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Duminda, 16 LTTE cadres among 93 released by Prez: BASL writes to President, seeks explanation

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Former Colombo District UPFA MP Duminda Silva and 16 LTTE cadres detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) were given a presidential pardon yesterday to mark Poson full moon Poya. They were among 93 persons released yesterday.

Duminda Silva and 12 others were accused of 17 charges including the murder of MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and four others on October 8, 2011. A special three-member panel of High Court judges acquitted seven suspects and sentenced five, including former MP Silva to death on September 8th 2016. The President of the court, however, dissented with the judgment. Subsequently, it transpired in taped conversations that former MP Ranjan Ramanayake, now in prison for contempt of the Supreme Court, had discussed with one of the judges in the case to have Duminda Silva convicted. Ramanayake had similar conversations with ex-Director of the CID Shani Abeysekera on Silva.

Silva, and three others sentenced to death appealed to the Supreme Court to declared the manner in which they were sentenced was unlawful. The Supreme Court on 11 October 2018 rejected the appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa on June 22 requested in parliament Justice Minister Ali Sabry to do justice by the ex-Tigers languishing in jail for many years either by rehabilitating them or by presenting their cases to the Attorney General.

A group of SLPP lawmakers in late Oct, 2020 signed a petition circulated by the Chief Government Whip seeking presidential pardon for former MP Duminda Silva.

Attorney-at-law Rajeev Amarasuriya, Secretary, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) yesterday issued the following statement regarding the presidential pardon granted to Duminda Silva, one-time Monitoring MP for the Defence Ministry: “The attention of the Executive Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has been drawn to a pardon given by His Excellency the President to Duminda Silva, a prisoner who was convicted for unlawful assembly and murder by a High Court at Bar, which was unanimously affirmed by a Divisional Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then Chief Justice Priyasath Dep.

Whilst Article 34(1) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka allows the President to grant such a pardon, either free or subject to lawful considerations, the proviso to Article 34 (1) requires the President to call for a report from the Judge who tried the case where the offender has been condemned to death. Such report is required to be forwarded to the Attorney General for advice and the proviso also requires the Attorney General’s opinion to be referred to the Minister of Justice who too is required to submit a recommendation to the President.

It is the right of the public to know whether the said pardon has been granted in accordance with the report of the trial Judges, the opinion of the Attorney General and the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. As such, the BASL has written to His Excellency the President requesting to make the public aware whether such report, opinion or recommendation do exist and if so whether they in fact recommend or do not recommend such pardon to Duminda Silva.

Whilst the President has the power and discretion to pardon, such discretion must always be exercised judiciously. Such power must not be exercised arbitrarily and selectively.

The BASL is mindful that in the past too there have been instances where selective pardons have been granted without any material to justify the basis on which the respective prisoners were selected for granting of such pardons, and the BASL has on those occasions strongly taken up the same position which the BASL is now taking up.

Any pardon to be granted under Article 34 of the Constitution should be made after a careful analysis of the necessity to grant such a pardon as stipulated in the proviso to Article 34 (1) of the Constitution.

In the aforesaid circumstances, the BASL has written to the President and requested that His Excellency convey to the BASL and to the general public :-

(a) The basis on which Duminda Silva was selected for the purpose of granting a pardon under Article

34 (1) of the Constitution;

(b) The circumstances which were taken into consideration in the granting of such pardon;

(c) The reasons as to why the case of Duminda Silva stands out from others who are currently sentenced;

(d) Whether a report was called for by His Excellency the President from the Trial Judges as required by the Proviso to Article 34 (1) prior to granting of the pardon to Duminda Silva and if so the contents of the report;

(e) Whether the advice of the Attorney General was called for prior to granting of the pardon to Duminda Silva and if so the contents of such advice;

(f) Whether the recommendation of the Minister of Justice was obtained prior to granting of the pardon to Duminda Silva and if so whether the Minister of Justice made such a recommendation;

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka maintains that if any one or more considerations stated above, were not satisfied in the current case, the pardon granted to Duminda Silva would be unreasonable and arbitrary and will result in erosion to the Rule of Law and result in a loss of public confidence in respect of the administration of justice.”



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Cabraal says Central Bank will guide markets

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ECONOMYEXT – Sri Lanka’s central bank will guide markets and deploy monetary tools mindful of repercussions, and guide markets in turbulent times, newly appointed Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said last week.

“The policy measures must be taken,” Cabraal told a forum of senior central bankers and finance officials after taking office as Governor for the second time on September 15.

“There are no short cuts. Sometimes there are tough policy measures to be taken.

“When we take policy measures there are always repercussions from another side. Sometimes if you do not take those policy measures you meander along.”

“When a tool is used, and one area is getting cured, it can emerge as a problem in another area,”

“It is not easy to manage this balance. You have to be conscious of all the outcomes that generally arise when you take certain policy measures.”

Cabraal who was previously central bank chief from 2006 to 2014 said the central bank hoped to guide markets.

“We would need to lead the economy in these measures,” he said. “That means we have to be always one step ahead, two steps ahead sometimes three steps ahead.

“I think we would from now onwards take the lead in providing guidance to markets as well as the economy.

“We have got to take that step clearly and boldly so that the market would be able to read the signs that the central bank is making so that would need to use that guidance particularly in turbulent times like what we having now.

“This is not the time to abrogate that leadership role.”

Cabraal said he expected to seek the views of market participants and also staff.

He said some people wanted advice from outsiders like the International Monetary Fund but there was a lot of knowledge within the bank.

“Once course of action is decided, it has to be steadfastly followed, he said.

Sri Lanka’s gross forex reserves are now down to 3.5 billion US dollars and net reserves depleted after record money printing not seen in the history of the soft-pegged central bank.

Central banks that print large volumes of money and lose reserves become helpless and market participants also become helpless as the newly injected liquidity creates forex shortages, hit the exchange rate and drives up asset prices.

When rate normalization is delayed and net foreign assets turn negative, a central bank itself can rapidly accumulate quasi fiscal losses and lose its ability to carry out policy, analysts say.

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Anagarika Dharmapala: Admirer of ‘Queen Mab’

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by Rohana R. Wasala

It may look unfashionable or even indecent to write about Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) in these days of ‘reconciliation’ politics. But that is due to the deliberate distortion of facts by vested interests. So I beg my readers’ indulgence. The Anagarika has been consistently misrepresented by anti-nationalists as a Sinhala supremacist, a Buddhist fanatic, and a propagator of violent nationalism. But the truth was otherwise; he was none of these.

As anthropologist Gananath Obesekera, professor emeritus, Princeton University, mentions in his ‘The Doomed King’ (2017), “Dharmapala was the most passionate defender of Sri Vikrama in colonial times…”; Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe had been demonised by the British in the interest of their imperial scheme to annex the Kandyan kingdom. To the Anagarika, the last king of Lanka was a noble ruler and human being who was betrayed by traitorous chiefs like Ehelepola disava (as he conceived of them). He “defended Sri Vikrama and implored Sinhala people to model themselves on his life and history….” (ibid.) Gananath says Dharmapala was indulging in ‘hyper-glorification’ of the last king. Perhaps, he was; but that doesn’t invalidate the latter’s assessment of the king, whose non-Sinhala ethnicity did not trouble him. At the same time, I don’t share Gananath’s criticism of Dharmapala’s alleged anti-Christian attitudes.

Dharmapala was, first and foremost, an international Buddhist missionary, and only secondarily, a Sinhala Buddhist national revivalist and social reformer. Sri Lankans (native Ceylonese) were in urgent need of the brave leadership and guidance of such a heroic figure at that time. He excelled in both roles. Anagarika Dharmapala assumed robes as a Buddhist samanera at an advanced age in July 1931, after a very industrious and productive life; he received the upasampada or higher ordination under the name of Ven. Siri Devamitta Dhammapala, hardly four months before his death on April 29, 1933.

As was the standard practice among the well-to-do families in those colonial days, he received a good school education in the English medium. During all of his active life, he mostly used English for communication. More than 75% of his writings were in that language; he spoke English even more frequently in the course of his lifelong missionary work. No religious leader of the time, whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist, devoted so much attention as he did to the need for a good modern education for the young that included mastery of languages and science and technology (practical skills).

Anagarika Dharmapala said that he got an insight into Buddhism after reading Sir Edwin Arnold’s poem about the Buddha “Light of Asia” (1879). He treated the latter as his teacher. Arnold received the Anagarika when he visited London. Dharmapala was not an enemy of English or the English people; he was well disposed towards both. But he was a vehement critic and opponent of British imperialism, which though he didn’t challenge politically, as he thought that it was not yet the time for it; he wanted to have favourable relations with the existing imperial government in order that he could get on with his global missionary work without any obstruction. His national endeavour was to lead his people towards freedom from foreign rule through peaceful means, which motivated his work for stimulating social reform and bringing about the moral edification of the masses.

This year marks the 157th birth anniversary of the revered Anagarika Dharmapala, who made an immense contribution towards the restoration of the national dignity and the religious and cultural regeneration of the oppressed Sinhala Buddhists in the heyday of British imperialism in our country. He was born to a wealthy business family in Colombo exactly 157 years ago, that is, on September 17, 1864. The young Don David Hewavitharne, as he was named at birth, despite his strong dislike of British colonialist rule, had a passionate love of English poetry. He particularly liked the poems of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, both assigned by literary critics and historians to the Romantic tradition of English poetry. Ever since he discovered the latter’s ‘Queen Mab’ in a book in his uncle’s library as a schoolboy, it had remained his favourite English poem.

The basis of his admiration of ‘Queen Mab’ is not difficult to find. He said about the poem: “I never ceased …. .to love its lyric indignation against the tyrannies and injustices that man heaps on himself and its passion for individual freedom” (as quoted in ‘Flame in Darkness – the Life and Sayings of Anagarika Dharmapala’ by the English monk Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita, (1980). There is no doubt that this specimen of Shelly’s juvenilia (i.e. works done in his youth) was nevertheless an important source of inspiration for the Anagarika in his life’s work.

What must have appealed to Don David Hewavitharne in ‘Queen Mab’ was obviously more than just the polemical attack it mounts on “the tyrannies and injustices” that humans inflict on fellow humans. The poem embodies many of the radical ideas that Shelley articulated in his works, and some of these such as his atheism, his criticism of meat eating as a cause of vice, and the implicit advocacy of vegetarianism, his idea of death as something not to be feared, his condemnation of political and religious tyranny, his socialist politics, his scientific attitude to human experience and the external world, his belief in the moral perfectibility of humanity, his nonviolence and antipathy towards war, and his vision of social and political change through intellectual transformation are sure to have struck a chord in the great patriot and Buddhist revivalist that the young David later became.

‘Queen Mab’, a book-length poem in nine parts, was written and privately distributed by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) in 1813. It was the poet’s first work of genuine literary merit. His decision to make it available to a select circle suggests the type of audience he wanted to address: the target readers were of the same patrician (aristocratic) background as himself who had the time and the means to get an education, and the leisure to read and enjoy poetry; the mostly illiterate downtrodden masses whose welfare he actually had in mind and who stood to gain most from the revolutionary changes he envisioned were for the most part outside of this circle; the Anagarika belonged to the same higher social class in this country as Shelley did in England.

Structurally, ‘Queen Mab’ is a fairy tale composed in nine cantos (main divisions). A fairy named Queen Mab comes down in her ethereal car to the sleeping Ianthe, a beautiful young maiden. Leaving the girl in her deep slumber the fairy awakens her Soul or Spirit and invites it onboard and transports it to her celestial abode at the uttermost edge of the universe. From that vantage point the Spirit (Ianthe’s Soul) is given a view of the universe stretching below. The fairy promises the Spirit to reveal the state presumably, of humanity’s past and present and the ‘secrets of the future’:

Critics have called this poem a dream vision allegory, a fairy tale, a utopian daydream, a protest- poem etc. The young David Hewavitharne might have identified ‘Queen Mab’ as a protest-poem. In terms of its substance we may call it a philosophical poem as well. In fact, the 1813 title of the poem was ‘Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem with Notes’. Shelley was a ‘philosopher’ among the Romantics in the sense that while treating the usual ‘Romantic’ themes of beauty, passion, power of the imagination, the natural goodness of humanity, political freedom etc which formed their characteristic subject matter, he discovered and articulated causal connections in them with rare precision and clarity. He was unique in this respect among his contemporaries, with the possible exception of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) as critics have pointed out. Reading ‘Queen Mab’ we feel that it qualifies for all the above labels.

Though it is unselfconsciously melodramatic, coldly polemical, and crudely emotive in much of its versification and though he himself seemed years later to have had second thoughts about its estimation as a poem worthy of publishing for public consumption when he came to know that a pirated edition of the poem had appeared in 1821 (which was just a year before his accidental death by drowning), the ‘philosophy’ that he versifies in it is found to be as mature as it ever got in his case (considering the fact that he died at the young age of 30). The poem has even been described as ‘monumental’ by more sympathetic, and in my opinion more rational-minded and more discerning, readers. Obviously, Anagarika Dharmapala was among this group of readers.

Both Shelley and Dharmapala were revolutionaries, though of different moulds. They agitated for liberty and morality in the political and socio-cultural spheres. They had similar views about how to foster social and political reform (though the political aspect was more subdued in the case of Dharmapala than in the case of Shelley, a difference between the two that points to the Anagarika’s realistic, pragmatic approach as opposed to the dream-visionary impracticality of Shelley’s): Shelley believed in the possibility of perfecting humanity by moral means, which forms the nuclear theme of ‘Queen Mab’; the revolution he envisaged appears to be something to be achieved in this way, but not through armed struggle (despite his probable allusion to the French Revolution in his sonnet ‘England in 1819’ suggested.

As socially conscious young men in their different places and times Shelley and Dharmapala had much in common. They shared the same reformist ambitions. Both, born into wealth and privilege, showed an unusual concern for the welfare of the poor and were totally committed to the social uplift and moral refinement of the society including particularly the traditionally oppressed. Shelley’s relentless criticism of authoritarian institutions in his country is explicitly articulated in his sonnet ‘England in 1819’: The state of Shelley’s England is such that the king is “old, mad, blind, despised, and dying”; the princes are “the dregs of their dull race”; the rulers who are unable to see, feel or know, cling like leeches to their country until they “drop, blind in blood, without a blow”; the ordinary English people are “starved and stabbed in the untilled fields”; the army is corrupt and inept; the laws “tempt and slay”; religion is “Christless – Godless – a book sealed”. (Won’t this sound familiar to readers in many countries of the world even today?)

All these (agents of tyrannous evil) “Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may – Burst to illumine our tempestuous day” (This could be interpreted as an allusion to the French Revolution, in which a crucial event was the storming of the ancient fortress of the Bastille and the releasing of the wretched prisoners there in 1789, just three years before his birth). Shelley’s diatribes like these preceded, by about three quarters of a century, the Anagarika’s vehement denunciation of the demoralizing British imperialism in our country. Just as Shelley rebelled (ideologically) against what he condemned as the tyranny of the king, priests and statesmen (‘statesmen’ not in its current dignified sense, but in the sense of mere ‘politicians’), Dharmapala adopted a defiant stance towards the occupying foreigners, errant Buddhist monks, and the Westernized local elite that so slavishly pandered to the interests of the colonial rulers.

But he was not an irrational hater of everything Western. He admired the positive aspects of European culture. He possessed a very good knowledge of the English language, which he used to write and edit many English publications in the pursuance of his Buddhist revivalist propaganda. His love of English poetry was consistent with the cosmopolitan Buddhist attitude towards what is admirable in other cultures. He criticized the tyranny and injustice of European colonialism, but he obviously had a high regard for the Western nations’ scientific and inventive genius. In return, he acted in compassion towards them according to his own religious convictions. He wrote in his “My Life Story” already referred to:

It is time that Buddhists of Asia should give the Dhamma to the people of Europe and America. Buddhism is for the scientifically cultured. The discoveries of modern sciences are a help to understand the sublime Dhamma. The mediaeval theology of ecclesiastical tussle may have satisfied the half-civilized consciousness of pre-scientific Europe and the paganized tribes of Europe of a barbarous age. Today the cultured races of Europe require a scientific psychology showing the greatness of human consciousness. The sublime doctrine of the Lord Buddha is a perfect science based on transcendental wisdom. This Dhamma should be freely given to the European races.

The unacceptable reality of our current domestic and international predicament is exactly what the farsighted Anagarika acted to forestall, against many odds, which limited his success. Paradoxically and quite unfairly, leaders like him are held responsible for our present ethnic problems by some individuals. My opinion is that had Anagarika Dharmapala and other patriots that he inspired not been there in that era and after, our plight today would have been worse.

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“Asian elephant conservation: the long road ahead”

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by Nilanga Jayasinghe

Asian elephants once ranged from West Asia, through the Indian subcontinent, and all the way north to the Yangtze River in China. Today, there are less than 50,000 wild elephants found in only 13 countries across Asia. Living on the most populous continent on the planet means that Asian elephants face the common threats of habitat loss and resulting human-elephant conflict across their entire range. To prevent further declines, addressing these and other threats are of paramount importance. To further elephant conservation, WWF works in 11 range countries to support human-elephant conflict management, community engagement, elephant population assessments, radio collaring to understand elephant movement, and reducing impacts to elephants from linear infrastructure, among others. Join WWF’s Nilanga Jayasinghe to learn more about the various efforts to support Asian elephant conservation.

Nilanga Jayasinghe is a Manager on the Wildlife Conservation team at WWF, focusing on Asian species, particularly elephants, rhinos, tigers, and snow leopards, among others. She has nearly 20 years of extensive experience in international species conservation and has worked on conservation issues across the board in Asia, Africa, and North America. Her areas of expertise include human-wildlife conflict, Asian elephants, strategic planning, connectivity conservation, protected area management, capacity building, and technological applications for wildlife conservation. She is a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) and the Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC), and a member of the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group under the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas. In her role, Nilanga works with WWF field teams and partners in more than 15 countries in Asia to further conservation efforts on the ground for WWF’s priority flagship species. She provides technical support for species conservation and management efforts and mobilizes resources to accomplish conservation activities. In addition, she works with global partners to develop and implement initiatives that harmonize species conservation with broader conservation goals.

NTB WNPS Public Lecture is presented in association with Nations Trust Bank and open to all. Please sign up here https://forms.gle/WoHurA2n2465k6Y76

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