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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Dambulla, Kuragala and Batticaloa

The recent incidents at Dambulla, Kuragala and Batticaloa where a Bhikku has been assaulted by members of a certain political party could be understood only if the ethnic problem is understood without resorting to hackneyed terms such as Sinhala Buddhist supremacy. At Batticaloa though a Buddhist Bhikku has been assaulted no human rights organisation, NGO or any such body has come to protect at least the human rights of the Bhikku. If a clergy of another religion had been attacked by a Sinhala Buddhist we would have been subjected to a torrential campaign against Sinhala Buddhist hegemony. At Kuragala the courts have decided on 20th April 2012 that the Bhikkus and the Sinhala Buddhist lay people are not at fault, and with that the human rights boys and girls have lost another opportunity to campaign against Sinhala Buddhist supremacy. The Sinhala Buddhists have been pushed to a corner and they have to be careful with what they have to say and do, as each step taken by them is being watched diligently by various local bodies as well by the so called international organisations. It is said by these humanists that Sinhala Buddhists think that the country belongs to them only and all the problems arise due to that. The Sinhala Buddhists are told that they should not celebrate the victory over the LTTE, an organisation financed, armed and trained by the westerners and Indians that had as its intention establishing an Eelam dividing the country, The country as a whole has to celebrate this victory against the LTTE, and those advocate otherwise probably are not happy that the biggest threat to a unitary Sri Lanka has been defeated by the Ranaviruvan led by the Defence Secretary under the political leadership of the President. The Sinhalas and especially the Sinhala Buddhists have a lot to win back that they lost during the direct western Christian colonial rule from 1506 to 1948, and under indirect colonial rule from 1948 to date.

Many people forget that the pact between the Sinhala leaders and the English in 1815 was a pact between two equal parties and not between a victorious party and a defeated group. It is also forgotten that according to the pact the English King in England took upon himself the task of protecting and developing the Buddha Sasana, in addition to ruling the country (rata karaweena) according to Sinhala “law”. At least Brownrig and Doyle, if not George III would have known that the Sinhala leaders would not have signed the pact without such clauses being incorporated in the document. Perhaps the Sinhala leaders did not know that as far as the English were concerned Accords, Pacts etc., were meant to be broken. In spite of the English tradition, as late as the nineteenth century in the Christian Era the English colonial government by an act of “law” made it compulsory for non Buddhist religions to obtain permission of the governor to build places of religious worship. No such permission was required to build Buddhist places of worship. This “law” is still in effect, though successive governments have continued to ignore it. If the governments had implemented this law incidents such as at Dambulla would not have occurred, and it is time for the government to act according to the law without any delay.

It is true that the Sinhalas and especially the Sinhala Buddhists consider this as the Sinhala Buddhist country. If the others, who think of Muslim countries and of Christian countries also think of Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist country where the others are free to live, practise their religions and preserve their cultures, most of the problems that arise due to ethnicity could have been avoided. When the English signed the pact in 1815 with the Sinhala leaders undertaking to protect Buddhism there was opposition in the parliament in England not because preferential treatment had been accorded to Buddhism and discriminating against the other religions, but since the Christian English government had given an undertaking to protect a “pagan” religion. The English thought it was sacrilegious to do so, but Brownrig and Cambridge educated (not in an admirable sense) Doyle who masterminded the strategy of annexing Sinhale without a war through a pact, knew very well how important for the Christian English government to protect this “pagan” religion at least on paper. The problem with the Sinhalas from the day the Portuguese came to this country is that they have not been able to understand the meaning of “pacts” in the European sense. That is the very reason that even Professors of Law and many educated people, of course educated by Macaulay, argue that economic sanctions are not mentioned in the Geneva Resolution adopted recently against Sri Lanka.

As we have pointed out on numerous occasions there are no multicultural countries in the world in what we may call the strong sense, where all cultures are treated equally. In the western countries there are citizens belonging to different cultures, but it is the Christian culture and Christian religion, whatever may be the denomination, that is dominant in those countries. The westerners may call their states secular with the approval of their Political scientists and other Social scientists, but these pronouncements are only good stories constructed by the western intellectuals to deceive the others. These states are all Christian with England leading the way making their King or the Queen as the case may be the Head of the Church as well. However, the English social scientists, and the political scientists in particular, will write thesis after thesis to tell the others that the state is separated from the church.

The Muslim countries are not as hypocritical as the Christian countries as they would not hesitate to claim that they are Muslim. In fact as far as the Geneva Resolution is concerned we appreciate the fact that seven Muslim countries voted against the resolution initiated by the Christian countries America and England, though the pundits would not refer to the latter as Christian countries. What is practised in all of the western Christian countries is multiculturalism in the weak sense, where people may belong to different cultures but the dominant culture as well as the religion is Christian. I am not saying the Muslim countries are better than the Christian countries, but they are at least not hypocritical. India that follows the western model is a Hindu country though claiming to be a secular country. The fact that they had a Muslim President or a Muslim captain of the cricket team, or have a Sikh Prime minister do not change the Hindu characteristics of the state. The Indian Hindus have learnt the art of the game from the English who would occasionally have Jewish Prime Ministers in a Christian state and a country. I do not want to go into details of the treatment given to the Muslim culture in the Christian countries such as France, England and Australia not in the nineteenth century but during the last few years. I am eager to find out how easy is to build a Mosque in France or England or a Church in a Muslim country, not to mention building a Pansala (Buddhist temple) in anyone of these countries.

The Christian domination is very much felt in the field of education, as all of us wherever we live, get a Christian education with theories and concepts constructed in a Judaic Christian culture. It is through this education that we are being exploited and it is unfortunate that most of us have not realised this fact. I would not claim that the Sinhala Buddhists are the ideal people living on the planet, but the fact that we practise four of the religions in this country with temples (pansals and kovils), churches, mosques visible in all parts of the island and with all important days of the four religions having being declared holidays, unlike in any other country of the world speak volumes for the tolerance of other ideas (an matha ivaseema) practised by the Sinhala Buddhists. In Sri Lanka multiculturalism is practised to a maximum in the weak sense much better than in the other counties but the western Christian countries, and the Hindu India that does not recognise the Buddhist culture except in the Asokan symbol only as a symbol, want us to practise multiculturalism in the strong sense which is not found in any of the other countries. The so called ethnic problem is a result of not recognising and giving the due place to Sinhala Buddhist culture as I would argue in my series on “The mythical ethnic problem”.

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva