“Do the Minorities in Sri Lanka no Longer Have Entitlement to the Country”?

In Dambulla, Apr 20, 2012

In Dambulla, Apr 20, 2012


Gnana Moonesinghe

“Methinks thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee”

The events of the past few days in Alutgama and Beruwela have sent shock waves to the rest of the country. One sways in horror. It is unbelievable to imagine that, so soon after the end of the ethnic war in the North some people are busy preparing the ground carefully to create yet another ethnic violence.

The latest spurt in anti- Muslim posturing and violence began with the widely known Dambulla incidents, and it is unbelievable that the situation has been allowed to grow from bad to worse with the latest confrontations in the South. Muslim conflict is capable of creating not one Prabhakaran but several of a variety and of a lethal nature, that this country has not experienced before. We would be well advised not to behave like the chandi mama’s of the local legends, their escapades portrayed to end in glory.

It would seem a renewal of faith for the self- declared extremists from among the Sinhala Buddhists to stir ethnic and religious controversies and tritely show the impermanence of their position within the country. It is like playing the fiddle while the country is burning with no care or concern for the consequences. Being members of the clergy the act of faith on which their actions are based is that it is possible to get away Scot free even after creating untold damage to life and property AND above all to man’s dignity. They have indeed got away in the past without facing the wrath of the law.

In the home grown constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka it is clearly stated in Article 10 “Every man is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

Article 12 (1) states “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law”.

(2)”No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any such grounds.”

Where is the place for the blatant obdurate conduct that is witnessed today by those from the high alcove of Buddhist priesthood against the different affirmations in ethnic and religious affiliations as well as the complications that keep arising from the complex interpretations of majority /minority configuration.

The constitutional position is clear. However, is it not a truism that the constitution is no longer inviolable; it is subject to amendments that can turn around the original context on its own turn table?

Yet in law we are all equal, entitled for equal protection from the law enforcement authorities; we have freedom of thought, religion and conscience and our birth right has to be protected without discrimination.

Whatever is happening around us give the lie to the constitutional position.

Is anything working according to the law?

The clergy

A monk who takes the path of the homeless gives up his home, family, and country with only one mission, that is, to attain selflessness and finally nirvana.

“The mindful ones exert themselves. They are not attached to any home; like swans that abandon the lake, they leave home after home behind.”

Is there any link in this to the BBS and the like minded groups and the Buddha’s teachings?

The Buddha has made the observation:

“No other thing do I know, O Monks, that is so intractable as an undeveloped mind. An undeveloped mind is, indeed an intractable thing.

“……..no other thing do I know, O Monks, that brings so much harm as a mind that is untamed, unguarded, unprotected and uncontrolled. Such a mind, indeed, brings much harm.”

Can a link be drawn to the philosophy and behavior of the BBS and others of the same ilk?

“No other thing do I know ,O Monks, that brings us much benefit as a mind that is tamed, guarded, protected and controlled. Such a mind, indeed, brings great benefit.”

Should this not be a lesson to all who believe in Buddhism and talk incessantly on the subject?

If attention is paid to the teachings of the Buddha, violence as that which erupted in Muslim dominated DhargaTown could have been avoided.

Anyone and above all, persons from the clergy should never have given voice to sentiments such as these:

Yes we are racists, and religious extremists.

The police are Sinhalese, the army are Sinhalese. If any Muslim attacks a Sinhalese or a Buddhist monk, they would eliminate the entire Muslim community.

Can anyone imagine that such harsh words sprang from the mouth of the messenger of the Buddha. The Buddha had spent 51 years of his life being a wanderer “in the domain of virtue and truth.”

Minister Dew Gunasekera is the only person, in parliament, who made reference to the communal violence in Alutgama. He demanded to know the reason why pre -emptive action was not taken to prevent the eruption of violence in Dharga Town?

Lessons have to be taken from our past experience. We have not put behind 1983 to the distant past. It remains, to date, a burning issue. 1983, was once again a time in history when the government denied the protection of the Law to a minority community. So much need to be accomplished in the area of reconciliation, retributive justice and the building of pillars of empathy must happen for ’83 to recede to the background and become a distant historical memory.

It would be unwise to permit a recurrence of ethnic violence, a repeat occurrence with the Muslims as well. They have always tried to live in amity with the Sinhala majority.

Majority/ Minority Divisions

A word of caution when one refers to majority / minority divisions and the weightage given to the disproportionate division in terms of the population within the country. One must understand that in a democracy each man counts for one and none can be given special treatment because they belong to a group that has greater head count. Majorities and minorities are a matter of numbers, of arithmetic. This simple calculation of numbers game has been given pre-eminence mostly because we no longer talk of consensual decision making. We divide on every issue. At elections the only way to calculate winners is in terms of the largest number of votes gained by participants. That does not make a majority group sacrosanct to demand rights and privileges denied to others living in the country.

A matter of law and Order- outside the domain of the clergy

When aggressive groups like the BBS speak about the possibility of annihilating any community that holds contrary view points it is a matter of serious concern for the maintenance of law and order. It also becomes a call for fairness by the judiciary to adjudicate between the contending parties. Does this mean that the inherent right to ownership/ citizenship in Sri Lanka depends on the whims and fancies of those who have the accident of being a part of the larger group? Does it mean that special people and special groups are excluded from the rule of law enforcement authorities?

We do hope that wiser counsel will prevail and if there is to be any future for the country trust and empathy must be built among its people and braying individuals from wherever they spring be kept under control. This is an exhortation to the government as well as the Opposition. No strident voice in protest and horror has been heard from the ranks of the opposition either at the time of writing. This is indeed no time to play politics. It is sanity, order or chaos? The choice is clear.

Sri Lanka needs to RISE and SHINE.

Courtesy: The Island