23 September, 2020

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The Struggle To Free The Tamil Political Prisoners & To Answer For The Displaced In Sri Lanka

By Ranjan Fernando

Ranjan Fernando

Ranjan Fernando

We are on the brink of a Fascist takeover, I feel. I cannot ‘prove’ it as one would a scientific hypothesis. Hence it is a collection of feelings based on what one hears, what one sees etc. In particular, I bring as a witness Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya, the successor to Ven. Sobitha whose impressive collection of civil organizations along with the Tamil votes brought about the downfall of the unlamented Rajapaksa regime.

In his regular writings to ‘Ravaya’, Prof. Wijesooriya chronicles a litany of lost hopes, betrayals, corruption and spinelessness of the new regime that he with millions of equally fair-minded citizens helped to found. But now he is ready to take up cudgels against them instead of merely complaining and moaning about their misdemeanors. The good Professor is in fact informing us of instances where the government is wheeling and dealing with Rajapakses for party political reasons thereby delaying, obstructing the legal process.

He once reminded me of Tsereteli and other ministers in the pre – revolutionary Kerensky regime in Russia, who played a similar role. The very weakness of that regime paved the way for Lenin, who was willing and ready to take power. Conversely, similar situations were obtained in Spain with General Francisco Franco coming to power in 1936, rise of Hitler (who was a mere Corporal during World War I) in Germany in 1934 etc, where the weak went to the wall yielding power to the strong. Prof. Wijesooriya now demands unequivocally and correctly that we should turn our backs on this degenerate regime and kick – start the good hearted civic populace to create the ‘just society’ that we all yearn for. Otherwise history will repeat itself, first as farce and then as tragedy. From homestead to the streets – let the march begin!Vavuniya_prison01

My second witness is none other than the Prime Minister’s own elder brother, Shan Wickremesinghe. In his daily morning progamme in TNL, the radio and TV channel that he owns, he openly chides and criticizes the many misdoings of this government and its officials. Now they are two sane and respected persons that the country listens to.

Yet, they and others should know that there are no vacuums either in nature or in society. Further, I think they know that Rajapaksa too is willing and ready and marching with seven league boots to establish a Fascist regime. All the forces are in place – from Mahavamsa mythology to many of temples and their corrupt monks, the lumpen proletariat , the debauched officials, local and national ’politician’ thugs, media Goebbels and the reactionary army generals! Dr. Vickramabahu consistently takes the trouble to explain what ‘Fascism’ is and the methodology it uses to grab power.

Rajapaksa is compelled by circumstances to step into the void and take power. He has no option. Charges against him and his kith and kin are piling up daily. Though the noose is tightening round his neck the lever – operator is absent! He has to get off the scaffold and become the executioner. He has the appetite for power to put his weak-kneed accusers on the scaffold instead.
So why is he waiting? Perhaps fear of International repercussions – United Nations, Geneva Human Rights Commissions, European Union, India and all that. He will soon get the courage to know that there are enough regimes that have defied the civilized world and created their own hell on earth. With the help of Chinese, he can establish a North- Korea type regime here and take us all to the bronze age. More importantly as the Professor seems to suggest, Rajapakse may be bidding his time to see how far the pliable President and the Prime Minister can be pushed to get him and his cronies off the hook.

Now the democratic forces and the Tamils who are alarmed and feel despondent about these developments are offered two opposing palliatives. The first is to create a decent, honest and moral polity and the second ‘solution’ is to carry out a proletarian revolution which will wipe out class, caste and racial oppression. Though arising from different perspectives, both these groups do not recognize

1. A distinct Tamil Nation,
2. Their country Elam or
3. Their right to self-determination, with the honorable exception of Dr. Vickramabahu of the NSSP. They both, who essentially represent the Sinhala – Buddhist perspective either oppose that demand or over-ride it with various provisos.

This is despite the main lesson of modern history of how nations came about. And how without such recognition and the subsequent power sharing to establish a unified country we will be killing each other until the human species that is doomed to die out in less than a hundred years due to environmental destruction and population explosion. (This forecast was first given by Prof. Frank Fenner in 1970s and now accepted by most governments.)

While it is not worth wasting time about the ‘revolution’ solution, it is good to remember that the most vociferous group among them, the JVP, had racist attitudes from its inception, were ardent supporters of the war against Tamils and demanded the use of heavy weapons against them. With such ‘revolutionaries’ who needs reactionaries!

The most astute and ardent spokesman for the first solution of creating a decent, honest society is Victor Ivan of ‘Ravaya’. I think that among editors, he has written the largest number of books ranging in style and content from chess to ‘Saving Sri Lanka’. I wrote a review about the latter to ‘Sunday Leader’ recommending that it should be translated to English. The book essentially contrast our crass, backward ‘national leaders’ with their reactionary attitudes against Indian Statesmen who molded, with blood & tears, a modern society and a state that is democratic, decent & secular. We didn’t have to fight for our independence – it was thrust on us. Shedding blood and tears we left for a later date! And we are still at it with gusto. With characteristic aplomb, Victor is continuing his crusade though sadly he too supported the war. He does not recognize the qualitative difference between the armed uprising of the JVP and the Tamil war of Independence. He asserts that the ‘state’, whatever its nature, is morally just and duty bound to suppress all uprisings.

Yet there is a discernable sea-change in his attitude towards the utopia of building a decent unitary state. He laments now that we the Sinhalese are congenitally incapable of being decent and honest! He claims now that our natural propensity towards thuggery, betrayal, brigandry and the like must have been inculcated into our genes from the mythical founder of our nation, King Vijaya! If so, not only is it an aberration of the Law of Evolution enunciated by Charles Darwin and its corollary, Social Evolution (I have reason to doubt whether Victor accepts Evolution as a scientifically proven fact) but it also destroys his original thesis of the necessity to build a decent, democratic society. So, here you have the ‘thesis’ and the ‘anti-thesis’ wrapped up in one bundle! One contradicts and neutralizes the other and we are left with a void as with the ‘socialist revolution’ option. We are orphaned by both perspectives. It is the net result of not appreciating the yearning of the Tamil Nation to be Free.

This is where the struggle to free the Political Prisoners and to answer for the Disappeared comes on stage. Particularly the Political Prisoners are the living symbol of all that is vile and contemptible of the Sinhalese psyche.

The ideological bedrock of Sinhala Fascism is Mahavamsa. It annihilates, reverses and prostitutes all the teachings of that great, noble and fearless philosopher Buddha. I recall, with a lump in my throat, Bertrand Russell once telling me that “of all the so-called religious leaders, I will bow my head only to Buddha”.

When I read Mahavamsa, I had in it echoes of the Old Testament approving of genocide, ethnic cleansing, conquering of other peoples’ lands and above all, reducing the inhabitants thereof to sub-humans. Once you declare humans to be animals, it is but a small step to annihilate them as vermin. So you start with absurdities and end up with atrocities.

Do you know what prisons represent? Why is that storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, attack by Fidel and Che’s forces on Batista’s Cuban Prison and so on are very symbolic of bringing down those oppressive regimes? Why did Ho Chi Ming say “when the prison gates open, dragons will fly out” Enough said. Because prisons are, my friends, the ultimate symbol of man’s hatred towards his fellow –man and the Tamil Political Prisoners are a living symbol of Sinhala chauvinism and racism. Helping to get them out will create the conditions to expose many ills in our country.

Now let us try and answer these questions honestly:-

  • How many Political Prisoners are there today? Precisely. No ifs and buts. Rev. Satyavel who has been involved with the issue for years says over two hundred. Others, equally involved, say less. It matters not to me or to them and their families whether they are held under the notorious ‘Prevention from Terrorism Act’ or not. Anyone locked up in a cell without being charged in a court is an affront to our Humanity! The same sad and confused situation persists with regard to the Disappeared. All manner of figures are being bandied around as if they are mere mice or monkeys. Further, quarrelling about numbers side track the main issue which is that we are talking about human beings. We cannot and should not allow the state to play around with peoples’ lives.
  • Where are they being held and how many in each prison?
  • How long have they being held – each one? Is it true that some have been held for as long as nineteen years without a trial?
  • Have they been ever charged in a court?
  • How many of them have been killed and where?
  • How many of them have died and how. Any post–mortem reports?
  • How many of them are sick with physical and mental illnesses?
  • What are their cell conditions – how many to a cell, toilet, sleeping, reading, exercising facilities?
  • When did they last see a full moon (I am writing this on the Vesak day), stars in the sky, birds flying, flowers & trees? In all those years did they ever sing, laughed for joy or wrote their feelings in prose or verse?
  • What about their families – wives, children, friends? How far do they have to travel and what is the cost? How do they afford it? Do the prisoners have facilities to contact their families and friends by telephone?

Yes one can go on but it simply shows what a hollow and cynical motto it is that is written on the prison wall “Prisoners are also human beings”! They forgot to complete the sentence and write ‘‘except Tamils who are sub – humans and terrorists, no trials for them.’’

Sigmund Freud, considered to be the father of modern psychology, himself a refugee, explained just before his death in London, “National cultures have a habit of re – imagining their own anxieties as threats coming from strangers”

Various ‘Commissions of Inquiry’ etc set up from time to time are meant to delude the Tamils, confuse the Sinhalese and the International Community. They are mere dressings to cover up the carbuncles, not to cure the cancer.

It is the prejudiced Sinhalese who caged and disappeared them. Let us, the sane, free – thinking rational Sinhalese take the initiative towards the struggle to free them and answer for the Disappeared.

Petition or Picket?

The Sri Lanka Rationalist Association has started collecting signatures for a Petition to the Government and the United Nations demanding the release of the Tamil Political Prisoners and to account for the Disappeared during the war.

Though it is a good initiative for an organization not known to have participated in any ‘social’ issues, yet one should not be deluded to imagine that any amount of signatures on a Petition will prompt the government to move favourably on either issue.

Hence we have to resort to Direct Action – take to the streets. We need to start a Regular Picket and develop it to a non-stop one outside the Colombo prison or somewhere else suitable.

We can extend it to other prisons. We will involve the Families of the Prisoners and the Disappeared. We will appeal to the Youth, Trade Unionists, Civil Organizations, sympathetic media and all non-racists to sustain and support it.

It should not be the traditional type of boring Picket. There will be music and singing, street theatre, pavement drawing and art – a protest as well as a celebration of Humanity.

It will create the conditions to expose who the caring sentient beings and who the savages are in our society.

It will bring out the best in us and the worst in them. May the best win!

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    Professor Ranjan

    We are waiting for your definition of the boundaries of your separate state of Eelam.

    Is Akkaraipattu within or outside Eelam territory

  • 3
    2

    A person who tries to convince 15 Million Sinhala Buddhists about Eelam is an impractical man.
    Certain rationalists concoct strange theories in their minds, but are impractical. Ranjan seems to fall into that category. So people like him are Impractical Rationalists living in their own dream world and having nothing much to do other than talking and writing. It will be interesting to see whether members of the Rationalist Association have done anything practical.

    True Follower

    • 1
      3

      Agree that Fernando has not followed the scientific method wen coming to his conclusions. He says that this is by his feelings and what he heard. Hearsay is totally unscientific. Learn about the inductive method or the deductive method. I am surprised at the Rationalist Association.

      • 1
        1

        Now we have somebody talking inductive method and deductive method. Don’t be idealistic. We have a guy called Fernando (never heard of him before) insulting the Sinhala Buddhists. Be practical when you deal with such threats don’t be theoretical be practical.

        • 2
          1

          Siriwardena, What practical measures do you suggest. Don’t be so simple minded as unfortunately some Sinhala people are. Life is more complex than that. Try to articulate a more substantive answer to Prof Fernando’s article or keep quiet. Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist country. What about Sinhala Christians, Hindus and Moslems? Can’t they call Sri Lanka as their country?

          • 2
            0

            Ah Vidvatha! Are you also a professor like Fernando or rationalist or a pseudo Buddhist. Where have you been all this while?

          • 0
            0

            Vidvatha, let us not get into what measures to take or not to take. Can we agree that Ranjan Fernando insulted the Buddhist heritage and made his conclusions based on hearsay and not facts? Bottom line, there are 15 million Sinhala Buddhists to prevent Eelam and the article of Fernando does not convince anybody.

  • 2
    0

    No point in arguing with you.

    Two points.

    1.Killing Tamils started in 1956,1958,1983 long before the Tigers. Violence of any sort is against Buddhism. Buddhist priests have been in the forefront of that violence.

    2. When the Mahavamsa instructs us that the Dutugemunu, grieving like Asoka on the battledield for the killing of human beings is told that he had killed only one and a half human beings by the Buddhist priests, there is a perversion of Buddhism and the preaching of hatred.

    I shall not bother to reply anymore.

    • 1
      1

      These old records never stop.

      • 1
        1

        jim softy

        Agree that we should stop the old records. For the sake of the hard won peace and co-existence in our beloved country, please advise the mercenary hired by the diaspora to stop canvassing for Eelam and please stop insulting the Buddhist temples and the clergy.

      • 1
        2

        Theorists like Ranjan Fernando are of no practical use in the present sensitive stage of Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process. H makes too many haphazard statements like ‘Sri Lanka is at the brink of a fascist takeover’ and ‘all the fascist forces from the Mahavansa mythology to many temples and their corrupt monks are in place’. Such statements are unwise and unhelpful. Upsetting the Sinhala Buddhist sentiment is unwise. He appears to be a maverick shooting off from the hip. Wise people do not upset other peoples sentiments.

        • 1
          1

          In the name of Allah and the Prophet. Assalaam Allaikum Mr Abdul Kareem. You are only worried whether Akkaraipattu is inside the Eelam or outside it. That is why you use gentle words like ‘unwise’ and ‘unhelpful’. This is more serious than that. Fernando’s statement that the ‘monks are corrupt’ is an attempt to instigate the FCID to raid the temples and arrest the monks. This way he achieves his plan to destroy the Sasana. You may not care too much but we do.

  • 3
    2

    Professor Ranjan,

    We are still waiting to know whether you have & enough data to back the statement in paragraph 5 of your article, which said that the forces are in place in many Buddhist temples to establish a fascist state. Also, the readers are entitled to know how you concluded that the monks in those temples are corrupt.

    • 0
      1

      Again an impractical person asking Fernando to provide data to back up his comment that the forces are in place in many Buddhist temples to establish a fascist state. What are you talking. Please understand Sir! he has no data. People like Fernando with his diaspora friends are quite capable of creating the data. You think the UNHCR resolutions were based on data? No.

  • 1
    1

    My Dear Ponkoh Sivakumaran,

    Honestly, we have no misgivings towards you even though we disagree with your interpretation about the Mahavansa. For all of us to be in peace, all parties have to agree that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country where all other nationalities and religions will be treated with respect and equanimity. Let us live in peace my friend and go forward without bringing up thoughts of Eelam any more.

    Our objection is towards Ranjan Fernando who starts his article in a fear mongering note saying that Sri Lanka is under the threat of a fascist takeover. He accepts that his assumption is entirely based on his own feelings and hearsay and not on facts. What troubles us is his statement associating such fascist tendencies with the Buddhist temple and calling the monks as corrupt. No human being should accept such diabolical statements. I too will stop here.

  • 1
    1

    What has the Rationalist Association got to do with release of LTTE combatants? This pseudo – scientist called Ranjan Fernando has put the Rationalist Association into hot water by proposing an irrational concept called Eelem. Rationalists should disassociate with him for unnecesarily insulting the Mahavansa, Buddhist priests and the Buddhist clergy.

    • 1
      1

      calling for a separate state of Eelam in Sri Lanka is totally irresponsible. only a fool can suggest such a thing after 7 years
      of peace, following a 30 year war.

  • 1
    2

    Gents, have mercy on this chap Ranjan Fernando and stop harassing him forever. Perhaps he was a bit hallucinated when he wrote the article that Sri Lanka is at the brink of a fascist takeover supported by the Mahavansa, the Buddhists temples, the monks etc. Didn’t I write that these Rationalists are not the sil-observing types like you guys who go the temple to listen to bana. Rationalists eat pork and drink alcohol so and overdose here and there could result in an overstatement there, an understatement here and so on. Don’t take it too seriously. No doubt Ranjan will send in his regrets when the tide goes down. Aren’t we all Buddhists who ultimately forgive, forget and patch-up.

  • 1
    0

    The hijacking by the Eelamists of the agenda and manner of operation of the Rationalist Association Vcis a matter to ponder about. The Eelamists needed a new vehicle to pursue their agenda and the Rationalist Association has been taken over for that purpose.

    Upto now the operation of the Rationalist Association has been limited to publications, debates and hypothecations targeting various belief systems. Never had they engaged in picketing campaigns and attempts to release terrorists and never engaged in Political rhetoric.

    Enter Ranjan Fernando. He takes control of the depleted and ageing ranks of the Rationalists. Fernando mesmerizes the old codgers with his ability to wield the English language and names dropping. When he claims to be a friend of Bertrand Russel the Rationalists got bowled over. Now he introduces the Eelamist agenda of getting their boys released. At the same time targeting the Sasana and the Buddhist temples which are the main obstacles to achieving the Eelam dream. The old codgers either don’t care or don’t understand. They have not come from a Buddhist background and do not follow the five precepts.

    It is interesting to see how the Pickerting campaign works out. Please keep observing.

  • 1
    0

    Only fools hurt the feelings and belief systems of others. And unfortunately people like Mahavansa, Siriwardena et al have engaged in the same type of rhetoric as that of Ranjan Fernando.

    Brothers, persons of higher mental attainment do not do such things. Do not try to vandalize what others treat as holy. Only fools think that they are always right.

    Ranjan, millions of people in Sri Lanka venerate our history, the saffron robe and the temple. Whatever your agenda is don’t try to trivialize that. The tenor of your article has made so many enemies. Try to quiten your mind through the dhamma and Maithri bhavana. Observe sil and make peace with the Sangha.

    Mahavansa and Siriwardena, learn also to respect people of other ethnicities and religions. Treat their belief systems and culture with respect. If injustice had been caused, let us gently put them right as true Buddhists.

    Everyone, let us be prepared to lose arguements in order to win friends.

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