17 April, 2024


The Many Contemporary Heroes (Viruwan) Of Our Island Paradise

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Viru Pissuwa or Hero Obsession

When you come to think of it, leaders and opinion makers of our resplendent island have a canny proclivity to create heroes. The media loves to pick on these, magnify them and metamorphosis them from fiction to real formations in the public imagination. There are many conspirators in this hilarious adventure. Every society needs heroes for inspiration and guidance; for national pride and collective psychological boost. As seen in movies or novels, heroes fill our hearts and they inspire people with values. Look at the heroes JK Rowling has created in her fiction! On the other hand, only full-blooded real heroes can embody such a spirit and disseminate that image. Unfortunately, such a cry for the hero is not eloquent in a decadent society ours.

In the Philippines, Fidel Ramos (1998) issued Executive Order No. 75 entitled Creating the National Heroes Committee Under the Office of the President”. The principal duty of the Committee is to study, evaluate and recommend Filipino national personages/heroes in due recognition of their sterling character and remarkable achievements for the country.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka doesn’t see the need for a proper evaluation by an independent body. Remember we have been, except for a small interval under Yahapalanaya, under the spell of the belief that one man should be permitted to make the decisions that matter. Collective decision-making processes as exhibited in parliamentary systems are disregarded. So we have the 20th Amendment to replace the 19th of Yahapalanaya. Tell Sir and he will decide the enlistment of heroes in the Wall of Fame. Probably Gnanakka can be consulted

Definition of Hero

We need not go into hairsplitting over the definition of a hero. The point is that when one defines some concept one gets entangled in contradictions and difficulties.

Let’s try to agree on some key elements of a hero. One, is his achievement of an unusual feat. Two, is that the achievement must be regarded as noble and as transcending standard human limitations. Third, is that this effort must be performed with no self interest in mind but sheer altruism or concern for another. Fourth, is that the effort can expose the performer to danger or life-threatening situations.

Against such delineating factors readers can themselves adjudge the heroism of Lanka’s vaunted hero categories

The Ranaviruwa

Actually, the exercise of naming heroes began with the war against the LTTE that lasted nearly 30 years. The public watched in sadness numerous soldiers die in battle, numerous structures destroyed and so much resources devastated by this war. Every soldier – from the simple soldier to the army commander did fight with awareness of the danger they faced, and with readiness to sacrifice their lives for a cause perceived as noble or transcending.

There is an equality among the army different ranks here because war is never an individual effort but a wholly collective one. The thousands of ordinary soldiers simply put their lives and their families into a vast collective sacrificial bowl.

Therefore, one can argue that all who fought in the war were equal heroes. Rank should not be overrated in terms of contributory effort. Admittedly, there is the consideration that the higher the rank the greater the strategic input into the collective effort. On the other hand, in terms of physical effort lower ranks are more vulnerable in the undertaking.

Command Line

One must make a distinction, however, between the fighters on command line and those outside. The President is not technically on command line as far as battling is concerned. The Defense Secretary is even further away in dim light. It so happened, however, that in Sri Lanka the war triumph had been totally owned by the president and his brother the Defense Secretary and all the windfall in terms of political power had been gotten by these two.

Ranaviruwas Undermined

This deviation in a sense undermined the Ranaviruwas because the flag had been carried away from them. It was a case of honesty compromised and national leadership failing. When under Indira Gandhi the East Pakistanis won the war with Indian support, Indira Gandhi gave all credit unreservedly to the army and its commander In Sri Lanka, we saw the army commander jailed!

The soldiers in Lanka had to be satisfied with the title of Ranaviruwas. Government’s keenness to publicise that label reflected a compensating guilt.

I found it difficult to trust the Rajapaksas after Fonseka. All political events since that demonstrate Rajapaksas using the war victory for their advancement. The goodwill sponsored by media for Mahinda Rajapaksa could have been profitably utilised to build Sri Lanka in Lee Kuan Yew style, employing into service capable professionals and running a sound administration who would have planned a major breakthrough. But that was not to be. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s lost a momentous Kalinga Moment of uniting and rebuilding the country.

Now it is Ratawiruwas

This is also a Rajapakse government tag to describe not the soldiers of war but ordinary citizens who left their homes and families to find employment in the Middle East and elsewhere. These poor folk did unmistakably make a terrible sacrifice and they need our sympathy. But that label is contrived, as these people do not exhibit the definitional characteristics of the hero, outlined above. To be fair, our overseas maids and workers never thought of themselves as heroes but as simple men and women seeking to flourish their economic status – even though at great personal inconvenience and some exposure to danger. Many of them were, in effect, slave labor for the rich Arabs and their prodigal sons.

Why was the label given? Government was desperate for their dollars. That’s the simple answer. While Lanka’s traditional commodity exports aren’t doing well, the remittances of overseas workers have been catching up for the drop of those exports.

Hence, for heaven’s sake let’s call them heroes.

However, our overseas workers wouldn’t care about honorific titles. They would have appreciated better if the Sri Lanka Government provided better services for them and the families they leave behind.


In these ways, the absence of anything more that tokenistic recognition for both war heroes and Rataviruwas, government labelling is of no use.

The nominal exaltation in status as far as Ranaviruwas are concerned have only helped some of the higher ranked soldiers to exploit the situation in their favour. The few bad ones think they can kidnap children for ransom, like the Nigerian Boko Haram, and escape the law. Some others have scandalous sexual invasions and save themselves. Some use the power of the Ranaviru to break the law that they themselves make.

The best of the cream like Denzil Kobbekaduwa got murdered by state actors and have left the scene unsung – perhaps leaving only a road named after him!

If Government Runs Well and Justly, What  Need for Titles?

The lesson, then, is that if government runs well and justly and and brings income and services for the people that is the best it can do for people including Ranaviruwas and Rataviruwas. What Sri Lanka has, on the contrary, is a bypassing of government’s role and responsibility in favour of influential circles.

Giving away empty titles is a cover up for government’s inability and incompetence in the art of governance. Tokenism is no substitute for real service. However, our government is getting more and more prone to substitute tokenism for service. Maybe, in the near future government might call health frontline workers “Suvaviruwan,” while not doing enough to give special protection to these invaluable persons working at great risk with Covid patients. A few days ago, a 31-year-old lady doctor died at Karapaitiya Hospital succumbing to Covid. What about Nurses and Attendants? The GMOA has hitched itself to the politics of government and so we will not bother about the doctors.

Ordinary Citizens?

Looking at the overall dysfunctional status of affairs in Sri Lanka, I think all ordinary citizens who have to suffer the humbug, lies and deceitful politics of our politicians – top to bottom – and have to survive in a regime that is engaged in battle with petty traders, are the real heroes. Suggestion: Shall we call them ‘sesuviruwans’ in place of “purawesiyan?”

*The writer can be reached at shyamonjayasinghe@gmail.com

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  • 6

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 4

      Dear Mr Jayasinghe,

      thanks very much for the article.
      “””Ordinary Citizens?

      Looking at the overall dysfunctional status of affairs in Sri Lanka, I think all ordinary citizens who have to suffer the humbug, lies and deceitful politics of our politicians – top to bottom – and have to survive in a regime that is engaged in battle with petty traders, are the real heroes. Suggestion: Shall we call them ‘sesuviruwans’ in place of “purawesiyan?”””””

      This country became to this levels, because of people ‘s unawareness.
      Amelioration of awarness can only be done

  • 15

    “Economic Recovery”

    That’s a laugh!

    I spoke to Buddha on TikTok last night. I can tell you with the utmost certainty, there isn’t going to be a recovery …….. it’s downhill from now on.

    Pray to ye respective religions/Gods if ye have any ………. to save ye

    I’m praying to good ol’ Vellupillay Prabakaran ……. he’s the bastard who caused this by bringing the Rajapakses to rule.

    He’s the only one who can save us now!

    Bloody Monty Python couldn’t have written a better script!

    The whole country should be given an Oscar Nomination in the comedy category ………. hands down winners ……..not even a competitor in sight …..

    The only way now …….. we can earn the much needed $s …… at the box office ……..

    • 7

      Nimal you are absolutely right , recovery is just another dream but I would recommend some thing closer to Emmy but not Oscar. Years ago (during MR’S first term) I compared Lankan Politics to low budget poorly made tele-serial. Because the script is stolen, too cheap, few passages are utterly stupid than comedy and audience are mostly retards.

  • 9

    Rajapakses are exploiting Ranawiru concept and trying recognized themselves as sole saviors of the country. When you analyses the reason of win against LTTE major factors were
    Leadership given by Mahinda help by his brother being sec of defence
    Clever handling of Army by Gen Fonseka and leadership given by other forces
    Most importantly sacrifice of many lives of soldiers
    Geo political climate at that time. LTTE was hated by most countries except few European countries like UK, Norway and etc . and support given by India, China , America , Pakistan and many other countries
    Moving forward from the victory
    Rajapakses thought as they saved the lady Sri Lanka from drowning it is their right to rape her many times and continuing to do so now.
    Only factor that can eliminate them from politic was people right to topple them in the election.
    Sri Lankan has most uncivilized , uneducated , ethinic dominant, religions dominant people who loves to votes for this Barbaric family and worship them as living gods. Before being critical of robber family one should look in side one selves to check weather you are voting for the sake of development of the country or fulfill your racist, ethnic , religious aspirations

    • 10

      Jack, what you said is real but those who vote are in denial.

  • 11


    SL is a hellhole of racism, mass murder, violence, hopelessness and too many Rajapaksas.

  • 4

    Democracy recovery is key to Economic recovery . The country is downhill on
    democracy . Steven Levitsky , a political scientist at Harvard , has added
    Srilanka into the list of countries such as Nicaragua , Hungary , Philippines ,
    Peru etc , where most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by
    Generals and Soldiers but by elected governments themselves . We are double
    blessed with a former Army man Elected to do the job ! All our institutions
    are on steady downhill , paving the way faster for Real erosion of Democracy .

    • 6

      Not only Recovery of Democracy but recoveries of the society should be kept above.

      Pinguththayas that are the tiny portion of SANGA COMMUINITY should be made clear, that they should be away from LOCAL POLITICS: They have become the hired men to cough for the benefit of the crook politicians.
      BBS head
      Pachcha Sudanth cheevara man
      Ithathakande musalaya
      Abhayarama nakiya
      maedille bp
      Maedagoda pissu man
      Athana methana natana balurathan etc.

      All the above mentioned men in robes are NO different to STREET workers. They would do any low work to the politicians since their propesities can come to reality if the crook politicians would support them.

      • 1

        What about the Catholic Priests and Muslims Mosques Imans? They are representative of Ghosts, not Gods. No one saw the GODS in this world. If GODS are here why GODS can not stop this pandemic of Corona 19

  • 2

    Shyamon Jayasinghe,
    ‘Ranaviruwo’ are very well looked after by Rajapakshes.
    We saw how ‘Yahapalana’ Government treated disabled ‘Ranaviruwo’ who protested regarding a pay issue in front of the Fort Railway Station. One idiot from ‘Yahapalana’ Government went to UNHRC and co-sponsored a resolution admitting that ‘Ranaviruwo’ committed war crimes and investigations should be carried out bringing international judges. That idiot ruined the reputation of ‘Ranaviruwo’. No country in the world has done such a shameful thing. They also jailed several members of the Armed Forces and Intelligence Service framing charges to please Western countries and Tamil Diaspora.

    • 1

      What about American RANAVIRUWO? The world’s number one human butcher, the United States of America. Everyone knows this and it is a well-known secret also

      • 4


        why should we bother with americans we as another begging nation?
        Where are we heading today….cant be worst.. right ? Say, americans do so, why should we follow them ?

      • 5

        N. Pererass

        “What about American RANAVIRUWO?”

        What about them?
        What American Ranaviruwos got to do with this island?

        “The world’s number one human butcher, the United States of America.”

        If so why don’t you deport American citizens/dual citizens people like Gota, Sarath, Basil, …… back to USA and close US Embassy in Colombo?

  • 12

    What about the hero who led the UNP which had 4/5 of parliament one time to no seats at all in just 25 years ?

    What about the hero whose main theme was that the Rajapakses were corrupt , but could not get a single conviction against any one ?

    Did he not want to or did he not understand that he had no evidence to back his allegations ?

    What about the hero who appointed father in law ( his intimate buddy) to supervise the guy’s Bond scamming son in law ?

    What about the hero who stood for elections in Colombo ( yes the UNP fortress) , lost badly, and yet without any sense of shame is now sitting in parliament ?

    Mr Jayasinghe just don’t be one-sided. Both sides are bad, your guy is a fraud.

  • 4

    Mr. Jayasinghe, your quest for heros ran into trouble when you started with the ” ranawiruwas.” The choice of ranawiruwas goes against the second and third requirements that you yourself had stipulated, namely ,1. taking up a noble cause and , 2. without self interest and altruistic. I think Prabhakaran and his soldiers deserved being awarded the honour of being called heros. They fought for a cause. They did not have self interest unlike the ranawirus who fought for monthly salary and were being paid by the state. There was no corruption by LTTE cadres. Ranawiruwas raped, plundered and guilty of war crimes. Now decide for yourself as to who the real heros are.

  • 3

    Shyamon Jayasinghe is nothing but Yahapalanaya Ranil’s propagandist. There is nothing in the essay. The Ranavuru idea coming from a mis-stated Dutugemunu story by Anagarigam ,Don David Hewavitharane. Kaimugan is a Tamil and he prayed Kathirgama Kanthan. The whole history of Mahavamsa is infidelity, cowardice, internal murders, improper sex, bestiality… Ehilopola traitor wanted uncle’s job. Uncle Philimatalawa chopped nephews and had his sister-in-law(mother of the children) to grind the heads in wooden motor. Then they caught the king and handed over British. Then they signed the Kandyan accord. If life is such boring, instead of writing such rubbish, Shyamon Jayasinghe should get out and do some exercise.

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