26 June, 2022


When White Is Black And Black Is White: The New Sri Lankan Reality

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

This column should, probably, have, as the last letter in its title, the word “nightmare” rather than “reality” because that is precisely the state this country has reached.

While I certainly do not, through personal experience of its history, subscribe to the view that the current Debacle of Asia was ever paradise on earth, I certainly remember a better time in its history – pre-S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike certainly – when we seemed to have more than a fighting chance of fulfilling the promise of continuing to be the pre-eminent democracy in the region.

Warts and all, the Uncle Nephew Party of the Senanayakes, Kotelawelas and Jayewardenes practiced a brand of democracy to which the current pretense does not bear the slightest resemblance.

Yes, the elites, by and large governed and they constituted not much more than 10% of the island’s population. However, thanks to a sense of noblesse oblige or belief in the rule of law being absolute, the vicious violence that is the ruling reality did not exist. I distinctly remember the sense of horror with which many of us greeted the mysterious “suicide” of Dodampe Mudalali held in detention by the CID in their immediately-infamous 4th Floor. Particularly since the Che Guevara uprising of 1971, not a hundred, nay a thousand, Dodampe Mudalalis committing “suicide” would even merit mention on the back page of any of our tabloids or broadsheets today. Think about it, folks, even such a seemingly outlandish statement would hardly raise a ripple in our Land of a Thousand White Vans!

Apart from the White Van Disappearances that have become a dime-a-dozen in this country, we have a virtual procession of prisoners in custody hanging themselves with ingeniously constructed nooses while still others are taken into custody and then have to be shot “in self defence” while trying to escape on their way to revealing hidden caches of contraband, guns, ammunition or whatever. The stories that accompany these deaths verge on the hilarious either because of or in spite of their banality.

An interesting vignette is the story of the most recent major outbreak of violence at the Welikade prison. The media trumpeted the fact that they were on the scene throughout the conflict and that the pictures showed several prisoners armed with the automatic weapons they’d broken out of the prison armoury. To my recollection, there was only one prisoner in one picture that fitted this description and one could hardly be certain that the man appearing in the photograph was toting an automatic weapon in the first place!

Even if the entire Sri Lankan nation did not swallow this rather grim fairy tale hook line and sinker, I heard hardly a whimper from those who are constantly extolling the state of discourse and disputation that allegedly prevails in the Disaster of Asia today!

Now we hear that, leave alone hand over (yet another) of those famous “Reports to the President by a Commission of Inquiry” appointed by him, that report has been further delayed. Surprised? If you are and you are an Eskimo from Anchorage, I’d like to sell you a very large refrigerator!

In any event, even IF this great and, I am sure, revelatory Report is handed over to our reigning monarch (or one of his siblings or progeny who are his heirs) I wouldn’t exactly, as the saying goes, bet the family farm that it will EVER see the light of day. After all, it doesn’t take the genius of an Einstein to anticipate that future behavior invariably follows past patterns of conduct!

I have tried to inject a modicum of humour, if not wit, into what I have written up to now and if it comes across as laboured, I crave your indulgence because it is certainly not easy to adopt a jocular tone with regard to matters that are, literally, those of life and death.

A colleague for whose skills and integrity I have nothing but absolute admiration, described our Monarch as viewing the world from an upside-down position. That was being kind because it suggested simple misapplication of one’s faculties. To me the facts suggest otherwise. They suggest, in that old but nevertheless appropriate phrase, Hannah Arendt’s old phrase – the banality of evil.

None of what is happening in this country that should cause absolute revulsion in any civilized society and certainly in an allegedly Buddhist one, can be described as accidental. All of it flows from a culture deliberately created by those who rule this land with an iron fist.

The rapes, the gangland killings, the brutality that exceeds the bestial doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in a culture that either actively or passively encourages it. The Caligulas of this world didn’t simply pop out of the ground like some exotic and unique bimmal/hathu (mushrooms to those unfamiliar with the Sinhala language). As aberrant as the behaviour of such monsters was, they were a creation of the culture and civilization that spawned them.

That the violence and cruelty that was a day-to-day reality in this country for nigh on three decades certainly conditioned a nation into an acceptance of this horror is inarguable. However, I don’t recall ANY nation that endured the horrors of the worst conflict of its kind in the history of the world – World War II – having what we are experiencing in epidemic proportions in this land that claims to be the epicentre of Buddhist culture and civilization. Not even the fact that we are governed, overall, by those who conduct themselves as dictated to by the occult explains what this country is currently experiencing.

If ever there was an occasion when the seemingly simplistic “Those who are not with us are against us” bears application, this is it.

Are you for the violence and corruption and cruelty that assail Sri Lanka today or are you against it?

More important, if you are against it, what are your prepared to do about the horror that threatens to engulf all of us?

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Latest comments

  • 0

    With a re-born Mahanayake (Sect?) in the name of Nandasena
    Goth-abaya Thero whose Sermon will be much awaited next at his Buddhist Academy before leaving for Buddha Gaya……

    • 0

      Food for thuoght;

      “As aberrant as the behavior of such monsters was, they were a creation of the culture and civilization that spawned them.”

      Doesn’t it give any rings of bell to all?

      I am not ashamed to tell That rather they take ride of , [Mind You] The Sinhala Buddhism to escape from their guilt.

      “Those who are not with us are against us”.

      I like to add;

      “if you are not with us , We have to use our termination methods to action, before you take next breath.
      We tried that many occasions, and it is very successful,
      you want any examples?????.
      We have Many.
      I am In charge and Experienced.

      even you are 12 year kid, we do not mind,
      even if you are a women of 20 years old , we have many methods and experienced artisans to do specialized jobs.
      Savak, NkVD, Shin Beth are nowhere with us.

  • 0

    Many similarities between Caligula of yore and our own Gonibilla. Will he succeed our version of Germanicus and will he meet the same end.

    ‘Despite financial difficulties, Caligula embarked on a number of construction projects during his reign. Some were for the public good, while others were for himself.

    ‘Caligula completed the temple of Augustus and the theatre of Pompey and began an amphitheatre beside the Saepta.He had the imperial palace expanded.He began the aqueducts Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus, which Pliny the Elder considered engineering marvels.He built a large racetrack known as the circus of Gaius and Nero and had an Egyptian obelisk (now known as the Vatican Obelisk) transported by sea and erected in the middle of Rome.’

    ‘At Syracuse, he repaired the city walls and the temples of the gods.He had new roads built and pushed to keep roads in good condition.He had planned to rebuild the palace of Polycrates at Samos, to finish the temple of Didymaean Apollo at Ephesus and to found a city high up in the Alps.He planned to dig a canal through the Isthmus in Greece and sent a chief centurion to survey the work.’

  • 0

    This is another way of a man of letters to explain to the reader what the real state of play in Sri Lanka is.

    For anyone to think otherwise is idiocy, but surprise surprise the great and the good also subscribe to the upside down version of reality. I find too many intellectuals, businessmen and of course the populace fed on a daily dose of lies, are drink in this cauldron seemingly happy to imbibe further, UNTIL it is them who are the receiving end of the tyranny, THEN there is NO ONE who will come to their defense.

    Put simply all those cheerleaders for this Govt. will be undressed with no clothes when even a stray bullet hits them unintentionally. So I am aiming my comments at pro Govt. supporters. If you are knocked down by a speeding Govt. convoy and die, NO Rajapakse will come to your family’s help. So don’t sit around waiting for the convoy to knock you down, so something about stopping the convoys. JUST PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT. There are 250 dead so far in the past 3 years from speeding convoys, 200 of whom voted for Mahinda. Ask just one their families whether they have seen a dime in help. The Convoys are not even insured.

  • 0

    There is NO law and order and Justice in Sri Lanka today, no matter what you think. will only understand it if you have to face it. Don’t fall for the smoke and mirrors exercise it is just illusory, until you have to contend with the nightmare. Then reality bites!

  • 0

    Yes, the Eskimos from Anchorage who live in environmental bubbles far removed and out of touch with realities will certainly want an auction for the two-door automatic defrosting, smart ice-cube making refrigerator that Emil wants to sell….

  • 0

    Assuming that the author meant to establish the farcical nature of all claims of democracy in Sri Lanka and the government’s ‘good work’ in rehabilitating the Tamil inhabitants of north east SL (viz.) Tamil Eelam, it is nevertheless grossly inoppropriate for him to have mixed humour into his account of extreme human suffering and the inhuman brutality of the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces in dealing with the country’s ethnic minority.The SL establishment may laugh at it. Opinions so expressed by a responsible journalist certainly cannot contribute to their reform.

  • 0

    “Are you for the violence and corruption and cruelty that assail Sri Lanka today or are you against it?”

    This is a nonsensical question and it betrays a sort of shallow thinking that generates the doctrine of human rights and most other doctrines as well. There is violence and corruption and cruelty all over the world. Just look at India next door for instance. Violence, corruption and cruelty are very much a part of perverted and distorted human nature and will continue to exist as long as human nature continues to be perverted and distorted. Given the fact that this perversion and distortion is produced by our social institutions and their internal processes, sooner or later humanity rebels against them sometimes with open violence and at others through subtler subversive means but rebel it surely does in the hope of a better future.

    When this perversion and distortion gets strong enough people lose trust in social institutions and their processes and place their trust in personalities rather than in institutions and processes. This is the basis of populism and while it is hoped that this will bring relief in fact all it leads to is fascism. This fascism is thus a response to the intolerable perversion and distortion of human being and born as it is out of perversion and distortion it grows into a twisted serpentine creature that soon seeps into every aspect of life sucking out its vitality and creativity until humanity is reduced to a collection of mindless automatons.

    “More important, if you are against it, what are your prepared to do about the horror that threatens to engulf all of us?”

    This is another stupid question that need not be asked. Fascism can only be destroyed in two ways and the first and to date most successful one is violent destruction, which is expensive, painful and deadly. This also raises the question of who is going to engage in this violence? And the answer will probably be “The free world” which is not at all free and which is the world that has generated this horror in the first place and promises to drag the human species to a suicidal destruction that will be far more horrifying.

    The second is subversion. Which to my limited knowledge has never been attempted in anything like a conscious and strategic manner. Strategic subversion takes times and demands martyrs – much less than the millions killed in anti fascist wars though. In this case my projection is that we will see a resurgent fascism spread throughout the world using Theravada Buddhism as its vehicle – a sort of Sri Lankan version of the ancient ‘Trojan Horse”. The Indian armed forces are deeply influenced with a peculiar brand of Buddhism that in true Asokan Form sees violence as the means to peace and claims that this somehow sanctifies violence.

    Infected by Sri Lankan fascist Buddhism the Indian armed forces will end up in conflict with Pakistan and move on into Afghanistan in a desperate search for the resources required to feed and subjugate its billions of people. The saffron horde will move into the old soviet central Asia towards cooler climate and more resources.

    Now what my dear Emil van der Poorten, is the meaning of your question? Is this something to be opposed? What is the purpose of raging against the forces that have been unleashed by the values that your parents and mine imposed on us and which most of us have imposed on our children as well in the name of discipline, in the name of education and in the name of religion and in the name of tradition and in many other names as well? One of the most dreadful sights I have seen is that of children prostrating themselves before their parents and in fact anyone doing so in front of anyone else and yet this is one of the most highly valued and almost sacred acts in out great cultures.

    The only thing that I can at present do about this horror that threatens to engulf all of us is to observe it carefully, examine it in great detail, study its dynamics and the sources of their generation, and search for the key to triggering their dissolution so that we may be free and I can teach my children and anyone else who is interested how to do so too. Please do let me know if you can come up with anything better…

  • 0

    I will resist the temptation to suggest how appropriate your pseudonym may be to the content of your contribution!
    Suffice it to say that:
    1. On numerous occasions, both on CT and in my columns in The Sunday Leader, I have suggested means of resistance to what is happening in Sri Lanka in the matter of blatantly undemocratic practice and violence. While you might not agree (in the interest of dragging red herrings across this particular trail), to suggest otherwise speaks for itself.
    2. Your response is of a piece with the plethora of “statements” that are emerging from those apologists for the government who are being embarrassed by the conduct of their mentor and are seeking wriggle room in their efforts to escape that predicament and maintain at least some (intellectual) respectability.I assume you are not one of them employing a pseudonym.
    3. While you seem to characterise what I have had to say in my column in CT as a “call to inaction,” let me describe your final para as a summons to a clearly time-consuming brand of navel-gazing as a response to injustice and viciousness unparalleled in the history of Sri Lanka

  • 0

    Emil van der Poorten

    Held up against the self evaluated wisdom and sanity of those who share your point of view I am both old and crazy and quite happy to be so. Your strident call “Are you for the violence and corruption and cruelty that assail Sri Lanka today or are you against it?” reeks of the very intolerance that you seek to oppose and echoes the sentiments of that Georgeous burning Bush, most sane of all politicians and saint to many who speak your tone. There is no resistance to fascism other than the two I have described and you may be sure that any foolish leap at an Asian spring will bring to a (Gene?)sharp end the rantings that I doubt you hold true unless in you foolishness has overtaken the relative sanity of my madness.

    My statements are my own and I have no great respects for governments, seeing clearly enough the absurdity of their objectives though many like you lie prostrate at the altar of democracy, that reign of fools. Far from inaction your shallow chatter will surely move many to incredible actions with predictable outcomes so that you may rise with a garland of foolish martyrs of your making. It is I who counsel inaction rather than the recommended dance of fools that you do. Let the warriors own their battle and fight each other alone while the insane leave them to their devices and take stock of the rapidly rising fierce and fiery tide.

    My pseudonym is of my own choosing. Let it be so.

  • 0

    The arrant nonsense you spout speaks far louder than ANYTHING that I or any other sane individual who doesn’t suck up to those you do would have to say.

    Your proclamation that goes,
    “Are you for the violence and corruption and cruelty that assail Sri Lanka today or are you against it?” reeks of the very intolerance that you seek to oppose and echoes the sentiments of that Georgeous burning Bush, most sane of all politicians and saint to many who speak your tone” is most interesting!

    However, how about a simple response to that simple answer, or is that beyond the distorted “logic” that you seem to practice?

    Incidentally, since you seem to be on the “right” side of issues political in Sri Lanka, why do you have to hide behind a pseudonym? Or is that yet another requirement of your “handlers?”

  • 0


    “However, how about a simple response to that simple answer, or is that beyond the distorted “logic” that you seem to practice?”

    Once more you bellow bellicose and brutish, your brainless question which in its essence seeks to divide the flocks into “Those who are with you and those who are against you”. What difference is this from “ all those who are against us are terrorists?”

    In what way do you differ from those you say you oppose? Do they not ask of us the very same deadly question? This question that shall leave all exposed to be dealt with as others have been dealt with before? I have made it clear that there are only two ways to deal with fascism and all you do is seek to expose through your instigation the resources that may collaborate towards the second or provide a supportive nexus for such skillful engagement.

    So what role do you then seek to play in the political development of the people of Sri Lanka as they come to terms with their own nature for long suppressed and prevented from engaging the world on its own terms how ever course and uncouth, volatile and destructive their incipient attempts may appear and yet not very different are they to your bellicosity that beats by far that of the brotherly defender of our neo feudal lord? Is your brand of brutality all that you have to offer?

    • 0

      Your incomprehensible verbal diarrhea is torrential and it does not make any sense to try to continue this dialogue with someone who, in addition, appears to have a terminal inability to deal with the facts.
      That fact is, perhaps, epitomised by your statement that ” … your bellicosity that beats by far that of the brotherly defender of our neo feudal lord? Is your brand of brutality all that you have to offer?.” Not being in possession of a dictionary of irrational gobbledegook, I must admit that trying to comprehend what you are TRYING to say has been challenging in the extreme and perhaps a monumental waste of time!

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