Connect with us


End monkey business now and get serious!




(Continuation of ‘Don’t forget people who elected you, Mr President!’/02 November, 2021)

My gut feeling is that the Presidential Task Force, if it is what I think it is, i.e., a brilliantly thought out ploy with an ulterior motive, is meant to abort the new constitution making project. It was probably designed to divide Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils, also create suspicion between the former and Christians, while pacifying radicalized Muslims. This will help

The PTF has been established, according to the gazette notification, “focusing on the fact that administration of justice, its implementation and protection under the law should be fair by all as set out in the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Whereas, it is indicated under fundamental rights therein that no citizen should be discriminated against in the eye of law or meted out special treatment on ground of nationality, religion, caste or any other grounds; And whereas, the implementation of the concept; one country, one law within Sri Lanka is reflected as a methodology of ensuring nationally and internationally recognized humanitarian values; And whereas, the fact that all citizens are treated alike in the eye of the law should be further ensured, ….” This provides an idea of the brief that the PTF received.

In implicit response to the mostly negative reception of the news of its establishment among the people, Ven. Gnanasara has repeatedly tried to rationalize the One Country One Law concept; but that is unnecessary, for there is no quarrel about the cogent reasons that led to the call for the One Country One Law idea; the need for a single legal system has been correctly identified by the majority of the general public, with the negligible exception of a few religious extremists, whose established traditions come into conflict with the country’s secular laws. The question is about the rationale of the establishment of the PTF.

Through the extraordinary gazette notification, the president authorizes the task force to “make such inquiries and issue such instructions as are required for the purpose of executing the tasks so entrusted”.  The President appoints, as secretary to the PTF, his Senior Assistant Secretary Ms Jeevanthie Senanayake.  He further requires and directs “all public officers and other persons to whom the said Task Force may issue instructions or from whom assistance for provision of services may be requested, to comply with all such instructions, render all such assistance and furnish all such information as may be properly complied with, rendered and furnished on that behalf”.

The President demands that the PTF report to him “all instances where any Government employee or an officer in any ministry, government department, state corporation or any such institution who delay the performance of duties and fulfilment of responsibilities or fail to perform such duties and responsibilities to be entrusted by the said Task Force”. He directs the members to “submit reports to me at least once a month and submit the final report on or before 28th February, 2022”

Getting a Buddhist monk involved in governance matters (in the form of virtual nationalistic legal framing) is the last thing I would have expected from a president, who the people hoped, would bring about a systemic change in the mode of government. In Sri Lanka’s long history, the kings maintained a close relationship with the monks, only as religious advisers, not as partners in making laws or ruling. As a whistle-blower, Ven. Gnanasara Thera, exposed the existence of burgeoning religious extremism years ago, but his exposures did not get enough recognition by the authorities for some reason. Instead, he was unfairly condemned as an irresponsible rabble-rouser, intent on troublemaking for some political advantage. Ven. Gnanasara is trying to provide the initiative that only politicians and the Mahanayakes could and should provide, in resolving the single issue that has caused him to deviate from his religious vows and engage in the rough and tumble of mundane agitational activism. But he is not equipped to play that role in any way. His berserk behaviour finally landed him in jail for contempt of court. Had he been more disciplined in his protests, he wouldn’t have been thus treated, in spite of his intentions having been genuinely benign as well as patriotic. His personality defect has damaged not only his personal reputation and his cause, but also his credibility as a defender of the Buddha Sasanaya, the people and the country.

The Thera has been led astray by the cynical opportunism of politicians, who exploit the sensitive perennial issue of the threat posed to the country’s age-old Buddha Sasanaya/the Buddhist religious-cultural establishment, and to its historic archaeological heritage in the form of ruins scattered, particularly, in the north and east. The threat comes from the local representatives of forms of the religious fundamentalism that is sweeping across the whole world; especially by different sects of potentially violent Islamic/Íslamist extremists, sponsored by moneyed foreign agents. Treasure hunters cause probably more damage to this heritage. Behind the religious extremists seems to stand the Western imperialist juggernaut that uses religious fundamentalism and other forms of extremism to destabilise nation states it wants to control, to achieve varied geopolitical ends at the latter’s expense.

What the monks are demanding is protection for the Buddhist establishment from this threat. Theirs is not a political struggle; they are not fighting for political ends. What they say is: Stop unfair proselytisation of poverty-stricken Buddhists and Hindus, who are equally subject to subversion by numerous foreign funded, politicized fundamentalist Christian and Islamic sects. The problem can be easily sorted out if the politicians have the political will to do so, and if the politicians in power at any time, get the government servants working in the vulnerable areas to implement the available archaeological conservation and protection laws, without abandoning their responsibilities for illicit monetary gains. The indifference and inaction of the traditional Mahanayakes (their culpable innocence and ignorance is inexcusable) are the other strong factor that betrays Buddhist interests.

My criticism of the establishment of a Presidential Task Force for the implementation of the One Country One Law headed by a Buddhist monk does not mean a rejection of that important objective. It must be achieved during the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. For that, a proper strategy must be adopted. However, as the Bar Council of Sri Lanka, has pointed out, the PTF has no role to play in implementing the stated concept, because the functions assigned to it are already being performed by the available constitutionally established institutions, including the Parliament and the Ministry of Justice (The Island/November 3); so, it is a redundant body. The only ‘benefit’ that has accrued from the controversial move is that it has given the opportunistic minority politicians who hide behind extremists, without supporting them openly, extra ammunition for their blasts of criticism against the nationalist government.

Incidentally, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), created by Basil Rajapaksa and led by Mahinda Rajapaksa (the current Finance Minister, and Prime Minister, respectively) held its 5th National Convention at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, Colombo on November 2, 2021. Minister Rajapaksa emphasized the importance of MR’s leadership. President Gotabaya congratulated the party, in a message, on its great success within a short time of its inauguration, reflected in its winning of a near two thirds of parliamentary seats (in August 2020).

PM Mahinda Rajapaksa said, among other things, that the teacher strike and the farmer agitations would not have dragged on so long if they had maintained more political engagement with them. He also made special mention of the young people who voluntarily beautified towns and cities across the country with beautiful wall paintings (when the new government came into being in 2019 with the election of the current president, whose advent generated in them the new spirit of hope that inspired them to engage in that voluntary exercise without any expectation of a reward); those youths, the PM remembered, by doing that, indicated their wish that politicians should not spoil the street walls with their ugly political posters. Where are those young people now? He asked, and provided his own answer: “If they have joined the queue of passport applicants (who want to acquire a passport with the intention of leaving the country looking for greener pastures abroad), we should engage in the kind of politics that will encourage them to return”. If the PM is genuine about what he is saying here, we may expect him to stop monkeying around with monks, and to change his attitude to patriotic young politicians of all parties and communities, vis a vis his own son.

The PM must have meant what he said. If he really did, he will not relapse into the 73-year long monkey business of taking the monks for rides or flights. It is disgraceful how political monks are conducting themselves at this critical time, especially that sneaky Ratana Thera, who is causing embarrassment to Gotabaya and the government, through his hasty application (for expected personal political reputation) of the organic fertilizer initiative. Ven. Gnanasara said, talking about the PTF, that in the future the youth of the country must come forward to save the nation. The country is not short of young men and women who are capable of providing a sound modern leadership to the country, if only their way is not obstructed by ambitious oldies whose ‘Vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself, And falls on the other… ‘ (i.e., excess ambition lands them somewhere else than where they want to reach, lands them in trouble, as happened to Macbeth in the Shakespeare play).

It should be hoped that this occasion (the 5th anniversary of the SLPP) be utilised as an opportune moment to reflect on past errors, and resolve not to repeat them, and introduce a course correction, starting with rethinking a new approach to the implementation of the One Country One Law idea, that ensures the participation of all Sri Lankans; especially the young from all the communities, something that can be done through the existing agencies.


My gut feeling is that the Presidential Task Force, if it is what I think it is, i.e., a brilliantly thought out ploy with an ulterior motive, is meant to abort the new constitution making project. (I have no idea of whose brainchild this could be.) It was probably designed to divide Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils, also create suspicion between the former and Christians, while pacifying radicalized Muslims for some unspecified reason. This might help revive the defeated separatist project, and breathe new life into secretly growing Islamism, and together help foreign designs on Sri Lanka; provoked purely by big power geopolitics due to its strategically important location in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Pitting guilless Islamist critic Gnanasara Thera against an Ulama Council maulavi by putting them in the same panel of advisors, is like putting a dove and a cat in the same cage; for when it comes to religion, a believing Muslim will not compromise their religious principles to accommodate human reason.

The government’s failure to achieve its key objective of introducing a new constitution will delight the still operative forces, which were behind the 2015 regime change (they may even have acquired new allies by now). It is good to remember that Mahinda Rajapaksa was betrayed by his lieutenant three times in a row between 2015 and 2019, which does not reflect well on his sense of judgement; it could be a different traitor this time.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is probably the most ethically and morally honest person ever to hold that post. The frustrated regime changers are now propagating the faint fictitious notion that he benefited from the April 2019 Easter Sunday Islamist bombings, and that the intelligence services that had reached the highest professional efficiency levels under him as Defence Secretary during MR’s time had some connection with them. The charge that the government is deliberately slow in meting out justice to those responsible for the Easter bombings is, I think, 100% false. All peace- and justice-loving Sri Lankans, including me, want to see the Easter attacks perpetrators receive condign punishment at the earliest possible; the highest involved (be it president Sirisena, prime minister Ranil, during whose watch the suicide bomb attacks happened or any other individuals) shouldn’t be spared. I, for one, believe that President Gotabaya, PM Mahinda, and others in the government will be satisfied with no less.

However, even the Cardinal seems to have accepted that false allegation, in spite of repeated assurances given him by the President to the contrary. Two reasons for the Cardinal’s misgivings that occur to me are: potentially guilty former president Sirisena seems to be looking for refuge under his erstwhile boss that he betrayed three times, now PM; the other reason could be Gnanasara Thera’s arrogant, totally frivolous and uncalled for remarks about the Cardinal’s activism regarding the Muthurajawela environmental issue. Gnanasara Thera was reported as having said about the Cardinal in this connection: “I warn the Cardinal that he should not overstep his boundaries!” That alone should have disqualified the monk for the post that he has been appointed. I personally believe that the President, as a convinced Buddhist, can receive much more constructive advice from the Cardinal than from Gnanasara Thera.

The paragraph quoted below is about one of the academics that I find mentioned as a panel member of the PTF. It happens to be the concluding paragraph of an article of mine that was carried in the Lankaweb online journal on May 1, 2020 (Interested readers may look it up there:

“It is strange that this academic was not informed enough about the existing local realities (not exclusively those uncovered with evidence by the BBS – Bodu Bala Sena) relating to the problem of the menace posed to Sri Lankans of all races and religions and worldviews, especially to Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus who together form over 80% of the population,  from Abrahamic religious fundamentalists (not from the mainstream adherents of those religions), when he wrote to that international journal. These monks do ‘deliberate on their views and stances before involving the public…’; there is nothing wrong with their actions, but what can they do if they are misreported to the world by indifferent media, and immature ill-informed academics? (A personal opinion)”

Finally, when the disciplined voters of the country (unfortunately, they don’t have enough disciplined politicians to serve them) voted for a new president and a new parliament about two years ago, they never expected a yahapalanaya type of government to come to power again, whatever happens later. Apparently, the country hasn’t still emerged from its afterglow. Gotabaya Rajapaksa started off with the purest intentions. Buddhists believe in the principle “dhammo have rakkhati dhammacari” the dhamma protects the follower of the dhamma”. He need not fear. But whatever he is intent on doing, he should first win the agreement and support of the people before trying it.

Anyone with an average familiarity with the recent political history of the world, knows that patriotic leaders of independent countries who don’t serve the interests of more powerful nations, at the expense of the welfare and wellbeing of their own people, are not safe. Their safety depends on the people’s goodwill, provided democracy is allowed to rule. But as we know today, countries find themselves ruled from outside. That is an unpleasant reality, we can hardly overcome. In Sri Lanka, the two traditional parties or alliances have two different attitudes to this predicament. One favours it, the other opposes it. The second has a problem managing foreign interference. Nationalists support forces that protect the country’s democracy, independence, and sovereignty. Gotabaya is a nationalist leader. Nationalists need not be demoralised when they are falsely attacked as ethno-nationalist extremists by NGO mercenaries.

If Gotabaya Rajapaksa is able to bring in a new constitution as a non-party product that is fashioned according to the common consensus of all parliamentarians (including essentially all young ones, that is, those under 40, for example) who do not have to vote for it under duress; let that be the greatest achievement he will be remembered for.

Such a constitution should be one that does not divide the nation on language, religion, or race bases. It will eliminate the influence of extremists, and definitely incorporate the One Country One Law principle. Giving anything a special place or special protection, as experience shows, invariably turns out to be counter-productive. So, this has to be avoided. This is a controversial suggestion, but it will be achievable, if the gerontocrats give way for the brilliant youth of the country to take centre stage in the political arena.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Why do we vote?



In his article in Sunday Island, Maj Gen A M U Seneviratne (Rtd) said “We vote and elect our representatives to represent us in parliament and other governing bodies and we expect them to respect us and work for the uplift of the country and its citizens”.

I totally disagree – We, the majority, elect them just for their sake, not to uplift the country or its citizens. Otherwise, how could every riff-raff who had not done anything worthwhile for the people and are notable for corruption and frauds be voted, election after election? Haven’t we seen how their supporters gather around them (and cheer) when they come out after Court hearings in which they were accused of various crimes?

K Siriweera

Continue Reading


Every puff on a cigarette pushes a smoker towards his death!



This is with reference to the article ‘If you have a heart, say no to tobacco!’ by Dr. Gotabhya Ranasinghe (The Island 2nd June 2023) I fully agree with the learned doctor since deaths due to smoking are usually not reported in the press and smokers don’t realise the gravity of this habit.

Globally, tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century. It is supposed to be more than the combined casualties in the two World Wars. Everyone born in this world is bound to die one day or the other. It is only the causes of death that vary but the health issues a smoker has to face are unbearable. Tobacco related deaths, it is expected, will reach the one billion mark in the 21st century if the current smoking patterns continue.

Famous American television personality and renowned cardiologist Dr. Oz once said ‘I don’t operate on smokers. I tell cigarette smokers I can operate on you. I get paid the same. And you might even do well. But it’s the wrong thing to do. So, I refuse to operate on you until you stop smoking.’

The famous Russian-American film actor, Yul Brynner, who died of lung cancer caused due to smoking in 1985, made a video message from his deathbed. In that video he said ‘Now that I am gone, I tell you don’t smoke whatever you do!’ I wonder how many smokers did take this message seriously? Smoking is a silent killer or another form of suicide.

S. H. Moulana

Continue Reading


Arahath Mahinda’s mission and betrayal by Ven. Buddhagosa



Arahath Mahinda created history in the 3rd Century BC when he not only brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka, but also catalysed the development of a rich civilisation on the island. This great achievement is unparalleled in the annals of Buddhism since the demise of the Buddha. Ven. Buddhagosa is held in high esteem among Sri Lankan Buddhists for translating the Sinhala Commentaries on the Tripitaka into Pali in the 5th Century AD.

The huge enterprise undertaken by King Dharmasoka and his son Arahath Mahinda was to spread the Theravada Dhamma cleansed of all impurities that had crept into it over time. The effort of Ven Buddhaghosa, in contrast, was to reintroduce some of these impurities back into Theravada. These impurities had been removed at the Third Dhamma Sangayanava sponsored by King Dharmasoka, where Ven. Moggalliputtatissa preached the Katavattu, which refutes and eliminates all these impurities. Katavattu has been good enough to be included in the Tripitaka. By this means metaphysical and transcendental features were removed from the Dhamma before it was brought to Sri Lanka. Ven. Buddhagosa in his translation of the Sinhala Commentaries into Pali has reintroduced these features into the Dhamma. His action had resulted in the introduction of ritual worship, and a larger than life image of the historical human being that was Buddha.

Arahath Mahinda after introducing Buddhism to Sri Lanka, worked tirelessly on two vital aspects, the practice of the Dhamma and the study of the Pali canonical texts. Historical remains of the facilities made available for the pursuit of these two aspects bear witness to the fact that people were interested in both. Ruins of libraries, lecture theatres and meditation cubicles abound in the country. Practice of the Dhamma was based on the three main features of the Gnana Marga (Path of Wisdom), ‘Dhana, Seela, Bhavana’. There were no rituals. Age old oral tradition was employed for the study of the suttas with designated disciples, in the ancient tradition of the Bhanakas who memorised the suttas and recited them at meetings for their revision. Arahath Mahinda facilitated the teaching process by arranging to make available the commentaries on the suttas in Sinhala.

It is this version of Buddhism that was written down at Aluvihare. Mahinda was careful to see that this Dhamma was established in Sri Lanka. In order to make sure that the correct tenets and dogma were studied he provided Sinahala commentaries. It was these Sinhala Commentaries that were translated into Pali by Ven. Buddhaghosa. But what was the need for this translation? One cannot think of any valid reason. Sinhala commentaries were needed for the teaching of the Dhamma to Sinhala people, and the original Pali version was available in the Tripitaka for reference when necessary. If Buddhagosa wanted to write his own commentaries in Pali he could have done that instead of translating the Sinhala version. He had a command of the Pali language but there is no evidence of how or where he learnt Sinhala with sufficient proficiency to translate complex works to Sinhala. Moreover, what has happened to the Sinhala commentaries is a mystery. Chronicles say they were burnt. Was it done to destroy the evidence? Were they destroyed by invaders? If so why only the Sinhala commentaries, why not all the written works? Did Mahaviharins collude with Buddhagosa in these activities?

Buddhagosa in his translations had made changes, added stories and anecdotes, which is not the accepted function of a translator or even a commentator. These additions are meant to raise the Buddha to a transcendental being, above the realm of this world, who is god like and could grant to humans what they pray for. Some stories describe people offering flowers and incense to Buddha (see Buddhagosa’s commentary on Kalinga Bodhi Jataka). What benefit did Buddhagosa and Mahaviharins, if they were involved, expect from these activities? In this connection Prof Marasinghe says; ‘ The hard work of Buddhagosa and the Mahavihara fraternity culminated in the formulation of a new ritual structure with attractive advantages to keep both the lay followers and the members of the Sanga happy and content

As a result, when we pass from the canonical Pali texts and the Pali commentaries we come into a totally new teaching different from the original’.

The Buddha was a normal human being. Prince Siddartha gave up lay life and went in search of an answer to the eternal suffering of humans and led a very simple life, often resting or sleeping under a tree. What he achieved did not make him a larger than life being or make him or his Dhamma a transcendental or metaphysical phenomenon. The Pali canonical texts still depict this Theravada Buddha (in Prof. Marasinghe’s words), who is totally different to the glorified Buddha in the Buddhagosa’s commentaries. Buddhagosa’s Buddha had accumulated merit in innumerable eons of samsara to achieve what he achieved. Here Buddhagosa asserts that achieving Nirvana is not possible without such accumulation of merit. Buddha has never said merit is necessary for achieving Nirvana, merit could be accumulated or that merit could be transferred from one person to another. Sri Lankan Buddhists make a futile attempt to do all this and the blame lies with Buddhagosa.

Before the advent of Buddhagosa, there were no rituals, during a period of 700 years from the 3rd Century BC to the 5th Century AD. Though there were stupas like Thuparamaya and statues of Buddha and the Bodhi Tree, people treated these as objects of veneration for recollection of the Buddha and his attainment and not for ritual worship of the theistic kind. Buddha advised people to offer alms or give away their possessions to help them get rid of attachment to these objects that are impermanent, for it was the cause of suffering. But Buddhists of today offer alms expecting an accumulation of merit as an insurance for a better life in the next birth. The concept of accumulation of merit and its transfer were discussed and rejected at the Third Dhamma Sangayanava referred to above, and therefore these concepts were not brought to Sri Lanka by Mahinda.

Practice of ritual worship is associated with theistic religions and was never advocated by Buddha, who said that one could attain freedom from suffering by one’s own effort and not by the intervention of an external agent. Buddhagosa paved the way for the entry of ritual worship into the practice of Buddhism, and the belief that worship before stupas, statues, and Bodhi trees would result in the accumulation of merit and rewards. The uniqueness of Buddhism was ruined. Let me quote Prof. Marasinghe; ‘ Thus, all aspects of the new ritual Buddhism which changed the Theravada Buddhism into a system of worship, offering and prayer, like any other theistic religion, has been very carefully planned and smuggled into practice with several bonus packages for the operators’.

Asoka Amaratunga

Continue Reading