By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“A programme to convert Hindu people into the Catholic religion is being implemented today. This problem is having a severe impact on the Hindu people of North-East. Those people asked us to obtain help from Bodu Bala Sena to find a solution to this problem.” – N Arunkanthan, President, All Ceylon Hindu Federation (Joint Media Conference with the BBS – 26.8.2014)[i]
If the new plan is successful it will fracture Sri Lanka, along religious lines. It will also bring rich dividends for the Rajapaksas, starting with a substantial victory at the Presidential election.
The Rajapaksas control the state, the party and the army; Mahinda Rajapaksa still retains a considerable degree of popularity. But when it comes to polls, the Siblings do not take any chances, as is evident from the current happenings in Uva.
Violent attacks on the opposition commenced even before Uva nominations concluded. This week, the terror campaign reached a new level. The house of a JVP candidate was subjected to a hail of bullets, for about 45 minutes. The gun-toting attackers who came in Defender jeeps also chased the police away[ii]. As always, the attackers vanished miraculously, leaving the police clueless!
Unfree and unfair practices are now built into the electoral process itself. While these might ensure a bare or even a safe win, they will not suffice to bring about the spectacular victory the Rajapaksas desire. Naked terror is being used to fill the gap. Uva, after all, is very special, with a Presidential nephew in the ring. The Family must not just win; it must win colossal, in order to maintain its gilt and its dominance.
Uva therefore is a prologue to the Presidential election. Mahinda Rajapaksa must not just win, but win with a stupendously huge margin. There is nothing the Siblings will not do to ensure this necessary outcome, including igniting religious fires.
The Rajapaksas seem to have won the battle to prevent the opposition from fielding a common candidate. But other problems remain, including the possibility of vigorous campaigns by several opposition parties. If conducted with single-minded focus on the Rajapaksa menace, these separate campaigns can have a unified effect on the electorate, fissuring the Sinhala-Buddhist base of the Rajapaksas and persuading a segment of floating voters to vote against the UPFA. Consequently the Siblings will persist in creating conflicts among and within the opposition parties.
Then there is the danger of the minority vote going against the Rajapaksas, almost en bloc.
That is where the religious cards will become indispensable. If Sinhalese and Tamils can be divided internally, along religious lines, and if most Buddhists and some Hindus can be persuaded that they face an existential threat from Muslims and Christians, the Rajapaksas will benefit, politically and electorally.
If bogus religious issues are super-imposed on really existing socio-economic and political issues, the electorate can be confused and confounded. The Sinhalese can be frightened into thinking that the ISIS or some other Jihadhist outfit is here and only the Rajapaksas can save the land from this new menace. The Tamils can be divided along religious lines and made to blame each other – and the Muslims – for all their old and new problems. The entire electorate, from North to South, can be made so addlebrained with phobia and psychosis that they become incapable of seeing right or thinking straight. Many Sinhalese can be tricked into voting for the Rajapaksas, again, despite their obvious economic misery. Many Tamils can be tricked into abstaining or perhaps even voting for a BJP-style Hindu-extremist candidate who screams about saving Hindu faith, traditions and culture from Christian/Catholic and Islamic incursions.
The purpose of the new BBS-Hindu Federation partnership would be to divide so that the Rajapaksas can rule.
BBS Divides; Rajapaksas Rule
The desire to divide was clearly evident in the tone and the thrust of the joint BBS-Hindu Federation media conference. According to Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera, Buddhists and Hindus must unite because they have common enemies. “Today the country is in grave danger. Lives were sacrificed to save the North-East. But the real owners are being chased away from these areas. Tamil villages are becoming Islamisised. Sinhala people as well as Tamil people have these problems….. There are problems about resettling Tamil-Hindu people made homeless by the war. But if they accept Christianity, they are allowed to settle down near the Madu Church.”[iii]
N Arunkanthan, the President of All Ceylon Hindu Federation, named the main targets – Catholic prelates of Jaffna and the TNA: “It is evident that this conversion programme has the support of Catholic priests of Jaffna and the TNA. Our politicians are not talking about these things.”[iv]
If an anti-Muslim/Christian Hindu-extremist party, along BJP lines, is set up, Tamil politics can be shifted, at least partially, onto a religious track. If Tamil-Hindus can be duped into a confrontational position with Tamil-Catholics and Muslims, the shock effects might be felt not just nationally but also in the Diaspora.
Twenty four hours after the first media conference, the BBS had another media conference, pushing the same angle. The National Organiser of the BBS, Vithrandeniya Nanda Thera announced that before abolishing the executive presidency or devolving power, extremism and terrorism must be destroyed. He claimed that Tamils in Vavuniya are being chased away from their original lands by Muslim invaders. A gentleman from Vavuniya, A Sanker, stated that his family and other inhabitants of Puliyankulama village in Vavuniya were chased away by bus-loads of Muslims. Mr. Sanker claimed that because the Divisional Secretary ignored the victimised Tamil villagers, they wrote to the President; the President wrote back promising justice. Mr. Sankar took this presidential missive to the Divisional Secretary. “He took the letter, read it and said, ‘What is this? Our President is Minister Bathiudeen’”[v].
In order to survive, the Rajapaksas must divide their opponents. And they will do so even at risk of civil peace and national security.
Create a Hindu-Catholic clash in the North and/or a Hindu-Muslim clash in the East, and every other issue, from land-grabbing by the military to joblessness can be shoved aside. The Siblings are still trying to build an anti-Islamic bridge to Modi-India; in a recent interview with Indian publication, Outlook, Gnanasara Thera proclaimed baldly that Lankan Muslims are a threat to India as well[vi]. Perhaps the Rajapaksas also hope to use the Jihadist-card to reach out to the West and those Islamic-countries at odds with the barbaric ISIS. If North can be made restive with ‘Hindu-Catholic’ clashes or anti-Papal demonstrations, perhaps Pope Francis can be persuaded to limit his visit to the South, for security reasons.
A stone which can kill so many birds! How can the Rajapaksas resist?
[i] Bodu Bala Sena-Lanka Hindu Federation Unite – Lankadeepa – 27.8.2014
[iii] Lankadeepa – 27.8.2014
[v] Before all Extremism and Terrorism must be defeated – Lankadeepa – 28.8.2014