Patriotism Vs Racism
- From Hitler’s Swastika To Sinhale’s Distorted Lion Flag
by Wimalanath Weeraratne
I had the chance to speak to several three wheeler drivers and vehicle owners who had the Sinha Le sticker. It was not strange that many had nothing to do with racism, in fact several said they had it because they thought the sticker looked nice. There is nothing wrong in loving one’s own race. However, loving one’s race at the cost of another is highly detrimental.
One who loves his or her own race should not show off but should take a ‘noiseless’ approach. Although there are many who have a great love for his or her own race or religion, a majority does not showcase this to others. Unfortunately, a majority of those who show off their love for their race, resort to violent tactics. Such persons are either retards or hypocrites in my belief. They claim that their country is at siege from foreign conspirators and their local collaborators.
Sinha Le is apparently becoming a fast-growing movement in Sri Lanka especially amongst the youth. That is because tribal racism has more potential in our country than inter-racial harmony and co-existence. The Sinha Le sticker on motor vehicles and on three wheelers started as an innocent act. Unfortunately, by the time everyone saw the true colour of Sinha Le it was almost too late. It had grown in to a destructive force by January 23 in no less than in a paying of homage to Sri Dalada Maligawa (The Temple of The Tooth). Several monks along with lay members of the Sinha Le tried to flash an old lion flag sans the stripes of green and orange, behaving violently and tried to enter the sanctuary of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, where they were prevented by the Police. Finally, the Police had to ‘give in’ in the face of hooting and yelling and allowed monks and laity without the distorted flags to enter the Temple to worship.
Usually Sinhalese Buddhists are not violent and do not believe in engaging in violence following one of Lord Buddha’s greatest teachings – ‘Nahi verena verani’ (Hatred never ceases through hatred). Although it is one of the most hackneyed stanzas of the Dhammapada, it is also one of the least adhered to in a country such as ours.
The most striking factor was that the flag which they brought had the identities of minorities removed. Leader of the Sinha Le movement –Ven. Yakkalamulle Pavara Thero had this to say.
“At this moment when both foreign and domestic enemies are trying to subdue our Motherland, we have come forward to safeguard our country, the Sinhalese race and the Buddha Sashanaya. We are prepared to even sacrifice our lives towards this cause and call upon all Sinhalese Buddhists to join hands with us. This in effect is the same slogan used by the ultra Sinhala Buddhists racist movements – the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the Ravana Balakaya. This is no different to what was espoused by the racist cult led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. There is absolutely no difference. Bankrupt politicians and defeated political fractions are trying to make a comeback to power through racist politics. They believe the innocent Sinhalese Buddhists can be fooled once again and that they can rise to power with their votes.”
Although Ven. Pavara Thero says that there are foreign or domestic enemies working against us the reality is quite the opposite. The majority of countries within the United Nations Organization (UN) were against Sri Lanka during the Rajapaksa regime. That was because Sri Lanka had gone against several international Laws and Treaties. However, that situation has changed now. The present government has been able to significantly reduce a majority of issues Sri Lanka had in the international arena to a significant extent.
However, the current United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) Government has to turn these slogans to action without limiting them to words in order to bring justice to aggrieved people of this country. If not Sri Lanka will again lose the confidence placed on them by the International community. International goodwill and confidence are crucial to transform Sri Lanka into an advanced, developed nation.
Although racists say so, Sinhala Buddhists or Buddhism cannot be harmed by external forces. On the contrary only internal factors can destroy and damage a race or a religion with more adverse effects. For instance, the actions of Ven. Pavara Thero and his mob to enter the Sri Dalada Maligawa and act violently are black marks on Buddhism which is perceived as a religion of peace. If Sinhalese Buddhists truly believed in the Buddhist philosophy and safeguard its principles and precepts from the bottom of their hearts no enemy whether foreign or domestic can destroy Buddhism.
The Sinha Le flag
Ven. Pavara Thero and his mob came with a flag denoting the lion, which signifies only the Sinhalese. Sri Lankans should think about the nation in a modern context. The Sri Lankan Nation constitutes of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and other minority ethnic and religious groups. As such bringing a flag signifying only one race before the sacred Tooth Relic is a sacrilege and a desecration of the precepts of Buddhism. The bottom line is that the Sinha Le movement will destroy the goodwill and harmony that exists between races and creeds whilst throwing both Buddhism and the Sinhalese into shame.
Ashin Wirathu of Myanmar
Out of the three Buddhist monastic orders existing in Sri Lanka, two orders namely – the Amarapura and Ramanna Nikayas originated in Burma now called Myanmar. Burma too has seen the rise of extremist and violent Buddhist movements during the recent past. Most notably the 969 Movement led by Ven. Ashin Wira Thu, a Burmese Buddhist monk, and the spiritual leader of the anti-Muslim pogrom in Myanmar is dubbed to be the Buddhist equivalent of ‘Osama Bin Laden.’ He has been accused of inspiring the persecution of Muslims through his speeches, although he claims to be nothing more than a peaceful preacher, despite openly referring to Muslims as the ‘enemy’.
In 2012, when deadly violence broke out in the Rakhine state between Muslims, mainly Rohingya, and Buddhists, he was catapulted into public view with his firebrand speeches. According to BBC, a typical sermon begins: “Whatever you do, do it as a nationalist.” His rhetoric has more than a whiff of political theatre. When asked if he was the “Burmese Bin Laden,” he said he would not deny it!
On 1st July 2013, the Time Magazine put him on its front cover with the headline “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” According to media reports, he has led rallies supporting relocating Rohingya Muslims to a third country. He has also blamed Muslims for the clashes and repeats unsubstantiated claims about reproduction rates. Analysts say such sentiments stoked an already febrile situation in areas where violence unfolded. He also claims that Buddhist women are being converted by force and is leading a campaign for legislation to prevent Burmese Buddhist women from marrying other faiths without official permission.
BBC quoted General Secretary of the Women’s League of Burma Tin Tin Nyo as saying: “He gives our country a bad reputation… He damages the robes that he is wearing. “
Hitler’s master race
The master race was a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Germanic People — a branch of what in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century taxonomy was called the Aryan race — represented an ideal and pure race. In Nazi ideology, the Nordic race was the purest example of the original racial stock of those who were then called the Proto-Aryans, whom the Nazis believed to have prehistorically dwelt on the North German Plain and to have ultimately originated from the lost continent of Atlantis. The Nazis declared that the Nordics (now referred to as the Germanic people), were the true Aryans (ethnically closest descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans) because they were much less racially mixed with people who were ‘non-native’ to the European continent, than other Indo-European people, such as the Slavic people, the Romanic people, and the Indo-Iranian people. Based on the claim that the Nordic people were superior to all other races, the Nazis believed they were entitled to expand territorially.
The actual policy that was implemented by the Nazis resulted in the Aryan certificate, the one form of the official document that was required by the law for all citizens of the Reich was the ‘Lesser Aryan certificate’ which could be obtained through an Ahnenpass which required the owner to trace their lineage through baptism or birth certificates or certified proof thereof that all grandparents were of ‘Aryan descent.’ Along with the Jews and Gypsies, the overwhelming majority of the Slavic population were defined as non-Aryan Untermenschen, and a danger to the ‘Aryan’ or Germanic Übermenschen master race.
This culminated in the racial policy of Nazi Germany, which included
policies and laws implemented in Nazi Germany (1933–45) based on a specific racist doctrine asserting the superiority of the Aryan race claiming scientific legitimacy. This was combined with a eugenics programme that aimed for racial hygiene by compulsory sterilisation and extermination of the Untermenschen (‘sub-humans’), which eventually culminated in the largest genocide the world had ever seen – the Holocaust. According to historians approximately six million Jews were killed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime and its collaborators, whilst an additional five million non-Jewish lives were taken by Nazi mass murders, bringing the total to approximately eleven million.
What is our duty?
Several groups such as Yuthukama Sanvada Kavaya (Circle of dialogue) is going around the country arguing that the new constitution brought by the government will sound the second death knell for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
First and foremost if the new constitution could defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa and what his infamous regime stood for, that itself is a victory. However, what is more important is that a new constitution should not be thought of once but even ten times in order to not let authoritarians and dictators such as Rajapaksa come into power. Bringing back the Rajapaksas to leadership will create undesirable consequences for the whole society.
One obstacle stopping the government working in full steam is that they have to spend time clearing the scourge left by the Rajapaksas. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) has its hands full whilst the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate into Large Scale Corruption and Fraud (PRECIFAC) are probing into large scale frauds and corruption that took place during the previous regime. Without clearing that garbage no new government can breathe.
Some would say that to build highways, roads, airports and ports you need to bring back Rajapaksa. However, they do not say he is capable of ordering police to shoot at peaceful protests, killing innocent civilians begging for water, murdering journalists who oppose dictatorship and corruption in broad daylight, and to allow drug peddlers and ethanol dealers to rule the society, as people know that the Rajapaksas did more than building roads and bridges.
Contempt of Court
Sometime back a person who yawned in a courtroom was ordered to be jailed and a senior lawyer no less than a President’s Counsel was rebuked for allowing a mobile phone to ring inside Court.
Last Tuesday, Ven. Galagodatthe Gnanasara Thero of the BBS fame ran rampage in Court and created much havoc in such a context. The rabid monk with a robe has scolded and used abusive language on the disappeared journalist’s Prageeth Ekanaligoda’s wife – Sandhya Eknaligoda and Senior State Counsel Dilip Peiris, shouting that Army personnel arrested in connection with the Eknaligoda disappearance were war heroes in the courthouse. This shows that Ven. Gnanasara Thero is capable of bringing back the scourge of racism and also has scant respect for the Law. If this incident had taken place prior to January 8th 2015 the judges and police would not have had any power to remand such rabid offenders. That is not because Gnanasara Thero was powerful but because racism had the blessings and patronage of the Rajapaksa regime and because BBS, Ravana Balakaya along with Sinha Le are all creations of the Rajapaksa regime.
The best example is that the same flag brought to Kandy by the Sinha Le was brought to the Bribery Commission premises when former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was brought before the Bribery Commission to record a statement. As such this is not the flag of the Kandyan kingdom anymore but that of Rajapaksas just as the Swastika used in Nazi Germany during Hitler’s rule was not the symbol of ‘auspiciousness’ as per Buddhism or Hinduism but symbolised Nazism, fascism, racism and white supremacy.
When recalling what some Buddhist Monks have done at the Homagama Magistrate Court premises many believe that the ‘Theravada Bhikkhu Dialogue Act’ is a must. Sri Lanka needs Bhikkhus who truly safeguard principles pronounced by Lord Buddha and not Bhikkhus who threaten with self-immolation.
Blinded by racism
Although the majority engulfed by these racist initiatives have no personal gain, a handful of its leaders and promoters have not only political interest but much financial gain. The best example is that Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara who has not made any personal gain by standing for the racist policies of Rajapaksas and Weerawansas. When racism is a genuine principle believed whole-heartedly by Dr. Amarasekara, for Rajapkasas and Weerawansas they were means of material gain. Although, Amarasekaras did not earn a cent from espousing racism in contrast the Rajapaksas and his cohorts have earned not millions but billions. More than anything else what is left is a country engulfed by flames of chauvinism.
Is Sri Lanka going back to days of tribal racism? There are forces in our society that can without any doubt reverse all efforts by the government to curb the scourge of racism. However, we need an intellectual dialogue although it maybe difficult, just as it is important to defeat the Puritanism espoused by the Amarasekeras for no personal gain. It is more vital to destroy the brand of material gain-based chauvinism promoted by fraudsters linked to the former Rajapaksa regime!