22 October, 2020

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The Sihalaramaya Syndrome

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“…superficial unity, which is the result of the denial or the sacrifice of differences”. – Tagore (The One Nationalist Party) 

The regime reverted to business-as-usual literally on the day Navi Pillay left Sri Lanka.

The first salvo of lies against the UN High Commissioner Human Rights was fired, predictably, by the state-owned Sunday Observer: “UNHRC chief Navi Pillay’s request to pay a floral tribute during her recent visit to the North had been rejected by the government. Informed sources said that Pillay had initially informed of her desire to offer a floral tribute to the late LTTE terrorist leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran at a location in the North. However the Government had turned down Pillay’s request”[i].

The regime’s lie is characteristically inane, and obscenely so, given Ms. Pillay’s unequivocal criticism of the Tigers: “The LTTE was a murderous organisation that committed numerous crimes and destroyed many lives“. As Ms. Pillay explained,  “…when I go to a country, I like to honour the victims, all victims, victims of LTTE, soldiers, families…. I have done this, for instance, in Moscow, done this in Guatemala…. I thought that I could do it here….”[ii]

Protest outside the UN office in Colombo the day after by Buddhist monks who oppose Pillay’s visit – Photo AFP’s Ishara Kodikara/ Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka Facebook page

Not only did the regime prevent this humane gesture of reconciliation by threatening to cancel the entire Mullativu segment of Ms. Pillay’s visit; it concocted a tissue of lies about and around her request, just hours after the UNHRC Chief left the island.

In an interview given to the Foreign Editor of ‘The Australian’, Greg Sheridan[iii], President Mahinda Rajapaksa lamented, “I must admit we lost the propaganda battle. I must admit we lost that badly”[iv]. The Sunday Observer’s blatantly apocryphal tale about Ms. Pillay wanting to pay a floral tribute to Vellupillai Pirapaharan is an excellent indication of why the regime lost the ‘propaganda battle’ and ‘badly’ – and will continue to do so.

Ms Pillay is a South African Tamil of Indian origin. As she herself pointed out, she considers herself a South African and not a Tamil. She was a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle. The first non-white woman to set up a legal practice in apartheid South Africa, she defended anti-apartheid activists, exposed the repressive deeds of the White Supremacist rulers and fought for the rights of the political prisoners in Robben Island (she advocated for Nelson Mandela). She was nominated by Nelson Mandela as a judge of the South African High Court at the end of the Apartheid era[v].

Regarding Ms Pillay as a Tamil is as ludicrously irrational as regarding Barack Obama as a Kenyan.

The Rajapaksas fail to accept or even perceive this reality for the same reason America’s ‘Birthers’ regard Mr. Obama as a non-American – racism. In Rajapaksa eyes anyone of Tamil origin anywhere in the world is nothing but a Tamil and, therefore, a real/potential Tigers. The Siblings fought the Fourth Eelam War – and are building peace – on the basis of this perniciously and dangerously erroneous belief.

The regime’s perception of Navi Pillay as a Tamil and therefore a Tiger is indicative of why a lasting peace and a genuine reconciliation will evadeSri Lankaso long as the Rajapaksas rule

A Divisive Peace

Around the time a mob of Sinhala-Buddhist thugs attacked the Grandpass mosque, a temple in Jaffna also came under attack. The name of this temple, set up by a Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist organisation under the patronage of the military, is symbolic of everything that is wrong in the Rajapaksa approach to peace – Sihalaramaya.

Sihalaramaya was reportedly a brainchild of Rev. Magalkande Sudantha Thero, the Convenor of the Sinhala Ravaya. This monk has been associated with a number of violently intolerant deeds, including the recent burning of a meat shop in Tangalle[vi]. According to an article in the Irida Divaina (of August 18th 2013, by Dinasena Ratugamage and appropriately captioned ‘Inane Piety which creates Religious Wars’), Sinhala Ravaya has ‘resettled’ several Sinhala-Buddhist families in Navakkuli, Jaffna. The temple was built allegedly for these resettled families. At the time of the attack there was only one monk in the temple.

Sihalaramaya is one of the many temples built in the North, post-war. In the absence of a civilian population of Buddhists to provide for their needs, these temples and the few monks residing in them become totally dependent on the military for everything. This dependent relationship would cause the temples to be perceived by many a Tamil as yet another alien institution managed by the military, a symbol of an oppressive and unjust status quo.

As the writer very correctly points out, building temples in areas devoid of civilian Buddhists is not a recipe for peace but one for a new religious conflict.

No one could have ‘resettled’ Sinhala-Buddhist families and built a temple in the North without Rajapaksa blessing. The Sinhala Ravaya would have received the go ahead for this divisive move because it accords perfectly with the Rajapaksa idea of peace and nation-building.

In a post-civil war/insurgency situation, political leaders can opt to build national cohesion either through inclusive or exclusionary means. The inclusive way involves political and socio-economic reforms which create a sense of belonging in the hitherto marginalised/alienated segments. The exclusionary way is to focus on the identity of the dominant group (ethnic/religious/class/caste) and to create a cohesiveness based not on a balanced commonality of interest but on the fear of the ‘Alien Other’.

It is the second – exclusionary way – the Rajapaksas have opted for. The Lankan nation the Rajapaksas talk about is no more real than the LTTE’s ‘Tamil speaking people’. That wholly imaginary concept was based on the subsuming of Muslim identity and the denial – and indeed criminalisation – of Muslim interests. It led to not to Tamil-Muslim harmony but to Tamil-Muslim enmity. Similarly the Lankan nation advocated by the Rajapaksas will cause not ethnic reconciliation but new, and deadlier, faultlines in an already fissured land.

Imagine what would have happened in the post-Insurgency South, if the Premadasa administration believed the power hunger of the JVP to be the sole cause of the insurgency, refused to admit the existence of any systemic errors or injustices, discounted the need for radical reforms and opted for a policy of achieving systemic stability via extraordinary security measures, leavened by a modicum of physical infrastructural development[vii].

What if the government suspected every Sinhala youth from subaltern castes of harbouring anti-systemic yearnings and treated them as real/potential subversives to be either punished/kept under surveillance?  What if those villages in the Deep Southwhich were once under de facto JVP control were turned into garrisoned territory? What if President Premadasa did not believe that an ‘unjust system’ produced the JVP, and consequently, refused to implement ‘a whole package of policies’ to ‘radically’ change the status quo?[viii]

South would have become increasingly militarised. There may have been stability for a while, but this superficial quietitude would have been bought at an increasingly unaffordable price, both financial and socio-political.

The refusal to allow even the UNHRC Chief to mourn all the war-dead, the existence of a temple called Sihalaramaya in Jaffna and the assault on it by an unknown entity indicate why under Rajapaksa rule hatred will not die and violence will proliferate.


[iii] As stated at the end of the piece, Mr. Sheridan was in Sri Lanka as the guest of the Rajapaksa administration. In choosing Mr. Sheridan for this role, the regime acted cleverly. Mr. Sheridan is known for his reactionary stances; he supported Suharto, opposed Obama at the 2008 election and believes that history will judge George W Bush to be a great leader. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/a-great-president-for-these-terrible-times/story-e6frg6v6-1111112208118

[vii] “Let us look at the events of ’88-’89. What we saw in Sri Lanka was an attempted revolution backed up by an incredible and unparalleled brutality and a counterrevolution of almost equal ferocity… But while we deplore the violence, there is no point in being moralistic and judgemental, of one side or the other. Rather, it is for us the living to understand the causes, the underlying causes, and work towards their removal. It is not for us to point fingers or to score cheap debating points. Rather it is for us see that we pull together to eliminate for all time the roots – the political, the social, the economic, the cultural and indeed the spiritual roots – that brought forth the terror. Let us not forget that the dead and the living have been alike, often helpless victims of forces far beyond their capacity to control” (Ranasinghe Premadasa – A Charter for Democracy).

[viii] “This package of policies is aimed at confronting poverty and alienation directly. We cannot wait for the benefits of growth to trickle down. The Janasaviya programme is one of our main instruments for this purpose… We are planning to implement the majority of recommendations of the Youth Commission Report…. We have decided to implement 43 of the 51 recommendations straightaway. We are also breaking down the barriers between the administration and the people through our policy of Presidential Mobile Service…” (ibid).

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Latest comments

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    Has TG ever written an article about LTTE terrorist harbouring churches, Jesuit priests transporting Suicide Jackets to the South, why Joseph Rayappu said that LTTE were Jesus christ’s angels, Why the church is very concerned about Tamil homeland or Why Joseph Rayappu wanted to get rid of Muslim in Mannar and settle some Tamil – Catholics there ?

    Why she is writing always about Sinhala – buddhists ?

    Why that does not amount to be discrimination against Sinhala – buddhists ?

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    How about Rajapassaramaya, Malay nikaya from sampon thota (Hambanthota)?

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    this monks is on crack

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    Velupillai Prabaharan is a legend. He is alive in every true Tamilan’s heart. Tamil tigers wern’t a terrorist organisation, this is all blasphemy created by the Srilankan government to defeat LTTE. Everyone knows The SL Army is no match for the Tamil Tiger warriors. If it wern’t for the international back up, the SL regime would have been defeated long time ago. God bless the true warriors. May the innocent people including the Sinhalese who killed by The Rajapuka and SL army rest in peace. Buddhist monks are to blame along with the Rajapukka brothers. God save you all.

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    CT, you have an obligation to censor the comments written by every Tom, Dick and Harry and not publish the ‘unacceptable’. It os very clear the objective of CT is to brainwash those who don’t like to see Sri Lanka prosper by highlighting some petty issues which has happened in this land for centuries. These things are nothing new. Those who have an issue with the current regime goes on writing whatever comes to their ‘disturbed’ minds. One way you are doing a noble deed by giving some satisfaction to a section who are crying for split milk. I have visited this website after about three months and the first article I read forces me now not to return to this website for the next six months, thanks to this vile woman Thissaranie! Theruwan Saranai, Thissaranie!

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    Ravana Balaya,

    First I don’t kinow if you are real Ravana Balaya or Leela’s cousin.

    First of all let me tell you that almost all the Journalists, Reporters and academics who contribute writing to CT are well qualified, very well educated and well converse with Political, economic and social issues.

    Similarly many commentators are well educated and well knowledegable of what’s going around the country and in the world.

    You cannot fool them easily like the 80% Villege under educated Gamaralas who always vote for the wrong candidates who come to Parliament to rob, screw and destroy our country.

    Sri Lanka’s last King….Sri Wickrema Rajasimha is an Indian Tamil Nadu King.

    If not for British, Sri Lanka could still be governed by Tamil Nadu as another India’s satellite state.

    SWRD Banda Politicised Buddhism for his personal political gain and ever since Sri Lanka went down the hill towards precipee both in economically, culturelly and politically. Wrong Job was given to wrong person. Everything was politicised under Racial Religious lines.

    Ultimately SWRD found his own destiny through the monster he created.

    Rajapakses do the same now what SWRD did 60 years ago, and will find the same destiny like SWRD Banda.

    We could see Rajapakse’s “Ape Kama” when we go to a Foreign country’s Sri Lanka Embassy to see only “yes sir” “No sir” speaking Diplomats in the front office.

    We see foolish harbours built on rocks and Airports in Bird sanctuaries with no planes in sight, all due to an uneducated fool governing our country.

    We also saw what happened to Gen.Sarath Fonseka and CJ Shirani Bandaranayake and Lasantha, Prageeth, Fredrica and over 150 Journalists, reporters and political activists.

    You Ravana Balaya is nothing but a Buddhist Sinhala Racist Political Terrorist organization serving Rajapakses.

    What happened to the recent 150 Kilo Heroin haul,two ethenol containers brought to make Kasippu, Brothel houses and Casino mafia. Why don’t we see you protesting at those places. How about the British national murder at Thangalle and raping the Russian tourist.How about 10% and mega commission kakka protests….Where are you for them…

    Please live by what Lord Buddha preached and that is to spread Love, compassion, liberty, justice,tolerance, understanding and freedom etc, equality to everybody and to all communities…..and not to a selected Racist Religious Race……who could be thieves, looters, thugs, criminals and murderers.

    Finally do what Lord Buddha asked you to do and don’t anything else.

    We have enough Balakayas like “1983 Jathi Aala Kada Kadappan Balakaya” in Sri Lanka.

    Ravana could be Hanuma or Saradiel next time. Be careful.

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    [Edited out]

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    this man should give up saffron robe like somapal gunawardana,anuruddha ekanayake,sirimal tilakanayaka former Buddhist monks.

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