Ooh la la! Cheers and mourns Cass sorrowfully. We and our beloved country Sri Lanka (no longer Free) were much in the foreign news this last week. Reason for the sorrow and bitter tears shed by Cass? The news is negative, actually derogatory. Here quoted below is one such beginning of an article on our land which could easily be Paradise if not for some of its leaders, many politicians and most of its citizens.
In Sri Lanka, the Government Looks Increasingly Like a Family Firm
Three brothers of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa now hold top posts in his government. Two of his nephews have official positions, too.
by Muib Mashal, The New York Times 11 July 2021
“On Thursday, another brother, Basil, was sworn in as finance minister, a move that one analyst, Bhavani Fonseka, said “consolidated the Rajapaksa family rule.
“’We now have four brothers and several other members of the family holding key positions in government,’ said Ms. Fonseka, a senior researcher with the Center for Policy Alternatives, a research institute based in Colombo, the capital. ‘In the face of a weak opposition and no real checks and balances on the executive, prospects for Sri Lanka’s constitutional democracy are deeply troubling.’”
Muib Mashal goes on to detail what’s negative to the foreign media about Sri Lanka, the main negative following the appointment of Basil Rajapaksa as Finance Minister and … even before he was sworn in as a national list Member of Parliament, as one local commentator said.
I suppose these international columnists/reporters/commentators do not know how eminently qualified Basil R is to hold that most important Cabinet post in the government with the Ministry transferred to him from his all mighty elder brother who held it so far. Does the foreign press not know how his advent was anticipated, welcomed and hossanahs sung by so many loud-mouthed MPs who even signed a long petition to get him back, double citizenship notwithstanding and his frequent trips to the US of A – his first home. To whom was the petition handed over? Elder brother the Prime Minister or elder brother President? Totally unnecessary as the brothers would bring him back. Wasn’t one important article in 20 A about eligibility granted to dual citizens to enter our August House by the Diyawanna and be Cabinet ministers. Those who rushed to sign the petition were of course seekers of brownie points and security, for no request was needed to bring Bonnie Basil back over the oceans!
Apart from the magic Basil R possesses or is bequeathed on him by loyalists, he must be holding pre-eminent qualifications in finance, the intricacies of economics: micro macro and all. Cass surmised he was modestly not using professorships and doctorates as they are so common now – a Prof from Rajarata University and Merve the Perve Silva holding a doctorate and using it; bestowed on him by some alternate medicine (read acupuncture) specialist via his institute.
Cassandra, apart from being a seer in the Trojan mould, is also a Curious Cat, whose nine lives however have saved her from death that invariably stalks curious cats. So, she continues prying and forecasting. Curious about higher qualifications she Googled the new Finance Minister; he had his secondary education at Isipathana College and Ananda College, both in Colombo. But a citation precedes the bio: “This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification.” But as mentioned by the ex-Prez of the Bar Association and another PC in the Face the Nation MTV I programme on Monday 12 July night, he has really solid qualifications in the political field. They both quoted his creating the Pohottu Party – SLPP – and having it win provincial, presidential and general elections with such huge majorities even before, as the Sinhala saying goes: ‘the smell of milk left its mouth’.
So, we sit back and relax: all our country troubles will soon be over. As Cass mentioned in her previous article, he may use his skill/magic/organizing power over even natural disasters and send packing the pestilent C19 from our paradisial shores. Good luck to Basil R and a warm welcome back!
1. (The Island 13/7)
“Rape of teenager: SJB alleges bid to suppress probe as nine suspects get bail”. “Govt insists inquiry on track, urges Opposition not to propagate lies” And “M P Rohini Kaviratne said that among those arrested over the rape of the teenager was a policeman … she intended to raise the issue at the next meeting of the Women Parliamentarions’ Caucus.” Great! All officers etc concerned, must not let the perpetrators of sexually abusing, nay raping an underage girl, go free or be inadequately punished. After all we were promised a saubagya future and our country holds high respect for women and protection of young girls. This poor thing’s mother was an accomplice in the crime. Punish her most severely is Cassandra’s earnest cry.
2. (The Island 13/7)
“Two out of every five of Modi’s ministers have criminal records … nine out of every 10 are multimillionaires.” Modi has a Cabinet of 15 Ministers and 28 Union Ministers and with others 78 total members in his Council of Ministers. In spite of monitoring vigilantes, corruption was rife in India, but seemed to be better controlled and lesser in criminality.
How does dear ole Sri Lanka compare with Big Brother? To Cass’ free lance reckoning, the Pearl Drop/ younger sibling seems to be far outpacing the Eye shedding the tear cum BB. Are our Ministers and State Ministers, even top bureaucrats, lily white? Most of them are donned in white kapati suits but hands are dirty. To get a non-corruptible among our leaders is akin to looking for a needle in a hay stack. Money is The Be-All and End-All, apparently with insatiable desire and limitless accumulation of black money.
3. (The Island 14/7)
“Easter Sunday carnage: Criminal proceedings against Sirisena demanded; PCol faulted for not making specific recommendations against Ranil; Criminal liability of CNI and SIS chief highlighted; Respond within month or face consequences.” This is the diktat of the National Catholic Committee for Justice in a letter to the President to implement recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, reported by Norman Palihawadana and Shamindra Ferdinando.
The ire of the Catholic Bishops led by Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith is justified and understandable and to be commended. They are not giving up seeking justice on behalf of three of their churches and congregations for the carnage on Easter Sunday 2020; and their duty by their flock. One outstanding instance of ‘sticking to guns’ not swayed by wavering and regardless of pitting themselves against political clout.
Bright spot example
How wonderful to see centuries old traditions followed to the letter and fair play and superb sportsmanship. Cass refers to the recently concluded Wimbledon Tennis Championship – July 2021, in its 134th year and the Ladies Championship of 127 years.
The beginning of the game of tennis is traced to medieval times, named ‘jeu de pauma’ since a ball was struck by the palm and the game played indoors; a monastery pastime in France in the 12 th century. It moved to England and was adopted and became so popular that even King Henry VII and VIII became aficionados. Racquets were added in the 16th C. Vulcanised rubber was first used in 1850 and thus the tennis ball’s birth. In 1873 Londoner – Major Walter Wingfield – spread the game to other parts of the UK, and later the game came to the colonies.
Traditions are: players in white; games played in Wimbledon, London, since its start in 1877; on grass courts accused this year of being slippery with poor Novak Djokovic taking many tosses with Cass, an ardent fan, missing heart beats. The ball pickers and line watchers almost militant in precision and the games played so smoothly. Royalty is always present and gives away awards – The Duke of Kent for many years accompanied for many games and the finals this year by the Duchess of Cambridge with Prince William present on more than one day. Kate brought her father Michael Middleton to the men’s finals.
It was touching to see the more senior players place encouraging arms around young players as they met across the net at the completion of many games. Winners, in their interviews at the end of games, invariably praised their opponents and wished them well. Of the Big Three Nadal did not participate, Federer lost to a younger player in the quarter finals and the Serb at 34 won against mighty powerful 24 year old Italian Matteo Berrettini.
In contrast what’s with our cricket team? Going down the pallam not only in the game but in sportsmanship, moral behaviour and conduct – far from gentlemanly.
A call for confidence in Rajavasala
The government is highly cheerful about the defeat of the SJB’s vote of no confidence on Minister Gammanpila.
It was able to display its two-thirds power in Parliament. Those smaller parties that are aligned with the Pohottuva such as the SLFP and Wimal Weerawansa’s NFF and others remained fastened with Pohottuva power. The new message after the SJB’s defeat is that the people are wholly supportive of the increase in fuel prices. In fact, they have been voting to support the new fuel prices, and thus Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa does not have to do anything about it. Forget all that talk about how that price increase would not have happened if BR had been in the country, or that he would reduce it in a couple of days in office.
The record of no-confidence motions in our Parliament from 1948 is certainly different. Many such motions have been defeated, but the wider and deeper messages they carried have remained with the voters, who did what was necessary when the time for a larger national Vote of No-Confidence came their way.
This is the first big issue that Sajith Premadasa faced as leader of the SJB. There was somewhat of a challenge to him with the presence in Parliament of his former leader, and continuing UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who did try a green twist to the motion by trying to amend it to read against the whole government. Such twists and turns in politics can only be expected when persons who are wholly defeated by the voters in an election, the entire party and himself included, enters the House through the backdoor of the National List.
What this no-confidence motion brought before the people is much more than the rise in fuel prices. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government’s flagrant misuse of quarantine regulations to forcibly grab and transport trade union, civil rights, and political critics and opponents to a lock down centre in the North, combined with the continuing protests by farmers without necessary fertiliser, there is a rising mood of public discontent with the advancing power of the Rajapaksas. Here are some of the real ‘confidence’’ issues facing the people.
Does Pohottuva think the public are wholly supportive of the presidential pardon to a murderer convicted by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court? What about the three others who were also convicted with the same person? Is the public cheerful about such a pardoned, but not freed of crime – person, being appointed to head a major state institution on housing development? Is housing to be a sector of increasing political manipulation, much more than it was when Wimal Weerawansa, as Minister of Housing and Common Amenities, was at play in that sector, with luxury housing for relatives?
By the way, Weerawansa was a loud and strong opponent to the no- confidence motion against Minister Gammanpila.
There is currently some confused thinking on the silent protest carried out by teachers on distant teaching through the internet. The vast numbers, in several thousands, who participated in the public call for action by the government on the long-standing teacher demands, did show the necessity for action.
The public who may be even critical of the trade union action by the teachers are certainly not supportive of them being called ‘kaalakanniyo’ – miserable, wretched – even by a Cabinet Minister, whatever rank or status he may hold. Minister Rambukwelle could have turned many teachers, who may have preferred to be silent about their dispute on income and rights, to openly join the related trade union action. The Minister’s subsequent reference to teachers as ‘divinities’ certainly had little impact, in a land where there are unholy divinities, too.
The increase in the size of protests today shows a rise in the mood of opposition to the government. The public reaction to the ugly and shameful show of force against citizen protesters by the Police, against court orders, too, seem to have pushed the Police somewhat into the background. But we cannot be sure of that.
There have been many transfers and promotions of key police personnel, and the vacancy in the highest police post is not far away. Will the future actions on police management by the Rajapaksa Handlers send a new message on Police Brutality? Will the suspects brought to show evidence and are shot down, show an increase in the coming months? This is where public confidence in the government’s role in fighting crime and keeping peace will be on display, as the Rajapaksa Handlers move to more Family Power and less People’s Power.
More than two years have passed since that Easter Sunday attack on three churches, the deaths of so many, many more injured, families destroyed, parents gone and children lost, and the government still has to show the people the truth about this massive crime. The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, has now given a one-month deadline for the President and the government to answer several key issues about this crime, which were key electoral promises of the Pohottuva candidate who is now the President, and the SLPP government of today.
The answers to these issues raised will show the confidence in the Sri Lankan government by the people of this country, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or caste; and the confidence in this country by the international community.
The defeat of the no-confidence motion on Minister Gammanpila should not be the stuff of worry for the Opposition in Parliament and the SJB. It is certainly a call to spread the wider message of no-confidence in a government that has failed in living up to its promises to the people.
The government may remain happy with its two-thirds majority in Parliament. But it certainly needs much more than parliamentary numbers to retain and build the confidence among the people. This is the real task of the Rajapaksa Power today. It has to move away from a Rajapaksa Senakeliya or Carnival, and try and settle down to Rajapaksa Service to the people, and not to themselves. A true call for Confidence in the Rajavasala, from those away from the Rajapaksa pack and players.
How rebirth takes place
(from THE BUDDHA AND HIS TEACHINGS by Venerable Nārada Mahāthera)
“The pile of bones of (all the bodies of) one man
Who has alone one aeon lived
Would make a mountain’s height —
So said the mighty seer.”
To the dying man at this critical stage, according to Abhidhamma philosophy, is presented a Kamma, Kamma Nimitta, or Gati Nimitta.
By Kamma is here meant some good or bad act done during his lifetime or immediately before his dying moment. It is a good or bad thought. If the dying person had committed one of the five heinous crimes (Garuka Kamma) such as parricide etc. or developed the Jhānas (Ecstasies), he would experience such a Kamma before his death. These are so powerful that they totally eclipse all other actions and appear very vividly before the mind’s eye. If he had done no such weighty action, he may take for his object of the dying thought-process a Kamma done immediately before death (Āsanna Kamma); which may be called a “Death Proximate Kamma.”
In the absence of a “Death-Proximate Kamma” a habitual good or bad act (Ācinna Kamma) is presented, such as the healing of the sick in the case of a good physician, or the teaching of the Dhamma in the case of a pious Bhikkhu, or stealing in the case of a thief. Failing all these, some casual trivial good or bad act (Katattā Kamma) becomes the object of the dying thought-process.
or “symbol,” means a mental reproduction of any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which was predominant at the time of some important activity, good or bad, such as a vision of knives or dying animals in the case of a butcher, of patients in the case of a physician, and of the object of worship in the case of a devotee, etc…
By Gati Nimitta, or “symbol of destiny” is meant some symbol of the place of future birth. This frequently presents itself to dying persons and stamps its gladness or gloom upon their features. When these indications of the future birth occur, if they are bad, they can at times be remedied. This is done by influencing the thoughts of the dying man. Such premonitory visions of destiny may be fire, forests, mountainous regions, a mother’s womb, celestial mansions, and the like.
Taking for the object a Kamma, or a Kamma symbol, or a symbol of destiny, a thought-process runs its course even if the death be an instantaneous one.
For the sake of convenience let us imagine that the dying person is to be reborn in the human kingdom and that the object is some good Kamma.
His Bhavanga consciousness is interrupted, vibrates for a thought-moment and passes away; after which the mind-door consciousness (manodvāravajjana) arises and passes away. Then comes the psychologically important stage –Javana process — which here runs only for five thought moments by reason of its weakness, instead of the normal seven. It lacks all reproductive power, its main function being the mere regulation of the new existence (abhinavakarana).
The object here being desirable, the consciousness he experiences is a moral one. The Tadālambana-consciousness which has for its function a registering or identifying for two moments of the object so perceived, may or may not follow. After this occurs the death-consciousness (cuticitta), the last thought moment to be experienced in this present life.
There is a misconception amongst some that the subsequent birth is conditioned by this last death-consciousness (cuticitta) which in itself has no special function to perform. What actually conditions rebirth is that which is experienced during the Javana process.
With the cessation of the decease-consciousness death actually occurs. Then no material qualities born of mind and food (cittaja and āhāraja) are produced. Only a series of material qualities born of heat (utuja) goes on till the corpse is reduced to dust.
Simultaneous with the arising of the rebirth consciousness there spring up the ‘body-decad,’ ‘sex-decad,’ and ‘base-decad’ (Kāya-bhāva-vatthu-dasaka).
According to Buddhism, therefore, sex is determined at the moment of conception and is conditioned by Kamma not by any fortuitous combination of sperm and ovum-cells.
The passing away of the consciousness of the past birth is the occasion for the arising of the new consciousness in the subsequent birth. However, nothing unchangeable or permanent is transmitted from the past to the present.
Just as the wheel rests on the ground only at one point, so, strictly speaking, we live only for one thought-moment. We are always in the present, and that present is ever slipping into the irrevocable past. Each momentary consciousness of this ever-changing life-process, on passing away, transmits its whole energy, all the indelibly recorded impressions on it, to its successor. Every fresh consciousness, therefore, consists of the potentialities of its predecessors together with something more. At death, the consciousness perishes, as in truth it perishes every moment, only to give birth to another in a rebirth. This renewed consciousness inherits all past experiences. As all impressions are indelibly recorded in the ever-changing palimpsest-like mind, and all potentialities are transmitted from life to life, irrespective of temporary disintegration, thus there may be reminiscence of past births or past incidents. Whereas if memory depended solely on brain cells, such reminiscence would be impossible.
“This new being which is the present manifestation of the stream of Kamma-energy is not the same as, and has no identity with, the previous one in its line — the aggregates that make up its composition being different from, having no identity with, those that make up the being of its predecessor. And yet it is not an entirely different being since it has the same stream of Kamma-energy, though modified perchance just by having shown itself in that manifestation, which is now making its presence known in the sense-perceptible world as the new being.
Death, according to Buddhism, is the cessation of the psycho-physical life of any one individual existence. It is the passing away of vitality (āyu), i.e., psychic and physical life (jīvitindriya), heat (usma) and consciousness (vinnana).
Death is not the complete annihilation of a being, for though a particular life-span ends, the force which hitherto actuated it is not destroyed.
Just as an electric light is the outward visible manifestation of invisible electric energy, so we are the outward manifestations of invisible Kammic energy. The bulb may break, and the light may be extinguished, but the current remains and the light may be reproduced in another bulb. In the same way, the Kammic force remains undisturbed by the disintegration of the physical body, and the passing away of the present consciousness leads to the arising of a fresh one in another birth. But nothing unchangeable or permanent “passes” from the present to the future.
In the foregoing case, the thought experienced before death being a moral one, the resultant rebirth-consciousness takes for its material an appropriate sperm and ovum cell of human parents. The rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi vinnana) then lapses into the Bhavanga state.
The continuity of the flux, at death, is unbroken in point of time, and there is no breach in the stream of consciousness.
Rebirth takes place immediately, irrespective of the place of birth, just as an electromagnetic wave, projected into space, is immediately reproduced in a receiving radio set. Rebirth of the mental flux is also instantaneous and leaves no room whatever for any intermediate state (antarabhava). Pure Buddhism does not support the belief that a spirit of the deceased person takes lodgement in some temporary state until it finds a suitable place for its “reincarnation.”
This question of instantaneous rebirth is well expressed in the Milinda Pa
The King Milinda questions:
“Venerable Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another dies here and is reborn in Kashmir, which of them would arrive first?
“They would arrive at the same time. O King.
“In which town were you born, O King?
“In a village called Kalasi, Venerable Sir.
“How far is Kalasi from here, O King?
“About two hundred miles, Venerable Sir.
“And how far is Kashmir from here, O King?
“About twelve miles, Venerable Sir.
“Now think of the village of Kalasi, O King.
“I have done so, Venerable Sir.
“And now think of Kashmir, O King.
“It is done, Venerable Sir.
“Which of these two, O King, did you think the more slowly and which the more quickly?
“Both equally quickly, Venerable Sir.
“Just so, O King, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, is not reborn later than he who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir.”
“Give me one more simile, Venerable Sir.”
“What do you think, O King? Suppose two birds were flying in the air and they should settle at the same time, one upon a high and the other upon a low tree, which bird’s shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird’s later?”
“Both shadows would appear at the same time, not one of them earlier and the other later. “
The question might arise: Are the sperm and ovum cells always ready, waiting to take up the rebirth-thought?
According to Buddhism, living beings are infinite in number, and so are world systems. Nor is the impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth. Earth, an almost insignificant speck in the universe, is not the only habitable plane, and humans are not the only living beings. As such it is not impossible to believe that there will always be an appropriate place to receive the last thought vibrations. A point is always ready to receive the falling stone.
Dual citizens; shocking rape cases going unpunished
I have a bone to pick with my co-Friday columnist who writes from across the ocean about the Pearl. In his July 16 column, he writes at length on dual citizens entering the Sri Lankan Parliament while retaining citizenship of another country. He lauds it in no uncertain terms, while most of us natives, living in our motherland, oppose the move that was introduced in the 20th Amendment. He writes: “A Dual Citizen is back as a national list member of parliament. Now, this in a country that passed legislation that banned dual citizens from entering parliament. This of course is something I was and am vehemently opposed to …”
The previous ban which he ‘vehemently opposed’ he pins on the Kaduwa syndrome – inferiority complex; frog in the well mentality; “fear of intimidation, fear, and revulsion of learning anything new from others”. Cass labels his reasons tosh! He goes to the extreme of writing: “The only good thing that has happened is that a dual citizen is back as finance minister, no less. … Our entire national list should consist of qualified dual citizens who have experience gained from the first world.” The implication here is that all our Sri Lankan citizens holding only Sri Lankan passports are no good against dual citizens who to him are nonpareil, more so legislaters. Thus, he casts aside as useless all those holding higher qualification gained mostly locally and are loyal to the country. They to him are less in ability, qualifications, broadmindedness than those who escaped to foreign countries when the going was bad and now return when it suits them. I present sole citizens like Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickremaratne and Harsha de Silva and very many medical professionals and agriculturists who have shown they are pre-eminently qualified in their several fields, and loyal to Sri Lanka too.
Dual citizens left the country for whatever reason, mostly escaping a sinking ship for better prospects even as second-class citizens. Then they had the bug of nationalism arising in their breasts. This when it suited them; when it was opportune for them to return to their country of birth. They seize the opportunity to be recognised, elevated, lauded; and return from obscurity in a foreign country to hosannas sung by loyalists and promoters of dual citizenship like Rajitha Ratwatte. If they are so loyal and want to serve their mother country, why don’t they give up the citizenship of the country chosen for emigration and become solely Sri Lankan citizens? Oh no, they keep a safety branch handy for escape – to obscurity though – when things get too hot here. Even Basil Rajapaksa took plane to the US immediately after his brother’s defeat at the 2015 presidential election. Now back with several brothers in high power, nephews included; in short, a government mostly by the Family, it is ideal for Brother Basil to return and to boost his return, such loud singing of hosannas and prediction this Knight with superhuman powers will kill the dragon of economic bankruptcy that is poised to devour poor Sri Lanka. He may even banish the virus that has overpowered the entire world. We Ordinaries will wait and watch.
It is no to persons like medical interns who got their entire education- high school plus medical – at government expense and then scooted slyly to greener pastures immediately after getting their MBBSs. This closed door also to those who fled punishments or change of government or jumped the ship they thought was sinking or scooted for whatever expediency. However, those who felt they had no hope of career development in this country or went for higher studies (when local universities were closed for long or did not accept them) and then decided to stay back in the host countries as citizens are welcome back as even dual citizens since their return is prompted by caring for parents and siblings left behind, or wanting to settle down on birth turf and benefit the country with foreign money and expertise gained. Some highly qualified, medical professionals mostly, revisit Sri Lanka and give immense help free of charge. We welcome them wholeheartedly and are grateful. But not those whose motives for returning are purely selfish.
What particularly irked ole Cass were these two statements of Rajitha Ratwatte writing ‘From Outside the Pearl’. “The only good thing that has happened is that a dual citizen is back as finance minister, no less” and “our entire national lists should consist of qualified dual citizens who have experience gained from the first world.” I won’t deal with the first statement. How can he judge whether it is the only good move of government until Basil delivers the prediction of saving the country? Then the promotion of dual citizens to Parliament – “qualified with experiences gained from the first world.” I mentioned how some of these come back to help us but never as politicians or into politics. Those who come into the political arena so far have not advertised their higher qualifications and some have experience in petrol pumping if not dish washing!!
Rape rears its medusa head
We have been hearing and reading about a 15-year-old girl sold for prostitution by her mother and used by the many including some high persons. The case is out in the open and due punishment may be meted out. Another case was highlighted about a younger girl and I was told that social media highlighted a father who abused his two daughters and is in hiding now. Words fail ole Cass to express how reprehensible these cases are: unbridled perverse sexual desire and greed for money; two conditions rampant now. Cass nearly fell of her chair when she read the first page news item in The Island of Wednesday July 21. “National child protection policy not implemented for 21 years, says COPE.” Rather usual in this Paradise Isle gone rotten. But what followed both inundated Cass’s heart with deep sorrow followed by raging fury, though useless. A beautiful, typically dressed 16 year old Tamil girl – Ishalini Jude Kumar – is featured in the article “who succumbed to injuries caused by a fire in the residence of lawmaker Rishad Bathiudeen at No 410/16, Baudhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7.” Stunning. Shocking beyond words. Cass believes the rape and suspects it was continuous but never will accept the self immolation.
This particular MP and former Minister has had two previous allegations against him – the destruction of parts of a forest bordering Wilpattu to build houses for his supporters and association with some Easter Sunday carnage suspects.
Rape and molesting children are extra extra-nasty social evils. The perpetrators must be severely punished. In Saudi Arabia it was said that stealing was punished with hands amputated so…
Cass leaves you on that note – to mull over as Sri Lanka is saved by the Hon Basil R and we get back to being Paradise.
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