Featured image courtesy AFP

The current wave of Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism, and attempts to establish a ‘Sinhala-Buddhist Raj’ in Sri Lanka, if left unchecked will eventually lead to fragmentation of Sri Lanka into separate states of minorities. It may not happen in the immediate future, but it’s a reality staring us in the face.

With the military defeat of the LTTE in 2009 Lankans as a people, were hardly afforded the chance to breathe a sigh of relief, before Sinhala-Buddhist extremists, in the form of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Sinhala Ravaya (SR) and Ravana Balaya (RB) emerged, waving the flag of Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism, in the faces of the others.

Instead of nipping this sociological scourge in the bud, the then political administration gave succour to it. The endgame was to be, to juxtapose the majority Buddhists and the minority communities of this land, and classify the latter, as inferior. This caused and continues to cause, irreparable damage to the process of peace and reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka.

The well-orchestrated Aluthgama riots by these extremists against Muslims in June 2014 bore, all the hallmarks of the dark days of the July 1983 riots targeting Tamils, but, on a smaller scale. In both instances, the law enforcement authorities looked on, while the carnage took places under their very noses. Why?

With the change of political regimes in January 2015, many of us heaved a sigh of relief for different reasons. The minorities I’m sure did so, hoping for a final peace, under a more inclusive administration.

For a while, the saffron robed brigades like the BBS it seemed, had been reined in and silenced. But then, along came a new saffron robed player into the game, a clone of Gnanasara and his BBS; Yakkalamulle Pawara and his Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa, claiming to “safeguard the identity of the Sinhala people, and to regenerate the supremacy and pride of the Sinhala people”.

The lower-middle class Sinhala-Buddhist is a vulnerable customer, in the marketplace of such supremacist politics today. This, underprivileged class of people who are alas in the majority, while struggling to make ends meet, amidst the spiraling cost of living, become easily convincible victims, of the saffron robed, fanning patriotic and supremacist fantasies, in their faces.

To excite these gullible, fantastic tales contained in the Mahavamsa, and the superiority of a 2500 year-old culture, the remnants of which today, stand as archeological ruins and edifices, (much like the morals of the heirs to this ‘culture’), are upheld as the iconic achievements of the ultimate human race- the Sinhala-Buddhists. How this supreme race has failed in recent times, to live up to this lofty ‘culture’ is never spoken of.

Hosannas on Sri Lanka’s 2500-year old culture, has been one man’s meat and another man’s poison, since independence. Whenever a Sinhalese with an inferiority complex coupled with a racist mindset finds himself stumped, this much hackneyed theme of a 2500-year old culture, and what our great kings of yore achieved, are brought to play. But, no reference is made to what the Sinhalese have achieved and contributed to perpetuate this grandiose culture since independence.

While the early generations of this ‘lion-blooded race’, didn’t need foreign aid and assistance to build what they did, today, their decedents are unable to construct even a road, without crying out for foreign help.

Talk about empty vessels making the most noise!

I recall, as an impressionable teenager, when Sri Lanka’s first Executive President J.R. Jayawardene, made his first state visit to the USA, during Ronald Reagan’s tenure as President. In his televised address on the South Lawn of the White House, JRJ casting aside his noblesse oblige, referred to the United States as “a country with ‘only’ a 200-year old history, while Sri Lanka’s was over 2500 years old”!

This ‘casual’ or ‘calculated’ remark, (with JRJ one never knew) has remained with me to date. To me even as a child, this totally unsavoury remark, reeked of an acute inferiority complex, and I couldn’t help but feel, utterly embarrassed on his behalf. Was he, as the leader of a tiny drop in the Indian Ocean, which most Americans would not have known existed, trying to feel superior, in this superpower?

For most of us Sri Lankans, we have heard this old-hat too often, and therefore, holds no water. But to a foreigner hearing these words, “Sri Lanka’s 2500-year old culture” and seeing for themselves, how this great culture has shaped this country’s fortunes/misfortunes, it must be truly mindboggling!

Perhaps the moral lows we have sunk to, as a people of this ‘cultured land’, will not be so stark, if the trumpets of its glorious past, are not blown so loud!

What are those today, crowing about this glorious and ancient culture trying to prove, when the very heirs to this ‘culture’ stand has beacons of miserable failure, in upholding the morals and ideals of such?

Or to them, does ‘culture’ mean mere, archaeological ruins and edifices only?

  • Speedo

    Reading the article I quote “safeguard the identity of the Sinhalese people, and to regenerate the supremacy and pride of the Sinhalese people”.

    Have they lost the identity? Or is it more of an acute case of an inferiority complex which has led to a CD or Cassette blasting morning and evening where ever there is a bo tree along the streets of Colombo. Quote ‘Sri Lanka’s 2500-year old culture”- Is the Sigiriya fresco depicting bare-breasted women a Sinhalese culture. If so why not be bare-breasted. We are tired of hearing of the 2500 year old culture and living in the past.

    Is sending the Sinhalese women to the Arab/Middle East as slaves as well as sex slaves (quote “one man’s meat”) a culture? Quote “But, no reference is made to what the Sinhalese have achieved” – yes we have achieved by going to the IMF, World Bank and other countries with the begging bowl just as the priests. Quote ‘lion-blooded race” my foot. Sri Lanka never did have a lion roaming in the wilds other than a leopard. How come the lion in the flag – Are the Sinhalese blood thirsty animals or is it inferiority complex Come to think of it no other country has an animal in the national flag. Now the question is do I respect the national flag with all the [BBS] going on. Talking of blood – when it comes to a blood transfusion at a hospital do the Sinhalese check whether it is Muslim, Christian or Tamil/Hindu blood. Stop harping on the boring 2500 year old history and culture and compare it to the USA which is only 200 years old JRJ’s unsavoury remark is uncalled for as a dignitary as one does not insult one’s host. On facebook I came across two videos insulting the present President in the filthiest language by a Sinhalese woman and a man which I as a Sri Lankan (mind you Sri Lankan and not race, caste or religion) or any right thinking individual would not be able to comprehend. I suppose this is part of the 2500 year old culture and I see it on the roads. Whither Sri Lanka

  • carl

    Well said Sharmini, at last someone who has the guts to say it as it is. As long as other racists don t try to jump on the band wagen to support you with ulterior motives

  • puniselva

    Sharmini
    Ive been admiring your candid writing for years.

    Now…., before it’s too late……., how about starting to persuade the wobbly Buddhists to learn from REAL Buddhists:

    1.Buddhist Perspectives on Ecocrisis, http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh346.pdf

    2. The Buddhist Perception of Nature: Implications for Forest Conservation in Thailand, http://trumpeter.athabascau.ca/index.php/trumpet/article/view/445/733

    3.Nancy Le Nash(1938-2014), American journalist Environmental Education consultant, was responsible for initiating, financing and running the project entitled ‘The Buddhist Perception of Nature – A New Perspective for Conservation Education.’ This project developed a new perspective for conservation education by using traditional Buddhist teachings to strengthen attitudes toward the protection of the environment, and to raise public awareness. Her work inspired similar projects aimed at probing the environmental ethics of religious and native communities throughout the world. For initiating this globally significant project, Nancy Nash received the prestigious Rolex Award for Enterprise in 1987.

    4. Save our future generations from a tsunami of man-made(actually by their parents and grandparents) disasters: Sri Lankan Buddhists to apply Buddhist Perception of Nature to deal with disregulated sandmining and rockmining:
    Environment Circular 02/2015 issued(far too late?) on 29.09.2015 by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment.

  • Piranha

    Isn’t it laughable that even after the elimination of the perceived threat from the tamils to the sinhala race after a thirty year war the sinhala masses are being misled by a bunch of defeated politicians and their saffron robed thug enforcers to cook up a non-existent threat to the sinhala race.

    This racist campaign has two aims:

    1. to thwart the UN and West imposed investigation to identify and punish the war criminals of the previous regime and the military
    2. to bring back into power a sinhala racist and nationalist government to deny the minorities their due rights.

    If the Sirisena/Wickremasinghe government doesn’t take the threat from these lethal forces seriously there is every likelihood of the minorities, more importantly the muslims, taking up arms again to defend themselves. The country cannot afford another generation destroying war and therefore taking very stern action to crush these sinhala racist vermin must be a priority for the government. The arrest of Gnanasara was a first step but more needs to be done to eliminate the Rajapaksa family and their cronies from the political scene.

    • puniselva

      That means the whole Buddhist clergy and all Sinhala parliamentarians need to tell Sinhala masses that ALL citizens must be treated equally and fairly and that it is only too consistent with Buddhism(as is with all religions) and the UN of which Sri Lanka is a member. The need rises faster and higher as the planet gets more populated, more polluted and less resourced. It is a lot of work that must be done. As it is very much related to corruption and political patronage the work involves tackling the important factors closely related to each other.

  • puniselva

    We shouldn’t forget about the post-independence culture of politicians lying through their teeth condemning the citizenry to ignorance, eg the latest: former Minister G.L.Pieris tells people it’s violating the constitution to implement UN resolution.
    It’s one thing to say we are against the resolution but what the former Minister says is an utter lie – our constitution( a section of Article 27) says it respects international law and agreements. Sri Lanka is a member of the UN and hence must meet its unternational obligations!
    It’s unethical and immoral to disinform and misinform citizens.

  • puniselva

    Sharmini
    The childdren’s faces say that we urgently need to raise the minimum age of ordination to 18: https://twitter.com/vikalpavoices/status/695946383023587329

    ALL mothers(I am one) have a duty to give these children their voices.

  • Jayalath

    Dear, people .
    I am not here to unveil what would people deceive ,but I am here to respectfully respond my view regarding to honourable Sharmini ‘s ideas on her article . so , I hope , it is no matter what my idea would like and there should I have a fair room for my view on this site . Because her criticism totally accumulate on the basis of derision for our respectable clergies and nation . Therefore , I have right to point out her what is the respectable Buddhists institutions authentically revealed in the country after very carefully observed the the foundation caused the true clashes in Aluthgama .
    Herein , I understood within her narrative that she had attempted to derogate bitterly part of our clergies on the unfortunate incident that occurred ,thus , I was luck to remain to have a copy of letter with me that published by respectable Buddhists institutions soon after the incident took place .
    It is here as follows .which will support you to calm down a little and rethink of what dramas could possibly happen around us by burying the truth in the beneath of grounds .

    Aluthgama true incident .
    23 Sinhala Buddhist organizations reveal the ‘truth’ about clashes in Aluthgama

    0 July 9, 2014 2:00 am

    Twenty three Buddhist organizations have issued a joint statement, which they claim to be the true story behind the Aluthgama clashes. They also expressed disappointment over the manner in which the media reported the incident saying it was evident that a media censorship imposed by the authorities prevented the media from reporting the truth.

    The organizations are:All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, Colombo Young Men’s Buddhist Association, Government Service Buddhist Association, Colombo Parama Vinnartha Buddhist Association, Victory Association. Organization of United Buddhist Associations, Dharma Vijaya Foundation, National Bhikku Conference, Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Rawaya National Association, Sinhala Veera Vidana, National Association of Eminent Persons, Buddhist Power Circle, Hela Bodu Saviya, Patriotic Teacher’s Association. Swarna Hansa Padanama, Hela Deya Wadanno, Rawana Saviya National Association, Hela Yugaya National Organization, Hela Vijaya National Movement, National Movement for Protection of Historical Sites, Shanthi Padanama and Sri Lanka Maha Bodi Padanama.

    The Statement reads: The truth is as follows; on last Poson Poya day (12.06.2014) Rev. Ayagama Samitha Thera of Pathirajagoda, Kurunduwatta, Sri Vijayaramaya was obstructed by a group of Muslim youths while he was on his way to attend a Banadeshanawa at Pathirajagoda Sri Vivekaramaya. When the vehicle Rev. Samitha thera was travelling in was obstructed it gave rise to an argument which soon led to a conflict between the parties involved. The authorities acting shamelessly and arbitrarily clamped down a media censorship thereby opening the door for unscrupulous and mischievous anti-Sinhala Buddhist elements to make wildly exaggerated false accusations thus damaging the country’s reputation as a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society.

    Vested interests who were waiting with multitudes of false and harmful propaganda acted with a vengeance to denigrate the reputation of the Buddhist religious tolerance and Sinhalese cultural values of the country. When news censorship was imposed truth became its victim and false propaganda ruled the roost, unhindered. Under such a reprehensible situation, created by Information Department – imposed news censorship, Sinhala Buddhists were condemned for the whole world to see as religious bigots who were against other religions, such as Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. We were greatly pained by these developments and register our extreme condemnation of premeditated action by the authorities which could harm the country’s image internationally.

    1. What happened on that day as mentioned earlier was obstruction of the road preventing Rev. Ayagama Samithathera from attending to a Dharma Deshana by some Muslim youths leading to an altercation.

    2. Some Muslim youths then assaulted Rev. Ayagama Samitha Thera and it was immediately reported to Aluthgama Police. Unfortunately Police did not take immediate action to inquire into the incident and diffuse the situation. At this juncture Rev. Samitha Thera has told police that if the unruly youth asked for a pardon, he was prepared to accept it and drop the matter. However police displayed a lukewarm attitude towards the developing situation and as nothing more could be expected from police, Rev. Samitha Thera was hospitalized for medical treatment. Because of the lethargic turn of wheels of law people who had gathered there grew exited and restless. Rumours also started getting wings.

    3. To protest against police inaction and also to accompany Ven. Samitha Thera to his temple in a procession, a meeting was organized by Aluthgama-Beruwela Sasanarakshaka Balamandaya on the following day, Sunday 15.06.2014, in Aluthgama. Bodu Bala Sena or Ravana Balaya had no hand in this matter. All prominent Buddhist clergy and organizations were also invited to the meeting which was to be held in Aluthgama not in Dharga Town or Pathirajagoda in view there being a possibility that some untoward thing could happen. Necessary police approval had also been obtained in advance.

    In the prevailing situation in Aluthgama at that time it was only natural to expect some emotionally-charged speeches to be delivered at the meeting; which it did. Most speakers blamed police for their failure to take appropriate timely action and the many problems Sinhala Buddhists in the area have to face. And also many speakers criticized Muslim politicians who were trying to score an undue political advantage from the unfortunate situation which occurred there. Speakers roundly condemned them for spreading canards locally and internationally. None of the speakers made any rabble-rousing speech encouraging attack on Muslims or their places of worship. It needs to be reiterated that none of the speakers made any provocative speeches, whether racial or religious. Though the situation was highly emotional, meeting ended peacefully and the crowds started leaving peacefully.

    Thereafter we formed into a procession and left for Rev. Samitha Thera’s temple. When the procession came abreast of Muslim mosque at Dharga Town an organized gang who were in – waiting there attacked our procession near the mosque. Rev. Magalkande Sudhamma Thera was hit on the head and he fell and lost consciousness. He was immediately hospitalized. Police again failed to take prompt action. When hearing of this attack dispersing crowd re-gathered and started a counter attack on the attackers. What happened there is now well known by all.

    Sinhala Buddhists in Pathirajagoda suffered heavy losses of property and many sustained physical injuries. Buddha statue at Welipenna and Sinhala peoples’ businesses came under attack and heavy damage was caused to the Sinhalese business places in Aluthgama Town. But all such news was suppressed and the true picture was kept in the dark. Information Department ensured that all losses and injuries suffered by Sinhalese people were censored. But ironically and sadly Muslim politicians were allowed a field day to castigate and roundly criticize Sinhala Buddhists. Unashamedly they spread false allegations against Sinhala Buddhists locally and internationally. Muslim politicians enjoyed carte blanche to misrepresent facts to international community. Police acted very partially as obvious from the fact that more Sinhalese than Muslims were arrested and remanded or kept in custody unarmed Sinhalese youth arrested by police are still languishing in remand while almost all Muslim youths arrested have been freed now. People in the area are thoroughly disappointed with the authorities.

    With genuine feelings for racial and religious amity we wish to emphasize to the reader that forgoing statements are made by us purely in the spirit of rectifying a mistake committed by authorities by imposing a censorship to prevent truth being known.”

    1. All Ceylon Buddhist Congress
    2. Colombo Young Men’s Buddhist Association
    3. Government Service Buddhist Association
    4. Colombo ParamaVinnartha Buddhist Association
    5. Victory Association
    6. Organization of United Buddhist Associations
    7. Dharma Vijaya Foundation
    8. National Bhikku Conference
    9. BoduBalaSena
    10. Sinhala Rawaya National Association
    11. Sinhala VeeraVidana
    12. National Association of Eminent Persons
    13. Buddhist Power Circle
    14. HelaBoduSaviya
    15. Patriotic Teacher’s Association
    16. SwarnaHansaPadanama
    17. HelaDeyaWadanno
    18. RawanaSaviya National Association
    19. HelaYugaya National Organization
    20. HelaVijaya National Movement
    21. National Movement for Protection of Historical Sites
    22.ShanthiPadanama
    23 Sri Lanka MahaBodiPadanamavv

    This is how president respond returned from foreign .
    Just hours after his return to the island from Bolvia’s G-7 Meeting, HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, together with the President’s Secretary, Ministers, Inspector General of the Police and several other officials, this afternoon (18) made a bee line to meet a section Buddhist and Islamic clergy and senior citizens in Beruwala-Aluthgama areas who had by then assembled at the Beruwala Divisional Secretariat for a mutual exchange of views and assessment of ground realities in the wake of the spate of violent acts that flared up in the past 3-4 days, claiming a few lives and injuring dozens.

    President Rajapaksa addressing the gathering underlined that the country would not be possible to experience another terror spree after it was salvaged from the 30-year long ruthless terrorism at the expense of many lives and such intolerance cannot be accepted. “Both Muslims and Sinhalese in this country have lived in peace for generations and roots of those relations are historic, well known and chronicled. Various international elements are hell-bent on disrupting the hard-earned peace through different machinations, in order for them to achieve their desired goals. None of us should leave room for such schemes or assist forces, trying to destabilize us in our speedy march to development and prosperity

  • Kevin

    Our Independence was independence for the thug politico to freely steal, especially after 1956. Since then hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans – Burgers, Sinhalese, Tamils, and even Muslims- have fled to white man ruled countries (bye-bye ”independence” from the White Man’s Rule). We have fled legally or illegally (as refugees or asylum seekers) to England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, and Western Europe, the illegals risking their lives and drowning at sea to get the hell out of “Independence” and crawl back to the White Man. We don’t emigrate to other brown or black ruled countries (such as India, Bangladesh, Uganda, or Burundi) but to pure White Man ruled countries. We are willing to die for that privilege. So much for theory and so much for reality. Anyone who is living in White Man ruled countries and denies they want to live in White Man ruled countries is either being totally hypocritical or is in a state of pathological denial. Those who return do so after retirement, leaving their off spring to carry on in White Man Lands. The retirees come to live relatively cheaply on their pensions earned in White-Man-lands. As for the young, just drive around Colombo and look up. It is pathetic to see all the bill boards (in Colombo and even in rural areas) advertising foreign education courses where the blurb about getting that visa to a White Man’s country is shown in bigger letters than the education course itself. Obviously there is a huge demand and a huge market in that visa business. The educational aspect is only a front to get that visa. Other than Syrians and sub-Saharan Africans there are very few nations in the world where large numbers of the citizenry are willing to risk dying by horrid drowning at sea to go as boat people/illegal immigrants to a White Man Ruled country. Sri Lanka is one such country, and Australia is the goal, or New Zealand. We don’t stop en route to settle down or seek asylum in any brown skin ruled country along the way. No, we sail past those countries and head straight for Australia, that very definitely White Man Ruled country where the poor aborigines have no say. And for sure, Sri Lankans would not want to go to that land if it were ruled by aborigines instead of White Men. Unpleasant to talk of? Sure. Truthful? Sure again.

  • puniselva

    Sharmini
    Your good intentions and the courage to speak out are very much appreciated.
    Time is now ripe and urgent(before it rots and falls to the ground) for us to find a way of taking the following message to the Sinhala masses:
    1..C.V.Wigneswaran: “Tamils Ready To Take Ten Steps If Sinhalese Take One” offering flowers at the feet of the Buddha inside Jaffna Vihara after the National Anthem was sung in Tamil at Independence celebration.
    2.Foreward by Viscount Soulbury in CEYLON : A DIVIDED NATION(1963) by B.H.Farmer(1963): ”But had Mr. DS Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon lived, I cannot believe that the shocking events of 1958 and the grave tension that now exists between the Tamils and Sinhalese would ever have occurred…..Nevertheless in the light of later happenings I now think it is a pity that the Commission did not also recommend the entrenchment in the constitution of guarantees of fundamental rights, on the lines enacted in the constitutions of India, Pakistan, Malaya , Nigeria and elsewhere….Nevertheless the reconciliation of Tamils and Sinhalese will depend not on constitutional guarantees but on the goodwill, common sense and humanity of the Government in power and the people who elect it.”
    3.Tamils rejected federalism at the time of independence but went for it only after the Citizenship Act was passed in 1949. They rejected separation in elections till 1970. 1972 Constitution drove them to adopt (non-Wviolent) separation at Vaddukoddai Convention.
    4.B-C pact of 1957was opposed by the UNP. D-C pact of 1966 was opposed by the SLFP. CBK’s move in 2000 was opposed by the UNP. In 2002 RW’s move was opposed by the SLFP.
    Now the voters who voted in the Coalition must prod the Coalition to find a solution – it’s NOW or NEVER as many youngsters don’t know the post-independence history because of the blatant lies of the leaders in the last 68yrs. Let’s start with the hierarchy at Dalada Maligawa.

  • puniselva

    How van any culture respect a flag with a reprimanding sword in 21C?
    How can a Buddhist accept a flag with a sword?

  • puniselva

    It helps to know:
    i.what others are doing about religious affairs:
    14th Annual International Law Lecture: Chasing Religious Persecution in Law…, 14 March 2016, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/14th-annual-international-law-lecture-chasing-religious-persecution-in-law-bloodshed-concerted-tickets-20123320393?utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=order_confirmation_email&utm_term=eventname&ref=eemailordconf

    ii.while we are struggling to know the place of 2,500-year-old-culture in our lives:
    Gnanasara And 11 Others Further Remanded, 16 February 2016,
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/gnanasara-and-11-others-further-remanded/