Knocking down icons and the politics of impunity | Daily News


Knocking down icons and the politics of impunity

Cardinal Maloolm Ranjith was a unifying force for peace and amity following the Easter attacks
Cardinal Maloolm Ranjith was a unifying force for peace and amity following the Easter attacks

Anti-Government forces have focused their politics these days on personalities as opposed to policies. They have chosen three individuals around whom they seek to build their campaign for the August General Election.

They are His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the ex MP Karuna Amman, and President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The opposition has chosen attack politics and picked some of the most vulnerable and curious targets.

But the most shameful of the take-downs has been the one that was aimed at His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

You don’t take a religious figure that’s a household name and a unifying figure of iconic proportions and turn on him just because what this religious icon says is not politically palatable to you.

This is akin to deriding the Buddha because it’s a verifiable fact that most of the Buddhists in this country voted for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. It so happens that the majority of Buddhists in the country voted with the SLPP. Is the day not so far away when Harin Fernando or somebody says that the Arahat Mahinda ‘was playing politics when he brought Buddhist teachings to Sri Lanka’ ?

Will he say it’s ugly that the Buddha said all violence should be rejected because that’s a direct indictment on those who espoused violent means to solve conflict?

Of course it would be beyond the pale if Harin Fernando says that sort of thing about Buddhism or revered historical figures such as Arahat Mahinda. It would be a horrendous disgrace. But it was also beyond the pale when he said what he did about Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.


Cardinal Ranjith is not a founder of a religion but His Eminence is easily regarded as a saintly figure. People — least of all politicians — do not mock saints.

The Cardinal is a saintly figure because it was His Eminence that prevented a calamity after the horrendous Easter Sunday bombings and stopped his flock from taking revenge upon innocents. The Cardinal repeatedly appealed to the various incensed rioters in Negombo etc to halt any criminal activity they hoped to carry out in the cause of avenging the murders in Catholic Churches on Easter Sunday.

Is that political — this saintly act of offering the other cheek? The people saw the Cardinal as being saintly which is why the Buddhist monks themselves were among the first to State that the cardinal is a patriot.

The cardinal did not mince words. His Eminence saw that the then leadershipwas not worried about bringing Sri Lanka together as a country. National security was jeopardized to the point of the creation of an anarchy.

But the Cardinal’s braver stand was when he stated some home truths that were not chauvinistic about the status of his own faith. For instance it has consistently been the Cardinal’s position that Sri Lanka is in its grain a Sinhala Buddhist country.

Is that politics, to take up a position that avoids polarization and acknowledges certain verities that would help coexistence because nobody in the country would then be in denial?

It was an act of sanity and saintliness. It requires extraordinary figures to get right out of the box and subsume parochial feelings about one’s own faith — and thereafter voice certain opinions in the interests of national amity.


So calling the Cardinal a politically partisan figure was one of the most stunningly insensitive political statements in recent history. The SJB should have called for the immediate sacking of Harin Fernando or at least an immediate unqualified public apology.

The SJB did neither. By this single omission, the SJB has proven that it is tone deaf and completely out of step with public sentiment. Harin Fernando’s statement was in the league of Vesak being called a national ‘political’ holiday, or Arahat Mahinda who was the emissary that brought the good tidings of Buddhism into this country, a ‘foreign politician’.

It was in the league of calling his Holiness the Pope a political charlatan. It was worse actually because the Cardinal is not respected in this country because of the fact that he holds exalted religious office. The Cardinalship does not come into the equation as such; the Cardinal is revered in this country for the practical aspect of his being the uniter, and the true pacifist saintly figure that tamped down a situation that was waiting to ignite like a tinderbox.

To label such a figure as a politician requires a special kind of self serving cynicism. These people can think of nothing other than themselves. There is nothing that escapes their desire for personal political gain. When nothing is considered praiseworthy, or off bounds because of something good that has taken place such as the cardinal’s pacifist behavior, that cynicism is extreme.

The public is not enamoured with the tone deafness of the UNP and the SJB types. Day in and day out those such as Mujibur Rahman and others appear in the talk shows and speak about the economy as if Covid 19 never happened.

One worthy was heard saying that the President waited eight months before blasting the officialdom in the Central Bank. Is this SJB factotum genuinely stupid or does he think that the people of this country have no brains at all to assess things they say about the post COVID-19 economic recovery?

How can the President take the Central Bank to task eight months ago for not being innovative in the Covid 19 recovery effort when there was no known disease called Covid 19 anywhere in the world eight months back in November 2019 ?


This is worse than clutching at straws. These people are political adrift. They are continuing the circus that saw the worst five year performance of any Government in history when they were in power — except that now the circus has got funnier and the clowning is even more ridiculous.

Policy wise they have nothing to offer, and the campaign is not cohesive in the least. Harin Fernando did not have the elementary courtesy to talk about the Cardinal with at least a modicum of respect.

Basically he spoke about Cardinal Ranjith as if he was some sort of political thug. Fernando seemed so totally out of his depth. But recalling that this is the google loon, there is nothing really to see here. His political drift is ‘I am UNP so vote for us.’ He is not even UNP though, this time around, which is why he is probably suffering from a severe identity crisis.

The Cardinal of course has been the target ofmany NGO style UNP/SJB types, simply because he did not play ball with their politics of anti-Rajapaksaism because they hate the Rajapaksas for ending the war.

They are so completely blind in their hatred of the Cardinal just because the Cardinal does not hate the Rajapaksas the way they do. The Cardinal generally makes objective assessments of situations and it is obvious that he does not have any party politics.

But for the Fernandos of the SJB anyone who is not playing along with their blind hatred is an enemy. If you are not with us, you are against us. That’s the message they are imparting to the Cardinal. This is not the politics of the gutter, it is the politics of the sewer. Pummeling of a national icon by Fernando who said his father knew of the Easter Sunday attacks from his hospital bed,is a case of extreme stupidity and political expediency of the worst kind.

But it’s funny when it’s obvious that folks like this don’t even know that disparaging the Cardinal in this way is a complete own goal. Fernando has kicked it firmly between his own goalposts, not just by a fluke. The man does not even recognize his goalposts from those of the other side.

These people have so comprehensively lost the plot. 

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