Heard of a Sinhala Buddhist ‘Khomeini’?

Photo courtesy ahfesl.free.fr

“Our future society will be a free society, and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.” – Ayatollah Khomeini (in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Paris, November 7, 1978)

A few days ago, I received an invitation to be in the audience at the unveiling of a set of policies by the “National Movement for Social Justice” (NMSJ) on 15 August, at the Colombo Public Library, auditorium. The invitation letter began saying, the foremost responsibility today is to work towards social justice, law and order, in a dutiful country. None would disagree. All should agree. Even President Mahinda Rajapaksa says, his government is doing just that.

Here is where the political confusion lies. What social forces would be brought around this “Movement” to back such promises ? The present Rajapaksa regime proves, extremist forces consisting of Sinhala Buddhist political elements and the Sinhala business and trader community that helped prop this government, do not allow such rule of law, social justice and democracy for all. During the past few years, during the war and post war years, this regime has basically numbed social structures that could take dissenting positions and established an authoritarian State, entrenching the Sinhala armed forces in civil life, in satisfying the Sinhala politics that back the regime. The all powerful Executive President has been given the Constitutional right to continue through any number of terms, provided he or she could nudge voters to do what he or she wishes. This whole process was justified by war based Sinhala sentiment and was backed by extremist forces in the regime, the remnant “Left” within the government also adding their two pennies worth, into it.

In such political background, the invitation for the unveiling of NMSJ policy was signed by Rev. Maduluwave Sobhitha Thera, one of present day Sri Lanka’s respected elder monks. Undoubtedly a very articulate monk, Sobhitha Thera, was dubbed the “Rebel voice of the Sinhala people” by South Indian media, early 1990. He was a hard line campaigner for war, even in year 2000. Heading the “National Sanga Sabaha”, he led a deputation of monks that met with the Indian High Commissioner on 28 April, 2000 to request assistance to wage war against “Tamil separatist, terrorists.” This was after calling the Chandrika government to place the country “on a war footing” immediately, giving priority to war. “Everything else is secondary. We must first have a nation before we can do anything.” the Rev. Thera told the media on 02nd May, explaining his call for a war footing.

When the war was being fought most brutally in 2008 and early 2009, when Buddhist monks were blessing “heroic” soldiers for their life and victory, Rev. Sobhitha had not changed positions on the war he stood for, all those previous years. His alliance with other religious leaders, as an “inter religious” leader, made him look a “moderate” who did not go the JHU way. He nevertheless retains his political identity as a Sinhala Buddhist leader, who could be trusted by the Sinhala Buddhist polity.

I do accept, any one has a right to learn, to change course and even oppose his or her previous position(s) on any issue(s). Rev. Maduluwave Sobhitha Thera too therefore can now change his position(s) and oppose the very position(s) he adopted then, which position(s) the present Rajapaksa regime still continues to uphold and cherish. The fundamental issue therefore is, has Sobhitha thera actually changed his positions, principally ?

Though critical of this regime’s post war performance, he certainly has not changed positions. If he had, then he would not be chosen to lead this group that calls themselves the NMSJ. He still is a leader with a “special” (which is politically Sinhala) appeal, for the South and Sinhala sentiments and one, who would not falter the loyalty the Sinhala Buddhist polity has in him.

Rev. Sobhitha’s parting with this regime comes with a duality. One, his conviction that this Rajapaksa regime had not adequately honoured the other “war hero”, former Commander of the army, Sarath Fonseka. He believes, Sarath Fonseka has a genuine claim for sharing all honours in winning the war against “Tamil separatist Tigers”. Two, his disappointment, this government has failed to provide the people with the benefits of winning the war. Like most Sinhala voices during war who promised everything good after winning the war, Rev. Sobhitha too expected a “neat and clean” Sinhala government after the war, that would accommodate the Tamils on its own “peace” terms, as Sarath Fonseka openly said in his interview with the Canadian journal “National Post” (September, 2008).  A government that is not corrupt, is democratic and fair, that would keep law and order in society, without “Tamils” in their political vocabulary.

Therefore, his shift against the Rajapaksa regime, is definitely not secular. He would not stand for a secular Constitution, that would revert the Status of Buddhism to that in the Soulburry Constitution. Rev. Sobhitha would also not speak about Tamil political aspirations in terms of power sharing, within a merged Northern and Eastern provinces. Its just a very broad “social justice, law and order, in a dutiful country” statement, as the 10 point policy draft annexed to the invitation reveals.

That said, the next question is, who would want such a “movement” to be led by a Buddhist monk in the calibre of Rev. Maduluwave Sobhitha Thera ? The backing seems to come from three different, frustrated groups, eager to gain political power as soon as possible. First group or perhaps the first “shared groups” are those who went along with Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 Presidential polls expecting him to win as a Sinhala Buddhist hero, now feeling, there is little purpose in pinning faith in one who has no political rights and could also be manipulated by the Rajapaksas to divide the “opposition vote bank”. The other is the disillusioned lot in the UNP “reformist/rebel” group, who now feel, they need a broad “Sinhala” campaigner to gain political power. For them, Ranil is not the leader on three counts. One, he is a proven failure, which is not very wrong. Two, he is now back in his liberal politics with the TNA, which is very good, but the so called “reformist/rebels” think that would not take them quick to power, in a Sinhala society. Three, he would never abolish the Executive Presidency if he ever gets there, which is almost right. Yet, this is a problem the Opposition is saddled with, the lack of a solid political leader with a charisma and a political vision together, that can not be substituted by Sinhala populism.

The third group that has no such issue of a charismatic leader for them is a small lot, that now feel they should move out of the Rajapaksa regime and save their “Left” face, by supporting a candidate who is NOT UNP, credibly “independent” and would actually abolish the executive “presidency”. For this “fly on a chariot wheel” lot, its just their latent conscience, more than the actual political need in defeating Rajapaksa, who is still good enough for them, as their “anti UNP” ally.

This new scouting for another Sinhala alternative within the Sinhala middle class, perhaps was sniffed early by both Rajapaksa and Wickramasinghe. Opposition MP Wijedasa Rajapaksa (UNP) MP’s, private member Bill to proscribe religious clergy from taking to open and direct politics, seems the result of the “nod” he got from both leaders. For Rajapaksa, its a nuisance to answer a challenge by a Sinhala Buddhist platform. For Wickramasinghe, its his political campaign that seems to be getting hijacked.

This platform that has borrowed almost all what Ranil W and the “Platform for Freedom” talks, except the issue of the 13th Amendment and power sharing, is seen as an attempt in deflating the UNP-TNA politics, with a broad, democratic platform. The draft 10 point policy statement therefore clearly highlights the abolishing of the Executive Presidency, now being argued as the “Father” of all illegitimate prodigy causing all ills.  Therefore the main argument is that the presidency has to be abolished and thereafter, the rest can be put in their right places. The NMSJ as a collective of Sinhala sentiment and redundant “Lefties”, led by a Buddhist cleric whose Sinhala bias is historically established, is thus a new possibility pursued in bringing an “independent” Sinhala candidate, who would if successful at the presidential hustings, abolish the Executive Presidency and move out, as the 10 point policy draft indicates.

This seem politically similar to the role that was played by Ayatollah Ruhollah Komeini in 1978. He led the ouster of Shah Mohommad Reza Pahlavi, on a platform that similarly spoke about cleaning up governance, removing terror in society and establishing democracy for all, that he said would only be possible with the ouster of Shah Reza Pahlavi as “King of Iran”. A similar slogan like the abolishing of the Executive Presidency, here. But he said, it is not for him to be the next Head of State, as claimed here, that the independent Common presidential candidate is only to abolish the presidency and step down.

“I don’t want to be the leader of the Islamic Republic; I don’t want to have the government or the power in my hands. I only guide the people in selecting the system.” Ayatollah Khomeini told an Austrian TV reporter, while in his exile in Paris in November 16, 1978, before he landed in Tehran in February 1979, jubilant crowds cheering him, for providing leadership in ousting Shah Reza Pahlavi. The Iranian uprising was backed by democratic political parties, personalities and groups who desisted Shah’s reign of terror. It was endorsed and supported by secular “Left” groups and workers’ organisations. BUT, it was without argument, an “Islamic Revolution” to establish an Islamic Republic with Ayatolla Khomeini as its undisputed, spiritual leader.

Removal of “Shah” as King of Iran was approved on a referendum in March 1979 with a 98% vote. Thereafter Khomeini’s supporters worked to suppress former allies. Newspapers with dissenting voices were closed and those protesting the closure of news papers were attacked. Opposition groups such as the National Democratic Front and Muslim People’s Republican Party were declared anti Islamic and banned. (The Reign of the Ayatollahs by Shaul Bakhash / p.68-9) Through popular support that was pure Islamic extremism, Khomeini gained an overwhelming majority of the seats of the “Assembly of Experts” which revised the proposed Constitution under Khomeini’s personal supervision, to include an Islamic jurist “Supreme Leader” of the country and a Council of Guardians to veto “non Islamic” legislation and screen candidates for office, with power to disqualify those found to be “un-Islamic”.

Under this new Constitution, that of course had removed the “King” – Shah of Iran – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became the first “Supreme Leader” as a “Grand Ayatollah” in December, 1979. Once in power, Ayatollah Khomeini was no more sympathetic to the cries of the secular left than the Shah had been to Khomeini’s cries for reform. Many who protested against his regime were killed, The rest is history and a history that is extremely autocratic, undisputedly repressive  and religiously fanatic.

This is precisely how, any promised pilgrimage to a “democratic land” would end up, with an ethno religious leader galvanising support on his or her credibility as a leader of popular ethnic or religious sentiment, often not taken seriously and as a looming fanatical danger.

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

“Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride. Many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control and the end of the world had come.”

  • http://www.hotmail.co.uk cyril

    I wonder whether this Movement for ‘Social Justice’ is based on the Sinhala-Buddhist principle of ‘May all beings be happy’ except the Tamils and the Muslims!

  • Minority

    I think the writer is confusing the ethnic and religous minorities with the hard core LTTE terrorist. The LTTE hijacked the Tamil Minority to believe that their salvation lay in armed insurrection leading to a seperate state called Eelam. Ultimately the LTTE was defeated and the Tamils left in the lurch.
    No sensible Sri Lankan would subscribe to the views of the LTTE nor contest the fact that they had to be defeated by military means. The LTTE never took the peace talks seriously and merely played for time. Hence the stand of the Ven Sobhitha at that time can be understood and does not mean that he was anti Tamil or anti Minority.
    In the present context when there are various extreme factions fanning the flames of religous extremism the position taken by the Ven Sobhitha thero is praiseworthy. It is advisable that the clergy of all religons take a common stand against religous extremism which is raising its ugly head in this country. It is their duty to guide their adherents. Comparing them to Ayatollahs is not helpful to the unity of this country.

  • Walter

    Sorry,
    Is this the Priest from Hunupitiya Temple called “Podi Hamaduruo”

    If so I have a story, sorry my recollection is fading age the cause.

  • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

    There’s a very simple reason why theocracy or a government heavily influenced by a religious institution can never deliver social justice. An essential part of social justice is liberty; more specifically, personal liberty. If we define it the way the classical liberals did, it is the freedom to do what one wants to do, without interference or impediment from others (other moral creatures, not animals or asteroids).

    Religions can never give this. All religions want to control the individual, in one way or the other.

    Khomeini, if he has any brain, must be meaning something far removed from personal liberty when he talks about freedom. Perhaps he talks about the freedom of his society from other societies – the freedom to circumcise and infibulate females, without getting attacked by human rights watchdogs.

    • Hela

      sharanga,

      For the benefit of the readers, appreciate if you could show us just ONE country/government which allows it’s citizens “the freedom to do what one wants to do, without interference or impediment from others”.

      This is just “liberal” propaganda or pure romanticism. The writer Kusal Perera sits in one extreme and call Ven. Thera an extremist without realising how extreme his views are.

      Sinhala Buddhist bashing doesn’t advance a dialogue/discussion anywhere. These guys don’t have the intellectual capacity to get out of the mud pit they have gone into. They can only sling mud from that mud pit to others.

      • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

        Hela,

        Obviously, there aren’t any ideal countries. But that doesn’t mean some countries are closer to the ideal than others.

        Basically, economically well off countries (mostly Western), are closer to the ideal than others. It makes sense. When you are economically well off, things like religion, controlling women, matter less. Besides they are directly descending from enlightenment.

        Bashing Sinhala Buddhism when it wants to decide what the government does actually helps things. If this country is going to get anywhere, it has to become a secular one.

    • ss

      @ sharanga
      ‘All religions want to control the individual, in one way or the other.’ sharanga, This is not true of Buddhism.[may be true of some other religions]. Buddhist teaching has shown the pathway to the Enlightenment and has given the full authority to the man to analyse, understand & accept it and lead his/her life accordingly, not to accept blindly.There is no control of any sort. if you do not know about Buddhist teaching properly please do not assume things.
      with Mettha- ss

      • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

        ss,

        What is the difference between saying,

        1. Don’t kill. God will punish you
        2. Hey, you don’t have to tell as I say, but if you kill, you will go to hell.

        In fact, if killing really gets you to hell, the guy who makes the first statement seems to have the moral high-ground. It would be morally irresponsible for you to let the guy kill and go to hell because you want to be a religious libertarian. So are you telling me that buddhists are morally irresponsible?

        End result of this anyway is that we don’t get to watch movies in cinema halls on poya days.

      • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

        It should be “you don’t have to do as I say”. Sorry

  • Firdous

    It is very clear Sri Lankan Politics is not framed yet in pluralistic philosophy that embraces diverse set of beliefs and cultures. Religiously and ethnically oriented political rhetoric is at the forefront than the political contribution of the same which promote racial divide within the country.

    I think we need platform to provoke, discuss and disseminate the contemporary politics of Sri Lanka based on the values we as citizens of Sri Lanka share in common.

    For example when it comes to ‘Executive President-ship’ we have to question the position based of religious values such as values derived from Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc… as well as other non-religious bases such as agnostic.

    This kind of move will pave the way toward a pluralistic future at least two or three generation later.

    • Hela

      I don’t think Kusal will have any problem if this “movement” is led by a Catholic priest. His problem is the convenor is a Buddhist monk. He also let the cat out of the bag by recognising the challenge this “movement” might pose on the global neo imperialist project sub-contracted to UNP/TNA alliance in Sri Lanka.

  • Kumar

    Only thing found in this article is, this writer is a fan of Ranil who I doubt would ever sit on his dream president’s chair; & to hide his fancy he takes readers round the mulberry tree.

  • Walter

    I am amazed at the views of Minority, Hela and Kumar.
    I am not literate enough nor researched into these statements, however it is only my first hand experience and understanding of events in this Paradise Isle since Independence which leads to my evaluations.
    Minority, whoever who takes the lead to attack religious extremism is welcome. Your sweeping statement about the LTTE hijacking the Tamils, that the LTTE was not for peace are only a semblance of truth.
    I am certainly not for killing anyone, at the same time I am not with the Majority who have hijacked the rights of the Minorities under whatever pretext.
    The LTTE understood that the Majority destroyed all the “pacts” that were signed. They knew that negotiations with this frivlous vacillating Majority was of no sincere purpose. But unfortunately like what happens to all dictators happened to the LTTE.
    Their objectives in theory was correct, but in the implementation they failed miserably, because it was a dictatorship.
    Hela is talking about the UNP/TNA etc and Catholic priests, sorry I cannot understand what he is driving at.
    Please say things that ordinary people like me can understand and respond.
    Kumar is talking about Ranil his dream and the UNP.
    Please do not blame Ranil (I AM NOT RANIL’S FAN)for the ills of the U.N.P.
    If you know how the U N P was gradually twisted from 1977 into a party to support the “personality cult” of Premadasa and Jayawardena you may not say what you are saying.
    You see there is a combination in all these machinations, take the MTV tv station, they are attacking Ranil all the way, they are supporting the young Premadasa all the way. This forum is too small to elucidate the reasons.
    IN MY VIEW THE U N P IS ALMOST GONE, THE FOUNDATION IT HAD IN 1948 WAS GRADUALLY POLLUTED BY PREMADASA AND JAYAWARDENA.
    NANDALAL FERNANDO AND HARSHA ABEYWARDENA WAS KILLED BECAUSE THEY ATTEMPTED TO KEEP THE u n p WITH THE EDUCATED. THAT IS HISTORY.
    RANIL INHERITED THIS MESSY PORRIDGE HE IS TRYING HARD TO KEEP THE OPPORTUNISTS AT BAY, GOD KNOWS IF HE WILL SUCCEED.

    • Hela

      Walter,

      I am an ordinary guy too.

      Though all these “intellectuals” think we ordinary guys are fools, we also possess some reasoning abilities through common sense that these pundits normally don’t have.

      There is no proof in this article to say ven. Sobhitha is a religious extremist (though the writer tries to project as such). There is a project currently underway through an alliance between Ranil W’s UNP (there is another UNP too) and TNA to change the existing regime and install one or two regimes (one in North & another in the South) to protect Western imperialist interests in the Indian Ocean rim. Their overseas alliance partners work day and night to set a codusive international scene for this purpose.

      The writer Kusal Perera appears to have been alarmed at the possibility of the emergence of a more nationalistic third force that would derail the above project (by further eroding UNP vote bank). Hence his attempt at a pre-emptive strike (like those free world/US drones in Afganistan).

  • Citizen

    Walter

    I agree that the problems that lead to the formation of the LTTE and their taking to arms was a creation of the majority politicians of this country. That is history.

    There is no country and no govt in the world that will sit back and allow armed secession. Initially VP had the backing of India and he took to arms. He thought that he could win. But he made the mistake of killing innocent people. After 9/11 the global situation changed and the LTTE brand of terror lost the support of the Intenational Community. Ultimately this lead to his downfall.

    This article is not about the LTTE. It is about Ven Sobitha Thero whom I consider a moderate and balanced cleric. You can hear his views regarding the 83 killings of Tamils and decide for yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rugay1VjjXg

    • Amaranth

      Whats this video for, pls ? Now no one can justify 83 July riots. If Cyril Mathew was here, even he would condemn, as if he had nothing to do.
      Talk to Dr. Amarasinghe, Gomin, SLG, even Champika will not support 83 July riots now.
      Condemning 83 July is no qualification to say he is not racist.
      Amaranth

      • Citizen

        Off course by conjecture we could say that even Hitler would say that it was not a good thing to kill the jews or even VP and crowd would say all those bombings and killings were not justfiable.

        No one wears a sign board saying that he is a racist or communalist but by the consistency of his actions and speech we could come to a conclusion as to what his real motives are. Though not a Sinhalese or Buddhist I have listened and read the talks given by Ven Sobhitha and I am satisfied that he is consistent, his thinking is moderate and sincere and are in line with the teachings of Buddhism.

        I am troubled that even a moderate prelate of his standing, well respected in his community, is being attacked for some inconceivable reason. He could easily remain silent and engage in his own religous practice, but when he speaks on behalf of others, there is a host of critics. Most people simply criticise others but have done nothing to solve the problems facing this country. I do not personally know the Ven Thero but I believe it is my duty to support people of moderate and balanced views of whatever race or religon.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Kusal is a shrewd observer of the Sinhala scene. An interesting commentary.

  • DPD Wijesinghe

    thank you for posting the video showing Rev Sobitha thero’s speech.

  • vas

    Extremism that the article and the comments attribute to the sinhala buddhist is a red herring to hide the discrimination that goes on against the Sinhala buddhists. The sinhalese are ethnically cleansed from every economic centre enlightens that under this propaganda what is happening is the pauperisation of the sinhala buddhists. Corruption that is the highlight of the present governing system which borrows under the name of the majority and gives it to a minority to exploit the corrupt system that is the cause of this evil system. Demand for social justice is a rightful demand not only for the sinhala buddhists but also the poor in among the minorities. This unnecessary bashing of the Sinhala buddhists must stop as it is immoral.

  • vas

    The cry for the moment should be justice and good governance. bashing Sinhala buddhists only creates division and sectarianism. This kind of false propaganda only gives ammunition to the Indians and the west to further destabilise the country. The people have suffered enough for the last 30 years and the comments do this nature does not serve any purpose as it only undermines the rights of every community.

    • John

      Problem is these opposition politicians & their servants /writers have nothing to offer to the public,other than rubbish.
      For example after selling half of the country to LTTE on a bogus “Peace Document” & just one year later at Parliamentary elections , UNP Govt. & PM Ranil, were kicked out of power by people & those Norway peace brokers too lost their “Peace Industry” in Sri Lanka (& perhaps some intended profits as well).
      Now after the war ended in victory for Sri Lanka & rehabilitation & development work being carried out in N&E , present govt. being re-elected with 2/3 rd majority for the first time under PR system, & UNP with no any sign of any future UNP govt. in the horizon for next 15 to 20 years, coupled with on going internal battles in opposition parties , & unable to offer any alternate program to public, these UNP support staff people with absolutely nothing to lose , are ready to do any dirty job like attacking religions, religious leaders, arousing hatred among different racial groups etc to see any chances to make a headway, So can we expect anything more than this from these heartbroken bankrupt guys ?

  • Ravana

    Hmmm,
    Interesting article and perspective by the author. Even, as I do, he is opposing religion (though not globally as I do) particularly in politics, he is also making a pr-emptive strike, assuming that Sobitha Thero would be a fanatic akin to Khomeini.

    Even more interesting is Dr. DJ’s comment (hik hik hik).

    Before I extrapolate on my comment I would like to make another observation. Dr. DJ’s generation has an indelible memory of those early months of Khomeini’s power, when alleged “Students” stormed the US embassy and held hostages. The humiliation of the World’s Greatest Power was embarrassing to say the least.
    This has to be seen as a context for what is happening right now in London when the British Police are threatening to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy to abduct (they would say arrest) the hero of the “free” World, Julian Asange. At least, Khomeini had the sense not to send officials to storm the US embassy. Such an action would be unprecedented and would result in the beginning of the breakdown of “World Order” as we have become accustomed to.

    So, let me now remind the author and the readership of a brief history of Iran in a couple of sentences. In the mid 1950’s, the new Iranian leader who was overwhelmingly popular was making moves to make the country independent of the oil merchants of the west. Voila! The CIA spends $10 000 per day to undermine his popularity and created riots through paid servants which resulted not only in the ousting of a popular leader (actually when the General concerned went to arrest him, it initially failed). The Shah was appointed during this “revolution” and from then he colluded with the CIA to wreak terror on the independent dessert dwellers by resorting to tactics such as poisoning drinking wells so that they could be tamed and be made into “Burghers” (city dwellers). Now the oil wealth belonged to the US. Unfortunately they had not banked on the degree of resentment of not only the highly educated sector of Iran (including large numbers of women) but the less educated who were vulnerable to manipulation by religious fanatics. The rest is history.

    Now let us come forward to modern day Sri Lanka and look the situation. We have Sinhala “Buddhist” population which is highly literate. We have the Internet. Two contrasts against the Iranian population of 1960’s and 70’s. Furthermore, there had been decades of racist foment from members of all ethnic groups within Sri Lanka. Yet the Sinhala Buddhists are unique in voting resoundingly against the racist party JHU (I can understand the two large minority communities looking to political clout in something they can trust, but I cannot excuse the overwhelmingly greedy manner in which they have voted to protect their privileges). Furthermore, from this Sinhala South has emerged a secular revolutionary force called the JVP which whilst seeking a common ground with Tamil revolutionaries eschewed the racist politics of the Tamil leadership and the LTTE in particular.

    It is in the above context that we have to analyse the role of Sobitha Thero. Firstly, whether it is he or the JVP as well as overwhelming majority of “Sinhala Buddhists” were for the defeat of LTTE. Some may have wanted that for racist/sectarian reasons. But there is no evidence that the JVP or Sobitha were of that mind. For me the overwhelming reason was to liberate the families of the north who were under the jackboot of the LTTE. What the Sobitha thero had said subsequently vindicates such a position. Further, the attitude of the Sinhala South towards racist or sectarian politics should indicate that they would not support such a position even if Sobitha Thero was to make a back flip. The pre-emptive nature of Kusal Perera’s article needs to be seen also in the context of the pre-emptive strikes that such “liberals” took against Sarath Fonseka when he opposed Rajapakse. The litany then was that he would create a military regime. Well, his subsequent actions have certainly vindicated him and (civil rights or not) , he has not lost the status as “Julian Asange” of Sri Lanka. I also recall, the likes of Dr. DJ writing rather cynically about Fonseka at the time.

    Despite what the likes of Dr. DJ may hope, the Sinhala South has generally remained curiously constrained (by and large- bunch of religious lout waving flags and shouting does not constitute the majority) with all the jingoism of the Rajapaksa led Cabal. Furthermore there is an efficient network of information spread among the sinhala south with or without the Internet.

    Add to this the fact that the US and UK have been caught with their pants down by the Asange phenomenon, in that they have clearly demonstrated that they are no different to the Rajapakse regime, the choices for the Sinhala South are very clear. Especially when the Tamil elite who had led the LTTE in the past are now back in their favourite activity-racist diatribe.

    In short, the “Kaduwa” was broken in Sri Lanka back in 1956, an year after the sovereignty of Iranian people were taken away. Several generations of Sinhala Modayas have grown up learning how to educate themselves whether in their own language or with the “Kaduwa”.

    We are now ready. We are not the enemies of India (our brothers- excuse the gender use- it’s a figure of speech); we are not the enemies of China (our cousins); we are not the enemies of the US (our friends). But we don’t take kindly to being sodomised. We will bite back as well as we can.

    Just because Sobitha is a religious leader do not mistake him for a religious fanatic. Sobitha and Sarath are products of a long tradition of liberating forces within the island. So-called Buddhism or rather Dhamma as practised by the theras (the ones who understood- the enlightened ones) was the first movement of liberation (both personal and political) in the World and later taken on by Jesus and Muhammad. Each of these attempts were sabotaged whether by the Mahayansists/Brahmins, Roman Imperialist (later calling themselves the Pope) or by Muhammad himself.

    The history of the World has been that any liberating force has always been snuffed out by those who seek power. That does not mean that we will ever stop trying. Expect us!

    • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

      Sobhitha thero may not be as fundamentalist as JHU people, but he’s against distributing condoms to prostitutes.

      And I don’t think people didn’t vote JHU because they were racist. JHU has never been anything but a racist party, even when they won 9 seats. Rather, the middle class racists, who believe themselves to not be racist, simply were disappointed because they had high hopes for JHU, which promised a Dharma Rajya, and the JHU failed to deliver.

      • Ravana

        That’s a bit surprising! I fail to understand why a Buddhist monk would even have an opinion on condoms. If it was a catholic priest I could understand.

      • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

        Ravana, if you find it surprising, you need to reconsider the model with which you understand Buddhism, and religion in general.

        For one, if you are Buddhist, encouraging someone to committ a sin is also a sin. Giving prostitutes condoms would be encouraging prostitution, which is a sin. Religious morality is deontological, as opposed to consequentialist. Never mind that not giving prostitutes condoms will cause those women to die, cause unwanted children to die, or if those children are born, forever be outcasts. As long as illicit sex is bad, it’s bad.

        A non-believer has to get his morals from carefully reasoned moral philosophy. But no matter how carefully reasoned that philosophy is, there is reason to doubt it. For a religious person, his morals are 100% right, and he has no doubts about it. So if you begin from the premise that your morals are absolutely right, it is going to be very hard to find a good reason to not impose your morality on others. To not prevent someone from having illicit sex, when you are certain would result in bad consequences to that person, would be morally irresponsible.

  • Happy Heathen

    The problem with this article is its selected criticism.

    If Kusal wanted to promote secularism, the first step would be to ridicule ALL RELIGIONS.
    His selected hypocrisy reeks of ulterior motives which in return crystallise the Buddhist Fundamentalism.

    Kusal, try writing something about the followers of Mahound and see where you end up in!!!!!

    • Gamarala

      Happy Heathen,

      I think you’ll find that the content of the article deals with something other than a critique of religion. You might benefit by reading it in its entirety.

      A good article Kusal. A dire warning of what to expect should said events come to pass. Although one might initially hope that Buddhism, given its overtly passive nature, is less easily misappropriated towards violent ends than Islam, I think events in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are sufficient evidence that religious ideologies are best kept separate from the state.

      • Happy Heathen

        Gamarala
        August 17, 2012 • 8:59 am

        I agree with your second paragraph, but Kusal is not talking about separation of church from state but a personal vendetta against Sobitha.

        Has Kusal written anything on other religious fanatics in Sri Lanka?
        (unless he has, he is just having a go at Sinhala Buddhism for the sake of it)
        In fact it is the religious minority who is against gender rights (abortion, contraception), animal rights (banning ritual animal sacrifice) and gay rights.

  • Sri Lankan Californian

    Ven. Sobitha sounds great: “Ekama jathiyak goda ney-gi-mey adhis-tana-yai” – rough translation: “the vision is to advance a just society…”. Perhaps the good venerable can walk his talk (bana) by organizing a national effort to remove the special place given to Buddhism on the 1972 Republican Constitution. Now, would’nt that be an excellent start point for him to prove his high-ground talk about justice for all?

    Dream on – this is nothing more than another different flavor of the same drink, Sinhala Buddhist supremism. Under the present circumstances, it would take at least 2 generations for a true Sinhala Buddhist statesman to emerge; the large majority is still living in the dark ages consumed by narrow communal beliefs; the nation is far away from adopting just and secular values, and accordingly they will remain captives (maids, laborers, and drivers) of their values. The author is mostly correct in his assessment.

    • Ravana

      Californian,

      Your expectations are noble but not necessarily practical in the immediate future any more than union of the eastern and northern provinces are.

      Whilst complete separation of state and religion is an ideal, it is really not evident in most nations except China or perhaps Russia, both having suppressed religion under communist manifesto.

      I would be surprised if you did not know that the American president swears an oath to a (Christian) God and that the head of the British State and Church of England is the same. The same head of state heads Australia and NZ. The Norwegian head of state must of necessity be a Lutheran. The list just goes on.

      In the context of recent actions of the powerful Christian states of the World, who have now shed their pants, it is petty to choose the one insignificant thorn in the side Sri Lankan constitution as an issue right now. It must be kept in mind that Sri Lanka was perhaps the first nation in the World to have developed the tradition of a close relationship between the state and a religious head. The Buddhist monks who were accustomed to such status were hardly going to give it up that easily.

      Apart from evident Buddhist hegemony over the island based on tradition, I also see an oppressive use of money by the Christian religion in particular to engage converts which should also be opposed. If I had my way I would completely remove all privileges from any religion. This includes tax benefits. In fact, like cigarettes which cause cancer, the cancer of religion should be taxed more heavily than other organisations. Proven secular charities such as the Lions or the Rotary would be exceptions. If and when Buddhism and its special place is removed in Sri Lanka, then I would definitely advocate heavy penalties for all religious bodies.

      Perhaps you should put that in your (peace) pipe and smoke it first. For me, I see in Sobitha thero an aspect of an important grass root movement which is multi-faceted and will become a Tsunami in time. The mainstream SLFP will not be part of it. The UNP led by Ranil Wickramasinghe certainly would not be part of it. It is time for these systemic agents of Empire to be placed in the dustbin of history.

      Attempting to shoot a messenger like Sobitha (who is but one of many) with words will not work. Like Dulip DiChikera (and unlike Ryuppu Joseph) , Sobitha speaks for patriotic action for the benefit of all Sri Lankans, but he is willing to actually act on it. It is in the tradition of Buddhism and Christianity (nothing but Buddhism in another name) to be forthright and fearless in commentary on political matters. Islam is the same. Hinduism does not go that path because it is the true religion of the established order and never needed to (or will) speak for the oppressed. So, when a religious leader speaks for justice we should not be prepared to shoot him straight away. Only shoot him when he speaks for enslavement of people as Ryuppu did in his attempt to subvert the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, something he is even attempting today in a not so surreptitious manner. Some may argue that Joseph was speaking on behalf of the oppressed, “his people”. No, my friends, like the Pope of the WWII, he was not speaking for any people who were persecuted, he was merely the front for the malevolent force of the LTTE. Besides, even if we give him the benefit of that doubt, speaking on behalf of a separate “Tamil” region will only be disastrous for the sovereignty of all Sri Lankan people. Recent events in the World should make this clear. I understand that living where you are, you would have less liberty than Julian Asange to express any ideas which are too libertarian.

      • Sri Lankan Californian

        As long as our leaders remain naysayers (like Ravana) – i.e. “no can do”, “the time is not right”, “not practical”, “later”, blah, blah, the Sri Lankan nation will remain stuck exactly where it has been for the last 65 years, in mud, unable to move.

        If the destructive constitutional clause about Buddhism ‘got in’, then it certainly can ‘get out’ – it is that simple. All what it would take are conviction, will and courage for a powerful Statesman (preferably a Sinhala Buddhist) to drive it forward. Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher or other – such men or women do no exist on the island. Yet, that is exactly what it would take – a charismatic Statesman (or woman) – to get this nation move in a healthy direction.

    • http://www.kusalperera.blogspot.com Amaranth

      Dear SriLanka California,
      “Ekama jathiyak goda ney-gi-mey adhis-tana-yai” – rough translation: “the vision is to advance a just society…”.
      Even the very very rough translation this is WRONG!
      “Ekama jathiyak” is plainly “ONE Single Nation”. SO, Sobhitha hamuduruwo’s “adhis-tana-ya” is to build just single nation. Where is Tamil and Muslim in one nation?
      That shows what Sinhala politics he is playing.
      Amaranth

  • sinhala_voice

    Kusal Perera can you answer this questions please: >>>>>
    ——————————————————

    When you say Sri Lanka is not SECULAR (1) do you mean that it is BECAUSE we have the clause that under article 2 I believe that Buddhism shall be given the foremost place…….”

    Well Can you name just a few things that Sinhala, Buddhists got from this article 2 of the constitution which was introduced in 1978 (I believe..)

    The secular nature or non-secular does not apply to Buddhism as Buddhism is NOT a religion it is a way of living and of mental culture……WE DON’T HAVE A BUDDHIST LEADER OF THE WORLD…OR for that matter even for Sri Lanka….WHO IS THE SUPREME BUDDHIST LEADER IN SRI LANKA…IS THERE A PERSON LIKE THAT IN SRI LANKA ???????

    EVERY state function in Sri Lanka has ALL religions represented. SO WHERE IS THE FOREMOST PLACE FOR BUDDHISM….ALL RELIGIONS ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS TO THOSE THAT WISH TO STUDY IT……

    THE STATE DOES NOT FORCE ONE TO STUDY BUDDHISM ????? DOES IT …

    CONCEPT OF SECULARISM EMERGED WHEN CHURCH TRIED TO GET INTO THE DOMAIN OF GOVERNANCE WHICH WAS THE DOMAIN OF KINGS/ AND PARLIAMENTS….

    THAT IS WHY YOU HAVE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND PARLIAMENT…

  • Mevan

    It is ridiculous to equate Ven Sobitha thera to Ayatollah Khomeini since the latter was a religious fanatic. Looks like this is just a typical Journalist’s trick to make it a “story”.

  • Walter

    Vas
    I agree that the bashing of the Sinhala Buddhist and that terminology should never have been created.
    But Vas, how did this happen? and who is responsible?
    You see the term Sinhala Buddhist’s shot into prominence by declaring Sinhala to be given pride of place in the amended Constitution.
    They also gave Buddhism the pride of place by amending the Constitution.
    That is how this cynosure to Sinhala Buddhist’s came into limelight.

    Before 1948 I have never heard the term “Sinhala Buddhist”
    Just before 1948 and immediately after, blames if any, went to Politicians either by name or Party.
    People of all denominations were members of the few parties we had.
    Look, what has happened today?
    We have nearly 65 registered Political parties, about 55 of them are Sinhala Parties, not Sinhala Christians. We have so many Tamil and Muslim Parties too.
    The Sinhala Politicians who happened to be Buddhist’s are keeping the Sinhala Buddhist logo and terminology high in the air for their advantage. Really the majority of the Sinhala Buddhist’s don’t even notice it, they have more important worries.
    It is safe to conclude that the Sinhala Folk and the Buddhist’s have allowed the Politicians to highjack their language and religion and fling it about for their own survival.
    Thereby the term “Sinhala Buddhist” has been drawn into this melee.
    Tell me why would any Government servant run to Kandy to get blessings and that too to be shown to the Public.
    Why would the High Priest’s in Kandy want to give public blessings in front of a TV crew, whether it be Pillaiyan, or a Policeman.
    Getting blessings is a matter of private conscience, not a performance of public duty.
    You see, all these assorted actions have culminated into blaming the Sinhala Buddhist’s for all the ills of this Country.
    The Sinhala Buddhist’s have abdicated their responsibility and status and have allowed these opportunistic Politicians and bureacrats to steal their Language and Religion.

    • Navin

      Before 1948 I have never heard the term “Sinhala Buddhist”

      —–

      Ah! and you think you should never have had to hear it.

      You see Walter, that’s where the problem is. Enough said.