Supreme Court justice turned northern arch maverick brings in religious dimension to fuel ‘Rise Tamil” march in Eelam aid Last Thursday, standing on the threshold of launching his ‘Rise Tamil’ march in Jaffna town, Vishwalingam Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, issued a letter addressed to ‘all the Tamil speaking people of Lanka,’ and [...]


Wignes adds the Buddha image to his catalogue of Sinhala hate


Supreme Court justice turned northern arch maverick brings in religious dimension to fuel ‘Rise Tamil” march in Eelam aid
Last Thursday, standing on the threshold of launching his ‘Rise Tamil’ march in Jaffna town, Vishwalingam Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, issued a letter addressed to ‘all the Tamil speaking people of Lanka,’ and urged them “to oppose the erection of a single Buddha statue in Tamil dominated areas.’

In his missive of bigotry, written in the hope of seeing a Tamil Spring rise in Northern Lanka, however belated, howsoever forlorn, he declared, “We must stop Sinhala colonization of Tamil lands and stop the erection of Buddha statues in the North and East.”

Laying aside any vestige of disguise he may have donned for so long in secret, he laid bare sans a blush, the true grotesque nature of his innermost soul before the world’s gaze, to the world’s horror; and made the civilised wonder how a man who had once worn the legal ermine and expounded the highest ideals of mankind from the highest legal bench in the land, holding such ideals of equal rights, including the right to religion and worship, to be the cornerstone of his own personal philosophy and the bedrock upon which his judgments rested, could now, forsake it all; and, instead embrace a dogma which denied man’s fundamental right to worship the God or Saint or the Enlightened Being of his own choice if it did not happen to be the god Wigneswaran worshipped in his household.

Pray say, what the difference is between the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban mob which destroyed the twin 1600-year-old Bamiyan Buddha statues in Central Afghanistan in March 2001 and born-again Tamil nationalist Wigneswaran now trying to prevent Buddha statues from ever being built in Tamil dominated areas of Lanka?

Had Taliban ruled here today, they would have blown up the 1600 year Aukana Buddha statue in Anuradhapura. Had Wigneswaran’s new ideology held sway 1600 years ago, it would never have been built. The iconoclast Taliban blowing up statues built compared to the abortionist Wigneswaran, throttling the unborn foetus from seeing light. Isn’t the end result the same?
If it had been some Tiger riffraff residue who had expressed such a statement he could have been labelled a racist crank and his view easily dismissed as being unworthy of public debate.

WIGNESWARAN: All round condemnation for Eluha Thamil speech which called for ban on Buddha statues in the north and east

But when a former Supreme Court justice, now Chief Minister of the North, takes it upon himself to invite public contempt; and, at the old age of 76, sees in his winter, an Eelam Spring; and starts rabble-rousing to new rebellion, a people still coming to terms with their tragic legacy – left them as the natural heirs to Prabhakaran’s shattered dream to rule Pol Pot style in an Eelam of his own making – it is valid cause for concern.

For instead of the mustached guerrilla who led them down the garden path with his grenade and gun, a bearded messiah has now arrived from the coziness of Cambridge Terrace in Colombo 7, to march them through the streets of Jaffna town; and, with impassioned imploring to their emotions and prejudices, shove them down the slippery slope to further ruin and disaster with the racial opium that lies in his hookah pipe of words, blown in rings of hypnotic smoke around them.

For his latest fiat to his people to oppose any attempt to erect Buddha statues in the areas they hold sway in terms of superiority of numbers, goes against the very grain of reconciliation that the Sri Lankan Government has embarked upon to heal the wounds of war. Whilst the Sinhala-dominated government raises both hands in friendship to foster reconciliation, Wigneswaran reciprocates by clapping with one hand – by slapping the Sinhalese on the face.

If labelling the Sinhalese — which he did last year in a letter to the UN’s Human Rights Chief Zeid — as a race guilty of genocide against the Tamils was not enough to hurt the sensitivities of the majority community, Wigneswaran had to drag in the Buddha image, and add its presence in the north and east of Sri Lanka to his litany of hates towards all things Sinhala. But he is wrong. The Buddha image, wherever it’s found, does not symbolise, does not represent the Sinhala race. Only lop sided, warped thinking have made the ignorant to think so. It’s not even a creation of the Sinhala genius.

For six hundred years between 300 BC and 300 AD, which witnessed the rise of towering dagobas in Anuradhapura to rival in height the Giza pyramids of Egypt, successive Sinhala kings kept true to the Buddha’s edict uttered on his deathbed not to build statues in his name for, as he declared, it would only divert the people from the Dhamma he preached.

Only the influx of Mahayana Buddhism into the land brought in its tide a whole host of Buddha statues and made the devout Sinhala Buddhist raise his hands in worship when the Sinhala artisan turned his to the chisel and wrought from rocks and stones, the inspiring image Mahayana brought. And though Mahayana Buddhism did not survive long in Lanka but found its natural bed in other more fertile soils, the stirring statues that compelled worship which it left behind, survived; and still survive. And that is why pre 300 AD Anuradhapura remained starkly conspicuous by the absence of statues, while 10 AD Polonnaruwa is awash with it.
The Sinhalese have no monopoly over the Buddha or patent rights over the Gandhara image which owes its source to Grecian art, to the marbled bust of an Alexander.

The Buddha belongs to the world, to all humanity. During the Buddha’s time, Buddhist monks travelled as missionaries to the four corners of the then known world to proselyte but no records exist of them ever visiting Lanka. It took a further 237 years after the Buddha’s passing away for Buddhism to make its advent in Lanka and become the isle’s religion when in 250 BC, at the behest of his father India’s Buddhist Emperor Asoka, Arahat Mahinda arrived to spread the word.

Today it is one of the four major religions of the world with over 500 million followers. According to 2010 figures, China has 244 million Buddhists, Japan 84 million, Cambodia 13 million, Myanmar 38 million, Laos 4 million, Taiwan 8 million, Nepal 3 million, Thailand 64 million to name a few. India, the Buddha’s birthplace, has 10 million whilst Lanka, with a seventy percent Buddhist population, has 14 million Buddhists, including Tamils.

If the Sinhalese, thus accounting for only 3 percent of the world’s Buddhists, think the Buddha’s theirs and theirs alone, they are grievously mistaken. If Wigneswaran, this man of letters, this erudite Supreme Court judge, disseminates, for nationalist gain, this same erroneous belief; and portrays the Buddha image as symbolizing the Sinhala race when he knows it does not; and asks the youth of his proud Dravidian tribe to hold, as anathema to the Eelam cause, the image of Buddha, he is leading them astray and committing a heinous crime which is not only unforgivable in mortal eyes but one which may attract karmic consequences beyond this life; as revealed in the Hindu Vedas of old he genuinely believes in as a Hindu.

If, however, Wigneswaran genuinely swears by the fallacy and holds it true that the Buddha image symbolises the Sinhalese and the Buddha image is thus not welcome in Tamil dominated areas, it goes without saying that, if he objects to the existence of the symbol, how much worse must be the vehemence of his opposition to the presence of a single Sinhalese in flesh and blood in his supposed Tamil dominated Tamil homeland.

What is disturbing in Wigneswaran’s new vitriol is that not even Prabhakaran or Balasingham raised the issue of Buddhism to advance their Eelamists cause during the thirty year terrorist war. Now Wigneswaran has done the unthinkable; and, by placing the Buddha image on the altar of racial controversy, he has unscrupulously sought in religion a new divide to further estrange the two races.

He has sought to exploit the natural fiery stirrings that base attacks on religion provoke in the human spirit; and, by dragging down to the dust of conflict the transcendental plane religion occupies in the human mindset, zealously sought to tax to the utmost the tolerance of the Sinhalese and drive them to the end of their tethers.

When all have seen nothing but the all encompassing compassion of the Buddha reflected in the Gandhara image, Wigneswaran’s diabolic mind had only gleaned the perverse opportunity to cry havoc and let slip bigotry to advance his demonic strategy to realise Eelam.

That he should have purposely opted to do so reveals how this former Hulftsdorp legal eagle, who spent a good part of his 76 years on soaring the judicial hill to feather his nest on the apex crag without expressing so much as a twitter of concern over his northern brethren’s untold mass misery which he chose, during the war years, to studiously ignore from his lofty heights; has suddenly become the marauding Jaffna fox in his newfound northern lair, scraping the trash can of Tamil Eelam to find some morsel of venomous hate to fling at the Sinhalese race to atone for his years of apathy shown to the Eelam cause; and thus, by making himself a martyr, gain his place in the hall of Eelam infamy as crowned chieftain to Prabhakaran’s legacy.

Like the opposition long for anarchy on the streets and chaos in the national economy to ride to power over its debris, it is clear Wigneswaran does not wish for reconciliation but views further enmity between the races as the touchstone to determine his Eelam dream.

He has shown that he has no qualms of exploiting emotive religion as a means to an end and is remorseless in making a Buddha statue in the north an unwelcome alien presence that revolts Tamil sensitivities. Yet, by treating the Buddha image in so narrow a fashion, he may be unwittingly transgressing the beliefs of his own religious creed, Hinduism: the religious faith followed by the majority of Tamil people. For Gautama the Buddha is no outsider, no alien to Hindu religion but has his own exalted shrine in Hinduism’s Pantheon of Gods as the tenth avatar of God Vishnu, the Preserver in the Hindu triumvirate.

According to Hindu beliefs, there are ten avatars of Vishnu, called the Dashavatara. These are the occasions when assuming earthly forms Vishnu has descended on earth to restore cosmic equilibrium. The fish, the tortoise, the boar; Narasimha, the half beast-half man; Vamana the dwarf; Parasurama, the angry man; Rama, the perfect man; Krishna, the divine statesman; and Gautama the Buddha as the enlightened man. Between 330 AD and 550 AD, the Buddha was assimilated to Hinduism and declared in the Puranas as a divine incarnation of God Vishnu. Thus Wigneswaran’s attempts to ban the Buddha image from his Tamil premises to spite the Sinhalese, will serve to deny the Tamils the right not only to pay their homage to a major world religious leader but also to worship the Buddha as one of their own, as the current avatar of Lord Vishnu.

His repugnant anti Sinhala and anti Buddhist speech, which also called for the merger of the north and east provinces, to be turned into a single federal state under a federal constitution, was decried by all the mainstream parties, forcing even the Tamil National Alliance of which Wigneswaran is a member, to distance itself from his vituperative comments. Wigneswaran for his part has said, his ‘Eluha Thamil’ speech was not against the Sinhalese or Buddhism. Then, against who was it? Perhaps against all mankind, for his racism: against all religions, for his religious bigotry?

The Sinhala people have been collectively branded before as racists but never as religious bigots. But when Wigneswaran becomes both racist and bigot at the same time, no hum of opprobrium can be heard wafting from Geneva or New York. UN’s Ban and UN Human Rights’ Head Zeid may fire their broadsides against the seeming delay in the Government’s reconciliation efforts. But as stated in last week’s SUNDAY PUNCH, the road to reconciliation is no ‘Sinhala only’ one way street where the majority must give their all and the minority of 10 percent can take all as of racial right.

The reality of the ground situation should be taken cognizance of and appreciated by those cocooned in their ivory citadels of human rights: They must be made to understand that, with every step forward the Sinhalese take, the Sinhalese, in the face of being bombarded with the boulders of racist hate and now further assailed and scorched by anti Buddhist mortar fire, are forced to take two steps back.

Merely because a person happens to be a member of the minority community, he should not be denied his constitutional right to live in any part of the country and to practice his religious faith. Fortunately for the minority Tamils, this fundamental right is not only enshrined in the constitution but found in practice too, as evidenced by their presence in every part of the island along with their Hindu kovils.

Likewise, merely because a person happens to be a member of the majority community, he should not be denied his constitutional right to live in any part of the country. Unfortunately for the majority Sinhalese, though this right exists in the constitution, it is denied them in practice, as evidenced by the ‘out of bounds’ policy, spelt out in the sign erected in Wigneswaran’s north: “Keep off the grass and keep your Buddha statues out of it too. This is Tamil territory.”

What a pity that the always scrupulously ‘politically correct’ international community and the bleeding heart NGO’s, who would have screamed blue murder and brought western wrath upon Lanka had the Sinhalese even whispered the slightest notion of waging a policy of officially discriminating Tamils and banning their religious rights, fail to see anything ‘politically incorrect’, or refuse to howl their repugnance when Wigneswaran, loudly and boldly, arouses the Tamils of the north to rise in protest and oppose the building of any Buddha statue and the presence of any Sinhalese in the areas of Lanka he and his ilk have arbitrarily demarcated as being theirs and theirs alone.

Perhaps, blinkered as they are and blind to that which they do not wish to see, they do not discern a parallel that has distinctly emerged from Wigneswaran’s stance: that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany ‘rid of all Jews’ and Wigneswaran’s Tamil Eelam, ‘rid of all Sinhalese and their Buddha statues.’

How a Ranil’s family temple shows way to religious amity
Even as Wigneswaran is trying to stop any Buddha statues being built in the north and east, it is refreshing to learn that the spirit of religious tolerance and amity exists robustly in the rest of the country.

Ven. Nanda Thera, Chief Priest Walukaramaya Temple: Reaching out to build Buddhist-Hindu accord

Established in 1841, Prime Minister Ranil’s own family temple, the 175 year Walukaramaya Temple in Colombo 3 – one of Wickremsinghe family temples — had been at the forefront of Sinhala Buddhist revival during the colonial days. In 1963, it held its first perehera and has done so without a break every year since. This year too on Thursday the 13rd of October, Colombo’s oldest perehera will take to the streets for the 53 consecutive year.

But on the eve of the main perehera, the temple’s statue of the Hindu Lord Ganesh – Wigneswaran’s own personal God as he has once revealed – will be taken in procession to the Sri Kathiresan Kovil in Bambalapitiya as it has been done for the last two years. The statue will be kept overnight at the Hindu kovil and in the following afternoon it will be transported back atop an elephant. It will then joins the main perehera together with the processions of other Hindu Gods, namely Vishnu, Kataragama, Paththini, Iswara and Kali.

All this is due to an innovation introduced in 2014 by the present chief monk of the temple the Venerable Maharagama Nanda Thera to foster racial harmony and to promote Buddhist Hindu accord. The hand he extended as a symbolic hand of amity and goodwill to the Hindu clergy at Sri Kathiresan Kovil was warmly grasped.

Perhaps Wigneswaran should ponder over such profound means of promoting racial and religious harmony instead of trying to wreck it. How all major perehera conducted by Buddhist temples, with the Sri Dalada Perehera foremost, contain the processions of Hindu Gods. How even as Hinduism assimilated the Buddha as Vishnu’s tenth avatar, how Lanka’s Buddhism too assimilated the Hindu Gods and made their worship part and parcel of Buddhism. And wonder whether he will only be inviting the wrath of the Gods in trying to put asunder what the ancient forefathers of both religions put together.


Why Govt shouldn’t say sorry for Buddha statues in north

RAJITHA: Regrets erection of statues

When the desecration of any religious icon erected anywhere in the island – from Dondra Head to Point Pedro, from Batticaloa to Colombo – should receive the utmost condemnation by all, it is shocking to learn that a senior minister of the Lankan government had declared that erecting Buddha statues in the north of Lanka has negated reconciliation efforts in the country.

Government Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne statement in August that building Buddhist temples and placing Buddha statues under Bo-trees had not done any good other than to negate the government’s reconciliation efforts may have emboldened Wigneswaran to call last week for a total ban on Buddha statues being built in the north and east.

What moved Mr. Senaratne to see, in that first creation, the manifestation of original sin that was worthy of an apology on the supposed basis and warped footing that it posed a formidable bar to the Government’s reconciliation efforts? Why, is it now a blasphemous crime for a Buddhist – be he Sinhala or Tamil – to erect a Buddha statue?

The next time, will there be an apology for the presence of the Lion on the Sri Lankan flag? A beast that never existed in Lanka but which has come to symbolise the Sinhala race? Would it also come to be considered a negative presence to reconciliation and will there be moves to rub it out from the national standard and leave the red square blank, in the same manner the presence of a Buddha image – an artistic representation of Gautama the Buddha who was not a Sinhalese but an Indian – has come to be regarded as an icon non gratia in the north and an obstacle to reconciliation?

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