27 May, 2019

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Whole Truth Of A Half Truth

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

“Ardha” is a Sanskrit word which means “half.” Post-modernist Sinhala writer and poet Shkathika Sathkumara wrote a short story captioned “Ardha” and posted it on his Facebook page. Now he is in remand custody charged for an offense under the ICCPR act.

A creative artist relies on his mind to see, hear feel and smell. That is how writers, artists, composers create the beauties and the ugliness of the world.

In medieval times creators of beauty, truth and human squalor were persecuted. In the new age of fake righteousness attempted by statute and proclamations we seem to be returning to our tribal roots.

Our free press – print and electronic did not report the incident. The incident has gone viral in the internet. The international news agency AFP has reported the Orwellian ordeal of Shakthika Sathkumara to the world. The story datelined Colombo 1st April is succinct.

A Sri Lankan novelist has been arrested for writing about homosexuality in the Buddhist clergy and charged with violating international human rights law, officials said on Tuesday, outraging free speech advocates.

Shakthika Sathkumara, 33, was arrested in the north-central town of Polgahawela on Monday and remanded in custody for nine days after monks complained about his writing.

“A group of monks complained that the reference to homosexual activities among the clergy insulted Buddhism,” a police spokesman said.

The police spokesman said the monks who complained refused to settle the matter out of court and insisted on Sathkumara being prosecuted. He was taken before a local magistrate who charged him with inciting “religious hatred” under the United Nation’s international human rights treaty, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

The Polgahawela police have charged him for an offense under the ICCPR act which is non bailable. On the face of it, the action of the Police officer is an absolute travesty of the universal covenant on political and civil rights.

The accused has written a short story. Some Buddhist monks have found the story line to be offensive. They have every right to express their opposition. But here is the rub. They have insisted the man be locked up. Now they have been appeased.

The right to freedom of expression and access to such information falls squarely and precisely within the category of civil and political rights. It is the most fundamental ‘empowering right’, that facilitates the implementation of all other human rights such as the right to participation in political and public life. The ability to exercise this right of free expression of a writer or a poet is a key precondition for human progress.

What is the grave offense committed by Shakthika Sathkumara in writing his short story ‘Ardha”?

To begin with I don’t find it to be of great literary merit. On a scale of one to ten I would give it a grudging four points. That said, it is indeed a commendable attempt at experimental postmodernist creative writing.

Postmodernist writing is not banned in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has however, declared the ‘Theravada Tripitaka’ as a national heritage. We are now appealing to make it a heritage of the planet and mankind.

Now, that is a moot point that should be taken note of, by the Defense Secretary who for long years was our national Olympian. One of the three pitaka is the Vinaya pitaka that deals with the sexuality of human beings in general and the ordained ‘Sramana’ or monks specifically.

What is postmodernist creative writing? It relies on parody, black humour, and is usually defiant of traditional literary conventions. In short, its existence is the quest for the permanent paradox.

Postmodern stories are often intertextual. It moves on the relationship between several texts.

‘Ardha’ is the story of a young university enrolled monk who after disrobing finds temporary shelter in the ‘Boadima’ of a friend.  The opening lines are bitingly abrupt.

“Halwelle Kassapa himi became Kasan Palihawadana not because he was enamored with the lay life. He was not particularly fond of the monastic order either. “

Kasan Palihawadna is greeted by another robed university mate. “Liberated liberated Kassa is finally liberated .  I suppose you will not want to remain in the same hostel. Just as well. Now you don’t have to wait till dusk to fetch groceries.”

Kasan moves in to the hostel of lay friend Lloyd Aiya. Lloyd describes the sketch of a short story he intends to write. It is a rebellious twist to Siddhartha’s renunciation of worldly pleasures and sorrows.

Kasan advises Lloyd that ours is an orthodox Theravada Buddhist society where such narratives would be frowned on.

Apart from these two subtexts the main protagonist Kasan is much troubled man. He has a fearsome disquieting dream. Waking up from the Freudian dream he refreshes himself in the bathroom and creeps back under the mosquito net. Lloyd aiya quietly slips in to the room and his quiet murmurs reach Kasan’s half wake ears. Pungent whiff of Lloyd Aiya reminds Kasan of his “Loku Hamuduruwo’s body smell.

How does the Vinaya pitaka deal with homosexuality or hetero sexuality?

The ‘Vinaya Pitaka refers to several instances of homosexual, heterosexual and transsexual behavior. The most pivotal instance is where it highlights the episode of the monk Wakkali who became a monk purely because he was physically attracted to how handsome Lord Buddha was. There is also an instance of a novice monk masturbating an older monk. The Buddha referred even to intercourse with animals because of a monk indulging in sex with a female monkey.

The ‘Vinaya’ rules on sexual behavior of monks makes no reference to any specific sexual act. It forbids monks to insert their sex organs in to any bodily orifices- which common sense would include the vaginal, anal and oral stimuli!

In ancient India homosexuals were simply identified as the third nature ‘trithya prakthi ‘. Whether it is a deviant practice or not is not the issue in Shakthika’s story. It is the realism embedded in the yarn that has upset the holy hornet’s nest.

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Latest comments

  • 17
    0

    Most people in this country feel so much better when things are permanently locked up in cupboards or swept under carpets as then they will not feel any discomfiture or pangs of guilt. They become so agitated when inconvenient truths or awkward matters are discussed in public. Just as in the case of criminals who are all vehemently opposed to any investigations into their crimes.

    • 3
      1

      Estate Labour!
      ‘Skeletons in the cupboard’ are better than skeletons in Mannar graves so that they may not be identified.

    • 5
      0

      Sarath de Alexis,

      A few years ago, a British women tourist came to Sri Lanka from India. She was arrested at the Airports and produced before a Magistrate, who got her deported.

      What was her crime? Insulting Buddha per Para-Sinhala “Buddhism” for the tattoo on her arm. The case was challenged and appealed, and she was given some compensation.

      Well, looks like the smell of the Loku Gamuduruwoos on the Samaneras, is too much for some monks as it brings bad memories, and the public will know about the monk trainings.

  • 9
    0

    Same sex ‘attraction’, albeit small percentage-wise, is as old as humans. In recent times the term ‘relationship’ has come into use.
    Likewise humans have this pedophilic trend.
    All religious clergy are humans. It is possible some may get into the religious order because of their sexuality or as to whether the rules of sexual abstinence drives them driven into is anyone’s guess.
    .
    Sarath de Alwis’ article ~ “Whole Truth Of A Half Truth” might well be, oxymoronic, ‘Truths in facts’.

    • 0
      3

      Green hand for K. Pillai comment is locked. so, no one can vote that.

    • 7
      0

      These ignorant monks have a wholly disproportionate influence on civil society. Even the Police in their ignorance are unable to resist. I wonder when these idiots will discover the existence of CT and try to ban it as well? Where are all those stout defenders of Muslim women?
      The vinaya pitaka is quite graphic about what monks can do . In one place it advises monks not to have sex with disembodied heads!
      Why don’t we petition the UN to make the Vinaya Pitaka a world heritage?

      • 5
        0

        “These ignorant monks have a wholly disproportionate influence on civil society.”

        I don’t think the “civil society” will ever learn ……….. the only wise solution out of this rut is to educate the monks – the “civil-society” is beyond redemption. …….. Ratna Thero said to educate all children in Sinhala up to grade 5 ……… a better proposition that will have an enormous beneficial effect on the entire nation is to teach English to all the Theros/monks from grade 1. I am sure young monks will be keen to learn English if allowed by the elder/older monks.

        Now, it’s a ludicrous situation where the entire nation has to accept uneducated/backward/prehistoric moronic stupid proclamations of the monks as if it’s the peak of national intelligence!

        Just think about it …….. if you can think ……… how we unthinkingly fell into this situation.

        Even the greatest script writes can’t write such a script ……. that comes naturally to Lankans

        • 3
          0

          Old Codger and Nimal,

          The mean IQ of the civil society is 79, and the monks come from the civil society. There will be occasional monks like Ven. Walpole Rahula and Sobitha Thero, but the bulk have mean IQs of 79 and even below, based on how some children are “discarded”.

          What you see are the results of monk teaming.

      • 5
        0

        Old codger

        “These ignorant monks have a wholly disproportionate influence on civil society.”

        In the case of Shakthika Sathkumara, the media fraternity should start probing into the life of those saffron complainant who reported Sathkumara to the police. They may find a lot of juicy personal matters about the zealous saffronistas.

        Perhaps Shakthika Sathkumara is the plausible scapegoat to cover up their own sordid affairs.

  • 8
    0

    Homosexuality is considered a common thing among the Buddhist priests and Catholic priest’ may be other priests as well, (including Hindu Priests who are not prevented from marrying but happy to have additional women in their strides.) who are supposed to practice Celibacy. Recently a number of such cases were revealed both among the Catholics and Buddhists. In addition, Catholic priests have been found to be involved with Nuns and the Buddhist Priests with “Pansala Menikas” according to a good Buddhist friend of mine.
    The crux of the matter is, before men and women decide to serve god they should assess themselves as to why they should Serve god instead of serving God’s children on earth. If they cannot serve God’s children on earth how can the serve God in heaven, so far away.
    Only Buddhist priests seem to take objection to the type of accusations/stories, But the catholic priests were taken to task by the pope fairly openly and warned them to behave. According to Hindus, their priests they play around with women a little, promising them what they pray for, by recommending them to Gods, because there are many Gods.
    Sex is part and parcel of life and should be viewed accordingly.
    It appears, that men who wants more and more women for their needs, garb themselves as priests and continue their foul play without being noticed/noted.
    PITY.

  • 5
    0

    What happened to the boy at the temple at the Matara end of the Expressway? Why were three buddhist priests and a layman charged or sex offence on a boy? Did the boy bleed through his rectum? What happened to the boy at the Koggala temple? Why do the priests select good looking boys as abittayas? The safron clad should be remanded instead of the writer.

  • 2
    2

    🤣homo sexual was normal, ( if you go to Thailand , there were Buddhist monks can have sex ) that country was Buddhist country and it allow, in Srilanka that was not big thing, police don’t have work, that way they catch this Writer,Shakthia,S, , when a person tell some thing, think /, I am Tamil , but Hindu priest have sex with Boys, or they can marry two woman, ( In Europa what hindu do , , I tell sorry for this Writer( S.S) , first put Sumanthiran —M.P, in Jail, how much foolish thing he make for Tamils& Srilanka,

  • 0
    0

    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

  • 1
    0

    Nothing that many of us did not know about.

    Regardless of whichever God we worship, or don’t, we are first and foremost mere humans, with animal instincts, and the strongest of these is the carnal.

    Nothing to see here.

  • 0
    0

    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
    0

    Priests of any order who have taken vows to be celibate need to viewed with “queer ” eye. Catholic world has acknowledged that major problems existed or still exists and the Pope has taken action to stamp out. Well, it is up to the higher beings of the Buddhist clergy to acknowledge the nasty issue and stamp it out. Otherwise, disrobe and be a human.

  • 5
    1

    This is a truly unbelievable turn of events even for the less-than-Banana-Republic that Sri Lanka has become.
    What makes matters even worse and confirms increasing evidence that the “main line media” in Sri Lanka seems to live under banana trees, is their deafening silence with regard to this monumental travesty of justice and freedom of expression.
    Not even George Orwell could do justice to this state of affairs.

    • 0
      0

      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

    • 5
      0

      People need to heed Emil’s proclaimation of what poor Sri Lanka has now become and the deafening silence maintained by the ‘main line media’ which has handsomely contributed to the debacle.

      Under the guise of “saving ” and “protecting ” what carnage has been wrought on Buddhism by man in the last 60 years!

  • 2
    2

    “All great truths begin a blasphemy” – George Bernard Shaw.

    This again proves that human rights instruments, like the ICCPR, are bullshit.

  • 1
    3

    If any idiot can write any filth as a short story insulting some one or group of people ….they have the right to criticise and go to courts over it….freedom and rights work both ways

    • 4
      0

      Sachooooooooooooooooooo

      “If any idiot can write any filth as a short story insulting some one or group of people ….they have the right to criticise and go to courts over it….freedom and rights work both ways”

      You are an insult to intelligence, humanity, Sinhalese, Buddhists, ………….liberals, …. What do you suggest we do?

  • 2
    1

    Mr. De Alwis,
    Thank you for the review of the article by Shakthika Sathkumara , “Ardha’ – and exposing the hypocrisy of the Buddhist Clergy in Sri Lanka.

    I am shocked that the Police have the authority to jail a person based on a complaint by a group of people who are offended by the writings of another person.
    Writing a fictional story about a monk and his homosexual tendencies in no way can be called inciting ” religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

    This again is another clear example of the failure of law and order in Sri Lanka’s civil society.

    The clergy have every right to complain if they were offended by the article, and the forum for that complaint is the Courts.

    Let the courts decide, if Shakthika Sathkumara’s freedom to express his views in a work of fiction violated the rights of the Buddhists clergy under the ICCPR.
    The Police decision to hold the author in jail and not granting bail shows the reluctance on the part of the Police to advice the clergy to take their case to the courts and let the courts decide if any rights under the laws were violated by any party.

    When it comes to the Buddhist clergy, the separation of State and Temple is non-existent in Sri Lanka.

  • 1
    0

    There are a few novels and short stories written in Tamil depicting Brahmin priests’ engagement in sex or high caste married women urging to have sex with low caste men coming to work in their compounds. Enjoying the masculine body of a toddy tapper or a fisherman is the dream of married women. Indian well known Tamil Film Parasakthi released in 1953 dealt with a Hindu poosari trying to molest the heroine in a temple but rescued by hero. I could remember a well known srilankan writer late S.Ponnuthurai’s two novels Thee and Sadanku dealt mainly of sexual urges acts and fantasies and conservative Tamil society read it ( some secretly ) without any protest and enjoyed it. These were printed in late sixties or early seventies. I think Tamil society is more lenient when compared with Sathkumara’s incident. No doubt Tamils are with Sathkumara and they join with others to defend his fundamental right to express his thoughts.

    • 3
      0

      Sadhu,
      “Enjoying the masculine body of a toddy tapper or a fisherman is the dream of married women.”
      I am not too bad either!

      • 1
        0

        You should have been in Jaffna in 1960 / 1970s. Too late now mate.

    • 2
      1

      Sadhu

      “Enjoying the masculine body of a toddy tapper or a fisherman is the dream of married women.”

      Or is it the body odour that attract them?

      • 1
        0

        Strong body, odour, and palmyrah toddy he brings down from a selected tree in her compound, all goes together. You won’t get this now in Jaffna. Sorry too late !

  • 2
    1

    The ICCPR is neither international, nor an effective covenant, nor civil, nor political, nor righteous.

    Human rights do not work in a multi-polar world… as John Mearsheimer would argue. NATO, after all, was not just created to meet the Soviet challenge but to contain the German problem in Europe. It’s all about balance of power… not some stupid thing that parades itself as universal values.

    Angela Merkel often preaches about human rights and the Swabian housewife. Well, she’s neither Swabian nor a housewife.

  • 2
    1

    “A group of monks complained that the reference to homosexual activities among the clergy insulted Buddhism,”

    what about the practice of homosexual activities ?Does it insult bhuddhism?If the magistrate can show that there was no homosexual activities then he can find the author guilty for referencing things that do not happen in reality.Whole of sri lanka knows about the homosexual activities.

  • 2
    0

    The real problem is that these laws are not meant to be used against Buddhism bashers.

  • 1
    1

    the Catholic church has time ago started to investigate offenders.
    It’s high time to start here too.
    And it’s not good to handover all these innocent minor boys to the temples.

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