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Constitutional Reforms to ABOLISH the executive presidency NOW the urgent need

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Neelan – GL 2020 draft the best we might have had

BY Prof. Savitri Goonesekere

(Continued from last week)

 When Chandrika Kumaranatunga took office she pledged to introduce a new Constitution that would repeal what she described in colourful Sinhala as Bahubootha Executive Presidential form of governance. This task was entrusted not to a Constituent Assembly of Parliament but to a group of individuals with a range of expertise, with leadership from, Prof GL Pieris, Minister of Constitutional Affairs and late Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam. Both were distinguished alumni of the Peradeniya and Colombo Law Faculty of that time. They had both competed for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Late Lalith Athulathmudali said that the decision to award the scholarship to GL was based on a careful scrutiny of my husband’s letters of reference to each at some point in their careers. My husband was famous for attaching equal importance to  opposing viewpoints and Lalith said they had a hard time figuring out from the references who was best!

Neelan and GL produced perhaps the best Constitution for Sri Lanka we might have had, in 2000. It had an excellent chapter on Fundamental Rights that reflected contemporary developments. It also had constructive proposals for power sharing and the independence of the judiciary and public service from political control. Most importantly, it replaced the Executive Presidency with the tried and tested method of an Executive branch with a Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible to  Parliament.

Unfortunately a single provision that enabled President Kumaranatunga to become prime minister for the rest of her Presidential term, was used by the Opposition led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe to tear up into pieces the document on the 2000 Constitution on the floor of the House, when it was presented in Parliament, by Minister GL Pieris. The government fell, and this led to the first “cohabitation” in governance arrangement between President Kumaranatunga of the SLFP, and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe of the UNP. The 2000 Constitution has never entered the discussions on Constitutional reform that followed.

A short period of “cohabitation” was followed by a General Election and a further short second term for President Kumaranatunge. The 17th Amendment was passed by Parliament at this time with the leadership of the JVP and provided for the first time Independent Commissions to strengthen public administration, and a Constitutional Council empowered to make recommendations to the President on high post appointments to the judiciary and public service

Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as Executive President in 2005. He was given a mandate to abolish the Executive Presidency. However, the focus of his administration was addressing the armed conflict in the North with his brother, who was appointed Secretary of Defence. Winning the war in 2009 was a catalyst for a sea change in the political life of an experienced and respected  politician, who had also related to an agenda of human rights. My husband appeared for him as petitioner, and won a fundamental rights case for him, and also successfully argued the  famous Janagosha case on the right to  peaceful political  protest.

From 2009 Mahinda Rajapaksa went on a different political  path, surrounded by family and friends espousing a culture of political patronage that debilitated all institutions of governance. This was an inherent aspect of governance in this country even  before that. However misuse of Presidential powers without any inhibitions, and family political patronage and   empowerment   and cronyism was carried to different and more significant levels. In a feudal culture the perception that the President was all powerful and could not be questioned created new levels of sycophancy or reluctance to express different points of view in the administrative services.   This had a serious impact on all institutions and was replicated in the behaviour of Cabinet ministers and others who became  notorious for abuse of power and corruption. The Proportional Representation system with the focus on a Party machinery choice of candidates also led to more and more incompetent persons being elected as members of Parliament.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution that saw a removal of the limitation on terms of the Executive President, a core concept in the 1978 Constitution embedded in Presidential power during a term of office, was perhaps an inevitable outcome. A President who had been elected to office, promising  to abolish the Executive Presidency was now quite comfortable with becoming a President for life. His cabinet and government was full of approval for  this change. So also the Supreme Court in the judgment of Shirani Bandaranayaka CJ when the 18th Amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court. The environment of acceptance and passivity and self censorship in  responding  to this change was such that there was silence even in academia on  this  very controversial Supreme Court  jurisprudence. It was the theme of my husband’s oration for the Bar Association, in  memory of  a former President,  Desmond Fernando PC.

2015 to 2022

The protest against the worst excesses of Mahinda Rajapaksa led to its unexpected defeat and the election of President Maithripala Sirisena and what was described as a rainbow coalition of political parties led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. President Sirisena promised to abolish the Executive Presidency and was given this mandate by the majority of citizens  who helped him get elected to office. This was also a personal commitment given to Maduluwawe Sobhita Thero who led the resistance to the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa government. However, in the first flush of victory he was persuaded to support a Constitutional Amendment that would REDUCE presidential powers and transfer them to his Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. The draft Constitution of 2000 which provided for the abolition of the Executive Presidency was unfortunately not considered in this constitutional reform process.

If anyone expected this change to facilitate cooperation between these two centres of power in one administration that was an impossible expectation. Perhaps it increased expectations on the part of the Prime Minister, and resistance on the part of the President to the anticipated happy cohabitation. Inevitably the “empowered” Prime Minister had to experience the full brunt of Presidential anger when they had conflicting view points on the Arjuna Mahendran, Ravi Karunanayake and Aloysius  related bond scam. A hurriedly and sometimes  poorly drafted proviso in the 19th Amendment facilitated the Constitutional crisis of 2018 and the replacement of the 19th Amendment “empowered” Prime Minister with (of all people ) Mahinda Rajapaksa whom President Sirisena said he was fleeing from in anticipation of grave violence as a candidate in the Presidential election.

When the Easter Sunday violence took place, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the empowered 19th Amendment Prime Minister, told the nation in  a BBC interview that he could not be held responsible for the appalling and reckless lapses in national security because he had been excluded by the President from the National Security Council and “was not in the loop”.

It is the 19th Amendment of the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government which is the basis of the 21A (MoJ). The Gotabaya and  Wickremesinghe government are telling us that this will be the best response in strengthening governance and satisfying the demand for systemic and institutional change. And every one they address including the media and political parties  (most recently Maithipala Sirisena led SLFP) is applauding this initiative.

The Opposition’s counter arguments for the 21A (S) to abolish the Executive Presidency appears to be falling  on deaf ears, due to  ignorance, political expediency  or a collective sense of amnesia. The only focus seems to be on a single issue – whether or not to support an amendment prohibiting dual citizens from holding office that may lead to another Rajapaksa sibling being compelled to forfeit his national list seat in Parliament. And that after facilitating another person occupying a national seat in Parliament to become the country’s Prime Minister.

A new Constitution for Sri Lanka as part of Incremental Constitutional Reform

When Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe offers us the prospect of a new Constitution being drafted (after we have emerged from this crisis),  he seems to have forgotten the much publicized  efforts to do so during the Maithripala-Sirisena Ranil Wickremesinghe governments period in office. What emerged from the Constitution drafting Committee that Mr. Wickremesinghe himself chaired? Large and excellent reports by expert groups working on important areas of governance were produced.   What happened to those reports? What also happened to the report submitted to government by the  Lal Wijenayake  Committee on Constitutional reform after islandwide consultations over a period of time? What happened to the report of the Manouri Muttetuwegama Committee on Transitional Justice mechanisms? And the Truth and  Reconciliation Mechanism law that was drafted at the request of the government by a committee chaired by me with a dedicated team of  persons who gave their time freely without fees?

Even more curious, what happened to the report of the Constitutional drafting Committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa? This committee was chaired by Romesh de Silva PC with, it is said, the leadership of Minister GL Pieris. Where is this draft Constitution and what is its approach to the Executive Presidency and “systemic and institutional change?”

The Way Forward

Faced with a crisis of proportions and impact  that has devastated the country it is incredible that we are now engaged in another round of political  play acting on constitutional reform. Let us at  least on this occasion take serious stock of the very real breakdown in governance that has led to this “man made and voluntary economic disaster” in a country renowned for its human development indicators in South Asia. In doing so let us recognize that we must abolish the Executive Presidency NOW and not later. This requires heeding the voice of the Aragalaya, and supporting the 21A (S) that will abolish the Executive Presidency and will also bring with it the institutional and systemic change in our governance that has been promised for decades by successive governments but never realized due to narrow and selfish political agendas. Saying Yes to the 21A (S) and No to the 21A (MoJ) which is a token gesture of Constitutional reform may be a last chance to save our country from further destabilization and “man made” disasters created through corrupt, inefficient and reckless governance.

Heeding the Voice of the People, Constitutional Reform and the Referendum Concept

The Rajapaksa governments 2005-2014 and 2019-2022 gave scant respect to the “Voice of the People”. Governments in which  Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe  had a leadership role, like the Yahapalanaya government, 2015-2019, appointed many “Consultative” and Advisory” Committees, on a range of important  subjects of public concern, including Constitutional Reform. Yet the government consistently discarded their reports. Research on the functioning of these “Committees” demonstrates that the Yahapalanaya period had more consultative Committees than any other government. The record of law making and policy formulation in this period however  demonstrates clearly government  inaction rather than action for change.

So “consultation and listening to the voice of the People and experts” can mean nothing more than political rhetoric. This can also lead to unexpected consequences. The failure to improve and achieve  intra-party democracy, in the UNP, the party led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, despite the many Reports commissioned and Committees appointed, eventually led to a significant group breaking away, and forming a new party as Samagi Jana Balavegaya.

These experiences hardly inspire confidence in the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, saying he will appoint 12 or 15 “Committees” for effective public administration and financial management.  A large  Expert Advisory  Committee of eminent economists, has also been appointed to  the Central Bank. A promise has   been made by the Prime Minister  to  provide opportunities for youth participation, including from the Aragalaya, in some of these Committees. The latter initiative is said to help youth  to understand the difference between protest and participatory democracy!

It is time that our politicians understand what participatory democracy means, and that the people can see the difference  between this concept, and the “Committee Consultation” fetish that is a diversionary political maneuver to resist or avoid  change.  The Constitutional requirement of having a Referendum and hearing the voice of the People, to initiate major Constitutional reform, must also not be permitted to prevent efforts to  abolish  the Executive Presidency through Constitutional reform. This is also a demand of the Aragalaya and street protests, which include a large and diverse youth population.

Article 3 of our Constitution articulates the concept of the Sovereignty of the People as including the “powers of governance”. Article 4 clarifies the MANNER in which the PEOPLE’S POWER OF GOVERNANCE can be EXERCISED AND ENJOYED. It is on the basis of this concept that it can be argued that the President in exercising the Executive power of the People with a Prime Minister and Cabinet, collectively responsible for the government of the country under Article 43, has a LEGAL and not just an ethical obligation to fullfil his responsibilities of good governance, preventing  the type of  economic and political crisis confronting the nation today.

International law is considered “law” that creates legal obligations, despite the limitations on enforcement. Consequently, incapacity for enforcement no longer indicates that there is no legal obligation. A President and Cabinet Ministers who fail in their legal obligations in governance, can be called upon by the People to resign. It is the lack of a procedure for  enforcing  that legal obligation of resignation, except by  impeachment of the President,  that has contributed to the urgent need for  Constitutional reform  to ABOLISH the Presidency in the executive branch of government.

The 19th Amendment made the  President liable for a violation of rights and for the Supreme Court to provide “just and equitable relief” for such a violation. This provision was retained in the 20th Amendment. The possibility of a petition for violation of citizen rights, and a call for just and equitable relief in the form of a court order on resignation, in light of the serious responsibilities in governance under the Constitution, may seem theoretical and only aspirational at this time.

The Attorney General has advised that the Presidential status in the executive branch   cannot be removed without a two thirds Majority support in Parliament, and a Referendum.  The Referendum issue, and its impact on 21 A (S) is therefore an additional concern. This seems an obstacle in  effecting a critically important  Constitutional change, in responding  to our political and economic crisis.

The Constitution has a clear provision in Article 83 which indicates that a two third majority and a Referendum are  required for the amendment or repeal of Article 3. Therefore Article 4 on the  status of the President in the Executive branch of governance is NOT covered by the Referendum clause. The requirement for a Referendum is thus an interpretive perspective, based on jurisprudence in the Supreme Court linking Articles 3 and 4. That jurisprudence is also not consistent.

In the 20th Amendment case counsel cited earlier cases linking Articles three and four and argued that since the concept of Presidential power had been significantly modified by the 19th Amendment, a Referendum was also necessary to go back to the earlier concept of near absolute  Presidential executive power. The court in its opinion rejected this interpretation, and did not  follow the jurisprudence linking Articles three and four on the meaning of executive power. It is this interpretation  that is being cited in arguing that 21 A (MoJ)  seeking to only reduce Presidential powers that can be passed without a Referendum.

There is nothing to prevent the other argument being canvassed again in litigation on the current Constitutional Bills. Besides the Referendum issue can also be resolved if the Supreme Court follows the approach it took in the Port City Bill litigation, where the Court decided that it was not necessary to consult the Provincial Councils on a matter that required their consent, when it was impossible to do so as these bodies were not functioning at the time. The current situation and an argument that it is not possible to have a Referendum, in the current context, is supported by that case.

The lack of clarity on the issue of the need for a Referendum does not mean that this should  be used to prevent support for the 21A(S) that seeks to abolish the Executive Presidency. Besides holding such a Referendum is not as complicated and expensive as a General Election, that we cannot afford at this time. All that a citizen is required to do is to say “yes or no” to a single question, of the abolition of the Executive Presidency. They will be happy to provide the piece of  paper for this task to the Election Commissioner’s officials, if the State cannot afford to provide this, rather in the manner they are collecting the one rupee coins, after  the Minister said the State subsidizes the cost of  a rupee for a litre of fuel!

If the Referendum issue is  too complicated to resolve in initiating Constitutional reform to abolish the Executive Presidency the time may be ripe for demanding that the President exercises his powers under Article 86 of the Constitution to “submit to the People at a Referendum any matter which in his view is of national importance”. He claims that he has a mandate from 6.9 million people to complete his term. That is now an issue of public concern for  him as well as the People. He can hear the Peoples’ voice,  on  this matter through a Referendum, helping to also  solve the differences in viewpoint between him and the Peoples’ Movement of  Aragalaya.

Many of the persons involved  in this movement for systemic and institutional change  are the youth of a next generation, who have come together from diverse communities that link across class, caste and race,  calling for a different approach to accountable  governance, realizing  how poor and reckless government   impacts  the lives of the People and their future. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has cited a literary source, the German playwright Bertol   Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk  Circle to explain the manner in which he will perform  as the Prime Minister of the country.

Perhaps he as well as  citizens, especially the youth, engaged in the Aragalaya  should peruse the poem  of WS Senior, an Englishman who was a poet and  educationist in colonial Sri Lanka. His ashes are interred in Haputale with an epitaph from a poem he wrote on leaving this country: “oh my soul it will break with longing, it can never be good bye”. His poem “The Call of Lanka” has these lines:

I climbed o’er the crags of Lanka

And gazed on her golden sea

And out from her ancient places

Her soul came forth to me

“Give me a Bard said Lanka

A Bard of the things to be

A Bard  for my joys  and pains

But  most shall he sing of Lanka

In the brave new days that come

When the races all have blended

And the voice of strife is dumb

Hark Bard of the fateful future

Hark Bard of the bright To-Be

A voice on the verdant mountains

A voice on the golden sea,

Rise Child of Lanka, and answer

Thy mother has called to Thee.



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Features

Is ‘Knowing’ everything?

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by Panduka Karunanayake

The current fluid situation in the country has brought into focus some fundamental issues, as well. Ordinarily, in the midst of pressing problems, like what we are experiencing, it is customary to push fundamental issues to the back seat. But, it is exactly because such issues have been sidelined, in the past, that we have had to arrive in this sorry state today. In addition, in an extremely fluid and uncertain situation, such as this, the only stable and reliable position that remains for us to make decisions from is, in fact, with fundamentals.

In this essay, I wish to focus on a fundamental issue: the relationship between knowledge and expertise, on the one hand, and the societal weal on the other. This relationship came into sharp focus, in my mind, when I saw a social media posting, by one of my academic colleagues. Let me first anonymise the academic (after all, it is not only he who thinks like this) and quote the Google translation of a part of his posting:

“Everyone knows everything there is to know. Everyone can express things. There are also necessary media for that. Who are we? What do we need? No one can make monopoly decisions about, etc. Therefore, there is no democracy more than this. What is needed now is to make maximum use of that democracy.”

This argument implies that because we live in the Digital Age, where knowledge is distributed very democratically, decision-making by the ordinary citizen is at a level close to, if not identical to, that of the expert. It suggests that the next step is to discover an optimum governance mechanism. At its core is the suggestion that the time has come to supplant the expert with the knowledgeable citizen.

What is fundamentally wrong in this argument?

‘Knowing’ and ‘understanding’

‘Knowing’ is not everything. When we were schoolchildren, in the 1970s, we heard this explained to us clearly by Dr E.W. Adikaram, who made a distinction between දැනුම (‘knowing’) and අවබෝධය (‘understanding’). He pointed out that the task of education should be giving us the latter, not the former. But somehow, we seem to have forgotten (or ignored) that advice. This distinction is also seen in Albert Einstein’s famous quip that education is what is left when we have forgotten what we had learnt – අවබෝධය (‘understanding’) remains while දැනුම (‘knowing’) is forgotten with time.

The crucial point is this. The wide dissemination of knowledge that is seen in today’s Digital Age, by itself, actually promotes only ‘knowing’. We can do an Internet search and find any knowledge we want, and once we have got it, we can say that we ‘know it’ – seemingly, just like the expert. But there is a significant gap between this ‘knowing’ and the ‘understanding’ that is possessed by those who have studied this same quantum of knowledge, more systematically and in depth.

Such persons study this knowledge in relation to other quanta of knowledge, so that they are aware of a more whole, interconnected and integrated existence of the discrete quantum of knowledge. For instance, they then see not only that quantum, but also its origins, applications, limitations, fallacies and fallibilities, as well as how it is connected to the broader map of knowledge.

Of course, there are nowadays also the democratic distribution of learning experiences, too, such as open-access online courses. These would certainly give someone a much better view of the subject than a discrete webpage, but I would still caution, and point out the significant journey from knowing something to fully understanding it.

One clear indication of ‘understanding’ is the ability of the person, who possesses the knowledge, to apply it in different, seemingly unrelated situations. It is, in fact, this very point that is nowadays used by prestigious universities, overseas, when selecting students for their undergraduate courses – rather than the old-fashioned measures of superficial ‘knowing’, such as what we still mostly use here.

‘Understanding’ and ‘doing’

While there is a distinction between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’, our intellectual growth does not stop even there.

There is a whole heap of difference between merely ‘understanding’ and ‘doing’ something with that understanding. That is because understanding occurs strictly in the cognitive domain, while applying it to actually do something requires an engagement with the real world. That requires a lot more – things that remain implicit in the real world around us, which are abstracted only to a limited extent when they are written down as ‘knowledge’.

In the past, acquiring these real-life capabilities have been given terms, like ‘skills’, ‘experience’, ‘common sense’, ‘wisdom’ and so on. A more recent practice is to categorise them also as forms of knowledge (i.e., procedural knowledge and conditional knowledge). These weave together, as a person tries to translate an idea into action, and if the person succeeds, we say that this has created ‘functioning knowledge’. Naturally, only a very limited portion of this is found in books or Internet sources, and ‘knowing’ and even ‘understanding’ are thus only a very small part of what constitutes the intellect of a person who can actually do something in real-life situations.

‘Doing’ and ‘critiquing’

Even this is not the full story. All these steps – knowing, understanding, doing – are part of generally ‘how things are’, and not necessarily ‘how things should be’. One of the most important aspects of an academic’s or intellectual’s work is evaluating this ‘things as they are’ and providing a detached, dispassionate critique of it. More conventional terms used to describe this function are ‘critical thinking’ and ‘discourse analysis’. We would expect the academic or intellectual to harness his or her extensive knowledge of the subject with regard to past events, current trends and future possibilities; to then reflect deeply, imagine alternatives and weigh their pros and cons; and to tell us how we can ‘do things better’. This is the whole process that we call (or should call) ‘research’, ‘innovation’, ‘development’, ‘creativity’, etc.

This is the full spectrum of how the human mind works as it progressively becomes more functional and efficacious: knowing, understanding, doing and critiquing. The process of education, from primary to post-doctoral, should be designed with this in mind.

Enter ‘the expert’

There are two types of expertise. The first is routine expertise, which is the ability to carry out a certain task repetitively with a minimum amount of error. It is built by systematic learning with feedback, assiduous practice and extensive experience. The second is adaptive expertise, which is the ability to face new and unprecedented situations where there are little or no known standard procedures (and thus no routine expertise) and come up with innovative solutions that provide a way out. It is built, in addition to the above, by reflective practice and experience in innovative and creative behaviours.

It is not hard to see that in recent years, we have had the need for adaptive expertise – with both the COVID-19 pandemic and the current crisis. They have called upon our doctors, businesspersons, economists, etc., with adaptive expertise, to come forward and do what they know best.

Such past unprecedented events, in our country, led to complete transformations of society, leading to better times (albeit, after decades of effort): e.g., the 1870s coffee blight and the devastating malaria epidemic of 1934-35. Those were examples of (British) adaptive expertise in action.

The ‘knowledgeable’ citizen

The citizen who now shuns expertise is a person who thinks that, because he (or she) has access to knowledge, he has already ‘jumped’ from ‘knowing’ to ‘critiquing’ and that there is no difference between him and the expert. One should avoid jumping into this bandwagon. One should also take care not to throw the expert out in a hurried attempt to throw the politician out.

We cannot build a better governing system using people who lack ‘understanding’ and expertise, notwithstanding any level of ‘knowing’ that they might possess thanks to the Digital Age. We must keep these fundamentals in mind when we explore questions, such as the place of democracy or the value of a constitution, the notion that the gap between people and experts has narrowed, that people can decide for themselves, and so on.

Our post-Independence history is a litany of how our experts failed to produce a beneficial effect in Sri Lanka while contributing to the building of other nations. The solution is to overcome the blocks to this that have existed until now – rather than shunning expertise. We need more expertise, not less.

(The writer teaches in the University of Colombo, where he is currently the Director of the Staff Development Centre. He acknowledges the mentoring of Professor Suki Ekaratne in developing many of these ideas; Professor Ekaratne founded the country’s first SDC, 25 years ago.)

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Join hands with your spiritual power to save Lanka!

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By Ven. Matthumagala ChandanandaThero
Ehipassiko Meditation Center
Calgary -Canada

When Sri Lanka was hit by the catastrophic tsunami waves in 2004, almost all citizens strived in unison to stand up as one because they perceived the calamity as a natural disaster. Without distinction of class, creed or race, people volunteered to help the victims. Monks of all sectors were prompted for action—therapeutic pirith chanting was started all over the country. Blessed water was sprinkled, especially over the coastal areas with the help of Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters. Some coastal areas had become ghastly graveyards within minutes of disaster, with thousands of dead bodies scattering in every direction. World Health Organization immediately warned of another impending threat: a wave of epidemics due to decomposing bodies of humans and animals.

However, Sri Lankans could surprise even the developed nations by recovering from this trauma so fast. The predicted epidemics could never raise their heads. So was with the Covid-19 pandemic, which was also generally perceived as a natural disaster—and people fought it with the team spirit. So far Sri Lanka has lost a relatively smaller number of lives to Covid-19 when compared to those of affluent nations, and it is certainly not just a coincidence.

However, when it comes to the unprecedented economic downfall currently taking place in Sri Lanka, rather than seeing it as yet another crisis, they have to overcome with team spirit. People have viewed it through the lens of ‘personality view’ (sakkāya ditti), and have attributed the responsibility to certain politicians, vehemently accusing and cursing the culprits. The whole effort was seething with anger, jealousy and vengeance—this is an absolute deviation from the path of Dhamma. Under such circumstances, no wonder that people could not recover as efficiently as they should in this crisis. Of course, if those politicians are guilty, suitable action have to be taken, but in a democratic way, and under no circumstances the destructive emotions like anger could be justified to come to play in a big way as has unfortunately happened (Kakacupama sutta). To be angry is like eating poison, expecting your enemy to die! If you think that you are concerned of being with crooked politicians, we should learn to be saner but not crazier.

Famous Sri Lankan poet, Mahagama Sekera, has said something pithy in his book, Prabuddha, and could be rendered into English thus: “If we could motivate people to be violent against injustice, cannot we persuade them to refrain from inequity”? This sensible question echoes in my mind every time I see a violent protest. Buddha who utters only meaningful words, had said: “Overcome the wicked by goodness” (Dhammapada). True, as ordinary people, we might not have political strength, financial power and the inheritance of an aristocratic lineage, as possessed by some politicians in this country. But we have a somnolent giant within us—the power of mind! We just have to train our mind to release this giant. Remember, through struggle comes strength—especially when we set ourself on the right path!

Once upon a time in ancient India, a seven-year-old monk was going on his rounds for collecting alms following a great master called Arhath Sariputta. This novice having observed some people were engaged in woodwork, curiously inquired from the senior monk: “What are they doing?” “They are carpenters; they bring wood from the forest—after cleaning, cutting and treating the wood, they make items like cartwheels”, explained Venerable Sariputta. Then the novice asked: “Do woods have a mind?” “No, woods do not have a mind, but humans who do have minds, creatively change wood according to their needs and make various items”, said the elderly monk. This explanation was a great eye-opener for the reflective novice. He thought, if people can change things using their minds, isn’t it possible to tame the mind using that power of mind itself? Spurred on by this incident, before long, the junior monk escaped from the King of Death (Mara)—the most difficult one to defeat!

On seeing amazing modern equipment like computers, smart phones, air planes, etc., it really makes sense if we also reflect on the fact that: “Such inventions are created by human mind; therefore, my mind is more powerful than those products.” In fact, Buddha pointed out that he does not see anything in this universe so powerful and versatile like the mind, which could become amazingly powerful and versatile upon development. Buddha also taught us how to progressively develop our mind but for the good. Even great meditators who wielded psychic power had only started their journey from the humble state we are in—so please be positive.

Now the human race is getting closer to the brink of extinction due to the dangers like adverse effects of the climate change and possible nuclear warfare. To the dismay of world-renowned scientists, some politicians have openly stated that the climate change to be a hoax— a former US President is also among them! We cannot expect political leaders, national or international, to protect the future generation’s opportunity to inhabit this precious planet. As I have argued in the previous articles, a SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION is the need of the hour.However, our immediate concern is to protect Sri Lanka from the internal and external threats, she has faced with.

According to what Buddha taught, we could employ our spiritual power to mitigate the catastrophes befall the human society. Spiritual Act of Truth (sathyakriya) is one way to achieve this noble goal. Jathaka stories reveal how Bodhisatwa (would-be Buddhas) performed Acts of Truth to ensure his own safety and of others as well. According to Mahawansa (the Great Chronicle), King Siri Sanghabo used this powerful influence to save his countrymen from a dangerous epidemic called Rakthakshi.

With the noble guidance of Most Venerable Kukulpané Sudassee Thero, the Spiritual Studies and Research Wing of Sathjana Social Development Foundation in Horana has been conducting Acts of Truth since 2008, in which hundreds and thousands of compassionate humans around the world unleash their spiritual power at one particular time, with the singular intention of mitigating the catastrophes of human society. Now a cynic might ask: of what use is your spiritual attempts, if the country is plunged into an economic crisis of this magnitude? Sri Lanka is located in an epic place in this planet—epic in many known and unknown ways, and Sri Lankans enjoy great benefits of the legacy. Together with these privileges, some additional responsibilities are also assigned to us—that is the way it is! Again and again, clouds bring us rain; again and again farmers sow seeds; again and again people eat (never tired)— therefore, why not flexing the spiritual muscles also similarly– again and again, and aggressively repeat our wholesome interventions? Because, it seems that conspiracies too are attempted again and again to unsettle the island! In fact, Dalai Lama deserves praise for saying: “Peace is not simply the absence of war. It is not a passive state of being. We must wage peace, as vehemently as we wage war.”

For the fulfilment of this lofty goal, we should find the correct method of performing it. In an Act of Truth, we have to vividly reflect on a wholesome deed we have performed, and we determine thus… ‘By the power of this truth, may the disasters heading towards the country be averted! May Buddha-sāsana and human lives be protected’!

For the success of an Act of Truth or Sathyakriya, three important conditions should have to be fulfilled:

1. The deed you reflect upon should be TRUE

2. It should have been performed by YOU

3. You have to arouse the same state of mind or pitch which has been there at the time you performed this act (e.g., If you think of an instance in which you donated something wholeheartedly, you have to recall and establish that particular mental state vividly at the time of performing Sathyakriya.

Complying with the invitation of many devotees, Ven. Dr. Kukulpané Sudassee Thero has decided to organise yet another Act of Truth on Thursday (the full moon day), 11th of August 2022, at 8:07 a.m. Sri Lanka time. In the evening also we will repeat it at the same time. If you live outside Sri-Lanka, please calculate your own local time, equivalent to the above. Ven. Sudassee Thero kindly requests the participants not to use this particular instance for achieving their personal intentions but to leave them for some other day, if necessary. We stress this point, because on some earlier occasions, some narrow-minded people were seen to ‘highjack’ such a moment, in an attempt to solve their own personal problems. Spiritual power is not for the selfish, for sure.

When hundreds and thousands of people release their compassionate mental power to the universe at a single moment in one single stream, we can generate a sort of spiritual power of tremendous strength capable of mitigating various woes currently plaguing the country.

We kindly invite all of you to participate in this great meritorious deed, with much-needed team spirit, irrespective of race, cast or creed, from wherever you are in the world, and perform the above-mentioned Act of Truth.When we set ourselves in a more humane path, instead of seething with negative emotions, and impulses, the guarding angels of the country will be kinder towards the society, extending their providence for the safety of our motherland.

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‘Slow Food’, the growing concept taking over ‘Fast Food’ rage

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Slow Food is everything opposite to the concept of fast food. While fast food involves highly processed food ingredients, ‘assembled’ together quickly, to form a meal, Slow Food refers to the inclusion of unprocessed food ingredients, cooked in an authentic manner to create a wholesome meal.

SNS:When In Rome, Do as Romans Do’ the saying literally proven right in the late 80s, in the city of Rome when a unique food movement, ‘slow food’ was born against another food frenzy, ‘Fast food’ which started from the US and has hooked the world since the 1920s.

Tradition-loving Romans who did not like the American concept of ‘Fast Food’ protested and pitted against the launch of a popular American fast food giant in the city of Bra, resulting in the birth of Arcigola, the movement against the concept of ‘fast food’ and delved into a registered nonprofit organisation known as ‘Slow Food International’.

Slow Food: The intriguing concept and why it’s becoming a global rave

The fast-paced life of the world over the decades has changed the traditional concepts regarding food. Fast food may ease our life and the choices of food but has proven ill effects on health if consumed on a regular basis. The concept of ‘Slow food’ is pitching for nothing new but promoting to go back to our roots for the food choices for better and healthier lives.

Nutritionists have traditionally vouched for the food which is locally grown and eaten the way our forefathers have consumed, and that is exactly what ‘Slow food movement is promoting’.

The natural food that grows in the region where we live is the most suitable for our body, because the same natural forces impact our body and the locally grown food. Our fore-fathers depended majorly on the local food, which is a major reason for their healthy life and longevity.

What is Slow Food?

Slow Food is everything opposite to the concept of fast food. While fast food involves highly processed food ingredients, ‘assembled’ together quickly, to form a meal, Slow Food refers to the inclusion of unprocessed food ingredients, cooked in an authentic manner to create a wholesome meal.

Where fast food offers ‘on the go’ food that can be hand-held and eaten on the go, Slow Food promotes the idea of sitting down, relaxing and spending some time chatting with family and friends, while savouring the food.

Slow Food Movement

The Slow Food movement began from people’s natural emotion associated with food. Some people opposed the rise of fast-food culture and the disappearance of local traditions and food cultures.
Slow Food movement history
The inception of the Slow Food Movement is traced back to 1986 in the town of Bra and it began as ArciGola, by journalist Carlo Petrini. In 1989, ArciGola began to be known as Slow Food, when a protest broke out against the opening of McDonald’s at “Piazza di Spagna” in Rome. Protestors opposed the American fast-food giant, for opening its outlet in Rome. The ArciGola protest delved into a registered nonprofit organisation known as Slow Food internationally.
What is the Slow Food Movement and How Do We Adhere to it?
According to Perceptions of the slow food cultural trend among the youth by Lelia Voinea and Anca Atanase, “Slow Food has become an international movement that advocates for satisfying culinary pleasure, protects biological and cultural diversity, spreads taste education, links “green” producers to consumers and believes that gastronomy intersects with politics, agriculture and ecology. Slow Food proposes a holistic approach to food problems, where the economic, socio-cultural and environmental aspects are interlinked, being pursued as part of an overall strategy.”

Slow Food, a global movement of local traditions

With due course of time, Slow Food has become a global movement, with more food reformers joining hands together to join the cause. The movement has also involved several smaller international bodies under its fold. These organisations are carrying out various initiatives within their local ecosystem and creating awareness of eating healthy and locally grown food.

Benefit of ‘Slow food’

The concept of fast food was meant to cater to the needs of those individuals, who were short of time and had a busy lifestyle. Number of such people grew over the years and fast food eventually became mainstream and an inseparable part of our lives.
Slowly, people also began to understand the importance of healthy eating instead of industrial processed food, which lacks basic nutrients. The Slow Food Movement addresses two major concerns related to fast-paced lifestyle, one is the inclusion of healthy, wholesome and locally grown ingredients, cooked by using orthodox methods. The second is to eat the meal and the food slowly, while enjoying every bit of it, as opposed to fast food.

Slow Food movement in India

The Slow Food movement has involved several organisations in India under its fold. All these independent organisations are working towards promoting positive food practices, from organic farming to eating the local food produce. Ajam Emba Adivasi of Jharkhand,
Food education for Satvik Jeevan in Gujarat, Mumbai Earth Market, Nagaland for Biodiversity & Heritage Preservation, Nilgirs Coffee Coalition and Banyan Roots, in Udaipur, Rajasthan are all working in close conjunction with the Slow Food International

Slow Food movement in Europe

The Slow Food movement is fast picking up in Europe as an industry. Working for the rights of small-scale traditional food producers and raising awareness among consumers at the very basic level. It is dedicated towards creating a better and more responsible food system.

Objectives of Slow Food movement

It is globally working on a number of issues including common food policy, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity, climate change, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and responsible consumption and food labeling.

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