Amending 19th Amendment
By Austin Fernando (Former Secretary to the President)
Recently, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to amend/repeal (?) the 19th Amendment to the Constitution (hereinafter referred to as 19). The media divulged that the government would retain positive features of the 19 and remove the unwanted. Concurrently, to identify and recommend these a Committee of five was appointed
Background of 19
The 19 has a chronological evolution. For conceptual value, let us review one aspect – the public service. The 1947 Constitution enabled an independent Public Service Commission (PSC) for them.
In 1972, the Sirima Bandaranaike government placed the public service under a PSC but brought in the Cabinet control for operationalizing. Through the 1978 Constitution, the JR Jayewardene government also placed public servants under the control of the Cabinet. These were acts of continuous politicization.
The Chandrika Kumaratunga government, by the 17th Amendment (Article 54), depoliticized the public service and other democratic aspects by the appointment of a PSC nominated by a Constitutional Council (CC), consisting of politicians and civilians. Seven similar institutions (e.g., the Election Commission, National Police Commission) also were legislated on-demand.
The Mahinda Rajapaksa government passed the 18th Amendment to establish a government-biased “Parliamentary Council” (PC). The President snatched the depoliticization efforts under the 17th Amendment through Commissions.
By 2014, there were criticisms and deep dissatisfaction with politicization created by the actions of all political parties. This dissatisfaction created revitalized pressure for depoliticization. Ultimately, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena sought a mandate for the presidency on the depoliticization slogan. The 19 was the consequence. It is acknowledged that the passage of 19 would have inevitably failed, sans interventions of President Sirisena.
Are our politicians sticks in the mud?
The responses of parliamentarians for depoliticization, in general, had been ridiculous. They supported depoliticization by President Kumaratunga (17A); supported politicization (18A) of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. They helped depoliticization (19A) by President Sirisena. Parliamentarians will sponsor the 20th Amendment to empower President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Strengthening the hands of the already empowered seems a hobby of Parliamentarians!
Political reactions created humour when a Minister recently declared that support for 19A was due to a promise made to change the electoral system, which of course, is a sheer necessity. Humorously and unfortunately, politicians who agree to change the Constitution on verbal agreements are elected to Parliament.
The clamor reinstatement of powers removed by 19
There is heavy orchestration that security and development would collapse with 19A. From 1978 to 2009, Sinhala and Tamil youth, especially in the North and East, revolted and thousands of innocents were killed or made to disappear, and suspects were killed in Police cells when Executive powers revoked by the 19A were with incumbent Presidents. The Executive powers were inevitably linked to the onset of conflicts. Therefore, it is a wiser step to find alternative solutions for enhancing human security than to demand the return of powers withdrawn by 19.
The same applies to development. Investment attraction during the tenure of President Jayewardene and infrastructural development during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s (although both face criticisms) were positive moments before the 19th Amendment removed powers. Despite these powers being intact, some Presidents did not undertake such compelling development. I will not mention names to protect their dignity. Thus, one may argue that development isn’t constitution-centric but leader-centric.
There are shortcomings in the 19A since it is a human product. Before the General Election, President Sirisena said that 19A had good aspects, but its flaws should be rectified. He singled out some drawbacks but did not suggest a Deputy Premier post in the 20th Amendment. But it is rumored so.
Meantime, some like Minister Wimal Weerawansa and parliamentarian Gevindu Kumaratunga, who wished immediate abolishing of 19A during the election campaign, now demand a new Constitution instead of patchworking 19 (e. g., dual citizenship issue). It is unknown why this change of heart. Guess is yours!
The President has made a firm statement on the 20th Amendment in his Throne Speech. Therefore, President Sirisena may have to support the abolishing of 19A. In politics, sacrificing principles for partisanship, hollow promises, and tribal branding are acceptable!
The significant changes in 19A are categorized under, change in the qualifications for presidency and powers of the President, enhancement of the capabilities of the Legislature (= Prime Minister), empowerment of Commissions by the Legislature, and the Right to Information.
Changing powers of the President
It is already stated that Articles 30 (2) and 31 (2) of 19, related to the five-year term of office of the President and the two terms in office and the Right to Information Act, would not be amended.
But the government would need the power to dissolve the Parliament without parliamentary consent or completing the four and half years mentioned in 70(1). While President Jayewadene has taught lessons on using alternative powers (i.e., Referendum) not to dissolve, the present government authorities otherwise learned negative lessons in October 2018.
Also, dual citizens are no longer allowed to be Parliamentarians. [Article 91 (d) (xiii)]. Critics who protest dual citizen Arjuna Mahendran appointed as Governor of the Central Bank do not mind a dual citizen becoming a parliamentarian, Minister, Prime Minister or President. Those who support Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s presidential aspirations (if any) seem not to understand that the change of dual citizenship could jeopardize this aspiration by introducing a competitor. Is the demand by some for a brandnew Constitution instead of amending 19 a response for this potential jeopardy?
When queried on these changes, Ministers GL Peiris and Wimal Weerawansa said that constitutional changes should not be person-centric. Based on Minister Peiris referring to Basil and Namal Rajapaksas by name, if the contention is that 19A was person-centric and has disadvantaged selected persons, then the 20th Amendment raises the question of awarding person-centric advantages to another.
Presidential and National Security
Under Article 43 (2) of 19, the Minister of Defense must be appointed from among the Members of Parliament. It is so in other countries that have more significant defence risks (e.g., India). Now the societal belief is that the President is the Minister of Defence. If true, the President has illegally “snatched” the subject of defence. Nevertheless, I passionately believe that the security function should constitutionally remain with the President.
I take this stance on constitutional grounds, quite impersonally. Article 4 (b) of our Constitution stipulates that the “executive power of the people, including the defence of Sri Lanka,” must be exercised by the President. The term defence’ is a specially chosen here. The President has the power and duty to “declare war and peace” [Article 33 (2) (g)]. The appointment of Military Commanders and the Police Chief is a presidential power (Article 61E), and, under Article 33A, the President is accountable to the Parliament on laws applicable to public security. Accountability to Parliament is about the President’s “own” powers, and not of another Defence Minister. The Ministry of Defence/relevant institutions must be under him to fulfil these functions.
When the President is held accountable for the duties performed by another Defence Minister, he is subjected to moral injustice, and the presidency is demeaned. The security/defence of the country is a constitutional responsibility of the President, and the 19th Amendment should be amended to strengthen his hands on defence and security. Technically “snatching security/defence” as purportedly done now is unacceptable. Also, he should not snatch other ministries on this basis, although he may prefer.
Increasing powers of the Legislature and PM
Sovereignty is “exercised and enjoyed” by the tripod Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary under Articles 4 (a), (b), and (c) of our Constitution. But what is heard, seen, and said now insinuates that all three functions should be left to the Executive. It seems to be the government’s political stance. It is not constitutional and decimates democracy.
When the Legislature is considered, the power of the President is weakened in several ways. Examples include the appointment of Ministers [(43(2)], non-Cabinet Ministers [[44(1)] ‘on the advice’ of the Prime Minister [43(2)] and remove any one of them on prime ministerial advice [Article 46 (3)(a)]. The power to remove the Prime Minister or any Minister was with the President [47(a)] in the 1978 Constitution.
The number of Ministers is decided by Article 46(1)(a) and (b). With 145 parliamentarians supporting the government President may opt to reward more portfolios and will require amending it.
Article 44(2) of the 1978 Constitution permits any subject or function unassigned to a Minister to be left with the President. This power was removed by 19, and the 20th Amendment may return this power to the President.
The sudden removal of the Prime Minister (as President Kumaratunga did in 2004 and President Sirisena in October 2018) [70(1)(a) of 1978 Constitutionn] is prohibited now. Such restriction is necessary for the stability of the Legislature and the country. Still, I think the 20th Amendment can be used to prevent the judiciary from rejecting such courses of action.
In this connection, the dissolution of the Cabinet and removal of the Prime Minister were issues. During the October 2018 constitutional crisis, it was argued that the President had this power over Article 48 (1) of the Constitution (Sinhala version), which is not in the English version. The judiciary rejected this. Any President will inevitably rush to regain that decisive power.
However, the extent to which these perfections are democratic is most questionable.
Duties of the CC
The CC plays a leading role in depoliticization in 19A. After abolishing 19A, the alternative to the CC could be the passage of an instrument closest to the 18th Amendment. Further provisions can be added as appropriate to concentrate power in the Executive. The 17th and 19th Amendments proposed a CC (including Members of Parliament and civilians). The 18th Amendment appointed a “Parliamentary Council” (PC) consisting of only Members of Parliament. It was total politicization. Although the PC could make nominations to the Commissions and Scheduled Offices in the 18, the President was allowed constitutionally to overrule them. The 19A allowed these appointments to be made only on recommendations of the CC [Article (41B (1)]. If the President did not appoint them within two weeks, they were considered “as deemed to have been appointed.” [Article [41B (4)] It prevented the President’s ‘monopoly’ of appointing. The President would like to use the 20th Amendment to remove these strictures on him.
Appointments under the 19A were mostly acceptable. The best evidence of the independence of the CC was observed when it (inclusive of Opposition membership) rejected two nominations made by President Sirisena to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. On a handful of occasions when the President did not agree to appoint some of the nominees to Commissions, they were successfully reconciled through dialogue. The CC should not be the cat’s paw of the President; nor should the CC be a dictator. Amendments to 19A for efficient and transparent operationalization of the CC could be undertaken now. But what the government needs is to win, at all costs, because of its two-thirds majority!
Critics of the CC highlight the failure to appoint a Police Chief and the conduct of a Member of the Election Commission. To correct these, they demand abolishing the Commissions! The former, I believe, is a result of public service disciplinary procedures that cannot be ignored by the National Police Commission. Critics could have sought legal redress if Article 41A (8) of the Constitution was insufficient to discipline this Member. Providing in 20th Amendment remedies for such will be more effective than crushing the CC. One should not slash the nose to spite the face!
Another complaint is that even the President cannot appoint a judge. The reason may be the failure of President Sirisena to appoint two persons nominated by him to the judiciary. There were Opposition members in the CC when those decisions were made. Yet, they do not accept these reasonable decisions. These are victories for democracy. Also, they are silent that the CC also considers Chief Justice’s recommendations.
If the monopoly on appointing judges is given to the President, there will be no space for objections in the CC. The President is a ‘political product.’ He is a human being. Therefore, the President can appoint his supporters to higher judicial posts from his professional organizations if he so wishes. The President must respect Lord Chief Justice Hewart’s maxim that justice should not only be done but should be seen to have been done.
Of course, one can criticise the CC for some questionable appointments. Again without slashing the nose to spite the face, the 20th Amendment could propose cleaner operational guidelines. In a country where judicial appointments were made (though rarely) based on personal consideration before the 19A, these critics should value the CC machinery as superior to pure presidential whim and fancy.
Information law and action
Some question whether the Right to Information Act is adequately implemented due to deliberated delays by the authorities. Although this is not changed, it is appropriate to strengthen operations through the 20th Amendment. I note that not only the RTI Act but also other Commissions may require similar legal changes.
The value of caution
It is not surprising that a two-thirds majority or a government capable of manipulating that superpower would somehow pursue achieving its goals. Everyone who came to power thought that power was eternal, though it is impermanent. It is also not surprising seeing leadership that utilized the 18th Amendment attempting to regain lost powers. Even the present Opposition may pray for rejuvenation of powers of the 1978 Constitution; because politicians are greedy for power. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are also fluid about 20A.
But it should be kept in mind that if a constitution that cannot be amended again without a 2/3 majority is promulgated today, it could endanger the constitutional complexity another day. The vision and aspirations of the incumbent President may be pure. He may not be entertaining dictatorial goals, as alleged. But we must not be blind, that one day someone like Robert Mugabe or Idi Amin will not emerge. Therefore, it would be better to fertilize democracy without cutting the nose to spite the face when dealing with 19A.
Renewable energy share in power generation – President misled by advisers
Continued from yesterday
by Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri
PROPOSALS FOR DEVELOPING
In 2017, an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) has made a set of recommendations to the Cabinet to install in the short term several utility scale solar PV systems, wind energy systems and biomass energy systems, and these were approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. These projects included solar power projects comprising three large utility scale projects at Pooneryne (800 MW) and two sets at Syambalanduwa (2×100 MW) along with 300,000 roof top systems providing 300 MW and several small-scale systems each below 10 MW adding to 500 MW in places of high solar insolation. The building of a 100 MW floating solar PV system was previously approved by the Cabinet. These projects will add up to a total capacity of 1,900 MW which could generate about 3,329 GWh annually assuming 20 % plant factor. Cabinet approvals were granted on 16.12.2016 for building a Solar Power Park of capacity 100 MW in Siyambalaanduwa.
The CEB has already initiated development of a wind energy farm at Mannar and plans to develop more in the Jaffna district. A total capacity of 650 MW is to be developed generating nearly 1,708 GWh of electricity. In addition, a SLSEA Report dated 27.03.2019, says that several proposals for developing RE projects submitted since 2016 by investors received the approval of the SLSEA, but these have been held up as the CEB has not agreed to sign the necessary power purchase agreements with them, on grounds that that they were not selected after calling tenders as required in the Electricity Act. These projects held back by the CEB were expected to add 3,052 MW of RE capacity generating 6,923 GWh of energy annually, comprising 925 GWh from mini-hydro plants, 3553 GWh from solar plants, 2063 GWh from wind plants, 237 GWh from biomass plants and 145 GWh from waste-to-energy plants.
Section 13 of the Electricity Act says “requirement to submit a tender on the publication of a notice under this subsection shall not be applicable in respect of any new generation plant or to the expansion of any existing generation plant that is being developed on a permit issued by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, established by the Sustainable Energy Authority Act, No. 35 of 2007 under section 18 of that Act for the generation of electricity through renewable energy sources and required to be operated at the standardized tariff and is governed by a Standardized Power Purchase Agreement approved by the Cabinet of Ministers or on an offer received from a foreign sovereign Government to the Government of Sri Lanka, for which the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers has been obtained”. Hence, denial of approval by the CEB for RE projects for which permits have been issued by SLSEA is a misinterpretation of the Act. The President has given clear instructions that such barriers against the private sector involving in developing RE projects be removed.
A summary of the above RE projects that could be developed by 2030 long with the commissioned and permitted RE projects are shown in Table 5.
It is seen that the total generation potential from RE sources including those already installed, projects for which permits have been issued, utility scale projects approved by the Cabinet and projects permitted by the SLSEA and awaiting acceptance by the CEB add up to 15,026 GWh annually. This is 4,670 GWh short of the generation required from RE sources to reach the target of 80%, which is 20,500 GWh as shown in Table 4. This can be achieved by installing additional solar PV plants, wind power plants and biomass plants, with generation shared among them each share depending on the availability of resources and economies.
POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPING
Sri Lanka has a large number of reservoirs both ancient and recently built covering an area about 43,000 ha in the North Central and Eastern Provinces where the solar insolation is high (Arjuna Atlas). Since solar PV panels require about 1 ha for every 1 MW of installed capacity, installation of solar panels covering at least 10% of the area of the reservoirs has the potential to generate about 7,000 GWh of electricity annually from 4,000 MW of installed capacity. This could be achieved with the concurrence of the Irrigation Department (ID).
An all island Wind Energy Resource Atlas of Sri Lanka was developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA in 2003, indicates nearly 5,000 km2 of windy areas with good-to-excellent wind resource potential in Sri Lanka. About 4,100 km2 of the total windy area is on land and about 700 km2 is in lagoons. The windy land represents about 6% of the total land area (65,600 km2) of Sri Lanka. Using a conservative assumption of 5 MW per km2, this windy land could support almost 20,000 MW of potential installed capacity (SLSEA Website).
Last year, the Cabinet declared 2022 as the year of Biomass Energy with the objective of promoting energy generation from biomass. Already, SLSEA is pursuing a project funded partly by UNDP and FAO for “Promoting Sustainable Biomass Energy Production and Modern Bio-Energy Technologies” with the specific objective of removing obstacles to the realization of sustainable biomass plantation, increase of market share of biomass energy generation. Currently, a survey is being undertaken to identify land available and suitable for energy plantations. It is expected that by 2030, biomass technologies could add about 500 GWh of energy to the system.
It is clear therefore that Sri Lanka has the resources to develop RE projects exceeding the amount required to meet the 80% share in total electricity generation by 2030. Coordination and cooperation among stakeholder institutes such as CEB, SLSEA and ID are prerequisites for realizing this target.
FINANCIAL BARRIERS AGAINST
ACHIEVING THE TARGETS
It may be recalled that in 2015, nations adopted the Paris Agreement at the Climate Change Summit Conference held in Paris, undertaking voluntary reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global warming and in turn causing climate change. Concurrently, the Conference announced that “developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in meeting their obligations under the Paris Agreement”. Though the Cabinet has taken a decision to build 650 MW of wind power plants and 1,900 MW of solar power plants in 2017, there has been no progress possibly due to lack of finances or investors for implementing the projects.
The easiest way of reducing GHG emissions is to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources for the generation of energy. Hence, it is possible to get financial assistance from various financial mechanisms set up under the Climate Change Convention (CCC) to defray costs incurred in shifting to renewable energy sources, for which proposals need to be submitted to the CCC Secretariat through the Ministry of Environment who is the focal point for CCC in Sri Lanka. It is the writer’s understanding that Sri Lanka has not sought any financial assistance from these sources.
As a side event at the CCC held in Paris in 2015, a programme called the International Solar Alliance (ISA), was launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on November 30, 2015, with the objective of scaling up solar energy applications, reducing the cost of solar power generation through aggregation of demand for solar finance, technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building. The ISA aims to pave the way for future solar generation, storage and technologies for member countries’ needs by mobilizing over USD 1000 billion by 2030, according to the India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) website (https://mnre.gov.in/isa/). Sri Lanka is also a signatory to the agreement signed at the launching ceremony.
It was reported in the Sunday Island of 26.07.2020 that India’s state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd has offered to set up a solar energy park in Sri Lanka under the aegis of ISA. Being a member of ISA, Sri Lanka should welcome India’s offer to build a solar park in Sri Lanka under ISA. Under the terms of ISA, India only facilitates sourcing of funding and services and the host country has the ownership for the project, who is required to do the preliminary ground work to seek funding. According to a reliable source, the CEB is not keen in pursuing this offer as it is not a tendered project. However, there is provision in the Act as shown above to accept this offer if it is deemed to be a project offered by the Government of India which it is. This again is a misinterpretation of the Act.
PROBLEMS FACING IN EXPANSION
OF RE SYSTEMS
When more and more RE systems are built, their integration into the national grid may pose some problems. One is the rapid variation of the output of solar and wind systems. With the development of software that could forecast these variations on-line, it is possible to increase the penetration of RE systems into the grid. If necessary, CEB may acquire this technology from any foreign country who has already implemented high penetration of RE into their system. It is also important that all solar and wind plants strictly conform to specifications, particularly in respect of voltage and harmonics control.
Another is the need for storage for saving the electricity generated during the daytime by solar systems for use at night time. There are several options for this too, among which are using high capacity batteries, build pump-storage reservoirs and generate hydrogen from day-time power.
A report by JICA on Electricity Sector Master Plan Study in Sri Lanka released in March, 2018 considered the option of generation with 100% renewable energy sources by 2040, recommending that to meet the deficit of power arising out of continuing high cloud cover for several days, storage batteries need to be installed at an estimated cost of USD 1,000 million which may have life-time of only 5 years.
Another JICA report on Development Planning on Optimal Power Generation for Peak Demand in Sri Lanka released in February 2015 considered building a pump-storage system with capacity 600 MW on Maha Oya near Aranayaka with a head of about 500 m at a cost of USD 700 million. This is also included in the CEB Plan.
However, another option that could be implemented without incurring any additional costs is to utilize the existing hydropower reservoirs where energy generated by solar systems could be stored. This is by avoiding generation of hydro power by an amount equivalent to that generated by solar systems during daytime. This saved hydro power is then available for using during night time (see article by Chandre Dharmawardana in The Island of 15.07.2020). The saved energy will get enhanced due to prevention of evaporation when the reservoirs are covered with solar panels.
There is much interest among developed countries to use hydrogen as an energy carrier and for storage. In a report published by CSIRO in Australia on National Hydrogen Roadmap in 2018, the possibility of generating hydrogen utilizing Australia’s vast potential for RE for both local application and for export was considered. Hydrogen systems can provide both electricity grid stability (i.e. seconds to hourly storage) and grid reliability (i.e. seasonal storage) services. Hydrogen generated from stand-alone solar and wind plants along with fuel cells can be used to generate electricity as and when necessary.
A third problem often cited by CEB is the lack of capacity of the transmission system to accommodate energy generated by RE systems as planned. According to the CEB, installing more than 20 MW of wind capacity in any given region may adversely impact local grid stability and power quality (NREL Study, 2003). This problem could be solved by improving the substations in outstations and increasing the capacity of transmission lines connected to them.
It was shown in Table 4 that in order to achieve 80% of generation from RE sources, it is necessary to deviate from the CEB’s LTGE Plan as shown in Table 4. However, the 2013 Electricity Act requires that any addition of capacity should be done while meeting the requirements of the CEB LTGE Plan. Hence, either the CEB Plan needs to be revised or the Act needs to be amended. Otherwise, the CEB may not consider implementing the adjusted scenario even though it meets the President’s policy.
With the existing and permitted RE projects along with those approved by the Cabinet and SLSEA, it will be possible to generate electricity 4,600 GWh short of the amount required to meet the target of 80% of generation from RE sources. This amount could easily be generated from a combination of solar, wind and biomass systems. Hence, there is absolutely no need to revise the President’s target of 80% to 70% as decided at the meeting held on 14.09.2020.
It is also essential to explore the possibilities of sourcing funds for adopting RE sources in place of fossil fuels which are available internationally because of the saving of GHG emissions. This will reduce the country’s burden on financing the RE projects. Perhaps it is time the President gets advisers with commitment to green energy who will give him the correct advice. It is a pity that when there is political will it is absent among the professionals concerned.
Cattle slaughter ban and common sense
By Rohana R. Wasala
Continued from yesterday
Desperate times call for desperate measures. For all communities in general who make Sri Lanka their home, and for the majority community in particular, these are desperate times indeed. However, cattle slaughter is not one of the burning problems that make the times desperate for them. There are much more serious problems they are faced with such as the menacing, so-called MMC Compact, the deleterious Yahapalana constitutional legacy – 19A – that prevents the executive and the legislature from readily restoring the democracy,the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law and the communal harmony that it effectively destroyed, the inevitable Covid-19 related economic consequences in the form of devastating blows on large income generating sources such as the tourism based hospitality industry and skilled and unskilled foreign employment, disruption of domestic industries due to mandatory lockdowns, social distancing, and other health restrictions imposed on physical movements in order to meet the pandemic emergency, all leading to the new administration’s dedicated attempts to eliminate the drug menace and other forms of crime and corruption even more challenging and even more difficult than they are.
Don’t the Ven. Mahanayake monks and leading lay Buddhists have to devote their attention to barefaced threats to the Buddha Sasana both within it and outside of it, such as bogus Arhants explaining the Dhamma in idiosyncratic ways that confuse the average Buddhists with little education in the philosophy of Buddhism (the majority) for whom it is a religion like any other, and even egg them on towards faiths that look more promising to them; disguised non-Buddhist men and women in yellow robes spreading superstitious beliefs and practices under the label of Buddhism; proselytising preachers and faith healers misappropriating Buddhist symbols to enmesh credulous innocent Buddhists in their superstitions; some truly ignorant or viciously ill-meaning You Tubers circulating the patent myth that Gautama Buddha was born, attained Enlightenment, and preached the Dhamma in Sri Lanka, ignoring the abundance of established historical evidence that proves that he was indeed from the subcontinent, and making money by turning out videos that feature illiterate ‘scholars’ who save their skin by hiding behind the hypocritical slogan ‘Here is the evidence. Believe it or leave it’, but they adduce only fake evidence. The Buddhist leaders must put their own house in order before driving our beleaguered nation into further crisis by trying to reform the world.
It is not that the monks and lay Buddhists who are agitating for a ban on cattle slaughter have forgotten what they can learn in this regard from the Buddha Gautama’s own policy of not forcing morality on people, but of helping them adopt moral behaviour by understanding evil as evil and good as good through self realization as illustrated in the story about Chunda Sukara/Sukarika (Chunda the pig killer/keeper/professional pork seller). This pig keeper slaughtered his pigs after torturing them in unimaginably cruel ways. And he was a neighbour of the great sage. But he never responded to his teaching of avihimsa and eventually died a wretched death, unreformed.
Perhaps we can learn something from India in this regard. According to the Wikipedia, India (pop.1.3 billion) is nearly 80% Hindu (with 14% Muslim, and 6% others). Beef eating is generally taboo for Hindus. It’s been estimated that the number of vegetarians in India equals the number of vegetarians in the rest of the world put together. But it seems to adopt a relaxed attitude towards cattle slaughter. The law governing cattle slaughter varies from state to state, and is flexible in some states. “On 26 May 2017, the Ministry of Environment of the Government of India led by Bharatiya Janata Party imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes, although Supreme Court of India suspended the ban on sale of cattle in its judgement in July 2017, giving relief to beef and leather industries”. So, the cattle slaughter ban in India was made ineffective even before it was hardly implemented.
No doubt, this was a disappointment to prime minister Modi, his BJP, and others who supported the ban. It is no less so, it is interesting to learn, to most Muslims of India as well. Researchers Naghmar Sahar and Rashid Kidwai of the Observer Research Foundation of India say: “The majority of Muslim leadership in India has, all along, been always in favour of a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, but somehow successive regimes have refrained from banning it” (India Matters/Aug. 12, 2019/ ‘A century of giving up beef: Muslims demand nationwide ban on cow slaughter’). Muslims have been making this demand in deference to Hindu sentiment, in the interest of peaceful coexistence with Hindus. The useful lesson in common sense we can learn from India’s experience with cattle slaughter banning is too obvious to need explaining.
Can’t the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians who disapprove of cattle slaughter think of an easier and more efficient way to minimise it (as eliminating it is impossible) than trying to impose unenforceable legislation to completely ban cattle slaughter? Just stop eating beef!
Murderers or Dual citizens?
I wrote a piece the other day about dual citizens in Parliament. My bias was towards letting them in for various reasons that I detailed. The responses were so varied and so interesting that I thought I would share them. Around 70% of those who wrote to me seemed to agree that Dual citizens with their experience, discipline and real-world conditioning would contribute positively. However, there was a good 30% who disagreed.
The arguments of the dissenters ranged from abuse to racism to negative values. I even had an insinuation that I was a spin doctor, running a spin for the Government. That one hurt the most! We had people say that Dual citizens were opportunists and shysters who if allowed in to parliament would only lead the country down that path. Excuse me! We don’t have those in the house already and is there any opportunistic, money grabbing unprincipled path left for our people to be led down? There was a Tamillian who wrote saying what would you do if Indian dual citizens came and tried to get into parliament? For Goodness sake! Does India allow dual citizens and even if they do how would that matter at all, or WOULD IT? There were a whole lot of value statements from fine upstanding citizens of the Pearl, citizens who have stood by silently watching decades of ruin, saying how their wonderful values and precious culture would be degraded by those with foreign values and standards. The most awesome one of all was how those who had pledged allegiance to another flag would have divided loyalties! Firstly, what is “pledging loyalty”, is it standing in some room and taking an oath (which is the maximum required) or just going to a crowded hall, singing or lip synching a national anthem and collecting your certificate (which is much more common)? So, what is binding about that? How on earth does it compromise your behaviour in any way? What is to stop you from being disloyal to a country? What do spies and those networking with diplomats gathering information do that is different ?
There were those who said that if you wanted to get into parliament you should renounce your dual citizenship like our current fearless leader has done. Do you think anyone but a raving lunatic would not leave the option open to return to another country if they had it, and come and work in the Pearl, after what has been done to the last few people who tried to give a hand? I won’t name names, I will let you think about that O revered readers. Let alone this, the Pearl is in such utter and hopeless shambles that not even the most qualified, genius in this world would undertake a task with any level of confidence or certainty of success. In those circumstances, what do you do when those who enticed you to come and try, pretend they don’t know you and consign you to the sharks when the hopeless task ends in disaster? Advocating jumping into a cesspit to try and clear a block with no means of getting out, when you have a means, is what those esteemed readers are telling people to do. To each his own they say.
The most fascinating thing about some of the replies was that they were longer than what I had written in the first place! I try to stick to around 1000 words per column. Most of those classic literary works exceeded that meagre amount by a huge margin. They could have proudly occupied the centrefold of a newspaper. A foray into psychology makes one wonder why those people don’t write direct to the editor, is it because they don’t wish to disclose their identity and hide behind the anonymity of the internet or is it due to a lack of self-confidence …?
Anyway, why is this a debate at all? The esteemed house of representatives of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has sworn in a convicted murderer as an MP. Now does this mean that a dual citizen of another country is automatically classed as having committed something more than a capital crime? The Pearl has hit the headlines all over the world for another spectacular achievement! What’s more the “highly literate” population voted this man in. Holy c…! This really defies any further comment. Does it also mean that not a single member of the overcrowded house of representatives has enough self-respect to RESIGN and say that he or she doesn’t want to be classed as a criminal by association? This action or inaction as the case may be, finally allows me to “rest my case” and be assured of victory when I say that not one single member of parliament is worth her or his salt.
Can I move on to another favourite subject of mine, the decimation of the UNP. I read the other day that another nephew has been lined up to be groomed for leadership of the Uncle Nephew Party. What utter rubbish! Don’t the people who make these decisions realize that actions of this nature are what have led to the destruction of the party? Or on the other hand has the wily fox set somebody up for the high jump? Tell you what, having watched the man in action, I would be very careful if I was the chosen nephew.
I say give the leadership to someone else. Preferably, someone from outside the party. Someone with a proven track record of leadership and ability to organize a team and instil the will to win. How about one of two people in the whole of the Pearl who has a world class achievement under their belt? We have one person who won the Cricket World Cup and another who has destroyed one of the most powerful terrorist networks of his time. What are these people doing now? They are largely ignored and not given any sort of recognition by the very people who vote murderers into parliament and make howls of protest when dual citizens are considered for high office.
Give the UNP to the Field Marshall I say, if he is interested, and make sure that Captain Cool is his deputy. Then at last we may have a future for our beloved ex pearl of the Indian Ocean. A future with a home-grown leadership and no requirement for dual citizens. The type of leadership that may even cause a brain drain in reverse, like what is happening in Aotearoa at present.
The real estate market is going berserk by all accounts in Aotearoa. Many expatriates who have been doing highly paid jobs are coming back. They are buying houses on line, without even physically looking at them. Could be due to control of Covid-19 in NZ and the current level of communications that allow anyone to work from almost anywhere? However, there must be at least a modicum of belief in the governance of the country and the direction we are being steered in. This is home grown leadership and from people who do not have even the semblance of the track record and achievements that the aforementioned gentlemen from the Pearl have.
No, we don’t recognize achievements in the Pearl, do we? We admire thuggery and accept allegiance and oaths of loyalty from convicted murderers.
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