wisdom, who reverently believe, that the Buddha walked out of his mother’s womb, and walked seven steps, while lotuses blossomed, under his feet!

    These very same supposedly educated, and intelligent ‘Buddhists’ also believe, that the enormous indentation, resembling a footprint on a boulder, at Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada to ‘Buddhists’), to be that of the Buddha. This would be in keeping with the conviction that the Buddha, was as tall, or perhaps even taller, than the Avukana Buddha statue, which stands above 40 feet (12 meters) in height!

    Then, there is the ‘Dalada Maligawe’ in Kandy; most Buddhists believe, the tooth relic housed within, belonged to the Buddha. Some adorn the ‘tooth casket’ with mounds of gold jewelry, fervently believing, that they would earn merit, to the value of the gold they offer. The thought of donating the value of this gold, to feed and help, the poor, sick and the needy, that would be far more meritorious, never cross their minds!

    There hangs a controversial question, over the authenticity of this ‘sacred tooth’. But then again, to those ‘educated and intelligent Buddhists’, devoid of wisdom, if the Buddha, was taller than the Avukana statue, and had a giant footprint, as on Adam’s Peak, then this ‘huge tooth’ could be his!

    However it does not matter, if the tooth is over-sized, belonged to the Buddha or not, because he the ‘wise one’ asserted, that his followers must not revere, nor worship, any part of his physical self, nor idolize him. Had the Buddha wanted otherwise, he would have left not just a tooth, but his entire skeleton, for his followers to worship.

    The annual Esala Perahera, in Kandy, is yet another case in point. This colourful and spectacular ‘parade’ of the ‘tooth relic’, atop a magnificent elephant, is nothing but an ego-boosting exercise, of small minded men of yore, and now, a tradition of small minded men of the present. The ‘Esala Perahera’ therefore, is no relation of Buddhism!

    Then there are also those ‘Buddhists’, who on Full Moon (Poya) days, make a bee-line draped in white, to the temple, to ‘pray’ to ‘God Buddha’. They piously recite the ‘Five Precepts’ and other Buddhist verses, as in ‘praying’, facing a perceived image, of the miracle performing ‘God Buddha’. The Five Precepts- the basic code of ethics that the Buddhist laity, is required to abide by, cease to hold any value, beyond the temple gates!

    They offer flowers, to clay and stone images of the Buddha, and light oil lamps, as it is an idée recue; believing by doing so, one earns enormous merit. Little do they understand the significance, of such customs; they fail to connect the similarity of flowers and the oil lamp, with their impermanent life – ‘anicca’.

    Then they also go on to bathe the ‘Bo tree’ (Bodhi Puja), with pots of water, thereby encouraging tree-rot, expecting the ‘holy’ tree’ under which ‘God Buddha’ attained enlightenment, to bestow merit upon them to. During trying times, unable to accept their ‘karma’, they once again flood the ‘Bo tree’, expecting deliverance from their misery.

    When this unique ‘brand’ of Sinhala/Mahavamsa-Buddhism fails to deliver, they next make a bee-line, to a Hindu kovil, break coconuts, praying for miracles, as well as cursing and damning to hell, fellow human beings. Then off they go, to a Christian church and light candles and then, to Sai Baba or even a Mosque (I have no idea what they do there). At all these places, promises (vows) are made, to various Gods, on a quid pro quo basis. Some, even resort to animal sacrifice!

    Then, there are also those who believe, that the Mahawamsa was authored, by the Buddha himself!

    All that the Buddha asked, of his followers, was to lead a life according to his noble teachings. But this, most find so hard to do, especially the ‘simple’ minded, Mahavamsa-Buddhist!

    Read on…..

  • 8

    I could not understand most of your article! The reason is, your sentences are too long! Your first sentence is a whole paragraph! If you want to get the message across you need to keep the sentences short.

    It is a fact of life that minorities live in all societies. They need to adapt themselves to the majority ideology while preserving their own minority heritage. It should not be the other way around.

  • 5

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda –

    RE: Sri Lanka Must Emerge From Its Tragic Contemporary History

    The link


    Mahavamsa- An Insult To The Buddha! By Sharmini Serasinghe – December 21, 2013 |

    Caution- The following is more suitable for the broad-minded and the wise. Others are kindly advised to pass!

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