Right to Reply: Cursing the Critic

by-Peter Ratnadurai

(November 25, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Here, I'm present brief comments on three articles: Jayadevan has no Moral Right to Challenge Minister Devananda by S. T. A. Pillai; Do not abuse the Country's sovereignty by Radhika Murugesar; and The National Flag Makes a Statement- Let it be Made by Thomas Johnpulle.

Defending Demigod Devananda

Mr Pillai recalls his experience of interacting with EPDP group leader Mr Douglas Devananda in a bid to justify the latter's existence in Sri Lankan politics. In summary: it only took a ten minute meeting with Mr Devananda to arrange for a ride to Jaffna on a military plane; in contrast, one had to queue outside a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) administrative office for a "pass". Hence, Mr Devananda is a man of "high esteem", beyond anyone's "moral right" to be a challenger.

Despite his demigod status, Mr Devananda is not omnipresent. Instead of using his ministerial portfolio to work with the government to ensure that adequate structures are in place for everyone to enjoy freedom of movement, Mr Devanada continues the practice of demanding personal worship. While Mr Pillai had the car, the right relative and other such luxuries, most of the three and a half million Tamils of the island do not have the capacity to attend such a meeting every time they have a need.

Interestingly, Mr Pillai had lived in the United Kingdom for fifteen years, without coming to terms with the need to queue outside administrative offices. Perhaps, he was a holder of a diplomatic passport, which is the only document that would allow a Sri Lankan to enter the United Kingdom without queuing at the Heathrow Airport checking-point. Does he not realise that a minister in the United Kingdom would be sent to prison if he were to offer the "favour" that Mr Devananda did?

Smear Secures Sovereignty

Full frontal mudslinging against the messenger is Ms Murugesar's answer to any criticism of the overzealous use of the lion flag, by interested parties, during the past week. Detailed outline of the use of national flags, taken from WikiPedia, was informative. However, Ms Murugesar offered no substantive arguments against an earlier critique, tabled by Mr Jayadevan, questioning the appropriateness of the use of the lion flag in particular instances that were highlighted with photographic evidence.

Froward for Flag to Flutter

Mr Johnpulle makes an apparently genuine attempt to justify the use of the lion flag during the past week. "The age old lion flag has been framed in an overriding religious theme which is noble," he asserts. The Sri Lankan nation "vanquishing" the Tamileelam nation, he claims, calls for euphoric celebrations. On other issues, Mr Johnpulle adds that "war monuments -are- used to instil violence in the minds of the people under its rule," and warns the Tamils: "Go with the wind or go to hell."

Unfortunately, the origin of the lion is lost in a man who was able to trace the tiger to the Cholas. Likewise, the rifles on the Tamileelam flag are described as "violent," with little thought of the terror instilled by the sword. The notion of the island's conflict being a war between nations, rather than an "internal" issue, might make a few chauvinists churn, but the description of Tamils opting for secession as "alien" needs to be taken exception to. The tiger is "alien" and the lion is native?

Monuments commemorating war dead are present across the world. To claim that such shrines need to be destroyed because they "instil violence" is at best ludicrous and at worst insulting to all, including the Sinhala soldiers killed in war and remembered by monuments. Mr Johnpulle, also, ought to note that it takes a hero to stand against the wind for righteousness. Even though, "Yes Sir" should be an easy phrase for a people who allowed themselves to be vanquished for half a millennium.

Go, Graze in the Gutter

We are most concerned about the inability of Mr Pillai and Ms Murugesar to counter criticism without resorting to allegations. Attacking the messenger is an overused maxim is Sri Lankan and Tamil societies. Anyone who wishes to put-forth an alternative view does not need to resort to the gutter to pluck whatever filth that reaches their hands. Earlier, we wrote to the Sri Lanka Guardian questioning Dr C Rajaratnam on the need for mudslinging. Now we pose the same question to another two writers.
- Sri Lanka Guardian