22 June, 2024


The Killing Of ‘The Leopard’ & Call For The Return Of ‘A Hitler’

By W.A Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

Last week, the mainstream media as well as social media was abuzz with two explosive stories.

Killing of the leopard

One was the brutal clubbing to death of a leopard which had accidentally wandered into a village in Kilinochchi by some of its inhabitants. The public anger was directed at them particularly for their euphoric posing for selfies with its carcass, while ridiculing it all the time.

This appeared, in today’s sense of a humane approach to life, to be a shocking exhibition of cruelty. All this had been done on camera so that the whole world could watch their euphoric glory over the unusual trophy they had collected. With public anger and the Police entering the scene, that euphoria became extremely short-lived.

Advice to Gotabaya to be a Hitler

The other was the fine advice given by the Anunayaka or Deputy Chief Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter in the Theravada Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka to presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his 69th birthday.

The Buddhist Elder told Gotabaya: “People accuse you of being a Hitler. What we advise you is that if it is necessary to be a Hitler to rescue this nation, be a Hitler. We the Buddhist priests request you to establish even a military rule and build this country”

Ven Anunayaka Thero’s words echoed his desperation to make Sri Lanka a great nation and, according to him, the ends would justify the means.

When there was a public outcry against this piece of wisdom coming from a leading member of the Maha Sangha, the Buddhist elder is reported to have clarified later that what he meant was not that Gotabaya should become a Hitler but a tough ruler.

Hunger and fear, two impulses in survival kit

These two events are not connected to each other. Yet, they exhibit the nature of the mental state Sri Lankans today – irrespective of faith, ethnicity or social status – are harbouring. Of course it is not typical only to Sri Lankans. That is the mental state which Homo sapiens – Man, the Wise – has been having for more than 60,000 years, as documented by Yuval Noah Harari in his ‘Sapiens’ which has recorded a brief history of humankind.

That mental state is marked by two traits – hunger and fear, which have been embedded in their genes by nature to ensure their survival. Hunger makes us work for food and fear signals us to flee dangers. We the wise are noted for our ability to think rationally and suppress instinctive impulses so that we do not have to flee every time our genes warn us of an impending danger. A classic example of not using this rational thinking power is provided by a popular children’s story. In that story, a fruit falls on a dry palmyrah leaf making a loud noise. One animal gets frightened and starts running. All the other animals follow it without making any inquiry until they are told by a wise animal to establish the source of the danger before starting to run.

But when we face an extreme situation, our rational mind is taken over by animalistic feelings and we behave exactly like other animals. For instance, a starving man has no social values and would grab whatever food is available.

Similarly, when stricken by fear, even the most rational man will behave irrationally. Recognising this, the Buddha refrained from preaching the Dhamma when a man was with an empty stomach. Similarly, to overcome fear, he advised his disciples to cultivate a neutral mental state in which they would not be greedy, hateful and delusional.

Man’s gang behaviour is the same

The video depicting the gang killing of the leopard recreates a scene that would have taken place, say, some 15,000 years ago. The animal spirit shown, autonomously coordinated action and joyful assemblage of like-minded people by the present gang are exactly similar to the way their ancestors had used clubs and sharpened poles to bring down a mammoth, the long-haired elephantine animal.

The only difference is that Homo sapiens at that time had killed the animal for food, a must for survival. This time, it is out of fear, the elimination of which is necessary for survival. It is just like reaction of a man who has detected a cobra under his bed. The gang, driven by fear, has removed the cause in the most irrational manner.

They also made a mistake by recording it on camera and posting the same on social media. Thus, an incident that would have just died away in an isolated locality in a small island was elevated overnight to a national issue.

Man has not been kind to animals

Many have condemned the killing by posting angry posters on social media. Does it mean that mankind has finally resolved itself to treat all species humanely? The answer is no, as documented by Harari in his second book ‘Homo Deus’, a brief history of tomorrow.

When Homo sapiens had been organised as small hunter-gatherer bands, any animal that it came across was his prey for food. It was the life of the animal or that of the hunter that was at stake. Therefore, no mercy was shown to any game animal.

When Homo sapiens got itself engaged in agriculture some 10,000 years ago, those game animals were domesticated but still they were slaughtered for food or used as draught animals to ease their workload. However, with the explosion of the population of Homo sapiens in the last two to three centuries, the production system involved in domesticated small farms could not supply the foods needed by the ever increasing number of voracious mouths. It gave birth to the industrial farming of animals – cows, pigs, chickens and so on – once again a necessity for the survival of Homo sapiens.

Treating all animals as inferior to Man

Harari says this was made possible by a new ideology which Homo sapiens started to believe in. That was, all other species was inferior to Homo sapiens with respect to development, consciousness, soul and mind, feelings and emotions.

Hence, there was nothing wrong for Homo sapiens to treat these and other animals as their toys and do whatever they felt about them. But all mammals and some reptiles too possess feelings and emotions and they were grossly neglected when they were raised for food in industrial farms having been confined to restricted small cages and strictly according to man-made time tables concerning birth, living and death.

The story does not end here. Millions of animals have sacrificed their lives in research laboratories for producing drugs that have enabled Homo sapiens and industrial animals to elongate their life spans without illnesses. For instance, the world is now nearly free from the polio threat and it has been hailed as “returning summer to millions of children being born in the world”. However, one unknown fact is that to produce one million doses of the polio vaccine, about 1,500 monkeys have to be sacrificed. Given that about 125 million children are born annually worldwide, it means that some 187,000 monkeys have to sacrifice their lives annually to save the children in the world.

Cruel treatment of animals in industrial farms

Hence, Man has been cruel to animals throughout history. The only exception has been Emperor Asoka who ruled India in the 3rd century BCE. After embracing Buddhism and eschewing violence, via a rock inscription, he pronounced the edict that only three living creatures, namely one deer and two peacocks, should be killed a day, even then, not regularly, in the Royal Kitchen. Previously, thousands of animals had been slaughtered a day to meet the kitchen’s meat requirements.

By refraining from killing animals for food, Emperor Asoka had sought to set an example for others. But there is no evidence that the ‘others’ in his time or his successors did actually follow him. It was a lone attempt at extending mercy to all living species.

Though it is a high ideal, it cannot be practised with 7.6 billion people located in different parts of the globe today. Hence, industrial farming will continue, more animals will be slaughtered each day and technology will be directed to discover better breeding of those animals. The cruel treatment of animals and also of fellow members by Homo sapiens will continue though we do not like it.

Blame game of modern Man

It will give rise to a peculiar situation in which each person will accuse others of practising cruelty. This can be gauged by examining the mentality of motorists. Every driver on the road, while giving a good driving certificate to himself, has the habit of condemning others for bad driving. They therefore want the Police to discipline those erring drivers. The call for a tough leader – or a Hitler in a figurative sense – is just a manifestation of this mental state of Homo sapiens today.

Call for authoritarian rule

The present case involving the Anunayaka Thero is not the first occasion where such a call has been made in Sri Lanka. In the late 1960s, another Buddhist monk, Rajakeeya Panditha Henpitagedera Gnanasiha Thero, published a book in Sinhala under the title ‘Dictatorship’ calling for the establishment of an authoritarian rule in Sri Lanka. The erudite monk’s point was that a democratic government system had failed to force lazy Sri Lankans to work hard for building the nation.

Hence, suppressing democratic rights today was for creating a better future tomorrow, argued Gnanasiha Thero. But people got a real taste of ‘authoritarian rule’ in subsequent administrations and therefore there was no more call for authoritarian leaders until it was reopened by Anunayaka Thero in question.

Hitler stole the resources of Jews five times

Hitler was indeed a tough leader and did not care for the rights of people. His economic policies were different from those being practised in democratic societies today. During World War II he used coercion to mobilise resources for his war. It was specifically used to apprehend, transport and detain the Jewish population in forced labour camps.

According to the evidence revealed in the war-crime trials in Nuremberg and as later researchers have found, Hitler had stolen the resources belonging to the Jews on five consecutive times.

First, their movable assets – cash, gold, clothes and furniture, etc. – were confiscated. Second, their immovable assets like buildings, factories and plants were taken over. Third, after depriving them of both movable and immovable assets, they were herded into compulsory labour camps to work day and night in munitions producing factories.

Fourth, he had even stolen the accumulated calories of Jews by getting them to work long hours without giving them adequate foods. Fifth, after they had died of illnesses related to overwork and underfeeding, their bones had been processed into fertiliser, skins into hides and body facts into soap. This is an extreme case of using dictatorial powers to force people to give up everything they own for the sake of producing more goods for a nation. This could not have been done in a democratic regime.

The forced labour camps are not the solution

The forced labour camps in the former Soviet Union, in modern China and in Kampuchea under the Khmer Rouge rule are some of the more recent examples of using forced labour in production units. But it killed millions of people, degraded human values and permanently injured human psyches.

Above all, it did not generate the expected development either. Hence, it is indeed a misconception that authoritarian regimes will deliver permanent economic development to a country.

In the initial stage of authoritarian rule, economic growth will be pushed up. But authoritarian societies lack the basic ingredient essential for sustaining that initial growth. That ingredient is the development of knowledge and human skills to push economies up permanently. It is known today as ‘knowledge capital’.

Human intellect prospers under free conditions

To produce goods and services, a nation needs material inputs like infrastructure, plant and machinery equipment, transport vehicles, etc. But it is the capacity, skills base, talents pool and knowledge of people who run that economy that will make its growth sustainable. All these good attributes of human capital are facilitated by the existence of good health, development of science and technology and investment in research, application, marketing and development.

A human being who develops these attributes in himself is in fact developing a property which will give him an income stream in the future, the incentive for him to do so. This property is his property and it has to be protected as a right if he is to be induced to develop it. He should have right to dispose of this property for his benefit in the market in a voluntary exchange. If he is forced to part with his property, he has no incentive to use his time and money for its further development. When this attitude becomes widespread, discouraging everyone in society to develop their properties, the initial economic growth attained will soon lose steam.

Democracy is the best to develop human intellect

Democracy is the best system for people to develop creative human capital. That is because creativity arises from freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The authoritarian rulers consider these freedoms a nuisance and tend to suppress them. But it hinders human creativity which is necessary for continuous economic growth.

The Ukrainian emigrant novelist Marina Lewycka has explained in her novel ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ how the suppression of free thought and free expression during the Soviet era killed the innovativeness of scientists in Ukraine and why many of them became alcoholics and others migrated to Europe and North America to escape the oppressive regime.

The need for protecting property rights

There is no rule of law and independent judiciary to protect property rights in authoritarian regimes. Without property rights, there is no incentive for people to develop a land, business or knowledge. When that does not happen, a country cannot sustain its economic growth.

Be careful when asking leaders to be dictators

Hence, the call for a tough leader like Hitler by some sections of society today is based on a misconceived ideology. It is sweet music to the ears of those who wish to set up dictatorial regimes. But countries that have gone through that path have not been able to attain permanent economic growth. Thus, one should be careful when one asks a presidential hopeful to act like Hitler or set up a military regime in the country.

*W.A. Wijewardena, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, can be reached at waw1949@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 11

    Thought provoking and informative article. Great thoughts spring from great men. Over whelmed by fear, the leopard was killed in an irrational manner and euphoria was vedioed in the media. History recorded Hitler as a monster who destroyed Europe and decimated millions of Jewish people robbing them of everything. There was a similar catostropy in Sri Lanka as well. Let us not forget it. The euphoria was much greater than the euphoria erupted after killing the leopard. They too were robbed of everything that tantamounts to Hitler emptying the Jewish of Germany. Prosperous people are always made paupers. The point of the fact is, as the article expounds, the animality at times overtake the humanity and I wonder why the monk has to drag, the historical monster, instead of so many great leaders who dedicated their lives passionately to build their nation. Late prime minister of Singapore, Abraham Lincoln and many more. Singaporean was built from nothing. Japan rose from ashes of nuclear devastation. Even Europe itself, was raised from zero ground. Those built their nations aren’t great. Passionate leaders instill that passion in the people. Japanese are of that kind. Therefore Sri Lanka needs a selfless leader, without an avracious mindset, a man of moral integrity and wisdom to build up the the island notion to be in par with other committee of nation, not a Hitler as we had already suffered the Hitler effect already.

    • 0

      We know the qualities leopard when it is on stress situation and attacking mode can we kill it.

    • 5

      “People accuse you of being a Hitler. What we advise you is that if it is necessary to be a Hitler to rescue this nation, be a Hitler. We the Buddhist priests request you to establish even a military rule and build this country”

      I don’t know how much thought the Asgiriya Buddhist leader gave himself as a true Buddhist before giving this advice to Gotapaya Rajapakse. We should look at the wordings carefully.
      Rescue this nation: This implies that there is an immediate threat to the nation. He didn’t give this advice to existing President or existing Prime Minister or former President Rajapakse but to a US citizen. If he would have given a general advice to future leadership that is reasonable. His advice to a person who was evicted from the power by the people because of his hitler style dictatorship. In my opinion he implies that this government is a therat to the nation because they tried to do something to resolve the ethnic proplem through constitution. He is not speaking for peace or all the citizens of this land. He encourages violence against minorities.

    • 3

      The devastation of World War I was erased in Germany and the country rebuilt beyond recognition by Hitler till 1939. The same Germany was destroyed beyond belief by 1945 by the same Hitler. Post war ‘German Miracle’ is the achievement of GERMANS twice traumatised in 30 years. Whose performance? The German’s; their gene; their elan vital, their discipline; their patriotism.

      Sri Lankans have said ad nauseam, that Sri Lanka will be the next Singapore. First let the country heed the advice of eminent economist Dr. WA Wijewardena and get off the impending danger of economic collapse.

  • 1

    With all its drawbacks the best form of government is representative democracy. The wits of men had not invented a better system of government in place of democracy. The solution to the ills that plague Ceylon is not a dictatorship, but equality, common sense based on rule of law, the supremacy of parliament, enlightened leadership, and rule by example. Nothing else will work.

  • 3

    People have already suffered under quasi dictatorship for 10 years under Rajapakse brothers. To mention a few white vans ,killing of journalists ,frightening torture and abduction of critics, blatant misuse of state property, nepotism,violent crushing of dissent and bashing of minorities were the order of the day. We don’t need a repetition.

  • 7

    Dr. W., were you working in the CBSL when the ponzi scammer Cabraal the hotel accountant was the Governor? Why not give more exposure about what his sister did at Aloysius company before?

    • 1

      Good question Gulle, but you must ask Ranil W what deals he made with Cabraal so that the latter would be at large to scheme against Maithripala Sirisena!

  • 2

    We know the aim and action of Hitler can we advice to be like a Hitler

    • 2


      “We know the aim and action of Hitler can we advice to be like a Hitler”

      Lets forget the aspiring little Hitlers of this island and their mesmerizing saffron clad Rasputins and focus on inapt public racist ministers whom Ranil made sure that they rather stayed inside the cabinet and p***ed outside than stayed outside and p***ed inside.

      Achchige Patali Champika Ranawaka couldn’t build an uncomplicated straight forward power station costing $1.3 billion and ensure it was up and running yet he was appointed as the Minister of Megalopolis and Western Development who now tells us he is going to build a Light Rail System (LRS) at the cost of $1.7 billion.
      I wonder why Champika couldn’t be replaced by a smart minister.

  • 5

    Dr. W.A Wijewardena

    “brutal clubbing to death of a leopard which had accidentally wandered into a village in Kilinochchi by some of its inhabitants.”

    I am not sure of a leopard. Let us think first. I like to ask, do these people who killed this leopard also kill other animals such as cat, dog, sheep and cow in the same way? I am sure I can answer that even without asking the villagers the answer is ‘NO’.

    Then why do you think they killed the leopard when they do not kill other animals? Surely the author can guess the answer!

    Leave alone the leopard but I have done the same what these villagers did, Killed brutally to some other animals such as snake, scorpion, caterpillar, spiders when it ‘had accidentally wandered into’ my garden or house! I also have killed rats, cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes.

    But I can swear I never killed a dog, cat, cow, goat. In fact I go out of the way to feed stray dogs and cats and cattle.

    So why do you think I killed some animals while I petted and caressed few others. So if the village people are wrong to have killed a leopard then I am also guilty and should be punished for killing the animals I said have done!

  • 3

    “The Buddhist Elder told Gotabaya: “People accuse you of being a Hitler. What we advise you is that if it is necessary to be a Hitler to rescue this nation, be a Hitler. We the Buddhist priests request you to establish even a military rule and build this country”

    So exactly you cannot blame the Tamils who said to LTTE and Prabaharan “if it is necessary to be a terrorist to rescue the Tamils, be a terrorist”.

    “We the Tamils request you to establish even a military rule and establish Eelam”

  • 0

    Part I: Dr WA Wijewardena “The Killing Of ‘The Leopard’……”.
    WA W is overly emotive here. Last week there were the usual revelations/allegations of ‘corruption/nepotism/impunity’, like for example in SriLankan Airlines, blood transfusion etc. etc. Pity WA W does not find these ‘explosive’.
    Consider this leopard killing. In the village/locality this was probably the only leopard killed with sticks and stones in living memory. The people never go out armed with sticks on a leopard killing spree. In this case there was a reason.
    In 2017 – 2018, about six tuskers were shot dead. High-ups provided the guns and ammunition. Tusks were recovered but what happened? It is worth noting that over the leopard killing, the Police and Army arrested some twelve at last count. This was just to terrorise the village.
    The ‘selfies’ were in poor taste. But what about the ‘selfies’ of torture, rape, necrophilia in the aftermath of the end of civil war? One wonders as to the ‘taste’.
    WA W points out the primitive mentality of the leopard killers. Wonder what WA W thinks of the killing of humans in the infamous pogroms.

  • 0

    Part II: Dr WA Wijewardena “……..Call For The Return of ‘A Hitler’….’.
    WA W finds the The ‘Gotler’ incident was explosive. Was it on the same level TNT as the ‘Leopard killing’?
    WA W opines ~ “….The other was the fine advice given by the Anunayaka or Deputy Chief Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter in the Theravada Buddhist tradition…….”.
    FINE advice? No no no. GR has yet to disassociate himself!
    This is a sign of Lankan Buddhism imploding.
    All this argy-bargy historical review from hunter-gatherer through to the holocaust are irrelevant.
    WA W has added the last para as an after-thought .
    We look forward to some thoughts on the after-thoughts.

  • 5

    Brutalised people treated like animals and still continue to be marginalised and brutalised will be cruel and behave in this manner. If the occupying Sinhalese army in the north and east and the Sri Lankan government treat the Tamils like humans , return their homes lands , farms, and allow them to make a living instead of denying , then this sort of behaviour will greatly decrease. What is more worrying was the reaction of many Sinhalese to this incident, instead of condemning the incident and the individual perpetrators, they using this incident to justify their marginalisation discrimination of the island’s Tamils, as well as the genocide and horrible war crimes that was committed on them. Yes the killing of this poor, rare endangered animal , that too brutally is a crime and I hope the culprits are severely punished, however trying to use a single incident , to justify, discrimination ,genocide and war crimes on an entire people on social media sites in abhorrent. Very Hitler and Nazi like. A few stupid Tamil youths killing a leopard is horrible but the killing of hundreds of thousands of Tamils by the Sri Lankan state and displacing over a million of them is fine and now justified, as this single leopard was brutally killed . Sinhalese people are not brutally killing wildlife down south, only Tamils , many of whom are now forced to live a marginal existence on the edges of jungles and come to conflict with wildlife, as their homes and lands are in the hands of the armed forces. Where was the wild life department , when the villagers complained that a leopard had entered the village and was mauling humans? Gone on a Safari?

  • 0

    Thank you so much Dr. W.A.W. You have contributed a highly valuable article. Even a person, who has a dictatorial ambition to make Sri Lanka a high performing state, he will definitely think to go at least two steps backward in his project, if he happens to read this.

  • 1

    Sri Lanka just as other third world countries are in a desperate situation saddled with lawlessness,courruption,stupidity,etc etc since THE COLONIALS LEFT US in 1948.
    Colonial types from GB too had these negative aspects in their lives from the person in the street to the king.King got rid of the custodians their religion, Christianity, went to the extent of getting the Pope’s representative murdered. From there on all the civilized activities were gradually emerged, like sports, arts and crafts, education for all in science and arts.There was a gradual process that took them few hundred years and the centre of this revolution began in UK.This is why Lenin lived here in London for some time witnessing the on going process and Karl Marx lived and died here in UK.
    When UK colonized countries like ours, they inculcated all or most of their own values on the colonies and in the process they united the communities within a country which was the right thing by their standards.
    Sadly the Oxford educated scum of our leaders(of most third world) who were infiltrated by the local(UK) useless radicals poisoned the minds our future idiotic leaders like SWRD,Nkruma,The Kenyan leader,not forgettinf Gandi.The absurd concept of ‘divide and rule’ came from this lot. Some idiots still believe in this lie that have distracted the lives of all third world countries thus bringing in doom and gloom.
    Values that was inculcated by the colonials were ignored thus making people ever so stupid, ignorant and mostly non productive..
    Politicians mainly use any religion to manipulate the people and people in turn were slaves to their respective religions. To day we are in a hell of a mess and one only witness the unfair privileges that the main religion being used by the politicians and their clergy to take unfair advantage over the rule of law and us the people which is in the true sense of divide and rule.

  • 1

    Part III: Dr WA Wijewardena “The Killing Of ‘The Leopard’……”.
    Tusks are a status symbol in houses and temples. There is a great demand from the nouveau riche. Keeping elephant calves at home is a super-symbol.
    Tuskers are shot – the high-powered rifle and ammunition provided by the well connected. Baby elephants are ‘caught’ and frequently the mother killed. Evidently only two out of fifty calves captured survive.
    The following appeared in “The Island” today (03 July). The special police unit in-charge of Kandy archaeological sites went to a house posing as buyers of ivory. The asking price was Rs 6 million. After the usual haggling the agreed price was Rs 5.5 million. Charges will be laid. No arrests.
    To cut a long story short, DA W, please compare shooting tuskers for monetary gain and the killing of one single leopard with sticks. Also compare how the police acted in the two cases.
    Elephant is an endangered species but leopards are not.

    • 2

      Sri Lankan TV stations , especially the Sinhalese ones will not sensationalise or beam the killing of endangered elephants , nor will government officials do anything . The Sinhalese public will not screech shout and pretend to be shocked and state discrimination genocide and war crimes are justified, as the perpetrators of these killings are their fellow Sinhalese. All these are only reserved for Tamils, just to show how brutal and barbaric they are and the armed forces and Sinhalese settlers are needed in their areas to civilise them and keep them in check. The concern for the leopard is secondary and is being used as an excuse to justify their hatred for the Tamils.

  • 3

    This writer tries to justify the brutal lepord killing by Killnochchi inhabitants. These are people who worshiped Prabhakaran who celebrated Colombo bomb blasts where civilians died in hundreds. Expressing their joy was nothing else but showing to the South that ‘we continue to destroy things that is Sri Lankan’. The Batticaloe – Colombo Tamil train drivers purposely kill elephants on their track, scores have been killed in the recent past. That is again showing Tamil anger against the Sinhalese. Lepords, Elephants living in the wild are Sri Lankan symbols and Tamils want to destroy them.

    • 1

      Leaving our races aside, what do you then feel at the time, Balligeputha Rajapakshe made people kiribtth eating …. all along since notherners were buried in mountains in the last end of the of the brtual war.

      I think both fought the war should equally take the responsiblity for crimes committed against humanity.
      Even in brutal 89 insurgency, thousands of innocient youth were burnt down on tyre pyres. Remember… any forms of atrocities should be condemned regardless of the ones that perpetrated.
      I think our people SINHALAYA should be more tolerant. How can they be tolerant if they cant digest comments on the web sites ? Most of commenters add all filthy loads against the current men in power.. or anyone who would stand against Rajapkshe rascals. why is that ?
      The day we should all have the feeling that we are all SRILANKENs regardless of the race, religion or whatever the other parameters… then it will be the day we can really celebrate it…. but for that, you can wait many more decades. As COlombo univerisity dons keep insisting, masses in the country will take longer than we ever thought.

  • 1

    Well said Mrs Udubaddawa. Only you have guts in this forum

  • 0

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  • 0

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