Sri Lanka is said to be one of the most literate countries in Asia due to its free education system. The people therefore should be fully aware of the atrocities committed on the Tamil minority of the north east by the state military. Their Buddhist conscience should surely tell them that the war against the Tamils is wrong and immoral.
The Sinhalese are in the majority (72%) and mostly Buddhists. At one stage, the Sri Lankan government even declared Poya days (full moon days) as holidays and worked on Sundays while the rest of the world were asleep. One can imagine how it would have affected their exports and import business and their international shipping and transportation. This rather unusual action was to show the world their commitment to Buddhism, come what may.
Despite being Buddhists, they seem to be complacent about the unnecessary war that has been declared on the Tamil minority in the north east, where most of them have lived from time immemorial. Even in Israel there are a number of Jews demanding justice for Palestinians. But in Sri Lanka — the Paradise Isle — except for a handful of people, there are no cries worthy of note by the Sinhala Buddhists against Sri Lanka’s destructive policies and violation of human rights — which is itself anti-Buddhist!
Depoliticise the Buddhist clergy
The time has come for the Sinhala intelligentsia and the ruling elite to see sense and show Buddhist compassion, and use pressure on the state to stop the war. Negotiations should be re-started with a view to allowing the Tamils to live in freedom from state violence and discrimination. It is also time to depoliticise the Buddhist clergy and send them back to the temples where they rightly belong. They must not be allowed to interfere in governance, which is not their role and for which they are not equipped at all.
The Sinhalese seem to have the wrong attitude regarding their place in history, due mainly to the mythologies of the Mahawamsa, the old journal of history written in Pali by Buddhist monks. They have been made to believe that the island is the exclusive property of the Sinhala Buddhists and that they have divine rights over the minorities who have to live on the grace and favour of the Sinhala Buddhist majority.
Role of media
In a highly literate country like Sri Lanka, it is obvious that the media plays a very important role in shaping the thinking of the people. They have the power of the pen which, they say, is ‘mightier than the Sword.’ So why don’t they use it to defuse and remedy such an ugly situation where the so-called Theravada Buddhists are supporting the destructive and racist policies of the corrupt government?
Successive governments from the time of independence have continued to follow the same racist policies against the Tamil minority with the support of the media. The media must expose the corruption of the politicians. Recently, over Rs. 20 million had been spent by the President and his cronies to witness the cricket matches in Barbados, when it could have been better spent on the people still suffering from the war and the tsunami. It reminds one of Roman Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome was burning! The taxes paid by the people and the large income from Middle-East workers are being vainly squandered by the corrupt politicians and arms dealers who are doing everything to perpetuate the war for their gain.
Tamils not aliens
For how long are the Sinhalese going to treat the Tamils like aliens — as if they did not belong to the island?
What is urgently needed is an explosion of Buddhist conscience. Wouldn’t it be a victory for Buddhism if the Sinhala Buddhists feel ashamed of these actions against the Tamil minority? Shouldn’t the Buddhist monks withdraw from politics and spend more time in spreading the dhamma instead of going in Mercedes Benz cars?
If the Jews can speak up for the Arabs in Palestine, shouldn’t fair-minded Sinhalese do likewise? In the end, only Buddhism would be able to resolve this long-standing ethnic problem started in the first place by Buddhist monks, who refused to let Bandaranaike grant federalism to the Tamils and forced Tamils to take up arms and demand a separate state.
"All that is needed for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing." — Edmund Burke
— Lt. Col. Anton J.N. Selvadurai (Retd), The Morning Leader, Wednesday, September 19,2007