‘United we stand, divided we fall’
ancient Greek storyteller Aesop told a tale in which a lion tried to
attack four oxen, who would turn their tails to one another so that
their horns faced the lion whichever way he approached them. However,
the oxen quarrelled, and the lion attacked each separately in turn and
At the end of each of his stories, Aesop would add an aphorism. In
the case of 'The Four Oxen and the Lion', it was 'United we stand,
divided we fall'. This ancient maxim holds true to this day.
It was to overcome the barrier of solidarity that Julius Caesar
advocated the policy of 'divide et impera' - divide and rule - which has
remained the guiding principle of imperialists up to modern times.
The imperialists of the 'Age of Imperialism' were superlative
opportunists and improvisers, taking situations as they saw them and
turning them to their advantage. The principle of divide and rule was
applied using whatever human material came to hand, multiplying small
irritations to create partitions in the colonised societies.
In Rwanda-Burundi, the Germans and their successors, the Belgians,
elevated Tutsis above Hutus, creating caste conflict. In India, the
British Raj put Muslim rulers over Hindu subjects and vice versa. In
Nigeria, the British set the Ibos against the Hausas and in Sudan they
created divisions between the Muslim North and the Christian South.
Where there was no dissension, the imperialists imported irritant
populations - the prototype being Ireland, with 'plantations' of
Scottish Protestants among the Roman Catholic population. The Boers were
already in situ in South Africa - to be used against the Black and
Coloured people. In North Africa the French settled 'Colons' from
Metropolitan France among the Muslim population. In Uganda (the first
'promised land' of the Zionists led by Herzl) the British first toyed
with the prospect of introducing Jews. However, Indian traders were
found to fill the required niche quite well. In Sri Lanka, Malaysia and
the West Indies, Indian Tamil indentured labourers were employed to
divide the people at the lowest level.
The piece de resistance was in the Middle East, where the mainly Arab
provinces of the Ottoman Empire were partitioned: first between the
British and the French and then into conflicting populations. The French
divided the Christians from the Muslims. The British introduced Jewish
Colons into Palestine and created tensions between Shia and Sunni
Muslims in the other territories.
The results of these improvisations can be observed today in numerous
wars and civil conflicts all over the Third World - which are somehow
attributed, by the use of loaded adjectives (e.g. 'tribal') to visceral
urges on the part of a primitive population. The victors in these
situations are the neo-imperialists, who get easy access to minerals,
petroleum or whatever commodity they require.
The latest version of this strategy was one which emerged about 2006
as part of the American 'roadmap' for a 'New Middle East', which
envisaged the balkanisation of the region. A map drawn by US Lt-Col (Retd)
Ralph Peters showed how to do it: Kurdistan was to be carved out of
Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey; the Shia parts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia
and the Arab parts of Iran were to be amalgamated; the area around Mecca
was to be cut off to form a Muslim religious state - the areas North of
which were to be affixed to a Greater Jordan; Syria's coast would be
affixed to Lebanon and Pakistan would be carved up to augment
Afghanistan and to create an independent Baluchistan.
If nothing else, this shows that the principal of 'divide et impera'
is not far from the minds of neo-colonialist planners - which should be
borne in mind when assessing the situation which emerged regarding the
mosque at Dambulla. Outwardly, it appears simply as a Buddhist-Muslim
conflict over a religious site. However, everything is in the timing:
the concatenation of circumstances suggests otherwise.
The Geneva resolution on Sri Lanka was opposed by the Muslim Middle
Eastern countries, even those widely deemed to be US allies. A conflict
between Buddhists and Muslims would indicate to those countries that
they were backing the wrong horse.
The incident received maximum publicity because the Indian
Parliamentary delegation led by Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition
in the Lok Sabha, was on a wide ranging tour of Sri Lanka at the time.
It may be no coincidence that on Wednesday the Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam (DMK) Lok Sabha leader TR Baalu demanded that India get the
United Nations to carve out a separate Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. He
asserted that 'thousands of people have been kept behind barbed wire
fences' and that the 'tyranny' of the 'Sinhalese government' persisted.
His colleague R. Thamaraiselvan claimed that most of the houses built by
India for displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka were under Sinhalese occupation.
Some publications have asserted that the Dambulla incident is
indicative of the support of 'the regime' for 'Sinhala-Buddhist
majoritarian triumphalism'. The right-wing NGO Christian Solidarity
Worldwide, which is associated with a network of Islamophobic and
pro-Zionist foundations, has called upon 'the Sri Lankan government to
protect against the threat posed by Sinhala Buddhist nationalists and
safeguard Sri Lanka's religious pluralism'.
It is because of these circumstances that the government has said it
will inquire into 'any attempts by extremist elements due to
international influences or other reasons' at creating an unwanted state
of affairs. It has emphasised that Sri Lanka is a multi-religious and
multi-ethnic country which provides for freedom of religion in its
constitution, and that freedom of worship will not be denied.
As a Third World country, we need to maintain solidarity with our
Middle-Eastern friends. As a multi-ethnic multi-religious country we
need to preserve inter-faith amity. United we stand, divided we fall. It
is essential for us all to heed the government's request to exercise
patience until an amicable solution can be worked out to the Dambulla