By Shirani Seneviratne
(This is a response to the article written by William Mcgowan in “Foreign Affairs” that was posted on dbsjeyaraj.com under the heading”militant Buddhists are behaving badly in Sri Lanka)
It’s deeply disturbing that a magazine such as Foreign Affairs would stoop to publish such an article as this. It is more of a diatribe than a well balanced article that one expects from a magazine such as Foreign Affairs and it is shocking that the publishers would allow a writer to drag the magazine in the mud.
The author has taken a one sided view of what is happening in Sri Lanka and has not bothered to look at the historical perspective into why the war happened or anything about Sri Lanka.
It would be interesting to note what he would have said were the Sinhala people Christian and not Buddhist. Would he have taken the same hard line or would he have sugar coated the story or not attempted to write about it at all?
Anuradhapura is one of the most holy sites for Buddhists not just in Sri Lanka but for Buddhists all over the world. Erecting any religious monument in hallowed land is not only forbidden it is downright insensitive. I wonder how McGowan would report on Hindus or Buddhists trying to erect a temple or kovil in Jerusalam or in Mecca or even in the Vatican?
In fact Christian and Muslim holy sites are out of bounds for non believers or practitioners of that particular religion. So why the different treatment for Buddhists? If Christians and Muslims forbid the construction of other religious monuments or places of worship in the vicinity of the above mentioned shouldn’t this be so for Buddhists as well?
There are also several glaring errors in his reporting. The colours of the Buddhist flag are not gold and red as McGowan mentioned.
The so-called myth about the Sinhala prince that McGowan describes is not named. Secondly no prince would go to war with a relic of the Buddha on the tip of a spear. Buddhists venerate the relics of the Buddha and not do carry it around on their person for whatever reason.
The prince whoever he maybe may have sought the blessings of the Buddha before going to war but is that wrong? The Crusades come to mind. But then that’s Christian and it’s a given that getting blessed as a Christian is alright.
There was no militant Buddhism behind the civil war. In fact militant Buddhism is a recent phenomenon that came about towards the end of the war. And no it wasn’t about the Sinhalese fighting the Tamils. It was about a legitimate government made up of politicians from all races – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – from all religious denominations – Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim – democratically elected every time, that were fighting militant Tamils who were demanding two thirds of the country for the Tamils who made up the minority.
As for Buddhist monks undercutting peace efforts, McGowan should check what happened during the various ceasefires that the Tamil terrorists used to rearm and regroup.
As for mentioning Amnesty International as an authority, it should be noted that AI accepted funds from Tamil terrorist supporter. Therefore can their statements be objective?
If the Buddhist monks gave their blessing to end the war, then what was so wrong with that? Were the people of Sri Lanka, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims not entitled to live in peace? Were they to continue to live in fear of their lives?
McGowan has not touched upon the atrocities committed by the Tamil terrorists during the past 30 years where Tamil women strapped bombs on their breasts and detonated the bombs in crowded places in Sinhala areas, or the explosive loaded vehicles rammed into crowds and building in Sinhala only areas?
Are these not human rights violations and how come the so called human rights abuses committed by the Tamil terrorists go unpunished?
The real killing fields were in the major cities where innocent civilians were brutally massacred by Tamil terrorists. Ending the war has brought an immense opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka to live in peace. It would be nice if people like McGowan gave the people – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – a chance to enjoy that peace.