In July 1983, Tamils who were residing in predominantly-Sinhala areas were attacked systematically. Although it was not proved beyond any doubts, the attack was planned by the forces behind the Government.
Attackers were not simply emotional. The attacks were spearheaded by a systematic and planned emotion, which was followed by mass-scale idiotic emotion. There was evidence that the attackers were having lists of the targeted homes and shops of the Tamils. People from Colombo were involved in the attacks on cities outside Colombo.
It was also evident that the attacks were directed against economic targets as well. One reason may be that the persons who were behind the attacks were jealous of the economic prosperity of the elite of the minority Tamils.
That marked the takeoff of Tamil militancy which was fuelled by the Government. President Jayewardene, who addressed the nation after a remarkable delay, blamed the Tamils themselves.
He then brought a constitutional amendment in August 1983 to the effect that the Parliamentarians should take an oath that they do not support a separate state in Sri Lanka, to which Tamil Parliamentarians did not agree and quit Parliament, creating a state where Government had to deal with the militants and not with the elected representatives of Tamils.
History repeating itself
History is repeating itself unfortunately in line with the myopic mainstream thinking of the ‘Sinhala Buddhists,’ which is a near religion now and this thinking is detrimental to the long-term sustainability of the nation.
Muslims in Dharga Town, Aluthgama, were attacked systematically. Why? Like 13 soldiers killed in 1983, there was a Buddhist Bhikku and his driver was attacked by a Muslim. This was followed by a major rally organised by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) in Aluthgama promoting communal hatred.
"The Government is jeopardising Sri Lanka’s national interest by adopting wrong foreign and domestic policies in order to secure power by ensuring the support of the majority Sinhala Buddhists by means of creating communal disharmony. For sure with this status, economic prosperity would be a wild dream"
Promoting communal hatred is against the law of the land. Sometime back Azath Salley was arrested under false charges of propagating communal hatred. Probably this law is only applicable to minorities.
It was reported that Muslim Ministers and Parliamentarians tried their best to stop this rally and they failed. Finally the attack was carried out, after the rally was not prevented by the Police and the security forces. It was assured that those who were responsible would be punished and that assurance would have the same fate of the assurances given to the former Indian Prime Minister and the Secretary General of United Nations.
Elections on racism grounds
In 1983 there was considerable discontent among the Sinhalese of the country about the killing of Sinhala soldiers in the north. After the incident of July 1983 and facing the grave repercussions of the incident, Lalith Athulathmudali as the Minister of National Security kept on advising the general public not to be provoked by the acts of the LTTE. The Sinhalese majority lived up to those expectations till the end of the war.
After the war, the present regime realised, against the previous belief, that a presidential election can be won solely with the votes of the Sinhala Buddhists. Therefore, there are projects intentionally installed by the ruling regime to promote Sinhala Buddhism at the expense of the interests of minorities.
Their intention is to fight the future elections on the grounds of racism and not on the grounds of good governance or economic affairs. Therefore is it mandatory to promote racism among the majority Sinhala Buddhists, leading to the birth of the BBS and other extremist Sinhala Buddhist organisations with the patronage of the ruling elite. Domestic and foreign policies of the Government are based on this strategy.
There was no natural discontent of the Sinhala Buddhists about the activities of the Muslims of this country. It was created intentionally by the extremist and loose-headed monks with political patronage, probably with economic jealousy as well.
The Government had the ability to remove the 43rd Chief Justice against natural justice and Rule of Law within a very short period. It was evident in several similar incidents such as at Rathupaswala that direct challenging acts against the regime would not be tolerated.
Therefore it can be reasonably assumed that the failure to stop the rally at Aluthgama was intentional. Failure of the Police to stop the violence also was intentional. The attackers were probably brought from outside of Aluthgama.
It was argued that the agenda of the BBS goes beyond the electoral intentions of the ruling elite, especially analysing the contents of the Aluthgama speech of the monk who was punished by the courts for drunk driving some time back. It is not. If it is, they will be destroyed by the ruling elite in no time. They are just a bunch of inflated puppets.
A dangerous game
Sinhala Buddhists should realise that the Government is playing a dangerous game of fire with their sentiments in order to secure power for the Government. In 1983 when Tamil militancy took off with Black July, the foreign policy of the Sri Lankan Government was in a different line to the Indian Government.
In addition to that Sri Lanka had just opened its gates to the open economy whereas India was following its closed and pro-Soviet economic policies. This created an opportunity for the Indian Government to interfere with Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs.
India, where 70 million Tamils reside in close proximity to Sri Lanka, helped train Tamil militants at the initial stages. With the expelling of moderate Tamil leaders from Parliament and application of hardline policies towards Tamils, the stage was set for destruction.
Now the same type of ground scenario is set. Due to the Chinese-aligned policies of the Government, Western countries are not in favour with it. The Government is neither cooperating with the international community in the investigation of war crime charges nor carrying it out by its own.
There are a lot of Muslim allies of Western nations. There is a possibility of repeating history if Muslim militancy is created and supported by the West. Sri Lanka is depending on the Muslim countries for supply of oil and providing employment opportunities for a large number of Sri Lankans including domestic workers from whom Sri Lanka gets a large portion of foreign remittances to cover its weak trade deficit.
There is no leadership for the Muslims now. Their nominal leader who committed the crime of supporting the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with his team for personal gains was asked to leave recently by none other than the President. He stays. After his people were attacked and after addressing them with tears, crocodile of course, he argues what benefit their people get if he leaves the Government.
He should understand that it is of paramount importance of a leader to hold the followers together rather than surrendering together. Then only can he stop the rise of a militant leadership. This is necessary for our country since the Government rushes in where angels fear to tread.
Sri Lanka under pressure
Sinhala Buddhists should realise that the origin of the stupid foreign policy of the Government also was based on arousing communal feelings among them and securing votes. There is a different treatment to the north by the Government compared to the treatment to the south.
One example is the interference by the military in civilian affairs. If the Government treated them with equal footing and genuinely found a solution to their political issues, then the demand for investigation of war crimes would be not that strong, or would it have been diminished.
The Government kept on celebrating the war victory and downplayed the political demands of the Tamils and created the grounds for communal disharmony in order to secure the support of Sinhala Buddhists. As a result when Indian pressure was mounting the Government leaned towards China. This antagonised India as well as the West. As a result Sri Lanka is under pressure from the West as well as India.
Jeopardising national interest
Therefore the Government is jeopardising Sri Lanka’s national interest by adopting wrong foreign and domestic policies in order to secure power by ensuring the support of the majority Sinhala Buddhists by means of creating communal disharmony. For sure with this status, economic prosperity would be a wild dream.
Sri Lanka now is on the same path of Sudan and Yugoslavia. Ultimately we may have to end up at the point where the country would be divided with international support if we go along this path.
There is a term Bhava used in the 12 Nidhanas: cause and effect analysis of birth, life and death in Buddhism. It means becoming and being arranged. Sri Lanka is being arranged and set to go on that path. In order to avoid it, there should be a clear and strong political will expressed and actions taken.
Sinhala Buddhists, who are the target audience of the Government, if they have any sense, should be able to break their unholy silence and influence the Government in this respect. Unfortunately Sinhala Buddhism is having a separate religious status now as preached by few of their own separatists. Some Sinhala Buddhists have abandoned their original religion, which was Buddhism. Therefore we should pray for them.
Oh God, forgive them, for they don’t know what they should do. They don’t know that they are being politically used and appeased. They don’t know by their ignorance they ruin their own future, the future of their children, the future of the generations ahead and the future of their beloved nation.
(The writer is a Chartered Accountant by profession and holds a Master of Business Administration degree awarded by the Postgraduate Institute of Management of University of Sri Jayewardenepura.)