Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Of Eunuchs and Defense Analysts

by Sachi Sri Kantha, November 8, 2010

“The government allocated 215 billion rupees (1.92 billion dollars) for defence in calendar 2011, according to official figures tabled in parliament Tuesday [Oct.19, 2010], about a fifth of the national budget. Official sources say the state needs to keep defence spending high, despite the fact the ethnic war has ended, because of hefty installment payments on military hardware bought to fight the separatist Tamil Tigers. The high proportion of the defence budget next year in the island nation of 20 million people will go to the army. The army will absorb just over half the entire defence spending to maintain its 200,000 personnel, the figures show.” AFP, Oct. 20, 2010

 

Playboy cartoon Sept 1978 "Violence horrifies me.  I go no furher than character assassination."
Playboy, Sept. 1978

As China and Chinese culture seems to be in vogue now under President Mahinda Rajapaksa, it may be pertinent to refer to the eunuch service in Chinese history. A recently published paper in Anthropological Science journal notes in its introduction,

“Arguably the most famous and long lasting example of eunuch service is in China, where the eunuch system was firmly entrenched in the imperial culture and persisted for over 25 dynasties (4000 years) until the early 20th century when the last emperor was removed from power.” Not only in China, but in India too, such eunuch service has had its fame and relevance. It has been a standing joke that in the post-Independence India, during Indira Gandhi’s tenure, all the cabinet ministers were eunuchs, while Indira was the only male.

There appears a passage in the Bible, which ascribes three reasons for the presence of the eunuch (castrated man) among us. “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew, 19:12] In translating this passage, we can categorize three types: (1) congenital eunuchs (obligative), (2) circumstantial eunuchs (facultative), and (3) obstinate eunuchs. Another recent publication, entitled ‘Modern-Day Eunuchs’ also identifies a fourth type, voluntary eunuchs, men who “go to such extremes as self-castration in order to achieve eunuch status’.

In an illustrating article to Lancet journal, Jenkins noted, “the most intriguing reasons for prepubertal castration was to be found in Italy, where from the end of the 16th century it was carried out to preserve the male unbroken voice into adult life.” He also explained that the origin of castrati in the 16th century Rome was linked to the development of complex polyphonic church music. As there was a “Papal injunction against women singing in public”, male castrati became the obvious choice. “By 1640, castrati were members of all the main choirs of Italy, and they continued to take their place in the Papal chapel for over three centuries.”

The origin of the word ‘eunuch’, derives from eunoukohs (Greek), which literally means ‘bed-chamber attendant’ (eune = bed). The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following three meanings for this word.

  • a castrated person of the male sex; also, such a person employed as a harem attendant, or in Oriental courts and under the Roman emperors, charged with important affairs of state. The first noted use of this word in English was in 1430.
  • a male singer, castrated in boyhood, so as to retain an alto or soprano voice.
  • used as adjective; emasculated (rare).

All these three meanings seem applicable to the individuals, who identified themselves as defense analysts in Sri Lanka and India. This analogy was based on their behavior, during 1985 to 2009. Some of them found employment as ‘harem’ attendants to the Court rulers of Colombo. Almost of all them (with a few notable exceptions, like late Taraki Sivaram) sang in alto voice about the LTTE terrorism and the need for decapitation of Velupillai Prabhakaran. As long as they sang the same tune that was promoted by the Court rulers of Colombo, they were not discriminated against, irrespective of which country, creed or ethnicity they belonged to. For the record, I list more than 20 of their names alphabetically.

Iqbal Athas

Susantha Goonatilake

Rohan Gunaratna

Col. R. Hariharan (from India)

Rajan Hoole

Ratnajeevan Hoole

Bandula Jayasekara

Sunil Jayasiri

Dayan Jayatilleka

D.B.S. Jeyaraj

H.L.D. Mahindapala

Keith Noyahr

Jehan Perera

Lucien Rajakarunanayake

K.T. Rajasingham

Narasimhan Ram (from India)

B. Raman (from India)

K.Sritharan

Jayadeva Uyangoda

Gamini Weerakoon

Lasantha Wickrematunga (deceased in 2009)

Rajiva Wijesinha

While reading the muck written by these defense analysts in the past, I was delighted by American cartoonist J.B. Handelsman who had anticipated this breed. His cartoon appeared in the Playboy magazine of September 1978, which I reproduce nearby. Of the three types of eunuchs that I distinguished in the first paragraph, courtesy the Gospel of Matthew, one can infer that almost all members of the defense analysts breed belonged to the facultative and obstinate types. While Sinhalese can be categorized as obstinate eunuchs [“who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of (Sinhalese) heaven”], non-Sinhalese may belong to facultative eunuch type.

Few weeks ago, the AFP news from Colombo (Oct. 20, 2010), announced that Sri Lanka is raising defence spending by six percent. To quote,

“The government allocated 215 billion rupees (1.92 billion dollars) for defence in calendar 2011, according to official figures tabled in parliament Tuesday [Oct.19, 2010], about a fifth of the national budget. Official sources say the state needs to keep defence spending high, despite the fact the ethnic war has ended, because of hefty installment payments on military hardware bought to fight the separatist Tamil Tigers. The high proportion of the defence budget next year in the island nation of 20 million people will go to the army. The army will absorb just over half the entire defence spending to maintain its 200,000 personnel, the figures show.”

What was glaringly missing in this announcement was that, what percentage of 200,000 army personnel were Sinhalese? The alto voices of so-called defense analysts have gone silent now. It seems they have been emasculated. Why? For a proper evaluation of 1.92 billion [1192 million] defense spending in 2011, one should check the base figure of what was Sri Lanka’s defense spending in 1985. It was 131 million. In 1978, Sri Lanka’s defense spending was a puny 12 million. [Source: Statesman (Calcutta), May 26, 1985].

So many things have been written about the wily Prabhakaran. But, what has been omitted is of relevance now. He singlehandedly created the careers of this modern-day defense analysts-eunuch breed!

Cited Sources

Eng JT, Zhang QC, Zhu H: Skeletal effects of castration on two eunuchs of Ming China. Anthropological Science, 2010; 118(2): 107-116.

Jenkins JS: The voice of the castrato. Lancet, 1998; 351: 1877-1880.

Wassersug RJ, Johnson TW: Modern-day Eunuchs – motivations for and consequences of contemporary castration. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 2007; 50(4): 544-556.