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The Sri Lankan Lion
7:01 am on Mon 9th Mar by SriLankan
An interesting issue that has captured my mind is the issue of patriotism during a war, especially in relation to the island Sri Lanka, my home, which has seen decades of war between the Sri Lankan government and the rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an outfit branded as a terrorist organisation by the US, the EU, and Australia, to name just a few.

What is patriotism? What does patriotism require a patriot to do in times of war? Having spoken to various Sri Lankans, predominantly Sinhalese students, I have been fascinated to see this idea of the "Sri Lankan lion", the so-called patriot who loves his country, who strongly believes that the LTTE be wiped out and the country be rid of terrorism, and unfortunately, who in the end believes that Sri Lanka is a country for the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

Now I am a Sinhalese too; I was born in a rural village, went to an affluent school in the City simply because my parents sacrificed their lives for mine, and the only thing I did differently was come to university in a different country. I think I qualify as a Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist.

But then why, I constantly wonder, do I not feel the same strong views as the "Sri Lankan Lion"? He who believes that Sri Lanka is the greatest country on earth, that Sri Lanka does not require Western help to see development, that "Western media" are all biased towards our country, that they are all pursuing their own agendas of mud-slinging against the Sri Lankan government which is fighting a humanitarian war against terrorism to save the Tamil people from the clutches of years of brutality.

Firstly, as great a country as we are, Sri Lanka does need the help of Western donors, not only for development, but for sustainment. For months now, the govt. and the Central Bank have repeatedly assured its people that the economy is in great shape, and that we are more than capable of sustaining ourselves. There have been months of "patriotic" rhetoric that our economy is capable of withstanding the global financial crisis, and any shortcomings there may be are a direct result of the global economic meltdown, and has nothing to do with how incompetent our govt. is at handling what gives our people its daily rice and dhal. This has certainly helped the "Sri Lankan Lion" euphoria that the West is our enemy, and that we have proved time and time again how our country does not need Western help to survive.

It appears now, however, that we are facing a balance of payment crisis of epic proportions which has forced us to seek a financial bailout of $1.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund. But what the "Sri Lankan Lion" would say to this, with a great sense of sarcasm mind you, would be to ask me to look at the United States, the EU, and ask if those so-called great powers are faring any better. Herein lies the core ideology of the Lion, and it is an ideology that has been used time and time again by the likes of Joseph Stalin, and Mao Se Tung. Whenever one would criticise an aspect of the country, the "Sri Lankan Lion", without attempting to rationalise the merits/demerits of such criticism, simply resorts to the nationalist statement that the 'great West' is not faring any better.

To this, I can only say that yes, Sri Lanka has been affected by the global financial crisis, but the current state of the economy has little to do with this this crisis has been propagated by years of excessive fiscal spending, vast trade deficits, corruption and waste; it is most interesting to note that the Sri Lankan cabinet comprises of 115 ministers for its 19 million population (a number far greater than countries with more than a 100 times its population, the United States, India, the UK, and China). Right now, our nation is borrowing money to pay back borrowed money; and yet, according to our government, we have never been better.

So I ask myself, should the ordinary rural voter care?

The ordinary voter on most days struggles to make enough money to survive; while the ordinary farmer in Hambantota struggles to make enough to feed his family, his representatives, fully clad in Sinhala "national dress", drive around Colombo in the most luxurious vehicles (all bought tax-free mind you) surrounded by a little army to protect them. This representative who claims to fight for the poor, ironically lives in a house that is worth more than 20 times the money the farmer will earn in his life time. While the farmer struggles to live, his representatives help themselves to every possible benefit they can scam out of the State.

Why do these rural voters continue to vote for such a government? Perhaps, I tell myself, because of the war. Because the security forces are winning the war, there is a patriotic fever in Sri Lanka. Ironically, this farmer has never set foot outside of Anuradhapura, nor has he ever seen a Tamil Tiger. But yet, he is willing to sacrifice his entire life for this so-called war against terrorism.

Then let us talk about media freedom; Sri Lanka has consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to operate in the world. But as such a ranking system is done by a "Western" organisation such as the Human Rights Watch, it is immediately branded as biased. And needless to say, the farmer believes this.

In the past 3 years, more than 17 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka. Lasantha Wickremetunge, a journalist known widely for his hard hitting criticism of the government was murdered in broad daylight by a group of unidentified gunmen within a high security zone. When an ordinary Sri Lankan such as myself leaves home to get into Colombo, I am stopped at least 2-3 times by police and army checkpoints. Nevertheless, a group of armed gunmen in motorbikes are able to murder a well-known journalist, and get away in broad daylight within a high security zone. When the BBC correspondent to Sri Lanka (whom the "Sri Lankan Lion" by definition has to brand is biased simply because he is from the West) queries Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse as to this, Rajapakse laughs hysterically. As the nation head of Defence, one would hope that he would at least express sadness at the death of this journalist, and at least offer the empty words of 'conducting a swift investigation' to find the perpetrators (obviously a statement which would not amount to anything); instead, Rajapakse asks the BBC correspondent "Who is Lasantha", that he is a mere tabloid journalist, and that with thousands dying in the North, what is one life.

Why should the ordinary farmer care about the death of one journalist? To be honest, it does not surprise me that the ordinary farmer doesn't. Media freedom means very little to him; he will be content with going on with his daily life, and the fact that a major voice of dissent has been silenced means little to him. Such be the failings of democracy I suppose.

Finally, being a Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist, why am I not so upbeat about our winning this war against the LTTE? Simply put, because the Tamil people have never been more vulnerable. The victory of the govt. against the LTTE will mean just one thing; the Sinhalese nationalist government will have little incentive to genuinely seek a political settlement. Mahinda Rajapakse will go through his general empty rhetoric of giving rights that were for so long denied to the Tamil people; perhaps with the insistence of Western donors (once again ironic as these donors are necessarily our enemy according to the "Sri Lankan Lion"), the 13th Amendment will be implemented, but in the most diluted way possible so as not to compromise the power of the central government.

And this is perhaps why being a Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist, I am not a "Sri Lankan Lion". At the heart of the problem is simply a chauvinist idea held by a majority of Sinhalese, that Sri Lanka is ultimately a land for the Sinhalese. The rural vote base that the present government has, coupled with the Buddhist monks that actively encourage the war despite Lord Buddha's most basic teachings to refrain from violence, will ensure that the Tamil people are not given the autonomy they have craved for so long. The LTTE is a mere manifestation of this ethnic struggle; and the extinction of the LTTE will not be the extinction of the ethnic issue.

But for the "Sri Lankan Lion", Sri Lanka has always been the land of the Sinhalese Buddhists, a view held by the Commander of the Army as well, and with the extinction of the LTTE, there is little to be upset about.

As for me, I do not believe a military victory can ever justify repressing the human rights of the very people you claim to fight for. The end does not justify the means. But I am very much a minority.

6 comments posted so far
gayan wrote at 9:57 am on Mon 9th Mar -
Hey...nice post.

But u know, I do not agree with most of your points.

1)>>>>>>>"I have been fascinated to see this idea of the "Sri Lankan lion", the so-called patriot who loves his country, who strongly believes that the LTTE be wiped out and the country be rid of terrorism, and unfortunately, who in the end believes that Sri Lanka is a country for the Sinhalese Buddhist majority."<<<<<<
Seriously??? Then u must have spoken to only a few of the sinhala-buddhists...generalisations are never a good thing.... and isnt one of the governing principles of democracy, the principle of majority?

2)>>>>>>Now I am a Sinhalese too; I was born in a rural village, went to an affluent school in the City simply because my parents sacrificed their lives for mine, and the only thing I did differently was come to university in a different country. I think I qualify as a Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist.<<<<<
Well the fact of the matter is...from your life of (say) 23 years... U had lived among the colombo affluent for 13 years, and now in UK for 2 years(approx).... Considering that in the first 5 years of life we are too small to understand much... 15/18 (= 84%) of ur life was spent in a very small circle, and a circle quite dissimilar to the general life of atleast 10 million of the Sinhala- Buddhists (considering that the majority in Colombo are tamil muslim...). Yes. you ARE Sinhalese, and Buddhist too, but are u in the same wave length of the Sinhala-Buddhists that you are describing in this essay??.....

3)>>>>>>>But then why, I constantly wonder, do I not feel the same strong views as the "Sri Lankan Lion"? He who believes that Sri Lanka is the greatest country on earth, that Sri Lanka does not require Western help to see development, that "Western media" are all biased towards our country, that they are all pursuing their own agendas of mud-slinging against the Sri Lankan government which is fighting a humanitarian war against terrorism to save the Tamil people from the clutches of years of brutality.<<<<<<<<

refer point 2 above


4)>>>>>>>>>Firstly, as great a country as we are, Sri Lanka does need the help of Western donors, not only for development, but for sustainment. For months now, the govt. and the Central Bank have repeatedly assured its people that the economy is in great shape, and that we are more than capable of sustaining ourselves. There have been months of "patriotic" rhetoric that our economy is capable of withstanding the global financial crisis, and any shortcomings there may be are a direct result of the global economic meltdown, and has nothing to do with how incompetent our govt. is at handling what gives our people its daily rice and dhal. This has certainly helped the "Sri Lankan Lion" euphoria that the West is our enemy, and that we have proved time and time again how our country does not need Western help to survive.<<<<<<

Agreed to ur general direction here...... but u have see things in context. The political culture in SEA is very different to what u see in UK/USA. No government can survive if they admit to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.... the system is such, that the moment u admit to a weakness, the "opposition" will try to cash in on it (no matter which party is in the opposition, that is the way). Had the government said anything like(say) " there will be massive job cuts next year due to economic conditions unfavorable to exports" then the "opposition" will try to get short term mileage out of this and will do their best to create a sense of fear and will try to get people to get on to the streets, creating a new problem for the government, rather than trying to get get together and solve the issue.

5) >>>>>>> To this, I can only say that yes, Sri Lanka has been affected by the global financial crisis, but the current state of the economy has little to do with this " this crisis has been propagated by years of excessive fiscal spending, vast trade deficits, corruption and waste; it is most interesting to note that the Sri Lankan cabinet comprises of 115 ministers for its 19 million population (a number far greater than countries with more than a 100 times its population, the United States, India, the UK, and China). Right now, our nation is borrowing money to pay back borrowed money; and yet, according to our government, we have never been better.<<<<<

Agreed to the first point wholeheartedly. About the point on the number of ministers, well again its the name of the game here. This happens because who ever who wants to rule, he needs a big margin in parliament, cos give em a few $$$$ and most MPs are ready to jump from this side to the other (u can hardly rule, with a majority of one or two, unlike in the US congress), so to get this clear majority, with a buffer for the jumpers, every one needs to be kept happy, thus the 100 ministerial positions. We better identify the problem and criticize that, not the symptoms.


6)>>>>>>The ordinary voter on most days struggles to make enough money to survive; while the ordinary farmer in Hambantota struggles to make enough to feed his family, his representatives, fully clad in Sinhala "national dress", drive around Colombo in the most luxurious vehicles (all bought tax-free mind you) surrounded by a little army to protect them.<<<<

agree on the poor farmers struggle. But (I m not trying to be sarcastic here) isnt that the case in SL,India, China, or even UK os US? the poor will always suffer...
Don't agree on the "national dress" point. Whats the point u are trying to make here. Ranil wears british clothes, the JVP guys wear the same, the Indian president wears their national dress... People wear what they want to wear. So from ur criticism I infer, that if Mahinda wore a British dress (pants,shirt,tie and coat) will ur criticism go away?

7)>>>>drive around Colombo in the most luxurious vehicles (all bought tax-free mind you) surrounded by a little army to protect them. <<<<

well the "little army" is there to protect them selves from the LTTE, haven't you noticed. Not that there are masses of "poor farmers from Hambantota" are waiting to get at the representatives. ( the exception here is Marvin, well for him ofcourse there is a real threat to life, from the people)

7)>>>>>This representative who claims to fight for the poor, ironically lives in a house that is worth more than 20 times the money the farmer will earn in his life time. While the farmer struggles to live, his representatives help themselves to every possible benefit they can scam out of the State.<<<<
Agreed. But this problem too is endemic. Not something that has suddenly come about in the last 3, 4 years. isnt it??

8)>>>>>Why do these rural voters continue to vote for such a government? Perhaps, I tell myself, because of the war. Because the security forces are winning the war, there is a patriotic fever in Sri Lanka. Ironically, this farmer has never set foot outside of Anuradhapura, nor has he ever seen a Tamil Tiger. But yet, he is willing to sacrifice his entire life for this so-called war against terrorism.<<<<

The vast majority of people in UK or US didn't ever see a "Nazi soldier" or a "Japanese soldier" in their lives, but weren't they ready to sacrifice their lives for defending their country?? If not for that, the uni you are in now, would not have been there, or that country for that matter too. So this again is something that has been happening all throughout history, not a sudden phenomena, exclusive to Sri Lanka. Isn't it??

9)>>>Then let us talk about media freedom; Sri Lanka has consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to operate in the world. But as such a ranking system is done by a "Western" organisation such as the Human Rights Watch, it is immediately branded as biased. And needless to say, the farmer believes this.<<<<<

Managing, Silencing, Putting restrictions to voices of dissent, in times of war, I suppose that its not a new phenomena too...from World war 1 to the War in Iraq, US, UK etc etc, have all managed and conditioned the news by either thru 1)legislation
2)the hold they have over the news channels in indirect ways(eg- take NBC, their parent company is General Electric, who is a significant military contractor, depending on billions of dollars of defence contracts from the Pentagon)
3)the support they have got from the key journalists. (eg- do u know that Dan Rather, CBS news guy, has openly stated his support for the War in Iraq ??? I quote him "Look, I'm an American. I never tried to kid anybody that I'm some internationalist or something. And when my country is at war, I want my country to win, whatever the definition of "win" may be. Now, I can't and don't argue that that is coverage without a prejudice. About that I am prejudiced.".. u can google and find the source if u want to)


10) >>>>>>>
In the past 3 years, more than 17 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka. Lasantha Wickremetunge, a journalist known widely for his hard hitting criticism of the government was murdered in broad daylight by a group of unidentified gunmen within a high security zone. When an ordinary Sri Lankan such as myself leaves home to get into Colombo, I am stopped at least 2-3 times by police and army checkpoints. Nevertheless, a group of armed gunmen in motorbikes are able to murder a well-known journalist, and get away in broad daylight within a high security zone. When the BBC correspondent to Sri Lanka (whom the "Sri Lankan Lion" by definition has to brand is biased simply because he is from the West) queries Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse as to this, Rajapakse laughs hysterically. As the nation head of Defence, one would hope that he would at least express sadness at the death of this journalist, and at least offer the empty words of 'conducting a swift investigation' to find the perpetrators (obviously a statement which would not amount to anything); instead, Rajapakse asks the BBC correspondent "Who is Lasantha", that he is a mere tabloid journalist, and that with thousands dying in the North, what is one life.<<<<<<<

Lasantha has been a critic of many governments, not just Mahindas. Many powerful people have found their lives made very very hard, by the investigative journalism of Lasantha (all though we cant totally be oblivious to the allegations that he was a good blackmailer too, withholding some of the info he finds to trade for riches) so it would have been an ideal opportunity for anyone of these people, groups to get rid of LW, cos they know for sure, it will be credited to Mahindas account. Just think about these
1)how many military personnel, ministers have been killed in Colombo High Security Zones by the LTTE? People who had much higher security were gunned down/bombed/sniped etc etc. So if the LTTE wanted to do it to discredit the gov. they COULD have done it.
2)doesnt some of the attacks seem a bit "stupid" for to be ordered by Mahinda? Eg- the attack on the Jaffna office of a news paper on International Press Day, while they were holding a function here in Colombo???
3) at this critical point in time, wouldnt the LTTE be trying to score some points in which ever way they can? A alive LW, writing some articles read by a few thousand english readers in Colombo Vs a Shot and dead LW, arousing the wrath of a whole load of International organizations, governemnts.. What is the more attractive option for the LTTE??


11) >>>>>>> Why should the ordinary farmer care about the death of one journalist? To be honest, it does not surprise me that the ordinary farmer doesn't. Media freedom means very little to him; he will be content with going on with his daily life, and the fact that a major voice of dissent has been silenced means little to him. Such be the failings of democracy I suppose.<<<<<

Exactly correct. The "poor farmer from Hambantota" has bigger problems to solve, while the rich kid from affluent Colombo now studying in Cambridge sees a opportunity to horn his writing/debating/academic skills. If you have read Marx, the basic driving conditions of all life, is primarily economic. Without solving those issues, there is no point in thinking about the other things.
Its not that the "poor farmer" is incorrect, he for one has his priorities correct.


12)>>>>>>Finally, being a Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist, why am I not so upbeat about our winning this war against the LTTE? Simply put, because the Tamil people have never been more vulnerable. The victory of the govt. against the LTTE will mean just one thing; the Sinhalese nationalist government will have little incentive to genuinely seek a political settlement. Mahinda Rajapakse will go through his general empty rhetoric of giving rights that were for so long denied to the Tamil people; perhaps with the insistence of Western donors (once again ironic as these donors are necessarily our enemy according to the "Sri Lankan Lion"), the 13th Amendment will be implemented, but in the most diluted way possible so as not to compromise the power of the central government.<<<<<
Speculating are we?? But one thing that is not needed to be speculated is, the LTTE would not have ever stopped short of a separatist state carved out from Sri Lanka. If they were, like the IRA, they had ample opportunities to lay down arms and get in to negotiations genuinely. All they ever did was, when they were weak, get in to negotiations and then rearm and start the fight again. So unless the LTTE is militarily defeated, no solution can ever be implemented successfully.


13)>>>>>>And this is perhaps why being a Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist, I am not a "Sri Lankan Lion". At the heart of the problem is simply a chauvinist idea held by a majority of Sinhalese, that Sri Lanka is ultimately a land for the Sinhalese. The rural vote base that the present government has, coupled with the Buddhist monks that actively encourage the war despite Lord Buddha's most basic teachings to refrain from violence, will ensure that the Tamil people are not given the autonomy they have craved for so long. The LTTE is a mere manifestation of this ethnic struggle; and the extinction of the LTTE will not be the extinction of the ethnic issue.<<<<<
The war is against the "chauvinistic" "mono ethnic" LTTE, who had chased away all the sinhala/muslim people from their areas, who butcher villagers annually(killing a child by smashing his skull with a "mole gaha", can this be compared to Civilian deaths due to artillery fire fired at LTTE guns placed in Civilian areas.???? ) The only time there was an ethnic killing spree by Sinhalese was in 1983, but that too was by government sponsored goons of UNP president JR. Many ordinary Sinhala-Buddhists protected their tamil neighbors by hiding them in their own homes, even at the risk getting killed them selves for doing that.

14)>>>>>>But for the "Sri Lankan Lion", Sri Lanka has always been the land of the Sinhalese Buddhists, a view held by the Commander of the Army as well, and with the extinction of the LTTE, there is little to be upset about.
As for me, I do not believe a military victory can ever justify repressing the human rights of the very people you claim to fight for. The end does not justify the means. But I am very much a minority.<<<<<
Well, I beg to differ. Sri Lanka is a country for all ethnicity. Democracy dictates that the views of the majority rules over the minority. Unfair as it may seem, that is a fundamental principle. The same principle is at work when US subjects all people from Middle East to body searches and more checks than the White skinned english speaker, and its the same principle at work in Eurpoe where the traditional head dress of Muslim ladies are banned.... it sure looks unfair...but its a global trend.

All in all, I think the article is well written, but draws on limited experience, too many generalizations and convenient omissions to context of situations and historical evidence.

[ps- do forgive if there are any spelling/grammar mistakes....]
SriLankan wrote at 10:18 pm on Mon 9th Mar -
1) “and isnt one of the governing principles of democracy, the principle of majority?”
That may be so, but it does not mean that principle is correct. Don’t forget, a majority of Germans in Nazi Germany believed they were descendants of the Aryan race; does this mean that their principle of exterminating the Jewish people was correct?

2) “Considering that in the first 5 years of life we are too small to understand much... 15/18 (= 84%) of ur life was spent in a very small circle, and a circle quite dissimilar to the general life of atleast 10 million of the Sinhala- Buddhists (considering that the majority in Colombo are tamil muslim...). Yes. you ARE Sinhalese, and Buddhist too, but are u in the same wave length of the Sinhala-Buddhists that you are describing in this essay??.....”

Dear Sir, for a man advocating that one refrain from generalisation, you assume a lot about my life. To say I spent my life in a very small circle without the tiniest shred of knowledge about me is, to say the least, quite presumptuous of you. Just to humour you however, I will intimate that my home is a small village-town called Pelmadulla, in the Sabaragamuwa Province. While I don’t pretend to be the sole voice of the oppressed people of my country, it seems quite incredulous for you to imply that I know little about the common Sinhala-Buddhist, and that you on the other hand, do. But do note, EVEN if you are correct, I would rather not be in the same wave-length as the chauvinist Sri Lankan Lion because as a Buddhist, Lord Buddha’s teachings prescribe that I treat my fellow countrymen equally; that fellow countrymen being every Tamil, Muslim, Burgher. So if by being on the same wavelength you mean being a chauvinist who believes Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese, I’m afraid I am very much alienated from your camp.

3) “Agreed to ur general direction here...... but u have see things in context. The political culture in SEA is very different to what u see in UK/USA. No government can survive if they admit to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.... the system is such, that the moment u admit to a weakness, the "opposition" will try to cash in on it (no matter which party is in the opposition, that is the way). Had the government said anything like(say) " there will be massive job cuts next year due to economic conditions unfavorable to exports" then the "opposition" will try to get short term mileage out of this and will do their best to create a sense of fear and will try to get people to get on to the streets, creating a new problem for the government, rather than trying to get get together and solve the issue.”

I take your point here. But to openly advocate that a democratic government uncompromisingly mislead its people is a heresy against the very principles of democracy. The further point being that, if as the government claims, it has such popularity and it can never be defeated, then why not openly admit to its mistakes? Rajapakse, in his utter arrogance in ignoring the Supreme Court order to reduce petrol prices failed to see that the revocation of the order would lead the derivatives contracts to be reinstated. Rajapakse clamoured to the general public that the SC order would lose his government 10,000 million rupees. Now, the government is liable to pay 60,000 million rupees to the commercial banks involved in the proceedings. But this, for obvious reasons, is never heard by the people. As a Sri Lankan, do you not believe our people have a right to know the truth? My point is that if a government is too incompetent to handle the economy, whether or not it gets to stay in power is up to the voters. It is not in Rajapakse’s power to determine what the voter ought to know when making his decision. If the voter, after knowing how incompetent Rajapakse is at handling our economy, still keeps him in power, then that is most certainly fair enough. But my point is that the voter should have that option of knowing the truth, so that he may make his decision. If I am a mere outsider who does not feel the pulse of the common man, but you are, then how can you justify deceiving the very people you claim to endear so much?

4) “Agreed to the first point wholeheartedly. About the point on the number of ministers, well again its the name of the game here. This happens because who ever who wants to rule, he needs a big margin in parliament, cos give em a few $$$$ and most MPs are ready to jump from this side to the other (u can hardly rule, with a majority of one or two, unlike in the US congress), so to get this clear majority, with a buffer for the jumpers, every one needs to be kept happy, thus the 100 ministerial positions. We better identify the problem and criticize that, not the symptoms.”

If that be the case, then how come President Premadasa managed to rule with less than 50 cabinet members, President Kumaratunge with less than 65, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe less than 40 in his? To say that it is the name of the game in Sri Lanka, thereby giving the green light to the excesses that go hand in hand with the biggest Cabinet in the world, while at the same time advocating your loyalty with the common man who struggles to make his ends meet everyday, is self contradictory.

5) “agree on the poor farmers struggle. But (I m not trying to be sarcastic here) isnt that the case in SL,India, China, or even UK os US? the poor will always suffer...”

You have completely missed my point. The poor, by definition, do always suffer, such be the trappings of this world. My point is that while the farmer in Hambantota is struggling to live, his so-called representative lives a life of luxury without an inkling of feeling toward the plight of his constituency. While I am by no way saying that India or even the US for that matter are shining beacons of political accountability, both in the US and in India, Ministers of government are prescribed by law to disclose all assets they possess every 2 years. Do you think Rajapakse will ever allow this to happen in Sri Lanka?

6) “Don't agree on the "national dress" point. Whats the point u are trying to make here. Ranil wears british clothes, the JVP guys wear the same, the Indian president wears their national dress... People wear what they want to wear. So from ur criticism I infer, that if Mahinda wore a British dress (pants,shirt,tie and coat) will ur criticism go away?”

The national dress point is meant to highlight the irony involved when a politician wearing national dress, thereby immediately being a ‘true Sri Lankan’ in the mind of the Sri Lankan lion and immediately conveying the idea that such a politician is one who feels the pulse of the common man, simultaneously drives around Colombo in a car that is more expensive than the farmer’s house (it would be more expensive than that, but Ministers are allowed tax free importation of private vehicles; usually, Ministers sell these tax free permits to private individuals and get large sums of money as consideration), live in a house that is ten times the size of that of the farmer, and have a bank account that is more than a 100 times that of the farmer. My point is that what dress you choose to wear does not convey how closely you feel the pulse of the common man.

7) “But this problem too is endemic. Not something that has suddenly come about in the last 3, 4 years. isnt it??”
Endemic indeed; but not to the astronomical proportions that we see under the current regime.

9) “Managing, Silencing, Putting restrictions to voices of dissent, in times of war, I suppose that its not a new phenomena too...from World war 1 to the War in Iraq, US, UK etc etc, have all managed and conditioned the news by either thru 1)legislation
2)the hold they have over the news channels in indirect ways(eg- take NBC, their parent company is General Electric, who is a significant military contractor, depending on billions of dollars of defence contracts from the Pentagon)
3)the support they have got from the key journalists.

You talk of the US govt. getting support from key journalists; but is this the same as murdering those who dissent? Is it the same as torching a news organisation (MBC/MTV, which according to our esteemed Defence Secretary burned down their $60 million premises to claim the $1 million insurance payout)? In the aftermath of the attack on Sirasa, the head of MTV Chevaan Daniel spoke to the CNN about the attack; immediately after, Gotabhaya Rajapakse calls him a terrorist, after which a manhunt begins for Daniels’ arrest. Is this the same as getting the support of key journalists?

The point is simply put this: it is our democratic right to speak out against the government. If the government kills a 100 innocent civilians, then our people have a right to know the truth. Today, journalists can be arrested by the mere whim and fancy of Defence Secretary Rajapakse and detained without charge for months. You can only feel this pain if someone you yourself knew were abducted in such a way, tortured, and released upon ransom. Unsurprisingly, the Sri Lankan Lion would in no small words remind me of Guantanamo Bay. But then, if Sri Lanka is a great nation, then surely the jungle practices of the West should not determine how we conduct affairs in our own nation? Being the land of the Sinhalese, being the land of Buddhism, should we invoke the so called ugly practices of the West to justify our own?

10) You ask me to think of how it could easily have been the LTTE who killed Lasantha Wickremetunge. In response, I ask you, is it not true that Rajapakse called Mr.Wickrematunge a ‘Tiger journalist’ just weeks prior to his death? Yes, that is not evidence which would hold in a court of law. But then, what about Lasantha’s own views about who was behind his death? Are those to be ignored? Or are you going to tell me that the posthumous editorial was hastily fabricated by ‘international elements’ who wanted to discredit the government?

You say that the Sunday Leader was read by a few thousand English readers; do not forget that although his articles were read by the aforementioned few, his findings went much further than that. His findings about the corrupt deal for MIG fighter jets already was read by people all over Sri Lanka. His findings about President Kumarantunge’s excesses had him in constant legal battles with her. But that is beside the point, even if Mr.Wickrematunge’s killing was not ordered by the govt. itself (and this is an assumption I make with reservation), by months of calling any journalists who refused to toe the government line ‘terrorists’, the government was directly responsible for a culture of impunity where journalists could be abducted and tortured with little respect for law and order.

11) “Exactly correct. The "poor farmer from Hambantota" has bigger problems to solve, while the rich kid from affluent Colombo now studying in Cambridge sees a opportunity to horn his writing/debating/academic skills. If you have read Marx, the basic driving conditions of all life, is primarily economic. Without solving those issues, there is no point in thinking about the other things. Its not that the "poor farmer" is incorrect, he for one has his priorities correct.”

Once again dear Sir you feel the need to criticise the writer at a personal level. To presume me a ‘rich kid from affluent Colombo’ is a fantastic one, given how little knowledge you have of me. Secondly, to see this article as an opportunity to horn my writing/debating/and academic skills is incredulous; instead of spending hours reading literature on Sri Lankan history, politics, and writing my views on the desperate need for democracy in my home land, I probably would be better off spending it reading for my degree in Law. There are plenty of other ways I can better horn my writing/debating/academic skills.

You say that without solving the basic economic conditions that drive all conditions of life, there is no point in thinking about other things. This is a fantastic sentiment. According to your logic, Rajapakse can be allowed to do whatever he pleases just because there are more important things for us to worry about. Whether he kills 20 journalists, whether he allows his Cabinet of puppets to pilfer vast sums of public money, whether he has no regard for the constitutional framework that our forefathers dreamt for our country, whether he takes land from the rich to give to the poor, whether he runs death squads to silence his critics, according to your logic, we should not care, because the farmer in Hambantota struggles to survive daily.

As I gather you have read Marx, a proponent of a failed, but admirable vision, you will also know that Marx believed in the fundamental structure of democracy, and constitutional separation of powers. Marx himself believed that to alleviate the poor from the clutches of poverty, the State needed to be one of stability, justice, and one which respects the rule of law. Suffice it to say that the rule of law is a downtrodden concept in Sri Lanka " but to that you would say, that is just the way things work here. But that does not make it correct dear sir.

12) “Speculating are we?? But one thing that is not needed to be speculated is, the LTTE would not have ever stopped short of a separatist state carved out from Sri Lanka. If they were, like the IRA, they had ample opportunities to lay down arms and get in to negotiations genuinely. All they ever did was, when they were weak, get in to negotiations and then rearm and start the fight again. So unless the LTTE is militarily defeated, no solution can ever be implemented successfully.”

I agree with you. But my point is as to the solution that you talk of; the Rajapakse regime, coupled with its nationalist forces, will never allow the Tamil people to be treated as equals in Sri Lanka. And herein lies our real problem. You can defeat terrorism, but it takes much more to change the chauvinist attitudes of the Sinhala people. If, someday, we Sinhalese manage to get over our idea that Sri Lanka is the land of the Sinhalese, therein lies the solution to our problem.

13) “The war is against the "chauvinistic" "mono ethnic" LTTE, who had chased away all the sinhala/muslim people from their areas, who butcher villagers annually(killing a child by smashing his skull with a "mole gaha", can this be compared to Civilian deaths due to artillery fire fired at LTTE guns placed in Civilian areas.???? ) The only time there was an ethnic killing spree by Sinhalese was in 1983, but that too was by government sponsored goons of UNP president JR. Many ordinary Sinhala-Buddhists protected their tamil neighbors by hiding them in their own homes, even at the risk getting killed them selves for doing that.”

I do not see the relevance of this point to my initial argument. Never did I intend to cast the LTTE in a good light. The war certainly is against a brutal terrorist organisation, but the irony is, this war against the “chauvinistic mono-ethnic LTTE” is waged by a government that itself is chauvinistic in so far as they believe Sri Lanka is for the Sinhalese people. When the Commander of the Army himself publicly asserts that Tamils and Muslims are mere outsiders who can live on ‘our’ land, but cannot ask for greater rights, what hope do the Tamil people have?

14) “Well, I beg to differ. Sri Lanka is a country for all ethnicity. Democracy dictates that the views of the majority rules over the minority. Unfair as it may seem, that is a fundamental principle. The same principle is at work when US subjects all people from Middle East to body searches and more checks than the White skinned english speaker, and its the same principle at work in Eurpoe where the traditional head dress of Muslim ladies are banned.... it sure looks unfair...but its a global trend.”

Democracy most certainly does dictate that the views of the majority rule over the minority; but when the majority view is to impinge upon the rights of that minority and to deny them political autonomy, separatism is inevitable.

My last words to you Sir; I gather you to be a true patriot, one who’s sole concern is to rid our nation of terrorism, and to help the people of our nation to develop, prosper, and live the lives they deserve to lead. If that be the case, then I ask you to open your mind for a Sri Lanka which is not solely for the Sinhalese Buddhist, but a land for us all. To open your mind to giving the Tamil people equal rights, and political autonomy over their lives. Only by appeasing the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, and crucially the Tamil disapora of the world who have the means to fund another terrorist insurgence in our homeland, will we ever be able to get out of this struggle. And if as you imply your interests are solely with the people of Sri Lanka, then you might agree with me in saying that the idea that Sri Lanka is the land of the Sinhalese Buddhists should be the first thing to go in achieving our goals of improving the lives of the Sri Lankan people.



Moosra wrote at 1:22 am on Tue 10th Mar -
A patriot is one who always supports his country, and sometimes supports his politicians. There is very little question of patriotism when it comes to a civil war. Would both people not be patriots for their own version of Lanka, rather than the de jure situation? Thus to be a Lankan patriot would be to support your country : Sri Lanka.

In this case, it would be to support the solution that would lead to the improvement of your country.

Personally, I feel that the LTTE is fighting a war that is unwinnable. Their methods have been terrorism combined with ethno-centricism... neither are intellectually defensible. The LTTE lost any moral high ground they had when they resorted to thuggery against civilians, and more so in my eyes when they assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in India.

To be a patriot would be to be a supporter of peace. However, that peace can only come about when the violent faction are eliminated. The LTTE must perish for peace to occur, and they must be beaten under using military force. That is the only way, and it takes a great monk to admit it. Dharma is becoming canon in Buddhism now as well... the idea that not all fights are winnable by non-violence, and that righteousness must be manifest in us all, through all spheres (including military). This is not my opinion, but that of the Dalai Lama, who recently said that military solutions are the only ones against terrorists who have closed their hearts and minds.

The author makes a dangerous statement in his final post- suggesting that appeasement is an appropriate protocol to dealing with a fractitious society. I disagree sir, and say to you that a house divided cannot stand. Appeasement of the LTTE is the worst solution possible.

As for the Tamil minority, they should be embraced as brothers (for they are), and allowed to live under a uniform civil code- one law for all. Special concessions or autonomy for a certain group undermine the concept of a secular democracy. For example take the appeasement of the Muslim population in India- they are subject to special lenient laws on polygamy etc and have special reservations for them at educational institutions. Such measures ultimately only divide a country along meaningless lines.

Here is my vision for your country:

One Sri Lanka, roaring like the proud lion on your flag with pride for your combined past and intertwined future.

One Sri Lanka for Tamils and Sinhalese alike. One Sri Lanka regardless of Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim.

One Sri Lanka in peace and prosperity.

Should these not be the true aspirations of the Lankan tiger? Not a state for the Sinhalese, nor an isolated island cut off from the rest of the world; but a proud country for all, ready to contribute and take in equal measure and join the global fold.
SriLankan wrote at 5:33 am on Tue 10th Mar -
"The author makes a dangerous statement in his final post- suggesting that appeasement is an appropriate protocol to dealing with a fractitious society. I disagree sir, and say to you that a house divided cannot stand. Appeasement of the LTTE is the worst solution possible."

I fear you misinterpreted my point there Aamod. My argument was that the Sri Lankan government should appease the TAMIL PEOPLE at this crucial juncture, and NOT the LTTE. The LTTE has to be militarily defeated, I do not contend that point. But what is crucial now is for the Sri Lankan government to make a genuine effort to give equality to the Tamil people in the political, ethnic, social, and cultural avenues of our country. The lack of such a genuine effort is what led the LTTE to take up arms against the government historically, and the lack of such an effort now, when we have the luxury to discount terrorism, would simply lead to the re-emergence of terrorism in Sri Lanka at a later time.

To address the ethnic issue, we need to give the Tamil people what they have craved for so long, and importantly, we need to convince the Tamil diaspora all over the world that Tamils are treated equally in Sri Lanka with their own rights of political autonomy.

My subsidiary point was that this government, aided by the nationalist forces which are its allies, will never 'succumb' to giving away power to the Tamils because ultimately, at the heart of the problem, is the chauvinist idea of the Sinhalese masses that Sri Lanka is a land that belongs to the Sri Lankan Sinhalese, and no one else.


Moosra wrote at 10:14 pm on Tue 10th Mar -
"Appeasement" suggests a special political status for Tamils in Sri Lanka. For the reasons mentioned above, I think that is a dangerous situation.

Specific grievances from the Tamil community could be dealt with using a special "Tamil affairs" minister. Creating autonomy separate from a uniform civil code is dangerous because it leaves Tamils as a "state within a state".

I can't pretend to know the specifics of the social issues surrounding Sri Lanka, but I do know that all constituents of a nation must be on equal footing for peace to exist.
SriLankan wrote at 10:46 pm on Tue 10th Mar -
Not at all. Appeasement does not in any way suggest a special political status for Tamils in Sri Lanka. All that the Tamil people have asked for historically is to be treated as equals in Sri Lanka, ie no special rights, but simply be given the same rights as the Sinhalese. The LTTE has asked for a separate state, that is different matter. What the moderate Tamil community has always wanted is simply to be treated as equals in their own country, and to have the power of self governance pertaining to their issues, perhaps like Quebec in Canada. By calling for appeasement of the Tamil Community, I simply ask for that - that the Tamil people be given what they have historically wanted, ie the right to self governance.

I do not call for a deviation from a uniform civil code whatsoever - simply a rightful devolution of power to the Tamil people of the North and East, and a genuine one at that, not some watered down version which enables the predominantly Sinhala government to hold the real power over the North and East.

Ultimately it is a matter of the self-determination of the Tamil people - this does not mean a separate state, but simply, a genuine devolution of power so that the Tamil people may govern themselves.

"I can't pretend to know the specifics of the social issues surrounding Sri Lanka, but I do know that all constituents of a nation must be on equal footing for peace to exist."

We are very much in agreement and that is precisely the issue I am getting at. But this Sinhalese nationalist government will never allow all constituents of a nation to be on an equal footing because ultimately, they believe that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese.

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