‘Barefoot Nation’ to revive an ancient tradition?

Banyan News Reporters

27 April 2009, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The government is considering a proposal to usher in a new ‘barefoot revolution’ in Sri Lanka as part of its philosophy to revive ancient Sinhala traditions.

This will see the systematic phasing out of footwear use in all government offices, and other places where politicians and officials are present. The practice will be first introduced in Parliament, as well as offices of the President and Prime Minister, and later extended to cover all government offices.

“Wearing shoes and slippers is a recent habit introduced to our people by western colonialists,” says Emeritus Professor Amaradasa Gunasekera, originator of the idea. “The ancient Sinhalese knew that we living in a tropical country do not need to cover our feet. In our current quest to revitalise indigenous knowledge and traditional Sinhala Buddhist culture, we want to restore this excellent practice.”

Professor Gunasekera, who is Presidential Advisor (No 223) for reviving ancient traditions, has drafted a policy paper on transforming Sri Lanka’s public sector into a ‘barefoot zone’. When introduced, this will require visitors to all public places in local, provincial and central governments to remove their footwear and leave them in a secure place at the entrance.

“We don’t anticipate a problem in public cooperation,” says Professor Gunasekera. “After all, we all do it willingly when entering temples and kovils. So why not extend this good practice to our ‘temples of public service’?”

He was emphatic that this should not be seen as a ban. “Bans are another decadent concept of the crumbling west. We in the east do everything voluntarily through enlightened public consensus. Barefoot Nation will be introduced on this basis.”

Asked whether public officials themselves will be allowed to move around inside their offices with footwear, he said the matter was still under discussion. “We have to tread carefully on this one,” he said, intending no pun. “We don’t want any retrogressive public official petitioning Supreme Court on his fundamental rights being violated.”

Creating barefoot public offices is to be the first step in transforming Sri Lanka into a fully-fledged barefoot nation under the prevailing chinthana. The Health Ministry is to send a top level delegation of officials to study China’s barefoot doctors programme, with a view to emulating it here.

Meanwhile, a defence ministry source denied that this new national policy had anything to do with fears of disgruntled members of the public throwing shoes, sandals or slippers at politicians or senior officials.

“This is a malicious rumour, possibly started by the opposition or a subversive journalist,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. “Our dear leaders are held in such high esteem by the adoring public and there is no threat of any offensive behaviour.”

India’s politicians contesting in the general election, fearful of shoes hurled at them by disgruntled voters, have asked for more security and are erecting metal nets at rallies. An angry party worker threw a slipper at Lal Krishna Advani, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, during an election meeting last week. The slipper missed Advani, but was enough for authorities to step up security for all leaders across the country.

The incident was the latest episode of shoe-throwing as a protest against political leaders, including former US President George W. Bush when visiting Iraq, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a lecture at Cambridge University, UK. Throwing a shoe at someone is considered an extreme insult in many cultures.

The multi-million rupee ‘Barefoot Lanka’ campaign, to be handled by the 123Ads company, is to use the famous Nanda Malini song, ‘Miriwedi sangalak illa henduwemi’. It refers to the absurdity of craving for footwear when some people have no feet to wear any.

“We are a nation with a very large number of valiant soldiers and innocent civilians who have lost one or both limbs from landmine explosions. Phasing out footwear use will also make us sensitive about their plight,” said Professor Gunasekera. Anyone opposing this campaign would have to be considered a traitor, he added.

It is not clear whether the boutique shop currently known as Barefoot would be asked to change its name. “If you ask me, we can’t have a handful of elites standing in the way of national progress,” Professor Gunasekera said.

  • Dharshi

    I’m sure there will be no problem convincing the number of Tamils in the North and East about this ‘barefoot nation’ campaign as they’ll have no feet with all the heavy shelling and bombing escalating in the recent hours !!!

  • http://citizenlk.wordpress.com citizen

    Furthermore, the consumer affairs minister pointed out that a systematic dispossession of all clothing items and accessories (starting with) footwear will immensely help reduce the cost of living. “Three thousand years ago, Sri Lankans didn’t wear any clothes. One thousand five hundred years ago we were semi-naked as you can see from the frescos at Sigiriya” elaborated the minister, pointing out that it was only in the last two centuries that Sri Lankans assumed to cover the whole body with clothes. “This has allowed NGOs funded by the west such as ODEL and House of Fashion infiltrating the country. They must be eradicated from Sri Lankan soil” he reiterated, urging all patriotic Sri Lankans to boycott the two leading non-governmental fashion retailers.

  • http://www.peace.com Sarwan

    They must also introduce “hamude” to be real “ancients”.

    Then, we must call the people of the world to tour the island and see the “reverse civilisation” of an island of uncivilised barbarians..

  • Laughing Sudda

    Look guys, this plan has nothing to do with reviving anything – ancient or otherwise. This is basically a security arrangement dressed up as a cultural plan, to prevent outraged masses from throwing shoes, sandals, slippers and whatever they can get hold of at the Dear Leaders! Can’t you see beyond the glib chinthana talk?

    I, for one, knew this was bound to happen in Siri Lanker sooner or later after that courageous Iraqi journalist threw George Dubya Bush. But what is uncanny is not how much contempt the Dear Leader and Dubya manage to inspire, but how similar the two are in their anti-terrorist, supposedly patriotic, if-you-are-not-with-us-you’re-against-us talk. It’s as if Dubya lives on in the isle of Lanker, a land like no other! Obama and Hillary can cry all they like, but this is the last remaining Dubyaland….

  • Chinthana Mahinda

    Sarwan…check out this story “Mar 16, 2009
    “A Brief History Of Idiot Island On Planet Mirth” from this link…also check the map.

    http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/2009/03/brief-history-of-idiot-island-on-planet.html

  • Chinthana Mahinda

    When people of different origins, speaking different languages and professing different religions inhabit the same country and live under the same political sovereignty, ethnic and racial conflict is the usual outcome. More often than not, this happens when the majority tries to impose its language, religion and cultural values on the minorities!
    There is an old saying: If your only tool is a hammer, then all your problems look like nails. In the ‘Aluth Sri Lanka’ that we live in today, our tools for problem solving consist of multi-barrel rocket launchers, migs, kafirs, white vans, goon squads and rigged elections. And the Tamils in the north and east and other parts of the country including journalists and the general public at large are the nails that are bombed into submission, abducted, beaten, killed and terrorized!_The ‘Maanushika Meheuma’ or ‘Humanitarian Operation,’ an euphemism for the ongoing war is fought today as a scared and justifiable war! A war of good against evil, black versus white! But let us not forget the many shades of grey in between!
    ‘Fighting for peace is like copulating for virginity,’ is a pithy saying attributed to an American GI during the Vietnam war. This saying describes Sri Lanka’s predicament in a nutshell! Using military might to settle a dispute might seem logical in the short term, taking the peoples minds off the rising cost of living, but in the long term we are all losers!
    Maximum devolution of power is the only way forward. In Sri Lanka’s 61 year history, agreements were made but not implemented! Pacts were signed and abrogated! This time around, if the majority community does not agree to devolution, the country’s future will be quite bleak, and it will not be the beginning of the end, but the end of the end, and Sri Lanka will meander along as ‘A can’t be developed country,’ the ‘Sick man of Asia.’

  • Engun

    Sarwan >>

    Coming from a person who supports a terrorist group which uses suicide bombing, child soldiering and every other crime under the sun as a means of solving conflict, that’s rich! You’ve certainly caught onto the satire in the article ;-)

    All I can say is, when a segment of people no longer realize how extreme they’ve become, when they have become more despicable than the monster they claim to fight, when their own racism has got the better of them, there’s little point in putting up a show of the pious victim. Only the naive will believe it.

    Why don’t you mobilize the considerable resources I’m sure are at your disposal at doing something constructive? Please see my response here: http://www.groundviews.org/2009/04/26/the-‘post-ltte-misnomer/#comments

  • Mister Bata

    Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon! There goes .our business in Sri Lanka! Whose bright idea was it to go Barefoot? Don’t they know that Barefoot is decidedly bad for your health? Don’t take my word for it – just ask that Sansoni fellow…

  • Saambanaar Sugumugam

    According to the report that is yet to be to be leaked the ‘bare foot revolution’ is the first stage of plan to bring equality between all people of Sri Lanka.
    Secret meeting of the cabinet debated if there are any fundamental differences between the Tamils and Singhalese. The Cabinet unanimously agreed that there is none whatsoever. JHU and JVP challenged Mahinda, that he would not be able to sell this truth to the nation. Then he came up with another brilliant thought. That is, if he strips the nation naked, then they will see that, they all are the same (Except for men and women of course- as in Adam and Eve). LHU and JVP objected that the nation would not derobe bare naked from day one and that it should be a phased programme. After further deliberations it was decided to start with the ‘bare foot revolution’ in order to fully wean the nation of clothes in months to come.
    Some anti government economists and journalists say that this is a cover up of the looming economic crisis!

  • S.Sivanandan

    Country on a war footing, people in Jaipur footing,under jack boots and tiger paws, professor’s sole motivation head over heel in introducing the barefoot culture is indeed soul searching,probably to prevent shoe-cide attempts on politcians, put your foot down and pull your socs up !! Cobblers poor souls who provide soles will be tanned and skinned. Adios to Adidas and Nike
    S.Sivanandan

  • garawi

    Good joke , whoever made it up.

    Ah yes, and the Professor also has suggested that the upper body should not be covered either as that was the tradition before the british invaders came in.

    To treat thel the bugs that will enter your body through the feet there will be ayurvedic centres in all offices with a Vedamahattya in an amude and a topless nurse.

    Those who have foot problems and cannot walk barefoot will be given long term medical leave and in appropriate cases sent on early retirement.

    All shoe shops and factories will be closed and instead will train ayurvedic staff .

    Have fun!

  • http://unprotectedthoughts.com sam

    Hey! Have you heard that they were calling for a ban on Denims too?!!!!

    This is what they say..
    Denim reflects “our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings — the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure.”
    Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not — authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil.
    Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy’s catechism of leveling — thou shalt not dress better than society’s most slovenly.

    You can read the complete article in here
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/15/AR2009041502861.html

  • Kichchi

    I fully support the views of the Learned Professor. But my thinking is different. Removing the shoes is a “mark of respect” in our culture. Before we enter our places of worship we remove the footwear. Before we enter our house, we remove our footwear. It is not only a “mark of respect” but also “leaving behind the dirt” that sticks on to the footwear.
    Our work places must be RESPECTED and kept clean. We must respect the work we are entrusted and must be sincere in our duty. Though “salary and perks” are there in return for the work we do, we are “supposed” to do a “service”, the public service.
    ALL of us have the “experience” of the “service” we receive in government offices.
    Let this proposal be a start in restoring the “public service”

    Would the good Professor LEAD FROM THE FRONT? He can start practising from “day 1″ today and set an example, without waiting for the “law” to be enacted.and implemented.

    Millions need not be spent to implement our culture. It is there. We just start respecting “our culture” back again.