A Response to Rajan Phillips and L. Jayasooriya

A few comments on the paper delivered in Brazil indicate how deeply Sri Lankans have absorbed the oppositional mindsets that Nirmal Verma and Tagore deplored. One generalization occurred in the Sunday Island, to which a response was made. Another appeared only in the electronic media, but was obligingly sent in. Published here are the response to the Sunday Island and a response to another comment, since it seems important to explain to those who seem confused the idea between a nation in which there is a majority of a particular religion, and characterizing the state as that of a particular religion.

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The Editor

Sunday Island

 

Dear Sir

I read with some interest Rajan Philips’ account of ‘Anglo-Indo-Lanka ties and tangles from DS Senanayake to Mahinda Rajapaksa’  in your columns last week. In the midst of an interesting thesis, he made a gratuitous reference to a paper I had delivered in Brazil last month, and claimed that my thesis seemed to have been ‘to attribute the foreign policy differences between DS Senanayake and the UNP, on the one hand, and SWRD Bandaranaike and the Left on the other, to the difference between a supposedly dichotomous Western view of things and a contrastingly unifying Eastern vision’.

I am grateful to him for having so graphically illustrated a dichotomizing view of things, and sorry that his mindset seems to be ‘Western’ in this regard, as defined by Nimal Verma and Tagore. I did not talk about differences between Senanayake and Bandaranaike, and indeed I pointed out that the Rubber Rice Pact with China was signed during a UNP regime. I did note that J R Jayewardene had abandoned traditional Sri Lankan foreign policy because of his decision to enter the Cold War on one side, but I would certainly not describe the traditional UNP, as represented by the Senanayakes, as dichotomizing.

I attach a copy of the full paper and hope that you might be able to publish it in full, since Mr Philips’ account is misleading.

Yours sincerely

Rajiva Wijesinha

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Thanks for writing to me personally. I am sorry you have only blind copied to others, so please do pass this on to all those others as well. I have taken the liberty of copying this to many of those on these lists who have written to me personally recently, but I assume there are many more.

I have long realized that few people read carefully, and that comments on what others say are

a) based generally on what one assumes they have said

b) intended to make points one makes anyway

In this instance it seems that you, like Shenali, have confused my criticism of those who think Sri Lanka is a Buddhist state with those who refer to it as a Buddhist nation. The latter is not a problem, since it means a nation where the majority is Buddhist, which is of course true of Sri Lanka. But thinking of Sri Lanka as a Buddhist state (or of France as a Catholic state) is inaccurate, since this is not the case constitutionally, and it is generally not acceptable to give a state a particular religious identity when there are substantial portions of its populace who belong to other religions.

This makes it clear why she is confused in criticizing me for referring to countries as Islamic. But she is also confused in not having registered that I said Sri Lanka was in ‘a unique position to act as a catalyst in bringing other countries together’ precisely because we have several religions practiced in this country which is not the case in countries that are predominantly Islamic (or Buddhist or Christian or Hindu or Jewish).

Finally, the danger of the manner in which Shenali jumbles things is apparent in her claim that Sri Lanka has ‘a clear majority ethnic race with one ethnic religion?’ Leaving aside the question of what she means by an ‘ethnic religion’, it is not the case that the Sinhalese (or the Tamils) have just one religion.

The rest of the article simply restates, as you note, what Shenali has stated in other articles, and the same applies to what you have said, but it is a pity that both of you generalize in the manner I have explained is associated with those she and you dislike so much, in the article from which she has selected the passage she bewails. That article talked of a Western view of the world that imposed dichotomies, brilliantly summed up by Nirmal Verma in terms of the tendency to ‘other’ what was different from oneself. Buddhism does not impose dichotomies.

It is ironic to find Shenali succumbing to this tendency, and lumping anyone with whom she has a difference of opinion as the polar opposite of herself. In your case, though you have not made the mistake of claiming that I use VIP platforms to talk about Tamil casualties, you lump all adherents of what Shenali calls the Abrahamic religions together, and assume that no Sri Lankan Muslims or Christians can be a patriotic Sri Lankan. To argue thus, to claim that Buddhists have not attacked Christians simply because in the past Christians attacked Buddhists, to claim that no one can deny Muslims are anti-Buddhist, is not convincing.

 It is tragic that adherents of what should be the most sensitive religion in the world cannot praise themselves without attacking others. Do try reading the Kalama SutraWe need to go forward, guarding what we won in 2009, not backwards.

Regards, Rajiva

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On Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 7:47 PM, L Jayasooriya <> wrote:

Dear Dr. Rajeva Wijesinha
 
I copy and paste below just one paragraph from your recent article in the Daily News (05/11/2013)  and I shall comment on that only. What Shenali D Waduge has said in her reply to you she has said over and over again in the past.
 
Begin copy and paste:
” This is sad because, given our location, as well as the pluralism of our society, we are in a unique position to act as a catalyst in bringing other countries together. Unfortunately we have extremists in Sri Lanka who think of the country as being a Buddhist state and believe that this will justify a special relationship with China, as opposed to India which is denigrated as Hindu.There is similar disregard for the Islamic countries which supported us so strongly in our struggle against terrorist, as did the Muslims in Sri Lanka; and attacks on Christians, who are seen as surrogates for the West which is persecuting us, with no regard for the solid support of the Catholic community in general in our struggle against terrorism, and the brave stand against the Tigers of the priests who first led people out when they were being kept as hostages”

End Copy and paste

I gather from Wikipedia that you have an impressive record in education and in career. When a person with such an impressive record  says the things you have said in the paragraph I have copied and pasted it is time that somebody gives you a reply. 

 

This country is a Buddhist State the same as France is a Catholic State so defined because of the majority in each country. When a Buddhist says that this country is a Buddhist State because 70% of its citizens are Buddhist you call him an extremist who believes in what is not true. Will you also tell a Catholic Frenchman that he is an extremist when he says and asserts that France is a Catholic country? If you cannot say that then your argument has been demolished. The general logic in this paragraph is not easy to comprehend  but I interpret you as saying that Buddhists consider Muslims as anti-Buddhist. No one will deny that Muslims are anti-Buddhist as can be seen by their activities. When you say that Islamic countries supported us strongly in our struggle against terrorists I can only draw a blank because such a thing never happened. Only one Muslim country supported us strongly and that was Pakistan. Their support was not based on Islam. It was because India is the common enemy of both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Therefore it is not true to say that Islamic countries supported us in our fight against terrorists. 

 

You say Muslims in Sri Lanka supported us in our fight against the terrorists. That statement is not true because they were incapable of supporting  us and they were victims to the terrorists themselves having been driven out of their homes leaving everything behind. You then speak of attacks on Christians by Buddhists. That is not true because it has been the Christians that have attacked the Buddhists ever since the Portuguese landed on our soil on that  fateful day some years ago that Ranil Wickramasinghe wants to celebrate. 

 

During the colonial period it was the Christians that ruled the country and deprived the rights of the Buddhists for equal share of the resources.  It was the Christians that denied the Buddhists even the right of an education. There was not a single Buddhist school. All were Christian. It was that American Col H. S. Olcott who started a school for Buddhists which was Ananda College but the Christian governments kept Buddhist schools down as “B” grade with no funds to recruit sufficient good teachers. I was in such a school at Dharmasoka College Ambalangoda in which my class teacher did not know how to teach Algebra and Geometry.  At that time Ananda College beat all other christian schools and most of the university entrants came from Buddhist or government schools with much smaller grants.  

 

 

You then say that Buddhists have no regard to the solid support of the Catholic Community in the fight against terrorism. I cannot speak about the Catholic Community but it is an indisputable fact that the Catholic Church emerged as a full supporter of the LTTE all along. Also America and the West were fully supportive of the LTTE as has been proved when they wanted our government to permit the LTTE top brass to leave to a third country which MR refused making America to bring in human rights charges against us. 

 

As I said before the logic of your statement in that whole paragraph is not easy to understand but what one can infer  is that you made the Catholic Church appear as if it is a  benign establishment. If that is what you meant then Sir, you are very wrong there. The inhuman crimes against humanity done by the Catholic Church have been well recorded and their barbarism far exceeded that of  Adolf Hitler in terms of what they have done. Hitler tortured human beings and killed them but he did not burn them alive at the stake as the Catholic Church revelled in doing.  

 

According to many  Galileo Galilee was the greatest scientist of all. He was imprisoned for life by the Roman Catholic Church on June 21, 1633. The Pope later commuted the sentence to house arrest for life where he died 8 years later on January 8, 1642. That was only 371 years ago, today being 2013. It is appropriate at this moment to state that almost 500 years before Galileo Galilee completed the sentence imposed on him by the all merciful Pope who could have burnt him alive at the stake but did not do so out of compassion , we in Sri Lanka had a thriving civilization with massive irrigation reservoirs and water distribution systems that are still in use today. Considering the fact that a genius of the calibre of Galileo Galilee is a very rare occurrence in this world and the Catholic Church has ruthlessly suppressed all scientific advancement within its reach, if it was not for the Catholic Church mankind would have achieved the present day level of progress very much earlier may be even a hundred years earlier. Also considering the every rapid rate of advance in science today if we had reached the present day level much earlier the quality of material life  and health would have been unbelievably higher. All that was destroyed by the Catholic Church. 

 

Today the Buddhists are being attacked by Christians on many fronts including conversion through money taking advantage of the poverty of the people and this money is brought into the country by so-called NGOs like World Vision that have the full support of this government and had the full support of previous governments as well. Saudi Arabia is pouring in money to breed Muslims with the intent of ultimately destroying Buddhism in Sri Lanka. If Saudies do not send money how can a poor Muslim family afford 6 to 7 children with several wives that this government has permitted a Muslim to have but not a Buddhist?  If ever a Buddhist complains on these matters he is branded an extremist as you have done. That is why Christians are thus seen as surrogates for the West and Muslims as surrogates of the Muslim world which is persecuting us.

 All this has cost the vote bank of the UPFA government very dearly but at the next elections it will be saved by Ranil Wickramasinghe.
L. Jayasooriya

 

 

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