CardinalMalcolm Ranjith – the benign star of Sri Lanka
By H.L. D. Mahindapala
In its long history the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has come under massive attacks by other religionists on three critical occasions. The first attack was the most horrendous. Sankilli, the illegitimate son of King Pararajasegaram and one of the most cruel rulers of Jaffna, marched down to Mannar on the Christmas eve of 1544 and massacred 600 Tamil Catholics, which included pregnant women, children, old and the young , all because they did not recognize him as the sole representative of the Tamils”. The Tamil Catholics of Mannar had sworn allegiance to the King of Portugal. This didn’t sit well with Sankilli. Intoxicated by the successes of his killing machine he led his forces to massacre 600 Catholics. Velupillai Prabhakaran was the reincarnation of Sankilli. However, he spared the Catholic Church because the Northern Branch became the national and international tool of his Pol Potist politics. Fr. S. J. Emmanuel, for instance, devoted his time to manufacture the myth that Prabhakaran was the Saviour of the Tamils – almost as good as Jesus Christ!
The second attack on Catholics was when the Sinhala-Buddhist wending their way in a perahera in 1883 were attacked by a mob of Sinhala Catholics. They were determined to stop the procession going past their Kotahena Church – the leading citadel of Catholics at the time. The Catholic felt that the Buddhists were encroaching into their territory. The subsequent riots in which the Sinhala-Buddhist attacked the Catholics are known as the Kotahena Riots. A British Commission which inquired into it blamed the Catholics for their provocative conduct and aggression.
The third was on last Easter Sunday ( 4/21) when the Muslims blasted the Catholic Church of Kochchikade – a sacred site for not only Catholics but for other religionists as well. It was a politically motivated attack that shocked the world. Of the 250-odd who died in the bomb blasts most of them were Catholics. It also killed co-religionists in the East and the North. More than anyone else the Catholic community was paralysed. They were drifting in a catatonic state not knowing what had hit them. It was a senseless attack. It didn’t achieve anything. His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith was the shepherd looking after his flock. What was he to do? Did he have to right to speak on behalf of his grieving community? Wasn’t he bound by a moral and a sacred duty to speak and act on behalf of the victims of brutal terrorism? The world leaders from all corners spoke in sympathy with the victims of Muslim terrorists. So why is it wrong for His Eminence to speak on behalf of his people?
Shyamon Jayasinghe, one of the hurrah boys of Ranil Wickremesinghe, has come out against the actions and speeches of His Eminence. (Colombo Telegraph – 6/6/2019). He is noted for writing advertisements for himself frequently and also for his discredited hero, Ranil. I shall deal with some his accusations later. But up front it must be stated categorically that there is no valid rationale for anyone to criticize His Eminence for speaking out on one of the most tragic moments in the history of Catholics in Sri Lanka. Which shepherd will not cry when his flock has been slaughtered?
In recent times his voice has been ringing, loud and clear, as the most inspiring, persuasive, unambiguous moral force in what his critic, Shyamon Jayasinghe, called “the shit world of Sri Lankan politicians”. (Please note I am quoting verbatim from his text.) This, of course, is a blanket phrase that covers all Sri Lankan political leaders, including his hero Ranil Wickremesinghe. Jayasinghe also knows that Ranil’s abysmal failure to live up to the promises he gave the people in the run up to the January 8, 2015 election makes him, by general consent, the king of “the shit world of Sri Lankan politicians”.
The image of His Eminence, on the contrary, shines as the only moral force rising above the hired pundits in foreign-funded NGOs, and pothay guras boot-licking the most corrupt and depraved government in the post-Independent era, In our dismal times His Eminence is the brightest light that gives hope to the future. In the past the Catholic Church has been accused of being silent partners of political criminals. Pope Pius XII, aka Hitler’s Pope”, was accused of not raising his voice in defence of the Jews.
In Sri Lanka, the Tamil branch of the Church hierarchy in the North was openly aiding and abetting the Tamil Pol Pot who was suppressing, persecuting and killing his Tamil people. The Tamil Catholics used the international Church network to whitewash the crimes committed by Prabhakaran against his own people, let alone the other communities. In one instance, when the Tamil parents handed over their teenagers into the care of the Catholic Church in Valayar Maddam, near the Mullativu coast, to prevent them from being forcibly dragged into the Tamil Pol Pot’s futile war, the Tamil churchmen rang the nearest LTTE Pol Potist camp and tipped them of the presence of Tamil under-aged children in the Church precincts. After the call, it didn’t take long for the LTTE killers of Tamils to rush in and whisk away the under-18 children to fill the depleted forces of Prabhakaran limping their way to defeat in Nandikadal.
The presence of His Eminence in the depraved politics of Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims has been a blessing welcomed by all religionists seeking peace and unity. His presence is felt like a breath of fresh air that transcends “the shit politics of Sri Lankan leaders”, including Ranil. His Eminence stands out as a healing figure shining with the purity of his rational and objective morality. His overarching humane philosophy is the equivalent of aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council, opening its doors and arms out to embrace non-Catholics in other religions. He can be revered as a committed disciple of Pope John who reinvigorated the stagnant Catholic Church and theology to suit the needs of 20th century.
From time to time the Sri Lankan Catholic Church has produced patriotic and enlightened pioneers who made lasting contributions to the renewal and the growth of the nation and its culture. One of them was Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. His enduring contribution to the national culture with his creative works lives in the memory of all Sri Lankans. Fr. Peter Pillai was an iconic Tamil intellectual respected by all communities. Fr. Perniola, in addition to being an outstanding Sinhala scholar, was an introspective and insightful historian of the Church in Sri Lanka. Fr. S. G. Perera was a pioneering researcher whose texts introduced history to generations. His Eminence is the latest. His spiritual and moral philosophy has come at a time when the derelict nation is in dire need of his humane touch. When the heart and the soul of the nation sank to the lowest depths last Easter Sunday his voice was comforting and his rod and his staff was a guiding force that lifted the spirits of a depressed nation.
He grieved with his fellow-Catholics for their Church and also for all the other victims. Whatever he said and did was for the nation as a whole. He did not lead a Crusade against the Muslims. He did not summon the Catholic Ministers and MPs and manipulated a mass resignation to demonstrate the power of Catholic Church. He refrained from dividing the nation on religious lines. He urged the Christians to be compassionate towards the Muslim community. Knowing the sensitive nature of the current inter-ethnic relations he refrained compassionately from dragging his community into “the shit politics of Sri Lankan politicians” which includes Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The immediate impact of the Easter Sunday explosion was to kill innocent worshippers in the Churches and Western holiday-makers in five-star hotels. But the long-term impact was to expose the bankruptcy of Ranil’s excremental politics. Ranil can now kiss goodbye to his ambitions of becoming the next president. Or even the leadership of the UNP. He needs the vital votes of the Catholic belt for him to win. But he has openly thrown his lot with the Muslims who have ganged up behind Rishard Bathurdeen. Can this help the nephew of Thambi Mudiyansalagay Jayewardene to get over the 50% vote in case he decides to nominate himself as the next UNP Presidential candidate?
Besides, the younger generation in the UNP led by Navin Dissanayake, Ajith P. Perera and others are openly campaigning for a new leadership. The late night (10 p.m.) broadcast of Ada Derana, (6/6/2019), quoted the rebelling Young Turks in the UNP publicly demanding a new leadership on the eve of the Presidential election. They are saying enough is enough. Navin declared brazenly that even his father, Gamini Dissanayake, has failed to deliver the nation. They have come out fighting against the old guard. They are seeking a regime change within the Party. Ajith P, Perera openly declared that their new leader is Sajith Premadasa. They are defiantly rejecting Ranil as one of those who has passed his used-by date. This broadcast was as explosive as the bombs that went off at Kochchikade.
On 8/6 at a Srawasthipura political event Sajith finally declared his hand. Ada Dera TV broadcast finally revealed his future political role. He said quite candidly that certain individuals are today behaving as if they had inherited the ownership of the country through a freehold title deed. “That is not democratic politics That is not people-oriented governance,” he said. Responding to a voice from the audience which urged him to contest the leadership he replied. “Don’t worry I’m coming. I will come at the right time.” It was received with resounding applause by the UNPers at the meeting.
Though Ranil is maneuvering to keep the Muslim votes with him – particularly the Muslim votes in Parliament that props him up –he hasn’t yet recognized that the Muslim terrorists had thrown a time bomb that is ticking under his chair. They have blasted to smithereens the pro-West, NGO-driven, Ranil-led political agenda. The nation obviously is starting rethink its future in the light of the failure of “the shit politics of the Sri Lankan politicians”, which includes Ranil.
New forces are emerging out of the Muslim bombs. The fast of Athuraliye Rathana Thero which electrified the sleeping nation, the visit of Cardinal Ranjith to the fasting monk, and the open revolt of Navin, Ajith and Sajith have come together at this critical juncture to herald the winds of change. Ranil is now batting on the back foot. Having lost the credibility and the marketability he gained from higher morality touted in the Yahapalanaya manifesto (with the blessings of the late Ven. Sobitha) he is now crying in the wilderness accusing those who are exposing him as communalists.
The plot of the Muslims to gang up against the rest of the nation came out of Temple Trees. The Muslim terrorists sent suicide bombers. The Muslim Parliamentarians are holding a gun to the head of the nation, with Ranil providing the ammunition. The Muslim politicos are repeating what Prabhakaran did. He too held a gun to the head of the nation making outrageous demands. Muslims are now dictating terms saying give into our demands or else… That has been their standard brand of politics. On the eve of elections they constantly bargain with Sinhala leaders demanding 2 governorships, 5 ambassadorial posts, three ministerial posts, several state ministerial posts etc., in exchange for their electoral and parliamentary votes.
Ranil’s ploy was to make use of the Muslim MPs as a counter to the fast of Rathana Thero. It is not only deceitful but also unworthy of a proponent of reconciliation. This is typical of Ranil: he promotes reconciliation in public and kuth-thu-fies divisive politics behind closed doors at Temple Trees. As Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero told a meeting of Sangha at the Bandaranaike Memorial Hall Ranil blames Rathana Thero for causing division and there is nary a word about his Minister Samaraweera attacking Sinhala-Buddhists.
At a time when the nation is convulsed with Muslim extremism he thinks he can get away by posing as the great defender of reconciliation by blaming the Buddhists. But no one seems to be buying his cheap tricks, not even the UNP rank-and-file. He is hoping to gain by the Muslims displaying their communal identity and solidarity. He has obviously not calculated the blowback. When he swings to one side there are many other who will be provoked to swing to the opposite side and jointly consolidate their forces against him. The dialectics in politics will militate against his usual cheap and tawdry tactics.
Ranil is now forced to fight with his back to the wall. This is what riles Shyamon Jayasinghe. He is desperately trying to make both Mangala Samaraweera and Ranil Wickremesinghe look like lily-white angels. But as the self-proclaimed expert on “shit politicians” he should be quite familiar with the excremental tactics of Ranil. His favourite pastime is to wallow in Ranil’s political toilets. And when he comes out of toilets vacated by Ranil he is ecstatic as if he has been invigorated by inhaling the lingering toxic and insufferable fumes. He wants the world to believe that Ranil drops into his toilet bowls only the fragrance of roses and sandalwood. As the expert on “shit politics” it is obvious that he will accept any turd, big or small, as long as it comes from Ranil’s toilet bowls.
As for Ranil, he is hoping against hope that the Muslim bombs will save him. He is maneuvering to distance himself from blame by targeting the President through the Parliamentary Select Committee. But it’s too late. They fought the elections together. They formed the Yahapalanaya government together. They ran the government together. They ran it to the ground together. They both knew about the plot to bomb Easter Sunday. Their Ministers knew it. Their handpicked apparatchiks tasked to run the Security Machinery knew what was coming. Their Security men knew it. And for Wickremesinghe to parade now as Santha Pilathu”, as they in Sinhalese, is a joke.
Clearly, the Muslim bombs have thrown him off balance. He is seen dithering now fighting with his back to the wall. The signs are that the UNP has ditched Ranil again as the next presidential candidate. Even Lakshman Kiriella is throwing in his hat from Kandy. Where will all this leave his boot-lickers?
Over to you, Shyamon (shit”) Jayasinghe!