What it means to be patriotic: A citizen’s view (Sri Lanka)

I don’t belong to the majority Buddhist population of our country, nor am I a minority Tamil. I don’t have political agendas, nor do I idolize the likes of the international community. All I am is a more fortunate Sri Lankan youth, lucky enough to be brought up in the urban sector who is indeed privileged than a lot of people in this country. Within the little bit of democracy that’s left in the land I love, I still get to express my views publicly in a less publicized forum like this, and I am afraid the day is near where such simple luxuries in life could be a thing of the past.

I grew up in the midst of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. I tried to avoid using busses, just for the fear of being blown into bits. I despised the LTTE. They are as effed up as it gets. Just as you, I was hoping for the day this country will see the end of the war. But to date I will not forget the stories told to me by my elders as to why such a situation arose in the first place. And the disturbances towards racial harmony throughout this year were just another constant reminder of the stories from the past.

Sri Lanka taking the international stage

In the last few days, our country has managed to successfully take a share of space in many international news entities such as BBC, C4, Reuters, CNN, TheGuardian, Sky News, Aljazeera so on and so forth for all the wrong reasons.

So here are the top ten things that are being reported

  1. War Crimes in the last stages of the war with 40,000 (as per the UN report) civilians being killed mostly by government forces
  2. Stories of post war torture and rape, from as recent as this year.
  3. Grabbing of land in the north
  4. Not looking into missing people – post war
  5. Slow growth of development / reconciliation in the north and east
  6. Racial Extremism (which evidence suggests that this has partially to do with the government)
  7. Freedom of speech
  8. Violence against journalists
  9. A broken legal system
  10. Amendment to the constitution that advocates higher gain in government power

Are we criticizing the right entities?

The educated and non educated patriots of this country have taken a prideful stance of criticizing those who agree with international entities who present our country’s government in bad light, under the argument that these entities have their own agendas. Some, including our glorious honorable Excellency claim that this is an international conspiracy due to our ability to defeat terrorism and show signs of rapid economic development.

You know, I couldn’t agree more with the fact that every entity involved in this mess have their own personal agendas which includes personal gain. But does this mean they are not right to a certain extent?

Have you stopped to think for a second that the ONLY people who claim that our country has ‘no faults’ are people who

  1. have some connection or the other with the government (political agendas of course)
  2. and the ones who are in their own shell and have no clue what’s going on

I mean come on, any war has its civilian casualties. Can our government really make a claim that there were “NO” civilian casualties which the army was responsible for? That sounds like a heap of bollocks.

Agreeing with your government does not make you patriotic. Agreeing with a third party does not make you unpatriotic either.

So what does it really mean to be patriotic?

Lately I’ve been called a suddha and was also accused of running our country’s name down for simply expressing my views on social media.

The definition of patriotism is “love for or devotion to one’s country”. Not its government. One can argue that it’s the people who elected the government. But understand that governments have a history of changing their values once elected. Very soon your vote as a Sri Lankan citizen will not count due to the increasing gain in power by the government. We are moving from pretence democracy into established dictatorship.

I love my people, my kottu’s and the cultures I’m exposed to, but I will not pretend that everything is okay if I am questioned outside my country. As a patriotic citizen, I will endorse the right and condemn the wrong as I want to see my country flourish for the right reasons.

The Past, Present and Future

S*** happened in the past. Civilians died. Some of our patriots acknowledge this fact. Yet, they including Muttiah Muralitharan say that we must forgive and forget. Not tamper with the wounds, just let them heal.

It is not a case of tampering with the wounds. It is a case of not doing enough to let those wounds heal. And of course, not inflicting more wounds.

Yes there is infrastructure development in the north. But one of the primary methods of healing is justice being served. The government cannot do anything about it because they are partially responsible for it.

If you are happy that our country was able to host CHOGM, though it backfired in style, you are guilty of being selfish. Imagine, if all the millions of dollars we spent could have been pumped into the reconciliation and development of economic growth in the north & east, we would have been in a shallower s*** hole.

Today, you applaud Dr. Chris Nonis for doing the job he is supposed to do. As someone very rightly posted on Facebook, he was “Eloquent, yes. Truthful, no” I agree with gayan’s tweet below. Its sad.

But is this the kind of arrogance that our government can afford? We are financially tiny and weak in our alliances. If sanctions come into play, and if we become internationally isolated, you and I, though in the urban population will suffer massive consequences, that is if we decide on not skipping the country, being the patriots we are. We need our stakeholders. Our arrogance towards the international community will be our downfall. And it’s sad that we think we are being patriotic.

It is you who have “fight racism” as your profile pictures that advocate false patriotism. Do not forget, the tamils in the north don’t share your luxuries. They have been reduced from a house with beds and appliances to a shack. They are our countrymen and women too, who have suffered way more than you and I have. Keep your pride aside and question your morals.

Eye for an Eye

The LTTE killed many civilians. They have a right to do so as they have been DECLARED a terrorist organization. If our debate is that “eye for an eye- if they could do it, why couldn’t we” then note that we might as well call ourselves terrorists.

Today we say that the British have no right to question our morals because they too are guilty of war crimes. Eye for an eye approach? Really? What happened to us moving on?

In conclusion

All I am trying to express is that, I am sad that our country has come to this, but happy that SOMEBODY is taking it up whatever their agendas may be. Our government put our country in a mess with their arrogance and lack of cooperativeness, which we should stop advocating.

I hope and pray that our government, at least now, would take this into positive light and go easy on our democracy.

Are you not concerned that we don’t have a proper legal system? Are you not concerned that our less privileged local countrymen and women don’t have access to unbiased media? Are you not afraid that your next vote would not count? Are you not in the least worried that your mosques would be continuously harassed and your church priests occasionally beaten up? Are you not appalled that your freedom to express yourself is continuing to deteriorate? Are you not in fear that one day someone with enough influence can walk up to you and confiscate your home, because nobody would dare to stand up for you?

Appreciate the good things that have been done in the past. But don’t stop being critical about the future.

Think about it.


56 thoughts on “What it means to be patriotic: A citizen’s view (Sri Lanka)

  1. Thanks alot brother. You are my hero ❤

    This is exactly what I wanted to hear from Sri Lankans. As long as we have Sri Lankans like you, I'm sure we will one day reach the heights. I'm a proud Sri Lankan and people like you bring out more and more Sri Lankanism out of me :3

    Last but not least

    Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel

  2. Your Excellency,I am going to vote you for our future Srilankan President! 🙂 I just don’t know your name 🙂
    Good Work~

  3. it is important that the citizens of Sri Lanka to be critical about it’s government for the betterment of the country, we really need to improve on that as a nation. and, yes, our government must learn fast; ways and means of international collaboration in facing diplomatic battles.

  4. Absolutely brilliant, I applaud you. I’ve been trying to share my thoughts on this through social media myself and have been met with the same response, and I’m so glad to see that there are still so many people who stand in support of democracy and the truth, and so eloquently at that. Well done.

  5. Nicely said. But I do have some concerns.

    01. Trying to rectify issues for the incidents happened would undoubtedly help to heal the wounds of SOME people affected by all of this. But in the meantime, there will be fresh wounds created elsewhere. One can say, but still justice needs to be served, but then, what-about the reconciliation we seek to achieve?????

    02. And I felt that you are overly worried about international parties. Yes we are a tiny nation and we do depend heavily upon foreigners for survival. But still, if we don’t stand for ourselves, what’s basically the purpose surviving? Think of it in a more individual scale, then you’ll get what I’m trying to say.

    And concluding, I do also disagree with many things happening nowadays in the island, and I sincerely hope those who are responsible would learn to do things in a better way. And I also share your fears mentioned at the end.

    But still I whole heartedly, believe in Sri Lanka!!!

  6. Pingback: Diaspora Responsibilities: A Sinhalese Conversation « Romesh Hettiarachchi

  7. Such a great read and well written. I applaud you for your courage to speak your mind. Glad to know freethinkers like you still exist in Sri Lanka. Keep going, would love to read more of your work.

  8. Reading this, I can say there is still hope in the country, especially with our generation. Murali’s philosophy is pretty dangerous that might allow anyone to do a crime today so that they can justify it in the future as “Something happened in the past let’s forget and forgive”.

  9. In my universe …. I do belong to the “majority Buddhist” population of our country … lucky enough to be brought up in the “rural sector” who is indeed privileged than a lot of people in this country ….

    From that point onward; I agree with you 100% till the last word you have said. I am so happy to see people like you still live on this good land. We still have a hope.

  10. i have always thought that buddhist followers differs from other religion followers in term of peace. I found out how wrong i am when reading about the ruling “buddhist monk”

  11. Being patriotic is standing up for your country. So when I say we don’t need other countries to come resolve our problems (Note. I am not saying we don’t have problems, War related or not!), that does not mean that I stand by the government and all its action. I don’t want other countries to toy with my country. I believe that we should improve infrastructure in the North, give a good education to the less fortunate, and more than anything maintain peace. Not start a new war.

    Concerned Citizen of Sri Lanka

  12. Agreed that all or many of the concerns that you have raised are valid and need to be addressed if we are to achieve greater heights as a nation. However you seem to have misinterpreted some of the “Partiotic” comments as done in defence of the current government. I cannot speak for anyone else but myself. My condemnation of the actions of Ca-Moron et al is due to the double standards and hypocrisy that it reeks of.

    The Britts, who have trampled on, twisted and destroyed the principles of Justice, Equality, Rule of Law and Democracy all over the world for the last 300 years, who inflicted unimaginable cruelty and built empires on the blood and tears of “Natives” from Scotlad to Australia across the globe and who, to date, continue to do so in partnership with the Americans, DO NOT HAVE and SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN any moral or ethical right to throw accusations and demand remedial action from us or any other nation.

    When we were desperately in need of help to fight the scourge of terrorism and asked for it from these righteous bullies we were not so politely told that it was an “Internal Matter” that we needed to sort out amongst ourselves as we know best. Approximately a month before the annihilation of Prabhakaran and his murderous gang David Milliband, the British Minister of Foriegn Affairs at the time along with Kuchner of France came to Sri Lanka and not so politely asked the president of this country to stop the war to ‘avoid civilian casualties’ totally ignoring that the LTTE had been causing those for 36 years in the North, South, East and West of this country with the help of funds collected in their countries with impunity. They were vry correctly and not so politely told to go back to the respective holes that they crawled out of and mind their own business and leave us to sort out our “Internal!atters” as we know best by President Rajapakse. The rest as they say is history.

    How has this suddenly become an “External Matter” for the rest of the world to get involved in and demand action?

    As far as I. Am concerned all points that you have raised are valid but still an “Internal Matter” for us, the rightful citizens of Sri Lanka to sort out ourselves and not believe that any outsider has our best interests at heart when they poke their interfering fingers in our affairs.

    You don’t like the way things are? Do something about it yourself. Like Gandhi said we can Be the Change we seek. David Ca-Moron doesn’t give a damn about us. After all Justice, Equality and Fairness are all subjective principles based on self interest with two drastically opposing sides in the context of Power and Politics. I believe that Democracy is not a panacea for all social ills but a popularity contest and is as flawed as any other system of governance experimented by mankind in our short history.
    But if we believe in it them we have to believe and accept that the majority opinion is gonna rule over ours at times.

    • Totally agree with you. I also firmly believe that we need to be critical of the misdeeds of the govt. Plus digging the past and taking up pieces of shit out of it won’t take us anywhere. We need to move forward now. Because every time we criticize the past, we criticize of our war heroes who made so many sacrifices, to end the period of bomb blasts and restore peace. And i find the author is nicely justifying the killings of LTTE stating they are a terrorist group. Yes, they are a terror group and that is why our forces fought against them. In the meantime there may have been civilian casualties, because that’s the nature of war. We just comment from our comfort zones now. But only those who fought the war know how hard the situation there was. If US and UK having advanced weapons and armaments couldn’t fight without civilian casualties, how could you expect us to do it? Don’t write articles as you just fell from the sky. Criticize the present course of actions by the govt but not the past. That’s not taking us anywhere as a country!

  13. Just look at your audience 🙂 in Sinhala this is what’s called “Paalugei walan bindinawa” 🙂
    I admire your effort, still this adds to one end of the bipolar views. Not as impartial as the icing layer on top suggests. Thanks!
    The harm everybody did to any hope of reconciliation during the past few weeks is immense. That’s all I feel. All these texts make people fall apart, not unite them.

  14. I personnaly like to trust the government which runs the country than an outsider [ international community], for the simplest reason – no one will support us with utmost good faith. I don’t see it in organisation world and it is not out there … no one [or 99%] will support anyone if the decision is unfavourable in his\her personnel agenda. So the truth is what ever humans do, they do it for themselves. All we have to check is which option is more harmfull and select the less harmfull option, than dreaming about a Perfect leaders\government\country or world !!!

    Because there is no such thing called perfect world as we all have different needs.

  15. Good stuff but I don’t agree! Wound takes time to heal! You should give the doctor time to treat the wound! If you keep voting against the doctor and if you do an international propaganda to hang the doctor that doctor is alwas going to make you wait in the line! Also everyone had wounds, the Tamils effected by the birth have found heaven in Europe n elsewhere but not many Sinhalese do this is a problem that is beyond just one ethnic society! Don’t underestimate dr nonis! He has done the normal job but provided the right medicine at the right time that’s why he is special! Goby has not just done infrastructure devlropment! They have elected the provincial council to manage the state! Rehabilitation of children who were terrorists! Lot more to go but it takes time! Being isolated is fine rather than paying random to those who funded terrorism!

  16. Everyone speaks so much of the tamils in jaffna, not forgetting the tamils who lived in jaffna and who have no claim anywhere in srilanka…they are the suddas as u rightly said dislocated from their routes…I am from such a dying breed…so much talk so much propaganda for what? We prefer to b forgotten..its a majority of only the islanders who are left in jaffna with no routes and ties…

  17. While I agree with a few parts of this article, I do have a big problem with quite a few of your statements. I will lay it out in point form because I don’t want to rant on your post.

    1. You’re right. The ONLY people who claim that our country has ‘no faults’ are people who are either connected to the government or clueless. But the rest, which is the majority of the population which I belong to, don’t believe SL has no flaws. I, for one, think the government is messed up economically, diplomatically and morally. But I defend SL from an int’l investigation into war crimes initiated by a diaspora that worships the LTTE.

    2. “Any war has its civilian casualties. Can our government really make a claim that there were NO civilian casualties which the army was responsible for?” – Of course not! But then that logic applies to the USA and UK led ‘War on Terror’, India vs Pakistan, Israel vs Palestine and every other war in history. So why this obsession with our war, while conveniently ignoring the others??

    3. I agree that the definition of patriotism is NOT love for a government. I personally have no issue with an int’l investigation as long as it concerns our weakening economy, the disappearances of people after the end of the war, journalistic freedom or judicial independence etc. But again, WHY this fascination with the last stages of the war? And where were these calls for punitive justice when men, women and children were being massacred by LTTE in broad daylight?? Didn’t the families of those victims deserve to have their “wounds healed”?

    4. “LTTE killed many civilians. They have a right to do so as they have been DECLARED a terrorist organization.” You are right, but can you point out a few places where they have been called that in the international media or by US/UK heads of state? All I hear are Tamil Tiger rebels. Could you please explain how ’83 – ’09 was a rebellion?

    5. “Today we say that the British have no right to question our morals because they too are guilty of war crimes. Eye for an eye approach? Really? What happened to us moving on?” – Aren’t you contradicting yourself here, with your earlier comments about Murali’s statement.

    So in conclusion, I can say that your arguments would be sound if you had not chosen the war crimes angle to voice it. The second you mentioned that your argument lost all value in my eyes. Your political biases are visible through the cloak of intelligence that you try to wear.

    • Hi Charindra, Thanks for voicing your views, however I’m not going to say much as I don’t want to stir up a debate. I think I’ve said everything I need to. So let me keep it short…

      I think you need to look at those points you’ve posted above in the context of which it is posted, and also in certain instances detect the subtle sarcasm.

      Maybe you should try putting on my cloak of intelligence… may help 🙂

      • 😀 You said your piece and I said mine. Now we can let readers decide for themselves.

        As for the ‘sarcasm’ comment, look again. I have actually detected it and commented accordingly.

        Anyway, in the interests of civility let’s agree to disagree. Do keep writing. The world would be a boring place without a diversity of opinion 🙂

  18. It is said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” ….. excellent article I applaud you , I just hope the vernacular press could have a good translation of your very erudite blog. Wisdom is not solely for the old! Nonis was good but many in the foreign service are appallingly incompetent. One thing about a good leader is that they choose good people for key areas and when challenged look to the best qualified Professionals to deliver. The sense of sycophancy one gets reminds one of the tale of the naked king, who till a child was honest enough to raise it was naked unashamedly ! It was re assuring to see there are people who can articulate something more than the tripe we see in the kept press. I wish the common man can understand this sooner than later. Though I fear the country is bereft of a person who can lead us out of this morass.

  19. Amen! to this.

    reminds me of an incident that I had trouble in explaining to someone who said, “Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country” the meanings of patriotism and racism.

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