Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buddhism and Nationalism in Ceylon

I stumbled upon a few articles from the 1950's and 1960's in The Tablet, a Catholic journal that make for some fascinating reading.

I came across these when trying to research the subject of the Nursing Sisters or the Service Nuns who used to nurse the sick in the hospitals.  My mother claims they were a selfless group, dedicated to care for the sick. They did not see nursing a profession, but a vocation.

Speaking to some people who are familiar with the operations of private hospitals today,  they try to recruit senior nurses who may have had experience working in the 1970's or before, to train new nurses. They believe that there were high standards of nursing in the past, which may possibly have been due to the influence of the nursing sisters.

The nursing sisters were asked to leave in the late 1950's, most had apparently left by 1964. Some articles that touch on this are available here and here.

The even more interesting links on Nationalism are posted below:

1. Buddhism and Nationalism in Ceylon. 
2. Two responses to the above article; here and here.
3.  Christianity in Ceylon: The Background to the Conflict over Education (about the takeover of the schools).
4. A personal column, (dealing with the writer's impressions of Buddhism).

A much more recent, but still very relevant article is here. It was only written in 2007, just about six years ago, yet the development was seen as surprising and the views of the group were considered marginal.

Now they seem to be mainstream. Surprising how far we have fallen, in such a short space of time. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Erasing the record

The 23rd of July marked the 30th anniversary of the anti-Tamil violence of 1983. Post war, it should have provided an opportunity to reflect and to pose some difficult questions; as to what caused it and if those causes have been addressed.

It just struck me that the state owned Daily News  simply chose to ignore it completely. The pro-Government Island and Nation only carried small features.

In a country where the now-legendary victory is trumpeted on an almost daily basis, the omission seems inexplicable unless one assumes that the amnesia is deliberate.

It does not fit in with the current narrative so must, like the Flying Fish, be expunged.

The past may be dead, but as the saying goes; those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Caught at last: The white van

It appears that at long last, a deep mystery is about to be solved. In foreign lands we hear stories of UFO's and aliens spiriting people away, for god only knows what purpose.

In the paradise isle of Sri Lanka it is not UFO's but a White Van (or something that looks pretty much like one) that has allegedly been responsible for this.

Ministers of the Government have always denied its existence, just as sceptical scientists have denied the existence of UFO's. We believed them. Until now.

Finally the police have nabbed the object. Like a lot of mysteries this seems to have had a rather simple explanation. A gang, let by a serving sergeant major and operating out of a white van was abducting people.

The print story in the Sunday Times carried fuller details, which were even more interesting. Apparently the gang specialised in abducting drug dealers and holding them to ransom.

No wonder the police acted which such speed to apprehend the suspects. Unlike ordinary people, drug dealers are an important and growing constituency whose interests need to be safeguarded at all costs. The gang may not have realised what they were up against.

On the other hand, that still leaves open the question of who was abducting journalists and other troublesome creatures and the bigger question as to why no one has been caught. Of course these people are a totally useless lot; in an immortal phrase of the Khmer Rouge 'No gain in keeping, no loss in weeding out', so the police are hardly likely to give it any priority.

Perhaps it really is the work of aliens. At least this Sri Lankan seems to think that they abound.....


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Why did the long dead cases of the 'Trinco 5', Khuram Shaikh's murder and some others suddenly come to life?

People may have noticed that investigations into some violent crimes have suddently started to move forward, for no apparent reason.

Kishali Pinto Jayawardana has a good summary on the case of the five students killed in Trincomalee. The murder investigation into the death of British tourist Khuram Shaikh has also started to move (see here for a collection of articles on the case).

What prompted this flurry of activity?

There can only be one reason: foreign pressure. What threats could foreign Governments have exerted over Sri Lanka? The only conceivable one is a boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

What lessons can we draw from this?
1. Thank goodness the CHOGM meeting is taking place, some benefits are already being seen, although these are not what the regime anticipated (these were more in the line of fast cars, great parties and an opportunity to lord over the colonial master).
2. It is better to seek justice abroad than at home. No wonder they rant and rave about foreign governments, complain of interference and claim this is neo-colonialism. It is one thing that can make them act.

What do we call a Government that cannot be held to account? Hint-have read through this.

Winning elections and being popular do not necessarily make rulers legitimate

The Economist has a very interesting and relevant article on majoritarianism - that electoral might always makes you right—is not true democracy, even if, on the face of it, the two things look alike. They go on to explain why.

The crux of the matter is that democratic legitimacy isn’t merely a correlative of a ruler’s share of the vote. The leader are elected to serve not just the people who voted for them but also the many who did not.

The issue is how the relationship between supporters and opponents is managed. In part this is a matter of rules and institutions to constrain a leader’s power and to allow the aggrieved to find redress. These should include a robust account of citizens’ basic rights, independent courts to enforce them and free media to monitor them.
Beyond documents and institutions, the difference between crass majoritarianism and democracy resides in the heads of the mighty. Democrats have a bedrock understanding that the minority (or often majority) who did not vote for them are as much citizens of their country as those who did, and are entitled to a respectful hearing; and that a leader’s job is to deliberate and act in the national interests, not just those of his supporters.(The Economist, emphasis mine)

The full article is worth reading.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The story behind the killing of a planter

There was a recent news story about the grusome murder of a planter.

This afternoon I met a friend who had known the gentleman. He told me the story of what had transpired.

The estate concerned was a difficult one. The managing agents had sublet it because it was too difficult to manage. The unfortunate victim had been hired to try and put the place right.

Apparently the Pradeshiya Sabha members would routinely walk in to the premises demanding, at various times; tea, timber and even land. They were in the habit of making off with stocks of made tea, felling timber and encroaching on the land.

This planter had started putting a stop to these activities, for which he was beaten up once before. He was provided with security thereafter.

He was waylaid outside the factory on Friday, the security were chased away and he was beaten up. He was then shoved into his own pickup truck and paraded around the village-presumably to serve as a warning to anyone else who may want to try to control the banditry. He was later stabbed and killed.

We have thus yet another example of the State, through its agents preying on the citizenry.

When people say that a culture of impunity exists, it sounds like an esoteric abstract concept; one that is of little concern to the average law-abiding citizen. This murder is a good illustration of what this means in practice, to the average law-abiding citizen.

The citizen needs to walk in fear of the politicians and their hangers-on; whether it is a schoolmistress or a magistrate.

When DIG's are engaged in running extortion rackets and hit squads this should not come as a surprise to us. Is it any surprise that countries should issue travel advsories warning their citizens of the growing lawlessness? Instead of summoning the ambassador perhaps the Government should stop protecting criminals?

Update: The planters held a protest march last Sunday and a news report states that a powerful politician was behind the killing.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

A little matter of perspective

Who is an extremist? Almost no one is willing to accept that their particular point of view may be termed "extremist". As far as the person is concerned they are moderates; it is others who are the extremists. The ugly, unwashed others.

The BBS claims they are not extremists and many of their supporters make the same claim.

I suppose this amounts to a difference in perspective; depending on their particular worldview coupled with an inability to see things from another persons point of view. In psychology this is referred to as egocentricism, a problem most often seen in young children. The phenomenon decreases with learning and experience and usually disappears by mid teens.

Where it prevails into adulthood it can make for a rather unpleasant individual. Unfortunately if such individuals rise to positions of power in (a company or organisation) it spells doom for the unfortunate underlings. In public office it can be disastrous.

Take for an example the perfectly normal, rational support expressed for the Burmese monk Wiranthu, in Sri Lanka as for example here.  He is being hailed as a hero.

Wirathu has been at helm of the anti-Muslim violence in Burma which has claimed at least 250 lives and left 15,000 homeless. Wirathu, on the other hand, seems to be quite flattered by press coverage that has focused on him. He does not consider himself an extremist and this idea never crossed the minds of his supporters here. Are his views now firmly in the mainstream?

In Sri Lanka we are not short of "heros" but it seems that our pantheon is not complete without the inclusion of Wirathu.

What does this say about the future of the minorities in Sri Lanka? Are following the Burmese example; the shining path that Wirathu has illuminated?