Poverty rampant among Buddhists of Sri Lanka

Poverty rampant among Buddhists of Sri LankaDr. Daya Hewapathirane,

Sri Lanka is the only legitimate motherland of the Sinhala people. They form the mainstream of society of this island nation for over 2500 years. The overwhelming majority of them are Buddhists.

For over six decades or since political independence in 1948, all elected governments of this country were led by Sinhala Buddhists and the large majority of public officials or responsible government bureaucrats belonged to the Sinhala community. In spite of this seemingly privileged position of the Sinhala people, it is of paramount importance to note that poverty continues to be most rampant among the Sinhala people, especially among the Sinhala Buddhists.

The numbers living under poverty conditions are far greater within the Sinhala community as compared to any other community in Sri Lanka. The proportion of socio-economically impoverished people of Sri Lanka are far greater within the Sinhala community, especially among Sinhala Buddhists as compared to other communities. The preponderance of them are severely impoverished, living below the poverty-line with its concomitant malnutrition, disease, ignorance, unemployment, economic uncertainty, cultural disintegration, crime, violence, political conflicts and exploitation including proneness to unethical conversion to Christianity and Islam.

Households below poverty line are highest in the Badulla, Moneragala, Ratnapura, Kegalle and Hambantota districts where the Sinhala Buddhist community predominates. In these districts about 1/3 (one-third) of all households are poverty ridden with Badulla (37%), Moneragala (37%), Ratnapura (34%), Kegalle (32%), Hambantota (32%). Puttalama (31%), Matale (30%). On the basis of Divisional Secretary Divisions (former AGA Divisions), 10 DS Divisions are at the lowest end with Moneragala and Badulla heading the list. Highest percentage of 51.8% is reported from the Siyambalanduwa DS Division of the Monaragala district, and 51.2 from the Rideemaliyadda of Badulla district where Sinhala Buddhist people predominate.

To make matters worse, the basis of survival of this largely rural farming community which is their natural environment or the natural resources base is being steadily depleted and subject to extreme forms of abuse, exploitation and degradation. The implications of this overall deterioration of conditions of large numbers of rural Sinhala Buddhist families, are serious and most disturbing.

In addition to these adverse trends, the cultural integrity of these rural poverty-prone Sinhala Buddhist people, especially of the younger generation is being eroded rapidly owing to undesirable impacts of globalization, evangelization, foreign employment, migration to urban areas, proneness to corruption and crime. Cultural traditions in our country are being destroyed on an unprecedented scale under the impact of globalizing market forces and other unethical activities funded by foreign establishments.

How could ethnic and religious harmony be developed among the different communities in our country, when a large segment of the indigenous Sinhala Buddhist population are being deprived of their essential requirements, besides being subject to cultural pollution and undermining by foreign elements operating to emasculate the culture, heritage and values of the indigenous people.

The rights and privileges of the Sinhala majority have to be restored and protected as a priority in the development process of Sri Lanka which is the only country that they have. The overall conditions of the large majority of people of minority communities or the non-indigenous settler communities in this country or the Tamils and Muslims are far better off as compared to the Sinhala community, with large and increasing numbers of deprived and problem-stricken people.

The highly divisive and exploitative attitudes and actions of most Sri Lankan Muslim and Tamil people, living within and outside Sri Lanka have been well exposed in recent years. It is by strengthening our own indigenous people that we can expect to protect and promote our nation and all that is worthwhile in it. Let us hope that the well-conceived “Divi Neguma” programme which focuses on poverty alleviation will help in ameliorating conditions of the impoverished Sinhala Buddhists. Its success would depend much on the dedication of those responsible, especially at the grassroots level, for the proper implementation of this worthwhile programme. We are hopeful that Basil Rajapaksa will adopt a forthright approach, one similar to that of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his UDA initiatives, in implementing this highly important development venture, with far reaching positive implications, particularly for the Sinhala Buddhists and generally for the nation as a whole.

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane
Vancouver, CANADA

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Posted by on January 16, 2013. Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

8 Responses to Poverty rampant among Buddhists of Sri Lanka

  1. This article is rubbish..

  2. The simple answer why the overwhelming majority of poverty stricken people in Sri Lanka are Buddhists is quite simple. The overwhelming majority of the population en masse ARE Buddhists. Would the author please name me one single district where Sinhala Buddhists do not constitute a majority. It is simple mathematics. I’m surprised a “doctor” can’t figure it out! I will agree that there is a large community below the poverty line, however, it is the Sinhala Buddhists who have also gotten first dibs into almost every poverty alleviation programme this country or foreign assistance has ever provided.

    Besides this, I am not sure where you have got your figures from since the percentage of the population below the poverty line has been between 22 – 23% between the years of 1997 and 2008 and had dropped sharply to around 8.9% by 2010. This placed Sri Lanka in better standing than countries such as China, Russia, Denmark and even Germany, the US and the UK!

    Unemployment rates have dropped from 9.5% in 1998 to 4.2% in 2011, so whatever we are doing, it’s working.

    Do not get me wrong, poverty still does exist and there is much work to be done, however, this article is biased, bordering on racist and definitely not where Sri Lanka is heading nor represents the opinion of the vast majority of Sri Lankan people, who have had quite enough of the good “doctors” style of trying to fabricate an issue that does not exist in an already unpleasant issue. If the “doctor’ really does care so much about the Sri Lankan people, the get off your pedestal and actually DO something about it. But not just for Sri Lankan Buddhists: Compartmentalising your works to just one ethnic or religious group of people is definitely NOT the way forward! Sri Lankans are Sri Lankans and the vast majority do not bother about labelling themselves with religious and ethnic tags. We are Sri Lankans; a potpourri of ethnic diversity. We have absorbed many influenced and as a whole, survived by adaptation. I appeal to the good doctor to mind his words and opinions when they can cause more hurt than help.

  3. Great article

  4. Dear doctor Daya, if you blame your poverty on another ethnic group, do you think that will make you rich? Time is limited, and the more time and energy you spend blaming others, the less time and energy you have available to improve your own lot in life. The victim mentality is an exclusive feature of poor people, and it is that victim mentality that prevents poor people from ever escaping poverty.

  5. DAYA HEWAPATHIRANE

    I wonder whether any response is needed for this idiot who calls himself/herself as “landance”- which I translate as ‘rubbish”

  6. DAYA HEWAPATHIRANE

    I wouldn’t waste time responding to this Jeremy Muller whose real name I understand is not that. I am told that this is a non-Sri Lankan Catholic Tamil fellow living overseas. He is ignorant of even basic demographic information about Sri Lanka. With fictitious figures he is trying to mislead the reader. Ignore this fool – please.

  7. DAYA HEWAPATHIRANE

    Upasena, There appears to be a lot that you are unaware of regarding our motherland and the plight of the Sinhala Buddhists who form its main-stream community. I suggest you re-read the article, especially the following facts:

    The rights and privileges of the Sinhala majority have to be restored and protected as a priority in the development process of Sri Lanka. The proportion of socio-economically impoverished people of Sri Lanka are far greater within the Sinhala community, especially among Sinhala Buddhists as compared to other communities. The preponderance of them are severely impoverished, living below the poverty-line with its concomitant malnutrition, disease, ignorance, unemployment, economic uncertainty, cultural disintegration, crime, violence, political conflicts and exploitation including proneness to unethical conversion to Christianity and Islam.

  8. DAYA HEWAPATHIRANE

    Thanks Kris – you are among the many knowledgeable ones who have agreed with my research findings on poverty in Sri Lanka, involving both literature reviews and field investigations and interviews.

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