Colombo, Identity, Religion and faith

Living Secular in the ‘Sinhala Buddhist Republic’ of Sri Lanka

Two years ago, in a moment of panic, I rushed my young daughter to Colombo’s only children’s hospital. To be honest, I don’t normally turn to our overcrowded government hospitals for healthcare. But a doctor friend had recommended the Lady Ridgeway Hospital as the best place for administering the anti-rabies vaccine.

As with all government hospitals, they first wanted to record the patient’s basic bio data. Fair enough. I provided the child’s name, age and street address. For some reason, the form also asked for the patient’s religion. Before I could say anything, the nurse in charge wrote ‘Buddhist’.

Now, this was both incorrect and highly presumptuous. But when I objected, it sparked off an argument. The formidable woman insisted that with a ‘good Sinhalese surname’ like ours, we simply had to be Buddhists!

When I said her assumption was wrong, she asked me with some disdain: are you then a Christian? No again. Now she was beginning to be get really irritated: who is this man who speaks fluent Sinhala, but is neither Buddhist nor Christian?

I was not about to declare in public a matter I consider to be intensely private: my religious faith. With the fellow public behind me becoming impatient, and the public servant in front of me taking a dogged stand, I retreated with a heavy heart. (I later paid a few thousand rupees for the same course of vaccines at a private clinic, where my religious faith or ethnicity was never questioned.)

Labelled
I thought this was an isolated incident, and didn’t think further. But a few months later, I ran into a similar situation at my area police station. I’d gone to make a formal complaint about a serious matter concerning personal safety, and once again, the process started with my bio data. When it came to fixing labels, the woman constable recording my statement categorised me as ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ — without even raising her head from the big book of complaints.

In case you are wondering, I bear absolutely no tell-tale signs of belonging any faith: I don’t wear a religious symbol as jewellery, or wrap pirith nool (pieces of thread blessed by monks) on my wrist. I carefully avoid sprinkling my everyday speech with any religious phrases. Even my occasional swearing is devoid of religious references.  (An observant friend once likened my colloquial speech to that of cartoon charter Tintin’s: no harsh swear words, and only secular references.)

Must biology be destiny in the 21st Century? Blind chance at birth placed me in a family of ethnic Sinhala parents who also happened to be Buddhists. But these cosmic accidents don’t make me a Buddhist any more than, say, I become a believing and practising Aquarian simply because I was born during the month of February. My brand loyalty to the randomly assigned religion and star sign are about the same: zero.

Just so that all my cards are on the table, let me add that I have not practised any religion or belonged to any faith (with their clear trappings of scripture, priests and places of worship) from my teen years.[1] That’s 30 years of firm uninterrupted secular humanism.

Indeed, ‘secular humanist’ is the only label I proudly wear in public and private. But in the Sinhala Buddhist Republic of Sri Lanka that my land of birth is now turning into, various public agencies find this ‘aberration’ either unsettling or unacceptable. My self-exclusion on matters of faith makes me an instant misfit in many state procedures. And yet, we are supposedly an open and democratic society…and in theory at least, not a religious state.

But that matters little in practice. For example, I recently gave evidence under oath in a court of law in a civil case. All along, my lawyer advised me to just ‘pretend’ to be a Buddhist for that occasion. Apparently the system can’t handle ‘spiritually neutral’ — my preferred (and very honest) answer when asked about my faith.

I don’t see how and why a citizen’s religious affiliation – or its complete absence – should matter in the least when dispensing vaccines or justice in the modern world. Isn’t this question itself a residual habit from colonial times that no longer serves any purpose? Actually, I find it worse than redundant; it’s plain insulting.

Religion is not the only private matter that our governments love to poke their clumsy and unwelcome noses into. Also falling into this category: everyone’s sanitary habits, and sexual relations between consenting adults.

No Entry
For sure, what private individuals do in the privacy of their homes can have some implications for the community, economy and even national statistics. The modern nation state is a composite of all its citizens. In today’s highly inter-dependent and interlinked world, no man or woman or nation can be an island.

Despite this, there are at least three aspects of modern living where choices must remain strictly and entirely personal: that concerns what we do in our bed rooms, wash rooms and (metaphorical) shrine rooms.

I, for one, will resist all arms of the state and government, as well as self-appointed guardians of our morals and values, from intruding into any of these hallowed spaces of my free will and choice.

Especially when it comes to matters of faith – or its complete avoidance – the Jackboot of government means absolutely nothing to what I think or how I choose.

Well, at least until the Thought Police arrives…

Explanation for non-Lankan readers:
The ethnic mix and religious mix in Sri Lanka don’t coincide, making it (at least for me!) a delightfully chaotic melting pot. While some Sinhalese are Buddhist and some Tamils are Hindu in their choice of faith, that is not to be assumed. Indeed, there are statistically significant numbers of both Sinhalese and Tamils who are Christians (of various denominations). While all our muslim friends are Islamic, there are also some ethnic Sinhalese and Tamils who have converted to Islam. So one has to be very careful in making generalisations, and it’s altogether better to avoid them….


[1] Some of my Buddhist friends have a feeble argument that theirs is not a religion per se, but more a philosophy. That may well be their belief, but Buddhism has the same trappings of all organised religions.

  • Amaris

    “.. of ethnic Sinhala parents who also happened to be Buddhists.”

    Why not “.. of parents who happened to be Sinhala Buddhists.”? Why drop only the religion and become a secular humanist. A real humanist does not have a race either.

  • nandasena

    I wonder whether “sinhala” can be classified as a race. Could it be a linguistic group or ethinic group? I think we, Sri Lankans give a lot of undue importance to race, religion and language which has become the big problem, aided and abetted by politicians to remain in power!!!

  • bigmouth

    Brilliant. I hope this will help to open up some very narrow minds.

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Nalaka and Amaris,
    You are both right. We are first and foremost Human beings, who evolved from our linguistically less endowed ancestors, with their assets and liabilities, who came out of Olduvai in Kenya or so the DNA specialists say. In this day and age there are no ethnically pure group of people, unless one goes to the deep forests of Papua New Guinea. Even there the genome project tell us there were and is a mix of DNA from those outside of the 768 linguistically different tribes.

    Territorial imperative is a liability we inherited that the so called civilised nations euphimisticaly call Nation State. We dont define our borders with urine, or songs like the birds do. But we don’t defend it with our teeth, beak and claws, but we do with sticks and stones, bows and arrows, landmines,
    artileries and missiles all in the name of protecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and our ideas and way of life. We have come a long way from grunts and barks by couching them in philosophy and politics.

    As for religions, it is the mental and emotional crutches of a limping mind.

  • Mano R

    I agree with the bulk of your views. However, religion is asked on the form like in lot of other countries for a practical reason; that is in case of death what to refer to? I live in a so called secular nation the USA: On paper here religion is never an issue on paper or by law; but in reality religion is an issue here too. An agnostic like myself will be afraid to declare my secular agnosticism at work. i live by thast everyday. I cannot say I DO NOT BELIEVE IN YOUR GOD Or your creationism; Sure laws protect me here,but I will also be looked on with disdain and derisive comments. and i am an amercan citizen now who had to take the pledge of allegiance with “under god” in it to become an American. How hollow an meaningless is that to me? I understand the extremist elements in SRi Lanka exist. But specially in the US in conservative bible thumping states moslems are more and more afraid to declare they “moslemness” even though they are protected by law. I agree with you but it is not different even with Bible Thumping Chritians (Sarah Palin) or Quran thumping Moslems.

  • As a translator I have observed in many occations that the nationality of Colombo Tamils in their birth certificates is written as Indian Tamil. Sinhala Registrars of birth often assume that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are only of Indian origin.

  • Rana

    Being a secular person is anybody’s right and I’m not critcising it. You should tell the nurse that you are not belong to any religion. It is may be residual colonial habit .I think when you admit to a hospital they must know your religion because, if you going to die,they call a monk or priest to come and preach pirith or pray god.

  • SLFireBall

    isn’t some vaccinations are produced through process that involves animal extractions? So the health carte workers need to know the religious belief of the patient so that they do not cross the line? For example, in few years ago there was a big issue about administering insulin extractions produced using extractions from pigs.

  • David H

    Perhaps this Sinhala Humanist gentleman did not know that even a very distinguished and famous secularist like Bertrand Russell was maltreated by academic establishments(not mere police officers or public servants) in USA.
    Things are actually much worse today than some decades ago, as secularism and
    science have receeded, while obscurantism, and right-wing religious movements have moved forward in the west.

    IN THE USA “in GOD WE TRUST” IS EVERY WHERE. Also, if you are in court,
    you have to swear on a bible, Koran or some book. If you claim to be a secularist
    or humanist, you can get into trouble because, if you are not careful, you get classified as a COMMUNIST. Then you can get beaten up, and your kid can get in to trouble in theschool, especially if you happen to live in the southern part of USA.

    Things are much better in Britain and in France. France dethroned religion in the revolution. There is a secular tradition in France and Britian. NOT SO IN SRI LANKA.
    You can HELP to create humanist, secular thinking by writing and holding discussion groups. But your views are not part of the accepted way of doing thinks.
    SO, IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND YOUR CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT, YOU ARE IN TROUBLE.

    If what happened to you surprises you, I can humbly ask, where have you been all this time? Living in some communist land (where there is another official religion)?

    When in Rome, live like the Romans.

  • Kanch

    I am sorry to hear about the problem you had to face regarding religion. You have not stopped to think why your religion mattered in these instances. I am not saying that assuming you are a Buddhist is right. However, there were reasons behind the question of religion at the various places you went. At the hospital, you were asked for the religion because certain religions do not allow vaccination or believe in medicine. Therefore to respect these religions and to avoid religious problems it is practice in most of the countries to ask in different ways about your beliefs when it comes to vaccinations. At the police station when you are making a statement they ask for the religion because it is like in an affidavit you swear or affirm according to your religion what you, mention in your statement is true to the best of your knowledge. It is the same with Courts. At least your Lawyer should have explained this to you. If you do not believe in a religion that is ok, you can just say that and they will take the oath accordingly. Your problem was you assumed all these people want you to be Buddhist. No, they do not and for your information, Buddhism is the only religion that does not trap you. You are free to do what you want or believe what you want. it only preach the good and the bad and the repercussions. You have no knowledge of the beautiful philosophy and you do not even want to learn it. It is not a bad thing to have a religion it could be catholic Hinduism Muslim or any other belief all these preach good things. See how bitter you sound. You will not be so bitter or narrow minded as to jump in to conclusions if you tried to understand the real reason behind. It is the same with most of the countries. In US where I live now the pledge of allegiance is taken under god. You are lucky in Sri Lanka you have choice so dont be so bitter

  • Groundtruth

    The story is self-explanatory and is food for thought. What if the person concerned was a “Tamil Hindu”?

  • Belle

    Amaris,
    Re: “Why not “.. of parents who happened to be Sinhala Buddhists.”? Why drop only the religion and become a secular humanist. A real humanist does not have a race either.”

    The writer says that he is of “ethnic Sinhala parents”. Ethnicity is different from race. Ethnicity is about culture, race is about biology. You can be a humanist and observe an ethnic culture.

  • Observer

    “I don’t see how and why a citizen’s religious affiliation – or its complete absence – should matter in the least when dispensing vaccines or justice in the modern world.”

    The poor nurse was collecting demographic information. That information can be useful in diagnosing some conditions specific to certain communal groups. It will help them decide on specific pre testing for people at risk of in certain communal groups before administering treatment considering Sri Lanka is a multi cultural country. And yes religion defines community coherence unfortunately. Maybe not vital information in an animal bite case but god forbid should things deteriorate into other critical conditions. They honestly really don’t care if you go to the Temple on a regular basis!

    It is common in legal systems to swear by their religious books and use religious phrases to swear in before giving evidence. It’s a legal tradition.

    “Despite this, there are at least three aspects of modern living where choices must remain strictly and entirely personal: that concerns what we do in our bed rooms, wash rooms and (metaphorical) shrine rooms.”

    Well buddy, if you went to get diagnosed for STDs then what you may have done in bed rooms and wash rooms won’t be “strictly personal” so to speak. Unless you want to mislead your doctor at your own peril.

    The only things you can expect at a medical institution is respect, diligence, compassion and privacy. I can tell you that these good qualities exemplify our nurses. They will ask you very personal questions, they will ask you to strip down occasionally and they may occasionally feel the need to poke fingers into very private and uncomfortable places. They do all of this with love and a good faith to make you get better soon.

    Good on for the nurse who didn’t want to deal with your arrogance in an emergency ward! You got your daughter admitted but no care for the one behind you?

  • Observer

    Have to agree with Mano R, if you watched the recent Conservative Political Action Conference it will scare the living day lights out of you. I don’t even live in the US and it was scary! These guys consider nearly half of their population that does not agree with their religiously backed ideology to be “enemies”!! wow!

  • BOOBAMBA

    THIS MAN SHOWS HOW RACIST HE HIMSELF IS.

  • UK man

    When my wife got pregnant we went to hospital for clinics. Midwife asked all sort of Qs including nationality, race, religion etc for their records. When I said we are British , then she asked the ethnic origin.
    Five years later when my daughter was entered the school, things have changed a lot. In the application form which I had to fill same thing again plus ethnic origin if u are even British. when I ticked the box in front of Sri Lankan under the Asian category , it asked whether “Sinhala or Tamil’.
    It happened in London. So whats wrong in Sri Lanka.

  • Chavie

    Good post… the separation of church and state in Sri Lanka exists in words alone. The Sri Lankan mindset is such that it’s considered abnormal to not have some sort of religious belief, and this has been reinforced by what we’re taught in school: that all religions promote morality. (I don’t have an issue with that statement, but it implies that non-religious folk commit immoral acts).

  • Chavie

    sorry, the last sentence should be corrected as: ‘it implies that non-religious folk are inherently immoral’

  • longus

    ManoR is very correct.In Canda too its illegal to ask your age,sex,or nationality but there are numourous occasions where you have to fill out those details in forms.

  • DEEN

    Agree with bulk of your views.last year i visit with my dad to colombo eye hospital there doctor also doing same first there asking religion after the will give appointment.first he toll me ur father eye pressure to high just wait for hours.me & my father wait 6-hours after he give some tables its will reducer ur father eye pressure & come after 2-weeks..same time i visit with my father to private hospital there toll me ur father eye pressure is normal there also religion(after one year i bring my mother same eye hospital colombo.there ask me pay 17000.thousand rupee for my mother eye lens and same medicine .i pay its and operate my mother eye(same time sinhala patients coming same hospital there operate with out money very things goverment pay.why its only us(orther religoin people)

  • Amaris

    @ Belle

    If race is about biology then there will be no Tamils and Sinhalese. Both are biologically identical.

    You seem to have missed my point. There’s nothing wrong in observing your culture and being a humanist. There is also nothing wrong in observing your culture AND your religion. The writer mentioned that his parents were Sinhalese and happened to be Buddhist. I believe its even better to say that his parents ‘happened’ to be Sinhalese. If you are a true humanist you shouldn’t identify with one ethnic group but with all humanity (ie. all Homo sapiens sapiens).

    @Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Humanity is all good when all are acting in that manner and whether we like it or not Nation States are a reality. Please do not expect one part of the Nation State to act deaf and dumb when a 15% minority claim ownership of 2/3 the coastline and 1/3 land for their EXCLUSIVE use and when one ethnic group is given 24hrs notice to leave their hometowns. The majority have all the right in the world to defend their rights with artillery, missiles and whatever they have within the rules governing conflict.

    It is not correct to turn a blind eye to one group blowing up buses filled with civilians and only shout bloody murder when the other group fires artillery into areas full of civilians. Humanists condemn both acts but humanism does not imply passivity.

    @groundtruth
    So what if he had said Tamil-Hindu? I am sorry but I don’t understand what you are trying to say. Would be glad to have an explanation.

    Thanks

  • I thank everyone who has commented above – the best reward for a professional writer like myself is to see my writing inspire discussion and debate.

    I’m sorry, however, to see some comments being off the mark because some readers appear to not to have grasped what I said in my essay. This is fairly common when people read hurriedly on a computer screen, so let me try and clarify a couple of

    I wasn’t making sweeping generalisations based on the conduct of a few members of our public service, but the instanced I described (and a few others I haven’t, for reasons of space) indicate to me that there is an arrogance that pervades the system. Part of that manifests in automatically ASSUMING my religious faith simply because I have a Sinhlalese name. That is really what outraged me, and not being asked about my religion itself.

    I had gone to that hospital taking my child as an outpatient, not for admission. I had already been advised by a doctor friend who gave me background on anti-rabies vaccines. So in my specific situation, religious faith had no implications for the kind of vaccine to be administered.

    The real issue runs deeper than the healthcare sector, or judiciary, being kept informed for all possible eventualities. The question of religious faith is routinely included in all state sector forms, whether or not it serves a specific demographic or other purpose. Public servants uncritically fill forms, and get irritated when they come across the likes of me who hold things up! But this again can change. In my lifetime, I can remember state forms having another obsolete and somewhat hilarious question: was your grandfather Lankan? (In Sinhala, it read ‘Mutta Lankikada?’). It looks like that particular question has been quietly dropped now.

    I really don’t see how restrictions on human freedoms in other countries can justify similar restrictions in Sri Lanka. What is wrong is wrong, whether in the USA, Canada, UK or anywhere else. But whereas some mature democracies have carefully separated the state and church, Sri Lanka has not. We are only a few steps short of a theocracy.

    And for those one-track-minded people who repeatedly tell me that I should be really grateful to be born Buddhist, I’ve had a stock answer for nearly three decades: thanks but no thanks – I’ll take my chances with my own free will and choice. I don’t need the safety nets or crutches offered by any religious faith of any kind.

  • Travelling Academic

    “friend once likened my colloquial speech to that of cartoon charter Tintin’s: no harsh swear words, and only secular references.)”

    Very nice! I would love a beer with you on my next trip home. To anyone else who want to adopt a closely related path, there is a web-page that lists all of Captain Haddock’s insults:
    http://www.angelfire.com/super2/animorphs/insult.html

    …and there is even a Captain Haddock Insult Generator:
    http://www.cmdr-fire.co.uk/haddock.html

    I am sure any smart CS student can put this on a mobile phone application hooked to a speech synthesiser, with options to select powerful voices (Margaret T, VP etc.). If you go to the hospital armed with such a device, nursing profession will be in real trouble 🙂

  • srikantha

    I am sorry to read this artical.
    This is the things happend to our people and the country.
    This modern or they try to be modern Hifi people.
    They do not need religion or history or even belong to any parents.
    next time I hope to see,if any one ask(In GOV form)parents name.This kind a people will get mad for this questions.
    Where they want to live?In this country with the people or with the animal in the jungle.
    If your parents belong to any religion and you raise acording to your parents guiding with any religion.its not the reason to be shame to say I am bu or Ch or Is.What kind a idiots this?

  • Finally something to post in my Agnostic Sri Lankans Facebook group (which only has, the last time I checked, 2 members – myself included :).

    Not beliving in a religion is not something that most Sri Lankans – even those who live here in the US – can easily see/grasp/recognize as an important distinction among Sri Lankans (probably because GIGANTIC group identity formation elements used in Sri Lanka – colonialism, post-independence revolutions/troubles, relationship to the rest of the world – all have the religious identity as a crucial element). Funny thing is that out of all the major world religions, Buddhism is the most agnostic or atheistic (closest to those two ideas), specially Therevada Buddhism (even though the Buddha is treated as a god/endowed with superhuman abilities – by most Sri Lankan Buddhists I know).

    There are worse things than religion. Religion can be used to organize & direct large numbers of people towards achieving specific goals – including positive/useful to all people (including non-believers) goals.

    But yeah, about your specific experiences being agnostic in the SL, maybe this is a good opportunity to celebrate & or inform others about the existence of agnostics & atheists in SL. Ultimately may be a useful thing for the island.

    – Sujewa

  • sapumal

    may this writer go the middle east and eat food in public during ramadan and enjoy his humanistic and fundamental rights…

  • Old Man

    SL Fireball – according to the writer “Before I could say anything, the nurse in charge wrote ‘Buddhist’.” It seems the nurse was not making an inquiry for medical reasons, simply filling out a form, and she assumed the religion of the writer was Buddhist.

    On the question of the rabies vaccination – how was it that your daughter needed the vaccination? Was she bitten by a stray dog?

  • Vindy

    I pray in Buddhist temples, Hindu Kovils, Christian Churches and in overseas I visit and pray in Dalai Lama temple, Zen Buddhist temples. What does it make me, I have a Kandyan Sinhalese family name??????

  • Lal Silva

    Everyone has a religion. But the important thing is it differs for each. Take for example Buddhists well if you go deep down to their soul each is different – from the teaching of Buddha. Some say we have to kill mosquitoes. Some say burn a coil if they come near us they will be killed but we are not killing them. Some say government should kill them for us by spraying insecticide. And we can add more to this list. Five or eight precepts is not Buddhism it existed in India before Buddha. All religions have some thing very similar to five precepts. Religions differ on what happens after death. (as long as concept of death exist we will never know which religion is correct). So the answer to what is x’s religion is: x’s religion.

  • Waruna

    I find the religiousness that is generally imposed upon every kid born in Sri Lanka throughout their schooling years quite disturbing really. IMO, religion should be ‘Adults Only’ – something to be chosen by an individual after one can think for himself and I am all for decoupling of the State and Religion.

    But then we all know how Sri Lanka roll…religion, caste, creed, sexual orientation, blue-collar or white-collar job, status matters big time. To me, Sri Lanka is hardly a nation that upholds Buddhist principles – it’s just namesake. All you need is a spark and the modern day smiling Sri Lankan will be up in arms (Ancient Sri Lankans I am sure were Buddhists in words and in deed).

    When in Rome, gotta live like the Romans – otherwise life will be a tad too hard. But if one wants change, then it has to come from within. Gotta a strike a balance I guess.

    Just my 2cents…

  • ordinary lankan

    Good discussion folks – and Srikantha – really enjoyed your honest take … you represent the traditional Sri Lankans well …. indeed we must try and broaden our perspectives no ?? otherwise why discuss anything ??

    there is a quote by someone called Albert Anderson which helps us to see beyond a particular religion and indeed beyond organized religion altogether – and when we look at this broadly religion is what we ultimately believe in very strongly – in this sense nalaka is a deeply religious man —

    here is the quote
    Religions are but one way in which spirituality is manifested in human life. It is as open to corruption and distortion as other forms of personal existence … Contemporary global existence requires a vision of spirituality that embraces not only Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and dozens of other religions, but it must also include atheists, agnostics, and humanists.
    end quote

    it may be a century or more by the time ordinary locals – like me – recognize this – till then we must be patient – and perhaps even have some compassion for that nurse who has to fill all these forms – however meaningless some of the questions may be ….

  • Groundtruth

    My understanding is that Buddhism is not a religion. It is a philosophy and a way of life the Buddha led of eliminating earthly desires and goals. Nothing to do with a supernatural deity or God as presuppoed in a religion. Right or wrong?

  • Atheist

    To Nalaka Gunawardena:

    I think you should just let it go. You caught this nurse at a moment when she was just being human. Her only problem was not being politically correct.

    There are plenty of us who would just say N/A when the religion issue is thrown at us. No need to stamp off in such a huff, as this may happen in any part of the world. In a Western country, a similarly politically incorrect nurse would take one look at your brown skin and straightaway assume you are either Hindu or Muslim.

    I wonder how E.W. Adikaram would have responded in a similar situation.

    About twenty five years ago, a non Sri-Lankan, non-Buddhist acquaintance of mine told me that at a North American university where Cyril Ponnamperuma was a guest speaker, an audience member posed a question about creationism. Prof. Ponnamperuma’s answer, according to the said acquaintance, was: “You wouldn’t be asking this question if you came from the country I come from”. Anyway, I cannot vouch for the above response as I was not one of the attendees. My acquaintance thought I was coming from such a “cool” place!

    So, cut that poor nurse some slack.

  • yapa

    Some people want to be very important and very special. But most of them do not have necessary attributes. One of the easiest and fashionable ways to achieve the end is going against his/her culture, values, norms etc. etc. and talking about the marvels of the modern world. This is a profitable business too. Many writers became world famous within a couple of days using this methodology. They were offered many big prizes and citizenship from many luxurious countries.

    For some “modern people” “old religions” are not fashionable enough and outdated. They are more enlightened than the Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ. They have thoroughly learned these religions and preach more profound religions after a thorough analyzes of them and rejecting these outdated useless religions.

    There is a saying when a peacock is dancing, his backside becomes naked. It is said that some people are dancing where gods fear to set their feet. Ignorance is bliss.

    My homage for the new religion.

    Thanks!

    Thanks!

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Nalaka Gunawardene

    “Religion is not the only private matter that our governments love to poke their clumsy and unwelcome noses into. Also falling into this category: everyone’s sanitary habits, and sexual relations between consenting adults.

    Could you please elaborate on the above?

  • Tim

    First time I hear such a story. “the Sinhala Buddhist Republic of Sri Lanka that my land of birth is now turning into” – that is UTTER RUBBISH. you can’t imagine the number of new churches popping up every now and then all around the country. I am not against it. I’m a believer of God too but I wouldn’t take the emotional route with baseless stories of the sort of Nalaka. I’m sure if the guy politely asked to correct the mistake the Nurse and Policeman would have definitely done so. Isn’t it normal to assume a ‘Gunawardane’ is Buddhist when more than 90% of them are indeed Buddhist. In a number of occasions I’ve been misidentified as Indian by public servants here in Europe and every time they do that I DONT get angry, I simply correct them coz I understand that it’s human to generalize.

  • The author is neither humanist nor peace lover. Thanks to Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam and Groundtruth the author himself has shown his true face that he is a SINHALA RACIST. 15% of the population is asking since 60 years for their basic rights. It is a historical truth that htese 15% population live and occupy unfortunately to the authors opinion in thier HOMELAND which covers geographically 2/3 of the coastline and 1/3 of the land, but not for thier EXCLUSIVE use but for everybody. No country has the right to use weapons which are banned by the UN, were used on humans never before in such an intensiv disastrous way. It is not the right of the majority to defend against the minority with all means but it is the right of the stoneage man. To trivialize or to generalize a problem and to blame the whole RACE can never be the view of a humanist, rather of an IGNORANT. It is a shame that some people call themself HUMANIST but act like worse than an animal. Animals kill other species not for fun.

    15% minority claim ownership of 2/3 the coastline and 1/3 land for their EXCLUSIVE use and when one ethnic group is given 24hrs notice to leave their hometowns. The majority have all the right in the world to defend their rights with artillery, missiles and whatever they have within the rules governing conflict.

  • The following is strictly an intellectual/logic excercise (& may be useful in building constructive dialogue about the subject of secular existence in a very old & religious country/civilization). Primarily because since I live in the US it is as if I live in a different time period and something that is happening right now in Sri Lanka observed & reported by someone living in Sri Lanka may, when translated to meanings & symbols available to me in the US (instead of time period let’s say different dimension of existence – though both the US & SL & also I exist in the same planet & common time – 2010 AD/CE at the moment – history and attitudes & other aspects of reality present in the two places may heavily affect the perception of one incident by two people living in the two countries – or even two people whose world views are heavily affected by social & cultural & popular/endorsed world views present in the two countries even though both people may physically live in the same country) may be reproduced (what was seen in SL by someone there) in a very different shape & texture in my mind. Anyway, I am going to use Yapa’s response above (in quotes) to pose some questions & suggestions re: such a response to the information presented in the article above. Here we go:

    “Some people want to be very important and very special.”

    I think that’s totally cool. Everyone with a healthy self-image & high self-esteem should, in my opinion, aspire to be important & special. Also, each person, being human, is already important & special due to the awesome potential available to the being simply by being human (since humans have achieved some very remarkable stuff over the last 5 million or so years on Earth).

    “But most of them do not have necessary attributes.”

    As reality TV & religions & cults & politics & sports, etc. – including blogging & commenting on blogs – shows, also as Andy Warhol demonstrated through his art making, also as 80’s punk rockers demonstrated – being skilled in something is not necessarily important for attempting to do something special. The desire to do something special & attemptig to do so in itself is something special, I think.

    “One of the easiest and fashionable ways to achieve the end is going against his/her culture, values, norms etc. etc. and talking about the marvels of the modern world.”

    But all cultures, values, norms, etc. are transitory. As Buddhism did not exist 5,000 years ago and it was invented by people going against the inadequate norms of their time, it may be sueful to have people challenge all cultures, values, norms, etc. on the off chance that what they suggest as improvements will in fact be actual improvements. Also, culture is an artifact of living – a by-product of individuals living their lives. So, does culture come first or does the individual come first? I would have to say that the individual comes first – since there would be no culture w/ out the creators of culture – the individuals. Questioning the norms by an individual may in fact be the first step of a new norm being created – the rise of a new cultural norm, one that may be an improvement on the old norm.

    Re: the marvels of the modern world statement – questioning the existence of gods or god-like-beings (as the Buddha is viewed & treated by most Sri Lankan Buddhists) is probably as old as the concept of religion itself. So, the discussion created by the author of this article is not a unique phenomenon that is a result of modernity.

    “This is a profitable business too.”

    Profitable businesses are very useful & should be encouraged, unless you are in love with being poor.

    “Many writers became world famous within a couple of days using this methodology.”

    Awesome.

    “They were offered many big prizes and citizenship from many luxurious countries.”

    Even better. Unless of course if you do not like travel & luxury.

    “For some “modern people” “old religions” are not fashionable enough and outdated.”

    No doubt, specially since even when these old religions were new there were many who were not sold on them – would make sense that a couple of thousand years later some people would react the same way.

    “They are more enlightened than the Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ.”

    A vague claim. What exactly is the enligtenment attained by the Buddha? Has anyone else attained it? Can it be tested & proven to be the same attainment or the attainment of the same – can it be tested & proven to be useful by a non-believer? Though Buddhism claims to be open about these matters, there is something of an Egyptian Mystery School quality to the Englightenment experience of the Buddha – even old monks that I have spoken with refrain from clearly answering this question – & I have not found any written material that explains, in detail, what enlightenment exactly is/was & why it is so desireable. Same w/ the wisdom of Christ – a lot of good & old ideas – but hardly anything that cannot be understood & built upon by any person with ordinary intelligence & drive. But, perhaps believers fear punishment from their god like religious figures if they attempt to go beyond the wisdom offered by the religions. Or, this could – this type of response – could also be a reflex built in to the minds of the believers by the teachers of the religions. A “do as we say & don’t think outside of these parameters” kind of thing – a way of creating intellectual slaves & zombies. Not that slaves & zombies are not useful sometimes.

    “They have thoroughly learned these religions and preach more profound religions after a thorough analyzes of them and rejecting these outdated useless religions.”

    Is that sarcasm? Tone is difficult to detect in online comments. If it is not sarcasm I am in agreement with the general idea – thoroughly learning & going beyond existing knowledge & understanding is the way to improve the world & also that is what happens as people live & the world grows old – to not grow beyond existing ideas is an attempt to deny the existence of time/also an attempt to deny the death & decay of all things & birth of new things – a foolish quest since (until we figure out how to stop aging & the decay of things) it appears that change is constant in this universe.

    “There is a saying when a peacock is dancing, his backside becomes naked. It is said that some people are dancing where gods fear to set their feet. Ignorance is bliss.”

    There are many interesting sayings out there. Most of them are not relevant to this discussion.

    “My homage for the new religion.

    Thanks!

    Thanks!”

    Cool.

    Anyway, I think questioning the norms of a society & also questioning the value of questioning the norms can lead to improvements. Fear of questions, on the other hand, hints at possible deceit & underdevelopment/inadequacy (sp?) (in theory & practice). Or, if your religion is well thought out & is actually very useful to the current time period, then it probably will be able to both withstand & benefit from questions by non-believers. If, on the other hand, questions shed light on weak/underdeveloped/insufficient aspects of your beliefs & practices, then it is an opportunity to make things better. Either way, someone who questions something may in fact be a good friend of the thing being questioned – even though it may not appear so at first.

    – Sujewa

  • Tavisha

    I agree with you one hundred percent. It’s really unreasonable for government officials to demand that you have a religion.I have experienced similar situations many times. I would like to challenge this in courts but I have neither the money or the time to do so. Hope that someone will. Can one the 1000’s of NGO’s and Human rights organizations do something about this?

  • yapa

    Dear Nalaka Gunawardena;

    Secularism from the perspective of Nalaka gunawardena, for me is a fashionable faith. Just as other religions his secularism rely on faith and has no a strong foundation. Please see his axioms on which his theory is built on.

    1. Must biology be destiny in the 21st Century? Blind chance at birth placed me in a family of ethnic Sinhala parents who also happened to be Buddhists. But these cosmic accidents don’t make me a Buddhist any more than, say, I become a believing and practising Aquarian simply because I was born during the month of February. My brand loyalty to the randomly assigned religion and star sign are about the same: zero.

    How did he come to that big conclusion that it happened by blind chance? How does he surely know that it cannot be attributed to some cause?

    Please also tell what other things take place due to blind chance. You must have heard Einstein has said “God does not play dice.”

    Oh! Einstein, you are an idiot.

    2. Religion is not the only private matter that our governments love to poke their clumsy and unwelcome noses into. Also falling into this category: everyone’s sanitary habits, and sexual relations between consenting adults.

    How did you come to the big conclusion that religion is a private matter? Please justify. (This is not our belief. Please don’t ask us to accept it, because it is a popular notion in somewhere. )

    3.Indeed, ‘secular humanist’ is the only label I proudly wear in public and private.

    Are you sure you are suitable to be called a humanist? How do you know? Please explain? There are so many self appointed “good people”.

    4. But in the Sinhala Buddhist Republic of Sri Lanka that my land of birth is now turning into, various public agencies find this ‘aberration’ either unsettling or unacceptable.

    Please explain how Sri Lanka is a “Sinhala Buddhist Republic”?

    5. And yet, we are supposedly an open and democratic society…and in theory at least, not a religious state.

    According to the Constitution Sri Lanka is a “Socialist” Democratic Republic.

    6. Despite this, there are at least three aspects of modern living where choices must remain strictly and entirely personal: that concerns what we do in our bed rooms, wash rooms and (metaphorical) shrine rooms.

    How do you exactly know? This is your belief. Do you think your beliefs should be believed by others?

    (Some countries with modern living encourage to do things in groups in beaches, what you consider to be entirely personal. This itself shows that your statement is not that correct.)

    7. I, for one, will resist all arms of the state and government, as well as self-appointed guardians of our morals and values, from intruding into any of these hallowed spaces of my free will and choice.

    Do you think you have the sole right to choose what you want to resist? You can do so in the case of undisputed “private matters” only. You cannot arbitrarily choose “private matters”

    All above statements of your article are unreasoned statements. Your belief on them is a kind of faith. In the meaning depicted by you Secularism is a kind of religion!

    “Breve” Generalization of individual ideas is one of the main problems we are facing today.

  • Jaka

    @Ernest

    Of course you will be able to provide ‘evidence’ to show that you have always ‘owned’ the 1/3 land and 2/3 coastline. Also, if its not for exclusive use why were the moors kicked out of Jaffna and the Sinhalese constantly hounded in the ‘border’ villages?

    Also what justfication do you have for killing innocent civilians in buses, at the central bank and in trains. Also, why murder tamils with moderate views?

    Is it because you are humanists and peacelovers? Or is it fair during the so called freedom struggle?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Ernest,

    “It is not the right of the majority to defend against the minority with all means but it is the right of the stoneage man.”

    Time to get your Blinkers and Coloured glasses off.

    The defence was mounted when the extended hand of peace was spat on again and again.
    The defense was mounted when WATER was cut off for a population of over 30,000.
    The defense was mounted to destroy murderous thugs who were blowing up children, women & men belonging to every ethnic community in SL (including Tamils) in public transport, shopping malls, banks and even village markets.
    All means available was used to destroy a Terrorist Organisation
    which had International reach (even to the US Congress).
    you must be a terror member or a sympathizer to even argue that the citizens of SL dont have the right of self defense. The Muslims, Indian Tamils and over 50% of the SL Tamils lived outside LTTE controlled areas. They along with the Sinhalese were subjected to this terror.

    In my opinion, all means should have been employed to destroy this Terror Organisation 25 years ago. Would have saved at least 75,000 lives and the suffering of the IDP’s (Tamil, Muslim & Sinhalese).

    “To trivialize or to generalize a problem and to blame the whole RACE can never be the view of a humanist, rather of an IGNORANT.”

    Ignorance is on your part. The blame has been laid at the feet of the LTTE and their sympathizers not on any Race.

  • Heshan

    Well, if it was really a “Buddhist” Republic, I don’t think 70,000 people would have died over a piece of land the size of Alaska. If Buddha gave up his palace, his wife, and his child, then those who consider themselves the “true Buddhists” should have not had any problem giving up a small piece of land (which most of them had never even set foot on). The LTTE was very precise when it came to the boundaries of the so-called “Tamil-Eelam”… the boundaries never expanded.

    What the above shows is that the war had very little to do with Buddhism. It was more or on the level of a nationalist ideology – fostered by Dharmapala – which had never reconciled itself with the adjustments made by foreigners during colonial times. These adjustments revolved around questions of power, wealth, and identity – none of which have any value in “true” Buddhism.

    The “war” of man-made weapons may be over, but the above three questions have yet to be fully resolved. In particular, the identity question remains a perplexing one. In any event, it is clear that that “identity” will have very little to do with Buddhism, which more or less lost its bearings a 100 years ago due to nationalist ideology.

  • I once again thank everyone who has commented so far. At least some of them have carefully read what I wrote before commenting. Others are reacting based on individual elements and not the full essay, which again is their prerogative but does not enrich our debate. But all this is part of the cultural diversity and pluralism of views, so that’s fine.

    Mine was a personal essay, written without intentions or pretensions of intellectual or political posturing. It first appeared on my blog and the editor of Groundviews chose to reproduce it in full, inspiring the above comments, many of which are revealing by themselves.

    In writing this, I amplified a personal wish that the Lankan state would leave some matters strictly private. Parallel to this, I wished the numerical majority’s cultural affinities will not be forcefully imposed on those who don’t belong to that group. Our President may not agree with this (because last year he said there are no longer any minorities), but very much feel a minority in Sri Lanka for what I have chosen to be: spiritually neutral. (Minority is as much a state of mind as it is a cultural identity.) Some of the forceful comments above are ample testimony as to how the numerical majority sometimes tries to impose its hegemony on the rest…

    I don’t know why my strictly personal choice of not following any religious faith at this point in time should affect or worry anyone. My own biological family came to terms with it long ago, as did my close friends – among whom are followers of all major religions. Indeed, I sometimes get under their skin when I tell them that if I really wanted to, I could be a Buddhist on Mondays, Hindu on Tuesdays, Christian on Wednesdays, Islamic on Fridays, and so on. They tell me not to be so frivolous, and I often end of offending all of them! But then we have a hearty laugh, and talk about what REALLY matters…

    To me, there are no contradictions or betrayals in any of this. I don’t understand why some people are so dogmatic, so fiercely defensive of their religious faith (yes, assigned by entirely random chance): after all, isn’t it purely a matter of individual choice? The Buddhism that I studied for 10 years in school (and in which I excelled, thank you for asking) certainly encouraged such critical inquiry. Why are many present-day followers of that same faith so resistant to critical inquiry?

    As a journalist, I have been fortunate to meet and interact with some of the finest minds of 20th Century Sri Lanka in this respect – among them the late Dr Walpola Rahula (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpola_Rahula) and the late Dr E W Adikaram (http://www.dailynews.lk/2005/12/29/fea05.htm). I was such a junior person in their presence, but they engaged me with such courtesy and openness. Another open-minded Buddhist is Dr Kingsley Heendeniya. We need more such enlightened minds today, if only to prevent Buddhism from being turned into a dogma — which is just what the Buddha cautioned against!

    Gentle readers: Is it okay if I keep an open mind about matters of MY religion and faith? I’m not a card-carrying secular humanist any more than I’m an avowed member of the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or Islamic ‘flocks’. I wish you well, and hope you will do likewise. Every now and then, devotees of one religion or another predict that as I age, I will ‘surely’ embrace one religion or another (and they helpfully urge me to turn to their particular brand of religion!). Maybe, or maybe not. You will just have to wait and see!

    Meanwhile, to the dogmatic among you I ask: ease up, guys! Life is stressful enough as it is, and would be a lot easier if all of us took ourselves a little less seriously, and also allowed sufficient cultural diversity to thrive in our society. Surely, we don’t need to reduce every little discussion into all-or-nothing situations? Why should anyone feel threatened, belittled or slighted by my current personal choice of faith? I don’t try to influence, indoctrinate or persuade anyone else on this. Is this the collective insecurity of some groups that is manifesting in some comments above?

    PS: By the way, my choice of ‘Sinhala Buddhist Republic’ was just a little trick: writers often do this to attract readers’ attention. From all indications, it has worked!

  • Siribiris

    Here is an extract from an interesting story that has been shared widely on the internet for some years, and is relevant to the discussion of religions.

    Let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.

    Since there is more than one of these religions and since people usually do not belong to more than one religion, we can assume that all people would end up going to Hell. (It may be different kinds o Hells, but all Hellish all the same).

    We have been warned.

    Source http://blog.lib.umn.edu/koem0006/home/012239.html

  • Jaka

    @Heshan

    I don’t know where you are from but you seem to have a very poor grasp of geography. Alaska my friend is 1.7million sqkm in area, more than 25 times the size of Sri Lanka.

    “The LTTE was very precise when it came to the boundaries of the so-called “Tamil-Eelam”… the boundaries never expanded.”

    On the contrary Heshan the boundaries kept on expanding. This was seen in the maps put out by the LTTE over the years.

    As someone mentioned humanity does not mean passivity. Just because some idiot organisation (not the Tamil people) asked for their ‘homeland’, the government, just because the majority are buddhists, does not have to give it (Buddhist countries will never need armies then, whoever comes and asks gets what he asked for!) Such ‘Wessanthara’ actions would have led to disaster as Wessanthara himself found out much to the dismay of his family!

    Please don’t equate the views made here to being racist. The government had the right to put down (brutally) the campaign led by a madman called Pirapaharan. In much the same way it had right to put down the campaign for a new government led by another madman called Wijayaweera back in 1988. The manner those govt. campaigns were carried out had their faults which have to be investigated to see if there were deliberate violations of human rights (not of the JVPers and the LTTEers but of the innocent Sinhalese youth who died on piles of tyres and innocent Tamils who were killed)

  • Off the Cuff

    Sri Lanka doesn’t become a “Buddhist Republic” just because some deceitful “Joker” (who admits the reference was a trick) decides to call it one. Calling the USA a “Catholic Federation” does not make it a Catholic Federation either. Only a fool would argue on those lines.

    The Buddhist in SL has not attained the state of mind of the Buddha just like the WORLD of CHRISTIANITY could not achieve the self sacrifice and Humility attributed to JESUS.

    The following statement is therefore as illogical as the logic of the writer who wrote it
    “Well, if it was really a “Buddhist” Republic, I don’t think 70,000 people would have died over a piece of land the size of Alaska.”

    The same (il)logic is displayed in this statement.
    ““true Buddhists” should have not had any problem giving up a small piece of land”

    SL is NOT a Buddhist Republic. Hence the hypothesis of “if it were” is downright dishonesty.

    The 200 mile economic zone that goes along with 60% of the coast line (and the pending extension to the Continental shelf) is conveniently forgotten and the actual proportion of SL Tamils “LIVING” in the areas claimed to the total population of the Island is also thrown under the carpet so to speak. Tongue in cheek statements or what?

    The following statement is perhaps the ONLY true statement that had come out of the pen in the above post by Heshan “….. the war had very little to do with Buddhism.” In fact it had NOTHING to do with ANY religion.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Nalaka Gunawardene,

    “Religion is not the only private matter that our governments love to poke their clumsy and unwelcome noses into. Also falling into this category: everyone’s sanitary habits, and sexual relations between consenting adults.
    That’s what you stated on a PUBLIC FORUM.

    You wrote boldly to protect the three most sacred things to you which must remain strictly and entirely personal. Religion, Sex and the Wash room, but you failed to elaborate them when requested.

    I sure would like to know how the Govt is poking its nose into your Bedroom and your Wash room, because It has not happened to me or to anyone that I have ever known. Your accusation that it is happening to everyone is very serious and hence I hope you will not shy away from sharing your experience in this regard as it was you who brought it up in the first place.

    The use of religion to vent your anger with an overworked nurse in a govt hospital, on a public forum is unjustified and deplorable to say the least.

    “the best reward for a professional writer like myself is to see my writing inspire discussion and debate”

    Don’t delude yourself, your writing did not “inspire”, it “instigated” instead

  • Ranaviru Bandara

    Thank you for sharing this experience. This is another proof to say that a good 80% Sri Lankans live like frogs in a well. The well is called Buddhist Sri Lanka. A TRAGIC truth of SL!

  • Observer

    Stop getting carried away people Sri Lanka is NOT a Sinhala Buddhist state (IMHO). I take huge offence to this. It is the state that formed when a piece of ancient Indian Subcontinent split away due to tectonic plate movements millennia ago. It may have been called by many names along the way, Thambapanni, Serendib, Taprobane, Ceylone, Sri Lanka and who knows what in the future…
    What matters is the inhabitants of the country defend the sovereignty of the land – as those are the people who will truly love Sri Lankan and their fellow inhabitants’ rights & freedom. These people who acknowledge their fellow inhabitants and stand by shoulder to shoulder to live together are called Sri Lankans.

    Now that’s clarified, back to asking about the religion. Nalaka you just agreed in your disclaimer that ethnicities are quite mixed in Sri Lanka and it’s a lovely melting pot. Glad to see that because that’s exactly the point. Health professionals collect your demographic data to get a clue on what you maybe genetically susceptible to. It is common in SL that people usually marry among similar religions and race. So you maybe a self proclaimed humanist atheist person (care factor – 0.0), far as the nurse was concerned she made a note to the doctor who’s gonna pick up this file that this girl comes from a predominantly Sinhala Buddhist DNA line. Which could be helpful in a disease diagnosis. She didn’t have time to deal with your quirks because hello, it’s a god damn emergency ward! so she just put an answer based on your obvious name which gives a clue to your heritage. Cased closed, please politely move on Sir!

    You should be mad about and I would have felt sympathy to say a nurse admitted a wrong drug or dose, or a doctor operated and screwed up the operation. That is something I can sympathise despite the fact that they’re still human as well. You will rarely find those sort of cases because they’re a very competent bunch (except the dodgy fake doctors that go around).

  • dingiri

    I think there is a prefectly logical and innocent explanation for all this. A moslem parent would not want his child to be inadvertantly given pig insulin. Hindus and some buddists would not want to be served beef for lunch. In the unfortunate event of a death in hospital one wouldnt want a dignitary of the wrong faith at the patient’s bedside. Hospital authorities just want to avoid trouble by falling foul of zealous “religionists”.

  • haramanis

    hey ALIEN,u had not to spend money of majority sinhala buddhist by getting treatment from a govt hospital-free of charge!
    can queen of uk change her faith even she believe in buddhism ?

  • Irreligious

    Bravo !

    You are not alone.

  • yapa

    LTTE was not a ferocious tiger which demanded 1/3rd of the land and 2/3rd of the coastal belt, but an innocent pussy cat who came with a begging bowl for small piece of land of the size of Alaska. These true Buddhist Upasakas didn’t give him that vegetarian alms giving and he died of hunger.

    Ha ha!

  • yapa

    Dear Nalaka Gunawardena;

    ……………”Must biology be destiny in the 21st Century? Blind chance at birth placed me in a family of ethnic Sinhala parents who also happened to be Buddhists. But these cosmic accidents don’t make me a Buddhist any more than, say, I become a believing and practising Aquarian simply because I was born during the month of February. My brand loyalty to the randomly assigned religion and star sign are about the same: zero…………………..”

    1. Your brand loyalty to your “randomly assigned parents” also should be zero.
    Don’t respect your parents.

    2. Your son also was “randomly assigned” to you. Why did you take him to the hospital. You don’ have to have an affinity towards these random things. It is against your principles. If you didn’t do this unnecessary thing, all those unnecessary unpleasant incidents would have been avoided. Hereafter discipline according to your principles.

    I would like to suggest a name for your new religion. “Cynicism” would fit well.

    (Oh! it is a trick only. You mean tricking people. Keep on your tricks.)

    Ohoma yun! Ohoma Yun!!

  • Heshan

    Jaka,

    Thanks for the correction. I was trying to estimate the landmass of the North and East of Sri Lanka; the total size of which is even smaller than I thought.

    I don’t think the boundaries of the so-called Tamil Eelam ever expanded.

    Here is a map of the so-called Tamil Eelam:

    http://www2.irb-cisr.gc.ca/images/researchpub/research/maps/LKA_E.gif

    If you dispute my contention that the boundaries never expanded, you are welcome to find a map from any period of time that contains fewer provinces than shown in the above.

    <>

    There is a verse in the Bible which speaks about “turning th o ther cheek” when “struck on one cheek.” This lesson must surely apply to all religions. No religion, in its purest form, can espouse violence. An exception is made in “Bhagavad-Gita”; but for these people, Kshatriya’s, it is their caste-duty, e.g. dharma. But this system is rather elaborate – the castes cannot intermarry with each other. It is a system the Buddha rejected entirely. Perhaps one can argue the Buddha understood the limitations of this precept of non-violence, thereby creating the Sangha for those who wished to abide by every precept in the most absolute sense. Still, it is significant that Buddha did not create a warrior caste. In fact, if he did so, it would contradict his system: if everyone was to reach a state of enlightenment, then violence would be unnecessary. But one cannot kill and still expect to reach enlightenment without paying the consequences, e.g. karma. Renouncing violence after indulging in violence is not enough, that is not how the karma concept operates. You see what I have done here: I have proved that if the goal of Buddhism is to reach enlightenment, then violence can only delay the process. Except for “Prophet” Muhammed (who is a shady character anyway), none of the important prophets/founders of the major religions intentionally caused harm to others.

  • Heshan

    Off the Cuff:

    “The Buddhist in SL has not attained the state of mind of the Buddha”

    Most likely, it will never happen. By modern standards, the well-being of a society is measured in terms of material accumulation and or material output. While individuals can resist this trend, the larger society probably cannot. This is partly due to the nature of open market economies, which assume there is some sort of inequality as one proceeds down the socio-economic ladder. Nevertheless, those on both sides of the inequality ladder are forced to interact with each other – small children in slave shops in Indonesia will make Nike shoes for American consumers, for example. This is why a long time ago, I suggested, on this forum, that Buddhists switch to another religion that is more compatible with modern ideas and modern trends. These days, only a few ritual aspects of Buddhism can truly be followed, while most of the other precepts are ignored, unless one wishes to be a true refugee, like the Dalai Lama.

  • wijayapala

    Observer,

    Stop getting carried away people Sri Lanka is NOT a Sinhala Buddhist state (IMHO). I take huge offence to this.

    Why?

  • wijayapala

    Yapa,

    Not only the article but the author’s responses are hilarious. I like how he does not respond to individuals here as a human being would, but rather makes grandiloquent pronouncements as if he were Moses descending from the mountain. I’m amazed that so many here take him seriously to respond to him!

    Mine was a personal essay, written without intentions or pretensions of intellectual or political posturing.

    I agree that there isn’t much intellectual in the article, but there were some pretensions and posturing.

    I don’t know why my strictly personal choice of not following any religious faith at this point in time should affect or worry anyone.

    I entirely agree! In fact, the reader should go one step further and not let *anything* in this article affect him/her.

  • Sinhala_Voice

    To you Nalaka Gunawardene ALL I can say is that to the extent the State of Sri Lanka is concerned ALL that is relevant is the citizenship. That is ARE YOU A CITIZEN OR A MULTIPLE CITIZEN OF SRI LANKA. Because, it is on that basis that services are given to you and mind you SHOULD BE GIVEN TO YOU.

    From a census point of view I believe you world view should be counted as a number. Not only that you caste affliation should also be counted. Because, without these relevant data we can not measure what impact the state policies have on these ethnic , sub-ethnic , world view groups with in Sri Lanka.

    Then again you find people who are born-again christians who refuse blood transfutions and possibly injections so in that way your world view becomes an important factor in treating you clinically.

    That are a lot of these issues in the world today NOT ONLY IN SRI LANKA.

    To know whether or not you are a homosexual or a heterosexual ?
    TO know whether you take drugs , smoke cigarettes or Alcohol ?
    To know whether or not you have multiple sexual partners ?

    These may be personal information but it is important to the doctor and to the system and to the state at large to provide effective services to the people.

    BY THE WAY OUT OF ALL WORLD VIEWS IN THE WORLD BUDDHISM IS THE most secular of ALL. Which allows free investigation of itself and others in the same spirit. The teacher the Buddha has allowed and sanctioned it by himself.

    ALSO remember it is GOOD that is GOD. Not GOD is GOOD.

  • Off the Cuff

    Heshan,

    We are aware that your morals are subordinate to wealth. It does not need additional explanation

  • Heshan

    They cannot claim it is a Buddhist land after so much blood has been spilled over a small piece of land. Remember, Buddhism is, first and foremost, a philosophy of rationality. All the motivations behind the war, reflected in a 60 year legacy of blatant racism against Tamils, go against the smallest semblance of what can be called “rational.”

    Mistake 1: discriminate against Tamils
    Mistake 2: use violent methods to suppress legitimate Tamil grievances
    Mistake 3: claim sole ownership of the island based on outdated mythology

    What remains to be seen is the outcome of all the irrationality, from the time of Dharmapala to Gothabaya’s declaration that its “okay” to bomb hospitals in the vicinity of a war zone. Karma works like a feedback loop; once the feedback kicks in, these nationalists will reap what they sew, including their “King” in Temple Trees. Things will get so bad they will be begging the West to intervene. Wait and see.

  • yapa

    Dear Ernest;

    “……………15% of the population is asking since 60 years for their basic rights. It is a historical truth that htese 15% population live and occupy unfortunately to the authors opinion in thier HOMELAND which covers geographically 2/3 of the coastline and 1/3 of the land, but not for thier EXCLUSIVE use but for everybody……………”

    This is a new tune. Tamil Eelam for everybody? For Sinhalese, Muslims and others too? Then why did they chase away 100,000 Muslims from North and massacred hundreds of Sinhala civilians in boarder villages? All of the above, why did they call it “Tamil” Eelam? Furthe, for everybody there was and is a country called Sri Lanla. None of the ethnicity was barred from living here?

    Now, many cannot vomit what they had swallowed!

    Thanks!

  • yapa

    Dear Ernest;

    “…………….No country has the right to use weapons which are banned by the UN, were used on humans never before in such an intensiv disastrous way……………”

    To which country this statement refers to? Sri Lanka? Can anybody cite evidence?

    Thanks!

  • Observer

    wijayapala, because it’s not ruled by buddhist clergy! yes they have influence but not the final say as you may have seen recently.

  • Off the Cuff

    Heshan,

    It’s a small piece of land.
    So Learn to SHARE it equally, without fighting for exclusive ownership.

    Rationality is when a Minority of Tamil Intelligentsia RULED over the Majority Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamil peasantry.

    This is one of the root causes of the backlash against them.

  • yapa

    Dear Sujewa Ekanayake;

    “They are more enlightened than the Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ.”

    A vague claim. What exactly is the enligtenment attained by the Buddha? Has anyone else attained it? Can it be tested & proven to be the same attainment or the attainment of the same – can it be tested & proven to be useful by a non-believer?
    …………………..

    I think if you go through the long discussion a few of us had under “Transformation of Buddhism in Sri Lanka”, in this web, you will see what and what have to be tested and proved and what and what have not to be tested and proved.

    I think it will “enlighten” you.

    Thanks!

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Sujewa Ekanayake

    “(even though the Buddha is treated as a god/endowed with superhuman abilities – by most Sri Lankan Buddhists I know).” thats what you wrote on February 28, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

    Buddha is just another Human Being but with a mind that has been developed to the highest level. He is not treated as a God in Buddhist philosophy. He is respected as a teacher.

    He has abilities that are consistent with the developed state of mind that he possessed. It may look “Super natural” to a person with an undeveloped mind but is not beyond the reach of any human who is prepared to undergo the same training that he did.

    Apparently you do not know any true Buddhists. Visit a good Buddhist Temple and learn Meditation and with time and dedicated practice, you will get a taste of what a mind can do.

  • Pakis

    The various commnets are interesting and the good thing is that the contributors are not fighting about the issue which also goes to show that in the hearts and minds of most people such things are a none-issue.

    Having said that, it is not for man to judge another. As all faiths will say the disticntion has to be based on one’s conduct in this world and again it is something not for us to judge. Let us all look inwards at ourselves and measure our lives and not by looking at others.

  • wijayapala

    Rationality is when a Minority of Tamil Intelligentsia RULED over the Majority Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamil peasantry.

    If the above is true, SL never had a rational period anywhere in its history.

  • Heshan

    Off the Cuff:

    “Rationality is when a Minority of Tamil Intelligentsia RULED over the Majority Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamil peasantry.”

    Not only the Tamils but even the Sinhalese had it better under the British. That is the sad fact of the matter, even though, at a fundamental “philosophical” level, the British were invaders who ought to have stayed on their own island. Let us imagine a hypothetical situation where the British came back today… the sad truth is that 2/3 of the problems we see today would vanish within the span of a year: incompetent politicians, corruption, nepotism, ethnic strife, etc. Again, that is not how things “should be”, or how they “have to be”, it is just stating a fact devoid of any emotional or other subjective bias – the British were better administrators than any Sinhala-Buddhist government that has come to power since 1948 (every President since 1948 has been a Sinhala-Buddhist). Look at the quality of the infrastructure and you will see my point. The trains are exactly the same since the time of the British. The schools follow a British model. The hospitals are a mess; except for the very expensive ones that most of the population cannot afford. The civil service is a joke.

    Okay, let me make this easy: if things were so bad under the British, what has actually improved since they left? Because if very little has improved, then either things were not so bad, or they have gotten worse, or it is a combination of both.

  • Heshan

    “We are aware that your morals are subordinate to wealth.”

    So is the standard of living, ironically. To give a simple example, suppose that 186 members of the same family enjoy positions in the civil service. What will be the infant mortality rate, per capita income, level of educational achievement, etc. of this family over a 50 year (statistically significant) span? Certainly, the overall picture looks more promising for this family than the family of 4 living across the street in a hopper hut.

  • London Dole

    Dear Heshan:

    I guess you have never lived outside of Sri Lanka, especially in the West. May be you should get at least a student Visa to the UK. Then you can see for yourself the living conditions of the Brits. Crime is rampant. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed. Corrupt politicians remember us only during election time. I am not one of those people on dole but I still have a hard time making ends meet in Britain.

    Unfortunately, Oliver Twist is still a reality in today’s Britain. I feel sorry for someone like you. With your limited knowledge of Britain, you should stick to writing something you know.

  • Observer

    “To give a simple example, suppose that 186 members of the same family enjoy positions in the civil service. ”

    Heshan, problem is no one can name at least 50 of these phantom family members. Give it a shot! Unless few ancient dead ancestors of this family has risen from their graves and taken up jobs in civil service. Even propaganda should be realistic.

    “Certainly, the overall picture looks more promising for this family than the family of 4 living across the street in a hopper hut.”

    Funny though… I was saying exactly the same thing about Wall Street bankers the other day compared to struggling families getting booted out of their homes at the same time when they lose their job. Yeah double nut cracker!

    At the brink of their capitalist ideology about collapse under its own weight, when the western governments bailed out the wall street mad maxes, instead of families being thrown out of their homes, we figured out who these governments cared for. Capitalism has been defeated, rather manipulated and destroyed and the rich oligarchs have shown that they’re the autocrats who rule this world now. Many of us feel betrayed!

    You and I both know what happened. They held a gun to the Congress and said I dare you not to do what I say! What;s the point of this democratic institution any more? Can’t even pass a fricking health care reform because they rather dwell in partison petty politics! You thought MR vs. SF was comical. And of course add to that renegades who would hold out welfare payments to the poorest of the poorest because he has some point to prove! What efficiency! At the rate things are going in the US now, I’m positive the Sri Lankan legislature is far more efficient.

  • Hi Off The Cuff,

    [also Yapa, will check out “Transformation of Buddhism…” pages, thanks for the tip]

    Re: “Apparently you do not know any true Buddhists. Visit a good Buddhist Temple and learn Meditation and with time and dedicated practice, you will get a taste of what a mind can do.”

    I do know a lot of Sri Lankans who are Buddhist (my entire family pretty much – in the US, SL, & elsewhere – 100s of people). Was one myself – from birth (in SL, I moved out of the country at 12) to until about 16 – 18 or so – and I still read a lot & discuss Buddhism & am still in touch with temples & monks (though I am no longer a believer/practitioner – not down with bowing down to statues & monks & thinking only along the lines prescribed by Buddhism -, I appreciate the positive elements/the positve roles Buddhism & monks have played in the lives of Sri Lankans & specifically family members over the past several hundred years). So, as an aspect of both my & general human cultural heritage & history – I appreciate Buddhism (and, since we are breaking out Buddhism cred here, let me say that both of my grandfathers built & supported Buddhist temples in SL, & my dad & I helped build one here in the US – though that was mostly my dad, I was just a teenager helping out a little, and at present I indirectly support Buddhist institutions in the SL – a tiny bit – via $s sent to family members who use some of it to support temples, etc., & sometimes direcly here in the US via donations). However (here goes) there are some problems with SL Buddhism (here’s a brief list):

    1. I am not certain that tying Sri Lankan history & identity so tightly to Buddhism is such a good idea. One main reason is that it appears to me that Sri Lankan civilization is far older than Buddhism. It is probably one of the oldest in the world – with, I’ve read – posibly humans making their way from Africa along the coastline entering through Sri Lanka to go into greater India/the sub continet & also settling in SL over hundreds of thousands of years ago or longer. Buddhism has been fairly well documented as a relatively recent (on the scale of human life of earth) religion – going back to around 2,500 years ago at best. Civilization (settled villages, religions/ethics/behavioral rules, medicine, organized government, etc.) in Sri Lanka could be older than 10,000 years (or even FAR older). Whenever I encounter what at a certain point is believed to be the oldest observations by a traverler, about SL (Indian, Chinese, Arabic, Greek, etc.) they include a note saying that even in their time origin of the civilization is believed to be thousands of years prior. Anyway, mayb I should writer a book about this subject, with documentation of sources…:)

    So, back to the point, if Sri Lankan civilization is far older than Buddhism, than it may not be such a useful idea to force all Sri Lankans to embrace Buddhism in order to be considered a real/patriotic Sri Lankan, etc. Or, automatically equating non-Buddhists to enemies of the nation is not a bright idea. Anyway, there probably is not any disagreement on this issue among most Sri Lankans, though most favor Buddhism. The usefulness of keeping SL open to other ideas besides Buddhism is that the country could benefit from the positve aspects of those “new” (maybe ancient)/”foreign” ideas, see next item for more on that:

    2. 2500+ years of Buddhism has failed to keep Sri Lankans from being racist (not all or most, but a significant & persistent minority), excessively violent, from being able to be flexible & adept when it comes to incorporating useful ideas from various cultures (as Buddhism itself has done as it traveled to various parts of the world), and xenophobic/afraid of foreigners, understanding/being able to practice real/mature democratic government (w/ checks & balances & incorporating views & desired of various sectors of the nation, which leads to greater/better quality of life for individuals – as I see it here in the US). But a counter argument (one often made by my relatives 🙂 could be that without Buddhism the situation in Sri Lanka would be far worse. And maybe this points to the question “are Sri Lankans actually – or even by & large – Buddhist? living by the tenants of that faith?” – because at its core Buddhism seems to be in favor of critical thought, appreciative of the individual, and an anti-racist religon that embraces/sees positive potential in all of humanity.
    (for comparison purposes, in my experience the US is not actually a Christian nation but one that has a significant Christian population & also has a Christian heritage – with secular laws & ideas influenced by Christian thought, but, a county that often goes out of its way/tries hard & often succeeds in not excluding non-believers from the mainstream of life here, which, I think, is a good way to go)

    Anyway, all of these somewhat academic ideas re: actual history of Sri Lanka & the benefit of Buddhism to Sri Lanka aside, I am glad that the LTTE vs. GOSL war (& also JVP vs. GOSL fighting, & also British colonialism) are finally over (with the task of guaranteeing rights & freedoms to all individuals from all communities still ahead). A few years of peace & development (including getting rid of corruption, death squads, etc.) might bring out some of the better qualities of the Lankans to the forefront. My mom says (from eyewitness accounts, she’s always liked visiting & living there – even during the wars) a lot of new development work is happening in the SL right now & that right now it is a very good place to live (except for the high price of basic goods/bad economy). If the war was not over, we probably would not have been discussing secularism in Sri Lanka, since there would have been bigger problems – such as people getting blown up – to discuss. Being the eternal optimist, I see very good things for Sri Lanka now & in the immediate future – one of those being religious pluralism that includes freedom from religion. Sri Lankans able to think & act free (free of constraints created by an ancient monastic religion) can lead to new & useful innovations & practices that can benefit SL & the world well (however, I am all for there being a significant Buddhist presence in SL, preserving a part of the human intellectual & spiritual heritage). I just don’t want all Sri Lankans to stop at Buddhism – this world’s got a lot of problems that Buddhism does not have the answer to, & I am sure some of the solutions will come from Lankans, if they do not limit themselves.

    Also, what saved SL recently from a few more decades of misery was a very non-Buddhist thing – large scale war, & fighting using modern weapons (western weapons) & tactics (well, not sure about that one, looks like both guerilla & large scale troops fighting was used in SL in the past – during the Kandyan wars, etc.). So, anyway, proof right there that there are non-Buddhist ideas that can be very useful to SL.

    One last thing about the age of Sri Lankan civilization – check out the book “The Lost Dynasty” http://www.tracesofeden.com/lostdynastypreview.html – very interesting – author attempts to link pre-Vijaya rulers of Sri Lanka to the Harrapan kings/dynastys, by pointing out similarities between ancient Lankan writing/script discovered after the tsunami with those used in the Harrapan kingdoms thosands of years ago.

    Alright, off to work so that I can get some $s to give to some SLs who need it – will check on this thread & other relevant articles later this week.

    Next time I’ll try to keep my comments shorter 🙂 These things are looking like books.

    – Sujewa

  • Heshan

    Observer:

    “Heshan, problem is no one can name at least 50 of these phantom family members.”

    I counted 30 Rajapakse’s in the civil service:

    http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/1997584/2131986668/name/Rajapaksa+Family+Tree+final.doc

    “At the brink of their capitalist ideology about collapse under its own weight, ”

    Capitalism has not collapsed yet. Even when the stock market crashed in the 30’s, capitalism did not collapse. It is a system based on risk management, not risk avoidance. It is the most efficient way to allocate resources that man has figured out up to this point. Compared to all other economic systems, capitalism, while it is not perfect, it is definitely superior. The simplest proof I can give: there are not millions of people trying to run away from capitalist countries each year. If Fidel’s Cuba was so good, or Iran’s Islamic Republic, or Mahinda Mugabe’s Paradise in the Indian Ocean, people should be invading such places like they do every corner of the USA and the UK and Australia.

    “Can’t even pass a fricking health care reform because they rather dwell in partison petty politics! ”

    That’s the whole point of a democracy. To debate an issue so that different views can be heard. What happens when an issue is not debated? Look at SL; if a piece of UNP legislation or proposal is not popular, Buddhist monks will block the road, or the issue will become part of a “foreign conspiracy to destabilize the island”, etc. Gothabaya will send out the white vans to keep the journalists from giving the public a balanced viewpoint – look at Lasantha, Pradeep, etc. Eventually everyone who opposed the Government (read UPFA) will be terrorized into silence, and the Government (UPFA) position will become the “patriotic” position.

  • Observer

    I am not a socialist. I am a believer in capitalism. I just feel betrayed by Obama’s actions & of the European leaders. The markets ought to run lose in good times and bad times and let people suffer the consequences. Sure people would have lost their retirement funds, but tough sh1t. The next generation would have made sure that they weren’t gonna fall into the tarp that their daddy fell into. That is the only way they will learn to self regulate. We lost an important opportunity to improve the characteristics of markets by evolving it into the next stage of capitalism. (Actually!) Self regulating free markets. Obama took us backwards. That is why the true believers feel betrayed.

    As for that chart of yours. Utterly confusing and like I said not even 50!!! Some of the relationship conveniently lack last names, relationships, etc. looks like someone scraped the bottoms very hard 😉

    “if a piece of UNP legislation or proposal is not popular, Buddhist monks will block the road,”

    how it this different from the tea party movement in US? those rallies don’t clog up the roads?

    “Gothabaya will send out the white vans to keep the journalists from giving the public a balanced viewpoint ”

    we have been here heshan, white vans, lear jets, that’s intelligence business. rendition happens live with it, torture happens live with it. national security has the covert dark side. what are we kids? like how the israelis assassinated hamas guy in dubai. putin poisoned that russian defector. how us tried to kill castro so many times back in the day and now desperately trying to rendition the leadership of alqueida from pakistan/afghan regions. lately they have been somewhat successful in pakistan, well done! journalist tag doesn’t make you immune from assassination if ur a covert operative – you can’t be writing to a paper and also be running a sleeper cells. that’s very naughty u see. clearly im not saying lasantha was one of them, he was too stupid and it was an ltte hit. but who;s gonna believe that right? they insist the army was responsible so now some innocent SF goons are paying for that. pawu vade… but u have to give what public wants right? technically MR’s job is to give what public wants. that’s justice in their eyes. anyway, some people has to be simply eliminated. sorry we don’t have drones like the us or international assassination squads to take out diaspora radical elements. who knows, the rate at which current internal security assessments are going this may well be an option to consider. until then we just have to keep using HiAce vans. it really comes down to this after extensive intelligence assessments. does this person pose an immediate threat to national security? is he an enemy of the state? if these conditions are satisfied a sovereign nation has a right to eliminate this threat. and no body is immune, not even the MR him self. you watch what will happen to him if he starts getting cute like SF. state is the most sacred. then comes ur father, mother, and god. i say good stuff israel! don’t let the international pressure back u down. get all those bastards!

  • Heshan

    Obama inherited Bush’s mess. When Bush came to power, there was a balanced budget (thanks to Clinton). In fact, there was a surplus. Now the deficit is what, several trillion? There are no easy solutions to Bush’s mess. You cannot just leave Iraq and Afghanistan the way they are. Islamic extremism is a real threat; not just for the USA… these guys have an unlimited cash flow thanks to their rich Wahabi supporters in the Middle East. They want to punish every Western country because of whatever mess Israel created and because “infidel” soldiers are in the “Holy Land” e.g. vicinity of Mecca.

    There is nothing wrong with the White House bailing out the big businesses. This was/is not free money – it had to be paid back with interest. What is 8% interest on 8 million dollars? Quite a bit…

    You are comparing lear jets to white vans, haha. You’re right on one point; the USA is so wealthy that it can actually afford to treat POW’s well. People complain about Guantanamo Bay but its actually a $32 million dollar (USD) facility. Which developing nation would build a 32 mill USD prison for its enemies? Much easier to throw them into an overcrowded dungeon like Boosa. 🙂

  • Hey Observer,

    Some thoughts re: your most recent comment:

    “The markets ought to run lose in good times and bad times and let people suffer the consequences. Sure people would have lost their retirement funds, but tough sh1t. The next generation would have made sure that they weren’t gonna fall into the tarp that their daddy fell into.”

    Total economic collapse would not have left a similar/large/active/robust economy (prior to recession) for the next generation to manage. Pres. Obama & the gov’s actions saved the economy and it is, at present, slowly coming back towards pre-recession levels of performance.

    “That is the only way they will learn to self regulate. We lost an important opportunity to improve the characteristics of markets by evolving it into the next stage of capitalism. (Actually!) Self regulating free markets. Obama took us backwards. That is why the true believers feel betrayed.”

    The true believers are dreaming about a state of being that has never existed. All healthy & large/high performing economies have/had a significant amount of government regulation & assistance (US, Germany, Japan over the last several decades, and now/soon China).

    ” “if a piece of UNP legislation or proposal is not popular, Buddhist monks will block the road,”

    how it this different from the tea party movement in US? those rallies don’t clog up the roads?”

    Tea Party gatherings are very small & there are TONS of roads in the US. No, Tea Party gatherings do not clog up the roads.

    Re:

    ” “Gothabaya will send out the white vans to keep the journalists from giving the public a balanced viewpoint ”

    we have been here heshan, white vans, lear jets, that’s intelligence business. rendition happens live with it, torture happens live with it.”…

    People who want to live afraid of the State end up becoming slaves to the State. Unfortunately a significant amount of the developing world at this point is – not always, but quite often – or seems to be – living in this kind of a condition – terrorized by the State – except in SL people seem to get tired & angry of that state of being quite often – probably why there have been 30 years+ of war & armed conflict (not just the LTTE, but JVP, etc.) against the State in the SL. Of course it is impossible to boil down the complex relationship between the people and the government that has occured in SL since independence to a few sentences, but, seems to me, a government that is able to kindnap, torture, & kill people w/ out any checks on their activities will not be popular for long. So, support for such behavior by the government will lead to either constant instability (as it has been in SL) or people living like slaves, totally terrorized & controlled by the gov (Burma/Myanmar, North Korea). Is this really the state of things you want for Sri Lanka’s future?

    On a slightly related note, one interesting aspect of the still very young SL democracy is that no rebel movement has been able to overthrow an elected government (no matter how flawed the elections were, & also part of this gov survival capability has to do with the gov using death squads, mass killings, etc.). So, that seems to be an interesting & useful characteristic of the SL people – for future stability. However, using evil methods to silence peaceful protests (journalists, etc.) will lead those protests underground to emerge as armed challenges to the gov which will lead to another cycle of war & misery. So, if the gov has proof that a journalist is working to destabalize the nation, why not arrest them & put them on trial openly instead of creating a mess that will never go away by kidnapping & killing journalists & others who may be critical of the gov? Seems like the smarter way to go (arrest & real trials).

    “journalist tag doesn’t make you immune from assassination if ur a covert operative”

    where is the proof that an assasinated journalist was in fact a covert operative? this is why extra-judicial killings are messy & leads to more trouble for the gov & whoever in the gov authorized the killings.

    In SL there seems to be both the dictatorial tendency (the willingness by people who are in power to use whatever means necessary -including killing people – to get their projects accomplished) and also a protest/rebellion/fighting evil with evil tendency (as shown by the several rebellions against the gov – sparked by a perceived injustice – since ’48. So, basically, SL gets locked in the following pattern: 1. people are unhappy with the gov, are unable to change things using peaceful means, 2. the gov is unhappy with criticism by the people or various sectors of the population, 3. A flashpoint occurs & either the gov uses illegal force on the people or protest by the people turns deadly – against gov agents, 4. Force is used by the gov to suppress the challeges to the gov, 5. Gov use of deadly force & illegal methods (kidnappings, killings, torture, etc.) leads the peope (or some of the people) to respond in kind & also intensify the violent exchanges, 6. Violence grows, 7. Sometime later, the gov unleashes a mass wave of killing to get the violence under control (ending of both JVP rebellions, also ending of the LTTE rebellion) – killing hundreds of thousands of people.

    Hopefully the current gov in SL will be wise enough now (now that the most recent war is over) to let real democracy grow in SL – where real dialogue can have an effect, w/ out people having to use force to try to accomplish what they want to accomplish (equal rights, employment, limiting the state’s use of unchecked violence against people, etc.). Otherwise the state of things in the SL will be much of the same – heavy emmigration (those who can get out getting out), heavy poverty/debt, lots of people getting killed & all around misery.

    But hey, I am hoping for the best, let’s hope everyone/the majority in SL does not feel the way you (Observer) feels about the gov being able to use illegal/evil force to silence critics & peaceful challenges.

  • Heshan

    Well said, Sujewa. I would also point out that while there is corruption in the US government, it is not systemic such as we find in SL. In other words, corruption is not institutionalized. The American press can still expose a politician to the extent that the politician must resign in shame or at the very least, apologize. I would go so far as to say that the type of relationship which politicians in the West enjoy with the voters (electorate) is starkly different from what we see in SL, most likely because of the accountability factor just mentioned. The manner of dialogue, the level of openness, the degree of honesty – all of these differ significantly. In general, it is not a climate conducive to democracy.

  • Observer

    didn’t expect such a long reply but i shall leave a response even though i am pressed for time. please pardon typos, grammer and what not because this is rushed.

    Hey Observer,
    Some thoughts re: your most recent comment:
    Total economic collapse would not have left a similar/large/active/robust economy (prior to recession) for the next generation to manage. Pres. Obama & the gov’s actions saved the economy and it is, at present, slowly coming back towards pre-recession levels of performance.
    “That is the only way they will learn to self regulate. We lost an important opportunity to improve the characteristics of markets by evolving it into the next stage of capitalism. (Actually!) Self regulating free markets. Obama took us backwards. That is why the true believers feel betrayed.”
    The true believers are dreaming about a state of being that has never existed. All healthy & large/high performing economies have/had a significant amount of government regulation & assistance (US, Germany, Japan over the last several decades, and now/soon China).

    The government injected money into hemorrhaging businesses and assets because they were too large to let fail. It defies even the most basic logic. Invest money in companies that are hours away from failure. In effect they held the society at ransom and demanded money from the government. The big financial institutions brought the all powerful government to their knees without even firing a bullet! That is RAW POWER! Obama has nothing on them. I think while kneeling down they may done some sucking too. What a disgrace. This whole episode only reinforced my view on who really is in control of the world and who has the real power.

    Had the bailout not been done, yes the wider economy would have buckled to a vast degree. Massive job losses, lot of value would have been wiped out of the market. Subsequently after the credit markets would have frozen and the artificial value had been wiped out, and toxic business had gone under (yes with some of your 401K), small economies of scale would start to emerge. Credit flow would have started in small circles and slowly picked things up.

    But nooooo, the artificial inflation that we needed to wipe away from this bloated market is still there. We had unrealistic boom for the last few decades. Stupid government just patched the hole temporarily. And we essentially became that much socialist. Why did we ever bother destroying the Soviet Union? What a frickin waste. If you think the markets are only going up from here KEEP DREAMING!! The market hasn’t properly corrected it self yet. Just check the historical data. This is going to slowly creep up for about another 5 or so years with lackluster performance and wait and see what happens. I don;t want to spoil it for you.

    ” “if a piece of UNP legislation or proposal is not popular, Buddhist monks will block the road,”
    how it this different from the tea party movement in US? those rallies don’t clog up the roads?”
    Tea Party gatherings are very small & there are TONS of roads in the US. No, Tea Party gatherings do not clog up the roads.

    Clogging up the roads was never the issue was it? It was about demonstrating against the government. I think my point still stands. In fact a good democracy encourages protests. Sri Lanka is such a good democracy no? We protest if a fly lands on our nose.. haha

  • Observer

    Re:
    ” “Gothabaya will send out the white vans to keep the journalists from giving the public a balanced viewpoint ”
    we have been here heshan, white vans, lear jets, that’s intelligence business. rendition happens live with it, torture happens live with it.”…
    People who want to live afraid of the State end up becoming slaves to the State. Unfortunately a significant amount of the developing world at this point is – not always, but quite often – or seems to be – living in this kind of a condition – terrorized by the State – except in SL people seem to get tired & angry of that state of being quite often – probably why there have been 30 years+ of war & armed conflict (not just the LTTE, but JVP, etc.) against the State in the SL. Of course it is impossible to boil down the complex relationship between the people and the government that has occured in SL since independence to a few sentences, but, seems to me, a government that is able to kindnap, torture, & kill people w/ out any checks on their activities will not be popular for long. So, support for such behavior by the government will lead to either constant instability (as it has been in SL) or people living like slaves, totally terrorized & controlled by the gov (Burma/Myanmar, North Korea). Is this really the state of things you want for Sri Lanka’s future?

    Of course US is more liberal than Sri Lanka but still in both countries you’re free to do a lot of things. Compared to say a state like UAE. Even there if you have money, you can get away with a lot of things.

    I dare you to start a TV channel and start reporting the other side of the war on terror in US. Which no US media channel does. The type of reporting the Aljazeera does. Have you seen their documentary (forget the name of it.. called something Witness) on how the war against terror in Pakistan is progressing? Essential viewing and the closest thing you would get in English media an insight into the other side. This is not even the raw truth.

    Do you think the out sourced torture houses in Eastern europe had any checks and balances in the congress? I don’t think so. Pretty much all the nations engage in assassinations of high risk threats. It really depends on how naive you are to fall in love with political rhetoric drama you see on C-Span.

    You say some truth, Sri Lanka does take things overboard. That is because the situation usually is over board, due to poor handling of situations – one thing I agree with you. However, if there was ever a socialist uprising like the JVP in US, especially during the cold war, those people would not have been arrested, you would have never heard of them. CIA would have directly taken care of them. Just like the Russian spies they captured, tortured and eventually killed if they failed to turn them around to work for them.

    If 9/11 triggered the current war mongering imagine had bombs been going off in NY like it was in Colombo. I can’t even imagine how many countries would have been accused of harboring WMDs!

    Anyway end of the day, Sri Lanka will never be able to implement a model democracy until it becomes economically sound. I have made the case for this before how democracy and wealth go hand in hand to be successful. but that’s just my view. Problem is grabbing power of the state is a lucrative opportunity and all political parties want a piece of this pie. Therefore they resort to quite lowly acts in order to obtain this holy grail called government. That is the biggest problem in Sri Lanka at the moment. The recent sandhanaya antics were a good example of this. Politicians making humiliating 180 degree policy turns and getting into bed with strange bed fellows.

    On a slightly related note, one interesting aspect of the still very young SL democracy is that no rebel movement has been able to overthrow an elected government (no matter how flawed the elections were, & also part of this gov survival capability has to do with the gov using death squads, mass killings, etc.). So, that seems to be an interesting & useful characteristic of the SL people – for future stability. However, using evil methods to silence peaceful protests (journalists, etc.) will lead those protests underground to emerge as armed challenges to the gov which will lead to another cycle of war & misery. So, if the gov has proof that a journalist is working to destabalize the nation, why not arrest them & put them on trial openly instead of creating a mess that will never go away by kidnapping & killing journalists & others who may be critical of the gov? Seems like the smarter way to go (arrest & real trials).

    Evil methods have not been used to silence protest. Sunday leader still publishes, groundviews is still online – not censored or anything, opposition goons are still free to throw stones like monkeys and bravely face water cannons. Did you see the guy screaming bring it on in front of the water cannon pumping water over his head. It was such a good laugh. There is PLENTY of protest and quite frankly some of us folk has had enough really. Nonetheless, some of the disappearances has national security reasons behind them. Some of them were indeed coordinating or planning attacks in Colombo and or giving aid to those that were.

  • Observer

    “journalist tag doesn’t make you immune from assassination if ur a covert operative”
    where is the proof that an assasinated journalist was in fact a covert operative? this is why extra-judicial killings are messy & leads to more trouble for the gov & whoever in the gov authorized the killings.

    Some of these may not be extrajudicial because they are enemy combatants. They are enemies of the state that planned and carried out acts of war or aided. It is no different to taking out a senior alqueida operative. End of the day how do we know if the government authorised? I don’t know. Do you? There are no traces for me to make a judgement unfortunately. All we know it could have been done by some vigilantes, or aliens abductions.

    In SL there seems to be both the dictatorial tendency (the willingness by people who are in power to use whatever means necessary -including killing people – to get their projects accomplished) and also a protest/rebellion/fighting evil with evil tendency (as shown by the several rebellions against the gov – sparked by a perceived injustice – since ‘48. So, basically, SL gets locked in the following pattern: 1. people are unhappy with the gov, are unable to change things using peaceful means, 2. the gov is unhappy with criticism by the people or various sectors of the population, 3. A flashpoint occurs & either the gov uses illegal force on the people or protest by the people turns deadly – against gov agents, 4. Force is used by the gov to suppress the challeges to the gov, 5. Gov use of deadly force & illegal methods (kidnappings, killings, torture, etc.) leads the peope (or some of the people) to respond in kind & also intensify the violent exchanges, 6. Violence grows, 7. Sometime later, the gov unleashes a mass wave of killing to get the violence under control (ending of both JVP rebellions, also ending of the LTTE rebellion) – killing hundreds of thousands of people.

    I also see a similar pattern. But all the seeds that sowed that unrest was UNP doing. UNP starts fires & SLFP was always tasked with extinguishing the fire. If SLFP stay for a while then we may not set the house on fire for a while. Fingers crossed! I do endorse the mass unleashing of extinguishment when the fire has turned into a wild inferno though. Better than all burning alive no?

    Hopefully the current gov in SL will be wise enough now (now that the most recent war is over) to let real democracy grow in SL – where real dialogue can have an effect, w/ out people having to use force to try to accomplish what they want to accomplish (equal rights, employment, limiting the state’s use of unchecked violence against people, etc.). Otherwise the state of things in the SL will be much of the same – heavy emmigration (those who can get out getting out), heavy poverty/debt, lots of people getting killed & all around misery.

    Wise aside, boy they’re shrewd. Anyway people will always immigrate (legally or illegally) from poor countries like Sri Lanka – for economic reasons to the West. This has always been an issue. Look it is because the government has failed and I acknowledge that. Now that the war is over hopefully the next phase of things to come can alleviate this situation.

    But hey, I am hoping for the best, let’s hope everyone/the majority in SL does not feel the way you (Observer) feels about the gov being able to use illegal/evil force to silence critics & peaceful challenges.

    I am hoping for the best too. I don’t “feel” the government is able to use “evil” forces. I think the government has a duty towards us citizens in pre-emptively thwarting violent threats to our society. It is a basic requirement we request from our elected commander & chief who commands our tri-forces and intelligence apparatus. Some of the men I have had the pleasure of working with are the finest of the finest. Cream of the crop, and in the past few years have demonstrated why they can take on satan it self. When directives are given to these fine men & women to carry out objectives, it is usually because that is the need of the hour. Calling of our state. After all this hard work, hopefully my fellow Lankans won;t rock the boat too soon! Enjoy what you have today, it was very expensive, also because tomorrow all it takes to lose what have achieved today is for someone to blink. If you’re unhappy look back into the recent decades and see what is different now. Some fine people who criticised the LTTE with action have earned an unmarked grave in silence. The world they operated in did not recognise legality & illegality. There are not many people who would remind us of their silence. Peace be with them forever…

    Heshan, since you just licked Sujeewa’s boot this response is to you as well. Take it or leave it 😛

  • Heshan

    “The government injected money into hemorrhaging businesses and assets because they were too large to let fail. It defies even the most basic logic.”

    The government didn’t inject money, it lent money. The corporations have to pay the whole amount back, plus interest. The government acted as a bank, basically. The corporations will pay this money back as soon as possible, to avoid the interest… as far as I’m aware, one such company, J.P. Morgan Chase, already did this.

    Why didn’t the Government bail out small businesses? Simple: there are too many of them. How do you decide which small business to bail out? Besides, it would have taken longer for the small businesses to repay the loan amount.

  • Hey Observer & Heshan,

    A lot of interesting ideas & opinions, nice to see people thinking & talking about ways to improve things in the SL. Hopefully a lot of these ideas can be transformed into useful action in the coming months & years (yes, long & passionate comments at blogs can indeed save the world – perhaps – some day 🙂

    One amazing thing that happened in my relatively young lifetime thus far is the end of the LTTE vs. GOSL war – something that most people I know who care about SL did not think would happen any time soon (or ever) – so, if such a difficult, costly, & messy/morally & emotionally complex goal can be accomplished by Sri Lankans then it is probably not just dreaming to think about the island getting out of poverty & becoming a competetive nation (in many areas, including human rights). For just entertainment purposes, if nothing else, check out this “vision” I had about the future of SL – I wrote it about a year+ before the war ended, back in ’08, “Sri Lanka Year 0”:

    http://slblogbysujewa.blogspot.com/2008/02/2008-is-new-sri-lanka-year-0-in-your.html

    I need to develop that blog more.

    Also started a new blog to focus on creative accomplishments by SLs (in SL & in the diaspora), hope to get this blog well developed & active w/ in a couple of months:

    http://slartworld.blogspot.com/

    Hopefully in the next 30 years SL will get famous for it’s financial recovery/development, doctors, artists, & crossing fully over to the Developed site of the list of countries, from the Developing side. And no longer for the never ending wars & terror all kinds, & poverty. That would be very cool.

    One thing I’d like to see happen is something like a Diaspora Bank that helps people/individuals in SL w/ development (such an org could actually also help people in the diaspora, when they need help w/ education, business start ups, etc). That kind of thing already happens unofficially by relatives sending $s to people in SL, but it would be cool to see people in the diaspora putting $s together to create a bank like organization that makes it possible for any Sri Lankan in SL get loans or grants or something like those for education, businesses, survival, etc. Since even $20 goes a long way in SL for some individuals & families, it probably would not be too difficult for people in the SL diaspora to put together a substantial amount of $s/money aid for SLs on a regular basis. Of course this would have to happen 100% corruption free – not only in actuallity but in perception – so perhaps this org would have to be an NGO – or not an official part of the SL gov – though the gov could help with the project. Maybe other people have already started such an organization, let me know if anyone here has any links to sites related to an idea, org. similar to this.
    Something like a Grameen Bank for SL, but with a wider scope, & w/ $s being available to people from all walks of life – from people who hunt for survival to aspiring young entrepenuers to filmmakers, social service people, etc.

    Really, how difficult can it be to lift 20+ million people out of poverty (actually, not all of those people are in poverty in SL – so maybe 10 million?) given that there are probably half a million plus in the SL diaspora world wide who might be interested in helping? (probably gonna be difficult to do, but maybe not as difficult as ending a 30 year war).

    – S

  • Observer

    Heshan that’s the whole point. The government will lend money to their rich buddies when things go sour. Not other private enterprises. Not hard working men & women who have small empires they built with sweat and determination. They are the true capitalists who go down when things fail. Well of course they had to help the filthy rich guys! Banks held the whole economy to ransom – the people. Didn’t need a single bullet.

    To further prove my point now, rich interests have even penetrated the Supreme Court!! Reversing a decision that limits spending on campaigns by private interests. Now they’re free to buy the politicians. And they have no choice. It’s an open bidding war now. That’s right ladies & gentlemen, the congress & the president is up for open auction.

    When Obama critices the supreme court justices openly in their face at the state of the union address and a judge protests in disgust saying not true, highly unprecedented. You have to wonder what things have come to. Not come to, this is the way WORLD IS. Wake up buddy. I got with the program long time ago. At least I’m not deluding my self of fake ideologies. I accept we have been sold out. I am disappointed but at least at peace – not bitter.

    Don’t add insult to injury and then go and preach little Sri Lanka how they should shape their governing system. We will do things our OWN way!

  • Heshan

    Exactly, Observer: that’s the whole point of capitalism , not socialism. . People are free to do whatever they want with their money. An organization is just a group of people; therefore, an organization must also be able to do what it wants with its money. If the organization chooses to let the CEO make $5000/hr and the janitor guy $7.75 an hr, well, that’s just the way things are. In fact, if you try to level the playing field, things actually get worse. In economics, the market functions best when you let it self-regulate. For example, if you passed a minimum wage law saying the janitor guy is entitled to make $100/hr, it will not actually improve the situation. Employers will simply hire less janitors or use technology to cut down on the cost of labor.

    The difference between the CEO and the janitor is similar to the difference between a corporation and a small business. The corporation will always make more. There are lots of reasons for that: the corporation is better able to handle market fluctuations, it can undercut competitors when it comes to pricing, it has more to spend on advertising, it has more labor so it can supply more, etc. It is not reasonable to expect a small business to be able to compete with a corporation to the extent that the profit margins of the two are remotely equal.

    Even in the best of times, a small business never makes anything comparable to what a corporation makes. Now, let’s say you’re a lender. You have two clients, on the verge of bankruptcy, one is a corporation and one is a small business. Let’s rephrase this question: you’re a bank, and you have a choice of lending money to a car mechanic or a doctor. Obviously, if you lend money to the doctor, you will get it back faster. The point is that you lend money only if you can get it back, and you can get it back according to a fixed schedule. Now let’s add one more aspect to this: you can lend money to 300 car mechanics or you can lend money to 30 doctors. Who will you choose?

    I listed doctors and car mechanics in the above to illustrate the role that corporations and small businesses play in the economy. Corporations generate more revenue, employ more labor, contribute more to the GDP, and in general, have a bigger impact on the economy than small businesses

    At this point, I think you get the picture. By bailing out the corporations, the Government saved a lot more than just the corporations themselves.

  • Heshan

    Exactly, Observer: that’s the whole point of capitalism , not socialism. . People are free to do whatever they want with their money. An organization is just a group of people; therefore, an organization must also be able to do what it wants with its money. If the organization chooses to let the CEO make $5000/hr and the janitor guy $7.75 an hr, well, that’s just the way things are. In fact, if you try to level the playing field, things actually get worse. In economics, the market functions best when you let it self-regulate. For example, if you passed a minimum wage law saying the janitor guy is entitled to make $100/hr, it will not actually improve the situation. Employers will simply hire less janitors or use technology to cut down on the cost of labor.

    The difference between the CEO and the janitor is similar to the difference between a corporation and a small business. The corporation will always make more. There are lots of reasons for that: the corporation is better able to handle market fluctuations, it can undercut competitors when it comes to pricing, it has more to spend on advertising, it has more labor so it can supply more, etc. It is not reasonable to expect a small business to be able to compete with a corporation.

    Even in the best of times, a small business never makes anything comparable to what a corporation makes. Now, let’s say you’re a lender. You have two clients, on the verge of bankruptcy, one is a corporation and one is a small business. Let’s rephrase this question: you’re a bank, and you have a choice of lending money to a car mechanic or a doctor. Obviously, if you lend money to the doctor, you will get it back faster. The point is that you lend money only if you can get it back, and you can get it back according to a fixed schedule. Now let’s add one more aspect to this: you can lend money to 300 car mechanics or you can lend money to 30 doctors. Who will you choose?

    I listed doctors and car mechanics in the above to illustrate the role that corporations and small businesses play in the economy. Corporations generate more revenue, employ more labor, contribute more to the GDP, and in general, have a bigger impact on the economy than small businesses

    At this point, I think you get the picture. By bailing out the corporations, the Government saved a lot more than just the corporations themselves.

  • Observer

    Heshan, you still don’t get my point. Government should not selectively interfere with private enterprise. It is a very dangerous road! This has nothing to do with your explanation on who’s a good/rather safe loan recipient.

    TARP money should have been available to anyone in strife! Not just the big car manufacturers, banks, etc. Level playing field. It’s a different story who wins and loses – capitalism! In your little example.. You either lend to (doctors AND mechanics) OR (none)! get it? Government has to see all private enterprise impartially and provide the same assistance so they can fight it out fair & square and ultimately the ambitious & innovative would triumph.

    Now they own (well shareholders of) the banks, tomorrow health care (if current reform agenda gets through – unlikely), you see where this is going no? It is going to be hard for a new bank to succeed. It’s going to be harder for the private health providers to succeed. Because they have to fight with the government who also sets the rules as well.

    Obama is actually in a mess. He hasn’t been able to implement any of the change he promised yet. He’s not decisive as his rhetoric unfortunately. I’d be surprised if he gets a 2nd term in fact. If the GOP gets a charismatic candidate for the next pres election, Obama can kiss the Whitehouse good bye.

    What do you have to say about the supreme court justices opening the flood gates to unlimited election spending spree? It’s hurting socialist Obama a bit me thinks.

  • Heshan

    Observer:

    Let’s take a different approach. What’s the difference between the US Government bailing out a few corporations and the IMF bailing out Sri Lanka, e.g. lending money to the Central Bank? Shouldn’t the IMF have lent money to the hopper hut owners, the internet cafe owners, and the luxury bus owners? After all, these are the hard-working owners of the socialist enterprise who deserve a break!

  • Observer

    relevance? IMF is the balancing tank of international currency. IMF operates among governments so the value of international currency market can be maintained with sanity. IMF does not lend to private enterprise. Please come up with relevant examples.

  • Observer

    I’ll put it to you again since you purposely avoid answering this question twice now. I’m assuming because you can’t answer it and save face even deceptively!

    What do you have to say about the supreme court justices opening the flood gates to unlimited election spending spree? Making elections an open auction for the richest private interests. Even Obama is pissed off! He had openly criticise his supreme court justices. Should the president of the Holy Democratic, Super Cool, Never do Evil, USA attack their purest of purest pinnacle of justice – the supreme court like that humiliating them at none other than the State of the Union address?

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/jan-june10/scotus_03-11.html

  • Heshan

    The IMF also bails out poor countries that suffer from fiscal mismanagement. Why is it that the USA or the UK never need an IMF loan? Why is it that only countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh require IMF loans?

    In any case, my point is that if we follow your logic, the IMF should not lend money to Sri Lanka. Just like the corporations that made bad investment choices, the Sri Lankan Central Bank printed out way too much money (driving up inflation); not to mention, the Sri Lankan Government never controlled its spending. Also, it is well-known how the Sri Lankan Government, in many instances kept the cost of living unnecessarily high. For example, when the global recession hit, the price of a barrel of oil dropped… but the Sri Lankan Government personally kept the price of petrol high in Sri Lanka.

    The whole point is that the USA saved its own economy without begging from the IMF. Sri Lanka can’t do that because it’s not self-sufficient.

  • Heshan

    No one really cares about election spending sprees. A US senator makes $174,000 USD per yr, while the President makes $400000 USD. All of the President’s expenses – e.g. income tax return – can be found with an easy Google search. There is no corruption here; the President cannot appoint 30 of his family members to high positions in the Government; in fact, the President cannot appoint anyone to any civil service position without Congressional approval… there is no 10% return from weapons sales, the President cannot take over United Airlines and call it “Obama Airlines”, there are no white vans to silence CNN, and the President cannot ask Ben Benanke to print out rolls of money whenever the economy goes sour.

    If you still think there is corruption in the US Government, you need to be very specific. There are so many mechanisms and safeguards to prevent corruption that even though an American may not approve of the President or a Senator, he will think [b] very hard [/b] before calling them corrupt.

  • Sony

    Heshan says “Why is it that the USA or the UK never need an IMF loan? Why is it that only countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh require IMF loans?”

    I usually do not read what you write. But, today I was glancing through the new posts and saw the above. When Sri Lanka was seeking a loan last year UK was seeking a loan about 10 times that. The following is a counter example to your claim above.

    (National Archives)
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinetpapers/themes/sterling-devalued-imf-loan.htm

  • Heshan

    Correction, Sony: the UK was seeking an IMF loan in 1976. It says they asked for a loan in 1976, but by the end of 1977 the economy had improved so much they did not need the rest of the loan. So you have found a single exception that is basically useless. Now go and play in the sandbox again.

  • Observer

    Heshan, we are always on 2 different pages. Focus on the original point which you always deviate from and bring up irrelevant examples. Let me put things into perspective for you. This is not about US’s self sufficiency. IRRELEVANT! In fact you’re WRONG! US is afloat atm because of the massive borrowings from China. TARP money is a lot of Chinese Yen converted to US Greenback. Anyway lets not get hung up on that (we’ve discussed this in length) because that’s also irrelevant!

    My original argument was that government should not selectively help private enterprises, NO MATTER HOW BIG THEY ARE. It goes against capitalist principles and creates an unfair playing field for the genuine capitalist game.

    Then you made some irrelevant arguments about who’s a worthy loan recipient and then dragged the IMF into this. Worst comparison but still even IMF does not discriminate. Because it can’t and it is not fair. Its an impartial institute who’s sole purpose is to provide a central reservoir so to speak in order to draw and inject money to maintain the legitimacy of the international currency trade. During the war a lot of people shouted at IMF not to lend to Sri Lanka based on trumped up human rights abuse charges. Despite the propaganda IMF still lent money because it WAS NOT BEING SELECTIVE! Otherwise people lose confidence in the IMF and international money trade suffers. Yes, yes, Heshan, I know what you will say, how is the Sri Lankan Rupee going to impact international monetary system? Point is it’s the LKR today, what’s tomorrow? Russian Ruble? Because they invaded Georgia? Sri Lanka is not the last country to wage war.

    Also IMF is not a charitable organisation. If countries like Ireland, Greece who’s economies are very damaged after the GFC go under, I’m not sure if IMF will or CAN jump in. Because their currency will be beyond salvage and IMF’s will not be able to help (or in ur words, bail them out), even though they have an interest in making sure international currency values are maintained. Lucky for those guys since they’re in the Euro club, likes of France, Germany will not let that happen. They will bail them out so to speak in order to preserve the integrity of their common currency.

    On the other hand however, if you were a private enterprise such as a private bank lending money, then yes OF COURSE you can be PICKY – I can agree with your mechanic/doctor example! You can lend to the doctors and have a board outside your bank saying “we don’t lend to mechanics”. Highly discriminative & offensive to mechanics but perfectly acceptable in a capitalist world.

    Governments MUST not interfere in private enterprise in a SELECTIVE MANNER that will BENEFIT a select group of private enterprises. Then you’re doing capitalism wrong! You’re doing corruption in some people’s eyes.

    Your final trump card as always is beating on the POOR FACTOR of asian countries. I’m sorry it’s not an argument. It’s a deceptive, cop out!

  • Observer

    No one really cares about election spending sprees. A US senator makes $174,000 USD per yr, while the President makes $400000 USD. All of the President’s expenses – e.g. income tax return – can be found with an easy Google search.

    Haha are you for real? Even Mrs. CBK had a neat Tax return! LOL. When a big private interest group makes a direct deposit into a Congressman’s distant relative’s or secret mistresses’s secret Swiss bank account does it appear on the Google index? I think not, let alone the IRS database. If only Google could index all the shifty deals. FBI would do all the corruption busting using Google like you do.

    Here’s a hypothetical situation (it’s happening for real, but in your Care Bare, G.I. Joe land which I’m afraid to shatter, assume this is hypothetical). Obama is madly trying to pass health care reform. Big private insurances crops don’t want this along with some big pharmaceutical giants. So they get together and approach few congressmen who can sway the vote and promise them virtually unlimited donations for their next run for the seat. Whatcha gonna think they gonna do? These guys are the least of worry. Then you get Oil giants, Big weapons manufacturers. War is good for these guys – lords of war! And these guys can now (thanks to super judges in the supreme court) support their favourite congressmen willy nilly who are screaming for Mr. Ahmadinajad (I’m a Dinner Jacket)’s Dinner Jacket 😛 They have already said they’re now approaching 20% enrichment (the hard yards)….. foundations are laid!
    Even the congressmen who would not prefer big bankrolls will end up with no other option. Because others can buy media, influence etc. over them.

    There is no corruption here;

    My my my! That is a very bold statement to make. Especially when you’re not the tax man. When you’re not their private accountant who balance overseas non disclosure accounts, or physical assets.

    there is no 10% return from weapons sales,

    HOW DO YOU KNOW?

    the President cannot take over United Airlines and call it “Obama Airlines”,

    For starters in the current economic climate I don’t recommend buying into Air Line business. Takes massive balls. But MR has large ones. When British airways is making billions of losses along with other various air lines operating at the cusp of bankruptcy how can you judge Mihin air lines performance??

    On the other hand the US government certainly can call some of the banks at least “Someone and Obama” partners! Public are shareholders. How about Fanny Mae & Obama partners? What was that famous dam over there? Ahh Hoover dam! There are many infrastructure all over the world named after great presidents. US has 100s! SL only has Bandaranaike International & BMICH on a significant scale. I don’t know if you want to add Premadasa’s clock towers to that as well? Robert Hoover was a great el president for you. MR is our great. Let us have our Mihin.

    there are no white vans to silence CNN,

    Indeed lear jets are easier and quicker to fly into Easter european torture house no? Especially when you outsource. Seems to be the trend these days just like the call centers. Why would CIA silent CNN? They do a great job reporting the USA side of the war on terror 24 hours! It’s an asset, along with other channels who regurgitate sensentionlised news, like the 24 hour coverage of shock and awe.

    and the President cannot ask Ben Benanke to print out rolls of money whenever the economy goes sour.

    I think only kids would think of printing more money as a viable economic solution. No one does it.

    If you still think there is corruption in the US Government, you need to be very specific.

    For starters how about Bush awarding lucrative Iraqi energy contracts to Halliburton who’s ex CEO happened to be none other than Dick Cheny!!! The principal architect of the Iraq war!!?? 2+2=4 I think :-S

    There are so many mechanisms and safeguards to prevent corruption that even though an American may not approve of the President or a Senator, he will think [b] very hard [/b] before calling them corrupt.

    War monger, create fear, scream about terror threats in colour coded charts and people will bow down and surrender their liberties and let you jump over the hoops. They will even tolerate Gitmo’s at that stage! Speaking of surrendering liberties, you will be soon showing off your private parts and other less flattering fat reserves at US, Canadian air ports in the name of terror threat prevention. Enjoy.. Us has 400+ xray scanners on order. Good news for the covert exhibitionists among us.

  • Heshan

    At Observer:

    Obama did not bail out the corporations out of sheer love for the corporations. You have to remember that these corporations employ millions of people. As I said before, they are also the ones who do the most trade with other nations. And then there is the question of protecting domestic American interests. Let’s look at an example: imagine if GM and Ford went bankrupt and the US Government did nothing. It would be the end of the US automobile industry. The market would be flooded with Toyota, Hundai, etc. which would automatically increase their supply in response to soaring demand. What about the millions of workers whom GM and Ford employed? They would be jobless… this would lead to a massive increase in unemployment, a decrease in consumer spending, and millions lost in tax revenue, and a decline in GDP This is not something you want during a global recession.

    I understand your point about government interference. However, that is a general principle which applies to a theoretical model of a perfectly competitive market economy. Most economies are a cross between competitive and command.

    I would say, the bigger question here is what would have happened if the US Government had not bailed out the corporations? As you see in my first paragraph, the consequences go well beyond the corporations themselves.

    Regarding the US borrowing from China, well, if the US economy crashed, good luck to China. It’s annual economic growth would easily be cut by at least half. Just think of all the manufacturing jobs; Walmart invests about 13 billion USD in China every year – and that is just Walmart.

  • Observer

    Weak! Like I said, the impacts will be far reaching – I agree. But you don’t fix what was wrong by giving a free pass to wrong doing. You only make it worse. People will learn and next time they won’t jump into investment funds with derivatives.

    Talk about coincidence. Jon Stewart just today said what I’ve been saying in the past few posts more creatively than I could ever imagine! Watch the whole thing because the part I refer to is roughly the 2nd half of the vid.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-17-2010/in-dodd-we-trust

  • Heshan

    You make it worse if you just there and do nothing. It’s pretty simple. At the most basic level, you have two choices:

    1. Let the corporations go bankrupt, and let the economy go totally broke

    2. Save the corporations by loaning money, and try to keep the economy on track

    Now you see why loaning money to small businesses would be pointless. The impact on the economy – whether you loaned or not – would be minimal.

    I agree that you don’t give a free pass to wrong-doing by promoting wrong-doing. I wouldn’t say, however, that the government gave a free pass. The loan money came with certain restrictions; Congress imposed quite a few rules on the corporations to ensure some past mistakes will not reoccur.

  • Heshan

    *if you just sit there

  • Off the Cuff

    Federal Lawmakers From Coast to Coast Are Under Investigation

    Among members of Congress, Mr. Doolittle is far from alone in feeling heat from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. More than a dozen current and former lawmakers are under scrutiny in cases involving their work on Capitol Hill.

    Jan Baran, a Republican lawyer who specializes in ethics law, said he could not recall a time when so many members of Congress had been caught up in so many financial scandals drawing the attention of the Justice Department.

    Mr. Baran said it was not surprising that most of the lawmakers under scrutiny were Republicans, given that their party controlled Congress until this year and “money follows power: those that don’t hold power are less susceptible to corruption, because they don’t have anything to sell.”

    Says the NY Times

  • Heshan

    That’s great. It shows the system works. I still remember when the Supreme Court under Sarath N. Silva blocked any investigation into the “Helping Hambantota” Scandal.

    Difference between USA and SL —> In SL the investigation does not even start

  • Off the Cuff

    What grounds?

    Any link to the actual judgment of the Supreme Court?

  • Observer

    Difference between USA and SL. US is filthy Rich (at least for now), has unfathomable military power. SL poor, can count the number of war ships using the fingers.

    US uses the money and that power to project the image they want regardless of what they do. They own entertainment industry and cable news that go out to the world. They do and then craftily script and tell the world what they did as they see fit. You Heshan, you swallow it like babies drink milk.

    Yes this system will work, long as you have money and keep stealing more from the oil reserves in Bagdagh and what ever country next they see fit to invade based on phantom WMDs or Nukes (Iran’s excuse, next in line). System will work… until that day you find your self with limited resources to go around for everybody.

  • Observer

    Government gave a free pass!! Do you think our disappointment and disgust is unwarranted? They let white collar professionals gamble away hard working men & women’s retirement funds into annihilation. When they lost all that money, government stepped in, loaned money just to keep the institutions from going under, last thing gov wanted is to refund angry public’s retirement funds. and let these wild cats run free. Those retirements funds have not recovered their original value yet. They never will! because of these guys struggling families with children are forced out on to the road.

    If someone stole your life savings, your house and threw you onto the road AND the person who did that to you got “BAILED OUT” by the government, would you think justice was done? tsk tsk Heshan.

  • Observer

    2. Save the corporations by loaning money, and try to keep the economy on track

    Ahem, something funny, watch the video below, roughly an year earlier what most of the senators thought (or at least declared to the dumb public) that what they though should be done! Now why would they vehemently deny their association to bailout if it was the right thing to do? are most US senators retarded? It is a serious question I’m grappling with.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-19-2009/the-notorious-aig—scorn-in-the-usa

  • Heshan

    @Observer:

    “If someone stole your life savings, your house and threw you onto the road AND the person who did that to you got “BAILED OUT” by the government, would you think justice was done?”

    Looks like you’re contradicting yourself. Had the corporations gone bankrupt and actually shut down, then yes, these workers would have lost their retirement benefits. But their life savings and house? Unless its a 401K plan, or the employee owns some kind of shares in the company, they would not necessarily have lost their money. A house? A house is bought with a loan… the loan is managed via a mortgage… the loan itself is given through a bank or other private lender, not a corporation.

    Maybe what you’re trying to say is that had the corporations gone bust, the employees who lost their jobs would have had a hard time paying their bills. That’s a different story… businesses go bust all the time. If someone loses their job, too bad, get a new one. But this has nothing to do with corporate dishonesty – it’s simply the natural dynamics of the market at work. Not every business is going to stay open forever; there are going to be layoffs, people are going to lose jobs, etc.

    “Now why would they vehemently deny their association to bailout if it was the right thing to do?”

    The senators are not financial experts… the bail-out plan was managed by the Treasury Department; the Senate simply acted on the advice of that department. In any case, as long as the government gets back every penny it loaned out, plus interest, no one is the worse off.

    What would be your alternative to the bailout plan? Do you even have an alternative? Maybe you want to loan money to the guy who drives around in the ice cream truck, or the hot dog vendor? Yep, brilliant idea… I’m sure that between these two, enough tax revenue can be generated to buy a newspaper and a 12-pack of soda. When the millions of unemployed ex-corporate workers start rioting, you can try telling them to go do minimum wage work for McDonalds and Burger King… remind them to go to work in a super cheap Hundai or Toyota (the only automobiles available since GM and Ford went bankrupt). 🙂

  • Heshan

    “Difference between USA and SL. US is filthy Rich (at least for now), has unfathomable military power. SL poor, can count the number of war ships using the fingers. ”

    SL is poor because of bad policy choices. If it had adopted a federal model at the start of Independence, like India, it would be not be where it is today. In any event, there is a striking parallel between the corporations and the elite/rich in SL. Both groups make exorbitant profits at the expense of cheap labor. If Sarath Fonseka had 500K USD stashed away in a bank locker, how much do you think the “King” and his family are having? Anyone with three brain cells can see that the “King” and his clan are millionaires, but the amazing thing is that they are millionaires by US standards, not just SL standards. By the time the next presidential election comes along, suffice it to say that the “King” will easily be a billionaire by US standards . I don’t know about you, but I find that rather amazing; that a man from the third-world village could become a billionaire by US standards, when 1 USD = 120 SLR. And that he could do so in what, less than 15 years?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if “Forbes” listed him in their top fifty richest.

  • Heshan

    Off the Cuff:

    This is the case I am talking about:

    `Helping Hambantota` probe halted
    Wednesday, 28 September 2005 – 9:05 PM SL Time
    Lankan News Replies

    Supreme Court in Sri Lanka has issued an injunction order against the investigations carried out by the police on alleged misappropriation of tsunami funds.
    A bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath Silva ordered Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to temporarily halt the investigation after considering a petition by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.

    CJ Sarath Nanda Silva strongly criticised the police for initiating an ?informal? investigation based upon newspaper reports.

    PM Rajapakse had to seek help from the courts, the CJ said, to protect his human rights due to actions by the police.

    `Acting in arbitrary manner`

    He also accused the CID of ?acting in an arbitrary manner? by questioning ?a senior civil servant like PM`s secretary Lalith Weeratunga? for more than five hours.

    Supreme Court postponed the hearing on Rajapakse`s Fundamental Rights Petition to 17 January, 2006.

    A lawyer representing PM Rajapakse said the CID has begun the investigations based upon reports in Sunday Leader English weekly and Irudina Sinhala weekly.

    He told the courts that the Cabinet of Ministers were informed of the monies in `Helping Hambantota` fund, which is monitored by Secretary to the PM, Lalith Weeratunga.

    Media reports

    The Police have been earlier granted permission by the courts to inquire into `Helping Hambantota` bank accounts set up to help tsunami victims.

    The `Helping Hambantota` fund was set up to help the constituency from which Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa hails.

    Acting magistrate Jayanatha Dias Nanayakkara earlier this month allowed the police to investigate three bank accounts of the fund.

    The CID sought permission from the courts to investigate the accounts alleging that there was a breach of trust concerning nearly 83 million Sri Lankan rupees (approx 820,000 US dollars).

    Sri Lankan media had alleged that money sent by international donors to the Prime Minister`s national relief fund was credited to the privately run `Helping Hambantota` fund.

    http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2005/9/3757.html

  • Observer

    I’ve mentioned the alternative! You DO NOT bail out.. – ANYBODY! Crystal Clear! (If you do then bail out anyone who would like to be bailed out.) You let the failed businesses FAIL and let new off spring to succeed. Yes people would have lost their jobs and retirement funds. People would have learnt hard lessons and made sure they wont let financial institutions get that big in the wake of the last disaster. Next time they would have thought twice about putting their life savings into a big bank controlled by a few extremely wealth intoxicated, reckless management. Common sense would have prevailed over Greed.

    80% of the American population is against the bail out. That answers the people didn’t care for the bail out as well!! So they so they did not want the gov to bail out their employer so they can have a job. Sure Ford & GM would have got shattered. You know what, auto workers would next day be applying for Toyota who would have come into fill that huge gap. Why did Senate majority oppose the bail out and had to have 2 rounds of voting to pass it? Because they knew their constituants were against it!

    This is capitalism and you do not interfere. When you do to save your rich friends, that’s corruption. Now we still have a toxic economy on life support. Get ready for dip no. 2.

  • Observer

    “By the time the next presidential election comes along, suffice it to say that the “King” will easily be a billionaire by US standards . I don’t know about you, but I find that rather amazing; that a man from the third-world village could become a billionaire by US standards, when 1 USD = 120 SLR. And that he could do so in what, less than 15 years?”

    Yes, yes, MR is soo rich he will buy USA. Get real.. Show me a balance sheet first. Lack of facts & figures is the biggest HOLE in this argument. It’s all speculation, speculation and more mud slinging. People tried this propaganda during elections and voters didn’t buy it. In Rupees, yeah lot of people are millionaires in Sri Lanka, thats got to do with the value of the Rupee.

  • Observer

    “A house? A house is bought with a loan… the loan is managed via a mortgage… the loan itself is given through a bank or other private lender, not a corporation.”

    These banks recklessly lent to people who can barely make the monthly payments so they can eran their fat commission based bonuses. Then tried to hedge the risk in convoluted derivatives and KaBoom! Rest is history… or is it yet?

    And banks were the biggest bail out recipients! Bankers did not lose. The foreclosed home owner did. They lost the thousands of mortgage payments they’ve already made and nothing to show for it.

  • Heshan

    “You let the failed businesses FAIL and let new off spring to succeed.”

    New businesses are not going to pop up during a global recession. In fact, if the biggest businesses (corporations) crashed, the impact on the economy would be so great that it would only prolong such a recession.

    “People would have learnt hard lessons and made sure they wont let financial institutions get that big in the wake of the last disaster.”

    Yes, while living on the street and digging through dumpsters for food, no doubt that the millions of ex-corporate employees would have learned their lesson the hard way.

    “Next time they would have thought twice about putting their life savings into a big bank controlled by a few extremely wealth intoxicated, reckless management.”

    Next time they would have thought twice about taking out variable interest loans on houses which they couldn’t afford in the first place. Let’s put the blame where it is: had those people who bought their homes during the “boom” used a bit more financial sense, they would not have had to default on their loans. Had the banks been given their money, and the housing market not gone bust, there would have been no need for a corporate bail out.

    “80% of the American population is against the bail out. ”

    80% of the American population is not charge of government fiscal policy either, so their opinion does not matter.

  • Heshan

    “These banks recklessly lent to people who can barely make the monthly payments so they can eran their fat commission based bonuses.”

    The banks did not force anyone to take a loan. That is the beauty of capitalism. You take the loan by yourself, and you are responsible for all the risks that come with it. What is the socialist alternative? Waiting for the “King” at Temple Trees to beg enough money from the UN, to build a barbed wire tin shack on some mud?

  • Heshan

    “Show me a balance sheet first.”

    Of course he is not going to publicly declare his assets. The money-laundering case against Sarath and Danuna would look like a grain of sand in comparison. But that is the whole point… that he won’t disclose what he owns. That there are laws and amendments in the Constitution which protect him from judicial prosecution, regardless of how much he embezzles or takes as bribes and commissions. Imagine if a bank did not keep track of its money. As long as more money was coming in than going out, it would still be possible to do business. A dishonest accountant would simply take 1% of everything that came in and it would be “business as usual.” That is exactly what the “King” and his family are doing.

    “In Rupees, yeah lot of people are millionaires in Sri Lanka, thats got to do with the value of the Rupee.”

    The value of the rupee and the value of the dollar are very different:

    1,000,000.00 SLR = 8,710.860 USD

    1,000,000.00 USD =114,799,232.36 SLR

    Maybe now you see my point. If some guy in Colombo is having 500K USD stashed away in a locker, there is something very wrong… but if another guy and 30 of his family members in the government are having ten times that amount – in USD – stashed away in local banks and banks all over the world, there is something even more wrong!

    The whole point is that such earnings are not possible within a Sri Lankan salary scale – not even for a politician – and therefore corruption is not a mere possibility, it is the only possibility.

    By the way, what happened to KP’s assets?

  • wijayapala

    Burning_Issue,

    For some reason I am no longer able to post under the Sinhala Nationalist Burden thread. I hope you see this post.

    Personally I cannot see it workable unless the minorities have been completely subjugated.

    Would you characterize the minorities today as being completely subjugated?

    One has to ask, why there is constitutional protection for Buddhism? If, as you say that, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims and not forbidden to do anything; then what will Buddhism loose if there isn’t any constitutional protection exists? Is there a fundamental weakness in Buddhism that is not seen in other religions?

    Again, the fact that Buddhism virtually disappeared in the land of its origin (India) fuels the need for a special status for Buddhism, which is an “endangered species” in the region. Without that special status, Buddhists will not view the state as legitimate.

    Buddhists believe that they are vulnerable because they see their belief system as more tolerant and open than others. Buddhism is probably the only religion that spread throughout Asia (and the world) nonviolently. As I mentioned before, Buddhist monks initially were open to Christian missionaries preaching in SL. It is only when these missionaries began to attack and attempt to supplant Buddhism that the monks became anti-Christian (and I would argue that this is where the xenophobic tendencies found today in the Sangha originated).

    I was living in Jaffna during the 1970s; there was no LTTE; the Tamils were as passive as one can be, but I witnessed atrocities committed by the police against the Tamils.

    Tamil militancy began in the 1970s (although I agree that the overwhelming bulk of Tamils were not involved in those years). Prabakaran murdered Alfred Duraiappah in 1975, blaming him wrongly for the accidental 9 deaths at the International Tamil Conference.

    Were there police atrocities prior to 1970s?

    So, you do not deny that Buddha statues are being planted in North & East; whether they were adversely affecting the non-Buddhists is the question, right?

    I don’t know whether Buddha statues are being planted. I’m more interested in Tamilnet explaining how they are adversely affecting the non-Buddhists.

    But the Issue is that, all Buddhists are Sinhalese;

    But not all Sinhalese are Buddhists- for example First Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse or the current chief of the military Roshan Gunatillake. Both Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapakse have espoused non-Buddhist beliefs by declaring their belief in a God.

    If you feel that the current system is oppressing non-Buddhists, then Sinhala Christians/Catholics should be natural allies for your cause.

    Whether, Japanese per capita income rose significantly as a result of working together as Japanese rather than a fragmented Japanese society based on religions!

    Ethnically/linguistically Japan is a homogenous country which is unfriendly to minorities. You correctly identified that the Japanese chose to unify around their common ethnicity rather than divisive religion. Implementing this in Sri Lanka would mean jettisoning Buddhism in favor of Sinhala (linguistic?) identity.

    Personally I would rather have Buddhism as protected rather than Sinhala because it would be less harmful to the minorities.

    In my view, Buddhism in Sri Lanka is strong, and it will survive come what may,

    You are entirely correct that Buddhism in Sri Lanka is strong. But that is because it is a protected religion. Without state patronage *historically*, Buddhism would have disappeared centuries ago.

    I disagree though that Buddhism will make Sri Lanka fail as a country. Could you explain this please?

  • Rahula

    Even in western countries, you have to state the religion on admission to hospital. This is because some religions have restrictions on some medical procedures and there have been instances where there has been lawsuits / threats of lawsuits due to not respecting them.

    A friend of mine was admitted to an European hospital and the lady was operated on emergency. But, she was unconcious and in the course of the operation she had lost a lot of blood. But the hospital hadn’t given her blood, and upon coming to conciousness, the doctor on duty came and said that she needs to be given a blood transfusion, but they couldn’t administer it since they hadn’t registered her religion on admission. The upsetting part here, is that they took the risk of not giving her blood, even though she had lost 1/3 of the blood volume. This is the significance of religion even in secular western countries.

    But, ofcourse, I see the point of Nalaka Gunawardene. Why the police needs to know the religion is really upsetting.

    I think they are reacting because they don’t understand the word ”Secular Humanism”. Really if somebody asked me to write down ”Secular Humanism” as a religion, then I’ll be confused to.

    Anyway what is the Sinhala word for ”Secular Humanism” ? Or did you tell a Sinhala villager who works in a hospital or the police, thoes hard to understand English words? I can only imagine their dismay and confusion if they had to write that down. 🙂

    I think you are mising up, generalisations and ethnic identities. For example: There are many ethnic Italian people who are Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims, but we still consider Italian people to be Christians. So being Sinhala will always be associated with Buddhism, while being Tamil will always be associated with Hinduism.

    As said, I do agree with some of your points, and I do see the main message in your post, namely that religion is a private affair, and the govt should respect that.

  • Observer

    groundviews, why can’t i post on this thread anymore?

    • Not sure – we can without any problem, across various browsers and operating systems. What’s the error message, if any, you get?

  • kumar pathsinghe

    Groundtruth said,
    February 28, 2010 @ 3:27 am
    The story is self-explanatory and is food for thought. What if the person concerned was a “Tamil Hindu”?

    In this case, no vaccine or treatment.

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