TamilWeek, Oct 23 - 29, 2005
A new social contract to attain prosperity: The need of
the hour

By Sarath De Alwis

The eventual announcement that Mahinda Rajapkse would be the SLFP candidate,
was not a surprise but, indeed, it was a subject of considerable speculation.At the age
of 63, with six adorable grandchildren, and a deep conviction, that we presently live in
a 'failing State,' I am compelled to take a very important decision that will determine the
destiny of our country. No matter who wins, I would like to lay my weary head on my
tattered pillow, for the rest of my remaining years, in the knowledge, that I did it right
for the sake of those whom I dearly love. I want this country saved from chaos,
anarchy and war.

With the acquired baggage of sixty-three years, I found the process to be a little
complex.

I was attracted by the rustic indolence of Mr Mahinda Rajapakse. Added to that, was
his forthright speech, where he remembered Mr Gamini Dissanayake at the funeral of
the late Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar. Here was a man, who is not only capable of
mobilizing mass demonstrations such as ‘Pada Yatras’, in defence of human rights, but
is also possessed with the courage to point a firm accusing finger at the LTTE, as
perpetrators of this dastardly murder. He did not stop there. He has now entered into
two agreements with the JVP and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), adopting a position
that puts the CFA in jeopardy.

I firmly believe that the CFA is the only avenue available to reach a negotiated
resolution of the communal conflict, that has not only brought us near economic ruin,
but has served to brutalize our society, where life and an acceptable social order is no
longer considered a pre requisite for a civilized existence.

The two agreements he has signed with these two groupings (the enthusiasm with
which they seduced Mr Rajapakse is a clear admission of their inability to accurately
gauge the strength of their own respective constituencies), has resulted in creating an
atmosphere that is frightening to those who assumed that there was a meeting of
minds between the two main political parties, at least on the question of national
reconciliation, however distant that appeared to be.

That we have now discovered Mr Rajapakshe to be very adept at protean politics, is a
revelation.

His agreement with the JVP is not something that was not anticipated. With or without
an agreement, they would have supported him. That he did enter in to an agreement
is evidence of the effectiveness of the manipulative politics of the JVP and his failure
to derive the benefit of hindsight. A luxury that is rarely available to politicians.

In fact, as per the dictates of the JVP and the JHU, his negotiating position is, “This is
what we offer. Take it or leave it.” With his proven skills in ‘pada yatras’, he can walk,
not only one extra mile, but also another hundred miles. Mr Somawansa Amarasighe,
who is our latest version of Yon Klauswitz, who is not afraid of either war or peace and
the ‘Pura Vidya Chakrawarty’ Ven. Ellawala Medananda, are welcome to accompany
him for their appointment in ‘Sansara’.

They must remember one important factor in this equation. That is a piece of advice
from Henry Kissinger, who extricated the mighty military machine of the US from the
quagmire of Vietnam.

"We lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: The guerrilla wins if he
does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win."

Subterfuge and Promises may or may not win elections. They will certainly not lead to
negotiations between the government and the LTTE, or a lasting peace.Since there is
a possibility of Mr Rajapakse walking that extra mile or, attempting to (I fervently hope
it will not come to that), in dealing with the LTTE, he should make an honest evaluation
of the adversary, have a clear perception of his desired objective, as well as the
alternatives available to him.

I have no inclination to delve into the motives or, the politics of the JVP. I know very
little about them. Perhaps, when the dust has settled, Mr Wimal Weerawansa will write
a treatise on the JVP. I do not like teledramas. I watch the Woody Woodpecker show
with my grandchildren, and I now enjoy it. Next to Woody, my favourite TV character is
Mr Weerawansa.

But on the Hela Urumaya I am very concerned. I am a Buddhist, and I strive to follow
the teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, I am pained by some of the utterances of
these venerable prelates.

Narada Maha Thera in his book, "The Buddha and His Teachings", provides a very
lucid definition of what is erroneously described as Buddhism. What the Buddha
preached was “Dhamma”, which literally means, “that which upholds or sustains him
(who acts in conformity with its principles and thus prevents him from falling into woeful
states.”) There is no proper English equivalent that exactly conveys the meaning of
the Pali term.

Narada Maha Thera also describes what is now being referred to as Buddhism.

Buddhism, he states, “Is Not Theo Centric But Homocentric.” Now, I ask myself, “we
follow the teachings of the Buddha for our own wellbeing during our life time, with the
ultimate object of attaining deliverance –Nibbhana.” This, we do under the guidance of
the ‘Arya Puthra Maha Sangha’.

Our ‘Maha Sangha’ is divided into three ‘Nikayas’. So, we are encouraged to pursue
the same spiritual objectives by the ‘Maha Sangha’ who have developed a Federal
form of three ‘Nikayas’, and perform their duties and obligations quite independent of
each other. There is no apex body they are responsible to, although they invoke the
term ‘Trinikayaka Sangha Sabhawa’, if and when they chose to.

Obviously, they do not subscribe to a unitary mechanism, as far as the ‘Sangha’ order
is concerned.

If what the Buddha taught is ‘Homocentric And Not Ethno Centric’, why confuse
Buddhists of this country. If Buddhism is Homocentric, the concept of Sinhala Buddhist
is rendered redundant. The JHU should not use the ‘Dhamma’ as a political asset. It is
a travesty to make the piety of those who follow the ‘Dhamma’, a means to achieve
their political objectives.

It is an equal travesty to make the Sacred Temple of the tooth relic the venue for
signing political deals.

Now let us examine the eightfold path as stated in the ‘Dhamma’.

1. Right understanding - Have they understood what the communal conflict is all
about?

2. Right thought - Do they approach the problem with clarity, compassion and a
sincere desire to arrive at an acceptable and honourable solution?

3. Right speech - Probably they think they do follow 'samma-vaca'

4. Right Action - Probably they do, when they encourage young ‘samaneras’ to jump
over police barricades and use the sacred precincts of the Sri Dalada Maligawa as the
venue for political horse trading.

5. Right Livelihood - No comment

6. Right Effort - Distortion of history and producing a poisonous brew of legend, myth
and history to serve their assumed notions of our history, is not.

7. Right Mindfulness - No comment

8. Right Concentration - Right or, otherwise, to use a Churchillian phrase, they have
become the repository of the worst form of racial and religious bigotry that has ever
corroded a Buddhist breast in this ‘Dharamadeepa’, with absolute concentration.

Mr Rajapakse has declared that he will take the country to the re-awakening of 1956.
What was this great epoch making event? The MEP, a coalition led by the late S.W.R.
D. Bandaranaike assumed office on the basic promise of making Sinhala the only
Official Language. Addressing the annual sessions of the SLFP in 1959 he said, "In
the last year, the country was faced with two serious troubles. The growing communal
tensions between the Sinhalese and the Tamils exploded into widespread disorder,
and a state of emergency had to be declared." He concluded "I do not think there is
likely to be a recurrence of such happenings in the future." SWRD was a tragic figure
in our contemporary history. He did not have the benefit of hindsight.

The late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was a liberal, in the quintessential sense of the word.
In his speech, at the inauguration of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, on 2nd September
1951, he expressed his views on both religion and language. He said, "With regard to
the revival of spiritual values, we feel that all necessary help should be forthcoming
from the public and the government, to Buddhism, as well as all other religions, without
discrimination or injustice to any." And further, “In education, we intend to see that
illiteracy is eliminated without delay and that free education is truly implemented, both
in the letter as well as the spirit. We would like to see both, Sinhalese and Tamil,
taught in all our schools.”

In this context, where do we seek the explanation for ‘Sinhala Only.’

Mr Sam Wijesinghe, in his book, ‘All Experiences’, narrates a revealing facet of this
brilliant leader, who held a disparate coalition together. by his sheer personality. At an
election rally in Polonnaruwa, in 1956, he unleashed a vibrant tirade that dug deep in
to the issues of race and language. While he was returning to Colombo that night in M.
W.H. de Silva's car, MWH said to him “You have sowed the wind, our people will have
to reap the whirlwind.” Pat came the reply from the master of the mixed metaphor, “We
will cross the bridge when we come to it.”

His liberal values were in tact. So it was, with his determination in the pursuit of power.
All brilliant men are capable of error. The enormity of the consequences of such error
surpasses the brilliance of these great men.

Once, SWRD made the rising star in his party, the late Nimal Karunatilake the
secretary of the party. Young Nimal took the assignment seriously and soon
encountered resistance from the seniors. Nimal complained to the leader. SWRD
advised the young eager beaver, “Nimal, my dear, have the semblance of a party.
Never a party.” His style and character could not be confined within the confines of a
party. More accurately he was the party.

Once, SWRD defined the middle path, which he professed. “...the thesis and the anti
thesis. I take the synthesis.” In fact, the synthesis became a contagious disease that
infected all parties. The politicians in that era were not as fickle as they are today. A
fickle electorate wished them to be and obliging them was the path of least resistance.
This statement is made with care, for it is very relevant to the present. The SLFP was
not a cohesive party in 1959, it was made into a vibrant political instrument,
subsequent to the assassination of its founder.

It was Mrs Sirimavo Bandarnaike who gave substance to the shadow and made it an
organization advancing essentially, the Sinhala Buddhist interest. That is the reason
for the failure of the United Front government to offer meaningful redress to the
Tamils, despite the presence of such figures as Dr Colvin R. De Silva, Dr N.M. Perera,
Pieter Keuneman and so many others, who were not trapped in the politics of race and
language. They were happy to be entrapped.

In 1977, Mr J.R. Jayewardene assumed power with a five-sixth majority. He introduced
the executive presidency and proportional representation. He also missed the
opportunity, and in fact, drove the remaining, elected Tamil representatives out of the
democratic mainstream. The rest is history, which does not need repetition.

In 1994, Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was elected President on a
manifesto that clearly stated that she was committed to a negotiated settlement of the
communal conflict. She was elected for a second term on the same platform. In fact,
she is the first person to be elected to this office twice, under the ‘78 Constitution.

Mr Rajapakse should not be surprised by the vehemence with which she is attempting
to preserve her own legacy, as well as that of the SLFP, which she lifted above
parochial politics. She enters the annals of history of our turbulent times as the first
Sinhala leader to accept the concept of meaningful devolution of power within a
federal constitution. She, not only articulated this concept but, received the
endorsement of the people at two presidential elections.

Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe took the initiative in 2002 and a tentative, and fragile peace
was arrived at. He had his detractors. He moved on, unruffled by the critics from Oslo
(a Federal Solution) to Tokyo, where he obtained assistance to the tune of US $ 4.5
billion. That was his undoing, and the gravest mistake committed by the President.
She overlooked the fact that she was serving out her second term.

A President irritated by consistent political jabs from a UNP Government under her
executive presidency, became a willing tool in the hands of a few, who simply did not
want US $ 4.5 billion in the hands of a UNP government. That, under proportional
representation, the JVP will end up with a number of seats, totally disproportionate to
their actual vote bank in the country, did not occur to those in the SLFP, who resisted
the alliance.

The President has only one option to salvage the SLFP and the policies she stood for.
That is to gauge the strength of every party, that is for and against the peace
initiative. She has two ways to do it.

We have a past spanning three decades of bloody conflict. We live today uncertain of
what awaits us with the next dawn. Is it unreasonable for us to hope for a future with a
clear road map that will lead us not essentially to immediate prosperity but to a social
contract, which will eventually get us there.
[Courtesy: Daily Mirror]
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