25 October, 2020

Blog

The Fall Of The Tiger, The Rise Of The Sinhala Roar, And Geneva Anxieties

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

It is as though the fall of the tiger has directly led to the rise of Sinhala Roar, or Ravaya, literally speaking.  Looked at it another way, just as there is talk about LTTE remnants floating around the globe, it is possible to talk about Sinhala Ravaya and other organizations of its ilk as being the remnants of the wave of triumphalism that the Rajapaksa government unleashed in the south after crushing the LTTE in the north.  The Sinhala Ravaya seems to have earned special notoriety after trying to storm the Prime Minister’s office on Flower Road.  Not long after came the attacks on Christian churches in Hikkaduwa, this time by an outfit called the Hela Bodu Pawra, adding to the negative reactions in the media.  But for quite a while these remnants of triumphalism have been on a free roll with open blessings from higher echelons of the regime.  Their free ride may not be over yet, but their senseless and hateful antics are making them more a liability than an asset to the regime.  Their liability is all the more magnified now, with the onset of Geneva anxieties in government circles.

A responsible and, in these senseless political times, a path-breaking response appears to be coming from former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.  She recently confirmed to the Venerable Mahanayake Theros that she has no intention of reentering politics and that her only intention is to stop “Buddhist extremist organizations attacking Christian and Muslim places of worship” and destroying Sri Lanka’s religious harmony. To that end, the former President has invited leaders of all faiths/religions for a meeting in Colombo, at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, on Tuesday, January 28.  Hopefully, the meeting will go ahead without running into nutty protestors, and something worthwhile would come out of her initiative.  This is also an opportunity to uplift her rather lopsided legacy; running for President would only drag it down.

Let us take our eye from the former to the current President.  Could we ever hear such a commitment from President Rajapaksa – to castigate the extremist organizations in order to protect religious harmony?  And he, in case anybody forgot, has no intention whatsoever to leave the presidency or politics any time soon.  I cannot recall President Rajapaksa ever taking to task the “Buddhist extremist organizations” like the way his favourite predecessor is starting to be doing.  But other voices are belatedly emanating within government ranks not so much as questioning the legitimacy, purpose and the method of these organizations, but expressing concern over the damage these organizations are causing to the Rajapaksa government internationally.  All are symptoms of Geneva anxieties.

Rhyme and Reason

Bandula Gunawardena of Grade-Five fame, who is also President Rajapaksa’s Minister of Education, has alerted whomever to “moves underway to use some Buddhist monks’ activities as part of an anti-Sri Lankan propaganda drive in Geneva.” He bemoaned that the internet and the social media are being used to give “adverse publicity” to activities of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka.  Notably, the Grade-Five specialist did not venture to criticize the so called “activities of some Buddhist monks.”  Appropriately or not, the Minister was speaking at a gathering of Pirivena teachers, where he went on to announce that “the Pirivena Act would be amended to impart a better education to Buddhist monks”.  All we can hope for the Minister is – much better luck and much less bungling with amending the Pirivena Act than what he had in trying to stop Grade Five scholarships.

A much broader broadside came in last week’s Sunday Island Political Column under the headline: “The Mad Monk Phenomenon.”  Curiously, the Minister of Education and the Sunday Island (SI) columnist are shy of naming names. The Minister laments about the “activities of some Buddhist monks”, and the SI columnist lambastes the “The Mad Monk Phenomenon”.  Neither of them refers by name to any one group in the long list of “Buddhist extremist” organizations that includes besides Sinhala Ravaya and Hela Bodu Pawra, the Ravana Balaya, Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Weera Vidahana, Chinthana Parshadaya and Jayagrahanaya.  There might be a rhyme to their names, but is there a rhyme or reason for their being?

According to JHU Monk and Leader Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero (in his interview in the same SI colimn), “there is nothing wrong in bhikkus protesting or demonstrating on the streets, but the bhikku image and identity has to be safeguarded. It is only then that the people and the government will take notice. Very often there are just reasons for these demonstrations. When the government does nothing to address these grievances, the other side tries to do whatever they can to be heard.”  This was a circular answer to the rather pointed question by the columnist about the reason for “the phenomenon of bhikkus demonstrating on the streets and behaving in an unprecedentedly uncouth and violent manner in public.”  There is nothing, grievance or anything else, for the government to notice when important sections in the government are known to have been promoting these protests, and the government as a whole has done nothing to put an end to what are really blatant exercises in lawlessness.

Although an attempt is being made to separate the nameless “mad monks” from the JHU, according to most observers the organizations to which the “mad monks” belong, are themselves off springs and affiliates of the JHU.  The JHU is said to have emerged when there was “a life and death issue in the country – which was the war on terror … to safeguard the interests of the Sinhala Buddhists”.  There is more embellishment than truth in this assertion.  The emergence of the JHU was certainly one expression of the disquiet among the Sinhalese during the peace process of the Wickremasinghe administration.  A more powerful expression had, by then, come and gone, in the person of the late Soma Thero.  From a political standpoint, there is nothing unusual or illegitimate about this disquiet and its expressions.  The mistake was the failure of the political leadership to respond to them honestly and forthrightly.

As the administrators of the peace process the Wickremasinghe government made no attempt to reach out among the Sinhalese.  The then government simply assumed that the goodies from the ‘peace dividend’ would be sufficient to quieten the masses.  While the goodies of peace and war went to private pockets and not to the masses, the expressions of disquiet were left to find alternative forums as they had no place in the formal preoccupations with war and peace.  At the same time, and quite cynically, both the UNP and SLFP leaderships courted these organizations, especially the JHU (and the JVP), and cultivated them electorally.  The proportional representation and the district-list system have become particularly conducive to the cultivation of marginal parties, even as they served the originally intended purpose of destroying the Old Left parties.  Neither the JHU nor the JVP would ever have got into parliament in the numbers they did, without the support of the two major parties.  The chickens are now coming home to roost.

Whatever reason there might have been for the emergence of the JHU during the war, there is no reason, whatever, for the JHU and its affiliates continuing after the war with anti-Muslim and anti-Christian agendas.  If there was arm-length electoral cultivation of marginal parties during the ‘alliance politics’ of Wickremasinghe and Kumaratunga, there is wholesale absorption of them under Mahinda Rajapaksa.  In fact, as it is now becoming apparent, the extremist marginal parties have more clout in the UPFA than the SLFP.  The so called SLFP old guard, including the Prime Minister, has become the new marginalized entity.

As for the “mad monk phenomenon”, it has not only benefited from state protection so far, it is also “technologically enabled” with its mastery of the social media of blogs, tweets and facebooks.  The Minister of Education, who is now complaining about the internet and the social media being used to badmouth his government internationally, should realize how much damage has been done internally to religious harmony and social peace by the social media excretions of the extremist nationalists.  Soma Thero mastered the television medium to bandy his message with dignity and decorum.  Now the social media is being used by bigots to spread the message of hate and violence.

The funniest angle on the mad monk phenomenon is the suggestion that it is being funded and sponsored by western organizations to destroy Buddhism in Sri Lanka.  If this is an explanation, it will not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the whole Rajapaksa regime is a western conspiracy!  The reality is that it is the regime that is laboring under the delusion that the west is out to get it.  Now that the season of Geneva anxieties is upon us, there are Liberal Party calls  to rebuild an international consensus in favour of Sri Lanka.  The more urgent task, in my view, is to un-build the scaffoldings of extremism that the government has been putting up in many parts of the country.  Un-building the unnecessary could also be a therapy for Geneva anxiety.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 2
    3

    As Wajira Thro correctly pointed out ” If Muslims were to join hands wiht LTTE that time, These foolish buggers would have a country to call Sinhalese country”.

    For making that choice of co-existance thousands of Muslim were chased away and displaced.Muslims were the most effected community because of the WAR. Unfortunately this is an untold truth.

    • 2
      0

      Had Muslims joined the LTTE they would have their own country by now!

      Fools! Joined with the wrong party and now pay for it from your

    • 2
      0

      Why don’t you get your arse back to The middle East then. Muslims were chased and still being chased from every land even now. Look at Burma and recently in North Africa. Why is everyone hating Islam? Its a good question almost every human in this planet looking for the answer. I’d say the answer is in the below link.

      http://youtu.be/FMzuQ4twiWw

  • 2
    1

    Rajan
    Thank you for keeping on trying to light up the path for the government. When will they see the light? I hope you won’t get tired. We need to keep trying for the sake of our country.

  • 3
    1

    People are barking up the gum tree: The root cause of all ills of the inter-ethnic and anti-minority religions is the Mahavamsa mind set inculcated in most Sinhalese minds; unless this is addressed and corrected nothing positive is going to happen for peace and harmony among communities.

    • 1
      1

      I share Thiru’s frustration that Rajan and many of the other regular columnists at CT seem averse to talking about the ‘root causes’ of Sri Lanka’s problems. But, being regular columnists, they perhaps feel that they have to base each new contribution around current tittle tattle, often with much exhibition of their wit, erudition, linguistic skills and access to information. Also, being no doubt well read in the humanities, they may be wary of the philosophical pitfalls associated with the idea of causation as applied to History. But surely, it is now plain to see that Sinhala-buddhist nationalism has been the driving force, the dominant zeitgeist, that has shaped Sri Lanka’s fate over the last 150 years or so. Looking back at Sri Lanka’s late colonial and post colonial history, there is a sense of inevitability about the development of Sinhala buddhist nationalism. It is intensely felt, is very much part and parcel of the everyday lived reality of nearly all members of the Sinhala Buddhist community, and it is politically very potent. It has already wrought vast and fundamental changes to the country, many (but not all) of these changes being seriously inimical to the country as a whole. Much of the rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and a huge part of of the human capital has already been irrevocably lost. The immense damage that has already been done to the moral and social fabric of the country, and to the legal, administrative and governance frameworks will be very hard to recover from. And yet, the dominant ethno nationalism, which motivates or at least provides the permissive zeitgeist for all this and more to unfold as history, has been given a turbo boost by the military victory in 2009.
      Thiru is right that for anything positive to happen the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist mindset needs to be changed. But how? Historically, ethnonationalism of this intensity, magnitude, momentum and power is often brought to an end in a catastrophe: political, socio-economic or foreign military entanglement. It will not be moved by preaching, certainly not by columnists in e-journals.

      • 0
        0

        Nor by e-rejoinders to e-columnists!

        I appreciate the frustration more than the argument (if there is one).

        My purpose in writing is far more modest than the targets you and Thiru seem to be imposing on me.

        I have no illusion that I have an easy solution to anything.

        At the same time, I don’t take “do nothing” as an option.

        -RP

        • 0
          0

          Rajan

          Yes, there is an argument in what we have said, but perhaps I need to be make it more explicit:
          •Sinhala budhist nationalism is now the overwhelming political zeitgeist among the Sinhala Buddhist community
          •This nationalism has motivated or at least provided the permissive zeitgeist for an array of hugely inimical changes in the polity, institutions and society, and it continues to do so
          •Nationalisms of this intensity and political potency often propel themselves towards catastrophic implosion
          •When the implosion happens, there would be hope that this nationalistic spell would be broken, and perhaps there may be an opportunity for a saner society to be rebuilt
          •Journalists and columnists etc cannot significantly change the trajectory of this nationalism in its present turbo charged state, but the ground must be prepared now, in the form of forthright and fundamental analyses exposing nationalism as a historical ‘cause’ of our problems. This may help to prepare the ground for people to see more clearly, from amongst the ruins of the implosion, how nationalistic delusions have led them and the country to disaster, and perhaps finally dispell the delusion
          •Comment and analyses at the present time which shy away from exploring and exposing the role of nationalism miss an opportunity to build a counter momentum which would help with laying the ghost to rest, when this nationalism finally self -destructs.

  • 0
    2

    The great majority of the inhabitant population who are poor, rural Sinhala Buddhists need the help of the Buddhist Organizations to protect and preserve the current, peace and path to prosperity which were won with immense sacrifices by this same majority.

    Watching the carnage in Cairo ,our poor inhabitants must be thanking their deities that the Srilankan armed forces do not have stooges who will bow down to the West.

    UK , according to their Commonwealth affairs Minister is working hard with the US to put the knife into Rajapkasa at the next Geneva Session…

    Even Kiriella , of the UNP s ago confirmed this, by saying their Western Mates want to punish Rajapaksa.

    Is Eliminating terrorists, and protecting 20 odd Million inhabitants from Suicide bombs and Road Side bombs a punishable offence?.

    Don’t these inhabitants who now live in peace have a moral obligation to protect the President?.

    Who else is better to give this protection than the JHU and other Buddhist Organizations.

    Specially if the West succeeds in marshaling their mates in Colombo to open up a “Syrian or Egyptian front” in Srilanka.

  • 1
    2

    rajan, [Edited out]

    • 1
      0

      [Edited out]

  • 1
    1

    Rajan is bringing up conspiracy theories.

    Give AK-47s to BBS and see what happens.

  • 0
    0

    rajan rules (not edited out but that’s what the name means-literally)

  • 0
    1

    I think Rajan Phillip is a [Edited out].

  • 0
    1

    Rajan Phillips has to understand Problmes of buddhists in Sri Lanka and in Burma in their views.

    You people when LTTE killed, tired to justify LTTE killings and violence. Now, when buddhists try to stop exploitation of their culture, you try to criticize Buddhists.

    Don’t you think that you are a Con-man.

    It is simply another version of the western propaganda. All the issues are analysed in their eyes.

    Don’t you think that people are naked ?

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.