| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
( April 04, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the rejoinder ‘Expatriate Sinhala Buddhists – a rejoinder’ by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne, published in Sri Lanka Guardian.
Dr Abeyratne closes the response with a bang! – stating ‘I shall consider this exchange closed and will not indulge in any further bickering of Ms. Paramasivam’
Good to know that Dr. Abeyratne considered my bickering worthy of at least one response. Wonder what he would have said about responses from the average Tamil who supported the LTTE action much more than I did ? Does that inquiry throw some light into why Tamils are seeking Devolution of Power? YES – according to this bickering mind!
Dr. Abeyratne states ‘After having read the article several times carefully to see where expatriate Sinhala Buddhists came into her thesis, I scoured the article for the word “Buddhist” and found not a single mention of the word in the text other than that which was in the title.’
That article was written in the consciousness of Dr. Abeyratne’s recommendation – ‘An infinitely superior solution would be to recall the Buddha’s words “by oneself is one defiled” and “turn the search light inwards’.
I have thus highlighted that Dr. Abeyratne lost track of his own work in which he has used the name of Buddha.
Dr Abeyratne continues to state ‘I therefore came to the inevitable conclusion that the term was used on Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka and me (presumably because we have Sinhala names). Another reason might have been that I used an earlier quotation from Dr. Jayatilleka attributed to the Buddha (which Ms. Paramasivam erroneously ascribes to me). I am a Roman Catholic and, since Dr. Jayatilleka and I were educated in the same Catholic school, I would presume he is one too.’
In this context, which is based on religious and cultural faith – there are only two sides at the participatory level – that of Sinhala Buddhists v Tamil Hindus. It is about the freedom of faith based life. Others are mere observers and therefore need to prevent themselves from directly participating – including when they write. They have the authority to share their observations but not recommend one way or the other. This is the basis of Doctrine of Separation of Powers between the Executive Government and the Judiciary and I expected Dr. Abeyratne as a lawyer, to respect this even if he did not practice it.
Both Dr Jayatilleka and Dr. Abeyratne who used Dr. Jayatilleke’s work to support his own work – are not Tamil Hindus. If they do not consider themselves to be Sinhala Buddhists – then they need to stay out of direct participation and comment only as observers. Dr. Abeyratne claims to presume that since Dr. Jayathilleka studied in the same Catholic school as himself – Dr. Jayatilleka is a Roman Catholic! That is the parallel of saying only one who lives in Sri Lanka is a Sri Lankan!
I studied at Holy Family Convent – a Catholic School. I say prayers regularly to Our Lady and this I believe helps me connect quickly to others of the Catholic faith including my son’s children who are officially Catholics, due to their mother. But most of the time, I connect to myself through my Hindu faith and hence my first description of myself as per my faith is Hindu. Given that most in my family speak naturally in Tamil I am officially Tamil. Unlike with the Hindu faith based connection to myself, I would not say that I connect to myself through Tamil more than through any other language. I connect more to myself through English language in official issues outside Sri Lanka and/or a mix of Tamil and English as we do within family circles.
Using Dr. Abeyratne’s path, one would conclude that he is now Canadian and Dr. Jayatilleka is now French. They may be for other purposes not involving Sri Lanka directly. But for this purpose, they need to limit themselves to being Sri Lankans for direct participation. The rest would go towards observations – as witnesses.
Dr. Aberatne states ‘The cornerstone of good journalism is the ascertainment of facts and by imputing to me the label “Buddhist” Ms. Paramasivam has unfortunately and unnecessarily dragged in the entire category of Sinhala Buddhists, which to my mind is an apology for journalism and the worst possible example of racial and religious bigotry.’
The cornerstone of good journalism may be accuracy of facts. But the soul of journalism / reporting is Truth. They say in Hindu religion about stone statues – that one who sees the stone does not see God and one who sees God does not see the stone. Dr. Abeyratne could keep the cornerstone of journalism and I would continue to share my Truth without stones!
With all the cornerstones in his crown, Dr. Abeyratne did not have a feel for what was going to happen to Dr. Jayatilleka. I wrote on 31 March 2012 ‘If the current regime did turn inside the way it is now, there would be no room for the positions such as the ones held by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka nor for the Sri Lankan parallels of the position that Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne holds at Global level. The individuals need to look inside and then take their position accordingly in wider forums.’
Sri Lanka Guardian highlighted the following part of my response to Dr. Abeyratne: ‘Sri Lankan Government wanted quick credits on welfare basis and thus has made itself the puppet of powerful members of the UN. This is the Truth I see within the Government through my own Truth in similar circumstances. The Truth they are not able to see despite having Buddhism as the first religion through their Constitution.’
Two days later, on 02 April I wrote in the article ‘Majority Vote & Pada Yatra’ ‘This morning’s mail brought the following news which if true indicates strongly that the latter was the case: ‘The President has decided to appoint Additional External Affairs Ministry Secretary Kshenuka Seneviratne as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Paris to replace Dayan Jayathilleke with immediate effect.”’
Given that I do not write for money nor am driven by status in journalism, I take the news that comes to me and the publishing of my work to be natural outcomes on my side and to a large degree also on the other side that seeks to connect to me. Hence the above sequence to my mind is a confirmation of the value of the team’s natural work in which there is a share for Dr. Abeyratne too. In disagreement, Dr. Abeyratne produces his side of the ethnic picture – one that shows neither side to the conflict – the silent majority who sit on the fence when there is no official path to express themselves as individuals.
To me in the matter of how the Sri Lankan Government saw Dr. Jayathilleke in his most recent role was confirmation of what I felt inside when I said ‘there would be no room for the positions such as the ones held by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’
Someone at the center of the matter must have looked inside. That was their Truth reflected through Dr. Jayathilleka who is of much higher standard than they – part of the height being due to the positions they now hold. The stylish covers of wider education and intellectual thoughts have been removed by those at grassroots level who are hurting from the UN Resolution. We Tamils went through stronger when LTTE were listed as Terrorists. No, I am not an official LTTE member. But by birth itself, I am part of the cause for which many enlisted LTTE members fought and gave up their lives, due to their belief. In this matter therefore I am LTTE as is every Tamil who makes statements on the basis of the war from the Tamil side. Similarly, all those who speak on the side of the Government and how it is seen by majority outsiders. Those of us who accepted that – to majority outsiders the LTTE were terrorists – have the right to expect all those who spoke from the other side – anti LTTE side – would be seen to have been on the side of the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka. In summary it is now Prabaharan v Gothabaya. To my mind, both have ‘dismissed’ dissenting members including from their own side. I did not say to LTTE – ‘look within’. I looked within myself and then shared my status with them to help reduce the pain and loss of genuine fighters and seekers of independence. My own experiences in Australia helped me identify with them more quickly than I otherwise would have.
In journalism as well as other similar disciplines relating to the human mind, one could go by majority vote to know what happened. Hence relevant facts from all sides. Being a Roman Catholic for example is not a fact relevant to this Sri Lankan matter unless we claim that the Catholics in the UN influenced the minds of Dr. Abeyratne and Dr. Jayatilleka. Those who do not have the facilities to ‘see’ the picture as it happened – usually use their experience based knowledge and wisdom of the other person’s / side’s guna / trait to confirm what they see and hear and project on that basis. I did this when I responded to Dr. Abeyratne and the government’s decision to punish Dr. Jayatilleka has confirmed that my report was from within and therefore did not need proof or facts as an outsider would see it. Instead I read their minds all the way from Sydney. That is the value of practicing the Oneness principle.
Dr. Abeyratne states ‘Here again she drags in all of the expatriate Sri Lankans of Sinhalese origin and ascribes to them the statements of just two – Dr. Jayatelleka and me. For some inexplicable reason she concludes (presumably about expatriate Sinhala Buddhists) “right now they are the orphans who need help”. I am bemused. How did I suddenly become an orphan who needs help? Is it just because I advised the Sri Lankan authorities to take a leaf from the book of Myanmar, and cautioned them about sanctions that are imposed elsewhere?’
As I have stated already – there are only two sides to this matter at the direct participation level. If Dr. Abeyratne does not include himself in one or the other – then I conclude that he is an observer, observing for his own personal purposes and not to find a solution to our problem.
As for the reference to ‘orphans’ here is what I wrote:
‘To implement this, they need someone with Administrative wisdom through global systems, to live as Sri Lankan and Sri Lankan only and share themselves with those lacking in Administrative knowledge and/or political clout. Right now they are the orphans who need help.’
Those lacking in Administrative knowledge and / or political clout were referred to as orphans. Some of them are living outside Sri Lanka but most are living in Sri Lanka. But I would not recommend to any Expatriate of Sri Lankan origin when they are living outside Sri Lanka – to live as Sri Lankan and Sri Lankan only. The ‘they’ meant the Sri Lankan authorities to whom the recommendation to look within was made by Dr. Abeyratne. They need to help the ordinary Sinhalese orphaned by the UN resolution. This does include some expatriate Sinhala Buddhists whose minds are more in Sri Lanka than in the country of current residence – the same way mine was during Tsunami and later in May 2009.
Dr. Abeyratne states ‘Furthermore, I cannot figure out what Ms. Paramasivam means in her convoluted message about Dr. Jayatilleka and me: “as per their published work, they both write from afar” (incidentally, this from her writing from Melbourne) “and this has the risk of them telling the Government to do something that they themselves are not doing”. What are we not doing? Looking inward? Why should we? Speaking for myself, I consider myself a modest, civilized human being who, after my master’s degree in Australia served my country for 8 years and took up a UN appointment to better myself and to bring up a family. Millions of people around the world from various countries are now expatriates for similar reasons. I am also not a suspect before any community that I should “look inwards” and correct myself. ‘
The explanation is in Dr. Abeyratne’s response: Both are UN officials (one past and the other current). The structure that took them to the UN is very much Sri Lankan. As per my Hindu culture, we pay our dues to our elders and bring the essence of their work into us to ‘own’ in full the current position we take in society. Once an individual is in a position – for example the position of President of Sri Lanka, through Due Process, the face of the ancestral value that we allocate to that position is the current one. Hence we should not be criticizing any person occupying positions through which we pay homage to our ancestors, except through our apparent current official positions that are independent of that position and therefore are equal to that position in status. By his own declaration, Dr. Abeyratne was advising the Sri Lankan authorities as if he were above them and that too at a time those authorities are upset by the resolution of the organization that Dr. Abeyratne is seen as being a part of – the UN. These are to my mind, confirmations of assimilation instead of integration.
Dr. Abeyratne states ‘Over a period of time, Ms. Paramasivam has had a retort for almost every public intellectual who writes for this journal. She always writes in the first person. “I did this…I did that”. I instituted action against so and so.‘
According to the principles and values I am driven by, unless I was part of the cause or effect of an outcome I do not have the moral authority to directly participate in the solution. It is understandable that UN officials would have great difficulty working at grassroots level – as those who know me see me. My spiritual Guru said ‘Know thyself and you will know the god in others’.
Dr. Abeyratne continues to state : ‘We should talk about what is right, and not self-righteousness. None of us who writes with the exception of the dubiously distinguished Ms. Paramasivam engages in bickering and personal attacks based on erroneous fact. I write to this Journal because I want to share knowledge and exchange ideas, and not to extol “the structure of my path”(to quote Ms. Paramasivam) and I am sure most others have the same intent. An effective journalist or commentator writes basing herself on the education she has received and not personal emotions or convictions.’
My Spiritual Guru said also ‘My Life is My Message’. My belief in Christ comforted me when my son was asked by a nun to carry the Cross on Good Friday 2007. I was hurting after Justice Tamberlin of the Federal Court of Australia, dismissed me – in similar fashion to Dr. Abeyratne above. I usually go to Church on Good Friday and hence went to my granddaughter’s school church in Melbourne. I live in Sydney. When the nun who was not known to any of us gave my son the Cross – I felt blessed by Christ Himself – for walking in His path. The true Confirmations come from Above to first comfort me and then to make me very happy – each time I recall. I did not have to be a Christian / Catholic to be blessed by Christ. That day I was a true Roman Catholic due to my faith and union with God through Christ carrying the Cross. Similarly, I am a true Sri Lankan when I carry the Sri Lankan Cross to eliminate the blocks in my path which are also blocks in the path of other Sri Lankans even though they often do not see them. ‘I’ to the person of true faith means all those who believe with that person. ‘I’ to the person driven by the body and majority vote (as opposed to majority power) – is the individual alone. The same ‘I’ has different meanings to this bottom up reporter.
I wonder what Dr. Abeyratne was doing when Channel 4 published its documentaries on the Sri Lankan war – which cleared the path for the USA to use the UN (Dr. Abeyratne’s institution) to criticize Sri Lanka. If Channel 4 documentary does not fit good journalism, and it does not as per Dr. Abeyratne’s yardstick, then why did Dr. Abeyratne’s institution not reject it and hail the Sri Lankan Government as Liberators ? Most importantly why did Dr. Abeyratne not advise them?