Kandy, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict

A Fresh Solution to the National Question

A few days back, a big poster published by one called Kosgoda Gnanaseeha Thero (B.A. Honors) of Pahingamuwa Gangarama temple could be seen pasted in some places in Kandy area. Its headline was “Solution to the National Question in Sri Lanka- Evict Three Million Aliens”. It was so descriptive that it looked like a whole chapter of a handbook of patriotism than a normal poster. Therefore, only certain sections are quoted here, as would be necessary to understand its basic tenets.

“We urge the UNO to evict three million aliens from Sri Lanka as an effective measure to prevent the conspiracy of exterminating the Sinhala race. The present war, the scarcity of food, obstructing development projects, murdering Sinhala leaders, anti-Buddhist campaigns led by Marxist movements, political instability, depriving Sinhalese of land, employment and business opportunities, mud slinging against Sinhalese throughout the world, the conspiracy to hatch an alien religious state in Sri Lanka, underworld gangs, promoting liquor, gambling and smoking, encouraging corruption and rackets, so-called campaigns of human rights, media and peace- are all happened to be direct consequences of alien forces”.

This, he says, is a publicity poster of a formal petition later to be signed by some thousand intellectuals, like Prof. Mangala Ilangasinghe, Prof. Abhaya Ariyasinghe, Prof. B.K.Basnayaka, Prof. Robert P. Liyanage, Prof. H.M.Moratuwegama, Prof. A.A.Abhayasinghe, Prof. H.T.Basnayaka, Dr. Piyasena Dissanayaka, Lecturer Laksman Watawana and Dr.Bandula Siriwardene.

As a live example of the pathological state of our national ailment this is an ideal document to refute the stance of those who disclaim the existence of any national or ethnic question in Sri Lanka.

This monk is concerned only about the Sinhala leaders getting killed. Laksman Kadiragamar and T.A. Amirthalingam allegedly killed by the same people are not to be grieved. Others like Raviraj, a charismatic democratic leader and an MP of the Tamil people allegedly killed by the government-affiliated paramilitary groups are unimportant, reason being their non-Sinhala origins. The apparent conflict between this racial compassion of a Buddhist monk and the universal value of all lives in true Buddhism is astounding, where nothing but the Gouthama Buddha’s very doctrine itself is at peril. Therefore, to save not only race but also Buddhism, how many more millions would be liable to be evicted from this holy land warrants some fresh calculation, indeed!

Though the practice of deporting citizens from a country of origin was one of the punishments meted out to traitors or criminal elements in the period of ancient kingdoms, modern world hardly resorts to that practice anymore for the simple reason that no other country can be expected to receive those banished. Prince Vijaya and his clan of cohorts, great forefathers of our race were such people deported from India, some two and half millennia ago, according to legend. A fairly contemporary case in point was the edict of Idi Amin, the psycho pathetic former leader of Uganda to deport some tens of thousands of Indians from his country for the sin of one Indian lady not willing to sleep with him. However much he was insane in his own way, his decision affected only those Indians who were not Ugandan citizens, whereas our (B.A. Honors) priest’s vengeful wrath encompasses his own citizens, most probably those who may have lived in this country from the time of Vijaya.

When a mad man is asleep his insanity is hardly visible. But, once he is awake he is unable to keep his mouth shut thereby exposing his derailed state of mind to the whole world. It is from the commandments of this monk that we came to know that the UNO role is also comprised of petty activities like the monitoring of liquor consumption and gambling in Sri Lanka as well! Not only that, a world body that practically failed in arresting alien forces from invading a sovereign state called Iraq is empowered to evict three million people from Sri Lanka, this erudite monk faithfully preaches.

Quoting from two dictionaries he invites us to have a proper understanding as to who would be qualified as aliens:

1.The Oxford Dictionary- NATION (n) community of people of mainly common descent, language, history.
2. Chambers Dictionary- NATION (n) a body of people marked off by common descent, language, culture or historical tradition.

Well, in the first place this is not a definition of aliens or non-nationals as you may see, but of a Nation. Anyway, by way of deduction (while keeping in mind the broad political implications of the term, nation) the most probable meaning of a non-national could be a person not belonging to the aforesaid categories, leaving only foreign nationals like tourists and other immigrants, temporarily resident in the country as aliens. But if this is all our monk is worried about, the best way to address that problem is to inform our Board of Investment, which has some fresh experience in revoking the work permit of a foreign national at Sri Lankan Airlines! Yet, one can hardly believe that there are 3 million foreigners of this type in Sri Lanka, a number nearing one sixth of our population.

He further urges the UNO to evict these 3 million from Sri Lanka and settle them down in, “Norway, Canada, Australia, US or any other place in the world”. When a newly wed husband is not satisfied with the bride, he takes her back not to other people’s houses but to her parent’s home. By what whimsical logic that this priest could be possibly wishing to dump these people in “any other place in the world” is incomprehensible, unless the whole world is to be held responsible directly or indirectly for our own predicament.

Then he goes on to assess the economic gains by way of deporting these people. Three million loaves of bread and one million kilos of rice a day, in addition to business and employment opportunities and land and health sector savings that can be used for the welfare of the true Sinhala Buddhist people in the country are the immediate benefits.

Finally, he refers to the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution as historical precedents where he thinks the national question had been resolved once and for all in 1789 and 1917. As for the Bolshevik Revolution, we are at a loss to reconcile his scathing attack at the beginning of the poster on “anti-Buddhist campaigns led by Marxist movements” with this last minute favorable lesson drawn from the annals of the Bolshevik Revolution.

However, for the benefit of his so-called professorial advisers this much has to be added as an appendix. It is true that the formal concept of Nation State was originated with the French Revolution. But that Revolution had got nothing to do with what we call a national question of ethnic origin, which we witness in Sri Lanka, and which this Thero also has in his mind when pointing an accusing finger to alien elements amongst us.

In fact, the Bolshevik Revolution did have a proper national question and a Commissar for Nationalities as well, by the name of Joseph Stalin who ruthlessly massacred thousands of Bolshevik cadres in Georgia to suppress a national revolt while Lenin was in his sick bed. Having come to the knowledge of this unhappy incident after recuperation, Lenin was swift in categorically condemning this irresponsible and brutal act of Stalin and making an apology for not intervening himself at the proper moment to avoid that catastrophe. (For further reference one can read Lenin’s Last Testament).

However, the fact that after seventy years of Bolshevik Revolution former Soviet Union was fated to be split into some 15 odd separate states on ethnic lines is common knowledge today. Whatever the case may be, in none of these revolutions no one has ever thought even in a daydream of deporting one sixth of its population as a viable solution to the National Question, apé hamuduruwané!

  • jan

    Ethocentric politics of minorities have created this ethocentricity in the majority.Any solution to the problems of SL must be with in a pluralistic multilingual society where the rule of law should be central. Solutions for the countries problems must be by sri lankans. An Indian imposed solution with the help of the so called international community can only make matters worse. After all it was india that caused this present problem which has gone on for more than 20 yrs.

  • Dear Sir,

    Sri Lanka proves to us that reverse evolution is possible. The leaders are advocating and also taking part in thuggery and violence. The problem is who is funding all these people. So lets us not blame only the Sri Lankans. Monkeys have no sense of logic, so are the Sri Lankans. Once upon a time there was book in which Sri Lankans were called Monkeys. Sri Lanka is slowly but steadily (reverse) evolving towards cave people.Knowledge and education is what differentiate a man from an animal I live in Canada, the dogs know how to cross the street at the intersections. So if Sri Lankans don’t know what they are doing, arn’t they less evolved than dogs. This is my proof of reverse evolution.
    The president and the Peter Hill incident and Mervyn Silva and his goons, what do they tell us. Sri Lanka is very close to being cave people. Man has evolved to become are negotiating and compromising species. Man wants to live in peace. In this backdrop where do Sri Lankan politician fit in? To ask other countries to ban LTTE and then resort to the same behaviour cannot be understood. Sanctions are the way to bring Sri Lanka back to normal.
    I left Sri Lanka 30 years ago, I have fopund an excellent country to work and contribute to the development of the Human race.
    At this age I spend most of my time protecting and developing human rights.
    I owe this to Canada. I have a huge debt to pay off to Canada and its institutions. I hope the people of Sri Lanka will get a chance to live in peace and harmony.

  • [Editors note: This comment was erroneously sent in relation to another post. I’m copying and pasting the comment here since it responds to the article above]

    I can understand one deranged mind. but so many professors expressing solidarity with such a statement is beyond belief!

    Who are these Professors?
    Are they still faculty in our universities?
    If so, this is no laughing matter and serious action will have to be taken about it.
    I wonder why our media has not come out openly against this type of mad uttererances?

    P. N.Gamage

  • Veedhur

    did you check to see if Hon. DR. Mervyn Silva too had signed it?

  • JM

    While it must be appreciated that this monk only represents the borderline fringe of the Sinhala nationalist movement, I don’t see his views as any more extreme than the mainstream Tamil “aspirations” such as merging the North and Eastern provinces to create a Tamil dominated super-province, recognising it as the exclusive homeland of the Tamils, and possibly evicting the remainder of the Sinhalese and other non-Tamils from the Northeast.

    It is as absurd to think that the present-day Tamils in Sri Lanka have been here from the time of Vijaya, as it is to postulate that Europe is the homeland of Moors because Shakespeare wrote about Othello, the Moor of Venice. The Tamils who were here then have long been Sinhalised. The present-day Tamils share so much in common in terms of language, culture, religion – and most importantly, identity – with their Tamil Nadu siblings, that they simply could not have been here for more than a few centuries, if that.

    The monk argues, with some merit, that it would be best for both parties concerned if Sri Lankan Tamils were indeed sent back to the Tamil Nadu state where the Tamils are the dominant ethnic group. If Tamils are willing to relocate, this is a fantastic idea, and I don’t think the great poet whose heart aches for his brothers should have anything against it, but I don’t think it’s a pragmatic nor advisable a policy to evict them by force. As Gamini says, they were born here, and they have a right to be here if they so wish. However, this right is conditional upon them extending the same for non-Tamils to live in peace in Tamil dominated areas in the North, which is not possible today.

    The Sri Lankan ethnic issue must be studied in the context of Sinhalese being an repressed and insecure minority in the sphere of influence of Tamil Nadu with its 60 million Tamils, hostile to 15 million or so Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese are not the big bad bully, but the small courageous battler fighting with his back against the wall for survival. If all the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka are either killed or Tamilised, that would be the end of the Sinhalese civilisation. The same does not hold true for Tamils who have populated every nook and cranny in the world including Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, Guyana, Canada, Norway and others. The total assimilation, eviction or even (hypothetically of course) annihilation of Tamils in Sri Lanka will not make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but the same happening to the Sinhalese is the same as the extinction of a threatened species, because we’re unique and native to this country, which the Tamils are not.

  • One of the people I knew sent me a manuscript and asked me to comment on its views. That person was going to submit the manuscript to the Time magazine. In it, he outlined his master plan to end the world suffering. He said, the only way to achieve it is by total eliminating of all human beings and he has discussed the methods etc. He was partially a mentally sick man someone like Dr. Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber (thecourier.com/manifest.htm).

    Any society can have sick people whether wearing robe or not who thinks extreme non humane measures when it comes to solving problems. The question is how many people in a society supporting that view.

    One can find such a manifesto and write lengthy articles using Buddhism or Oxford dictionary and some people can harshly react to it.

    The bottom line is, there is no sizable credible threat to evict minorities from Sri Lanka.

    People will react after a bomb blast of an assassination and that is human nature.

    Sinhalese never had a master plan with a map highlighting their territory and never will even though Sinhalese and Muslims have been evicted from certain parts of NE. It is still happening within Jaffna University as well. More and more people are accepting the fact that this is our world, it is a multi cultural and multi ethnic nation.

    If I ever come across a Sinhalese showing me a video propaganda asking money to fight a war against Tamil to eliminate them, I will never write him a check and then whine about Sinhala suffering. Rather I will kick on his bottom and throw him out of my house.

    Hope this article a good learning one for all of us to understand the danger of supporting destructive minds.

  • Raj

    Its incredible what the Sinhalese Buddhist clergy in SL can say and get away with. Someone needs to hold these people accountable for advocating ethnic cleansing.

  • Sam

    Raj, do you consider the Shrima-Shashtri pact to be “ethnic cleansing”?

    The truth is, many Sinhalese from all walks of life regard the Tamils as aliens. They feel that the Tamil homeland is Tamil Nadu and Tamils have no right to claim a second homeland in the island. They wonder why Tamils are claiming a homeland in Sri Lanka out of much of the land when Tamil Nadu itself is twice the size of Sri Lanka and home to 60 million Tamils. The Sinhalese regard Sri Lanka as their homeland, where their civilisation and language developed and flourished.

    I highly doubt that Tamils in Tamil Nadu are ready to accept the notion that Tamil Nadu is not the homeland of the Tamil people, and likewise I don’t think the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka are ready to accept the notion that Sri Lanka is not the homeland of the Sinhalese people.

    Comparing Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, do you think you can convince the people of Tamil Nadu to change the name of their state to something less ethnically biased ? What about providing parity of status for the Telugu language which is spoken by more than 10% of the population?

    Like that conflict group report recently said, ignoring Sinhalese thought/ nationalism comes with its own perils, and a better understanding of it is needed if peace is to be attained in Sri Lanka.

  • Veedhur

    The speech made by Ven.Medhananda on the plantation tamils in the recently concluded budget sessions is not too different to the one one made by the monk above. And the JHU is in the Government.

  • Ranjan

    No doubt there are extremists, mostly uneducated ones in spite of degrees they claim to have. However, I see something perverse here. It is obvious to anyone that this is an extremely racist statement. An overwhelming majority of Sinhala people do not subscribe to such a view. Yet, to air such a thing in the media, I think, has another purpose. For a reader who does not know the ground situation can easily conclude that the Sinhala people are a racist mob, like the Nazis, hell bent on exterminating the Tamil. This serves a core objective of the Eelamists who want to portray that there is no solution other than for the Tamils in Sri Lanka to have a separate state. And scores of Westerners, ignorant of the Separatist Tamils’ cunning, will get that impression. This is indeed clever psychology. If this website is to keep a high standard of fairness, it should not give publicity to the statements of Sinhala racists that act on the fring of the society. It would be like giving publicity to the statement made by Mrs Amirthalingam some years back when she said that she wouldn’t sleep easy until she could skin the Sinhalese and make slippers out them.