To The West: Help, Don’t Hurt

This child cannot hold sanctions, via ACT Lanka

Sri Lanka needs all the help it can get. The lectures can wait. The country is faced with hundreds of thousands of IDPs, thousands of wounded soldiers and deserving families, and now the development needs of areas neglected by the LTTE. And many in the west are calling for sanctions and holding back an emergency IMF loan. With all due respect, what is wrong with you people? I live here and I work with the people affected by this war. Condemning or punishing Sri Lanka internationally does nothing to help me or them. In fact, it hurts us. If you are true friends and humanitarians, please help.

This is not an analogy (because the GOSL actually did something useful), but here’s how I personally relate. I recently trespassed and was rightly in Hambantota jail for a day. My family got me a lawyer, they made sure I had decent food and treatment, and they made every call to get me out. They were also ready to drive down there and bail me out till I was released. When I got back home they made sure I was safe, I was rested and I was fed. Then and only then did they yell at me. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to make fun of me for the rest of my life. But I’m OK with that, because when I needed them they were there.

Well, right now many Sri Lankans are not fed, they are not clothed, they are hungry and they are hurt. Right now the Sri Lankan government and private sector are providing immediate relief. Many in the West, however, especially the UK are now calling for sanctions and punishment against the people actually doing the relief work. Like Jeremy Page in the Telegraph. They’re not helping, they’re just yelling at us. It’s not family, it’s not friendly, and it’s not cool.

Page, for example, calls on boycotting the garment sector. So does MIA. Aside from the jobs it creates for poor people, I know for a fact that the garment industry is now providing clothes and linens for the IDPs. I work personally with garment sector employees who are both organizing relief and contributing large amounts from their paychecks. The direct affect I can see of a boycott is that IDPs have less clothes on their back, less food in their mouth, and more poverty in the south. And the west feels better about itself. Quite frankly, this makes me quite angry and sad.

Many people in the West are true friends of Sri Lanka. I mean friends not in the sense that they agree with everything SL does, but they help the people of Sri Lankan when they are in need. During the tsunami there was an outpouring of support which I found very personally moving. In the aftermath of war there is less, but the quality of those contributions and thoughts should in no way be diminished by the piccolo diplomacy of Miliband or the callous righteousness of Page.

However, I think western governments really need to wake up. When I get in trouble I’ve found enough and more people to lecture me, but only a handful that actually help. And to those people I am eternally grateful, and to their counsel I listen. Sri Lanka now is finding out who its true friends are, and the western countries are not making a good impression. Countries like China and India are emerging as friends, and new superpowers in the world. The West still, however, has much better television and I really wish they would get it together internationally.

Do not hurt the relief effort. Do not hurt rebuilding. Do not hurt Sri Lanka. I ask you in the spirit of international friendship, please help, don’t hurt.

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2009-05-25 09:04:06

Well said Indi. Way international media, specially British media have been reporting things for past few weeks, really do not help. Often irresponsible and not diplomatic. See how BBC reported victory over LTTE >

Heard that Jeremy Page had also run two page specials on Times printed version for a week, calling to boycott Sri Lankan products.

2009-05-25 10:04:28

Well said indi.

And yeah the west does still have much better television!

2009-05-25 11:23:28

Likes of Marie Colvin and Jeremy Page and bunch of others do not care about those children in the camps. They are more worried about their pay check I guess. Well they can goto many other places that exist all over the place.
From Jeremy’s writing you can easily see that he still treats SL as a colony. I am looking forward to read what they do tomorrow at the security council meeting.
Good analogy

2009-05-25 20:09:11

I agree these boycotts are both silly and counter-productive.

As for aid donations, the Sri Lankan government has placed people in the West in an awful position. If I do nothing, people are forced to live in <a href=”“>horrific conditions. Or I can donate money, and people can live in slightly-less-than-horrific conditions. Who wants to donate money to help imprison people? That’s essentially what is being asked of the West. The government has set itself up for condementation in the way its carrying itself now. I mean, it won’t even let the old and infirm out of the camps. Giving Sri Lanka money to maintain giant interment camps doesn’t seem like a good idea.

2009-05-26 00:47:36

[...] this in mind, I woke up this morning and scanning Indi’s blog, I stumbled on Jeremy Page’s latest missive in The Times. Read it first if you have [...]

2009-05-26 09:09:29

Seems to me you’re demanding cheques without balances. But you are of course absolutely right about a lot of the western media coverage of Sri Lanka. It amounts to little more than mindless drivel. Which puts it miles ahead of the Sri Lankan media, but still.
What I can’t quite figure out is why you’re so concerned about attitudes in the west. Yes, some of the western countries and alliances can, if you’re sufficiently paranoid and deluded, be seen as enemies of Sri Lanka, but with friends like yours, who needs enemies? Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, Libya and I’m sure any number of other free, democratic countries with a loving attitude towards their minority populations (and media) seemingly can’t wait to step in and stop all the problems caused by the neo-colonial imperialists of the west.
I’m also a bit surprised that Sri Lanka is stooping to begging it’s enemies for handouts, sorry, loans. After all, this is the country that can do no wrong, no? Your brilliant central bank chief is on record stating that the global economic crisis will not affect Sri Lanka’s fundamentally sound economy. Your military, which describes itself as the world’s best, supposedly without even using its outdated inaccurate heavy weaponry has just won a humanitarian operation of attrition in densely populated areas, killing and losing thousands of combatants, supposedly without hurting a single civilian. So humanitarian was this operation that even Sri Lanka’s buddhist clergy are chanting in jubilation at the eradication of the terrible terrorist tigers.
Yes, yes; I hear the howls of “Afghanistan! Iraq! Guantanamo Bay!”, and I agree with them. Of course there should be a thorough investigation of the unacceptable suffering inflicted in the name of the “war on terror”. There’s every reason to believe that a large number of western leaders and military personnel should be in jail for war crimes. We know that because we were there on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq and saw what they did. We don’t know, yet, what happened on the ground during the “humanitarian operation” in Sri Lanka, because we weren’t allowed anywhere near it. We also don’t know what’s happening in the “welfare camps” because we are only allowed to see, as are you, what the authorities want us to see.
Of course the west and the UN won’t sit around and do nothing as a result of some perverted desire to punish Sri Lanka. Why would they? You’ll get some more cash, tents and blankets, etc. You’ll also get some more, highly detailed satellite photos and some uncomfortable questions. Now give me one reason why you should not have to answer those questions, regardless of who else in the world is not being brought to justice?

2009-05-26 09:38:29

Cause I’m a blogger and I write about random shit. That’s like asking a dog why he chases cars.

I’m not sure the tone here is either demanding or begging. It’s like the west is still fighting for points to please the Tamil diaspora. Diplomatically, you can accept shitty regimes for higher purposes. I personally think the humanitarian need of Sri Lankans is a higher purpose, but in reality it tends to be more self-interest. UK politicians, in particular, have more self-interest in their Tamil voters, so that’s why we see this demand for prosecution of people who have essentially won a dirty war and have a powerful mandate here.

That’s how I see it in realpolitik terms. I think the overwhelming need is pragmatism, stop antagonizing the current government and just work with them to help people. This war crimes thing is a nice idea, but in reality it just gets applied based on realpolitik, which is much more crude.

Personally, I think it’s irrelevant to the immediate need and actual betterment of Sri Lankan lives. It’s really diaspora protests baying for blood and international politicians trying to ‘serve’ their voters. The sad thing is that poor and hurt Sri Lankans need us to put the politics aside and just help out.

2009-05-26 10:49:26

Want realpolitik? Your little half-developed island is way down the list of humanitarian priorities. Proof: the international community sends losers like Solheim and Akashi to “negotiate” here. Solheim has never been more than an ambitious blue-eyed boy; and based on his performance in Bosnia, which I experienced in person, Akashi is even worse. You got, and signed, a joke of a cease-fire agreement, accompanied by the motley SLMM crew. Which was still more than you could expect, after a few decades of a low-intensity conflict with casualty rates comparable to those caused by traffic.

Then you launched your humanitarian operation, and now you’re whining because you have to mop up the mess after it?

More people died of AIDS yesterday than the official number of government military personnel who died in your humanitarian operation, and the west (and you) are doing precious little about that too. The same goes for the tens of thousands of children in poor countries who die every day from lack of clean water, and so on and on. Where’s the suffering here in comparison? Or are Sri Lankan children suffering somehow more important than others?

The west is pragmatic enough not to care too much about whether a few more Tamils die or not. The diaspora is nowhere near as powerful as you seem to believe. But many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of people, any people, locked up in camps with very little transparency. There are many strong historical reasons for that, including but not limited to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

2009-05-26 13:10:19

Not sure what your point is, Morten. This half-developed island is important to US who live here, and not just as a source of nice war pix. If the west doesn’t like our friends, that’s too bad. China and Iran weren’t our first choice, but when our first choice prefers to run concentration camps in the Caribbean, bomb Pashtun villages for having a party, and rape little children in Africa with their taxpayers’ cash instead of helping us, well, we go to those who will. If SL isn’t important to the west, fine, shut the fuck up and leave us alone. Obviously we’re important enough to criticize, therefore I think we’re important enough to help. Just be constructive.

2009-05-26 15:05:41

Mr. Blacker,
It’s not difficult to understand from reading your comment why you wouldn’t understand what my, or indeed anyone’s, point is.
Be that as it may. I too live in Sri Lanka. I largely agree with your criticisms of the west’s “war on terror”. But I can’t quite figure out the “shut up and leave us alone” bit. Is encouraging Sri Lanka to show a little more transparency around it’s “humanitarian operation” really so outrageous? After all, it’s the transparency in the western countries that allows you to sit there and pontificate about how they’re spending their taxpayers’ cash on war crimes rather than help you, isn’t it?

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2009-05-26 16:06:31

Oh I see Morten so it was all that transparency in the West that allows us to pontificate eh? Spare us the bullshit, the Abu Gharib pics came out only because of a soldier’s conscience or more likely, an internal disagreement within the Pentagon on how the Iraq war was being handled. It was by no means the work of some crusading journo with unfettered access to the prison. Similarly do you expect is to buy the bullshit espoused by all those embedded “journalists” during the Iraq war who didn’t dare report anything other than what the US and British military wanted to report… Hate to break it to you but it’s not going to happen. Access to the camps to journalists is less important now than access is for both Govt and independent aid workers. We may be far from perfect as a nation but we’ll get there in the end it’ll take time and we’ll need all the help we can get.

2009-05-26 16:16:12

Morten –

For all your antagonistic and patronizing words your not really making any clear comment regarding Indi’s blog or his reply (Blackers either for that matter).

Sri Lanka knows its insignificance to the pasty white west but even sill it isn’t begging. The message is clear: if you want to be a stakeholder in the future of our country for whatever purpose you have (moral, strategic, electoral, capital), don’t force us at gun point. The country and its people have been in a state of paralysis for too long, do you really want to punish them further? Ultimately that’s what sanctions and other measures that increase civilian suffering do and the result is that it pushes people further into embrace of the state on whom they will depend on more heavily than before.

If the West wants to be the arbitrator of justice in the world then it really needs to stop screaming ‘do as I say, not as I do’. How can a small, third world democracy which has been crippled economically and socially through 30 years of terror be consider to have equal moral obligation as rich Western super-powers and their affluent populaces with strictly theoretical notions of suffering? Before you take Sri Lanka to task, shouldn’t they first turn the microscope on their own conduct and set a shining example for the world to follow? That would be transparency.

How can the UN be taken seriously when the leaders of the “free world” spent the last decade undermining it? How can Sri Lanka be investigated at all when its not a signatory to the majority of treaties pertaining to rules of engagement and how can it be put on the security council agenda when the tone of this inquiry divides the old world from the new one?

2009-05-26 16:43:34

You sound as though you’ve actually been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and are talking from personal experience about how the conflicts there are covered and the people who cover them. Otherwise, how would you know so much about it? Also, in my time in those countries I never really had much trouble with anyone telling me what to report, apart from the obvious operational security issues which are fairly straightforward. I’ve also travelled around there independently, again without too much trouble. Why my colleagues or I would not “dare report anything other than what the US and British military wanted to report” is beyond me. Rumsfeld and Cheney are first-rate scumbags, but they never actually rang me up and threatened to have me deported or worse. Again, your sources are probably better than mine. I just went there and looked for myself, which is more than I’ve ever been able to do here.

2009-05-26 17:23:36

I repeat, what exactly is your point? If (as you say above) we’re all too dumb for your words of wisdom, why don’t you save yourself the time. So far, the only coherent bit I can make out is “more transparency”. If you’ve actually bothered to read either Indi’s or my blogs, you’d have known we’ve been calling for the same. For years. However, if you think the doors are gonna be opened for journos two weeks after the LTTE’s defeat, I have to question your sense of reality. And as both Indi and I’ve said many times, trying to force the GoSL to open up by threatening war crimes tribunals and sanctions is ridiculous. Neither have worked in Zimbabwe, Burma, Iraq, N Korea, or the USA. And they won’t work here. All you do is foster the GoSL’s siege mentality and force it into the arms of countries like Burma and Iran, while making the common man suffer.

If ethics and morals are alien concepts to the west, then by God, at least be effective.

I wanted to avoid being personal, Morten, though you yourself don’t seem to have those qualms, but your war tourism pix hardly show anything really groundbreaking in Iraq or anywhere else. Yeah, why would the US restrict you? Those pix could have been shot by the US Army.

2009-05-26 17:29:58


I’ll start arranging your parade immediately. Whether I’ve been to Iraq or Afghanistan is neither here nor there, all I was commenting on was your contention that we are aware of US and UK abuses because of some notion of transparency in the Qest is a bit rich. As I pointed out the stories on the Abu Gharib prisoner abuse scandal only broke because it was leaked and spare me the bit about embedded journos of not following the “party” line. The threat they reported under was no where near the threat faced by their Asian counterparts but what they risked losing was access. Viewing any of those farcical war reports on CNN or NBC made it abundantly clear that it was far from ‘fair and balanced’

2009-05-26 17:43:38

I’m sorry if I’m not being clear. For me it boils down to this: Transparency is crucial when there is armed conflict. It may be that the government carried out its humanitarian operation to ethical perfection. Unfortunately, it’s not my job to take their word for it, and as a pasty pink westerner I’m failing miserably at finding out for myself.
You may think it unrealistic to hope for transparency in what you describe as a “small, third world democracy which has been crippled economically and socially through 30 years of terror”. I really don’t see why. Transparency doesn’t require much in the way of resources. Producing effective propaganda does.
Of course you’re absolutely right in that the west should drop all the glaring double-standards. But I’m not sure using the UN Human Development Index country list as a checklist that has to be filled in strictly from the top down before human rights can even be discussed is the way to go. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps moral and ethical perfection in the west is the only way to move anything forward.
Your points on the International Criminal Court are interesting. Now, I’m not insinuating that there have been war crimes committed here. But there’s an interesting parallel which involves Sri Lanka’s friend China. Sudan is a very important supplier of oil to China. Neither country has ratified the ICC. Yet when the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, permanent security council member and emerging superpower China said very little and did even less. How it will play out I obviously do not know, but I suspect the ICC will remain pretty much a lame duck if the United States does not ratify it. And please don’t forget that the ICC is not a “western court”. It has judges from all member states, and all it would take to make it a “developing country court” would be for all countries to ratify it.

2009-05-27 10:13:50

I’ve always been curious how well the people in the West sleep at night knowing that a 140,000 civilians were annihilated in a moment at Hiroshima in order to maintain their security. It may have been over 60 years ago but as far as I know there is no statute of limitations on killing civilians.

I’m all for investigations into human rights abuses, disproportionate killing of civilians, etc…but let’s also investigate the use of WMDs by the US, abuses in Vietnam by the French and the Americans, the Australian ‘stolen generations,’ George Bush and Tony Blair starting a war in Iraq on fabricated evidence, etc, etc…you know in the name of the ‘justness’ that seems to be the prerogative of the ‘white man’.

2009-05-27 11:29:57

I don’t think transparency is the key for armed conflict. I think it’s, historically, winning. War Crimes are generally for losers

2009-05-27 13:34:59


This year’s winners are next year’s losers. That’s one of the problems of democracy. Slobodan Milosevic was triumphantly confident that with popular and Russian support no one would ever be able to touch him.

This is not 1945. You can’t hide Dresden or D-Day for very long. This is 2009. Even if you keep the conspiracy of relief organisations and media physically away from events, there will be some transparency, and unlike what is reported by the likes of me, it will come from big, biased international powers like the United States. Unlike my mates and I, the US and it’s allies will first choose sides, then present whatever “evidence” suits their versions. WMDs, anyone?

2009-05-26 17:56:22

I didn’t accuse anyone other than you of anything, and you’re certainly not making me regret it. Don’t see the point of my words or my photography? Not my problem. Think hurling abuse at me on a blog is going to change anything? Good luck. Perhaps you need to get out more.

2009-05-27 11:05:56

“Not my problem.”

No, it’s not. It’s ours. And we need help sorting it out. So if you’re here to help, get on with it. Save the speeches for later.

And if you can’t take criticism (or abuse, as you prefer to call it), think twice before dishing it out. Perhaps I do need to get out more. But perhaps you need to grow up too. Intelligence and zoom lenses aren’t always interchangeable.

2009-05-27 13:18:12


“shut the fuck up and leave us alone” is your idea of criticism? And you’re telling me to grow up?

You’re right about two things though:

Intelligence and zoom lenses really aren’t interchangeable. In my job you need both.

And yes, you do need help.

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2009-05-27 14:55:18

“If SL isn’t important to the west, fine, shut the fuck up and leave us alone,” was what I said, Morten. I didn’t realize you were a representative of the west. Perhaps I should have drawn you a picture instead of using words. Sorry.

However, your inability to understand even simple ideas IS probably representative of the western media. I’m sure you’re miffed that you came all the way over here and don’t have anything to shoot. Sad. Stick around if you’ve got the time. If not, I’m sure there are lots of free and open places for war tourism.

Now that you’ve shown us your zoom lens, perhaps we can some intelligence too.

2009-05-27 15:48:44

My only issue with Morten is the hopeless tone. It’s like Sri Lankan government sucks, the west sucks, you suck, etc. It’s not especially constructive, it’s just sorta documenting doom. Which I have no interest. I recognize the problems and think we need to find pragmatic solutions, beginning with treating all parties with respect and a little good faith.

2009-05-26 19:08:19

re-post, delete my previous one if possible, some of the text inadvertently got mixed up.

Morten -

Firstly, I think your railing against the wrong people. As someone who’s followed Indi and Blacker’s blogs for years, I know these folks more of less agree with you regarding transparency and have been critical of the short comings of this current Sri Lankan administration. The tone in which you address this blog was very combative and the replies you’ve got reflect that.

Secondly in response to what you have written – transparency is a fantastic ideal but reality is different. You must, as journalist, understand that you are one of many conflicting forces with competing agendas in this quest and inevitably it is impossible to actually receive an unadulterated view on any issue. In the context of the American led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan you will find that the country which for so long has been the role model for transparency failed miserably. People talk about the Sri Lankan theater of war being closed of to journalists but it was no more or less than Iraq in its most explosive state. Virtually all information came from embedded reporters, the military and the white house press secretary. Only towards the end of the Bush regime and the current Obama administration are we really starting to get a clear picture of the abuses, alleged or otherwise.

My point is that Sri Lanka, as you put it, is insignificant. How can the west which sees this island and its people as such, project its lofty humanitarian ideals upon it when its most significant parties refuse accept the same responsibilities? Moreover, prominent figures from western politicians and media personalities have called on Sri Lankan’s not to engage in ‘triumphalism’ – so is it so wrong that insignificant Sri Lankan politicians, journalists and bloggers too ask these same people not to engage in hypocrisy and vindictiveness? I’m not saying that Sri Lanka hasn’t committed acts which may constitute violation of humanitarian law, such as it is, but now is the time to engage Sri Lanka. Its not a rogue state, flawed though it is, but heavy handedness on the part of the west will have ramification which will be not in the spirit of the values it seeks to champion.

In all honesty however – I don’t see any major issues coming from motion set in UN Human Rights Committee for the Security Council. You quite rightly point out the case of Cino-Sudanese relations but Sri Lanka is a much better position to argue against any war crimes case presented than Sudan because evidence is far more subjective and less substantive. Similarly, a issue of a state’s rights to act against non-actor internally is a far more hot button issue for countries like China, Russia, Pakistan and even India, than the need to procure cheap oil and sell weapons. In my eyes and indeed the eyes of many from the ‘new’ world – the ICC is the west in drag. Sure there’s lipstick, fake nails, heels and a cocktail dress, but the ‘bits’ that matter are all the same.

2009-05-27 09:21:40

Well put and well said. We need all the help we can get, not additional burdens and the distraction of having to answer to allegations of war crimes etc. at this hour and point of time.

2009-05-27 20:52:25

Indi has a point – now is not the time for recriminations and finger-pointing – first priority is the IDPs.

But Morten too has a point – what is so wrong in asking the Govt to be more transparent? Their refusal implies guilt. In which case the ethnic issue will never be truly solved.

Much like post-apartheid South Africa, if the Govt really wants to address the issues at hand, there must be a spirit of reconciliation – in which both sides put their hands up, accept the mistakes they’ve made, and answer for them, in an open and independent forum. Only this will convince the Tamil people both here and abroad that Sri Lanka wants to move forward and be a new united nation.

The West is wrong in their timing but right in their sentiment – the Govt needs to be magnanimous instead of defensive.

2009-05-27 20:54:19

Indi has a point – now is not the time for recriminations and finger-pointing – first priority is the IDPs.

But Morten too has a point – what is so wrong in asking the Govt to be more transparent? Their refusal implies guilt. In which case the ethnic issue will never be truly solved.

Much like post-apartheid South Africa, if the Govt really wants to address the issues at hand, there must be a spirit of reconciliation – in which both sides put their hands up, accept the mistakes they’ve made, and answer for them, in an open and independent forum. Only this will convince the Tamil people both here and abroad that Sri Lanka wants to move forward and be a new united nation.

The West is wrong in their timing but right in their sentiment – the Govt needs to be magnanimous instead of defensive.

2009-05-28 15:15:10

Reconciliation didn’t come to SA ten days after the fall of Apartheid. It’s also hard for the GoSL to be magnanimous when it’s being threatened with sanctions and prosecutions. How would the ANC have felt if the world had piled in with threats and rhetoric one week after Mandela came to power?

2009-05-29 00:24:50

No argument there David, I made the point about bad timing.

Do you think the Govt will foster a spirit of magnanimity, transparency and reconciliation at some point in the future? I’m no historian – how long did it take the SA Govt to move from a post-war-mentality to reconciliatory sentiment after the fall of Apartheid?

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2009-05-29 10:16:43

Not too sure offhand, but it took a few years I think til those Truth & Reconciliation tribunals happened, and by then many former Apartheid-regime people had been convicted of criminal conduct.

As for the GoSL, it all depends. It could go either way. It’s not unlikely that we could slide gradually towards a dictatorial regime. I think a lot depends on the international community.

2009-05-30 11:17:19

Either way, I doubt any sort of truth and reconciliation committee is likely to happen.

2009-06-05 20:34:39

I don’t think you can assume that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission along the lines of the South African blueprint is automatically going to work in Sri Lanka, even if there was political will to back it up. I think you have to ask whether it is culturally relevant. Certainly, we have to have a reconiciliation process, but as a country with a strong SHAME CULTURE which both the Tamil community and the Sinhala community share, I don’t know whether this would be a fit.

We have to find our own way.

2009-06-20 20:21:00

Taking about transparency: Morten, why are you in Sri Lanka? What are your real reasons to be here? No one assigned you to come and cover this conflict. What is your relationship with SR Red Cross Coordinator? Why do you follow her around the world from country to country? Where is your home? Your style of journalism is sort of lecturing your readers. Who are you to do so?

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Buddhism is not racist. The ideas and practice of Buddhism involve meditation, perception of impermanence and ultimately what we would call a renunciation of self. Being a Buddhist, however, is not just that. Being a Buddhist fundamentally involves taking refuge in three things – the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of practice). As a Buddhist, this is why the violence in Aluthgama is so troubling. Becomes it comes cloaked in the colors of the Sangha. The main racists and instigators of mob violence are monks.

The Tragedy In Aluthgama

I haven’t written here in a while because, well, I guess I haven’t had much to say. I’m been writing about food and leisure at YAMU but, well, somethings gotten in the way of that now. In a way we could sense it because of the constant halal debate on YAMU, which is mainly a food site. That food issue in many ways has become a touchstone for the Muslim/Buddhist tensions rising in this country. Yesterday those tensions seemed to explode in Aluthgama and Beruwela on the Western coast. The racist BBS staged a rally there and then paraded thru the streets. This exploded into violence, attacks on businesses and homes.