by Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM [Lond.] Former Lecturer in Law University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 17, 2019
Sri Lanka’s image as a prosperous and multi-racial peaceful country took a nose dive and u-turn from 1956 with the passing of Sinhala Only Act in 1956, a short-sighted political move by S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake to capture power at the expense of harmony and peace heralding an era of communalism and majority hegemony, massacres, genocide and wars along with the emergence of Sinhala –Buddhist extremism piloted by Buddhist Monks who are now in full control of Sri Lanka’s politics, and functioning as decision makers. Some Buddhist Monks who are ordained to preach the teachings of Lord Buddha , have donned the roles of active politicians and even forming political parties which were disallowed by Lord Buddha. Successful political interventions of Monks who scuttled the political decisions of governments are the abrogations of Banda-Chelva Pact of 1958 and Dudly-Chelva Pact of 1965. The hidden program of marginalization and extinction of Tamils through assimilation was initiated in 1948 and is continuing with no let up. Tamils who have been resorting to non-violent and violent struggles have been subdued and are now considered as a vanquished minority community. The Monks involved in the Buddhisisation process are exploiting the politically weakened Tamils to speed up their agenda in the North and East [Traditional and Historical homeland of Tamils] with Sinhalese Militerization, land grabs and Sinhalese colonization.
Recently Monks belonging to Welgama Vihara tried to build a Buddhist Vihara in a private land near sacred Kinniya Wells in Trincomalee. This attempt has been stopped due to intervention of public and Hindus living nearby. However the Hindu Temple was destroyed and the surrounding lands were seized by Sinhalese settlers with the approval of the Government by a Gazette notification.
In Mullaitivu, a Buddhist Vihara has been built near the Neeraviadi Pilliyar Temple, and attempts to change the Temple’s Tamil name to a Sinhala name, Ganadeva Devalaya were stopped by courts. However, it is learnt the Monk Santhabodhi Thero is still active in the area to proceed with his plan.
It is learnt that a Buddha statute and an illegal Buddhist temple has been built in the Vavuniya forest, Nedunkerni area at Oottukulam village bordering Anuradapura District, with a Monk residing having two Sinhalese Home Guards for protection. [Source Tamil Guardian March 02, 2019]
Buddhist extremism commenced from 1956 with the entry of Buddharatiaka Thero, and a Monk Somarama Thero even resorted to killing a Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake. Ratnasisi Thero belonging to Bodu Bala Sena, an extreme outfit made his mark in indulging violent attackes against Muslim interests in Diagama Kandy in 2018. He was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. However, as part of the agenda of government, he was released by President Sirisena after serving only nine months. He has now vowed to continue his policy of marginalising the Muslims and their influence in Government and business monopoly.
Ven. Athiliyaratna Thero, a member of parliament launched a fasting campaign in Kandy on May 31, 2019 demanding the arrests of two Muslim Governors of Western and Eastern Provinces and a Muslim Minister. An ultimatum to them within three days was given by Ratnasiri Thero. Protests by Bikkus and demonstrators in some parts of the country followed culminating in the government’s compliance leading to the ‘voluntary resignation of all Muslim Ministers, deputy ministers and Governors. Such is the power of the Buddhist Monks who holds the whip hand to decide the direction and policies of a Government elected by people.
Buddhist extremism has grown to uncontrollable extent and proportions with some Sinhalese leaders backing it for political mileage. The recent statement of Mahanayake of Kotte Chapter reinforces this aspect when he stated that “People who will not accept Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country should not remain in the country”, while Gnasara Thero stated on April 21st 2019 that‘ Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country’. Some misguided Muslims in the Eastern province with the assistance of ISIS launched violent attacks on Catholic worshippers and hotels, including foreign tourists. This resulted in retaliation by Sinhala mobs targeting Mosques and business establishments in some North-West towns. Fortunately widespread communal riots were averted due to state measures and calls from religious faiths. Though most of the victims were Tamils, no Tamil retaliated against the Muslims. With Tamils posing no more threat politically or otherwise after Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam demise, the Government is accelerating the agenda of Sinhalization and Buddhisization to reach its ultimate goal of a SINHALA-BUDDHIST SRI LANKA.
The Muslim being the other minorities is now targeted to cripple their political, religious and economic prowess and make them fall in line with the agenda of marginalization Government has taken measures like closing Madarasas [Islamic Schools] and banning Niqabs while other steps are also being taken by the Government to punish the Muslims as a whole. It will be no surprise, if the resigned Muslims Ministers, deputy Ministers Governors rejoining the Government as both need each other for their survival. As far as the traumatized Tamils are concerned, Muslims never agitated or spoke for the Tamils during their periods of atrocities, agonies and killings as Muslims are totally faithful to their religion and ethnicity only.
For the Tamils, the fall out of the Muslim’s violence has worsened their plight with piling of grievances and dampened their hopes for speedy remedies and solutions. For example, the nagging issues of releasing of land, political prisoners arrested under draconian PTA, and the protests by the mothers and relatives of the missing people [this protest has reached more than 800 days] resettlement of displaced, the implementation of UNHRC Resolutions 30/1 and 30/4, setting up of an independent Judicial Mechanism to investigate war crimes etc, stopping Buddhisisaton Sinhalisisation and Militarisation and the grievances of war widows and orphans and above all hopes for a political settlement in a new constitution have also evaporated. All these will be probably kept in storage until and unless UN and/or the International Community activate them with proper initiatives.
Si Lankan Governments holding ‘War Heroes and victory parade and ceremony every year in May 18th simply sends the message of “No member of security forces has committed any war crimes”, which in fact has also buried the ‘Accountability and Justice” principles without resurrection, leaving the war victims at the mercy of United Nations and International Community.
Sri Lanka’s agenda of a SINHALA-BUDDHIST STATE is being propelled with the lethal activities and participation of some Buddhist Monks who behave as if they are above law paying no respect to courts, judiciary or laws of the land. The Government is also playing its role as a partner to them with obedience and compliance to their demands, even if they are unjust, racial, purely political and chauvinistic. The Archaelogical Department is also helping the Budddhisisation by erasing evidences of Tamil Historical sites in the North and the East declaring them as Buddhist historical sites which never existed.
The past history and present politics of Government amply demonstrate the strangle hold of Buddhist extremism on Government which is nothing but a de-Facto rule of Maha Sanga and extremist Buddhist Monks with the powers of making and unmaking of any Government lying in their hands. The fate and future of minorities, Tamils, Muslims and Christians remain in a state of limbo facing a slow and steady process of extinction through assimilation in Sri Lanka.
In this respect, the Tamil National Alliance [TNA] which was elected to fulfill its promises in its election manifesto is tottering directionless like a rudderless ship having spent the last four years with a dismal record of inaction and with futile backing of a deceptive Government coupled with occasional statements of outbursts. Recent statements of TNA leaders Mavai Senathirajah and Sampanthan rueing, lamenting, ruminating and criticizing the President and Prime Minister for breach of their promises show their ignorance of past history of Sinhala Politics and attempt to resurrect their sinking political fortunes in the coming elections. In effect, Tamils neither have dedicated leaders nor have the will and determination to forge a united front and stand like the Muslim politicians who showed their unity and strength to the world. A sincere, determined and dedicated leadership is the need of the hour for the abandoned destitute Tamils.