– by Shenali D. Waduge –
There is little doubt that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (now re-named as Ministry of External Affairs) plays an important role in the way the international community looks at Sri Lanka. Similarly, it falls upon the shoulders of the Ministry to conduct foreign affairs of the country in a manner consistent with the mandate given to the Government by the people at the elections while not compromising on the National Constitution of the country. We are concerned as to the current direction of the Ministry, the nature of the message being carried and would like to have the Minister and Ministry respond to the following direct questions.
Ignoring foremost place of Buddhism in the Constitution
1. Why is it rarely if never that the Minister or Ministry mentions that Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation or never says anything on the significance of Article 9 in the Sri Lankan Constitution? Given that the place of Buddhism is significantly endorsed in a separate chapter in the country’s Constitution should the Minister and Ministry not unhesitatingly declare at various official functions both within and outside the country that “Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation with an indigenous culture and unique Buddhist civilization but respects the multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of its society”.
League of Buddhist Nations
2. A suggestion to form a League of Buddhist Nations initiated by Sri Lanka and bringing together all the Buddhist nations of the world against the political incursions they are facing has been totally ignored while think tanks are being formed by the Ministry all over the world. Is there a particular reason why the Ministry/Minister has completely ignored the traditional links Sri Lanka has had and continues to have with the Asian Buddhist nations the zenith of which was seen during Mrs. Bandaranaike’s time which brought international respect and prestige to Sri Lanka? Why is the Foreign Ministry not advising President Rajapakse from achieving similar popularity amongst the Buddhist world and take up the leadership in ushering in an Asian Buddhist Renaissance in this century that has been clearly identified as the ‘ Asian Century’?.
Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute subtly pushing ideologies and agendas meant to displace Article 9 of the Constitution
3. Why is the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute being glaringly used to push a bogus fancy for Human Rights, Re-conciliation and multicultural themes and agendas instead of using it as a platform to steer the policy of Sri Lanka using the traditional links we have with the Asian nations first. Buddhist Diplomacy was a corner stone of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy under our Buddhist Kings in the pre-colonial era. Why is this area being neglected? All we see are servile attempts to copy ‘liberal’ themes drawn exclusively from Western and Christian traditions that are proven failures in the very countries that have experimented with multiculturalism. We are well aware that the baggage of thinking dumped on us like ‘multi-culturalism’, pluralism, secularism and the like are embedded with hidden agendas meant to de-throne Buddhism, weaken the hold of the Sinhala Buddhist majority on the power structures, instill a guilt complex for being the pre – dominant ethnic and religious group and force them to transfer their power to minorities for the sake of achieving communal harmony that would in turn undoubtedly destabilize Sri Lanka. It must be borne in mind that not a single Muslim country has embraced secularism and publicly announced that all other religions will be treated on par with Islam. A look at the subjects handled by the Institute and the speakers invited reveal the subtle methodology at play.
Reluctance to have a Buddhist Desk at the Ministry
4. Why does the Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Ministry not have a Buddhist desk at the Ministry to handle International Buddhist affairs which are now becoming increasingly significant. The Ministry of Buddha Sasana is unable to give competent leadership in this important area. Both China and India have realized and appreciate the soft power of Buddhism in the international arena. But this appears to be sadly overlooked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not a day passes without an International Buddhist Conference being held in China and India, and other Asian Buddhist countries. When there are desks catering to all other religions e.g. Vatican, and regions that are exclusively non – Buddhist why has a Buddhist desk being omitted? We must renew Buddhist diplomacy in the manner of our former Kings and re-connect ourselves to our unique Buddhist heritage.
Championing the cause of Dalits
5. When Tamil Nadu with the explicit backing of the Central Government of India believes it has a right to interfere and plead the cause of the Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka, why does Sri Lanka remain silent and not demand better treatment for the 165 million Dalits in India (1/6th of India’s population) most of whom are Buddhists and sympathetic to the cause of Sri Lanka?
13th Amendment / PC system
6. Much as the Minister may not like to hear this, it must be accepted that there is a huge question mark hanging over the loyalty of the Minister to the ‘Mahinda Chintanaya’ and the indivisible unitary status of Sri Lanka. The Minister’s political track record and shifting loyalties from party to party is well known even among school children of this country. Therefore given the previous records of drafting legislative agreements that have proven detrimental to the nation, speaking at international podiums in the past on behalf of these detrimental agreements we now need to have a public declaration on one’s standpoint because we are all the while in doubt and concerned that personal ideologies and pre-existing connections to Western funded NGOs will obstruct what the Government was voted in to do and that is to free the nation of terrorism and now to do away with the stranglehold that India has on Sri Lanka through the 13th amendment.
Reparation for Colonial Crimes
7. The awarding of compensation recently by the British Government for colonial crimes committed on Kenyans in the Mau Mau rebellion encourages all former colonial nations to seek similar reparations for the crimes committed by Colonial rulers that include in Sri Lanka’s case the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. These crimes would include murder, plunder of resources, destruction of Buddhist temples upon which destroyed sites Churches have been built, demarcation of land that has given rise to ethnic tensions, special privileges to minorities discriminating against the majority and the acceptance of their crimes which ideally equates to mean reconciliation of any kind must start with these colonial power accepting their crimes primarily on the Sinhalese Buddhists who were mostly subject to persecution, torture, murder and plunder. We would like to know the Minister’s view on this and what he proposes to do about presenting Sri Lanka’s case to the British seeking an apology and due reparations.
Diplomatic dialogue on ill-treatment to Sri Lankans
8. Do we make our case with foreign nations: In India, Buddhist monks were attacked, Bodh Gaya was bombed, in Maldives Sri Lankan nations are forbidden from even taking Buddhist statues whereas over 300,000 Maldivians are allowed to work, live and gain education in Sri Lanka, in the Middle East hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan labor are illtreated, forbidden from worshipping and even their applications are altered to remove their Buddhist identity but how much of these ill-treatments have been taken up at diplomatic level and during negotiations by the Foreign Ministry and followed up? Issuing a brief statement has resulted in nothing.
Lakshman Kadiragamar never saw merit in appeasement or in adopting a servile approach to handling foreign affairs of the nation. It is to him that we attribute the banning of the LTTE in 32 nations and declaring Wesak as a UN holiday. He became the moral voice of Sri Lanka prior to his death. His loyalties never shifted for political opportunism and we all respect him profoundly and continue to mourn is absence in the much needed diplomatic debate today. Honoring his name by opening a statue is not enough but his ideals must be followed. Had he been alive he would have handled the international NGOs, the mainstream media, the attacks upon and against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka with sincerity and commitment.
Nevertheless, as the nation faces diplomatic hurdles which can only be overcome by diplomacy we feel a void and eloquent speeches alone has not delivered any results post-conflict for Sri Lanka. We continue to face one embarrassment after another. We do not meet accusations with facts, we have not promoted our achievements and we have not gathered our friends. What does the Minister and the Ministry of External Affairs proposes to do to reverse the status quo?