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Bodu Bala Sena and LLRC (Buddhist self-reliance)

| by C. Wijeyawickrema

Need for a new map of terrain

( March 31, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) What empowers a Sinhala/Tamil medium graduate left Sri Lanka in frustration to become a professor, a scientist or a research director for example, in USA facing world-wide competition? How was it possible for young men from poor Sri Lanka to win the world cup of cricket by team effort? What reasons were the behind the capacity of village girls and boys in Sri Lanka to end a thirty-year war in less than three years surprising the whole world? In each case the old map of terrain which was not real and not true was replaced or revised with a new map, new model. Since 1832 Sri Lanka used the Eurocentric-colonial map/model. Prior to that Sri Lanka had a map based on the trinity of village, tank and the temple guided by a philosophy set out in the Buddhist Jataka Stories, 550 of them. That model was based on truth and reality. In 2013 the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is acting to discard the old map (Colombo black-white model). We cannot escape from freedom and avoid challenge. We must be open to challenge.

Compare you-tube video clips of monks Dambara Amila, Bellanvila Wimalaratane and Baddegama Samitha with the monks Kirama Wimalajothi and Galabodaaththe Gnanasara. You can almost touch the pain the latter two monks undergo in their feeling of responsibility (Those who are genuine in their public service mission get angry and agitated like what we heard of the Anagarika Dharmapala). The former three are reading old unreal maps without any feelings, like those Marxists happened to be in front of Jetavanaramaya, Somawathiya or the Tissa weva. For them they are just brick and water. There is no national pride, no goose bumps. Meanwhile the types of Azath Salley sents secret SMS to mosques!

Reasonableness Doctrine

In these times of our seeing the Buddhist King Pasenadi Kosol’s Sixteen Dreams in real life, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) reminds one the idea known as the Pas Maha Balum. BBS is in the right place at the right time. If one surf the English medium websites like the anti-Sinhala Buddhist Colombo Telegraph and newspapers, what jumps out is venom and confusion against BBS. Those English-speaking local and foreign agents who refused to come before the LLRC then are the ones now in the forefront demanding the implementation of its report. This same “this war is not winnable” boat people are so confused they think that BBS is all about Taliban-based halal and pretend that they did not know or see the BBS website. Under colonial assault the first Buddhist Renaissance began shortly after the 1848 genocide culminating with an ideological victory at the Great Panadura Debate in 1873. The public cheating of Buddhists by partisan politics since 1948 deteriorated so badly with crooks and criminals system of governing that began after 1978 forcing the arrival of the Bodu Bala Sena Movement in 2012. The business of BBS is open discussion and debate, no lurking in the dark.

BBS is an idea based on the Middle Path doctrine in Buddhism. In ancient Greece and in China there was the idea of the Middle Way, but the Buddhist Middle Path goes along with the phenomenon of Impermanence and the cyclical nature of life (not linear). Buddhism is simply the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Noble path (4NT+8NP). This Middle Path is nothing but the reasonableness doctrine of the modern Western world. For example, it was this reasonableness which allowed women to become Buddhist monks 2600 years ago. In modern politics or global geopolitics reasonableness is equated as “moderates” or compromise of give and take: majorities and minorities compromise in modern representative capitalist democracies. Rights as well as duties, not escape from freedom! Because BBS is based on reasonableness doctrine it was ready to discuss openly the merit and demerit of Halal certification and the gonibilla face cover. What is reasonable in Afghanistan or dessert sands of Arabia or in Paris or London may not be reasonable in the context of Sri Lankan history and geography. Thus marijuana can be legal in Bangladesh but not whiskey. If Muslim MPs did not like to see pork served in the parliament canteen, was it reasonable to ban pork from 90% of others’ choice of almost free-lunch that all the MPs are enjoying?

When the Bamian Buddha statutes were dynamited and later ancient Buddhist documents uncovered were burnt, Sri Lankan Buddhists could not do anything to prevent this destruction of world civilizational heritage. UNESCO failed. But when an ancient Buddhist ruin in the Eastern province was bulldozed and the archeology department officers ignore it saying it was a pile of dirt, was it reasonable for BBS to preach non-violence and keep hands folded? It would be like accepting Stanly Tambiah’s stupid theory of “Why Buddhists kill?” floated in his Buddhism betrayed book. This theory destroyed Buddhism in India, Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, the Maldives, the Philippines, Korea and Indonesia. Buddhism will always be in books and computer disks, but Buddhist culture must be saved and protected. If tax-payer funded police cannot prevent assault on Buddhist institutions, then BBS must develop its own civilian police force based on non-violence but acting as thousands of eyes in the neighbourhood. If the horse is not drinking water when it was taken to water, in these un-Buddhistic (abuddassa) times you have to force it to drink. There is no doubt that thousands of retired people with valuable experience, skills and talents, marginalized at present, will be a technical resource police of BBS, volunteering at the village level.

Monks in politics

Because politics has become such a dirty game in Sri Lanka -- not only dirty politicians themselves say so, but even the Mother Teresa kind of a person like CBK has begun to say it lately-- there is blind dislike to monks in politics. Since partisan politics has become a dirty profession, in Sri Lanka or in the USA, monks in party politics can get caught in corruption. BBS has declared that it will not support any political party, all 65 of them. The representative capitalist democratic system the modern world has is dirty and corrupt, but politics is after all a noble idea. Allocating limited resources the most reasonable manner, resolving community and or ethnic conflicts in a reasonable manner, providing equality of opportunities to all, protecting valuable cultural heritage, preventing the tragedy of the commons such as public pollution, forest clearing, are all political acts. Buddhist literature is full of examples of why such politics is needed. The Buddha was a great public speaker. The Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Noble Path is a balancing act between inner purification and outer discipline: spiritual versus material. There is no perfect world and there are no perfect people: saint and devil both reside in human mind. Was it DNA or was it the environment: nature versus nurture. The late professor W. S. Karunaratne said this as a UNP candidate in the 1960s referring to a Santhanagatha and a Bahira Viplavaya.

If the government is incapable of acting reasonably for whatever reasons, BBS has to come forward to save Sri Lanka from socio-economic malaise and international conspiracies to destabilize and break it into two as the second U.S. resolution of March 2013 plans to achieve in the long run. Since Sri Lanka is an island, enemies cannot destabilize it by cross border arms transfers. But spies and enemies within can capitalize government’s unreasonable, inefficient and unwise behavior in handling domestic affairs, for example food supply, healthcare management or education. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa prepared a new map of military affairs and ended the war, but in all other sectors of domestic affairs the old map is not changed. When some ministries say they changed the old map, it is only a new road added to the same old road map. People, especially the Sinhala Buddhist people, who got marginalized by governmental wrong action or no action who gave the benefit of time for the government to change road maps finally came out embracing BBS as the solution.

Public cheating of Buddhists has gone beyond reasonable limits. A president who got elected because of the Buddhist vote, Buddhist ministry PMs, a constitution which says it gave something special to Buddhists had failed to implement a single item reported by the Buddhist Commission Report of ACBC, 2009. Instead, Buddha statutes are smashed and urinated on the broken pieces by unethical evangelist-Islam converters. Actually Buddhist PM Ministry did severe damage by linking Sambuddha Jayanthi with the Inter-faith fake. In any other country such PM will be fired. Anti-Buddhist officers lead these politicians like cows. Even the Dambulla Cultural Traingle is run by non-Buddhist agents. Thus the government, if it takes a realistic assessment of the current situation could benefit from the BBS Movement. Government imporoper action and inaction gave birth to BBS. It must get out of the two-valued orientation—if you are not my friend, then you must be my enemy syndrome. It must be able to penetrate the cage created for it by its own yes men, UNP and Marxist ministers, top level and lower level officers busy in making a buck for their personal gain. Who can deny that there is no corruption triangle of evil – politician, officer, NGO—operating at local, regional and national level? It is this triangle scared of BBS.

BBS and the LLRC Report

LLRC had the opportunity to be on par with two previous commissions, Colebrooke-Cameron (1832) and Donoughmore (1931), in its impact on the future of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, it did not have the capacity or courage to escape from the Eurocentric Colombo paradigm. It was less pain to read the old map rather than taking responsibility to design a new road map. Despite the fact that a new road map was presented to it as evidence, LLRC was willing to go only a politically correct (thinking to please Robert Blake) half way. Even in its desire to please everybody in the world other than the Sinhala Buddhists, LLRC could not escape from truth and reasonableness. It dismissed the existence of any ethnic homeland (Vadukkoddei, Oluvil declarations) in the island. This meant an indirect nullification of the 1987 Rajiv-JRJ agreement and the 13-A. LLRC stated “the need for devolution of power” (8.212-8.226) clarifying further that devolution means “empowerment” of people by “people-centric devolution” (9.231) and by “maximum possible devolution to the periphery especially at the grass roots level” (8.225). Health, education and agriculture for families should have received priority over roads and bridges involving major contracts and commissions.

If the officer with a golden brain that was entrusted by the president with the task of implementing LLRC recommendations was not still a Marga Institute agent, he would have utilized this opportunity to act on the “language-blind, ecology-based, and geography-guided” GSN-level action plan presented to LLRC (Plan A), because it was the alternative to replace 13-A. This monumental blunder, intended or unintended has landed Sri Lanka in a mess, all those who want to divide Sri Lanka hammering at it. Only BBS can now provide oxygen to the Mahinda R Administration to come out of this mess as what is reasonable was rejected by the officer’s “Action Plan (Plan B).” A Jayalath Jayawardena-John Amaratunga-Tilak Marapona linked UNP government is no alternative to a MahindaR administration, and Plan B is like trying to cure a cancer by feeding it. Plan B will lead to a Tamil Eelam. In this context elections for a NPC will be a new disastrous Plan C, paving way for a South Sudan in Sri Lanka. Whose brains are behind these? Ghosts of Dayan Jayatilekes’ in the government?

Spatial inequality

Plan A (language-blind, ecology-based administrative units) on the other hand is a plan based on reasonableness which concentrates on spatial inequality affecting the scrambled egg-like population map of Sri Lanka. Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim masses equally suffer under capitalist corruption system now in operation in the country allowing certain selected crowds to thrive. Only a movement like BBS can cut through this crap utilizing Plan A which merges three paths (1) the Buddhist Middle Path, (2) the Bio-regional Path (geography-ecology) and (3) the Reasonableness (Doctrine) Path in western jurisprudence to create a people-based democratic society in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is now faced with three kinds of threats: (1) Separatist gimmicks of Tamilnad love and politics family clans controlling Delhi political puppets (2) Prabakaran remnants in New York, London etc. with Christian evangelical and corporate imperialist plans aimed at balkanization of India (3) Emerging new threat of Talibanization of the traditional Muslim community in Sri Lanka. Plan A will make Geneva USA second resolution a case of a dogs barking at a passing caravan. Like the Gota’s War, only BBS has the people power to make it happen.

Plan A rejects the new imperialist strategy called “meaningful devolution” by way of “unmajoritarian institutions.” This method promoted by white Eurocentric writers like Donald Horowitz creates regional ethnic minority elites and slowly weakens the central governments in former colonies (it may take a decade or two or more), until a new Kosovo or South Sudan (or even a separate country of Scotland) is established splitting countries. Thus, the new policy of creating “unmajoritarian institutions” is a “sanitized” version of the old divide and rule policy, providing ladders to separatist monkeys to carve out separate countries at each other’s throat. Already, South Sudan started an internal war. No wonder Christian-Marxists like Dayan Jayatileke promotes this path calling it the Nye Soft Path! Dayan J has begun his new cold war against the Sinhala Buddhists.

Plan A is the real homegrown solution which offers a new kind of 13-A plus on the new map of terrain that BBS is now drawing. The real democracy of empowering people (not separatist party politicians) locally is not in Horowitz-Nye-DayanJ or Raliv Wijesinghe Eurocentric formula. This formula stops at regional ethnic politicians’ level and it failed in Nigeria and Lebanon, two cases that Horowitz used to cite as success stories. It is also interesting to note that in his writings Horowitz did not mention even once the concept of Panchayathi Raj Institutes in India based on consensus politics (God speaks in five, if five people agree, god is with them), not western party politics of throat-cutting competition. International expert Horowitz was clueless about the Sri Lankan Gamsabhava! Sri Lankan villagers are today divided so hopelessly due to green, blue and red party politics. Fortunately, LLRC did not buy the “Horowitz path” of devolution which would “empower” Tamil separatist TNA politicians. LLRC promoted meaningful empowerment of people at the village level to deal with social, economic and spatial inequities prevalent in the island, but it did not propose a mechanism. For Example, Marxist Tissa Vitharana’s APC majority proposed a Tamil policeman in each Sinhala village! Plan A proposed a mechanism to escape from the death trap called 13-A.

Instead of asking “How can we help Tamils and Muslims to achieve their aspirations,” LLRC could have asked, “Why most spatial units (districts, electorates, natural regions, villages or GSN units) in Sri Lanka are not developed?” because poverty is not just a Tamil or Muslim problem. In that case LLRC could have focused on the issue of “spatial rights” or “spatial justice.” Tamils in villages are not asking “group rights.” They want water, rural roads, schools, more busses, railway line, radios, rural bridges, TVs, bicycles and hospitals. When they have these basic human needs, they will copy Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and intelligently think on their own if an aspiration to have a separate Tamil country in Sri Lanka is viable, possible or desirable. What is happening now is that Tamil and non-Tamil selfish separatist politicians, local and foreign, trying to manipulate innocent Tamils and Muslims villagers to satisfy their ulterior motives. Only BBS can prevent the government jumping into a domestic mess by holding NP elections.

Sri Lanka cannot expect any reasonable outcomes unless the electoral system is changed and the public service is overhauled with performance evaluation and merit promotion installed. Ordinary citizens have no place to go for normal/usual services. They have to either know somebody in an office or give a bribe to somebody in an office. Increasing numbers in the government service or increase in expenditure on government projects cannot erase the frustration people have about the moral and ethical decay taken place in the country. If the head of unit is out shopping using office time can we expect the clerks of that unit to be at the desk or not on cell phone for hours? Despite preaching by ministers this is reality and only BBS civil volunteer force can stop this with thousands of eyes. How can we provide incentives to the public servants to serve better and how can we remove corrupt behavior with disincentives (carrot and stick) should be the number one priority. The introduction of mandatory income/assets declaration by public servants open to citizen scrutiny; community service method of punishment for crimes against society such as bribery and corruption; removal of illegal weapons in the hands of people and the utilization of military for civilian construction purposes are matters that need attention for any serious progress.

Divineguma based on old map

All kinds of development work are taking place in Sri Lanka today. But similar work of national magnitude was attempted in the past by Mrs. B, Dudley S, and R. Premadasa, respectively. How efficient and effective were they? Did officers act as “yes” men and women and deceive politicians? Or were there systemic defects that even dedicated officers cannot succeed? Development work cannot be successful unless it improves the living standards of the local people impacted by it. That is the yardstick of progress. There are programs like Gami Diriya successfully empowering people marginalizing the politician-officer-NGO corruption trio. Divineguma will be a sitting duck to this evil axis. The funny thing is that Samurdhi officers were given the impression by politicians that the Samurdhi program was created to give jobs and pension rights to them, and not for the purpose of uplifting village life!! Unfortunately, Divineguma is a mega job security project. It is not people-decided village development. It is officer-imposed directions to plant vegetables and save money in the bank. BBS can help change Divineguma giving its control to people at village (GSN) level which was proposed to LLRC by Plan A. One need to remember that even the Sarvodaya which says it has 6000 villages in its bosom cannot submit an impact report.

Empowerment of people –Plan A

The problem in Sri Lanka is spatial inequality, not racial inequality (Teaching Tamil and Sinhala to school children will remove within ten years any opportunity Tamil or Muslim politicians now have in trying to manipulate Tamil-speaking people). Since the government is a prisoner to Eurocentric thinking BBS can help the government to reconsider implementing the Jana Sabah concept based on polling station or GSN unit-level. Reminiscent of the Road Development Committees or Sanitary Boards during the early colonial times what Sri Lanka needs today is grass roots level non-political party entities elected to handle basic needs of people such as garbage disposal, road building and maintenance closer to home dwellings, basic health services, quality improvements in schools, prevention of soil erosion and environmental conservation and cooperative efforts to protect local farmers and producers from exploitation. Election of ten members per each entity and then one from such entity making an electorate level unit proceeding further up to the national level with whom the President of the country can have direct communication. This plan can be implemented by creating an office reporting directly to the president. A separate ministry or a department not needed.

This idea is not new (MagaNaguma and DiviNaguma are two programs on these lines).Several witnesses presented similar concepts for consideration by LLRC. But Plan A is the simplest and most effective way to monitor how big projects impact on local communities and to give people an opportunity to decide and control their day to day affairs. Each unit will prepare a land use map (plan) for their locality and monitor how government and NGO projects are implemented in their area. If a contractor is corrupt and doing sub-standard work local committee can prevent it. If school teachers are not teaching and promoting private tuition the local committee can interfere via parent-teacher associations or old school boys/girls association. Education ministers cannot solve these problems. If people are dumping garbage on to the road, local committee can take action against them. There is no doubt that politicians of all shapes would not like this idea, but Sri Lanka cannot become a Singapore in economic development and cleanliness if local people are not linked with the governance structure. At present there are no checks and balances to prevent political and official corruption rampant at the local (local government and GSN) level. A citizen affected by inefficiency of a local government, district, provincial or central government officer must be able to go to the local non-political party committee for redress.

Get people behind the government

The need to empower people at the grass root level is not just a political strategy to meet the external threat backed by local separatist agents. It is a necessity to protect people’s democracy while promoting sustainable development. In the West, local level administration was done by counties and parishes for generations which are more recently supplemented by groundwater management districts, river basin management districts and more specific functional districts such as solid waste management districts. In New Zealand, a smaller country like Sri Lanka, all local administrative units are demarcated using river basins as boundaries. Long before think globally, act locally became a popular concept Sri Lankan society was guided since antiquity by a sustainable development-related trinity of village, water tank and the temple. Ironically, what a few enlightened, people-sympathetic, western professors are now prescribing to Sri Lanka and other countries are so similar to the principles enshrined in the concept of trinity of ancient Sri Lankan society.

Sustainable development via three merging paths

The Jana Sabha or Gam Sabha (or GSN unit level peoples’ committees) system can be justified utilizing three interrelated approaches. The Horowitz path (the infamous 13-A is an example of Horowitz path) can be easily dismissed as unwanted burdens (inviting snakes crawling yonder) placed on this tiny island nation by any one of these approaches. Presented as a model the three approaches (paths) are like the three sides of a triangle. The base of it is the moral and ethical foundation of a society. In the West, it is the Judo-Christian norms and values. In Sri Lanka this base has been Buddhism, Buddhist Jataka Stories. The sides of a smaller triangle inside the larger triangle indicate action, perception and location. Location is also described as space or place. Inside this triangle at the center is the triangle of spatial inequality, a result of not following or abusing the three paths. By following them inequality and inequity could be erased allowing Sustainable development to take root. The close affinity that exists between law and geography on the one hand and between law and Buddhism on the other in their applied interface generating socio-economic processes creating spatial (geographical) patterns deserves careful scrutiny by all who genuinely wish for a prosperous Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has laws in books, but no action!

The reasonableness doctrine in law and the Middle Path in Buddhism are like the two sides of a coin. What is reasonable has a geographical context—in some places people eat dog meat, in some other places stray dogs are not eliminated—and the kinds and types of some activities of the Eight Fold Path are also influenced by the human and physical geography of an area.

Whether it is reasonable to think of separate homelands or demarcate language-based or religion-based spatial units considering the population geography of Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka becomes a legal as wells as a geographical issue that goes beyond separatist politics by non-Buddhists. When ethnic distribution is like a scrambled egg is it not better to have smaller spatial units so that ethnicity pockets have an opportunity to have full local representation? For example, in the Panadura electorate there are at least three Muslim pockets: Totawatta-Ambalanduwa, Sarikkammulla and Eluwila. A GSN unit-based division will allow Muslim majority units, which the Sinhala people in proximity will not consider as an ethnic threat, unless Islam extremists from overseas try to spoil them. Muslims will have to be reasonable in developing their group aspirations. Unlike India, Canada or Belgium, geography does not support language-based spatial divisions in Sri Lanka.

Western capitalist representative democracies love the doctrine of separation of powers to death as seen from the constitutional crisis in the USA today. However, it is now uncovered that Montesquieu did not suggest a strict separation of powers among the three branches of government. In fact now there are about five such branches. What he wanted was to distribute the sum total of governmental power (including even some judicial power) to as many spatial/political units as possible. It was as if Montesquieu thought about our Gamsabha system or the sovereignty enjoyed by the village-level Buddhist temple chief monk, who is free from central control unlike the local Christian church. The Buddhist Republics in ancient India were similar to the Tribal Councils Native Americans later had in North America, which Benjamin Franklin wanted the fighting 13 states to follow. These ideas later influenced the western political science theories of governance.

Bioregional vision

Empowerment of people means giving people governmental power at the lowest possible spatial unit level. The American, Kirkpatrick Sale described this as “human scale” in his book, Human Scale (1980). He says everything works best if it is at a scale (size) manageable by local people. This is akin to what we generally identify as “grassroots “politics. In a global village one thinks globally, but acts locally. Or, as the former U.S House Speaker Tip O’Neil once said “all politics is local.” Empowerment works best at the “Small Is Beautiful” scale. With global warming and local floods, droughts and landslides, massive development projects and environmental degradation, sustainable development at local level becomes a top priority.

A paradigm shift has taken place in (physical-economic) development from things to people as reflected in the increasing use of Participatory Rural Appraisals and people-centered methods of “endogenous development.” Local knowledge (local farmers and villagers) is more valuable than an agriculture or civil engineering graduate can learn from books. The value of this “social capital” is now recognized by the World Bank and other UN development-oriented agencies. After fifty years of technocratic misadventure, in Sri Lanka these methods are now employed in irrigation settlements in the dry zone.

Spatial justice atlas

Empowerment of people at the local level is not just a political affair. It is a scientific endeavor. Each locally elected non-political party committee will base their work on a locally-developed land use map. Each unit will have a graduate research assistant. Ironically, in the Vavuniya District such maps are already in use as a research tool. Tamil tigers had an elaborate land use planning system developed after CFA 2002. Tamil officers are ahead of Sinhala officers in this regard. Most districts in the South now have data tables displayed at GSN unit level. Volunteer students from local high schools and their geography/biology teachers will no doubt take part in updating such maps available at the survey department. This will help in identifying natural boundaries for the local unit. For example, such action could help to reduce 15,000 GSN units to a more reasonable number (it was only 4,000 in the late 1980s).

An ecologically demarcated local unit maps will lead to an ecologically demarcated electorate similar to the pre 1980 era. By converting land use data to data tables an atlas of spatial justice could be developed at the national level using local natural-ecological unit as the lowest spatial unit. An atlas of spatial justice will be the quarterly or annual report card of this monitoring process. It will be an ongoing system with feedback loops. In the 1940s, in the United Kingdom, the late geographer Dudley Stamp undertook a national land utilization survey with the help of public school students. It was continued in the 1970s and 1990s.

The proposed spatial atlas of Sri Lanka will be an improvement of Dudley Stamp’s original idea interpreting the data from land use planning with issues of spatial injustice.

Since local level watersheds/basins have a hierarchical order of progressively increasing in area/size they can become a large River Basin Region at macro level. Seven such River Basin Regions could advantageously replace the present arbitrary nine provincial units; each with an ocean front and each with more or less equal land area. If people are allowed to handle their basic affairs at GSN unit level, 70% of Sri Lanka’s present crises can be solved.

The map above first developed by the geography professor C.M. MaddumaBandara can be used as the ultimate goal of a country administered by language-blind political units. This is the only way to develop a Sri Lankan identity. The Seven River Basins are: 1. Yalpanam, 2. Rajarata, 3. Dambadeni, 4. Mahaveli, 5. Deegavaapi, 6. Kelani, 7. Ruhunu (This map was published in Chapter 4, in Fifty years of Sri Lanka’s Independence: a socio economic review, edited by A.V. de S. Indraratna, 1998, p.83).
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