| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
( December 12, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the Sri Lankan Guardian article ‘Remembering the dead; rites and rights of the living’ by Bishop Duleep de Chickera
I met Rev Duleep de Chickera during a Friday Forum meeting in which my Associates Ms Rani Karthigesan Sinnathamby, Mrs. Malar Fonseka and I were facilitated to participate. When I read the above contribution by Rev. Chickera, I felt that there was some value added to my investment in the Friday Forum. To me, ultimately, the way we receive an issue for ourselves is the core value of our efforts and sacrifices.
Rev. Chickera states ‘It is reported that the students lit lamps to remember the dead. In this act they participated in a universal rite, practiced by billions over centuries in homes, cemeteries, places of worship and places where death has occurred. While traditions differ, the essence of the rite is remembrance and the symbolic recognition that the enlightening memory of the dead dispels the darkness faced by those left behind. To respect this rite is a sign of civilisation’
I feel deeply touched that a Catholic is sharing such wisdom through a Hindu experience. The deeper we go the less conscious we are of outer world and their differences. It is easier for a Tamil Hindu to identify with the experience that happened at University of Jaffna, than it is for a Sinhalese Catholic. Yet, those of us who have gone through our respective cultural paths to the depth where we cannot ‘see’ the outer world, would feel through our hearts where the Truth resides.
Lighting of the Lamp denotes that Truth – that the Aanmah (Soul) is Eternal. The body is Maya/illusion and is temporary. If we believed that the body was true – then we would not need to light lamps or honor the dead including on All Souls Day or even have memorials including war memorials. Most of us do believe that there is life after death of the body. It is this belief that is being given form and is being upheld when we light lamps to remember the dead. Through such gestures, we the living also reduce our own fears of death. Death is Certain and we all know it. But only the wise know that life after death of the outer body is also certain/True. Hence, one who kills or causes another to be killed, without the position duty to do so or without the belief that s/he is upholding Dharma/Righteousness is losing her/his own ticket to a better life after s/he sheds the current body.
Given that most of us do believe in life after death of this body – including through belief in Nirvana by Buddhists and Kingdom of God by Christians and Rebirth or Moksham by Hindus – we need to ask whether wins and defeats could be assessed through the number of dead. If no, then on what measure is the Sri Lankan Government claiming that it won the war against the Tamil Tigers?
Rev. Chickera states ‘In most societies, specially those which strive to rise from sectarian violence, those commemorated by one group are likely to be considered the enemy by another. Our society is no exception to this. But this does not mean that one has the right to prevent the other from remembering the dead. Much more, when the one which prevents is the State, and when it uses resources that are meant to protect its citizens to suppress them instead, this type of behaviour becomes brazenly discriminatory.’
The actions of the Armed Forces which represent the Government (and the Government has not stated that the Armed forces acted without authority) strongly indicate that to them what happens at the physical level – be it rebirth of the Tamil Tigers or more deaths on their own side – is their reality. Hence death and injuries to the body is the first measure of loss in a physical level fight. A government that claims victory on that basis – is living very much in Maya/illusion.
The problem with Maya is that it changes form very quickly when it is not connected to its Root / Truth. The events that are unfolding within the majority race that claimed victory through dead bodies without feeling connected to the root cause of Independence – be it the Government’s or the Rebels’ – confirm that there the Government has changed the form of its opposition / enemy to retain its ‘sovereign looks’. All those who participated in the Government’s victory celebrations – including lawyers at their local levels – now feel threatened of their own independence / sovereignty. Yet, even if one amongst the Tamil Tigers and the civilians of Vanni who believed in independence through Tamil culture, was killed by the Armed Forces there would be exponential return karma for the majority race. I realized this Truth through my painful experiences at the University of New South Wales – whose reputation was seriously damaged through migrant staff who sought to go direct to the media. I on the other hand used the path of Due Process – even though it was very painful and at the end of which apparent defeat was waiting for me. Each investor would receive what happened as per their own Truth – to the extent there is no logical and/or visible causes. Without such belief based interpretation, we become indifferent once there are no costs or benefits to be expected from that source. This happened to significant proportion of the majority race after they concluded on the basis of Government’s declaration that the threat of terrorism has been eliminated. But what about the JVP – do they actually believe that they eliminated JVP violence ? Did the Government celebrate its victory over JVP – the way it celebrated/s victory over Tamil Tigers? To those who count through bodies – such bodies are more visible when once they come outside the circle. This is the reason why Tamils are more critical of the Government than the Sinhalese who elect themselves to form Government.
Some Sinhalese with investment in global thinking, say that the majority race failed to bring the pain and suffering by JVP members and supporters – to the global forums – as is now happening in the case of Tamils. To me this is because majority within the educated members of majority race would not want to ‘lose’ their opportunity to get into top positions that need the blessings of the government. Happens all the time in families and workplaces. If you are ‘in’ you do not observe as well as you do when you are ‘out’. The Sri Lankan Judiciary was ‘in’ when the Tamil Community was ‘out’. Hence the unexpected fall/death of independent status.
The simple rule at the physical level is that there is an equal and opposite side to every physical manifestation. If the separating line is such that we do not see each other – then we have to accept without show of power – the picture presented by the other side and then criticize the picture and through the picture alone. Hence the need for transparency. There is no authority to criticize the subject nor through the subject. They are outsiders.
When the Tamil Tigers were declared Terrorists by the Sri Lankan Government – the Tamil Tigers and the Tamil Community that never separated itself from the Tamil Tigers – were the ‘opposition’ that was presenting its own side. If the picture presented by the Tamil Tigers was not acceptable to the Tamil Community – then the two could have been separated. Likewise with the JVP. Often the Government went beyond the picture presented by the Tamil Tigers and focused on the subjects. Thus they are delaying the practice of Democracy. Lawyers from within the majority race often said – ‘Tiger Terrorists’ instead of referring to the picture of Terrorism presented by the Tamil Tigers as THEY saw it.
Mr. Mahendra de Silva states in his Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Liberator becoming a Monster’ : ‘When Tamil Tigers were killing our people daily, did you talk about freedom? We all lived in fear. How many innocent people were killed by Tiger bombs, in trains, buses and everywhere? No one talked about our democracy and freedom then.’
I take it that ‘Our People’ meant the groups whose members the Tamil Tigers targeted. This was the Sinhalese. Hence I need to think as a Tamil. In this regard I said as follows to a local group ‘The question is whether we are Australian first or Sri Lankan first? This could also be translated as whether we are Sri Lankan first or Sinhalese/Tamil first? Whichever path we may take – once we realize our own Truth – it would help us identify with our ‘home-environment/country’. To me – the environment/nation in which we are most natural is our home-environment/nation. Sometimes, our individual claims need to be overridden to serve the need of our home-group. I firmly believe that I am Sri Lankan. But when I am talking to a Sinhalese – I become Tamil for this reason. To my inner mind – I am still serving Sri Lanka by doing this and reminding the Sinhalese that there is a balancing force opposite to keep Sri Lanka’s status as a multicultural country. Likewise I firmly believe I am Australian. But when I am talking to an Anglo/English-Australian – I become Asian-Australian. In my mind, I use intellectual power to balance and equalize myself to the other person – to give form to multicultural reality. But if I started elevating myself through that intellectual power – I am investing in assimilation by a weak opposition or in conflict when the other has more numbers to show majority power’
As a Tamil, my memory says that the number of innocent Tamils killed by Army actions is far greater than the number killed by the Tamil Tigers. Yet, when it happens to our own group – we feel the pain and loss more. Sinhalese pain is relative to their past as Tamil pain is relative to their past. Apples and Oranges cannot be counted as equals until we see them as fruits. This is why the deeper sharing by Rev. Chickera at this time is comforting to the likes of me.
I stated to my home group mentioned above ‘The problem with democracy is that we tend to accept reality and then start assimilating. Our current environment and its culture must be upmost in our minds – so that we can truly carry forward our investments as Sri Lankans. When we succeed laterally here in Australia – our parallels in Sri Lanka who would be migrating tomorrow – mentally and/or physically would inherit that home-environment that we are developing for them. As Gandhi said in South Africa – there is room for all of us. In India Gandhi said ‘there is no room for the British’. Former was show of intellectual power as a minority. Latter was political power as part of majority. Both environments were Gandhi’s home environments because he was truly an independent person. Ultimately that is what this is all about. Once we are independent – we would share that naturally with our home-groups’
Rev. Chickera’s says ‘In fact these incidents draw attention to the common sense proposal of the LLRC, appointed by the President, calling for appropriate provision for thousands of Sri Lankans affected by violence to be able to come to terms with their grief with dignity; and to then begin the shift to a healing of memories leading to reconciliation. That such an event has still not happened and that the rights of the people to do so are prevented tells a much more tragic and disturbing story.’
We also have here in Australia a bottom up, flat forum of the People – for Reconciliation. It is the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum Sydney. This to me is the only Sri Lankan forum here in Sydney, Australia. To my mind, the others are ethnic – Tamils or Sinhalese. But in power this group even though it is moderate in size, holds the balance with wider world and therefore is investing in the next generation Sri Lankans including within the Diaspora. Sometimes we identify particular differences and facilitate for all concerned to reconcile by knowledge of how others suffered. Often we work to ensure that there is no need for Reconciliations in our minds and in the minds of those who naturally group with us. That to me is our ongoing program. I feel strongly that the LLRC has stopped functioning. It needs to continue to exist and be active to prevent the need for Reconciliation. The body / name is Reconciliation. The heart/soul needs to be Commonness. There is no Rebirth for an effective Reconciliation forum. It becomes an ongoing program. The Lessons Learnt by us would naturally discipline us from within and these disciplinary actions on both sides are costs. If we fail to pay the costs – we incur losses due to external forces. Hence if we fail to learn from the past and discipline ourselves internally – we are moving towards separation – this time it is between lawyers and politicians. Like with the LLRC – Separation of Powers needs to be alive to prevent rebirth of physical separation. The natural example is One mind and five physical senses. Natural Separations at physical level promote attraction and hence Man and Woman who become One Minded as a family and/or through Love. Where there is no higher mind, there is no uniting force. The urgent need in Sri Lanka is this higher mind.