Category Archives: slanted reportage

Reconciliation via Cricket and Charity? The Political Ground is a Waterlogged Minefield

Michael Roberts

It is possible that Velupillai Pirapaharan remains a revered leader and symbol of the nationalist drive for Thamililam among some Tamils residing within the island f Sri Lanka today – even though they are circumspect in expressing such thoughts in public. Indeed, it is possible that some Tamils in the island worship him as a deity in the manner espoused in some quarters abroad by Tamils of the diaspora (see image below).

So, how does one measure the political reverberations of the well-meaning efforts towards reconciliation and the bridging of the Tamil-Sinhala divide delineated in several essays presented recently[1] in THUPPAHI?

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John Holt rebuts Gerald Peiris: A Focus on Buddhist Extremism

John Holt, A Short Memorandum addressing Gerald Peiris, 28 September 2017

It is 3 years since I gave the keynote address at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (Kandy) conference on Buddhism in relation to other religions.  My presentation was revised an subsequently published as the lead article in the book that was a by-product of the conference.  My thesis was simple:  to illustrate how recent social, economic and political changes in Theravada-dominated countries have had an effect on their respective religious cultures.  My argument about Sri Lanka was also quite simple:  that 26 years of civil war had contributed to the emergence of Buddhist militancy–the BBS being the classic example.  Immediately following that conference, Gerry Peiris sent out sharply critical e-mails about my presentation to an extended group of his like-minded friends.  When I came to know about his rather personal attacks through some of my own Sri Lankan friends, I quietly exchanged several detailed e-mails with Peiris engaging him quite thoroughly and, as I thought at the time, putting the matters to rest in a civil manner.

Muslims stand next to a burnt shop after a clash between Buddhists and Muslims in Aluthgama June 16, 2014. At least three Muslims were killed and 75 people seriously injured in violence between Buddhists and Muslims in southern Sri Lankan coastal towns best known as tourist draws, with Muslim homes set ablaze, officials and residents said on Monday. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

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Buddhist Monks on Violent Paths. How Come? An Essay in Mid-2013

Alan Strathern, in BBC News,  on 2 May 2013, ….  repeat 2013, with the title being  “Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?”

Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

At the annual Ananda Harvest Festival in Bagan, Myanmar, thousands of monks from all over Myanmar came to receive alms. While walking around the vast temple grounds, I chanced upon this boy monk who was playing with his toy gun. Even though it was only a toy gun, I found this image a disturbing juxtaposition of the peace that Buddhism embodies and the violence that guns symbolise.

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The Buddha’s Middle Path is the Route to Lanka’s Present Constitutional Dilemma

Dayan Jayatilleka in The Island, 25 September 2017, where the title is  “The ethnic issue: Fantasy vs. Reality. Response to Ladduwahetty and Hulugalle”

At a time when national borders are vanishing, the borders in our own mind need to be erased in the interests of serious inquiry and discussion.”—Mervyn de Silva, The Age of Identity, 1993

As in life, there are no guarantees in politics. One can only avoid the most obvious mistakes and cultivate the wisdom to manage things prudently. A Constitution cannot function as a prison house. Countries, like people, stay together because of consent and mutual agreement. The “stability” that both Ladduwahetty and Hulugalle crave, cannot be ensured by rigidity and unilateral imposition. The stability of the whole can be achieved only through dialogue and consensus, involving mutual compromise and concessions, between the component parts. That is surely the logic and spirit of the Social Contract. Continue reading

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Mattala Airport in China’s Game-Plan

Brook Larmer,  courtesy of New York Times Magazine , 13 September 2017, where the title reads What the World’s Emptiest International Airport Says About China’s Influence”

   

The four-lane highway leading out of the Sri Lankan town of Hambantota gets so little traffic that it sometimes attracts more wild elephants than automobiles. The pachyderms are intelligent — they seem to use the road as a jungle shortcut — but not intelligent enough, alas, to appreciate the pun their course embodies: It links together a series of white elephants, i.e. boondoggles, built and financed by the Chinese. Beyond the lonely highway itself, there is a 35,000-seat cricket stadium, an almost vacant $1.5 billion deepwater port and, 16 miles inland, a $209 million jewel known as “the world’s emptiest international airport.”

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US Congress has Sri Lanka in Its Gunsights

Daya Gamage,  courtesy of Asian Tribune, where the title runs thus U.S. Congress Tightens War Crimes Noose on Sri Lanka”

The United States Senate Committee on Appropriations last week approved the FY 2018 Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill with $51.35 billion for diplomatic and humanitarian programs that strengthen U.S. national security and support American values abroad. Despite the Trump administration’s soft-peddling of American values abroad – democracy promotion, good governance, human rights, and rule of law etc. – the Senate Appropriations Bill, co-authored by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democratic Patrick Leahy, independent of the White House budget proposals released last month, underscored policy iteration or ‘riders’ on Sri Lanka’s commitment to “increasing accountability and transparency in governance; supporting a credible justice mechanism in compliance with United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution (A/HCR/30/ L.29) of October, 2015”.

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The War is Past. Paradise is Regained

Michael Buerk,  in the The Telegraph, 5 September 2017, where the title is “The war is history: Michael Buerk returns to Sri Lanka” ** Note Editorial Comment at End 

The Tigers’ lair was deep in the jungle. It was difficult to find and tough to get to; two hours jolting, semi-prone, in a trailer dragged by a tractor, watching for mines. This was a war zone for decades. The paddy fields were abandoned long ago to the peacocks and their perpetual courtship, dozens of them everywhere, each male made fabulous by desire. The man-made lake that once fed the fields was covered in lotus flowers. A crocodile basked on a rock in the shallows, jaws gaping as if in wonder at the lonely beauty of it all. Well into the thicker brush, down a maze of paths and tunnels through the thorn trees, we came first to what was left of the Tigers’ guard post. Just rubble now where 30 fighters held part of the perimeter of what was, in effect, a separate state. Their latrine, the only recognisable structure left, was now home to a 15ft Indian rock python.

  Buerk was in Sri Lanka for the BBC at the beginning of the war, in the Eighties

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