Will be frank with New Delhi to avoid misunderstandings: Gotabaya Rajapaksa
NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 30, 2019
Srilankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gestures during an interview with The Hindu in New Delhi on November 30, 2019. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy
I am usually very frank, so I hope to tell India honestly if I can’t do something; and if I can, I will do it soon, the Sri Lankan President says.
Promising to be “frank” and “upfront” to avoid the misunderstandings of the past between New Delhi and Colombo, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says India and other countries in the region must invest more in Sri Lanka if they want to provide an alternative to Chinese investment. He also suggested closer coordination between the two countries and assured India that on the “main issues” of Sri Lankan ties with China and Pakistan, there would be no problem “that creates suspicions amongst Indian authorities”.
In an exclusive interview to The Hindu here during his first visit as President abroad, Mr. Gotabaya said it was necessary to build a consistent relationship with India, and to be clear about which projects in Sri Lanka were viable and which were not, including those in the April 2017 MoU signed by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on port and oil farm projects in Trincomalee. On November 29, India announced an additional $400 million for development projects in Sri Lanka. Mr Gotabaya said he hopes to discuss the projects further with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he has invited to Colombo as the first State guest during his tenure.
“I think the main issues India could have with us would be on [our relations] with China or Pakistan, but if we don’t do anything that creates suspicions amongst Indian authorities, there will not be any problem.”
On the issue of rights for Tamil-majority areas, Mr Gotabaya said he intends to focus on the development of the region, not political issues as the previous push for “devolution, devolution, devolution” has not changed the situation there. Full devolution of powers as promised by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1987 could not be implemented “against the wishes and feeling of the majority [Sinhala] community.” He added: “No Sinhala will say, don’t develop the area, or don’t give jobs, but political issues are different.”
Mr Gotabaya said he hoped for more cooperation with India on national security issues, particularly on the threat from the Islamic State that was behind the Easter Sunday attacks. As a part of his government’s focus on security issues, he was reversing the Sirisena government’s moves to curtail the powers of the military.
Mr Gotabaya is now in the unusual position of being President, while his elder brother and former President Mahinda is now the Prime Minister, and his other brother Chamal is a Minister. Asked if he planned to move to a more parliamentary system as envisaged by the 19th Amendment passed by his predecessor, he said that while the transfer of powers was to be “discussed”, the 19th Amendment itself had proved to be a “failure”, and should be scrapped.
(With inputs from Meera Srinivasan in Colombo)
Full text of the interview
‘Need more coordination between Delhi, Colombo’
How do you hope to take India-Sri Lanka ties to a “higher level”, as you said here in New Delhi, and what are the priority areas?
Even during [former President] Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time we had very close relations with New Delhi, and then at the end (2014-15), it suddenly went down. And even if with the Sirisena government, they started with a very good relationship, but it ended with a lot of frustration. I would like to be consistent. I am usually very frank, so I hope to tell New Delhi honestly if I can’t do something; and if I can, then do it soon and not drag out commitments. We were successful during the previous government because we had a separate mechanism, the Troika (a 3-man coordination team) with New Delhi. We needed that mechanism because the conflict was on, and we were able to solve sensitive problems because of the close links.
Will you bring in the same mechanism for coordination again?
Well, at that time there was a necessity because of the conflict, but now I don’t think it is necessary, as we can work through the Foreign Ministries. If we are upfront and work genuinely, we will not have issues. I think the main issues India could have with us would be on [our relations] with China or Pakistan, but if we don’t do anything that creates suspicions amongst Indian authorities, there will not be any problem.
On development cooperation with Delhi, for which PM Modi announced an additional $400 million, will you honour the MoU signed by former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe on projects like the Trincomalee oil farms and Port development projects?
There are certain projects where we have to change certain modalities, and we discussed it during this visit. I haven’t studied all the projects in detail yet, but I will promise that we will expedite all the projects that are important to Sri Lanka.
You have said publicly you will renegotiate the Hambantota port agreement with China, which India was concerned about. Along with that is the future of Mattala airport, which India has shown an interest in. Now that you are in power, what will you do?
I believe that the Sri Lankan government must have control of all strategically important projects like Hambantota. After all, these are not like a hotel or a terminal, but to give control of a port or an airport or our harbours is different. With our control, they can do anything, but these 99-year lease agreements [that the previous government signed] will have an impact on our future. The next generation will curse our generation for giving away precious assets otherwise. That is why our party protested these decisions.
But the reason the lease had to be given was because of the debts incurred by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa…
No, that is wrong. It is also wrong to say there was a debt trap. In fact, during our time the ports authority paid back the first instalment [to Chinese banks]. The Sirisena government, on the other hand, got more money as loans and just spent it. If they were worried about the debts piling up why didn’t they first service the debt, rather than give away sovereignty?
India has also had issues with Sri Lanka’s defence cooperation China in the past, especially over the docking of Chinese submarines, when you were Defence Secretary. In 2017, you said, India had a “bee in its bonnet” on the issue. Will you be more sensitive to those concerns this time around as President?
We were sensitive then too, but the submarine issue was a simple issue overlooked by officials at the time. Warships were visiting Sri Lanka regularly, and all ships that were part of the naval piracy task force for the Arabian Sea, including Russian ships had docked there. When the Chinese asked for the submarines to be docked, officials considered it a normal port call and approved it. Former NSA Shiv Shankar Menon has written in his book that “Gotabaya gave his word that he would not do anything counter to India, and he kept his word”, so I was genuinely sensitive.
You mentioned India’s suspicions of the past, those include differences over China, and the Tamil issue, but also your allegation that Indian agencies conspired for regime change against your brother. Can your government turn the page on these past suspicions?
I am sure [we can turn the page]. We did hear about agencies conspiring, including the US, for regime change. Some of their suspicions were due to our ties with China, but that was a misunderstanding. We had a purely commercial agreement with China. I want to tell India, Japan, Singapore and Australia and other countries to also come and invest in us. They should tell their companies to invest in Sri Lanka and help us grow, because if they do not, then not only Sri Lanka, but countries all over Asia will have the same [problem]. The Chinese will take the Belt and Road Initiative all over unless other countries provide an alternative.
What kind of cooperation on terrorism do you foresee now with India?
The threat in Sri Lanka has now changed: unlike the LTTE which was a specific threat to Sri Lanka, IS [Islamic State] is a global threat posed by terrorists across the world. India and other countries have more information on this threat than us. The previous government didn’t give much priority to security and intelligence issues. During our time, military intelligence was always the most important organisation, but the last government took their [oversight] away from the military. We have now reversed that. We also hope to upgrade our intelligence as it was earlier geared towards only LTTE threats, not the IS, and we need help from India and others on this as well as on technological cooperation.
Your focus on national security also raises fears about human rights violations of the past, about disappearances and the “White Vans”, as well as worries about violence against journalists in particular. Will you give assurances that those will not return?
Those are bogus allegations and certainly, nothing of the sort was done by me. Post-2009, we had tried to study the allegations, but it is difficult. We were not responsible, and even though we did ask the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) to investigate the charges, but they didn’t have any evidence. If it was easy, why didn’t the [Sirisena] government pursue these charges? The fact is we were strict about journalists during the war, but not in peacetime. Remember, MR’s government didn’t start the war, we finished the war. Why aren’t previous Presidents being asked about these allegations?
Last week, after Dr Jaishankar’s visit to Colombo the Indian government issued a statement urging justice and equality for Tamils. What is your reaction?
My approach, as I told the Foreign Minister, is that it is more important to give the [Tamils] development, and better living. In terms of freedoms, and political rights there are already provisions in the constitution. But I am clear that we have to find ways to directly benefit people there through jobs, and promoting fisheries and agriculture. We can discuss political issues, but for 70 odd years, successive leaders have promised one single thing: devolution, devolution, devolution. But ultimately nothing happened. I also believe that you can’t do anything against the wishes and feeling of the majority community. Anyone who is promising something against the majority’s will is untrue. No Sinhala will say, don’t develop the area, or don’t give jobs, but political issues are different. I would say, judge me by my record on development [of North & East] after five years.
Are you promising talks on devolution or the 13th amendment on rights for the Tamil majority areas?
Look, the 13th amendment is part of the constitution and is functional, except for some areas like control of police powers, which we can’t implement. I am willing to discuss alternatives to that.
In the past as defence secretary, you led Sri Lankan forces to victory, but amidst allegations of human rights abuse, and you were accused of declining to take forward the internationally-mandated truth and reconciliation process. What would you like your legacy to be at the end of five years?
Those allegations are wrong. In peacetimes, my engagement was even more than during the war to try and work on these issues. I did demining, I worked on resettlement and rehabilitation and development, and I got all militia to disarm. Without me there would not have been provincial council elections, which our government conducted for the first time in the North and the East. We ensured the elections were free and fair; we didn’t try to manipulate them or bring in a candidate of our choice. The international community did not recognise these things, even the Tamil politicians did not recognise these things which led to a [better situation in the North & East].
Your elder brother Mahinda is now Prime Minister, while another brother Chamal is a minister. How will the relationship with your brothers work now, and will there be a transfer of power towards a more parliamentary system as under the 19th amendment?
The 19th amendment (passed in 2015) is a failure and if we get 2/3rds majority in parliament we will drop it from the constitution. The only way you can even make the 19th amendment work is with two brothers (laughs) [at the top]. For a country to be governed successfully, you need stability. This was not the case during the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, where they were fighting all the time and there was no development. Without stability, investors won’t come.
Is it true you are called the Terminator in the family?
(Laughs) That is not true. I am the most innocent person in our family, since my childhood. When I joined the army, my family said Mahinda should have joined the army, and I should have joined politics.
பொலிஸ் அதிகாரத்தை கொடுக்கவே முடியாது!
புதுடில்லி, டிசெ. 02
13ஆவது திருத்தத்தை முழுமையாக அமுல்படுத்தமாட்டோம் என இந்தியாவில் வைத்தே தெரிவித்துவிட்டு, இலங்கைக்கு விமானம் ஏறி வந்திருக்கிறார் ஜனாதிபதி கோட்டாபய ராஜபக்ச.
“இந்து’ பத்திரிகைக்கு அவர் வழங்கிய நேர்காணலில், 13ஆவது திருதத்தில் உள்ள பொலிஸ் அதிகாரம் உள்ளிட்ட சில விடயங்களை வழங்க முடியாது என அவர் தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.
அத்துடன், தேர்தலின் முன்னர் குறிப்பிட்டதைப் போல, தமிழ் மக்களுக்கு இருப்பது பொருளாதாரப் பிரச்சினை என்பதை போன்ற அர்த்தத்திலேயே, இனப்பிரச்சனை தீர்வு தொடர்பான கேள்விகளுக்கு அவர் பதிலளித்துள்ளார். வெள்ளை வான் கடத்தல் குற்றச்சாட்டுக்களையும் நிராகரித்துள்ளார்.
அவரது பேட்டியின் ஒரு பகுதியில் –
வெள்ளை வான் கடத்தல், பத்திரிகையாளர்களுக்கு எதிரான வன்முறைகள் பற்றி என் மீது சுமத்தப்படுவவை போலியான குற்றச்சாட்டுகள். நிச்சயமாக அப்படி எதுவும் என்னால் செய்யப்படவில்லை. 2009 க்குப் பிறகு, நாங்கள் குற்றச்சாட்டுகளைப் மீளாய்வு செய்ய முயற்சித்தோம். ஆனால் அது கடினம்.
நாங்கள் பொறுப்பல்ல என்றபோதும், குற்றச்சாட்டுகளை விசாரிக்க சி.ஐ.டியை நாங்கள் கேட்டிருந்தாலும், அவர்களிடம் எந்த ஆதாரமும் இல்லை. இவை உண்மையயன்றால், மைத்திரிபால அரசு ஏன் இந்தக் குற்றச்சாட்டுகளை விசாரணை
செய்யவில்லை? உண்மை என்னவென்றால், போரின் போது நாங்கள் பத்திரிகையாளர்களைப் பற்றி கண்டிப்பாக இருந்தோம், ஆனால் அமைதி காலத்தில் அல்ல. மஹிந்தவின் அரசு போரைத் தொடங்கவில்லை என்பதை நினைவில் கொள்
ளுங்கள். நாங்கள் போரை முடித்தோம். இந்தக் குற்றச்சாட்டுகள் குறித்து முந்தைய ஜனாதிபதிகளிடம் ஏன் கேட்கப்படவில்லை?
கேள்வி: கடந்த வாரம், இந்திய வெளியுறவு அமைச்சர் ஜெய்சங்கரின் கொழும்பு வருகைக்குப் பிறகு, இந்திய அரசு தமிழர்களுக்கு நீதி மற்றும் சமத்துவத்தை வலியுறுத்தி ஒரு அறிக்கையை வெளியிட்டது. இது பற்றிய உங்கள் எதிர்வினைஎன்ன?
கோட்டாபய: நான் வெளியுறவு அமைச்சரிடம் கூறியமை போல், எனது அணுகுமுறை என்னவென்றால், தமிழர்களுக்கு வளர்ச்சியையும், சிறந்த வாழ்க்கையையும் கொடுப்பது மிகவும் முக்கியமானது. சுதந்திரங்கள் மற்றும் அரசியல் உரிமை
களைப் பொறுத்தவரை அரசமைப்பில் ஏற்கனவே விதிகள் உள்ளன. ஆனால் வேலைகள் மூலமாகவும், மீன்வளம் மற்றும் விவசாயத்தை மேம்படுத்துவதன் மூலமாகவும் அங்குள்ள மக்களுக்கு நேரடியாகப் பயனளிக்கும் வழிகளை நாம் கண்டுபிடிக்க வேண்டும் என்பது எனக்குத் தெளிவாகத் தெரிகிறது.
அரசியல் பிரச்சினைகளை நாம் விவாதிக்க முடியும், ஆனால் 70 ஆண்டுகளாக, அடுத்தடுத்த தலைவர்கள் ஒரே ஒரு விடயத்தை உறுதியளித்துள்ளனர். அதிகாரப் பகிர்வு, அதிகாரப் பகிர்வு, அதிகாரப் பகிர்வு. ஆனால் இறுதியில் எதுவும் நடக்கவில்லை. பெரும்பான்மைச் சமூகத்தின் விருப்பங்களுக்கும் உணர்விற்கும் எதிராக நீங்கள் எதுவும் செய்ய முடியாது என்றும் நான் நம்புகிறேன். பெரும்பான்மையினரின் விருப்பத்திற்கு எதிராக எதையாவது உறுதியளிக்கும் எவரும் பொய்யானவர். எந்தச் சிங்களவரும் சொல்லமாட்டார்கள், தமிழர் பகுதியை அபிவிருத்தி செய்யாதீர்கள், அல்லது வேலை கொடுக்கவேண்டாம் என. ஆனால் அரசியல் பிரச்சினைகள் வேறு. ஐந்து ஆண்டுகளுக்குப் பிறகு வடக்கு மற்றும் கிழக்கின் வளர்ச்சியின் பின்னர் என்னை நீங்கள் அளவிடுங்கள்.
13 ஆவது திருத்தம் அரசமைப்பின் ஒரு பகுதியாகும். அதுசெயற்படுத்தக்கூடியது. ஆனால் பொலிஸ் அதிகாரங்கள் போன்ற சில பகுதிகளை எங்களால் வழங்க முடியாது. அதற்கான மாற்று வழிகளைப் பற்றி விவாதிக்க நான் தயாராக இருக்கிறேன்.
மனித உரிமை மீறல், நல்லிணக்கத்தை ஏற்படுத்த தவறியமை போன்ற குற்றச்சாட்டுக்கள் தவறானவை. யுத்தகாலத்தை விட, சமாதான காலங்களில் அதிக ஆர்வமெடுத்து, கண்ணிவெடியகற்றல், மீள்குடியேற்றம் மற்றும் புனர்வாழ்வு ஆகியவற்றில் பணியாற்றினேன். மேலும் அனைத்துப் போராளிகளையும் நிராயுதபாணியாக்கினேன். நான் இல்லாமல் மாகாண சபைத் தேர்தல்கள் இருந்திருக்காது.
எங்கள் அரசு முதன்முறையாக வடக்கு மற்றும் கிழக்கில் தேர்தல் நடத்தியது. தேர்தல்கள் சுதந்திரமாகவும் நியாயமானதாகவும் இருப்பதை நாங்கள் உறுதி செய்தோம். நாங்கள் அவற்றைக் கையாள முயற்சிக்கவில்லை. அல்லது எங்கள் விருப்பப்படி ஒரு வேட்பாளரை அழைத்து வரவில்லை. சர்வதேச சமூகம் இந்த விடயங்களை அங்கீகரிக்கவில்லை. தமிழ் அரசியல் வாதிகள் கூட இந்த விடயங்களை அங்கீகரிக்கவில்லை.இது வடக்கு மற்றும் கிழக்கில் சிறந்த சூழ்நிலைக்கு வழிவகுத்தது என்றார்.
Modi & Gotabaya on bilateral relations: Modi announces $ 400 million line of credit
The two leaders delivered a joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi this afternoon (29).
After meeting with Modi for bilateral talks, Rajapaksa also announced the release of all Indian fishermen boats currently in Sri Lankan custody and vice versa.
President Rajapaksa said the fishermen issue was discussed in length and steps would be taken to release boats of the Indian fishermen in Sri Lanka custody.
Meanwhile, the Indian Prime Minister stated that a $400 million line of credit is to be extended to Sri Lanka to strengthen its economy.
Under Indian housing project, 46,000 houses have already been made in Sri Lanka while another 14,000 houses are further being made for Tamil origin people. $100 million credit line was given for solar projects in Sri Lanka.
Modi said they also had a good discussion on 20 community development projects and other people-centric projects in sync with the educational exchanges.
He said that India has always, in all measures, challenged terrorism and that it has always invited global investigation on cross-border terrorism.
Modi stated that the mandate given to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the expression of the ambitions of the people of Sri Lanka for a strong country.
A strong Sri Lanka is not only in the interest of India but that of the entire Indian Ocean region, he said.
The Indian Prime Minister announced financial assistance of $50 million to Sri Lanka to deal with the challenge of terrorism after holding “fruitful” talks with Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The Prime Minister also said he was confident that the new government in Sri Lanka will fulfil aspirations of the Tamil community in the island nation.
In a media statement, PM Modi said India’s line of credit of $400 million will further boost Sri Lanka’s development.
Modi said that the Sri Lanka government will take forward the reconciliation process to meet the aspirations of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka which also includes the implementation of the 13th Amendment.
“President Rajapaksa told me of his inclusive political point of view on ethnic harmony. I am confident that the Sri Lankan Government will pursue the process of reconciliation to meet the aspirations of equality, justice, peace and respect of Tamils,” said Prime Minister Modi while sharing the stage with Rajapaksa.
“The procedure of reconciliation also includes the implementation of 13th Amendment,” PM Modi added.
Modi said he and President Rajapaksa held a discussion on a wide range of issues including mutual security and against terrorism. They also discussed the issue of fishermen.
“I have discussed in detail with President Rajapaksa on strengthening bilateral cooperation for mutual security and countering terrorism. Sri Lankan police officers in major Indian institutions are receiving counter-terrorist training,” he said.
“We also discussed issues affecting the livelihood of fishermen. We agree that we will continue to have a constructive and humanitarian approach in this matter,” PM Modi added.
Prime Minister Modi also congratulated Rajapaksa on his recent election victory and said it is a matter of honour for us that President Rajapaksa chose India for his first foreign trip
“I want to extend my hearty congratulation to President Gotayaba for his election victory. I want to congratulate the people of Sri Lanka for successfully concluding the election process,” PM Modi said.
“It is a matter of honour for us that President Rajapaksa chose India for his first foreign trip and gave us the opportunity to honour him in India within two weeks of taking office,” he added.
“The discussions were extremely cordial and reassuring. Security of our two countries took priority. India has always assisted Sri Lanka to enhance its capabilities in intelligence and counter-terrorism. And we look forward to continued support in this regard,” Rajapaksa said.
Rajapaksa said since the country’s recent experience in April this year, the government had to re-think its national security strategy.
“Assistance from India on this regard will be most appreciated and the Prime Minister’s assurances are most encouraging.”
“We will continue to work closely with India to ensure that the Indian ocean remains a zone of peace,” Rajapaksa assured.
“We also discussed how both countries can work together on economically important matters as India emerges to be among the world’s growing economies. I discussed with Prime Minister Modi on how Sri Lanka could benefit from certain
In the meantime, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for offering USD 50 million to enhance capabilities of the intelligence agencies in Sri Lanka.
Indian PM Modi also announced a line of credit of USD 400 million to boost Sri Lanka’s development.
Addressing a joint press briefing in New Delhi, India, President Rajapaksa said since the recent experience of Sri Lanka in April this year, we have had to rethink national security strategies.
“Assistance from India in this regard is most appreciated and Prime Minister Modi’s assurances are most encouraging,” he said.
“The discussions were extremely cordial and reassuring. Security of our two countries took priority. India has always assisted Sri Lanka to enhance its capabilities in intelligence and counter-terrorism. And we look forward to continued support in this regard, ”Rajapaksa said.
“We will continue to work closely with India to ensure that the Indian ocean remains a zone of peace,” Rajapaksa assured.
“We also discussed how both countries can work together on economically important matters as India emerges to be the world’s growing economies. I discussed with Prime Minister Modi on how Sri Lanka could benefit from certain economic sectors where India is strongly positioned.
The President invited Indian Premier to visit Sri Lanka as the first-ever state leader to visit the country after the new President was elected.
Prime Minister Modi said India gives priority to its relations with Sri Lanka under its ‘Neighborhood First’ policy.
Describing the meeting with Mr Rajapaksa as fruitful, Mr Modi said, a strong and prosperous Sri Lanka is not only in the interest of India but in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean region. He assured India’s help in the overall development of the country.
– Asian Tribune –
During His India Visit, President Gotabaya Rajpaska Invites PM Modi to Sri Lanka
PM Narendra Modi is the first premiere to be invited to Sri Lanka after Gotabaya Rajapaksa took over the reins of the island nation. Earlier on Friday, the two heads of state held bilateral talks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa before their delegation-level talks in New Delhi. (Image: AP)
New Delhi: Newly-elected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to visit the island nation, saying India was a long-standing friend of his country.
Modi is the first premiere to be invited to Sri Lanka after Rajapaksa took over the reins of the island nation. The Sri Lankan president asserted that his country’s ties with India were multifaceted, with a priority given to security-related matters.
With other nations, the initiatives and cooperation were by and large economic and commercial in nature, he noted. “We will continue to work with India to ensure that the Indian Ocean Region is a zone of peace,” Rajapaksa said in a joint press statement with Modi after the two leaders held talks here.
He also described India as a long-standing friend of Sri Lanka. “I would avail this opportunity to invite Prime Minister Modi to visit us as the first head of the government since my election as the President of Sri Lanka,” Rajapaksa said.
Congratulating Rajapaksa on his victory, Modi said it was an honour that he chose India for his first foreign visit after taking over the reins of the island nation. “It symbolises the strength and dynamism of the friendly relations between India and Sri Lanka. It is also a sign of how much importance both countries attach to these relations,” he said.
The two leaders also discussed the issue of fishermen, a sensitive matter between the two countries. “We discussed at length the fishermen issue and we will take steps to release the boats belonging to India (which are) in our custody,” the Sri Lankan president said.
Besides cooperation in the area of security, Rajapaksa said Modi and he also discussed how the two countries could work together as regards economic matters. “We also discussed how India can assist us in trade between our two countries,” he said.
Rajapaksa, a former defence secretary who is credited with ending Sri Lanka’s long civil war, was sworn-in as the island nation’s president on November 18, a day after he won the closely-fought presidential election.
I refer to the piece written by Janaki Chandraratna that appeared in the Features section of The Island newspaper datelined 25 November 2019 under the caption ‘ The ethnic question’. she claims “Of the 21.44 million, Tamils (11.2%) and Muslims (9.7%) live all over the island, whereas the Sinhalese Buddhists (70.2%), in particular, are not welcome in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Hindu temples and mosques have sprung up practically in every corner of the island, and the Buddhist temples, some of which are of significant historical value, are under attack, in some parts of the North and the East.” This statement is misleading to say the least. In a democracy, there is no majority or minority on the basis of ethnicity or religion. All are equal before the law and treated equally.
Janaki alleges that Hindu temples and mosques have sprung up practically in every corner of the island whereas even a few Buddhist temples are under attack. As far as Hindu temples are concerned they did not “sprung” all of a sudden. They are there for centuries. Likewise, there is an ancient Buddhist vihara in Nainathivu (Nagadipa) where there is also a Hindu temple. Both have historical roots for centuries. There are also many Buddhist temples that have sprung up during the last few years inside and outside army camps due to the presence of over 150,000 solders in the North. These soldiers being mostly Buddhists need those temples for worship.
Recently a large Buddhist temple was built at state expense inside the Jaffna University Agricultural campus at Kilinochchi for Buddhist students. In contrast, there is a tiny Hindu temple built inside the campus.
However, Buddhist temples have also sprung up all over the North where there are NO Buddhists. What more the Buddhist temples are built on state land and in many instances by the army.
The problem arises when some overzealous Buddhist Theros want to construct Buddhist temples in state land under the ruse the land is Buddhist archaeological site. The fact that Tamils themselves embraced Buddhism from the 2nd century AD to 9th century is ignored. Manimekalai composed by the 2nd Century CE Buddhist poet Sathanar is a brilliant exposition of Buddhism in Tamil.
In Weli Oya (formerly Manal Aru) due to Sinhalese settlements by the state under the Mahaveli Development Board, there are many Buddhist temples for worship by Sinhalese settlers of recent origin.
The problem arises when some overzealous Buddhist Theros want to construct Buddhist temples where there are no Buddhists. The best way to spread Buddhism is to preach Buddha’s teaching rather than erecting huge temples where there are no Buddhists.
Tracing history back Buddhism and Hinduism both originated in North India.
Buddha himself is a Hindu and Buddha’s teaching of the Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths are similar to the teaching found in Hindu Upanishads. They have shared parallel beliefs that have existed side by side but there are pronounced differences.
Buddhism was supported by the royal courts and attained prominence in the Indian subcontinent along with Samanam (Jainism). It started to decline after the Gupta era and virtually disappeared from India in the 11th century AD, except in some parts of India including Tamil Nadu. Buddhism being a missionary religion it spread outside India in several East Asian countries.
Certain Buddhist teachings appear to have been formulated in response to ideas presented in the early Upanishads – in some cases concurring with them, and in other cases criticizing or re-interpreting them.
The influence of Upanishads, the earliest philosophical texts of Hindus, on Buddhism has been a subject of debate among scholars. Some emphasized the influence of Upanishad influence on the Buddhist canon while others highlighted the points where Buddhism was opposed to Upanishads. One example is the caste system which is the cornerstone Vedic religion. Buddha denounced casteism and said “By birth one is not a Brahmin/outcaste, by deeds alone one is a Brahmin/outcaste. Therefore, according to the Buddha, it is the good and bad actions of a person and not his birth that should determine his status in society.
The Buddha introduced the idea of placing a higher value on morality and the equality of people instead of which family or caste a person is born into. The reason why caste system is found among Sinhalese is the fact they were converts from Hindus. Sri Lanka was a Hindu country prior to the conversion of Devanampiya Theesan a Naga king. His father was Muthusivan, the name of God Siva part of the Hindu Trinity, along with Vishnu and Brahma. That the New Year is common to Hindus and Buddhist is for the same reason. \Same
There are common beliefs between Buddhism and Hinduism. Though Buddha rejected the concept of soul and rebirth, he believed in rebirth for a different reason.
Karma is a central part of Buddhist and Hindu teachings. In Buddha’s teaching, karma is a direct intentional result of a person’s word, thought and/or action in life. In Buddhism a person’s words, thoughts and/or actions form the basis for good and bad karma: sila (moral conduct) goes hand in hand with the development of meditation and wisdom.
The Buddha approved many of the terms already used in philosophical discussions of his era; however, many of these terms carry a different meaning in the Buddhist tradition. For example, in the Samaññaphala Sutta, the Buddha is depicted presenting a notion of the “three knowledges” (tevijja) – a term also used in the Vedic tradition to describe knowledge of the Vedas – as being not texts, but things that he had experienced. The true “three knowledges” are said to be constituted by the process of achieving enlightenment, which is what the Buddha is said to have achieved in the three watches of the night of his enlightenment.
Karma is a word meaning action or activity and often implies its subsequent results (also called karma-phala, “the fruits of action”). It is commonly understood as a term to denote the entire cycle of cause and effect as described in the philosophies of a number of cosmologies, including those of Buddhism and Hinduism. Both agree on karma, dharma, moksha and reincarnation. They are different in that Buddhism rejects the priests of Hinduism, the formal rituals, and the caste system. Buddha urged people to seek enlightenment through meditation.
Karma is a central part of Buddhist teachings. In Buddha’s teaching, karma is a direct intentional result of a person’s word, thought and/or action in life. In Buddhism a person’s words, thoughts and/or actions form the basis for good and bad karma: sila (moral conduct) goes hand in hand with the development of meditation and wisdom. Buddhist teachings carry a markedly different meaning from pre-Buddhist conceptions of karma.
Gautama Buddha was very ambiguous about the existence of a Creator Deity (Brahman) and Eternal Self (Atman) and rejected them both. Various sources from the Pali Canon and others suggest that the Buddha taught that belief in a Creator deity was not essential to attaining liberation from suffering, and perhaps chose to ignore theological questions because they were “fascinating to discuss,” and frequently brought about more conflict and anger than peace. The Buddha did not deny the existence of the popular gods of the Vedic pantheon but rather argued that these devas, who may be in a more exalted state than humans, are still nevertheless trapped in the same samsaric cycle of suffering as other beings and are not necessarily worthy of veneration and worship.
The focus of the Noble Eightfold Path, while inheriting many practices and ideologies from the previous Hindu yogic tradition, deviates from the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and earlier works of the Dharmic Religions in that liberation (Nirvana or Moksha) is not attained via unity with Brahman (the Godhead), Self-realization or worship. Rather, the Buddha’s teaching centres around what Eknath Easwaran described as a “psychology of desire,” that is attaining liberation from suffering by the extermination of self-will, selfish desire and passions. This is not to say that such teachings are absent from the previous Hindu tradition, rather they are singled out and separated from Vedic Theology.
According to Richard Hayes, the early Buddhist Nikaya literature treats the question of the existence of a creator god “primarily from either an epistemological point of view or a moral point of view”. In these texts the Buddha is portrayed not as a creator-denying atheist who claims to be able to prove such a God’s nonexistence, but rather his focus is other teachers’ claims that their teachings lead to the highest good.
Citing the Devadaha Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 101), Hayes states, “while the reader is left to conclude that it is attachment rather than God, actions in past lives, fate, type of birth or efforts in this life that is responsible for our experiences of sorrow, no systematic argument is given in an attempt to disprove the existence of God.”
The Buddha (as portrayed in the Pali scriptures, the agamas) set an important trend in monotheism in Buddhism by establishing a somewhat non-theistic view on the notion of an omnipotent God, generally ignoring the issue as being irrelevant to his teachings. Nevertheless, in many passages in the Tripitaka gods (devas in Sanskrit) are mentioned and specific examples are given of individuals who were reborn as a god, or gods who were reborn as humans. Buddhist cosmology recognizes various levels and types of gods, but none of these gods is considered the creator of the world or of the human race.
Buddha preaches that attachment with people was the cause of sorrow when ‘death’ happens and therefore proposes detachment from people. Hinduism though proposes detachment from fruits of action and stresses on the performance of duty or dharma, it is not solely focused on it. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva explains ‘death’ to be the journey of the immortal soul in pursuit of ‘Moksha’ and therefore a fact of life.
Undoubtedly, Buddhism and Hinduism can coexist happily and harmoniously compared to Christianity or Islam. Hindu gods have been included in the religious ceremonies of the Buddhist and Buddha has been considered as the 10th avatar of Vishnu!
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