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Cruelty to animals and lamentation of a fish

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A kind request to the readers of this article, as it will be published in a website and in journals. The writer was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and lived in Europe most of his adult life. Now back in Sri Lanka, this article is based on the observations made in Sri Lanka. I hope it will bring to the attention of many animal lovers irrespective of cultural differences.

I am trying to emphasise the suffering caused to animals by humans. For this I am using personification of a fish. I invite the readers to read this article with patience and finally get to the lamentation of a fish as you read on. Writers in Sri Lanka talk about animal rights, and quote the founders of religions. Mainly the Buddha. If these writers understand the most intricate and fundamental thing involved, I will be more than happy. But they don’t seem to be. In any case let me point out as far as I understand, the important aspects. Freedom from discomfort is the one that causes as much discussion as any of the freedom for animals as well as humans.

Recently even the editorials in the Sri Lankan newspapers commented on animal rights. As an animal lover from my childhood I was pleasantly surprised about the empathy expressed by the editorials of the well-known and well-read English newspaper in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka (supposed to be a predominantly a Buddhist Country, at least in theory), I find some writers paraphrase and publish Buddha’s teachings left, right and centre with their own photographs attached to the articles. If the Buddha was living, he would never allow his photograph to be printed in newspapers. I personally think it is egocentric and an insult to the Buddha. Intelligent readers want the facts and philosophy and not the writers’ qualifications with their photographs. After all they are not film stars.

The Buddha was a thinking person’s teacher. Buddhism is all about suffering and means of putting an end to it. I have side tracked here a bit as I was trying to give the topic more focus. Let me get back to the point. What the writers forget is the PAIN. Pain is the basis of all suffering. Whether it is psychological pain or physical pain to animals or humans. Doctors give pain killers. What is pain? Is it something verbally describable? We can never experience someone else’s pain. A mother can empathise with her only child’s pain. She can never experience the pain of her child.

So, let me state that pain is a complex experience involving sensory and emotional components: it is not just about how it feels, but also how it makes you feel. And it is these unpleasant feelings that cause the suffering we humans associate with pain. By definition we humans are animals. Nonhuman animals cannot translate their feelings to language that humans use in the same manner as human communication, but observation of their behaviour provides a reasonable indication as to the extent of their pain. Just as with doctors and medics who sometimes share. No common language with their patients, the indicators of pain can still be understood. The topic of animal consciousness is beset with a number of difficulties. It poses the problem of other minds in an especially severe form, because animals lacking the ability to use human language, cannot tell us about their experiences. Also, it is difficult to reason objectively about the question, because a denial that an animal is conscious is often taken to imply that it does not feel, its life has no value, and that harming it is not morally wrong.

The 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes, for example, has sometimes been criticised for providing a rationale for the mistreatment of animals because he argued that only humans are conscious. His famous saying “Cogito ergo sum”: I think therefore I am. This should be changed to I suffer, therefore I think. Many moons ago, when I was a kid, bullock cart was a means of transport for goods and people in Sri Lanka. I was a keen observer of these carts which passed my doorstep in Kandy. When the carter wanted to go faster it beats the bullock with a heavy stick. Poor animal must have thought that the place where he was at that moment in time make it painful and it was running to a safe haven imagining in its mind.

 One of my teachers, Carl Sagan, the American cosmologist, points to reasons why humans have had a tendency to deny animals can suffer: Humans – who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals – have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and ‘animals’ is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them – without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behaviour of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are very much like us.

People in many cultures do not like to be reminded of the connection between animals and meat, and tend to “de-animalize “meat when necessary to reduce feelings of guilt or of disgust. In the Western countries, I have seen meat is often packaged and served so as to minimise its resemblance to live animals, without eyes, faces, or tails, and the market share of such products has increased in recent decades; however, meat in many other cultures is sold with these body parts.

Lamentation of a Fish

Why was I born as a fish in this vast ocean? I cannot comprehend. But I presume that it may be due to my Karma during my cycle of re-birth. Some very strong tough men put a net round me while I was peacefully swimming. In addition to that they put a sharp thin object inside my throat, they called it a fishing-hook.  I was so happily living in the water swimming with my family. I was destined to live there. But at the moment I don’t even have a drop of water. And I am suffering in the scorching hot sun. I just cannot bear the pain that the wound has inflicted in my throat. I feel that I am dying at times and come back to life again.

A rich man touched my body to feel my flesh to see that it was good enough for a meal. After satisfying himself he giggled happily and took me by paying a lot of money to the fisherman. I heard the rich man telling his friend “I am going to offer this fish as food to Mahasangha (Buddhist Monks) and collect enough merit for me to attain Nirvana (Ultimate salvation)”.

May I ask you good people who are reading my sorrowful story, “Why do you people fulfil your charitable deeds this way? Please tell me. I cannot understand how you can attain Nirvana (Ultimate salvation) by killing me and offering my meat to Mahasangha (Buddhist Monks). Taking my flesh by force is stealing. Don’t you realise it? Now after eating my flesh and satisfying their taste buds, the monks will preach the virtues of non-violence. These monks also will tell the participants that they (monks) will be passing the merits to those who are present in front of them and also to their dead relatives who are living elsewhere after re-birth. How can they do good deeds after gulping down a carcass?

Finally, you steal my flesh for your charitable deeds. You fulfil your taste buds by stealing and eating my flesh. Further, you pass on merit to others by eating and donating my flesh. The irony is after using and eating my flesh, you never think of passing even a little bit of merit to me as gratitude!!!

“Lamentation of a Fish”

was a Sinhalese poem- I am not aware of the author’s name. “Maluwakuge Andonawa”. I made an attempt to translate it to Sinhalese to suit this article here.

Sampath Anson Fernando,

Shenfield, England / Colombo,

Sri Lanka



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Opinion

Priority need to focus on Controlling Serious Economic Crimes

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Open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The Ministry of Defence has advertised five vacancies for the “Recruitment as Reserve Assistant Superintendents of Police to the Ministry of Defence, affiliated to the Sri Lanka Police, skilled professionals to become proud members of the Ministry of Defence, dedicated to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as well as to public safety and to play a superior role for the nation. These recruits will function as Cyber and Forensic Analyst, Geo-Political and Strategic Analyst, Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism Analyst, Economic Analyst and Statistical Analyst (the last two covering security perspectives regarding national security)”. Any justified decision to strengthen the knowledge and skills based professional capability of existing human resource of the state is a welcome move, so long as the recruits have in addition to the specified qualifications, requisite commitments to best practice professional standards, ethics, correct attitudes and values.

The caring civil society fervently hopes, in accord with your stated commitments in the manifesto and the several public pronouncements that followed your election as the President, that you, with the support of your Cabinet colleagues and the top officials of the executive, will similarly focus on the essential priority need to focus on controlling serious economic crimes, which can easily debilitate the financial integrity, fiscal and monetary stability and solvency of Sri Lanka; and if allowed unabated will destabilise the economy and prevent the realisation of the goals of splendour and prosperity.

The optimum operational environment to assure financial integrity minimizing serious economic crimes is by having effective laws, regulations, policies, systems, procedures, practices and controls, with efficient and effective independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions, followed by independent justice systems with penal sanctions and recovery of proceeds of crime. The critical drivers of such a system are independence, capability and professionalism of supporting human resources in the entire chain. It is however quite evident from many case studies that the systems controlling financial integrity of Sri Lanka fails to meet required standards of effectiveness, due mainly to the lack of competent and committed professionals in the chain engaged in independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions. Due to this incapacity the independent oversight control, enforcement, investigation, prosecution and punishment of offenders of money laundering, transfer pricing, securities offenses, bribery, corruption, financial fraud, organised crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, and avoidance of taxes/ excise and customs duties are ineffective; and more importantly the recovery of proceeds of these crimes eventually fail and are thus unable to restore the state revenues leaked and state assets stolen or defrauded.

Civil society looks to you as the President, to take early action to strengthen the structures, systems, laws and regulations along with the capacity of the resource persons engaged in the independent oversight control and enforcement of mechanisms; and thereby minimise serious economic crimes system wide and facilitate successful recovery of proceeds of crime. In the above context it is suggested that you pursue the undernoted strategic action steps under your direct leadership supervision:

* Seek Cabinet approval to set up an Enforcement Directorate similar to that of India under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police, reporting to an Independent Public Commission made up of three members, comprising of a high integrity competent retired Appellate Court Judge, a retired Senior Officer of the Auditor General’s Department and a retired Senior Officer of the Central Bank.

* Enforcement Directorate to be entrusted with the mission of minimizing the identified serious economic crimes systems wide; enhancing oversight mechanism and controls system wide and where suspected that any such crimes having taken place professionally investigating and prosecuting, optimizing recovery of proceeds of crime

* Seek technical support in setting up the Enforcement Directorate from the Financial Integrity Unit of the World Bank and its affiliates Financial Action Task Force, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative with extended human resource training and development support from bi lateral supporting countries and other specialized agencies

* Recruit competent and highly professional staff for the Directorate, similar to the staff recruited to the Defence Ministry; and support them with requisite resources, knowledge, skills, systems, data bases, best practices and technical and investigation assistance linkages

* Enact essential legal and regulatory reforms, commencing with the early enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Act draft sent to the previous regime for cabinet endorsement

* Enhance the capability of the prosecutors of the Directorate to successfully prosecute serious economic crimes and judges to effectively support the judicial processes connected therewith

* Make it a compulsory requirement of all state remunerated persons to adopt the ethical standard to report to the Directorate any known or suspected non compliances with laws and regulations

Trust you and your advisory team will give due consideration to this submission

Chandra Jayaratne

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Opinion

S.Thomas’ Class of 62 and O/L 70 Group celebrates 60 years Nexus

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By Rohan Mathes

Once again the old boys of the Class of 62 and O/L 70 Group fraternity of S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia gathered last Saturday (22nd), under one banner to celebrate their 60 th anniversary of their association and loyalties with their prestigious Alma Mater, long way down from 1962, whence they were admitted to the school by the sea.

This rendezvous was of paramount importance to the membership near and far, inclusive of those domiciled overseas, who had turned up in their numbers to enjoy the long-awaited fellowship, with their comrades, despite the prevailing Covid pandemic restrictions. Nevertheless, those who could not make it, had been amply served by the provision of a Zoom link. Kudos to the organisers who had painstakingly and meticulously planned all the nitty-gritties of this epoch-making celebrations, however with less pomp and pageantry, compared to their fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2012.

Following the service at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, the Thomians spend the day within the precincts of this hallowed institution which had undoubtedly imparted a unique, state-of the-art and wholesome education to them. They took this rather rare opportunity to joyfully tour around their old school, of course reminiscing their nostalgic memories of their childhood. They were simply overjoyed by viewing the latest developments and modifications done by the school authorities, utilising the charitable donations and contributions made by the old boys, parents and well-wishers of the school, in numerous ways, throughout the years gone by.

At this event, the Group also assisted the college in their project to install “Smart Boards to every class room”, by handing over a cheque to the Sub Warden Asanka Perera, to the value of Rs.400,000, collected from its membership. Esto Perpetua!

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Opinion

Why cry for Djokovic – a reply

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I strongly object to the remark Dr Upul Wijayawardhana (Dr U W) made in the first paragraph of his Opinion, in The Island of Saturday 22 January, titled  ’Why Cry for Djokovic?’ critiquing Cassandra in her Friday 21 Cassandra Cry.

Dr U W writes: “Cassandra uses her column liberally to criticise our politicians for giving special treatment to their kith and kin.” I, Cassandra, have two reasons to object to this damning statement. I have never criticised politicians for “giving special treatment to their kith and kin”. I have criticised politicians on various other issues such as what they have done, but not on this particular accusation. Hence Dr UW deliberately, or carried away by his writing eloquence, placed me in danger of reprisal. Such is not done.

Please read me in Cassandra Cry on Friday January 28, where this matter, and some others  the doctor has written regards Cassandra will be refuted,

CASSANDRA

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