UNHRC, HRW, AI, Eminent Persons, Core Groups and other western agencies are working overtime to tarnish the image of the present government. Sri Lanka has become the whipping boy for these people. As usual, they have produced one-sided reports condemning the government of SL. The report titled, ‘Promotion, reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ has nothing in terms of promoting any of the above. Instead, these interested parties are not promoting reconciliation, but trying to destabilize SL by criticizing only one side, ferociously and unfairly.
We have to bear in mind that leaders like Wigneswaran, Sumanthiran, Gajendrakumar and Chanakiyan who talk of genocide, have been living among the Sinhalese for decades. The reality is that compared to prior 1983, there are more Tamils living in Colombo, and surrounding areas, now. All these Tamil political leaders, who shout anti-Sinhala slogans, do not have shame in having Sinhalese armed forces for their personal security. Leaders like Chanakiyan MP, who are now in the forefront of the P2P, have the dubious distinction of supporting and contesting for MR on behalf of the UPFA, after the end of the war in 2009. If there was genocide after the war, why did he support MR? After all, why did the Tamils support Sarath Fonseka en bloc in the presidential election soon after the war ended?
These fake Tamil nationalists used to say that structural genocide against the Tamils has taken place since 1948. Their servility to the West would not allow them to utter a single word against foreign domination of SL for 450 years. For them, history starts only in 1948. So much for their commitment to the cause of the Tamil nation!
Was Tamil an official language during the colonial period? How were the upcountry Tamils treated during the British Raj? During the European rule, weren’t there conversions of people to Christianity? Wasn’t there archeological destruction? Weren’t temples demolished? Shame on them!
It has to be noted that the Federal Party and All Ceylon Tamil Congress leaders were inside the government at some point of time over these years. M.Thiruchelvam, Neelan’s father and GG Ponnampalam senior, the grand-father of Gajendrakumar, were Ministers in the ‘genocidal’ governments. Someone has to remind another strident campaigner, EPRLF leader Suresh Premachandran that he enjoyed a higher position, for a long time, in the Rajapaksa ministry in the 90s. Leaders, like Sumanthiran PC, relished in saying they were responsible for bringing the Yahapalana government. He did not have any compunction in receiving an honorary PC from a genocidal government. If there was any structural genocide against the Tamils, these Tamil leaders are also guilty of that. Are they saying that they are also responsible for the ‘genocide’ by being part of the governments?
Human Rights ‘champions’ have conveniently chosen only the crimes during the final days? Who has given these champions the right to determine the period for investigation? They have abrogated themselves that right. Why only ‘final days’? By choosing the ‘final days’, are they trying to target the Rajapaksas and protect their western friends involved in the crimes?
It has been reported that Tiger women suicide bombers were trained by Adele Balasingham, who lives in Britain. Undoubtedly, Tigers have carried out the largest number of assassinations, including that of Rajiv Gandhi and Premadasa. If you are serious about war crimes, why not start with Adele?
The Tamil leaders repeatedly say that only with the help of 27 countries, including India and the US, was SL able to defeat the Tigers. If there were war crimes by the SL government, are those countries involved, not complicit in the crimes? Why don’t they talk about these countries? The western countries have to self-introspect before pontificating to SL. To show that they are fair, they simply mention that both sides committed crimes. Having said that, they forget about the Tiger atrocities and start to attack Sri Lanka. Human Rights, Rule of Law and Democracy are some of the arsenals in their hands to attack the government.
When they have a west-friendly government, they go soft. When the previous government denied the people the sacred right of voting by postponing the Provincial Council elections, the HR champions kept mum and didn’t open their mouth, even for tooth extractions.
We have to look at the activities of NGOs and Civil Societies carefully. When a friendly government comes to power, they all get accommodated in the so-called ‘independent’ commissions. Perhaps, they didn’t have time to look at these denial of fundamental rights.
We should be cautious about the intention of these vested interests, and should not allow them to fish in troubled waters. We should not forget that they played havoc with the lives of millions of people living in many countries, like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. They went there under the pretext of Human Rights and committed crimes many times more. The sad thing is that those countries have been suffering forever, and are unable to come out of the consequences of these interferences. We don’t want that to happen to poor SL. We have already suffered enough.
Let all of us unite for resolving our issues in the best interests of Sri Lanka! Now, there is talk of alien political parties coming and directly taking over the country. At least now, we have to realize our mistakes and correct them before it is too late.
ANTON M PILLAI
A drive of great memories
Pic. – THE CAR: “We bought this car in London mid-1974. A few days later, four of us set out to drive for nearly six months to Sri Lanka. This photo was provided by the present owner, whom I tracked down in 2019.”
Some errors had crept into this letter (published yesterday) in the process of being typeset. This is the correct version.
Sanjeewa Jayaweera’s recent recollections (The Island 25/2) of advantages of coming from Ceylon/SL – or rather ‘benefits’ accruing from Mrs B’s permitting Pakistan to use Ceylon/SL airspace in 1971 -– when he was living in Pakistan, remind me of similar experiences in 1974.
Four of us drove overland (well, only one of us could drive then) in a Beetle from London to Sri Lanka, taking nearly six months. At the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, neither side checked our heavily laden car.
We had got used to cooking for ourselves in many countries, and camping up to Turkey, so always carried basic food stuffs. In Pakistan, however, many things were rationed and towards the end of our stay we needed to stock up.
Just before leaving Lahore to head for India we went in search of rice and sugar (rationed). One chap we happened to ask, got into the car (with four already in it) and said he would get us what we needed. He insisted on giving it free –– “You are my brothers!” Very strange – it was only later that we discovered the reason for this.
He jumped out near a shop and disappeared, presumably to queue somewhere. Returning with about 8 lbs of rice and 3 lbs of sugar, he absolutely refused to accept any money. Instead, he insisted that we visit the Shalimar Gardens and wouldn’t let us pay there either. We took a photograph with him which we promised to send him. He was an Assistant Store-keeper at Pakistan Oxygen.
However, things were slightly different at the border. The Pakistan side wouldn’t let S, our Ugandan-Asian friend, cross. No Hindu from any part of the world was allowed to cross into India. Fortunately, our group was pretty mixed (with a Sri Lankan Buddhist, Sri Lankan Muslim and an Anglo-Asian atheist! – though fortunately, that wasn’t on the passport). S’s “companion” insisted she’d become a Muslim by marriage, and signed a declaration form to that effect. Problem solved! But a moment of anxiety at Indian customs when a cursory search was made of the car. Officials were offended by the fact that we’d brought rice with us –– “We have rice in India!”
Muir Woods in San Francisco and deforestation in SL
Pic:Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at a recent media briefing on protecting the Muthurajawela wetlands from a multi-use development project.
“Any fool can destroy trees. They can run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed – chased and hunted down as long as fun or dollar could be got out of their hides. branching horns, or magnificent bole back backbones. Few that fell trees plant them, nor would planting avail much toward getting back anything like the novel primeval forests. It took more than 3000 years to make some of the trees in the woods – trees that are standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing …. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time – and long before that – God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease avalanches, tempests, and floods; but he cannot save them from fools – only Uncle Sam can do that.
John Muir, letter to William Kent , 1909
Muir Woods is a forest reservation in San Francisco – California named after John Muir as John of the mountains or father of the national parks. He was a Scottish American April 1838 to December 24th 1924.
William Kent was a member of the US House of Representatives representing California
The Island of (2/3/2021 ) has several articles on deforestation being carried out for agriculture and commercial projects such as commercial cultivation of Aloe Vera or building of hotels. The government’s initial popularity is gradually on the decline and permitting deforestation is one reason. I wrote to The Island on 11 January this year, pointing out that it was not necessary to clear forests to increase agriculture output. Increasing productivity by modern methods is the way out.
Muir Woods is a National monument, which protects the only large, intact stand of ancient redwoods in San Francisco Bay area which, I and my wife were fortunate to visit, thanks to my daughter and son-in-law. All elements of old-growth forests are there: mature redwoods, young seedlings, standing snags, logs and a diverse community of animals and understory plants. The magnificent red – barked trees, California coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). A few hundred years ago over two million acres of redwood grew in California. Today, 150,000 acres of old growth redwoods remain, only about half of which are protected in national and state parks.
Redwood creek applies a spectrum of watery habitats fish need their life cycle. If you spot a fish in Redwood Creek, it’s a coho salmon or steelhead trout. Both are anadromous; born in fresh water homes, as juveniles they migrate to the ocean, and then return to their freshwater homes as adults to spawn. Spawning fish can be seen in the creek between mid December and March, and young fish populate quiet pools during summer months.
On the contrary, in Sri Lanka, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate and the forest cover is likely to disappear completely in a few decades. In 1990, the total forest cover was 2990 ha and in the year 2020 it decreased to 1946 ha. The forest cover has been reduced by 1044 ha.
A tree called Sri Lanka legume was discovered in 1868. Eventually it was declared extinct 2012.
It was discovered in 2019 that only one Sri Lankan legume tree, eight meters high, was found in the north of Colombo near Gampaha
This rare species tree that was in danger of felling was put on an orange cloth by Buddhist priests. That courageous forest officer Devanee Jayatillake also rose to the occasion again objecting to the removal of the legume tee. There were arguments that that there are similar trees planted in Gampaha Botanical gardens and also that the tree could be translocated safely. Ultimately sanity prevailed and the expressway will be diverted to save the tree. One should realise the tree would have survived thousand years or more, no one knows, but it’s certain that the tree is one of oldest trees. America’s redwood trees it is said, had taken more than 3000 years to make.
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith expressed his displeasure at the government’s failure to protect the Muthurajawela wetland.
He said in a statement that the Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, State Minister for Wildlife Wimalaweera Dissanayake and the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority Siripala Amarasinghe had promised not to carry out any project or destructive activities in Muthurajawela during the discussion held at the Archbishop’s residence on January 21st.
However, it has been officially announced that Muthurajawela and the surrounding villages will be taken over by the Urban Development Authority. Therefore, the Cardinal has requested the government to remove the signs stating that the area is already owned by a private company and rename it as a Wildlife Conservation Zone in Muthurajawela National Park. The Cardinal has now court intervention on this matter.
The Diyawanna wetland close to which I live is being developed. It is not Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte which is said to be the administrative capital. it’s the reclaimed wetlands of Battaramulla. The land on which Sethsiripaya stands was a marsh.
Where are the Maha Nayakes?
Coincidentally, February 26th was Navam Full Moon day, when after 20 years of attaining enlightenment, the Buddha preached the “Vinaya Pitakaya” or the code of conduct for Buddhist monks. It is sad that that the majority of them hardly heed the principles laid down there.
I was anyway, contemplating writing a piece on the conduct of Malcom Cardinal Ranjith on national issues when Dr Upul Wijayawardhana beat me to it with an excellent piece in today’s (26.02.21) The Island!
The Cardinal has been very discreetly and without undue emotions addressing the national issues at stake with substance and authority, and the appropriate actions the government should take. By contrast our Buddhist priests often deviate on political riffraff, praising the political leadership or criticizing it, rather than confining themselves to the matters at stake! Often their utterances over electronic media are disdainful, full of emotion and very unbecoming of monkhood! They are unaware that the moment one becomes emotional, one loses self-control and make a mess of things! They should take a ‘leaf from the ‘Cardinal’s Bible’, as it were!
There is no argument that priests, Buddhist or otherwise should take evidence-based stands on national issues and endeavour to move the political authority in the right direction. They should not go to praise the President or other politicians unduly, but confine themselves to facts of the matter as the Cardinal always does.
What is most disdainful is the manner in which Buddhist monks conduct themselves in protest rallies, often shouting slogans, forcefully breaking through security defenses, and even climbing windows! Very often the leaders of mass demonstrations, especially of universities, are priests. Of course, they do so, knowing that the police will handle them gently, with dignity and respect!
It is noteworthy that other religious leaders hardly participate in protest demonstrations. Even if they do so it is done in a peaceful manner. Our Buddhist priests should follow suit.
The question is where the leading monks who should discipline the juniors are. Many of them are, sadly, the culprits themselves! Have they at least read the “Vinayapitakaya”? Moreover, I am not aware of any instances of Mahanayakas endeavouring to discipline monks. Should they not at least ensure their conduct is on the key principles of “Vinaya Pitakaya”? It is time the Mahanayakas and other leading Buddhist monks addressed this vital issue of discipline of monks as matter of highest priority.
Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha
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