10 June 2012

Wijedasa Rajapakshe’s agenda and options for the JHU

On February 15, 2004, on the eve of some prominent bikkhus launching a political party, a political commentator made the following observation in the Sunday Island: ‘It is the duty of the Mayor to ensure, among other things, that the sewerage system works properly; however it is not the Mayor’s job to climb into a cess pit and do the cleaning him/herself’.  It was an observation on the role of clergy, especially bikkhus, in politics.  

The Jathika Hela Urumaya made waves back then and it can even be said that vilified as they were they nevertheless played a key ideological role in shifting the political drift away from division and appeasement to unitary and removal of terrorist threat.  Their fortunes have since dipped, at least in terms of numbers, although the ideology of nationalism they promoted does not seem to have lost any ground.  Even their detractors would concede that the satyagraha of Ven Omalpe Sobitha protesting P-TOMS (June 2005), the march to Mavil Aru (August 2006) and the stand taken at the Donor Forum in Kandy by Ven Athureliye Rathana (May 2005) were landmark events that helped change policy direction. 

Whether political activity violates vinaya rules is of course a moot point, with both defenders and opponents having an array of arguments and citations to support their respective positions.  On the other hand, states are not religious bodies and laws are for all; they have to be blind to the gihi-pevidi (lay-clergy) distinction. A bikkhu, for example, though a member of the clergy, remains a prthagjana or an unenlightened being (the same way that a Christian missionary is not automatically deserving of beatification).  He has an ID card and civic rights. 

It is in this context that Wijedasa Rajapakshe’s ‘Private Members’ Bill’ seeking to stop bikkhus from entering Parliament needs to be examined.  It is not that this country lacks issues that warrant responses by way of Bills, from the Government or from individual MPs.  It is also strange that the debate that ensued following this move by Rajapakshe has focused on prominent JHU members but has completely ignored Eran Wickramaratne, a very well known preacher of ‘The Assembly of God’.  This is why this move is seen as patently ‘Anti-Buddhist’ and given rise to questions about Rajapakshe’s agenda and inquiries about whose interests he is serving.  It reads ‘Clergy’ but targets ‘Bikkhu’.

All citizens have a right to engage in political activity in whatever form that is not illegal.  The Parliament is only one location in a political universe; the machinations of people of other faiths, including clergy, in political affairs is well recorded, for example.  Closing parliamentary doors to a certain group would be an infringement of fundamental rights.  The Bill, Rajapakshe ought to know, would be shot down by the Supreme Court.  As such the move is unsavoury and only adds to an already tense situation with regard to the politics of religion in this country. 

 It is up to the Buddhist Order to pass determination on the kepa-akepa (sanctioned and forbidden) of the bikkhu.  Prohibitions should come from that address, and not the state.  In this, the dayakas do have a say and indeed one can say that this ‘say’ was expressed in the 2010 General Election.  Perhaps the two results (in 2004 and 2010) as far as the JHU is concerned indicate that a Parliamentary role was sanctioned in the earlier political moment but support for that position has since declined.

Rajapakshe alone will know what prompted him to do this and it is up to the general public to read the move as they will.  The JHU would do well to read the general sentiments of the Buddhists in this country in the matter of bikkhus entering Parliament.  Effective as they have been in promoting a particular policy regime, true though it is that Parliament is the supreme forum for representing sentiments of one’s constituency, the JHU might want to consider whether the utility value of Parliament has declined over the last 8 years. 

Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thero famously stated in 2005, ‘Let my silence be louder than gunshots’.  That was ‘Mayoral’, to use the analogy referred to above and written without intending insult to the Venerable Thero.  It is an option that is still open for the JHU. Only, it could be called ‘Presidential’ at this point. 

['The Nation' Editorial of June 10, 2012}


sajic said...

A secular form of govt is perhaps the ideal one. This should not preclude any preacher or teacher of 27 any religious body from entering Parliament. The US govt is quite openly 'christian' orientated- but there are many non-christians in Congress; so also the UK where the Monarch is head of Church and State; but there are checks and balances.
Perhaps our Parliamentarians should NOT represent any religious or philosophical body, but just contest as 'citizens'.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

As far as I know neither Eran nor the JHU represent any 'religious or philosophical body', subject of course to the caveat that ideology is a close relative of philosophy and all political parties and politicians (claim) to represent such things.

Rory Winter said...

It has been the norm that most modern republics have been founded on secularism with a very clear separation of Church from State. That has not been the case in Sri Lanka where more often than not the influence of the Sangha on the State has led to disastrous and divisive government policies. So any move to keep religion out of politics should be welcomed, not condemned.

I couldn't disagree more with the writer's statement that "prohibitions should come from [the Buddhist Order] not the state." The state is meant to reflect the interests of all the people and not a select elite. Religion should be kept out of politics.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

the separation of state and church in the 'modern' republics is great on paper, but not in the streets. and the involvement of religion in state-affairs has not been and is not the preserve of bikkhus.

Fizz said...

A monk's engagement in politics is a personal issue. A man does not become less of a citizen by taking vows of monkhood.
Whether a monk's politics affects his monkhood, only the monk can know.
It is no one else's business. If the public do not want a monk in politics they do not have to vote for one.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

neither does he become more pious by wearing a robe/cassock.. :)

Rory Winter said...

You say: "the separation of state and church in the 'modern' republics is great on paper, but not in the streets. and the involvement of religion in state-affairs has not been and is not the preserve of bikkhus."

Nevertheless, a clear separation of the two institutions of Church and State should be fundamental to the Constitition. This is not so in Sri Lanka and it has led to an unhealthy influence on the state from the more nationalistic elements of the Sangha. That influence has done no favours to the people of Sri Lanka. So any legislation to curtail such an overlap of interests should be welcomed.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

1. 'should be' according to?
2. what is 'not so' in the Sri Lankan constitution?
3. what's wrong with nationalism?
4. and what in the constitution has 'led to this "unhealthy" influence on the state from the 'more nationalistic elements" of the Sangha?
5. i see a tendency to vilify the Sangha and Buddhists, but no mention of the extraordinary and pernicious involvement of the Catholic Church in affairs of the state.

sajic said...

I am not sure what you mean Malinda. Isnt the Jatika Hela Urumaya a purely Buddhist orgnisation? Please correct me if I am wrong. Can a christian become a member?
As far as i know Eran Wickramaratne is a Sri Lankan citizen-he does not represent the christian church.

sajic said...

You are moving out of discussion into emotion. Dangerous. The influence of the RC church in Sri lankan politics is 'dead'.
Religion is personal. It should have no part in politics. I think that is what Wijedasa is trying to say.

Rory Winter said...

Malinda, you see ulterior motives where there are none. You seem particularly hung up on anti-colonial sentiments. Where these are understandable they become dangerous when they lead to a one-sided view of life. You are good at criticizing the colonialists of Lanka's past but not very good when it comes to recognizing the supremacist neo-colonialism of Lanka's Sinhala Buddhist nationalists (eg the continued heavy military occupation and government-sponsored deculturalization of the Tamil homelands).

As Sajic warns, you are moving out of discussion into emotion which is something you too easily do. And that's a shame.

You ask what is wrong with nationalism: as a socialist I would answer that by first observing that nationalism is a nineteenth century concept that is hardly relevant in the twentieth century where our capitalist masters have already moved to globalization.

On a more parochial level I have personally experienced the destruction that Buddhist nationalists wreaked in post-Independence Lanka. It is by no accident that my family emigrated from Ceylon in the 1950s. Over the decades many other Burghers and Tamils and even Sinhalese have done the same.

That pernicious nationalism was headed by the Buddhist Sangha in Lanka and one would have hoped that intelligent folk would have drawn conclusions from that sorry chapter in the island's history. Given recent events it is clear that is not so.

SANDIKA said...

'raaja sabhawa' and the 'sangha sabhawa' of this country are two very important features and they have certain role to play.
And the relationship between these two institutions and how they maintain it affects the important and the major party of this country called the 'people' generally this party, 'people' respect and expect these two institutions to work cordially giving necessary, adequate support in decision making or implementing certain things, or every important thing for the benefit of the country political and apolitical.

The raaja sabhawa had a specifically allocated space for 'sanghaya wahanse'. the role of supporting the ruling party giving necessary advises according to the 'healthiest rules' of every era, the Dasharaaja dharma' and the place and the importance of their role was not second to even the to 'agrapurohitha' of the sabhawa.

we now live in a modern and a very complex society compared to the past the role of the sangha need to change accordingly but not forgetting the main role they have to play. they all represent the party called 'Bauddha dharmaya'

let's not forget our yuthukam in protecting all the urumayan we have. let's not keep any space for our future historians to write any 'sorry chapters' in the future but how can we do so if we all start fighting forgetting the importance of maintaining 'peaceful environment' in every inch of this country.


when it comes to country affairs and its matters some times even a head of a country may behave emotionally in achieving victories etc i remember the day that our president venerate the soil of this land the very first moment after returning from an official tour to outside world. 'natural' but we know that he did not forget the role he had to play as a president and all (except selfish parties who had a different aim or a vision)around him gave him necessary support and we can not forget the immeasurable support given by every citizen of this country they too played a huge role by giving the moral support expected and trusting and having maintaining the complete faith 'patience until we achieve the

Malinda Seneviratne said...

i have no idea about the composition of the JHU membership. made of buddhists, in any case, does not mean it 'represents' religion. the catholic church doesn't wave flags, but that does not mean it has a hands-off policy about matters of the state.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Rory, I could say you are one-sided. you use terms loosely and with hardly any substantiation. troops in the north and east have been brought down from 100,000 to 15,000; high security zones from 13 to 1 (and in that '1', only 60% of the area remains). deculturalization...now where on earth did you get that from? Rudrakumar? Tamil 'homelands'? EXCUSE ME! On what basis do you use that term and what are the demarcations, can you please explain and substantiate?

I don't know about socialism, all i know is that whatever ism you subscribe to, it's good to go with facts.

your globalized capitalism masters are quick thick with their own nationalism and racisms.

since you are so into name-calling, let's have it out. what are you? tamil? christian? burgher? tell me what the 'buddhist nationalists' did in the 1950s and i will tell you what non-buddhists and non-nationalists did to sinhalese and buddhists. Okaaaaay>?

It's funny how all the ills of the country are somehow attributed to sinhalese and buddhists. i guess the others were veritable saints. now that's quite funny.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Here's some information about Western Democracies:

1. Every currency note of the USA carries the legend 'In God we trust'.
2. At present, 26 Bishops of the Church of England are entitled to sit in the House of Lords as of right; the only such example of clergy holding automatic membership of a legislature in a modern democracy.
3. France has 5 civil holidays: January 1 (New Year), May 1 (Labour Day), May 8 (End of WW II), July 14 (Bastille Day) and November 11 (End of WW I). And get this: France has 6 more ‘secular’ holidays: Easter (sometime in April), August 15 (to celebrate the Assumption of Mary), November 1 (All Saints’ Day), a Thursday in Mid-May (39 days after Easter, to celebrate Jesus’ Ascension), Pentecôte (50 days after Easter, usually on a Monday by the end of May) and of course December 25 (Christmas). And recently France’s lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.
4. The Swiss voted to prohibit the construction of minarets (intrinsic part of mosque architecture)

Rory Winter said...

Malinda, you raise several points so let me address at least some: by deculturalization I meant the government-sponsored buildings of several Buddhist monuments along the A9 and other Tamil areas and the Sinhalafying of Tamil place-names. Also the government has appropriated properties previously confiscated by the LTTE. And the land-grabbing goes on with even the Police helping themselves.

If it's any relevance I am a burgher of no particular religion but with an affinity to Taoism and Buddhism.

Of course, you will deny it but, in my childhood, I livec through the early days of Bandaranaike's MEP government and its disastrous flirtation with extremist nationalism. If those extremists had not prevented Bandaranaike from fulfilling his Pact with Mr Chelvanayakam it is very likely that the 30-year-old civil war could have been averted. Instead the extremists were allowed to run amok with pogroms against the Tamils in 1958 and finally in 1983.

It's funny; we both appear to consider our respective views to be one-sided. I am somewhat older than you and can claim to have lived through the horrors of 1958 where you could only have studied that time as contemporary history.

Bandaranaike was effectively a liberal but his cardinal error was to ride the tiger of nationalism for which he paid the price. Unfortunately a lot of others did too. I am not blaming all the ills of Lanka on either the Sinhalese or Buddhism. If I were to do so I would be a self-hating individuals, given that both my grandmothers were both Sinhalese and Buddhists! Make no mistake, just because I have a European name do not think I have no Lankan heritage. If you doubt me please feel free to consult Burgher Roots Web with a search for the Winter family, long resident in Lanka.

It is precisely because of that heritage that I do not hesitate to condemn the chauvinist nationalists who have made Buddhism into an aggressive weapon by which to attack other religions and cultures. These people are, in reality, more akin to racists and fascists.

I can understand your anti-colonial feelings. And the British should have adopted a far more responsible attitude to the demographics of Ceylon before they so hastily dumped 'independence' on the country in 1948. But it is all to easy to cover-up the present by pointing to the past. There is colonialism of different varieties. The colonizing of Tamil areas since the the days of D.S. Senanayake could be described as a form of colonialism. Similarly the current grabbing of Tamil properties by government agencies.

Finally, in no way do I consider capitalists to be my masters. But the reality is that the planet is still under the rule of capitalists, whether we like it or not. And whereas capitalism has had the dynamism to move onto globalization the irony is that our societies are still to wrapped-up in nationalism. And the capitalists take advantage of this limitation whenever it suits them by playing one 'national' entity off against another. Sadly, Marx's promotion of the Internationale never caught on and we proles have been paying the price ever since.

Rory Winter said...

PS: And I never indulged in any name-calling, You are imagining things... unless, that is, you so identify with the chauvinists that to criticize them is perceived as a personal slight by you. If not, why get so emotional?

Neil K said...


You do not directly address Malinda's main point -- that double standards are applied to Buddhism relative to other religions. Malinda gave many examples to show that the so-called church-state separation in western democracies is a myth. Regarding the participation of "priests" in politics I have never seen anyone critcize Rev. Martin Luther King or Bishop Desmond Tutu or Rev. Jesse Jackson or Pope John Paul II, purely because they were ordained men engaged in politics. I hope that you don't contest that they were heavily involved in politics. Whether you admire what any of these men did is irrelevant.

Church state separation REQUIRES that the state does not impose restricions on members of a religion based on their position within the religious order. Nor should they have special political priviledges either (such as heads of states seeking papal audience). They should have exactly the same rights as any other citizen.

Ramzeen Azeez said...

The Buddhist clergy are celibate and have rules regarding their day to day lives (vinaya). On TV Derana last night Wijedasa cited a case where a Buddhist monk in his capacity of a politician issued a liquor license!Individuals become monks when they distance themselves from the materialistic world and practice to be free from want.The monks nowadays s seem to have their cake and eat it! However, most Buddhist monks are very intelligent and their isolation seems to add to their wisdom. A cusrosry listen to sermons on a Poya day will prove this. hence they could be consultants to the incumbent governments. There's no need to go to Parliament and get ignominiously "bunched" as did happen some years ago!

SANDIKA said...

what are the characteristics of a pure follower of a religion? is it possible for us to find 'pure christian, pure Hindu believers pure Buddhist 'pure pure' people And the Buddhist monks also are human beings that have chosen a different path 'Budunwahanse's margaya' to attain 'NIbbana' or Nirwanaya' The enlightenment' they may make mistake until they reach to the very beautiful eternal truth ' Nirwanaya' till then they are not arhath they are human beings who walk through the path called 'sansara' they are also the travelers like us.
' the followers are generally different to the religious leaders such as LOrd Buddha, Jesus Christ or Allah how can we really compare the two different personalities with each other. can we really do so? NO i don't think so.

Every person who wears a robe' is not a monk. like every person who holds a weda nalawa' can not be a doctor, every person who holds the sacred book of Islamic teachings can not really be a pure Islamic , every person who reads the bible every moment of life can not be a christian' to be a christian, Islamic, or a devotee of a god. one needs to follow what is known as 'Buddha dharma or Christianity etc.......... you may find 'hora dostharawaru amongs honda dosthara waru' you may meet a non Buddhists who wears the robe that generally the Buddhists monks are advised or expect to wear.

Simply the person who follows the pure teachings of any religion only can be 'recognized as a pure devotee or a follower or a 'Buddhist' christian' or a Islamic
correct me if you think that i am wrong here.
and talk to your hearts and minds first and ask this question from your own hearts and minds?

Am i a pure Christian who follows the original teachings of the Jesus Christ?

Am i a Pure Islamic who follows the pure teachings of Allah?

am a pure Buddhist who follows the pure teachings of our Budunwahanse?
( i am not to tell you frankly reading what you all have responded i got angry sometimes i could not relax until i write my view on this page so i am not a pure Buddhist because in Buddhism there is no place for 'Anger' or 'hate' so i admit that i am a student of this beautiful damma not a teacher)

tell me frankly are you a true devotee of Lord Ganesh or Shiva? are we truly and purely following what they taught us and what they respect when it comes to human relations.

Rory Winter said...

Neil: what double standards are these? If we look at the the contemporary history of Sri Lanka we can see how the Buddhist sangha heavily interfered against the Sinhala Only Bill and the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact which, had it been implemented, may well have prevented a bloody civil war.

We know that the Premier's house was encircled by demonstrators, including Buddhist monks, who refused to go away until the Bill was trashed. It was and they left. We don't know what high-level pressure was put on Bandaranaike by the Sangha.

That instance was a classic example where extreme nationalism and Sri Lankan buddhism became so intertwined that it became impossible to distinguish between the two. More recently we have seen that form of religious extremism in Dambulla and elsewhere where mobs, headed by bhikkus, have attacked churches, kovils and mosques.

Bhikkus are not disciplined and the government remains silent. Anarchy rules.

It is against this history that I believe a separation between church and state would be helpful in Sri Lanka where nationalist elements both in and out of the sangha insist that Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country, which it is not.

I have been screamed at by Malinda for daring to use the term, 'Tamil homelands.' The extremists simply deny that the Tamils have any right to describe any part of Lanka as their homeland. Yet for decades it was widely accepted that certain parts of what used to be Ceylon was predominantly Tamil and their homeland on the island. Now it appears that has changed: the Tamils have no right to a homeland. With all the other minorities they are to live there only on account that they behave themselves and fit in with the chauvinists' scheme of things.

Since independence we have seen the growth of a nationalist-religious extremism in Sri Lanka where the use of violence is somehow justified. For decades, politicians have bought into both the extremism and the violence.

How far is this religious nationalism and intolerance going to eat into the social fabric of the country and how much more destruction is to follow? That is surely the background to this discussion. Malinda will rubbish everything I say. That's only to be expected.

sajic said...

Rory. I had not planned to re-enter this discussion, which I unwittingly opened. I think its time to close it, dont you? Its time to calm down and not invite raucous disagreement. This land has suffered too much.
I am a Tamil. I am a christian. And I am old enough to remember pre and post Independence and the troubled years very clearly.
yes. The Tamils had what they called their 'homelands'. These were the result of repeated invasions from India.The Portuguese, Dutch and British consolidated these to suit their own purposes-'divide and rule'. Tamil was therefore the language on the street, Hinduism the religion of the majority; but there were always indications of earlier buddhist civilisations, not only in the north but in India as well.
After Independence the GOSL tacitly accepted this and administered these areas, maintaining discrimination against the minorities. This resulted in a destructive and bitter war and the rise of terrorism. We cant go back that way-too many lives have been lost. its time to think of this land as one land, and its people as equal citizens. There will be pitfalls. We will have to learn to avoid these.

Rory Winter said...

Sajic, I am in absolute agreement with you about the desperate need to heal the wounds of the past and to move on. Though an exile it still broke my heart to see our motherland suffering from violence and war. As another writer commented recently, I am glad that the war has ended but not about the manner in which it did.

Until there can be proper assurances that the non-Sinhala Buddhist minorities are guaranteed proper security in a multi-cultural society there will never be peace. Until extremism is no longer tolerated by the moderate majority it will continue to raise its ugly head.

From what I can see there is still a very long road to travel before such a peace is obtained. Nevertheless, I wish our motherland well. No more need be said about this.

Neil K said...

You want to know about the double standards: John Paul II is heavily involved in instigating the Poles against the communists. The western press sees nothing wrong there. Just a few years before that Khomeni leads a revolution against the repressive Shah regime – it’s a theocracy, for the West. A half a century earlier Buddhist monks were immolating themselves, protesting against the puppet Catholic regime of South Vietnam. Then it’s Buddhist nationalism, for the same Western press -- Bad! A few weeks ago in the US, the Catholic church operating huge universities were refusing to follow the law (Obama’s new health care law) on insurance coverage for women who were in the staff, because apparently it clashed with their faith. No one talked about religious extremism, and Obama was bending over backwards to please these churchmen. Yes, this church-state separation is a nice piece of fiction.
If anyone, including someone of the sangha, breaks the law he needs to be punished. No more and no less, because he is a monk. And, I agree that govt has not been firm in many of these incidents. But we have to recognize that this religious partiality is not something unique to SL. Yes, we need to strive to do better, without being overly critical.
Do you see anything good that MR and his government accomplished? I wouldn’t be surprised if you are among those who say that the govt has done nothing in these 3 short years towards racial reconciliation, which is just “code” to mean autonomy, which is again code to mean creating separate racial Bantustans. We need true reconciliation, where the whole country is the homeland of everybody, where our differences enhance our strength. In the US, 150 years after Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves, half the prison population are blacks, and a few years ago a group of white men in Texas, dragged a black man, tied to a truck, until he was dead. These are not isolated incidents. I am not suggesting that true racial harmony in SL is far away in the future. If we give up this crazy idea of a separate nation for the tamils, there is a distinct possibility that we might even have a Tamil president within the next few decades.

Rory Winter said...

Tamil separatism and the LTTE grew out of a situation of desperation after many decades of persecution. If the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact had not been trashed it could have provided a federal solution to the problem.

As for the question of secularism, I have already stated my views so that must suffice, except to remind you that what I suggested was that an official secular state may go some way in improving things.

In my view all religious fundamentalism, no matter what its source might be, is dangerous. As for the USA it is a sick and decadent nation and should not be looked upon as an exemplar.

Neil K said...

Why do you fail to recognize that the Sinhala Buddhist movement which Bandaranaike fed off of grew out of centuries-long desperation from being left in the margins of society? Why do you admire an anti-democratic act of a politician making secret deals? Do you think Buddhist monks should not have the same rights as any other citizens to petition their government?

Rory, we may not be far apart in how we value the importance of a secular state. The difference is that you seem to think that Sri Lanka is far worse than what it really is. After all, Australia is a country whose head of state is the head of a church! And, you rightly characterized the US. I believe that our criticism of the state should be balanced and reasoned, without aping those who clearly do not have the welfare of the country in their hearts. I think there is much to admire and applaud, even in what MR has done.

But, I think we are far apart on a more substantive issue. You think that federalism or some form of race-based devolution is the answer. I think it would have been a disaster. The devolution idea assumes that our behavior is mainly shaped by our race and that we are not capable of treating some one of a different race fairly. I believe it is patently false. Even worse is the idea that someone (or some group) can represent a whole race, as if humans are some cakes formed from a uniformly mixed batter. Countless times I have found the tamil friend to be better company, the tamil professor to be more fair, the tamil shop keeper to have better service or prices, than their Sinhala counterparts. I am not denying that race is a factor – but just saying that it is one many other factors. I have absolutely no doubt that the different races in SL can coexist peacefully. For, far too long we have complained about the size of our pie slice, contending that our slice is too small because the other’s slice was larger. We failed to recognize that the problem was because the pie was too small. Let’s work together to make the size of the overall pie bigger. If our slice is “big enough” to have a decent life materially, educate our kids, live without fear, etc., we would no longer envy the larger pie slice of another.

PS: Sajic, pardon me for continuing the discussion; for I think that a discussion is always better than the alternative.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Do people get 'better' with age? I don't know what Rory saw and what he/she didn't see, but I lived through 2 insurrections and a bloody 30 years of terrorism. I didn't 'scream' re 'homeland'. Rory is imagining things. I asked a question. There's a lot of 'claim' in what Rory writes, but very little substantiation. Here are some useful links that might correct the mis-education and intellectual sloth.

PART 1: http://www.lakbimanews.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5606%3Aby-hldmahindapala&catid=46%3Acolumns&Itemid=50

PART II: http://www.lakbimanews.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5694%3Aby-hld-mahindapala-qthe-origins-of-violent-communal-politicsq&catid=46%3Acolumns&Itemid=50

PART III: http://www.lakbimanews.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5606:by-hldmahindapala&catid=46:columns&Itemid=50

And some stuff that might cure the hang up about Bandaranaike:

I reject all fundamentalisms including the insinuations that the sinhala buddhisrs and sinhala buddhists alone are to blame for the state of affairs. and for someone who claims to be socialist, it is laughable that rory doesn't understand that being 'sinhala' or 'buddhist' (or 'tamil' or 'christian' for that matter)is incidental to the capitalist (who has been running this country for decades).

cheers, all

Rory Winter said...

Malinda, many thanks for all the links which I shall look at. I am not blaming everything on the Sinhala Buddhists, merely suggesting that (a) if they had not blocked the B-C Pact things may well have worked out in a more peaceable manner, and (b) that the majoritarians have had far too much influence on government affairs.

The tyranny of the majority is a problem in democracy that federalism is meant to counter. Federalism has worked very well in many other countries and I don't see why it has no chance in Sri Lanka.

Finally, Malinda, I don't know why you ask me that last question. As stated before the entire planet is still run by the capitalist system whose greed, as you acknowledge, is threatening our biosphere and hence life on earth. I thank you for pointing that out to your readers.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

The argument about 'tyranny of majority' ('tyranny'???? that's laughable) warranting federalism shows rank ignorance about demographic realities, geographical factors, and (as pertinent to claims made, including yours) history. federalism is an eelamist dead-rope to fix boundaries which themselves have nothing to do with the above factors.

Rory Winter said...

You continue to reply in terms of insult and derision as if your ideas are somehow superior to all others. Yet, what are these demographical realities and geographical factors?

Like other chauvinists you rule out federalism as a solution. You are simply not prepared to make any concessions to the Tamils. Instead you wish to roll over them with the tanks of a 'unitary' Sri Lanka which in effect means subordination to the Sinhala Buddhist majority.

When all is said and done you are doing no more than to give an intellectual gloss to intolerance and extremism. Hardly the Middle Way!

Malinda Seneviratne said...

you've always been loose with words, i've noticed. 'chauvinist'? hmm..

Demographic factors: more than half the Tamils live OUTSIDE the North and East; the 'liberators' ethnically cleansed the North of Sinhalese and Muslism . Geographical factors: to the extent that land is identified with community, the Tamils in the Eastern Province have historically lived in a 10 mile wide coastal strip, and this courtesy of an agreement with the Sinhala Kings and the Europeans with Tamils being brought there to work as Agricultural labourers.

Like all ill-informed pundits, you call anyone opposed to YOUR solution a chauvinist.

Now, Mr/Ms. Know-All, here's a challenge: list all Tamil grievances and try proving they are territory based (necessary if you propose a territory-based solution).

I am deferring to REASON over emotion. You are trying to paint myth as fact, and regurgitating the lies crafted by chauvinistic Tamils intent on land theft. If that's 'Middle Path', why then I am glad to be counted OUT of that club.

Rory Winter said...

You mention eastern Sri Lanka, I didn't. I referred to Jaffna as historically the Tamil homeland. I am not a Tamil politician and so cannot make a list of Tamil grievances. But when it comes to your allegations of their "intent on land theft" I wonder at your propensity to invert reality, given that land theft has been what the GoSL has been up to since the 1950s in its colonization of previously Tamil areas.

So you defer to reason over emotion? Well, just have a look at the language you have used since the beginning of this thread. I would hardly call that reason.

A chauvinist is a person who displays aggressive or exaggerated patriotism. That seems to sum up your position quite appropriately.
So no point in continuing this fruitless exchange unless your motive is to have the last word. In which case, be my guest :D

Neil K said...

Rory, it is clear that you have bought into a whole host of theories accepted as fact by a certain section of our society who claim to be liberal, progressive and open-minded. You have refused to back up your contentions with facts, even when Malinda asked pointed questions. You thanked Malinda for the references he provided, and you promised to read them. What did you learn? In the last linked reference, here is what the author, a Tamil who had lived through the Sinhala Tamil race relations issue, at least since the ‘30s, has to say about your favorite idea of Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact:

“The B-C pact was NOT based on discrimination. It was based on the "Homeland Concept". It asked for the same 2/3 coastal area and land area as a "homeland" for the Tamils (12% of the population) that the LTTE today is asking for. … If the proposed B-C pact had actually got enacted… the 1983 Black July would have happened decades earlier.

Rory Winter said...

Neil K, I didn't intend to return to this thread as I realize that arguing against such hard-liners is hopeless. But you have added some more points that need to be addressed:

I have, so far, read S.Rasalingam's article, Tamils Must ask for what is Reasonable and accept their Role in the Conflict, and have downloaded the other three articles (including one missing link which I was able to trace) for further reading.

Mr Rasalingam appears not to be a supporter of federalism, hence the conclusion of his article. The federalization of Sri Lanka may have led to another Black July but what other possible option is there in a country where the majoritarians will not admit to the country's multi-cultural reality or concede equality to the minorities?

I have never said that the Tamils were simon-pure blameless in the conflict. I merely pointed to the chief obstacle to its resolution and some of the reactionary forces behind it.

Neil K said...

It’s less important to assign blame for the causes of conflict. Let’s look to the past to see if there are lessons for the future.

Ironically, separatism (or federalism, as you put it) is motivated by a racist idea -- The idea that we are defined primarily by our race. That two people, a Tamil and a Sinhalese, serving on a school board discussing curriculum would think differently because of their race. That Tamils and Sinhalese would think differently on the role of government in economic development, on the environment, on urban planning, etc. etc. This is a nutty idea.

Of course, there are situations where resource allocation is a factor. And the Tamils could say they got less than the Sinhalese. But this can happen on non-racial lines, say Moneragala claiming that they got less than Galle did. Take one of the biggest discriminations that Tamils cite – changes to the university admissions in the 70’s involving language-based standardization and district-based quotas. I would readily grant that there were lot mistakes made in the whole policy and the implementation. But in its basic character was the whole exercise fundamentally different than the Affirmative Action policy in the US or the Scheduled Castes policy in India? These are matters to be debated in a democracy rather than something to be resolved through the means of arms.

And, it’s silly to think that a member of race can represent the whole race. When I referred you to Mr Rasalingam’s article I didn’t mean to imply that he is speaking for all Tamils. No one can. Look at what happened on the estate tamils’ franchise issue in 1948. Ponnambalam voted with the Sinhalese government and a few years later Chelvanayagam calls him traitor to his race.

This is my main point – that the only solution is one which recognizes the multi-ethnic character of the country. I am far more hopeful that it will be a reality. You are possibly right, that there are those who claim that the country belongs to Sinhalese only, who would impede this happening. But so would those who refuse to see progress, equating reconciliation with devolution/federalism/separate-states.

Rory Winter said...

Neil, you say "that the only solution is one which recognizes the multi-ethnic character of the country. I am far more hopeful that it will be a reality."

I wholeheartedly agree with you but at this point in time do not feel quite so optimistic. There needs first to take a place a huge sea-change in public opinion and feeling and as long as the extremists are allowed free rein there is no possibility of this happening.

There are many countries where federalism has worked. Though Canada has a vociferous separatist movement in French Canada the federal nature of the country remains. Switzerland is probably the classic example with its cantons and four official languages.

If Tamils and Sinhalese find it impossible to get on together is it not better that they try federation rather than separation? The two are entirely separate things in my estimation as the former allows for separate cultures within one country whereas the other does not.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Rory's last comment would necessitate the majority of Tamils living in what's called Sri Lanka to some mono-ethnic enclave the boundaries of which no one will agree on. There are hardliners of all kinds....federalist fundamentalists are hardliners, for they refuse to deal with facts and treat their own preferences as god-given. Canada, USA, India and Switzerland NEEDED federalism to be viable political entities. One can be emotion-less and still write a lot of rubbish, without responding to query, without substantiating claim etc. I don't know how that helps. But i've been faulted here for being 'emotional'. So this is it for this article and all other articles posted on my blog. The floor is open to the self-righteous. ENJOY!

Rory Winter said...

You say "Canada, USA, India and Switzerland NEEDED federalism to be viable political entities." Does not Sri Lanka need it for the same reason? How else do you propose to end the age-old differences between Tamils and Sinhalese?

As long as there is a Tamil minority on the island it is probable that the existing differences wil;l also be present. Up till now the Tamils have had to put up or shut up. We all know that that is no permanent solution. History has shown that majoritarian rule cannot provide the answer. So what then?

Anonymous said...

Rory, the effort you have taken to explain the point of view of an "enlightened person" is commendable. I endorse everything you have said. Anyone who speaks like you here could very well find himself marginalized in Sri Lanka. The truth needs to be voiced for all to hear. I am a Sinhalese Buddhist and I am appalled at the way the Tamils are now treated in Jaffna and elsewhere. The majority Sinhalese must learn to accept the minorities' rights, i.e. the right to own land, the right to practice a religion, the right to express dissent, etc. We Sinhalese have now become all too powerful and these rights of minorities are getting swept under the carpet!
How long will they tolerate such injustice before they decide to take up arms again? That is the one million dollar question.