Prof. Laksiri Fernando jumps into the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist garbage bin again
By H. L. D. Mahindapala
There are clear indications in Prof. Laksiri Fernando’s response to my comment that he suffers from the common disease that affects some academics in the professoriate : they can’t hold two thoughts together and balance both in their pinheads to either think straight or arrive at a rational / logical conclusion. So, I’m afraid,, it has come to a point where I have to educate him on what he wrote.
Take, for instance, his claim that his concerns were with the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and not the Mahanayakes emerging as a state within the state. In saying this he indicates amply his inability to understands what he writes. He wrote unambiguously : “My concern has been about the evolving reactionary nationalist ideology. It is perhaps along this ideology, that the Asgiriya Mahanayake Theras are dragging the other prelates into politics. More worrying is the emergence of Mahanayake Theras as a state behind the state, dictating terms undemocratically.” This is the sum and substance of his complaint alleging that the Sangha is running the state. He sees the Mahanayakes as a formidable obstruction to constitutional changes.
The Mahanayakes have quite correctly stated that there is no need for constitutional changes at this stage. This has thrown him into a confusing spin because he is for constitutional changes to accommodate the Tamil separatist agenda which has been escalating incrementally, on “the little now and more later” tactics defined by S. J.V. Chelvanayakam, the father of Tamil separatism. He is highly agitated now that the Mahanayakes have decided to make their voices heard against Tamil separatism which is now resurfacing in the guise of constitutional changes. The issue of Bodu Bala Sena is purely incidental. He is “concerned” that the Sangha has become a “state within a state”, as he indicates in his headline as well. He puts the blame wholly on the politics of the Mahanayaka Theras who are opposed to the separatist politics of the Tamils of the North which has been the central issue bedevilling Sri Lankan politics in the post-independent era.
He uses the Bodu Bala Sena only as a peg to hang the most grave accusations that he can think of against the Mahanayakes. He says that the Mahanayakes are “reactionary”, “undemocratic” and “dictating terms to the state”. And he is concerned that the Mahanayakes instead of withdrawing into some cave for permanent meditation are now dragging the BBS and other prelates into the politics of “reactionary nationalist ideology”. Then, having levelled these charges against the Sangha, he accuses me of getting it wrong because I have challenged the real essence of his hidden agenda which is to denigrate the Maha Sangha and weaken their power /authority at all levels. His only defence is to backpedal saying that his concerns were not with the Mahanayakes but with the BBS. This disingenuous backpedalling makes it almost impossible to have a decent debate with him because he can’t either understand what he has written, or he is trying to dodge the issue which he can’t defend. His references to the BBS are mere red herrings. He concentrates his fire on the role of the Mahanayakes as seen in the quote above. He says that the Mahanayakes are responsible for “dragging the other prelates into politics”. If he is serious and means what he says about the Mahanayakes then why blame the BBS?
As I said earlier, he is now playing the role of an emeritus “Meetota-mullah” who has fallen into the garbage bin of anti-Sinhala-Buddhist politics. He has sent his critical faculties into retirement and is quite happy to spend his spare time recycling the threadbare anti-Sinhala-Buddhist clichés manufactured by racist G. G. Ponnambalam in the thirties. Like all the lumpen Marxists of various shades who led the post-independent generations into nowhere he is now chanting his tired old mantras, smirking smugly like a fat cat that has swallowed the canary. As a frustrated Trotskyite he must have waited in his days at Peradeniya, like Godot, for Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution that never came. This has been the miserable fate of these kalatipol political scientists like him. Their theories, their analyses, their paradigms, their solutions and predictions have fallen into sunyata – nothingness. Seeing the failure of the grandiose theories of Trotskyism the likes of Laksiri Fernando have now returned to bark in their anti-Sinhala-Buddhist kennels at the Sangha moon.
Of course, his Trotskyite leaders – Dr. N.M.Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Gunawardena, Doric de Souza, Bernard Soysa etc., – were all good men who discovered as they matured that there were more profitable political plums to be picked from Mrs. Bandaranaike’s grass root basket than the theoretical fictions laid down in the Permanent Revolution of Trotsky. As a Trotskyite he must have believed in the theoretical fantasies of Trotsky who argued that it is possible to skip the evolutionary historical stage of going through capitalism to socialism, as stated by Marx, and leap straight from a peasant, semi-feudal, semi-capitalist Russian economy into a workers revolutionary paradise.
Having gone nowhere with his Trotskyite theories this one-time professor has now retired to play the old record which is stuck in the groove of bizarre psychobabble of “majority-minority complex”. It is pathetic to seem him retiring into this cliché. At the end of his academic career is this all what he has to offer as an explanation for the complex North-South conflict? After all his years in the professoriate is his crowning scientific finding to repeat what Leslie Gunawardena had told him about the “majority-minority complex” when he was a post-graduate going in search of theme to write his doctoral thesis? Doesn’t he have anything original to say to save his reputation as a political scientist, if he had any at all?
He even hints that I am a victim of this “majority-minority complex” because I am married to a Tamil. I proclaim unreservedly that I am proud to have married one of the gracious, tolerant and enlightened Tamils I have ever met. She has taught me the humane side of the violent Tamil culture that destroyed her people, including her loved ones.. If anything my marriage proves that I can’t be a racist. I’ve even adopted a Tamil boy as my son. I am more close to my Tamil relatives than to my Sinhala relatives. These facts must make Freud laugh through his backside if he reads the psychobabble of this kalatipol scientist who is now pretending to be a psychoanalyst, with extraordinary powers to read my mind. What is apparent, however, is that Freudians reading his bogus theories will find it difficult to classify him as a “psychoanalyst” as defined in the compound word. Instead, they will have to split the word into two and consider him as either a “psycho” or an “anal-yst”!
Leaving aside his psycho-waffle, it must be noted that there is a Ph.D awaiting any researcher who is daring enough to trace the tragic trajectory of Trotskyite politics, which ended up in divisive and opportunistic politics. Neither George Lerski nor Prof. V. Ranjith Amerasinghe has delved deep in their theses on Sri Lankan Trotskyism to reveal the tragi-comic narrative of Trotskyism that declined from a grand world revolution propounded in 1905 by Trotsky to its brutal variation that manifested in the birth and death of Marxist fascists in the JVP who ran amok in the seventies and the eighties.
The irony is that when the revolution expected by the founding fathers of Trotskyism came it took them by surprise. It, in fact, exploded in their faces when the fathers of Trotskyism were in the seats of power defending their ministerial portfolios in a bourgeois regime ruled by a feudal radalaya, according to their own analysis. The Marxist children in the JVP, however, must be recognised, as the product of the Marxist revolution nurtured and promoted by the Trotskyites in the thirties. Their worst nightmare came true in the seventies, eighties and nineties when the revolutionary children they fathered took the guns and came at them. Prof. Carlo Fonseka, another wonky Trotskyite, had to flee to Sweden to escape the wrath of the misguided Marxist kids who were demanding revolutionary justice. Unable to explain their political predicament – their political duty was to back the revolution — the Marxist intellectuals blamed the CIA who had nothing to do with it. They, however, never took responsibility for paving the path to political violence. Later when the North erupted in violence they were happy to blame Sinhala-Buddhism and the Sangha. So the lingering memories of failed Trotskyism forces its loyal henchaiyas, to respond predictably to Sinhala-Buddhism the way the Pavlovian dogs respond to the salivating bells.
Their intellectual hypocrisy is appalling. They were very selective in identifying the causes that led to the violent movements of the South and North. The first wave of political violence in the post-independent era came from the Marxists of the JVP. The left-wing theoreticians / academics attributed the violence in the Sinhala south to the systemic failures of the capitalists and neo-imperialists who crept in with globalisation. The Marxist theories legitimising political violence from the thirties came in handy for the Sinhala youth who had no one else to blame. The lumpen Marxist eventually produced the fascist cult of the JVP. But when it came to the Northern violence they changed their theories to blame Sinhala-Buddhists. The anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism, preached by Ponnambalam also in the thirties, evolved gradually over the post-independent decades to produce the fascist cult of the LTTE. The Marxist fathers produced Rohana Wijeweera. And the Tamil racist fathers produced Velupillai Prabhakaran. Both were fascist terrorists whose primary concern was their political survival, oppressing and persecuting the people who looked up to them as their liberators. The misled youth of both communities were offered solutions by their political fathers that did not answer the challenges they were facing. Both communities were facing the identical economic malaise of the time : a stagnant economy that failed to provide the the youth with upward social mobility. The Southern youth fed on Marxism blamed the capitalist class. The Northern youth fed on anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism took to Tamil racist violence.
It was clear even at the time that the common factors that propelled the youth to violence were the socio-economic frustrations that held them captive in a stagnant economy, together with the missteps of the governments of the day, exploited by the aggressive Tamil leadership to thrive on Tamil racism. The angry youth, finding no way out, fell for the extremist ideologies and took up arms in both regions. The confounded theoreticians, not knowing how to grasp the meaning of the swirling forces that were unmanageable, came up with two different explanations for the Southern and Northern violence, though both violent movements were steered by the youth misled by their political fathers. In the North they could not blame the economic factor because the only marketable political force was anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism. Tamil racism dominated peninsular politics decisively in the post-Ponnambalam decades. All Tamils and their intellectual agents in the South became loyal disciples of Ponnambalam. Even Laksiri Fernando remains to this day as a brain-washed Ponnambalaya : he has nothing new to say except to regurgitate the racism of Ponnambalam who was the first to break the peaceful coexistence that prevailed in colonial and pre-colonial times with his anti-Sinhala-Buddhist provocative speech at Navalapitiya in 1939. And it is that racist narrative that ran down the 20th century and spilled over to the 21st.
The recurring theme in the voluminous texts of the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist propagandists who occupied chairs in academia has been “the betrayal of Buddhism.” These “hack-a-demics” unashamedly parroted the racist political line laid down by G. G. Ponnambalam – the malevolent figure who turned racism into a destructive political ideology. Some Tamil ideologues, however, hail him as father of “Tamil nationalism” which never existed even in his dreams. If he was a nationalist he would have asked for a separate state and not a percentage of power in the state. Even Chelvanayakam first asked for federalism before he he switched to Eelam. The unethical and unacceptable part of the Ponnambalayas in academia is that they never failed to pose as original thinkers producing, for instance, peer-reviewed theses for their doctored Ph.Ds when in reality they were merely recycling Ponnambalam’s rabid racism. Besides, they refused to recognise that all ideologies – religious, political, moral etc., – had betrayed the pristine principles on which they were supposed to operate. Their blinkered politics opens up opportunities for any sophomoronic university student to produce a thesis on “Jesus Betrayed”, “Mohammed Betrayed”, “Mao Betrayed”, or even “Bibbikan and Konda Kavun Betrayed”!
Universal human history has been bleeding perpetually with the betrayal of the noble principles of the founders. From Buddhism and Christianity to the UN Charter it is the same old story : each ideology has a record of failing to live up to the original principles. To pick on Buddhism alone is the cheapest academic trick in the book. From Tambiah to Seneviratne to Fernando they all scream that Buddhism has been betrayed. This is the most trite excuse for them to bash Buddhism. Why only Buddhism?
Most of those who attacked Sinhala-Buddhism were Marxists of one shade or the other and they never ever dared to explore the failure of their Marxist idols. For instance, Marx betrayed his own principles of liberating the working class when he seduced his female domestic and produced an illegitimate child whom he refused to recognise as his son. So why not raise the question of Marxism Betrayed? Let’s go further and examine the roles played by Indira Gandhi, Chandrika Kumaratunga and even Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was playing the part of Mother Theresa to children at the UN but never dared to even peep at the plight of the children abused by the Catholic Church, and ask why the ICES has failed to produce a volume on “Feminism Betrayed”.
There is enough evidence, I believe, to expose the hypocrisy of those who harp on Buddhism betrayed. So let’s leave Laksiri Fernando’s trite Trotskyism and psychobabble aside for the moment and get back to one more issue raised by him in his response. He wastes the better part of his response in focussing on his bogus “majority-minority complex”. Finally he comes to the three cases I took up to examine his accusation of the Sangha running a state within the state. I said that when the anti-conversion bill came up, sponsored by the JHU, President Bush, the die-hard Evangelist intervened, and stopped the bill from going through parliament. Colombo Telegraph, quoting Wikileaks, revealed that the then American Ambassador, Jeffrey Lunstead, intervened and wrote back to the State Department, saying that “the Bill is dead.” Which, of course, makes the American government a superior force to that of the Sangha who were opposed to illegal conversions. I now repeat that a not a peep came out of him when the American state imposed its will undemocratically. My argument was to confirm that the Sangha, which is a home grown member of the civil society, has a right to play its traditional role than a foreign government. Isn’t this example good enough to prove that the Americans are better at running the Sri Lankan state than the Sangha? And if the American state can poke its unwanted finger in vital domestic affairs why can’t the Sangha do the same?
He then comes back at me raising an irrelevant issue of a “time frame” and asking what happened when Mahinda Rajapakse became president. This happened in 2012 when MR was prime minister and it was he who said that the “bill is dead”, according to Wikileaks. In other words, even MR admitted that the Sinhala-Buddhist state has surrendered to the Evangelist state of Bush. So what has “a time frame” got to do with the illegal intervention of America in Sri Lankan affairs? In whatever time-frame it took place, the fact remains that the Sangha has less power than the Christian American state when push comes to shove. So how valid is Laksiri Fernando’s objections to the role of the Maha Sangha? If he wants to make a Sri Lanka a secular state is he prepared to abolish the Ministries for the protection of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism as well?
Clearly, Laksiri Fernando has no effective counter-punch. So he hides behind his fictitious “time-frame” which doesn’t change the fact that if the Americans can dictate policy to Sri Lanka the Maha Sangha should have the same right, irrespective of the policy preferences of Laksiri Fernando. All this makes me worried that he has lost his capacity to put up a rational fight to defend himself. The signs are that a visit to his head-shrinker is long overdue to save his cognitive powers before he writes his next rant against Sinhala-Buddhism.