Gajalakshmi Paramasivam – 21 April 2015
Role of Clergy in Sri Lankan Governance
Sri Lanka is in the process of restructuring its Government and it is not easy. It is difficult because of the Government’s own memory of itself. If we the individuals also could remember our past births - majority of us would have comprehension problems. Migrants who remember their past as is – would effectively be economic migrants. The way we do not remember details of our previous births – we need to also not remember details of our life in another part of the world when we emigrate for good. We need to however not lose the Value of that life in the past. When the system of the Lord does the restructuring – through death and birth – our higher values – Spiritual merits and Sins are built into our makeup in the deepest area of our being. They say that there is god in every one of us. Some call it conscience. This god-power has all the attributes of the original. This sharing is possible only when such power is an absolute power. A self-governing person is one who is able to place that self-governance power in every voter recognized by her/him as her/his subject. Many Tamil leaders have been doing just that – each in their own local areas. The real power of Sri Lankans is the consolidated value of all such self-governance powers which are able to regenerate themselves.
In his article ‘REQUIREMENTS FOR TAMIL CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE NATIONAL CHANGE’ author Jehan Perera, states:
‘The large voter turnout in the North and East at the presidential election, however, showed that the Tamil voter did not accept the boycott argument. They had already seen the devastating impact of an earlier Tamil boycott that took place in 2005. The LTTE imposed the boycott at the point of the gun, reduced the Tamil vote that would have gone to Ranil Wickremesinghe and effectively assisted Mahinda Rajapaksa to become the president, a position of concentrated power he held for ten years until his election defeat. Like the present day promoters of a Tamil boycott, the LTTE too thought that the international community would support them against the nationalism of President Rajapaksa. The reality was different and the Tamil population on the ground was at the receiving end.’
What lessons did Tamils learn from the above – not as delivered by Politicians but through them by the system of Natural Justice. Every self-governing Tamil who was ‘told’ by the LTTE not to vote would have felt deeply hurt and upset. Since they had the full right to place themselves in the Politician of their choice but were blocked in their path to do so at the physical level – their vote was ‘waiting’ for the right opportunity to come along. That vote in value included the rights of LTTE group. When a leader blocks another’s natural rights – s/he blocks her/his own. The power itself is added to the person who had the right to express but was blocked at gunpoint.
Within the Tamil community – we had/have different pathways through which to realize self-governance. One who relies mainly on the political path needs the voting system. Others would continue to vote for themselves in their areas of authority. I do this all the time to demonstrate that I am an untouchable to those who block voting pathways. I am a governor. Many of us remained painfully silent to keep our own governance going. The challenges faced by us are highlighted by Mr. Jehan Perera as follows:
[Hardly anyone in the Tamil polity was willing or able to oppose the LTTE at that time, when they were at the peak of their power and arrogance, shooting dead those who differed from them. Many democratic Tamil leaders lost their lives for being traitors according to the LTTE.]
To the average voter majority power is governing power. The parallel social life is - money is ownership. A deeper study is needed to know whether that money was earned and earned on merit basis. But the one with the experience knows intuitively through that experience. When LTTE killed politicians – they killed their own opportunities in politics. They blocked their own political pathways. Jaffna Tamils have upheld this by nominating Mr. Wigneswaran as the Political leader – instead of LTTE’s Ananthi Sasitharan or any other associate of an Armed group. It is a recognition that Jaffna Tamils seek to govern themselves through Higher Education. It’s a heritage with deep and powerful ancestral roots. We are now in the process of repairing that heritage damaged by the young and the restless.
Mr. Jehan Perera states:
[ One of the few Tamil leaders to take a different posture publicly was the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, who together with his fellow Tamil Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam, opposed the LTTE’s boycott. The moral authority and courage of the two bishops was not sufficient to overcome the fear psychosis that gripped the Tamil community at the 2005 presidential elections in the face of the LTTE’s military power and the propaganda of Tamil nationalists both locally and living abroad.]
The missionary played a key role in ‘showing’ the investment made by Jaffna Tamils in Higher Education. I myself was educated at Holy Family Convent Colombo 4, followed by Jaffna after the 1958 riots. That pain of displacement and separation of our family – would have reallocated the motivation to study from Sinhalese parallels of our family to our family. The root cause of our investment in Higher Education is our hunger for self-sufficiency starting with financial self-sufficiency. Most Tamil migrants in Singapore, Malaysia and more recently in Western countries fulfil this need for self-governance through Higher Education. Relative to that Politics was/is low in the list of priorities of Jaffna Tamils.
During the 1995 mass displacement many University students were killed because they were part of the group moving towards Vanni. As per news reports [Senior professors and lecturers at the University of Jaffna observed in a letter to the UN Secretary General on November 28, 1995:
“If lives have not been lost or people have not been injured on an even larger scale it is not because of the sensitivity and concern shown by the security forces for the safety of innocent civilians but because of the precaution taken by the people in evacuating quickly from areas where intense shelling and bombing were taking place and seeking shelter elsewhere.”]
That is the ‘inner force’ of self-governance even in the midst of the painful challenges from external forces. In this instance for majority Tamils – both LTTE and the Government’s Armed forces were ‘external forces’. The latter would have been internal if the Government had heard Tamil Political leaders sincerely. Instead they got the Opposition they deserved – through the LTTE.
[During the run-up to the presidential elections of 2015, when the call of a Tamil boycott once again reared its head, Bishop Rayappu Joseph stepped forward a second time to oppose the boycott call. He urged the Tamil people that the way forward was by participating in the democratic process and being part of the process of change that they wanted. This time around, with no LTTE guns to back up the boycott call, the Tamil people rejected the siren call to remain separate and uninvolved in the electoral process. Instead they heeded the call of democracy and, together with their Sinhalese and Muslim co-voters, participated in bringing about the change they wanted.]
Bishop Rayappu Joseph, like many of us – gives form to his own feelings in this issue. Tamils as a Community, however would continue to be driven by their inner selves. They may not get it right politically from time to time. But they could be relied on to get it right in educational pursuits and financial self-sufficiency. That is our Tamil Heritage. When we accept the pain and loss we underwent as the pain we needed to have – we would feel ownership in the whole including the Sri Lankan Government. Once this happens – we become the driving force – as was confirmed by the 2015 Presidential Elections.
When the investment in education is deep it leads to intellectual freedom. This is the highest freedom of all. Then it is the Government that must vote for such leadership through allocation of Tax Funds.
We already have problems due to Buddhism being allocated foremost place in Sri Lankan Constitution. This naturally breeds false leadership thoughts that eventually manifest in abuse of power in various forms. The communication with a Buddhist in this regard is as follows:
[I used the title ‘Venerable’ because it is what society has given to monks just as much as ‘reverend’ is given to Christian priests.]
[Take a look at the way you addressed me in both emails. In the first one it was Gaja Param. In this one it is less formal and said Gaja. As Sri Lankans, discussing this issue towards contributing to good governance – we need to share our Truth alone if we do not have an official position. If we do not have official positions there is no need for position formalities. If you had said that the army officer became a monk – that would have been common language. But once you say Venerable Buddhangala Ananda in the same communication where you addressed me as Gaja Param – that shows that you have attributed higher position to this person not as per your assessment but as per Society labels.
I am happy to share my Truth for Truth from you. If on the other hand you seek to contribute to policy – then the issue here is whether or not Buddhism should remain as the foremost religion in the Sri Lankan Constitution. If yes, then what its consequences are for Sri Lankans as a whole. This discussion has surfaced the very concern that I was addressing – as to whether a religion given higher importance by law elevates the status of a person in that group vis a vis a person in another religious group. You have provided the answer ‘yes’ . This is NOT new to me. Once a Sinhalese Police Officer - a student of mine at our Vaddukoddai training centre started talking about Krishna being above Buddha. He said it as if he was the authority on that subject and we had to listen to him. I said to him that at that place he was a student. He continued to respect me as his teacher and did not talk about religious affairs in the classes. Then we had two staff members who were high officials in their Christian movement. They also started telling me what was good for the office. I asked them to rethink about working at our centre. They stopped coming there. But they do come to our other social activities in that area and we are happy. Hindus who are elevated beyond their earned status within their community would also try to ‘tell’ if they think the other person would not object to it. This however suppresses the Truth which is the most powerful uniting power that we need.]
How do we free ourselves from such unjust powers? Below is a suggestion as per my own pathway and to my mind the essence of Gandhi’s message – Sathya Graham (Sathyam=Truth; Graham=Home) through non-violent non-cooperation.
[For god's sake Gaja do you need a separate state to become wholesome, you can do that in your own living room at your own pace.]
I responded as follows:
[I am talking about the state of mind. You seem to want an opposition to your desire. If I do not become that opposition – your desire becomes YOUR fear – not mine.]
We all have our roles to play and where there is no official position - one must be positioned as per the status of the current work . If this does not happen then one must live within one’s Truth. That Truth is our real Refuge. Then we would not cooperate with the desire of the other side to fear the other side. Left to themselves they would become their own fear. That is the law of Nature.