“Democracy; the fools have a right to vote. Dictatorship; the fools have a right to rule” ~Bertrand Russell
The whole of Sri Lankan society, at least the rumor-prone Colombo pukka sahibs, went berserk when they heard a ‘sermon’ of some sort from a so-called highly-placed Buddhist Monk of the Asgiriya Chapter asking a notorious sibling of Mahinda Rajapaksa to take control of the country and rule like Hitler, who is really the personification of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’.
A widely read online news site reported thus: ‘Venerable Vendaruwe Upali Thero, the Anunayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter delivering an anusasana (sermon) on the occasion of an almsgiving marking the 69th birthday of Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he should opt for military rule if this is what is necessary to build the country. Venerable Upali, noting that Gotabhaya is referred to as a Hitler, suggested that if that is the case he should be one and build the nation. ‘What we need is a leadership that has the blessings of Mahinda Rajapaksa and is linked with Buddhism, the Buddhist Order and the Sinhalese. We can see that the law has completely broken down. We need a leader who shows fidelity to the doctrine (dahami naayakayek),’ Venerable Upali also said.’
This Buddhist Monk has swept the very basic principle of the four sublime states of Karuna, Metta, Mudita and Upekkha taught by Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, off the floor. In terms of the interpretation contained in the book published in 1994 by Buddhist Publication Society authored by Nyanaponika Thera, ‘these four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings (sattesu samma patipatti). They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism’. This is an absolute denunciation of the sermon preached by the Asgiriya Chapter Anunayaka. Something is grievously wrong. And it is both in the content of the call for military rule as well as the process involved in making such a grotesque call a reality.
If any reasonable man or woman thought that the cultural decline in our society is limited to the lay society, then think again. A high ranking Monk in the Buddhist order, while being enrobed in the usual saffron robe, has decided to wrap himself in the more expansive Nazi flag. Maybe the Swastika, the Nazi emblem, which in fact is a motif associated with ancient Asian religious thought, has taken hold of the personality of this ill-informed Monk.
But in a more realistic context of modern Sri Lankan politics, this degradation of religious thought signals a more sinister-looking recess of wise and intelligent discourse amongst the general public in Sri Lanka. On the one hand are the likes of Gnanasara, now an ‘ex-Buddhist Monk’, whose religious standing is increasingly looking to be a matter of the past and on the other are these Buddhist Monks such as Vendaruwe Upali Thero, posing as representatives of a more traditional and orthodox teachings of Buddhism preaching a military rule in a country whose people’s commitment to democracy, freewill and the fundamental human rights has time after time been proven beyond a shadow of suspicion and ambiguity.
In modern day politics such a statement cascading from the lips of any person is purported to be a result of an orchestrated piece of aggressive kind of public relations. But what is even more dangerous is if the prelate’s words were a true enunciation of authentic beliefs held by him. Nothing is more dangerous and outrageously harmful than a believer who thinks that he is always right in his decisions and also morally righteous. This self-righteousness-belief renders him to be an island unto himself, making him ridiculously susceptible to a self-destroying bubble and that bubble is a creation of his own loyal cohorts and himself.
‘Gotler’ belongs in that self-defeating bubble. He dwells more in his own comforts zones making sure that wherever he goes is surrounded by his henchmen who benefitted immensely during his brother’s regime. After being alleged of most heinous crimes, trying to preach justice and fair-play is like Sri Lankans were born only after the demise of the Rajapaksa rule. Playing the victim is always the sign of a weak person. The best example is the current US President Donald Trump. After inflicting most unspeakable insults on his opponents, when he is being treated the same way, the bully reacts as if he has been victimized by his antagonists. But the tragedy is, that card carries, especially before a gullible audience, albeit in the short run, a lot of positive marks for the man or woman who plays it. ‘Gotler’ may have chosen to play that card and it is the responsibility of those who will pass judgment on his whims and fancies, come election day.
Sitting tightly in their comfortable armchairs with their Smartphone in one hand and a glass of expensive whiskey in the other, some pukka sahibs venture out to compare ‘Gotler’ to a Messiah to come. These lotus eaters know quite well that they stand to make enormous profits on unsolicited government tenders over some of which this ‘Gotler’ character presided over during that Rajapaksa regime. If democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people, any regime at whose helm ‘Gotler’ potentially would reside, would be a government of the few, by the few and for the few. That ‘few’ would be so a miniscule few, one would not be able to find them in the rural hamlets; they don’t exist in the suburban cities, nor would they be found living among the average wage earner. That ‘few’ are essentially a privileged few, living in Colombo and in some selected provincial centers; hosted by Gotler’s wealthy henchmen, they were at cocktail parties, meandering with their hors d’oeuvres and Champaign. This is what Sri Lanka is inviting back with recurring regularity, should they decide to even entertain ‘Gotler’s’ nomination for the prime job in Sri Lanka.
Hitler too had a hand in developing Germany. As per Wikipedia, ‘the Great Depression was the worst economic slump in the history of the industrialized world, lasting from 1929 to 1939. It began after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors’. Nevertheless, Hitler is the last scoundrel if any political leader wishes to compare himself with. If ‘Gotril’ desired to wear that dishonorable insignia, let him do that. But what one must be alarmed is the fact that a Buddhist Monk, for that matter a prelate in one of the two leading Chapters of the Order, deliberately chose to deliver this unholy discourse.
Usually preaching from the platform of the temple of the Tooth Relic, the highest Temple of all Buddhists in the world, is considered sublimely truthful and wholly compassionate. No words, which are more shameful and debasing of the true teachings of the Great Teacher, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, have come out from either of these Chapters, Malwatte and Asgiriya. Yet given the current context of political volatility and short shelf life of the voters’ memory, it is imprudent to make any wild predictions, leave alone intelligent forecasts, as to how the general public in Sri Lanka would answer a call to Hitler-like rule in peaceful Pearl in the Indian Ocean.
Hitler and his military rule, the ensuing Holocaust, persecution of Jews and his other political, social and ethnic opponents might be totally new to the current younger generation. As Bill Clinton’s chief strategist said in 1992, ‘it’s the economy stupid’. As far as the Parliamentary Elections are concerned, if no immediate remedies are forthcoming, a change of government is well in the cards. However, Presidential Elections are a completely new proposition. Time and again it has been proven that no person could be elected President unless he or she secures an overwhelming majority of the minority vote. As has been penned countless times in this column, if one of the Rajapaksa or any of his cohorts is to be elected, they need to obtain more than 64% of the Sinhalese Buddhist voter base in the country. Against a backdrop of vastly polarized voting public, it is rather improbable that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) or any Rajapaksa cohort would obtain 64% of that segment of the voting population.
Whichever way the trumps fall, it is an uphill task for a non-UNP candidate to rise to the seat of Presidency unless Ranil Wickremesinghe chooses to commit political hara-kiri by being so lukewarm about the atrocities committed by the previous regime headed by the Rajapaksa Family. But there are no guarantees that Ranil would not continue on this suicidal path. That, my friends, would be an appalling tragedy.