Whilst the nation is dogged by political instability and totters perilous on the abyss of economic impecunity, this week saw communalism’s fiery flames ignite on the hilly streets of the land, in the Buddhist capital of Kandy where the sacred Sri Dalada resides, to make this thrice blessed Lanka thrice blasted; with emergency law laying [...]


Thrice blessed Lanka thrice blasted

EMERGENCY LAYS SIEGE ON THE NATION AND ENDS SOCIAL MEDIA REIGN - As Digana drums beat racial hate, the question must be asked: - Who cried havoc and who let slip the inglorious brutes of war?

Whilst the nation is dogged by political instability and totters perilous on the abyss of economic impecunity, this week saw communalism’s fiery flames ignite on the hilly streets of the land, in the Buddhist capital of Kandy where the sacred Sri Dalada resides, to make this thrice blessed Lanka thrice blasted; with emergency law laying new siege on the country’s door step and trespassing on its freedoms.

As Sinhala mobs from surrounding areas descended on Digana town to beat their drums of hate and to trumpet their racial superiority and, on the strength of some spurious Sinhala chauvinism, to rake the coals of bigotry and set ablaze Muslim homes, Muslim shops and attack mosques, the question raised in the mountains, echoed in the valleys and resounded in the low lands was asked by all:
From where did these scumbags claiming the right to represent the Sinhalese suddenly come? From what dead wood did they creep out? From what stinking sewers did they emerge? What right did they have to drape themselves with the Lion Flag of the Sinhala race and use it to wipe the excreta of their opprobrium? And soil the national standard of all Sri Lanka with their faeces?

And the question also arose from the graves of those thousands dead, who perished in the thirty year long ethnic war: the question which emanated from the lips of those who suffered three years of Sinhala-Muslim clashes during the last decade was whether this nation hasn’t still learnt the lesson amply illustrated in blood and tears? Whether it’s still bent on idolising the glories of its past whilst turning a blind eye to its present shame? Does this particular brand of Sinhala people suffer a pathological inferiority complex, one that only be temporarily sated by occasional bursts of violence upon a hapless minority?

Is this the stuff of heroism done in the name of the Sinhala Lion in their frantic search to find new enemies and restore old gods by bullying the weak, the few, the unarmed? Is this the way they honour the ashes of their forefathers and worship in the temples of the Buddha? They may claim to be Sinhalese but they have forfeited the right to be Buddhists, for no true Buddhist, holding the Buddha’s doctrine of ahimsa as their creed and guiding light, will even contemplate violence as a means to an end. It is akin to labelling all Muslins in the world as dastards for the devastation ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have wreaked upon the world.

COMMUNALISM'S FIERY FLAMES: The perpetrators may claim to be Sinhalese but they have forfeited the right to be Buddhists

On Tuesday, in the wake of Sinhala mob violence against the Muslims in Digana, Teldeniya and surrounding areas in the Kandy district, Minister Lakshman Kiriella declared that Sri Lankan Buddhists must apologise to the Muslims. He said that a resolution should be brought in parliament and Buddhists should apologise to the Muslims in connection with the violence in Digana and Teldeniya.
But must they en masse go down on their knees and ask forgiveness for a crime perpetrated by a handful of depraved delinquents who have taken a ‘contract job’ to destabilise this nation, to plunge Lanka over the abyss, to return it to the sewers from which it had risen three years ago?

Whilst the Sinhala Buddhists smypathise with the tyranny the Muslims met at the hands of a gang of thugs and condemn in the most strongest terms the suffering of fear they would have felt and hold with repugnance the outrage done in the name of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism, they hold no truck at all with the dastardly action or with the warped minds of those who perpetrated such and thus do not need to apologise. A whole container load of mangoes cannot be condemned in toto merely because a few rotten ones are found in its midst.

When a renowned monk who had pioneered a Buddhist channel to spread the Buddha’s message to the four corners of the land and beyond the seas lay dead in Colombo and lay in state at his temple with thousands of Buddhists streaming in to pay their last respects to his mortal remains, a small band of thugs flaunting Buddhist badges on their sleeves were engaged in the Kandy district in acts of violence against a small section of Lanka’s citizens.

It served only to bring the utmost disrespect to the Buddha’s message of tolerance and non violence; the quintessence of the noble religion they professed to follow and claimed that that they acted so and attacked the Muslims and their mosques to safeguard Buddhism in the land. They couldn’t have been more wrong. And the rest of Lanka, who condemned it, couldn’t have been more right.

Were they the followers of Gautama the Buddha abiding by his tenets or were they the devil’s disciples; manipulated and marched by some satanic godfather to do their worst while all of Lanka’s Buddhists did their best to mourn the death of a monk who had striven to propagate the message of the Buddha? Were they all condemned to bear collective responsibility for the vile acts of a handful in the manner cabinet ministers are expected to be collectively responsible for decisions taken at cabinet meetings?

Kiriella told parliament that the state intelligence services had collapsed resulting in the violence in Digana and Teldeniya. Perhaps it’s the Government which should apologise for the failure of the state’s apparatus to gather the intelligence forehand and thus forewarned to be forearmed to prevent this needless bout of racial violence that served to undo the immense goodwill earned these last three years.
It’s a travesty to hold the entire Buddhist community responsible and ask them to apologise for the acts of a few who created mayhem and for the negligence of a government whose apathy made it all possible.

THE FACE OF TERROR: Mahason Balakaya leader

For what happened this week was no sudden outburst of violence. But one planned and premeditated. It’s fast becoming clear that it was an organised raid to destabilise the nation and return it once more to the dark ages. It’s fast becoming apparent that there lurks a hidden odious hand: a hand that left hell’s door open and let in the devil’s brigade. A voice that cried havoc and a hand that let slip the inglorious brutes of bigotry to unleash racial war on the streets in the emotive name of Sinhala supremacy.

Let’s recap briefly what happened on the night of February 22nd on a Teldeniya road that led to this nation reaching so tragic a destination. A 42-year-old man was driving his lorry at around 2 a.m. in the night when, according to information presently available, he was repeatedly tooted by a three wheeler to give way. It was nothing out of the ordinary. It happens on Lanka’s roads where the bigger the vehicle you drive, more supreme the driver feels. It’s what is called one-upmanship.

The lorry driver wouldn’t have had a clue that the three-wheeler carried four Muslims. Neither would the four Muslims have had the foggiest the lorry driver was a Sinhalese. It didn’t matter anyway. Either way even if they had all been Muslims, if they had all been Sinhalese, the result would have been the same. Irked by the lorry driver’s refusal to give way, the three wheeler occupants assaulted the lorry driver when he stopped at a station to fuel his vehicle.

The incident had nothing to do with race, religion or creed. It was a common ego battle, one found regularly enacted on this country’s roads where those who have bigger vehicles hold they have the right of way and those who have the loudest horns think they can toot their way ahead. It’s the way petty minds get their kicks. Neither party would have known that it would soon lead to a national calamity.
Even the police did not take it seriously. Perhaps it’s their fault that they did not do so. But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. Though they arrested the four men responsible for the attack on the lorry driver, they thought it fit to release them on bail since they held it to be a case of assault and battery. Only when the lorry driver succumbed to his injuries nine days later, did they realise it was a case of manslaughter or murder and begin their search to arrest the suspects.

And it took ten days for Kumarasinghe, the lorry driver, to succumb to his injuries and breathe his last on March 3, Saturday. Enough time for the conspirators to brew the nation’s cauldron of racial and religious hate and to serve its concoction laced with rumour and canards liberally to those misguided few who thirsted for its maddening sip and gobbled it whole. And were rendered into an intoxicated stupor to believe that by unleashing a wave of violence against a minority few of this country, they would be transformed into heroes wearing the crown Dutugamunu earned by slaying Elara.

Little did they know that they, fed as were with jingoist fodder and made drunk on chauvinism’s heady toddy, were being used as cats’ paws by forces still unknown to achieve a higher purpose which had nothing to do with saving the Sinhala race from any perceived Muslim threat but rather one devilishly designed and executed by masterminds playing the game of thrones to save their own hides. That they were expendable pawns on a chess board: their only purpose to save the black bishop, knight and king of forlorn hopes from ordained doom.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne gave echo to what was on many minds. The fact that the gangs came from outside was evidence that it was an organised attack. The fact that the thugs came wearing caps and had their faces masked with only eyes of evil revealed served to confirm this observation.

Minister Rajitha Senaratne said on Thursday, “There was an organised attempt to antagonise religious minorities against the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, since it was their votes that made the difference between victory and defeat, at the last Presidential and General Elections.”

“Recent remarks,” he said, “made by some opposition politicians to the effect that they would somehow obtain the support of religious minorities at the next election, had been taken seriously and measures were being implemented to ensure that law and order prevailed.”
The police confirmed his stance this was no flash in the pan emotional flare of communal violence but one planned and executed to set aflame all Lanka.

Police Spokesperson Superintendent Ruwan Gunasekera said on Thursday that the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had arrested Amith Jeevan Weerasinghe, alleged to be one of the masterminds of the communal unrest in Kandy and nine others, in predawn raids in Digana and Poojapitiya. Also nabbed was his second in command Sureda Suraweera.

Police Spokesperson Gunasekera said: “What you should note is that only two of them are residents of the Kandy District. All others are outsiders. He added that they were questioning over eighty arrested and said, “I am sure they will tell us who is behind these acts and we will reveal this to the public soon. We will take action against them under the Emergency Ordinance no 1 of 2018.”

After last black Sunday’s grim scene in the hills, one that cast a pall of gloom over the entire nation, one heavenly light shone in the night sky to line the dark clouds that hovered over the isle. For once, all closed ranks to condemn the violence in one unified voice. Buddhist monks, the Catholic and Christian clergy, the Muslim mullahs, the Hindu swamis along with politicians of all hues joined to condemn the actions of the fanatical mob that ran amok and caused so much grief to the nation.

And that’s not all. Surprise, surprise. Guess who came to the party to join the condemnation. One who arrived to atone, perhaps for past sins, one who used the Mahason Balakaya sent opportunity to present himself in a new and pacifist light as the saviour of the Muslims. Who appealed for calm and exhorted the rampaging mob on attacking spree against all things Muslim, to stop the violence even as Hitler would have requested Himmler to stop the Jewish Holocaust.

In fact the born again Buddhist and monk of peace the Venerable Gnanasara Thera, head of the Bodu Bala Sena was one of the first to condemn this week’s violence even as he was the first to have instigated anti-Muslim fervour in 2012. At a news conference held this week he announced his change of heart and said that violence was not the way to settle problems but that all parties should meet and hold intelligent discussions to solve whatever problems. Nice to know that one who advocated war-war four years ago in Beruwela and threatened to exterminate all Muslims if a single Sinhala soul was harmed, now mouthing jaw-jaw as a means to reach peace.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, under whose regime the Gnanasara-led Bodu Bala Sena was born and executed attacks on Muslim establishments with impunity and immunity, also appealed for calm, peace and harmony in a special statement issued on Wednesday. He said: “Today, the situation is such that a dispute or clash between individuals belonging to different religions or ethnicities, automatically leads to a communal riot that spreads throughout the area. Obviously this is not a situation that can be allowed to continue.”

He continued: “There is a need to create in this country a nationalistic alliance comprising Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim leaders resembling the first post-independence government. This is not going to be an easy task given the poisonous contagion of communalism that has spread in this country over the past several decades. However, on the basis of the recently concluded local government elections, I have reason to be cautiously optimistic that a window of opportunity exists to be able to turn back the tide of communalism. I intend initiating a dialogue in this regard with national minded Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim individuals and organisations in due course.”

“Since the late 1980s a section of the Muslim population has gravitated towards communal political parties that this has made it easy for ‘conspiratorial forces both local and foreign’ to inflame tensions between the Sinhalese and the Muslims by using agent provocateurs. The tension that we see now between the Sinhalese and the Muslims is a fairly recent phenomenon. Everyone will remember that such tensions did not exist until about 2012. What was started by ministers who are now in the present government, for the purpose of dislodging my government, now appears to have taken on a life of its own and mistrust between the communities is growing by the day.”

Unfortunately he did not name the ministers responsible for the tensions that prevailed between the Sinhala and Muslim communities after 2012 and who are now in the present government were, but the fact that the former president has extended his hand to the present government to defuse the volatile situation and that he has sought to regain the trust of the Muslim community must be welcome if the ‘one country, one people’ concept is to be realised.

Or else no magical sterile pill unknown still to medical science but existing solely in warped extremists minds will be needed to be placed in a kotthu or biriyani at a Muslim joint to make barren the Sinhala race. The chauvinist pill they willingly swallow will do the trick.

Facebook ban and VPN way to beat it
This week’s tragedy did not only see the burning of Muslim establishments and attacks on mosques by extremists elements. It also saw the Government going pell-mell in trampling on people’s freedoms and muffling the sound of the people’s voice. The reintroduction of emergency law in the country: Without which, it now seems, this nation — though it celebrates freedom from British rule on a grand scale each year, even as it did last month to fly the flag high to celebrate the seventieth year of its independence — cannot do without. Emergency law may have been necessary. No doubt about that.

But the fact remains that without established traditions ingrained in the nation’s collective conscience to guide the masses on democracy’s chartered course, with only lip service paid clad in white to the five precepts and, that too, though made eight or ten, mainly confined to when the moon waxes full every month and the nation turns pious; without example set from the peaks of power but only preaching without practice and action without purpose are made from those dizzy heights, no wonder emergency rule, which wobbles between democracy and dictatorship, becomes the first resort of this godforsaken nation to maintain law and order and not its last recourse.

This week’s violence also empowered the government to black out social media and claim justification on the basis that loose talk on the world’s grapevine can lead to loss of lives. In the present context, also true. But in the process of banning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, WhatsApp, Viber and what not that served as outlets for the masses to speak their mind and give vent to their spleen it also set a dangerous precedent for future governments to follow. Especially at election time. The masses voice now can be stilled by future regimes, not so benign as this present one is, by reference to the precedent set and do so in the name of national security,

Not that any government can control or put a stop to technological advancement. Those who wish to still continue chats on the social web, those who still wish to post their pictures and their comments on their face books and even the local Trumps who wish to trumpet their tweets on Twitter can still do so. Simply by downloading the VPN (Virtual Private Network) and beating the government bans. If it’s only to show that the public’s voice can no longer be muffled, stifled or hushed on any pretext. That information technology has enabled the voice of the masses to become the master’s voice.




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