Dec 22, 2017

My Christmas wish for Sinhala Buddhists

  • This Christmas though very much late by generations nevertheless would be ideal for Sinhala Buddhists to join in and enjoy with a determined resolution to work towards an alternative approach that can lift their lives out of misery and poverty
  • They are all-inclusive innocent mindsets that should be promoted and nurture

Last weekend I read somewhere, the MEP that’s in tow with the flower bud (Pohottuwa) Party with Rajapaksa at its helm, has lost one of their strongest Urban Councils with nominations for the Maharagama UC among few others getting rejected.

How does Maharagama become one of the strongest JO election bids? That same newsreport said it was because leaders like Dinesh Gunawardane, had always dominated the Sinhala Buddhist vote that decided Maharagama vote.

Last weekend, I also ran into a huge swarming mob of shoppers in a mighty hurry at Maharagama.
But in Maharagama, they cannot be Christians and Catholics shopping for Christmas, I told driver of the three-wheeler, I was in.

He said they were employees shopping before they left for their villages for the year-end.
Now, most avoid Pettah, using the Southern Expressway to get to their villages conveniently and faster from Maharagama, he told me.

They are from Sinhala Buddhist villages in the South, we both agreed. But shop for Christmas as most Christians and Catholics do?

Last year, children in my ‘all Buddhist’ neighbourhood, all who routinely attend Sunday “Daham Pasal” (Buddhist School) were gleefully enjoying Christmas, lighting fire-crackers and shooting sky-rockets into the starry night sky.

It was no doubt parents who bought them for the children. On Christmas evening, few little girls sitting on a neighbouring veranda sang Nanda Malini’s beautiful song “Jesu Swami Daruwane” all on their own.

image 1513878773 d4f9ad8149

They would most certainly indulge in such innocent fun this Christmas too.

All inclusive engagements, that in one way or another positively ignore and blur unwanted “divisions” and “demarcations” that “diversity” in this society, does not demand or require in social life.

They are all-inclusive innocent mindsets, that should be promoted and nurtured but is never done.

Instead, divisions and demarcations on ethnoreligious biases are what is promoted and nurtured by the State, through an education system with factually wrong historical school textbooks, most media, most Buddhist temples and by urban Sinhala Buddhist elite, who aspire for political power.

‘Urban’ I say, as the larger majority of Sinhala Buddhists have not shown they are rabid dividers of society, as the urban Sinhala Buddhist elites are. There’s much proof of that.

One good enough proof is that political parties like the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) are an urban phenomenon.

The 2004 April Parliamentary Elections results proved it further. At this election, the JHU fielded an ‘All monk’ candidate lists in all districts except Hambantota, presenting a very aggressive Sinhala Buddhist stand.

Results were amazing.

The JHU had seven Buddhist monks elected and two from the National List for the 552,724 polled islandwide.

The seven included three from Colombo (190,618), two from Gampaha (102,516), one from Kalutara (56,615) and one from Kandy (42,192) (districts) that are considerably mixed districts in terms of ethnic and religious presence and very urban too.

But none from any of the predominantly Sinhala Buddhist rural districts like Moneragala (2,675), Polonnaruwa (2,413) and Anuradhapura (8,034).

Rural Sinhala Buddhist vote nevertheless goes moderate, voting more for the SLFP rather than the UNP.

It is not that the UNP is not Sinhala racist. They have also been playing for the Sinhala Buddhist vote ever since they coalesced with the Sinhala Maha Sabha to form the UNP and win the first parliamentary elections in 1947.

When the first D.S. Senanayake Government disfranchised the upcountry plantation Tamil people in 1948.

When the UNP leadership of Jayawardene-Niyathapala marched against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact (B-C Pact) in 1957. When President Jayewardene watched the pogrom against Tamil people in July 1983 with Cyril Mathew accused of organising it, using the UNP worker hooligans in their trade union.

That was after President Jayewardene told the British journalist Ian Ward of London Daily Telegraph on 11 July, he was not bothered about what Jaffna people think, adding, “….The more you put pressure in the North, happier the Sinhala people will be here….really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.”

Then the UNP went on a rampage burning down the prestigious Jaffna Central Library in 1981.
So, was the SLFP from Bandaranaike to Rajapaksa. And MR is right when he asked recently, why the Rajapaksas cannot be what Bandaranaike was in the SLFP.

The SLFP was born and groomed a Sinhala Buddhist political party, put in place by the Sinhala Maha Sabha with Bandaranaikes heading it.

A party that was born on the sidelines of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) led by Gunapala Malalasekera establishing a “Buddhist Commission” and young Civil Servant N.Q. Dias and journalist D.B. Dhanapala working with both the ACBC and the Sinhala Maha Sabha also helping the SLFP leadership.

It is no surprise, therefore, the Bandaranaike-led SLFP made Sinhala the only official language in 1956. It abrogated its own B-C Pact in 1957 and went on a march led by Madam B in 1968 January 08 against the UNP Government’s proposed legislation for reasonable use of Tamil that led to the death of novice monk Dambarawe Rathanasara.

It then did away with the Minority Interest Clause 29 of the Soulbury Constitution and inserting Article 09 that provided Buddhism with a privileged status through the Constitution.

The 1972 first Republican Constitution was drafted and adopted without Tamil representation, brought an ethnically biased geographically based standardisation for university admission, went on a protest again led by Madam B against the Indo-Lanka Accord in July 1987 that led to a bloody insurgency.

Then Rajapaksa’s pride in finishing off the LTTE at the conclusion of the war in 2009 May, that hyped Sinhala Buddhist supremacist ideology leading to extremist and violent Sinhala Buddhist outfits led by Buddhist monks, all adding into the history of the SLFP and this country too.

All that history has led to deep-rooted anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim sentiments that help keep the Sinhala Buddhist supremacist ideology alive and kicking.

It also keeps evangelical Christian groups on toes, with large numbers of their Churches attacked by Sinhala Buddhist goons.

Violent extremism is so deeply embedded in urban Sinhala society, Attorney-at-Law Lakshan Fernando, who quoted figures of attacks on Churches from a report led to serious threats to him by Sinhala Buddhist elements instigated allegedly by then Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.

Sadly these goons are given legitimacy by the Catholic hierarchy shamelessly represented by Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who compromises with the most notorious acts of these extreme violent Sinhala Buddhist leaders.

That’s how crudely and ethnoreligiously divisive we have become ever since independence.
That is how Southern politics have been patronised and allowed to grow with Sinhala Buddhist supremacy.

That is how every generation has become more selfish and racist than the previous generations.
Yet the question that is never asked is, “What has the larger majority of the 70 percent Sinhala Buddhists gained over the last 70 years with that Sinhala Buddhist supremacy?”

Or in a more understandable language, “What has the poor Sinhala Buddhists in the villages gained from this Sinhala Buddhist supremacy?”

All Governments they helped bring to power with the bulk of their votes have never addressed their major issues. They still live in a subsistence economy that has never been planned for productive growth.

They live with a dwindling public health service that is almost neglected and with ‘free education’ that can never match quality and opportunities in Colombo and suburbs. The free market economy they are told can provide all answers to hitherto unanswered problems, leaves them on the periphery struggling to exist.

Despite stories about stoning, nailing and sexual harassments, their young women leave to the Middle East as housemaids for a paltry sum of Rs. 30,000 they cannot earn in the rural economy.
Despite seeking employment in factories with heavy exploitation in the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) and in the apparel industry, young girls still trek to the Western Province seeking employment.
Over the past years, village youth idle without employment they once had during the war in combined security forces and that has led to many other social issues like drug- peddling, child abuse, sexual harassment and rape, growing crime and an alarming increase of underage marriages -in villages.
Should Sinhala Buddhists continue living with this growing chaos and apathy merely to feel proud they have a “Unitary” Sinhala Buddhist State under which they have pauperised no end?
It is time these divisive and dominating Sinhala Buddhist politics is shunned for good to pave the way for equality in an inclusive national socio-economic development programme.

It is the time the Sinhala Buddhists accept their supremacist thinking has failed them and they need to work for an alternative that can treat and accept all as equals.

This Christmas though very much late by generations nevertheless would be ideal for Sinhala Buddhists to join in and enjoy with a determined resolution to work towards an alternative approach that can lift their lives out of misery and poverty in a “united” society that upholds Karuna, Meththa, Mudhitha, Upeksha and Ahimsa as noble precepts of governance, equally across caste, class, religion, ethnicity and gender.

Thus to begin the year 2018 demand from all political parties to publicly pledge they would foster the five noble precepts of governance hereafter, in lieu of votes at the 2018 February LG elections.