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Honoring the Dead

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday met the family members of the Katunayake Free Trade Zone employee Roshen Chanaka who was killed recently during a clash between the police and protesting workers – Pic by Sudath Silva
by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(June 13, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the article ‘The UPFA Govt. Responsible for killing Roshen’ by Dr . Vickramabahu Karunaratne, published in the Sri Lanka Guardian.

I read the article before leaving to join our community at the Sydney Murugan Temple, Westmead, to honor our mate Thambipillai Thangavel, whose mother passed away in Sri Lanka recently. Thangavel, like Dr. Vickramabahu, is also an Engineer (Sri Lanka). During the Memorial Ceremony, I thought about Roshen for whose family, Tamils in Colombo, also expressed deep feelings. Dr . Vickramabahu Karunaratne, says in his opening statement ‘Many decades ago in1947 June 5, comrade Velupillai Kandasamy a young member of the GCSU, was killed while participating in a demonstration. He was a clerical officer of the department of health and sanitary services and was killed by police firing ordered by the British police superintendent Robins. He was participating in an orderly march of the members of the Government Clerical Services Union (GCSU). ‘

Many members of the Community recalled and remembered the good qualities of our friend Thangavel’s mum. I recalled my own mother’s good deeds and social service. To me, all these are to help us lead good life. Relatives often help us develop these qualities through Common Positions and Processes. Remembering Velupillai Kandasamy at this point in time, would help young Tamil seekers develop the fundamental traits/gunas needed for Peaceful Protests such as the above. Reading the above article, I felt further strengthening of my own experiences of protesting against Senior Administrators of the University of NSW. I was a lone protestor and hence I believe that my experience was deeper.

Dr. . Vickramabahu Karunaratne, says in the article ‘I said “Roshen did not die in vain, his sacrifice and the sacrifice of hundreds of others who were injured, made the government retreat. The fraudulent bill has been withdrawn. This is a victory for the working masses. He will be remembered with Kandasamy and Somapala, the heroes who died in 1947 and in1980. Both those incidents happened in early June. Now we have three heroes for June remembrance. Even the May Day started with the death of struggling workers. Roshen will be remembered by the workers world over. This struggle showed the power of mass struggle. It is an example for the oppressed masses both in the south and in the north.” At this point, one SLFP organizer with several others intervened to disturb the press conference. He shouted “Good for you, because you are paid to say all these”. I answered “I never did politics for money; you have come to this position by licking the boots of others. It is your leader who is selling the country for dollars”.’

The value of oppressed masses in South is different to the value of oppressed masses in North. In South, people have the power to use their beliefs to elect Government. In North, we have to consciously calculate and make our choices and not rely on belief alone at the material level. We need to use ‘merit’ basis to identify with and benefit from National Government.
The group that has majority power to elect Government has the advantage of not needing merit basis. We communicate silently through our common faith – which is often developed through common culture. Hence, a Sinhalese is likely to know the mind of a Sinhalese Politician more than a Tamil. Similarly, Officers of the Armed Forces.

Death of young protestors in Sri Lanka’s current climate is closely to connected to the ethnic war. When the death is from our cultural group, it helps us appreciate similar pain by others. The measure however, should not be taken at surface level – i.e. – the death of the body alone. The root cause is the strongest factor in such measures.

The comment ‘Good for you, because you are paid to say all these’ needs to be thought through. Payment is through cash and status. Status includes our assessment of ourselves and therefore whether we pay ourselves at the cost of ownership. Ownership helps us feel. If we make our profit as per our assessment of our costs and benefits – then we lose the opportunity to experience and own. Those of us who desire to ‘show’ others tend to hoard status and/or money. The more we experience the less we desire to ‘show’ others including the others in ourselves. When we experience, we lose consciousness of our bodies and therefore are honoring ourselves – as if we are dead. To that extent we are no longer fearful of dying – because we never die.

By valuing the Common Service Value of Roshen, we are keeping him alive at the higher level. Similarly all those whose bodies died due to their belief in Self Governance. Today is St. Anthony’s day. The body of St. Anthony perished long ago. But the values shared with us by St. Anthony have made St Anthony eternal in the hearts of believers. I believe in St. Anthony’s Divinity. Likewise in my own contribution to Independence and Self-Governance.

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