CONCEDING TO COMMUNALIST PRESSURE; THE RUINATION OF A NATION
To be frank, the support the hunger strike received was minimal even among the Sinhala polity
Iam not a Buddhist, at least in the conventional sense; i.e. that my Birth certificate does not state ‘Buddhism’ in the slot where the topic ‘Religion’ is to be filled. But the little Buddhism that I know tells me that it is a great sin to take a life just because something you demand is not given to you. For example, I cannot go to a job interview and threaten the Board that if I am not chosen they would be killed. Worse still, I cannot say that unless selected I would kill myself. When it comes to taking one’s own life, the gravity of the sin is greater... I suppose. But when such a threat of committing a sin is done in a saffron robe, and right in front of the sacred Temple of the Tooth relic, the ramifications seem to be different.
Owing to my mediocre knowledge of Buddhism, I could have almost agreed with the likes of Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara, that such a threat, in the form of fast unto death by
Ven. Athuraliye Rathanathera
is a heroic, and meritorious act! But general intelligence prevents me from doing so.
What was the end nett result of the much hyped hunger strike staged by Ven. Rathana in the vicinity of the Temple of the Tooth relic? A mass resignation of the Muslim Ministers of the government in addition to the three, whose blood, the Sinhala nationalists were after. No doubt this was not something that Ven.
Rathana or the real instigators behind the hunger strike had reckoned for by any stretch of the imagination.
FAST UNTO (ALMOST) DEATH
To be frank, the support the hunger strike received was minimal even among the Sinhala polity. In general, there is a lack of seriousness about hunger strikes and fastunto-death actions, among the Sinhalese as nobody who has threatened fasting till death has kept to that threat. As in the infamous case of Wimal Weerawansa before the UN Office in Colombo, the entire thing ended up not only as a fiasco and the country becoming a laughing stock, in effect, it worsened the status of Sri Lanka in the face of the international community, which was facing challenges given serious charges of human rights violations at that particular time. The end result in that case also, the complete opposite of what was expected. Characters such as Palitha Thewarapperuma went on hunger strike to get children admitted to school, making a mockery of such ‘fast unto
death’, which has been made sacrosanct by selfless activists such as Thileepan, Annai Poobathi, related to Northern Tamil militancy and Bobby Sands and the ten Ira(irish
Republican Army) prisoners who fasted unto death in 1981. Yet there is a marked difference between the Weerawansa fiasco and the entire episode related to Ven. Rathana. The former fasted unto (almost) death, at a time when the government in power did not give a tuppence worth to the due process, rule of law, international relations or any other such thing that had to do with good governance. We all knew that Weerawansa was running an errand for the Rajapaksa regime and that there would not be any ‘death’ but an abandoning of the fast under some pretext (with lemon puff to boot...). The difference between that and Ven. Rathana episode was that it took place when the very government that came with a mandate for good governance, to uphold the rule of law and due process, was in power.
VEN. RATHANA VERDICT
When one adds the fact that all the three politicos, Bathiudeen, Sally and Hisbullah have not been found guilty or even charged, legally, with any connection with the Easter Sunday bombings, despite suspicions among some Sinhalese that some of these firebrand Muslim politicos were at least sympathizers, if not active abetters of fanaticism and extremism,they have not been substantiated. To demand removal of them from their designation was not only denial of the due process of law that is the entitlement of every citizen, it was plainly motivated by racial bias.
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana got Sally, Hisbullah and Bathiudeen to resign, alright; but there was another factor that he had not bargained for; the mass resignation of Muslim Ministers. The Muslim politicians had not only made the voice of their constituency, which we all know is predominantly, if not entirely, Muslim, heard; they have shown how politically shrewd and astute they are. Even if one did not buy the official explanation given by them after discussions at the residence of former SLFP Minister Fowzie, that it was done to stabilize the country and to avert a communal crisis, one has to agree, that they managed to pull a fast one , that none of the Sinhala nationalists had even remotely thought possible.
Their collective action, has an uncanny similarity to actions of the conventional Tamil politicians, during the JR Jayewardena era leading up to the separatist war, where they opted to boycott southern politics in general and parliamentary politics in particular. The absence of representation of the Tamil community on mainstream platform, only strengthened the hands of youth militancy which ultimately ended with Veluppillai Prabhakaran becoming the sole representative of the Tamils. I am sure the Muslim politicians were well aware of the magnitude of the repercussions of their actions and would not perceive such abstinence as a permanent measure. With regard to the ability of the likes of Ven. Rathana and Ven. Gnanasara to appraise the magnitude of the danger, I am less confident.
The country is going down a precipitous path that if not checked without delay, will take us all to ruination. It will be more ruinous than the outcome of the Tamil separatist war which haunted us for over thirty years. The saffron robe bearers who are in the habit of boasting ‘saving the nation’ throughout history (although from what they managed to save this country, escapes my comprehension) seem to be at the helm of that cruise ride to destruction.
The country is going down a precipitous path that if not checked without delay, will take us all to ruination
MINORITY ONLY IN SRI LANKA
Today’s daily newspapers reported the former Eastern Province Governor as saying that although the Muslims were a minority in Sri Lanka, they were a majority globally, and hence, should not be intimidated by anybody. This was the first time that I heard a mainstream Muslim politician talking in that aggressive and almost disdainful vein. Unlike the threats made by Ven. Gnanasara and the ilk, the statement by Bathiudeen should be taken very seriously.
As much as the Sinhala nationalists might attribute sinister and communal motives to the mass resignations of the Muslim ministers, the definite and distinct divide that such action threatens , if allowed unchecked, could create, does not augur well for our country which has had a respite of a mere ten years of peace after a brutal 30 year civil war.
We must face it; the government did not do enough to prevent racist mobs from torching houses, shops and places of worship of the Muslims, even when emergency regulations were in operation. The authorities could not prevent ordinary Muslims being harassed in public transport, at state offices and even supermarkets, thus creating an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment. To top it all, it succumbed to the pressure exerted by Sinhala Buddhist extremists led by saffron robe bearers which resulted in a deep split between the Muslim and Sinhalese communities.
Unlike the Sinhalese politicos, their Muslim counterparts take what happens to their constituency, very seriously!! And they know where their strength lies!