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Common “Wealth” or Common “Hypocrisy”?

| by Ven. Walpola Piyananda
Chief Sangha Nayaka of America

( November 12, 2013, Los Angeles, Sri Lanka Guardian) After the collapse of the British Empire, the Commonwealth of Nations was established to foster harmony, cooperation, and mutual economic benefit among the Empire’s former colonies. Since the London Declaration formalized its existence in 1949, the Commonwealth of 53 member states, thusly declared “free and equal,” has been used effectively as a forum for sharing views and resources for the betterment of the now-independent countries whose cultures and economies had been decimated by centuries of colonial domination. The Commonwealth represents 2.25 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, and nearly 30 million square miles of territory on all continents. In can be viewed as a vehicle for the former pay-masters and exploiters to give back to those they had oppressed, and perhaps assuage a bit of Britain’s national guilt for the human rights crimes they had committed in the self-centered name of Monarchy and Empire.

In spite of the many indignities Sri Lanka suffered at the hands of the British during its 146 years of harsh rule, Sri Lanka has remained a close friend and ally of Great Britain since its independence. Sri Lanka has stood firmly by the British for all of its 65 years as a separate country, and during the Falkland Islands war, it was the only sovereign state to stand up in the United Nations and support Britain’s position.

In a few days the biannual meeting of the Commonwealth Nations will be hosted by Sri Lanka, which views this as an opportunity to showcase the progress it has made since the end of the terrorist war in 2009. In a very short time Sri Lanka, which was shattered in every way by the LTTE, has come a long way towards rebuilding, modernizing, democratizing, and rehabilitating the Tamil rebels and their former territories.

The British Prime Minister, James Cameron, will be attending the meeting, but rather than coming to our island as a friend, he comes with a political agenda, which is contrary to the ideals of the Commonwealth itself. He comes to confront our Government with accusations of crimes against humanity that it allegedly committed in the final days of the war with the LTTE.

What a shame, and how truly inappropriate is this declared mission of Britain’s Prime Minister, which represents more than just a hint of hypocrisy. Also inappropriate is the Canadian Prime Minister’s refusal to attend, as is the Prime Minister of India, Monmohan Singh. It appears that all three of these world leaders, presumed friends of Sri Lanka, have succumbed to pressure: the British and Canadian from their vocal, well-financed Tamil constituencies; the Indian by the Tamil Nadu faction in his coalition.

During the 30-year war with the terrorist LTTE, thousands of innocent people were killed on both sides. A tragedy. The Tamil inferiority complex, born from the Tamil people not having a country to call “their own,” spawned the desire for Eelam, a separatist state to be carved from our small island. The Tamils realized this could never be achieved in India, their native place, so they seized upon the idea of creating it in Sri Lanka, a young country just getting on its feet after 400 years of colonial rule. The bitterness of losing this conflict created one of the biggest and most successful media campaigns against a government in history – fully financed by unhappy Tamils around the world who lost their chance for a separate country in Sri Lanka. Perhaps the Indian Government should be wary of a separatist rising in Tamil Nadu in the wake of the Sri Lankan defeat.

The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated the Tamil terrorists militarily, and brought peace and safety to Sri Lanka for the first time in decades. The Defense Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the Supreme Commander of the Military, Gen. Sarath Fonseca, have both denied the accusations of mass killings by our soldiers at the end of the war. The Tamil LTTE leadership used tens of thousands of their own people as human shields for protection, knowing that the Government would not wantonly kill innocent people. We all remember the images from the media of the acts of compassion towards the Tamil refugees at the end of the war. However, the LTTE leadership oftentimes fired at the government forces from hospitals and schools, and with radar technology, they drew return fire from our soldiers. Prabhakaran and his cadres willingly sacrificed uncountable Tamil civilians in this manner, knowing that world opinion would place the blame on Government forces.

It is often said that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” The British – and the Americans – are accused of their own human rights violations and atrocities, but this is usually overlooked by the media, and passed off as “necessary collateral damage.” Just recently, the UK was accused of “grave” human rights violations in the aftermath of 911, citing torture of captured terrorists in the Middle East. We all know about the evils that take place at the Americans’ Guantanamo Prison in Cuba, and we have all seen the sordid photographs taken at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Why isn’t the term “necessary collateral damage” used in conjunction with Sri Lanka and the final days of its terrorist war?

Sri Lanka is proud of its rich, ancient culture and heritage. It desires to share these national treasures with the Commonwealth. It is spending a great deal of its energy and other resources to make sure the meeting this week in Colombo is successful for all member states. We would like to remind our British friends that Sri Lanka is no longer a colonial possession, and it cannot dictate our policy – nor can it provoke us to bend to their demands to defend ourselves against unfair and untrue and fabricated accusations. Perhaps the British need to be reminded that in the civilized world it is considered very rude to insult one’s hosts.

In the Dhammapada Verse 50, the Buddha says: “Let none find fault with others; let none see the omissions and commissions of others. But let one see one’s own acts, done and undone.”

Also, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta the Buddha spoke of the kingdom of the Vajjians, which was a very well-run country that lived in peace with its neighbors. He said that there were seven practices that the Vajjians observed that contributed to their well-being; he might also have said them for the benefit of the Commonwealth in regards to treating its members with respect and honor. He said:

1. Gather together for frequent discussion – keep communications open.
2. Meet in harmony and unity, depart in harmony and unity, and work together in harmony and unity.
3. Respect and follow all laws, or if a law is found to be incorrect, work to change it in a lawful manner.
4. Respect and listen to worthy leaders, both religious and secular.
5. Refrain from committing or advocating violent crimes, rape, destroying other’s property or killing.
6. Respect, protect, and maintain the temples and shrines.
7. Preserve their personal mindfulness, so that in the future the good among the people will come to them, and the good who have already gathered will feel at ease with them.

I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth meeting in Colombo this week is not reduced to petty bickering and accusations among its members, but that it is used as a constructive opportunity to learn from one another and find ways to get along and move forward. Let’s make sure that our world leaders focus on the Common “Wealth,” and not devolve into Common “Hypocrisy.”
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