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Tuesday 12 March 2013

Independence is a process

Independence is a word that depends on dependence. There were no independent or dependent states before western colonialism which is a product of western Christian modernity that commenced more than five hundred years ago. My concepts do not depend on the western concepts and I see the world, in other words construct the world relative to Sinhala Buddhist culture, however I try to be consistent as far as possible not necessarily in Aristotelian logic with its dichotomies but in fourfold or Catuskoti Logic that is found in this part of the world. It has to be mentioned that Catuskoti is not Buddhist logic and that Nibbana is outside even Catuskoti Logic. As it is western Christian modernity commenced with what is called Renaissance by the western intellectuals and we associate modernity with the emergence of Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya that displaced the Catholic Chinthanaya of Medieval Europe. Western Christian modernity is in its last phase now but we must understand that it is also a process that will take some time to terminate, and also that it has gone through with so called enlightenment, emergence of science, rationalism, industrial revolution, capitalism, bourgeois revolution, French revolution, American revolution etc., not necessarily in a chronological order, being integral parts of the process. We now talk of independence and celebrate it since we had been dependent as the whole country from 1815, and in two years time we would be lamenting two hundred years of dependence. Of course I am borrowing the word lamenting from a different culture only to emphasize dependence of certain people and sects that are not in harmony with the culture of the country. As a Sinhala Buddhist I would say with my limited knowledge of English that in two years we would be remembering with ‘sanvega’ how our ancestors were fooled by a Cambridge educated “civil servant” by the name Doyle.

The President in his address to the nation on Monday mentioned four important facts, after mentioning that Trincomalee is Gokanna Titta and its historical importance going back to at least Tapasu Bhalluka. The President like JR Jayawardane before him has a sense of history the difference being that the latter’s history being the history as told by the western historians and imparted to him through his western Christian education. If somebody were to say that Mahinda Rajapakse is not educated then I am happy for him as I myself know how difficult is it to “uneducate” oneself having obtained even a limited western education. The President, according to “The Island” of 5th February 2013, said among other things the following:

(a) “Along with gaining independence in 1948 we were able to be seated as an equal member of the United Nations Organization. Article 2 of the United Nations Charter states that the organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

I shall now quote it,
1. The Organization is based on the Principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

2. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

3. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.

We are a country that has always respected the Charter of the United Nations. We strongly hold the position that whether powerful or weak, any country in the United Nations Organization should respect its Charter.”

(b) “It is necessary to state on this occasion that as much as racism, religious differences too can be a cause for the destruction of a country. If anyone is trying to build religious rivalry in Sri Lanka again, they do not serve their religion, but serve the interests of separatism in the country. We cannot leave room for what could not be achieved through terrorism to be gained by this.”

(c) “If freedom is a heavenly state, it is not a state one can fully achieve.”

(d) “It is necessary that I place before the world a reference in Buddhist teaching about the value of freedom. In preaching to a young Brahmana named Ambatta, the Buddha related the example of Gomariththa to show the importance of being able to live freely even under the most trying conditions.

The bird refer to Kata Kirilli, commonly known in villages as Gomariththa (common wagtail) is found in paddy fields that builds its nets under the mud raised by ploughing the filed. The Kata Kirilli too should have the freedom to live within its nest the way it wishes. The Sri Lankan people are also entitled to this freedom. Therefore the people of my country should have the right to live freely.”

(a), (b) and (d) are mainly meant for the western envoys who were present at the celebrations as well as those who read it in the media and other important personalities who are briefed by the others. I shall come to these three aspects but would delve into the third on which the other three are based. I have a different interpretation to ( c) and I consider independence as a process and not as something that cannot be achieved in full. If it cannot be achieved in full it is because the goal posts are removed from where they were previously and we have to start almost from the beginning.

Independence is a process simply because dependence is also a process. The western intellectuals have come out concepts such as neo colonialism simply because colonialism or dependence changes all the time and is not a static phenomenon. To a Buddhist no phenomenon is static, in fact one would say there are no phenomena as such independent of the observer, and dependence is always changing not only its ugly face but its cruel heart as well. However it does not mean that either the face becomes beautiful or the heart becomes kind. Also it does not mean that the process will continue eternally but it will come to a finish though it would take a longer time than we expect.

Sri Lanka has to continue to struggle as long as the process of dependence exists and it is clear that the western Christian modernity will not allow us even a breathing space. It is reported in a newspaper that the National Anthem had been sung in Sinhala and Tamil at some places of religious worship and this could be considered as something that the President has referred to in (b). Being places of religion worship they should have been non provocative and stuck to the constitution with its schedules. The schedules specify how the national flag should be hoisted and how the national anthem should be sung. Public places under the patronage of clergy cannot be allowed to violate the constitution, but if the government takes any action it would be interpreted as Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism, intolerance, lack of freedom of expression, by western Christian modernity, and the government will realize that the independence process is not going to end soon. (To be continued)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva