“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”-Mahatma Gandhi
Sri Lanka has an ancient culture. We have been told about vehicles that flew, birds that announced the birth of gods: a wonderment of unexpected pleasures. Our myths speak of a land in which all living things flourished, where humans communicated directly with animals and people had learnt that it is the purpose of life to engender more life. As Creation is the supreme force in the universe, the beneficence of life and its comprehension through love, is to facilitate as many expressions of life as possible. We have an ancient tradition that a man may become a god by emulating the qualities of the divine. As the sun is the source of life on the planet, our forefathers recognized it as the fertility symbol nonpareil. As worshippers of Surya, our behaviour would be arya, as elevated and exalted as the source.
Every life is a unique personal undertaking and the only thing an individual can know is itself. Every other knowing is external and it is what Huxley meant when he said we were each an island universe with every experience only conveyable third hand. No one actually can know what it is like to be anyone else. As such, enlightened self-interest is the only personal inquiry we can make, with the all- important caveat that in our self-discovery we may not interfere with anything else’s self-discovery.
Hence ahimsa comes from himsa, and is a crucial aspect of the great or common consensus (Mahasammata) that if Man lives in Dhamma, the land, people, flora and fauna would be safe. This recognition of the sacred nature of life made it incumbent that we live our lives disturbing other living systems as little as possible.
The book, Portuguese Encounters with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, ed. Chandra Richard De Silva, Ashgate, 2009, highlights that there was no slaughter of cattle in Lanka prior to colonisation:
“… In this country there are many false beliefs sown by the devil, and to eradicate them there is a need for much time and trouble. I mention those that I remember, for I do not know them all. There is a class of gentiles who do not kill any living creature, not even the most poisonous snakes, nor any insect or worm whatever. They do not eat anything that has been killed, whether it is meat or fish. They do not eat bread, however hungry or needy they might be. Their food is made up of the leaves of a certain creeper (betel leaves) that climbs other trees like ivy. These leaves are smeared with the same kind of lime that they use for whitewashing their houses…
“…There is another class of people who do not kill any living creatures, except those they themselves need for their food, such as rats and salamanders and lizards of the forests; for they do not eat beef or the flesh of other animals. There is another class of people who kill fish, and this is only the caste they call paravas. These do not kill any poisonous insect they may find in their house. Yet all these people, if they choose and are able to do so, kill men, and their doctrine does not forbid it. There is another class of people that eats fowl and wild boar and deer, but does not eat the flesh of cows, since they believe their souls enter into cows after death; they will never kill a cow and eat its flesh…”
In the Lanka of Mahasammata, one’s duty to one’s village outweighed any perceived duty to oneself. One must make one’s contribution to the society in which one lived. A vocational caste system handed down secrets to successive generations, in a system where one’s knowledge was one’s wealth, with the Divine as the Supreme Master of one’s craft, one performs one’s duty with an aim to perfection in union of mind and spirit so each attempt brought one closer to the Ultimate Prize. In a land ruled by the Unseen King, in both metaphor and practise, the King embodies Mahasammata and sets the standard for the people. The people know that if they live in dhamma, Dhamma would protect them, and the land would be safe. In this milieu of trust and obligation, anyone who broke faith and violated trust was banished from the village. This was the origin of the ahikuntakayas. At this time beef-eating was punished by banishment from one’s caste and village, as edicts stemming from the advent of the Portuguese indicate.
My teacher, farmer Mudiyanse Tennekoon, believed that only a return to Mahasammata could rescue our nation, as it had become clear that the fate of Lanka was drenched in a post-colonial experience that threatened to smother us in the fire of unrighteousness. It seemed to him that the wisdom of our ancients, which vouchsafed consensus as the legitimate form of governance, had been jettisoned for a system based in dissent and acrimonious debate. Further, it seemed that certain elemental forces of globalist origin were cutting swathes to the interior of our country, such that the viability of the essential core of our island’s life was at risk. If the government continues implementing the various sanctions of the globalist agendas, our subsistence farmers are at great risk, and with them the lifeblood of our country and culture. A re-establishment of ahimsa was a necessary step for the restoration of Mahasammata.
As vouchsafed by Arabi Veediya in Anuradhapura, Arabs have been coming to Lanka long before the birth of the Prophet. Though modern Muslims sometimes scoff at customs and rituals of the oral tradition, and seek their answers only in texts, Kataragama has long been associated in Islamic esoterism with El Khidr, the Green Man of Islam. The idea of El Khidr also predates Islam, as he is commonly held to be the person whom Moses met at the Juncture of two rivers and who instructed him in the Tradition. Consequently, if the Muslims of Sri Lanka were doing something so abhorrent to the culture of the island, when the Portuguese came looking for them, the Sinhala kings would not have hidden them but handed them over to the Portuguese.
On Sep 12, 2014, with some friends we began a campaign to end cattle-slaughter in Sri Lanka, and while I went around the country collecting signatures for a petition to parliament one question I was asked over and over again was this: “What did I expect the reaction of the Muslims of Sri Lanka to be to my campaign?” I replied that many people I had spoken to, some in my own family, had been against this campaign, and many others were wholeheartedly supportive of me, all urged utmost caution. I said that I had been able to make my immediate family aware that this was not a scurrilous exercise, but a restoration of ahimsa that colonialism had destroyed. I appealed to the generally accepted personality of the Prophet, as one who loved amity and good manners, and who, as Muslim tradition would have it, was not a person to hurt the feelings or sensibilities of others. In this I spoke to the spirit of the Revelation, which to me is as much about equity and social justice as it is about transcendental reality.
There is no doubt that Muslims are not barred by tradition, custom or revelation from eating beef; however, it is also plain that a claim to a democratic right to kill is a symptom of our postcolonial dystopia. Mahasammata is nothing less than an exhortation to behave well, to have good manners. And good manners, as my late wife Jeanne pointed out, is never more than consideration for other people and making them comfortable. As such, I believe that as a Sri Lankan Muslim, it is incumbent on me to respect the mores of my compatriots and to live in a way that will lead to greater social cohesion, amity and unity of purpose. Perhaps, Muslims should ask themselves why pre-colonial Sri Lanka fitted every description of Paradise in the Qur’an.
Convenor, Saradiel Movement
Duel with Dual Citizenship
The 20A almost failed to get passed through because President Gotabaya wanted the ban on dual citizens holding the highest offices binned. A worry that was not there before the 19A has now become a passionate concern.
Interestingly, the very people who opposed the 20A (from the Government side) were the very ones who wanted Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s President. When he was persuaded to run for presidency he was a dual citizen. Throughout the presidential campaign he was a dual citizen. He only renounced his US citizenship just a few months before the elections.
Yet, his dual citizenship was not a concern to any who supported his ascent to presidency. His opposition – the Yahapalana Government, certainly tried their level best to use Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship against him. This was laughable and only served to discredit them further.
Hypocrisy and Vindictive Politics
After all, having appointed a foreigner as the Central Bank Governor, their worry over a dual citizen cannot be taken seriously. The Yahapalana Government on blind faith co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka. After thus caving into US pressure so treacherously, to anticipate such a move from Gotabaya Rajapaksa was hypocritical. The Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration risked antagonizing our neighbour by politely sitting on the ECTA. The Yahapalana Government, on the other hand, signed with flourish an FTA with Singapore that spelt doom for our trade, industries and manpower.
Clearly, the Yahapalana Government’s concerns over dual citizenship were not genuine. The sole objective was to prevent two of the Rajapaksa brothers from contesting at the presidential elections. This is the point that President Gotabaya directed the attention of his MPs and clergy. He noted that the clause on dual citizenship stemmed from vindictiveness. Therefore, the principle on which this is based on is unacceptable and on that basis the clause needs to be rejected.
However, he assured, at the ongoing exercise of making the new constitution, genuine concerns over dual citizenship can be revisited and the ban can be re-imposed. Clearly, no one in the Government could reject this irrefutable logic and so supported the 20A.
Now that the Government MPs have supported the 20A with the intention of repelling this clause from the new constitution, they have an important task ahead of them. That is, to genuinely analyze the real reason to oppose dual citizens in high offices. The clause was removed because the principle in which it was introduced was corrupt. Then, they cannot re-introduce it on a corrupt principle of their own. That is, their decision cannot be influenced by the effect this would have on Basil Rajapaksa.
Pros and Cons of Dual Citizens
Many unfairly equate dual citizens to the Tamil Diaspora. While some of the Tamil Diaspora may be dual citizens, not all dual citizens are part of the Tamil Diaspora. Therefore, to take a decision on a whole group based on the reservations against some in that group is wrong.
On the whole, one million Sri Lankan expatriates (in which group a subset are dual citizens) remit USD 7 billion annually. As was pointed out by an FB post, when we travel overseas, Sri Lankan expatriates (who may hold dual citizenship) host and save us from food and lodging expenses. Sometimes they even chauffeur us around, saving us from our transport expenses. They send us fancy goods or essential items not available in Sri Lanka. They also fight in our stead with their host governments.
Furthermore, the Yahapalana era attests to the frightening aspect that the physical presence of the Tamil Diaspora is not needed to carry out its separatist agenda in Sri Lanka. Therefore, simply banning dual citizens from becoming leaders or decision-makers alone is not enough. We need to include the matter of foreign funding and influence into this debate.
In the US, it is not enough to be a citizen to hold a high office like the presidency. One must be born in that country as well. However, our best brains are draining out of SL to end up in the US. So, naturally the US can be picky where as it is not clear if SL can afford the same luxury.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a case in point. Certainly he became the Defense Secretary because his big brother was the then President. However, nepotism may secure the job but keeping the job is up to the individual. Gotabaya Rajapaksa not only justified the appointment by defeating the LTTE, but also proved himself as an administrator with a vision with his urban development projects. Today he is the President of SL all on his own merit.
The bottom line is, as a Colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa outperformed the Generals in the same Army he served. The Generals before Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Administration too received political support to defeat the LTTE. Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Defense Secretary managed to convince President Mahinda that Sri Lanka was on the winning path. Had he failed, then the political will of that administration too would have waned.
In the 10 years in the US, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in an environment where he met intellectuals and academics from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds on a daily basis. Coupled with the Sri Lankan Army’s “nothing is impossible” motto, he had developed an attitude to think “outside the box” (a phrase he uses frequently).
It is clear that an outstanding officer had returned home as an exceptional human being. He is however not an isolated case. Many Sri Lankans returning home have undergone this transformation.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that as dual citizens these individuals have pledged their allegiance to another country. Interestingly, as natives we have never pledged a similar allegiance to our own country. This natural bond one forms with his birth country that defines him and his loyalty to his adopted country that caters to his comforts would be a very difficult one to gauge.
Loyalty is one that can only be proven with action and time and can be fickle at the most unexpected moment. This makes the question of loyalty so serious and significant that it pales all pros of a dual citizen. Decisions of leaders affect the whole nation. Therefore, we must be without a reasonable doubt on the integrity of prospective candidates – whether they be dual citizens or not. In the question of dual citizenship, however, it is important that our leaders and decision makers should not have an escape route from the effects of their own decisions.
It is thus hoped that our own lawmakers, intellectuals, academics and other analysts and opinion-makers would initiate this debate in earnest. It would of course help the country that if this debate was engaged with an open mind. If the participants enter the debate with a preconceived opinion, and interpret facts from that perspective then this would become a lost cause.
Croc skins for Prado
Soon after the Cabinet decided to ban cow slaughter, Minister Dallas Alahapperuma, announced, at a meeting in Galle, the idea of a crocodile farm. Its purpose will be to breed crocodiles to be slaughtered, for their exotic hides to be exported to upmarket European stores, as Prado and Gucci, to manufacture footwear and handbags.
I am sure that croc meat will be popular among East Asian gourmets, both here and further east.
If and when this farm is established, we can cease calling ourselves a Buddhist country.
Dear Pompeo… don’t bully a small nation
Welcome to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka welcomes you with its warm smiles and hearts, the hallmark of our people. The respect, welcome and hospitality Sri Lanka has shown to all nations for 1000s of years is extended to you, too. It is the same open and generous welcome that legends from distant history, like Fa Hein, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, enjoyed and gushed about on this island of plenty.
We hope and pray your visit will be one of genuine efforts by the US to normalize and strengthen relations with a strong, democratically elected government, and a President with an unprecedented mandate. You are truly dealing with the most powerful government Sri Lanka has ever seen. It’s no secret that our relations had been soured by lies, mistrust, accusations, deceptions and perjury by parties hostile to Sri Lanka. These interested parties have sullied Sri Lanka’s name, muddied the waters, and our relations have suffered. We have enjoyed friendly, cordial relations with mutual respect for years, before the mischief-makers have almost broken it down. We fervently hope your visit is a sign of the strengths of our relationship surfacing again, against the forces that try to divide us; and with your visit, we will be able to reset our relations once again to what it was, and what it should be.
The goverment is the representative of the people, and as such please deal with the government accordingly. With respect and honesty. With no preconceived biases. Do not be distracted by the side actors, like NGOs, LTTE reps, Media, etc. Even some official organizations, like the UN, CNN, BBC and some US organization/foreign offices, have been infiltrated by LTTE supporters who are detrimental to Sri Lanka and its sovereignty. They have become their mouthpieces, churning out untruth after untruth. They are loud and noisy on the world stage. But they are small and insignificant, and have NO representation here. Though their malicious campaign has sullied our name, we stand strong and tall as a people of a peace loving and democratic nation. That is our history and heritage, long before these lofty words were coined. Please do not hold over Sri Lanka, these unsubstantiated malicious blatant lies to man-handle or force us.
It is said you are coming here to force us to choose between you and another country. Please don’t give us choices. Choices we don’t want, nor have we to make. All countries are important to us. The quarrels and feuds between other countries are not our concern. We wish to stay as far away from them as possible. As such, please do not force them on us. Respect our desire to remain neutral and friends with both the US and China. These feuds are short-lived and transient in global politics. Soviet leaning India, which fiercely opposed our close friendship with America in the seventies and eighties, is your best mate now. But back then, India went to the extent of making and supporting the world’s most ruthless terror group, LTTE, to browbeat and decimate Sri Lanka, because they did not condone our capitalist path different to theirs! But today India has come full circle to join us.
Today, Sri Lanka recognizes its regional importance. New geopolitical forces are active in the region. New economic trends are blowing. We will manage and navigate these. With no harm to any, and benevolence to all. The true Hela, or Sri Lankan way. The 2500 years or more of history will tell you, that’s how we have been in the past, and we will continue to be so.
You come as a representative of the American people. Who they are represented by, Trump or Biden, we do not care. Either will have our support, because they represent the people of America. I’m sure theirs is not the wish to bully a small nation to their own selfish benefit. Hope your people’s lofty ideals of freedom, democracy and fair play will transcend beyond their shores with your visit.
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