Expatriate Sinhala Buddhists – a rejoinder

| by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

( April 03, 2012, Montreal, Sri Lanka Guardian) I read with some sadness Gaja Lakhshmi Paramasivam’s article “Expatriate Sinhala Buddhists” in the Sri Lanka Guardian of 31 March 2012. 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. 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. 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.
But this is not all. She goes on to say “if expatriate Sri Lankans of Sinhalese origin now recommend looking “inside” to my mind, it means that they are looking for the Administrative path…” 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?
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.
Of course she is the true patriot who herself happens to be an expatriate but one who, in her exclusive realization of “truth” visits Sri Lanka, only to return to her chosen domicile. Patriotism, like reputation is gained through one’s actions and not through self proclamation. She rants: “those who think they know it all fail to draw on my wisdom”. What a sage she is, who has exclusively reached the realization of truth and wisdom!!
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.
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.
I am both disgusted and disappointed that decent debate and the exchange of knowledge can descend to the depths of personal bickering often based on grave error. I have had a poster behind my desk at office for the past 30 years which says: “It is better to keep your mouth shut, and have people think you are a fool, than open it and remove all doubt”.
I shall consider this exchange closed and will not indulge in any further bickering of Ms. Paramasivam.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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