The emergence and sharpening of Tamil nationalism from the 1940s to the 1980s is a complex tale which cannot be easily summarized in a few strokes. It is a tale of Sinhala extremism at one pole and Tamil extremism at the other pole feeding off each other. At the same time, the divisions within each extreme (that is, the existence of several competing parties with chauvinist positions) disabled steps towards moderation. Moreover, this major strand of political contestation – the Sinhala/Tamil divide — was complicated by strands of Leftist and Naxalite thinking that encouraged both Sinhalese and Tamil youth to move towards revolutionary struggle.
Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN Dayan Jayatilake insists that the government is not taking concrete measures to curb the activities of extremist Sinhalese Buddhists in the country. “Everybody talks about the role of the Buddhist clergy in mobilising the mobs. And yet I don’t see sufficient robust efforts being made by the government or even voicing critique of such organisations as the BBS. Rioters and looters have been rounded up but nobody really knows how the investigations are proceeding.”
Everything in this man’s disposition radiates the peaceable philosophy so widely associated with gentle Buddhism.
But Rev. Iththbekande Saddhatissa is a radical, accused of spreading xenophobia, religious intolerance and Sinhalese domination over Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils.
He preaches politicized Buddhism.
He organizes rallies aimed at suppressing Tamil aspirations for autonomy in the north of a deeply divided island nation.
He embodies Sinhalese chauvinism.
He has the ear of a government that has embraced a version of fundamentalist Buddhism unrecognizable elsewhere on the planet — and the state’s official faith in a country where Buddhists comprise 70 per cent of the population.
He is secretary general of the small and extremist but disproportionately influential National Organization for Ravana Balaya, named after the mythological 10-headed king of ancient Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s long civil war, arising out of ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority, disfigured the country’s politics and hobbled economic growth.
Now there are signs of development across the country but critics say the peace has come at a cost.
The BBC’s George Alagiah reports from Colombo.
The meeting of Commonwealth heads of government has started in Sri Lanka. But the summit’s attendance list has already narrowed. Leaders of Canada, India and Mauritius have boycotted the gathering. The reason stems from concern over the Human Rights record of the Sri Lanka government, particularly with the regard to the last few months of the end of the civil war in 2009. Coverage on Impact included an in-depth report on the issues underlying the controversy by George Alagiah, followed by a studio discussion by Impact presenter Lucy Hockings with Sri Lankan Democracy Activist Nirmala Rajasingam, and Dushy Ranatunge, a London based journalist for the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Island.
source: BBC World News (via Youtube)