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Buddhism: Saved by Constitution?



By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana


Unfolding events make me wonder whether it is the Constitution that would ultimately save Buddhism in Sri Lanka. I am not talking of saving Buddhism from external threats, for I fear the biggest threat to it comes from Buddhists themselves. Whilst claiming that we have the most pristine form of Buddhism they seem determined to disregard the liberating message of the Buddha and subjugate themselves to supernatural forces, as can been seen during this present distressing epidemic. I can understand the frustration of the man on the street, desperately seeking for something to save their livelihoods, but doubts have crept into my mind because of the actions of the so-called intelligentsia regarding the use of untested cures.

Talking of intelligentsia, I wonder whether I should include some politicians as well. Anyway, I do not have to dwell much on politicians as the excellent editorial “Putting the cart before the horse” (The Island, 14 December) sums up beautifully the erratic behaviour of those who govern us. Talking of intelligence, anyone with even an ounce of it would have been flabbergasted by the utterances of one politician who compared the discovery of “Kali Syrup” to the discovery of gravity by Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists of all time and was a key figure in the scientific revolution. Sir Isaac had to prove that his speculative discovery was correct by writing a thesis, which is considered a masterpiece.

It is rumoured that this idiotic politician is the political power behind the “Kali kapuwa”

Reading some of the comments on this issue by a scientist turned anti-science campaigner really disturbed me. After all, whilst he was the Dean of the Faculty of Science at the Kelaniya University, he claimed that god “Natha” had given him the information that chronic kidney disease in Rajarata was caused by arsenic. He is our ambassador to the Buddhist country from which two of our Nikayas obtained higher ordination. He condemns modern science as a Judeo-Christian invention and criticises the application of principles of science-based medicine for the assessment of the syrup formulated on the basis of advice from goddess “Kali”. He claims “prathyaksa” (experience) is a sufficient test! He seems to be supported by many ‘intellectuals’!

Interestingly, the abusive behaviour of the inventor of this syrup towards the Maha Nayaka of Atamasthana escaped criticism from most media, maybe because they promoted the syrup without justification. There was not much criticism from most of our vociferous Bhikkhus either. The learned professor/ambassador has added a new dimension to the controversy. He has stated that the kapuwa addressed the Maha Nayaka in that manner because the Maha Nayaka takes regular treatment from him and is aware that the kapuwa derives his knowledge from Kali. He goes on further to state that the Maha Nayaka usually addresses this kapuwa as “Meniyo”!

If this story is true, one has to assume that the guardian of the sacred Bo Tree, the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date, is no respecter of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha took treatment from physicians of the day when he was ill. He neither went behind gods for treatment nor encouraged divine interventions of this sort. His attempts to save us from dependence on the supernatural seems to have been a total failure if you go by the interpretation of this Buddhist philosopher and the Maha Nayake, provided of course the narrative of this intellectual is correct.

The Buddha instructed the Sangha not to indulge in the occult or take part in disciplines like astrology or even medicine. What do our Bhikkhus do? There are plenty of “Veda Hamuduruwos”, “Nakshatra Hamuduruwos”, “Political Hamuduruwos” and even trade union leaders. Did the Buddha want Bhikkhus to take to politics?

After a protracted battle between two prominent Buddist monks, one has entered Parliament dashing the hopes of Buddhists who wished to have a Bhikkhu-free parliament. The Siyam Nikaya denies higher ordination to those who are not Radala or Govigama and justifies this on the basis of a supposed-to-be edict of a king, blatantly violating equality preached by the Buddha.

Talk to many Buddhists, they will come up with a list of external threats to Buddhism completely disregarding the greater threat; the internal one. It is not only the behaviour of Bhikkhus that is a threat to Buddhism but also the behaviour of many lay Buddhists too, who are nominal Buddhists. Go to any famous Kovil and you will find most who go there for favours are Buddhists. When one of my relations went to a Kovil to get the kapuwa to chant a seth-kaviya to save the marriage of her son, she found the mother-in-law of her son had beaten her to it; the latter had got the same kapuwa to recite a vas-kaviya! These gods must be having a tough time, deciding which side to take.

To digress slightly, a child specialist from my hometown Matara has raised the question “Why doubt only Kali’s cure?” (The Island, 22 December). After referring to the US president, who claimed he invaded Iraq as he heard God saying that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction and to the US commander, who claimed they won the war because his God was more powerful than Saddam Hussain’s God, he concludes the opinion piece with another question; “Can someone explain why the two powerful persons were not taken in the same perspective?” Obvious answer is that both are idiots who think that other idiots would believe their idiotic explanation!

What concerned me is the following comment “Now comes an indigenous medical man from Kegalle, with the power of God Kali, offering to cure Covid-19. Surely, he is not going to do as much damage as mentioned above, even if allowed to go in full potency (and I feel he will never be allowed).”

There is no end in sight to this epidemic, and the development of a highly transmissible mutation, identified in the UK, is very ominous. If Sri Lanka is unfortunate enough to get it, our health services would not be able to cope with it. The danger of promoting untested remedies is the neglect of proven preventive measures which may lead to a catastrophe.

Whilst I am not against constitutional recognition of the role Buddhism played in the evolution of the culture and heritage of Sri Lanka, I feel it is the bounden duty of we Buddhists to protect Buddhism instead of leaving that task to the Constitution.




SLAF on hazardous wall, Sri Lanka Air Force has sent us the following statement……



Sri Lanka Air Force has sent us the following statement in response to an article (That hazardous Ratmalana Wall) published on 21 Jan.

It is with regret that I would like to inform you that the newspaper article titled “That Hazardous Ratmalana Wall” published in The “Island” newspaper of 21 January 2021 contains false information which has not been clarified from the Air Force Director Media nor any other official channel of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).

It should also be highlighted that the Sri Lanka Air Force does not wish to challenge the freedom of reporting information by journalists. However, news articles of this nature published with the use of unsubstantiated information tarnishes the image of Sri Lanka Air Force.

The newspaper article in concern has caught the attention of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force. As alleged in the article, the Commander has not declared on behalf of the SLAF that there is no objection for the removal of the wall and replacing it with a fence. On the contrary he had in fact stated that a collapsible wall could be put in place of the permanent wall which should have a solid finish obstructing the view from outside due to security reasons.

In addition, to date there has been no incident/accident reported at the Ratmalana Airfield related to the wall along the Galle Road. Further, vehicles such as passenger coach/container etc; travelling on the main road would be taller than the wall in concern and according to the article, the main road would also have to be closed each and every time when an aircraft approaching of taking off from that end of the runway. International runway due to limitations which is also can be considered as hazardous to flight safety, SLAF consider Flight Safety is a paramount important factor as an organization which operates different types of aircraft over the years from this airfield.

It is pertinent to mention the wall in concern was erected by the SLAF before year 2009 with the consent of the Airport and Aviation Sri Lanka (AASL) to address the security concerns at that time and maintained to date. The outer perimeter security of the Colombo International Airport at Ratmalana is being provided by the SLAF free of charge over years. As a measure of gratitude, with the consent of AASL and the approval of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), SLAF authorized to erect hoardings along this wall and to utilize the funds generated for welfare measures of airmen.

Further, publishing of an article which has an author with a fictional name will have serious and adverse effects on the newspaper as well as the goodwill which prevails between SLAF and AASL. The goodwill which prevails between the SLAF and your esteemed Organization will also be adversely effected by articles of this nature. SLAF Directorate of Media always provide accurate and precise information to media institutions which has an impact on general public as well as to other organizations. Undersigned is contactable any time of the day through mobile (0772229270) to clarify ambiguities of SLAF related information.

In conclusion, I would like to express our displeasure regarding the newspaper article in concern and the damage which has been done to the good name of the Sri Lanka Air Force and in particular to the Commander of Air Force.



Group Captain



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Dog-eat-dog culture



By Rajitha Ratwatte

There is an old joke that goes around regularly about Sri Lankans’ in hell. How absolutely no guards are needed to keep Lankans in hell because they do a very good job of pulling each other down into hell when anyone even looks like they will escape. When you extrapolate that into real life in the Pearl, the examples are plenty. All of us have personal experiences of neighbours, peers, relations and even our bosses “cutting us” as the popular phrase goes. It is mostly those who either realise and watch out for these pitfalls or those who clearly identify a powerful figure to “bum suck” for want of a better word that display pure unadulterated sycophancy to, that “progress” to propagate these trends in the future. This I believe is something that is triggered by the basest of all human emotions, jealousy, and probably egged on by a sense of insecurity as well.

One would expect that in a nation of devout Buddhists such reprehensible behaviour would be addressed and controlled. Alas it is not to be and looks like it never will be.

It is rather disconcerting to observe that this behaviour is ‘going strong’ among the Lankan community in this the land of the “long White Cloud” as well. The more I live here and mix with the community, the more I hear about people who try to start new projects or give fruition to new and possibly brilliant schemes who have been stymied by fellow citizens born in the Pearl. They indulge in the anonymous letter method (that dates back from time immemorial) made even easier by using false identities, and “one-off” e mail addresses on the web. They inform all government authorities of what they believe are attempts to break the law of their adopted country. If there are bilateral trade agreements, they diligently contact the other parties and try to cast aspersions on the people concerned. They even inform the management of any company that these people with the new ideas may be working at, that their employee may be breaking a sub clause in his contract and thinking of doing some other business while working for them. All triggered by a wonderful sense of self-righteousness from people who don’t think twice about breaking the law when it concerns their own affairs!

As a result, those who have had a measure of success, guard their positions very carefully and a few who have tried to include other Lankans in their operations have learned hard lessons from those who stole their trade secrets and started rival businesses on their own. I daresay this happens in other communities too, but among the Chinese and Indian communities that form similar minorities in Aotearoa, there are official networks formed to help new immigrants. There are schemes and methods in place to help their people do business, especially in the field of imports, to try and reach some sort of equilibrium with regard to the balance of trade between Aotearoa and their home countries. Sri Lanka imports so much milk from New Zealand but almost nothing of our spices, gems and jewellery, tourism products or even our tea that used to have a much larger share of the market, are imported.

In these desperate economic times, shouldn’t the government be looking at ways to improve our export trade? There are so many pockets and communities of Lankans in so many different countries who are doing well enough to be able to afford some luxuries from their home countries but have to pay exorbitant prices or do without. A recent import of ‘sweet meats’ for Sinhala New Year saw such a massive offtake that great plans for expansion were disrupted by Covid-19, before the Lankan rivals could put paid to it. Although such plans were in place!

Something that is rather obvious to those observing the antics in the Pearl from outside is that there seems to be no plan. Innovative thinking, especially in the field of ‘non-traditional’ exports does not exist. We have all seen how fickle tourism is. Using our fertile soil and the artistic skills of our people to build a reputation for quality exports has been totally neglected in recent times. I daresay the relevant ministries and export bodies exist, but it is a well-known fact that they simply serve as JOBS for political catchers, who do nothing except enjoy a foreign junket or two every year on account of the taxpayer.

That brilliant marketing idea of the Ceylon Tea Centers was so far ahead of its time that no one really understood it. We had the best retail locations in some of the greatest cities in Europe and the UK and were building up a great reputation for serving quality tea and promoting our cuisine. It should have been expanded to handle handicraft products on the lines of Laksala and even spices. Of course, promoting our culture, hospitality and tourism would have followed. There are two ways to handle a crisis. We can either put up our shutters and slide deeper and deeper into the mire of debt and economic ruin, or take some bold steps, make innovative investments and take a gamble on products and ideas that are endemic to our country.


Even if the latter method fails the end result couldn’t be much worse! Go down fighting I say! Rather than ask expatriates to come back and try to work in a totally corrupt and politician dominated society, approach expatriates with ideas in other countries and back them to promote those ideas if they show real economic benefits to our land. Not everything will work but even a 5% success rate is better than nothing at all.

It is also acknowledged that RANIL has been reappointed as leader of the UNP. Now then, what does this mean? Is it that the Uncle-Nephew party has stuck to tradition or does it mean that at least some people have realized that an experienced politician with world recognition and a certain amount of credibility in the first world, is useful to have around? Search your minds all you critics who blamed absolutely everything on Ranil. Have a dispassionate look at the Muppets in parliament and think for yourself what sort of account they would give of themselves on the world stage. After you do this, place Ranil on the world stage next to those morons and realize for yourself the DIFFERENCE!

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Lenin comes to town (again)



By Gwynne Dyer

When Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to Moscow on Sunday after convalescing in Germany from an attempted poisoning by the FSB domestic spy agency, the regime-friendly media loyally failed to mention his arrival. With one striking exception: Vremya, the flagship news show of Russian state television.

Presumably, somebody there was hoping to win favour with the Kremlin, because they briefly mentioned Navalny three-quarters of the way through Sunday’s two-hour programme. In fact, they compared Navalny’s trip home to Vladimir Lenin’s famous return to Russia in 1917, and suggested that he was as great a danger to Russia as Lenin had been.

As every Russian knows, the Germans plucked Lenin from exile in Switzerland in the middle of the First World War. He was sent across Germany in a ‘sealed train’ (so he wouldn’t spread the infection of Communism there) to St. Petersburg, then in the throes of Russia’s first democratic revolution – and he did just what the Germans had hoped he would.

Lenin overthrew the fumbling democratic ‘Provisional Government’ in a military coup, took Russia out of the First World War – and launched a 73-year totalitarian Communist regime that cost at least 20 million Russian lives in purges, famines and lesser acts of repression. Is Navalny really that great a danger?

The ambitious presenter at Vremya probably won’t get the job he wanted, because President Vladimir Putin really won’t have liked seeing his noisiest critic compared in stature to Lenin, a genuine world-historical figure. Putin himself never mentions Navalny’s name at all.

Russians cannot even put a name to the system they live under, as the poor Vremya presenter’s confusion illustrates. It’s certainly not a democracy, although there are regular elections. It’s definitely not Communist, although most of the regime’s senior figures were Communists before they discovered a better route to power and wealth.

It’s not a monarchy, although Putin has been in power for twenty years and is surrounded by a court of extremely rich allies and cronies. And ‘kleptocracy’ is just a pejorative term used mostly by foreigners, although Navalny does habitually refer to Putin and his cronies as “crooks and thieves”.

In fact, Putin’s regime is not a system at all. Its only ideology is a traditional Russian nationalism that is lightweight compared to blood-and-soil religious and racist movements like Trump’s in the United States and Modi’s in India. It’s a purely personal regime, and it is very unlikely to survive his dethronement or demise.

Putin has been in power for twenty years, and he has just changed the constitution with a referendum that lets him stay in power until 2036. But that seems unlikely, partly because he is already 68 and partly because the younger generation of Russians is getting restless and bored.

Navalny is a brave man who has gone home voluntarily to face a spell in Putin’s jails. (He missed two parole appointments for a suspended sentence on trumped-up embezzlement charges because he was in Germany recovering from the FSB assassination attempt.) But his role in Russian politics so far had been more gadfly than revolutionary.

His supporters do their homework and make clever, witty videos detailing the scandalous financial abuses of the regime (the latest is a virtual tour of Putin’s new $1 billion seaside palace on the Black Sea near Novorossiysk), but he is probably not the man who will finally take Putin down. What he is doing to great effect is mobilising the tech-savvy young.

Since 2018 the average age of protesters at anti-Putin demos, mostly linked to Navalny one way or another, has dropped by a decade, and their boldness has risen in proportion. Moreover, their attitude to the regime now verges on contempt. Rightly so: consider, for example, the last two assassination attempts by regime operatives.

In 2018, the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, sent two agents to England to kill defector Sergei Skripov and his daughter Yulia. The agents made two trips to Salisbury because they couldn’t find the right house, they were tracked by CCTV every step of the way, and in the end, they left too little novichok (nerve poison) on the doorknob to kill the targets.

Equally crude and bumbling was the FSB’s attack on Navalny in Tomsk, where the novichok was put on his underpants. Once again, the target survived, and afterwards the investigative site Bellingcat was able to trace FSB agents tracking Navalny on forty flights over several years before the murder was attempted.

Neither agency is fit for 21st-century service, nor is the regime they both serve. Russians have put up with it for a long time because they were exhausted and shamed by the wild political banditry of the 1990s, but Putin’s credit for having put an end to that has been exhausted. He may still be in power for years, but this is a regime on the skids.

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