20 October, 2020

Blog

Sri Lanka: Short Cuts

By Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali

Four years after the killing of between eight and ten thousand Tamils by the Sri Lankan army, which brought to an end a civil war that had lasted for 26 years, there is trouble on the island again. This time the army isn’t directly responsible: instead it’s the Buddhist monks from Bodu Bala Sena, the most active of the fundamentalist groups that have sprouted in Sinhalese strongholds. Three-quarters of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese; most of them are Buddhists. The monks’ target this time is the small Muslim minority. Muslim abattoirs have been raided, halal butchers attacked, homes targeted. The police merely stand and watch, and Sri Lankan TV crews calmly film the violence. A few weeks ago, Buddhist monks got some hoodlums to attack a Muslim-owned car showroom. One of its employees was going out with a young Sinhalese woman and her father complained to a local monk. The Sunday Leader reported that ‘an eyewitness saw a monk leaving one of the temples … followed by a group of youths, mostly under 25 years of age. The group carried stones and, people were later to discover, kerosene.’

A BBS blogger recently explained the ‘reasoning’ behind the targeting of Muslims:

Muslims have been living in this country since seventh century and now only they want to have Halal food in Sri Lanka. Population wise they are only 5 per cent. If we allow Halal, next time they will try to introduce circumcision on us. We have to nip these in the bud before it becomes a custom. We should never allow the Muslims and Christians to control anything in Sri Lanka … Hijab, burqa, niqab and purdah should be banned in Sri Lanka. The law and the legislature should always be under the control of the Sinhala-Buddhists and our Nationalist Patriotic president. After all, Sri Lanka is a gift from Buddha to the Sinhalese.

Difficult to imagine how circumcision could be ‘nipped in the bud’ even by a Buddhist, or how the percentage of the Muslim population could have fallen from 9.7 per cent in the 2011 census to 5 per cent today. It has undoubtedly dropped, however, as a direct result of decades of unchecked harassment and persecution, by Tamils as well as Sinhalese Buddhists.

It isn’t just members of the BBS who spout this nonsense. Many in the Sinhalese political-military mainstream share these views. In the town of Pottuvil, where the Muslims are the majority, soldiers have been helping local monks erect Buddhist statues and allowing loudspeakers to blare out Buddhist hymns morning and night. Local women who own land are being driven off it: the monasteries then steal the land, with the army providing protection.

Buddhist hardliners hate the suggestion that the island was not a gift from Buddha to them alone, but the earliest architectural finds reveal Tamil as well as Buddhist objects, which is hardly surprising given the proximity of South India to northern Sri Lanka. Who came first was a burning issue throughout the colonial period. Ever since independence in 1948, Buddhist fundamentalism has been the driving force behind Sinhalese intransigence on the Tamil question. A Buddhist monk assassinated S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the country’s fourth prime minister, in 1959. He was said to have made too many (in fact too few) concessions to the Tamils. After this, politicians began to pander to the monks’ prejudices and anti-Tamil discrimination was institutionalised. Young Tamils began to believe armed struggle was the only way to free themselves. If Bengali Muslims could split from their brethren in West Pakistan and create Bangladesh, why not the Tamils?

Having denied the Tamils autonomy, the Sinhalese were now faced with civil war. In 1976, the militants formed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and demanded an independent homeland to be known as ‘Eelam’. Teenagers raided banks to fund the struggle, making their getaways by bike through narrow lanes lined with ancient palmyra trees. They targeted police stations and government officials. When state repression intensified, Tamil leaders shielded the rebels. They were proud of them.

The decline of the Tamil Tigers echoed that of similar movements elsewhere. The Tigers were led, as armies are, by commanders who brooked no dissent. Sensational acts of terror became a substitute for political strategy, alienating possible allies. Factions fought one another, while Sinhalese politicians in Colombo looked on delightedly, bided their time and then embarked on large-scale repression, killing huge numbers of Tamil men, women and children, many without any links to the Tigers. Much of the blame for all this lies with Sinhalese chauvinism and its grip on the island’s politics, but the Tigers can’t be forgiven their crimes against their own people. Suicide bombings, which they pioneered in Asia, were a cynical tactic to underline the Supreme Leader’s hold on his membership. Cyanide pills – every guerrilla carried them – were an inducement to self-destruction.

The current government continues to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act to repress Tamil civil rights; the army is still a constant presence in Tamil regions; press freedom continues to be threatened. In January, President Rajapaksa sacked the chief justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, supposedly on grounds of corruption, but actually because she dared to make rulings against the president’s wishes. Her replacement has declared that the civil rights of the population are not being violated. Rajapaksa is also the minister in charge of defence, urban development, finance and ports and highways. One can only imagine the kickbacks. His brother Basil is minister for economic development; another brother, Chamal, is the speaker of the Parliament; his nephew Shashindra is chief minister of Uva, a key province; his cousin Jaliya Wickramasuriya is ambassador in Washington; another cousin, Udayanga Weeratunga, is ambassador in Moscow; and his 25-year-old son Namal is the MP for Hambantota, a strategically crucial port, the development of which has been funded by Beijing. Like the planned free trade port of Gwadar in Pakistan, it will form part of China’s strategic ‘string of pearls’. Chinese state security bigwigs have recently been photographed with the army in Jaffna, enjoying the sights and inspecting the places where Chinese projects will soon be dotting the coastline.

The octogenarian Tamil novelist A. Sivanandan, who lives in London, fears not just for the Tamils but also the Sinhalese people:

Defeated, the Tamils are now rethinking everything, at least in the diaspora which so heavily and uncritically supported the Tigers. They are no longer talking of independence, but of political rights and democracy. Is it too late? I honestly don’t know. The Buddhist monks will soon turn on their own, denouncing Sinhalese who are not orthodox Buddhists and if Rajapaksa, family and friends back them, they might be in for a surprise. Mass uprisings are in the air.

*This article is first appeared in London Review of Books – Vol. 35 No. 8 · 25 April 2013

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    In the year 2011 Sri Lanka was placed 57th in the ranking among democracies under the category of ”flawed democracies” in the world by the ”Intelligence Unit of The Economist” and been warned about the decline of democratice practice, and in the year 2012 it has been placed at 89th among the countries of Hybrid Regimes.This year Rajapakses shall find Sri Lanka among Authoritarian Regimes . ”Wonder of Asia !!
    http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=1440324728&Country=Sri Lanka&topic=Politics

  • 0
    0

    Dear Mr Ali,
    Thanks for the article. I have watched your interviews on British TV. You are a great guy.
    “Four years after the killing of between eight and ten thousand Tamils by the Sri Lankan army” – Number of tamils killed is very much higher than quoted by you. Your figure is very near the govt figure. UN accepted figure is around 40,000. Actual Tamils killed is much higher than this.

  • 0
    0

    The situation in Sri Lanka is not going unnoticed throughout the world. Whilst the Govt says come and see and and spends millions to appoint unknown PR firms to whitewash its image, the persistant reports of minority bashing, attacks on media and the exodus of its citizens escaping the tyrannical actions of the regime are taking its toll.

    The withholding of the passport of CJ Shirani Bandaranaike can only reinforce this message as well as the with holding of the civic rights of General Sarath Fonseka, both virtual prisoners of conscience. The questioning of TNA politicians by the CID whereas so called monks are allowed to spew out messages of religous hatred without any kind of legal reprobation is a cynical type of injustice characteristic to this govt.

    Govt continues to behave like the proverbial Ostrich burying its head in the sand whereas its massive hind section is visible in all its glory. Spending millions on PR when the poor masses are struggling to survive indicates the misplaced thinking and logic of the govt. Pleasing or deceiving the US and IMF seems to be the current strategy with the leading proponents of religous hatred, the BBS, engaging in a tour of US to popularise meditation headed by no other than the thug in robes, Galgodage Atthange.

  • 0
    0

    This is a onesided and mischievously ill-informed account too. The writer starts with killing of the Tamls by the army but says nothing about the killngs by the LTTE of innocent unarmed Sinhalese villagers, chasing away of Muslims and killng of opposing Tamils by the thousands.
    Take Potuvil he speaks of. Who creates trouble there. He does not spk of the occupation of the Archaeological Reserve land by Muslims at Muhudu Maha Viharaya, an ancient archaeological site sacred to Sinhalese and Buddhists; or enhroachment on the temple lands of Dighvapi.Pottuvil is being treated as exclusive Muslim country and no Sinhalese activity is allowed there.The monks living at Muhudu Maha Viharaya are being harrassed. The writer should write why opposition to Muslims activities have grown. They just do not happen as a result of the [vile] nature of man.

    • 0
      0

      Malle Pol,

      You say “The writer starts with killing of the Tamils by the army but says nothing about the killngs by the LTTE of innocent unarmed sinhalese villagers, chasing away of Muslims and killng of opposing Tamils by the thousands”.

      Every defender of this regime (i.e. sycophants) tries to justify the
      killings of innocent Tamils, by pointing out LTTE’s atrocites.

      LTTE was not an elected entity, but the Government is supposed to treat all of the island’s citizens equal, which was and is not the case.

      It is because of the racist policies of every Government since independence, against the Tamils that LTTE was born.
      This regime of uneducated thugs of one family is the worst, this island has to put up.

      • 0
        0

        Kamala:
        While I agree with you, I have a simple bone to pick with you at the same time – you shouldn’t be wasting your time on this stupid Psycho-phant of the Rajapassas uttering the usual crap he/she is paid for!

  • 0
    0

    You know Moo Rajapaske is the president of this grand country but he and his family are running it not the Government , the Government is made up of yes men who wont say Boo to a goose . To find out his son is the MP for Hambantota , well the mind boggles we are living not in Sri Lanka Rajapaske Land controlled and governed my him and his crony family , Take Mihin Airline what a disaster and again run by the Rajapaske’s cronies which is loosing millions of Rupees every year but they keep it going for gods sake ditch it and spend the money on the people not a flagging airline that has no future

  • 0
    0

    Dear Tariq Ali, It is best if you stick to what you know rather than trying to show off some knowledge on Sri lankan affairs. It seems that somebody else against Sinhala Buddhists wrote the article for you which is full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Mr. Bandaranaika was not assassinated due to the reasons you have given but it was a personal vendetta by Budharakkitha who masterminded it. I am sure you do not know these things.
    The article tries to distort the truth blaming that the Buddhist priests are grabbing land. One cannot hide what has happended in the country. The Sinhala kings have offered vast areas of land to the Buddhist priests in the past but these lands have been gradually taken over by the Muslims. One example is the Muhudu Maha Vigaraya near Pothuvil. Not only the land has been grabbed by the Muslims but they have bulldozered some buildings. In fact. I hear that there is not wide enough road even for a vehoicle to approach the temple.

  • 0
    0

    Malle Pol, You are quiet right bro. These idiots living in Uk or Europe never even visited SL, Trying to give a wrong message to IC. In Digawapi 12,000 acre belong to the temple and late minister Ashroff under the patronage of CBK curtailed it to 500 acres. MR must take action to give back the rest of the 11,500 acres back to temple or at least declare this area as a buddhist sacred area or at least as a sanctuary. Otherwise pretty soon muslims grab all the land and colonise it.
    In muhudu maha viharaya Pothuvil late ven.Sri Seelankara thero harassed,intimidate,try to poison, made false allegations against him in Pothuvil police station and finally assaulted and hospitalised almost one month for the injuries. Thero demised few years back due to heart attack untimely because of the harassment and intimidation of Muslims.

    The funny thing is Justice Minister Hakeem came to the temple last year and met present resident monk and told him that, vacate this temple,this land belongs to us and if you agree I’ll grant you a post of “Peace of Justice”. What a Minister of Justice.

    These extremist islamics trying to show the world that we are the innocent,peace loving people and Sinhala Buddhist’s harassing us.

  • 0
    0

    I had great respect for Tariq Ali as a blunt and articulate proponent of justice in an unjust world. However, his take on Sri Lanka seems rather shoddy and ill-informed, data not properly researched and perhaps based on hearsay or anecdotal accounts. He should try to do better if he is to retain his good credentials…

    • 0
      0

      Lasantha:
      As much as I find fault with your pretentiousness from time to time, I have to admit that you are right on the money in your assessment of this particular Tariq Ali piece. As in the case of his local friends in the old Trotskyist factions, it can be said that “Old Trots never die, they simply lose their marbles.”

  • 0
    0

    You may have missed some points but what worries most of us is the
    current rate of situations involving Law & Order. Read a summary here:

    lankanewsweb.com/english/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3889:the-caliber-of-rajapaksa-loyalists&catid=1:general&Itemid=29

  • 0
    0

    The core Problem in Sri Lanka is Buddhism and its Version given by racist monk Mahanama who wrote the Mhavansa and its Myths.

    Ever since Monk Mahanama, Sinhala Buddhists were and are the worst of the offenders. It had been made worse by the Myths of religion. Discrimination based on race and religion is rampant, and the United Nations had to set up a special commission, called UN HRC to address these issues. Sri Lanka among many other countries have been found to be “Guilty” and are being subjected to may restrictions by other countries. South African Apartheid was reformed.

    Sri Lanka needs to reform and enter civilization instead being stuck on the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinistic Mentality, that was the curse of Lanka ever since Monk Mahanama demonized the other religions and races in the 5th century AD due to the self-interest of the monks.

    Janism and Hindusam were in Lanka well before the introduction of Buddhism, and its gradual replacement by Buddhism.

    http://www.slideshare.net/balpatil/evolution-of-sramanic-jain-culture

    Even in Sri Lanka Buddhists did that to Jains and to Jainism, even before the arrival of Vijaya.

    Sri Lanka was Jain and Hindu before the Introduction of Buddhism.

    http://www.jainworld.com/jainbooks/asceticism/ch24.asp

    http://www.slideshare.net/balpatil/evolution-of-sramanic-jain-culture

    Jainism crossed India from South India at about eighth century B.C., if not earlier, and become one of the most important religions of Ceylon, which was known in those days by the name of Lanka, Ratnadvipa or Simhala. The Mahavamsa (10.65-70; 33. 43-79) refers to the existence of Jainism in Ceylon even before the arrival of Buddhism. According to it, Pandukabhaya built a house at Anuradhapur for the Nigantha Jotiya and Giri and some more Niganthas, Jain tradition takes the history of Jainism in Ceylon even prior to its Aryanization, or the Arrival of the Aryans. Ravana, a king of Lanka long ago is said to have erected a Jain temple there at Trikutagiri. Another statue of Parsvanatha, the 23rd Jina found in the caves of Terapur is also said to be from Srilanka. Jainism was a living religion of Srilanka up to the 10th A.D.

    • 0
      0

      Yes you are correct, all these lands and temples belongs to Hindus and Jains!

  • 0
    0

    Mr. Tariq Ali , whole world know who are the extremist are. In America it is impossible to get a job go Muslims. It is impossible to run a business. Also, we know how Saudis treat people with other religions live there. It is extremely disrespective. You are talking about Sri Lanka that is ten times better than these places. Problem is you underestimate Sri Lankan values because low economic conditions in Sri Lanka. Muslims ultimate aim is spreading all over the world by populating their own. They will not intergrate with anyone. It happened in Afganistan. It happening in Thailand. You article about HR must rewrite again including this. Sri Lankans are not dumb as you think , they know where you coming from.

    • 0
      0

      Simply say, shut u moron. U f..ing dont know what u saying, learn and learn come out from sinhala budhist mind learn proper budhism and enlighten your self…

    • 0
      0

      Muslims have no ambitions to conquer the world, let alone Sri Lanka. They are just normal people living normal lives, struggling through all the economic burdens just to survive just like everyone else. The only difference being (if there is such a thing) they are more fervent and consistent in religious practices. Praying 5 times a day, fasting for one month during month of Ramadhan, gathering at Holy Ka’ba in Saudi Arabia during month of Hadj. Non-Muslims see these practices and perceive it as threats, of being overrun, of being taken over, which is false flag fear psychosis. If only they knew why Islam is so different to other religions, being most peaceful, surrendering their everything including their survival to the will of God, bowing down only to Him (not to any man, women or deity), being thankful to the Creator for all the sustenance they receive, I am sure they would understand that Muslims have NO worldly ambitions, but it is for ambitions of after life. Of course you can find the bad eggs, the terrorists who hijack in the religion of Islam, Muslim in name sake only – not practicing Muslim, innovations brought into the religion, the deviants, etc., etc., but as a whole if anyone were to learn and try to understand Islam in its true perspective, will definitely realize it as a great religion, that does not bear malice, hatred nor pose a threat to any other religion, community or society.

  • 0
    0

    It is refreshing to find that Tariq Ali an intellectual. a progressive and an atheist to write on the deplorable situation in Sri Lanka. He has visited Sri Lanka in the early eighties and addressed meetings. He has been a bitter critic of Indian and Pakistani hypocrisy. he is fearless writer and speaker.Those ignoramuses in Sri lanka should consider reading his works like “Speaking of empire and resistance”,”Rough Music”, “Bush in Babylon” and importantly,”The Clash of Fundamentalisms”. He is taken seriously by the intelligentsia of the world and those that matter.

    Bensen

    • 0
      0

      the problem is not him being less fearless, but ignorant

  • 0
    0

    Tariq Ali

    It is unbelievable you who are supposed to be a leading figure of the international left lending your hand to the American covert plan to make a regime change in Sri Lanka. Is it a sign you are beginning to fade away?

    • 0
      0

      OutRider:
      Does your pretense to intellect and knowledge know no boundaries? The term “village idiot” comes to mind when reading your b.s.

      • 0
        0

        Aney Apochchi

        I know your mind is so…..so…..yesterday.
        Relax, man! Just keep your cool.

        It is a well known fact that even people with normal intelligence go into a rage when faced with some unsettling new knowledge that threatens the world they are familiar with and find comfort in. I will give you some advice that I myself found very useful in handling such traumatic situations. Next time you run into a similar situation, remember:

        1. You are not alone.
        2. It is not your fault.
        3. You must deal with the information received, not the informer.
        4. Keep a journal.

        Once you get over your psychological issues, you should try to improve your analytical skills if you are going to participate intelligently in discussing intelligence matters. You should pay special attention to the following areas which are actually part of the Analytical Skills Training given by the Pentagon to its new recruits:

        Argument Evaluation — To be able to construct cogent intelligence arguments and to evaluate critically the intelligence arguments of others.

        Competing Hypotheses – To be able to apply the competing hypothesis technique to intelligence problems involving the determination of facts or involving explanation.

        Causal Loop Diagrams – To be able to apply the technique of causal loop diagrams to intelligence problems.

        Probability Tree Diagrams – To be able to construct a useful and technically correct probability tree diagram to aid in political/military estimative intelligence analysis.

        Bayesian Analysis – To be able to apply Bayesian analysis to intelligence problems involving the determination of facts or involving explanation or involving prediction.

  • 0
    0

    Sam is playing the tune of the American imperialists to demonise the Muslims by saying ‘whole world know who the extremist are’. There are extremists in all form and shapes among people of all faiths,and not only among Muslims. Terrorism is not the monopoly of Muslim extremists only. Extremists of all faith do acts of terrorism in varying degrees. The only difference is that Muslims are the new enemy invented by America. More than 37% of Americans themselves believe that 9/11 was an inside job. It was a false flag operation done to demonise the Muslims and Islam, so that they can control the Middle east on behalf of their evil kid Israel. The jewish owned media happily highlight and propagate the Myth that Muslims are extremists and terrorists.

    The Muslims ultimate aim is not to populate the whole world, as you say. This is another myth coming from the anti-islamic websites. We are just normal people living our day to day lives just as anybody else. But as I said earlier, just as there are extremists among people of other religions, unfortunately there are extremists amongst Muslims too. They don’t consult us before doing whatever they do. So to paint all Muslims with the same brush is as ABSURD as painting all the people of other faiths with the same brush.

  • 0
    0

    Tariq Ali, In Pothuvil most of the lands belongs to women as you said given by Pothuvil Divisional Secretariat as “Special Permits” during Minister Ashroff’s time. Most of these “special permit” holders have their own land somewhere else too. Minister Ashroff at that time indulge in a “land robbery” in Pothuvil area. In 1980 it’s population less than 20,000 but now it is about 45000. Ashroff systematically colonise Pothuvil because he wants to grab lands up to Panama and Lahugala so that they can create their own provincial council for south eastern Srilanka. This dream coolapse after his accidental death.

    Ashroff once try to bulldoze Muhudu maha viharaya. From the government own land adjacent to arch. site consist of 33 acres,03rood and 14 Perch at Muhudu maha viharaya grab by muslims and built houses. Some houses walls built with the stone pillars because it’s too heavy to remove.

    Every nook and corner in Srilanka muslims built islamic mosques and three times during a day whether we like it or not blaring arabic verses into our ears thru loud speakers. But Sinhala buddhists never complain. We cannot build a Pagoda or Buddhist Shrine in more than 1500 years old buddhist temple because of extremist muslims protest in Pothuvil, Tell us who are the extremists, who are the Hardliners Tariq.

  • 0
    0

    It seems very odd that a well respected anti imperialist like Dr.Tariq Ali should delve into the affairs of Sri Lanka somewhat along the lines of the deliberate distortions perpetrated by the very agents of imperialism(local and foreign) he so vehemently stands against globally.

  • 0
    0

    People like Tariq Ali for whom people have some considerable respect should consider carefully what they write. When they write on subjects that they are not fully conversant with and quote figures that have not been confirmed, they start to lose their credibility. And, inevitably, their reputations start to suffer. This article, far from enhancing or even maintaining TA’s reputation, actually diminishes it. Mr TA, the next time, check and double check what you write or risk losing your reputation for being objective. When your credibility is eroded so is your ability to convince.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.