From Sex And Love To Hirunika’s Defender
by Wimalanath Weeraratne
Today’s world revolves forward by creating new situations and finding creative solutions for those situations. New inventors and innovators evolve and revolve the world with new solutions. However, some revolve around themselves and do not go forward. In fact their progress is backward.
Referring to the incident where a female fan was suspected of having thrown a piece of lingerie at world-famous singer – Enrique Iglesias during his ‘Sex and Love World Tour’ held on December 20 in Colombo, President Maithripala Sirisena recently said the following:
“I must say these things. I cannot stay silent like the Sinhala Buddhist that I am. Whoever has hard feelings I don’t mind, I will talk about these things if they cause any damage to our values. I would not allow anybody who embraces alien cultures…. to destroy the greatness of the motherland and our proud culture… To make the dream for rising as a great and valued nation by safeguarding our thousand years old proud culture, we should give higher significance for our values and heritage…”
As a very seasoned politician with over four decades of experience, Sirisena has seen many problems crop up and disappear before him like dew before the sun. He would not be politically insignificant, not at least during this five years of his tenure as the Executive President of this country. No one can destroy him…. except himself.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his tenure of nine years, destroyed the cultural and ethical values of our system like never seen before. He always boasted of a great culture…. A culture so great…. So magnanimous…. So upright…. which had never ever existed. Whilst harping of a two-and-half millennia of Sinhalese Buddhist culture on one hand, he embezzled billions of rupees of public funds and scavenged our fledging economy on the other! Committing even a thousand crimes he showed his people that he is not willing to ‘bow down’ before the international community.
“We are above anyone else!” mentality was a highly contagious epidemic spreading throughout the Sri Lankan population ruled by Rajapaksa’s iron fist. We believe that we were much greater than Egypt, Greece or India.
“The United States of America has a history of barely 200 years whereas we in comparison had 2,500 years of unbroken written history. There are poor Indians who still excrete on the road. As such we are greater than India,” some would say. Although there was a ‘Public Performance Control Board’ to regulate films, etc., President Rajapaksa seem to be the final competent authority. Some even offered Rajapaksa overall supervision when directing films on Arahant Mahinda. Rajapaksa was said to hail from no lesser than the Shakyas – the clan to which the Lord Buddha belonged to. On one hand the Rajapaksa regime not only made this empty void swell beyond proportion but also made maximum use of the Buddhist clergy and religious establishments for its own benefit. Sadly, on the other hand, the Rajapaksa regime destroyed the very fabric of those values created by our culture. Sri Lankans are naturally prone to respect the divine relationship between the king and the religion. Although during the times of the Sinhalese kings the rulers feared to exploit this relationship and misuse the confidence of their subjects, Rajapaksa and his cohorts had no such shame and never thought twice when doing so.
What is culture?
According to Prof. Raymond Henry Williams (31 August 1921 – 26 January 1988) who was a highly influential Welsh socialist academic, novelist and critic and Professor of Drama at the University of Cambridge, Culture is “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.” (Keywords -1983)
Accordingly Culture can be defined in two ways. One is advance works of art – from dramas of Prof. Sarathchandra to friction of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara to cinematography of Lester James Pieris to poems of Monica Ruwanpathirana. These master-pieces resemble the crème de la crème of the modern Sinhalese culture. Second and as according to Prof. Wimal Dissanayake, culture envelopes everything we do in our day-to-day lives. From horror films to cartoons to commercials to posters everything is part and parcel of culture. How can art of advertising be anti-cultural in contrast to Dr. Sarathchandra’s work? If everything what we do is part and parcel of culture, whether good or bad, no one can control or regulate human nature let alone the President. Although the culture changes from time to time the cumulative results of the changes remain. For instance, the political culture of this country is shameful. The representative of the people does not represent the interests of those whom he is intended to represent. He engages in business and mega deals, misuses public property, kills, rapes and pillages. Isn’t this much worse than throwing a bra during a performance? Former statesmen of our country from DS to Dudley to Bandaranaikes, from NM to Colvin to Philip did not rob the public. But after the 80s everything turned upside down. Politics came under the rupees and cents. The political culture shifted from DS to JR. This culture, where the public is taken for a ride, cannot go on forever. Although there are some positive changes following the opening of the economy, there are many negative consequences that came with it.
Sex and love
Enrique Iglesias’ concert held on December 20th saw an unknown female fan throwing a bra at the singer. However, the incident should have ended then and there. There is a famous story taught in Zen Buddhism called the ‘Two Monks and a Woman.’
A senior monk and a junior monk were travelling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side. The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman. Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey. The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened.
After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them. Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could not contain himself any longer, and blurted out, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman. How could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?” The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the river shore, why are you still carrying her?”
Just like in the Zen story, majority of us Sri Lankans are unable to keep the woman on the shore after crossing the river. What is most hilarious is that no lesser being than President Sirisena himself is unable to forget this incident. He made an outrageous claim that the organizers of events of this nature i.e. Mahela and Sanga should be whipped with toxic stingray tails. We as Sri Lankans thoroughly oppose this outrage against this duo that brought much fame to our country to be beaten by stingray tails. In the event they commit a heinous crime, we would not hesitate to do so. But not because some unknown woman throwing a bra at a singer in a performance, where the son or son-in-law of the very President is speculated to have attended.
If so how much more should politicians, who have gone after dollars from Avant Garde and other mega deals, be treated? Mahela and Sanga have committed this mistake for the first time in their whole career. But how much more have the politicians of our country taken us, the public, for a ride? Mr. President, are you prepared to beat corrupt politicians with toxic stingray tails?
A genuine man
However to a certain extent I believe that President Sirisena criticized this act with a genuine intention. As a villager from a remote hamlet in Polonnaruwa he did not have the pleasures of a rich, spoilt upbringing of children of today’s society. Although discipline must be inculcated, boosting of pseudo value systems like done by the Rajapaksas should not be entertained.
It is a known fact that the President loves classical music of Visharada Amaradeva or Victor Ratnayake. Such a leader is unlikely to love rock or pop music, no doubt, but the President cannot impose his taste on his children let alone the public, because taste differs from generation to generation and person to person. That is why we believe that his own son or son-in-law has all the rights to go to see Enrique’s concert, though Sirisena may dislike the Latin singer.
President Sirisena came out with the stingray story in Ampara. It is unlikely that the poor villagers of Ampara would care to buy even the lowest available ticket of Rs. 5,000 to see Enrique play live in concert, enjoying a mug of beer.
At one instance Enrique is seen hugging a young girl. Is this something for which he should be criticized for? There are instances where singers have engaged in strip parties or stag nights but head of states of those eras such as former President Bandaranaike Kumaratunga did not waste time to criticize these things. It is not worthwhile for a President to comment to everything which happens in the country. How many times have strippers or nude fans invaded the pitch during international matches? Does it mean that we have to stop playing cricket? The concert was not a religious event and likewise Enrique’s fans were not expected to constraint themselves unnecessarily.
Forgetting burning issues
Some try to link the throwing of a bra to the postponement of the local government elections. This is a cock-and-bull story as throwing a bra has taken place towards singers have happened countless times in other countries. Likewise, the majority of media was pre-occupied with Hirunika Premachandra’s saga a week ago.
A week before it was the President’s outrage over the bra-throwing incident. Neither of these two have a direct bearing on the day-to-day lives of the ordinary citizens. In the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena completing the maiden year of his tenure, the public is yet to see tangible results in most areas which the new United National Front for good Governance (UNFGG) had promised before it came to power on January 8, 2015.
Admissions to schools, re-settlement of IDPs, punishing mega-dealers, putting a stop to bribery and corruption, bringing the killers of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageeth Eknaligoda and Wasim Thajudeen to justice, resolving the national question, cost of living are a few of the hundreds of issues yet unresolved. Unfortunately our people are still pre-occupied with the bra thrown at Enrique and Hirunika’s defender.
What topic for next week?