Long queues can be seen near Sathosa outlets in many parts of the island, because of the closure of private retail shops due to the current lockdown. I also went to the nearby Sathosa shop to purchase some provisions last Sunday. Some people had hired trishaws to come there from distant places and already queued up there. It was around 8.00 am and the outlet was scheduled to open at 9.00.
Around 9.05 am the shop manager arrived on a motorcycle, parked the bike on the right side of the shop, and we all thought he would at least open the shop to enable us to purchase our stuff; because we have patiently waited in the same queue for more than one hour.
He did not bother about the queue before the shop, he engaged in a conversation with a friend of his who had come there for some other purpose. His behaviour was really getting on our nerves, because he was already late to open the shop, but engaging in an idle chat with his friend. Meantime, some elderly people sat on the steps of the shop, and the mothers were already getting impatient as their babies started crying.
After some time, the manager went to the police station, just opposite the shop, to collect the keys, because when they close the outlet, they handed over the keys of the shop to the police for security purposes. He collected the keys, came back and gave the key to the security officer to open the shop, and we all thought he would allow us to buy our stuff. No, it did not happen; he just went in and another two shop assistants reported to duty, and then all of them went into the shop keeping the shop half open. The security guard was not allowing us to get into the shop.
The consumers were becoming restive.
Finally, the staff got ready to open the shop. Then they took in three people at a time as per the health guidelines, and we were given a kilo of sugar after waiting nearly two hours in the queue. Having purchased goods, we had to wait again in a new queue to pay our bills, as there was only one cashier. I inquired from the salesman why they could not use the other billing counter, because the queue was getting longer and longer inside. He said the second billing machine was out of order. Finally, having spent nearly two hours, I was able to buy a kilo of brown sugar there!
I am not finding fault with these officers in the particular Sathosa outlet, because they render a great service to the public, risking their precious lives. But these grievances faced by the people must be removed. Things can be improved, because consumers, especially the elderly and mothers with infants, face many challenges by standing for a long time to purchase essential commodities in the prevailing pandemic situation.
M. JALALDEEN ISFAN
Lawyers Collective condemns Anti-Terrorism and Online Safety Bills
The Lawyers’ Collective condemns the latest version of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the Online Safety Bill gazetted in September 2023. The Government of Sri Lanka has failed to respond to the serious and fundamental concerns raised about the Anti-Terrorism Bill gazetted in March this year. The government also failed to adopt any transparent and accountable process through which the Bills were explained, justified and robust public consultation facilitated before they were gazetted. The definitions adopted for ‘terrorism’ and ‘false statement’, and related offences created under the two Bills are excessively broad and vague, and thus do not represent a measured and proportionate means of serving specific and necessary law and order objectives.
Indeed, the Anti-Terrorism and Online Safety Bills represent an attempt to institutionalise excessive executive discretionary power over a broad range of ordinary activities of the citizens of Sri Lanka. At a time when the country’s democracy quotient is at a historical low, attempts to rush into enactment dangerous laws that have a high potential to crush dissent and curb civil liberties causes much alarm. Citizens of this country are currently making a wide range of demands on their elected representatives and government officials in the context of the deep economic crisis and the bearing it has on their lives.
Democracy demands that the widest possible space be created at this time to hear citizens’ grievances and to engage citizens and citizen groups, especially vulnerable communities. The intolerance represented by the two proposed laws towards legitimate dissent, critique, opposition and organising around different ideas and solutions for governance in Sri Lanka is a direct threat to democracy, civil liberties and the role of the judiciary in protecting citizens’ sovereignty against executive capture.
Sri Lankan recent history is marked by terrible violence and social and economic devastation caused by repressive approaches to unrest and inequality in our society and polity. Having emerged from decades of war and violent insurrection, the government and opposition parties would be mindful of the responsibility that they bear towards the current and future citizens of this country. In this moment, the legal profession has a role and responsibility to act to safeguard people’s treasured freedoms.
The Lawyers’ Collective calls for the immediate withdrawal of the two Bills. The Collective also calls for the adoption of a transparent process of consultative law making and the proposal of executive and legal measures that are proportionate and responsive to the needs of the people. The Collective demands that the government desist from enacting laws that will harm the very foundations of democracy in Sri Lanka. Such laws that grant the executive excessive powers to curtail citizen’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression and thought, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and liberty erode the sovereignty of the people that is the very basis of Sri Lanka’s constitution.
On behalf of the Lawyers’ Collective
Rienzie Arsecularatne, President’s Counsel.
Upul Jayasuriya, President’s Counsel
Jayampathy Wickramaratne, President’s Counsel
Geoffrey Alagaratnam, President’s Counsel
Dinal Phillips, President’s Counsel
Saliya Pieris, President’s Counsel
Lal Wijenayake, Attorney-at-Law
Upul Kumarapperuma, Attorney-at-Law
K.W. Janaranjana, Attorney-at-Law
Nuwan Bopege, Attorney-at-Law
Recently, I have made it a point to listen carefully to dhamma discourses by erudite Bhikkus , very specially on the consumption of meat by Buddhists and the Vinaya rules laid down by the Buddha on this subject.
To begin with it was one of the conditions which Devadatta insisted on as mandatory, which the Buddha in his profound infinite knowledge declined as impractical. He even cited instances where previous Buddhas declined such requests. What the Buddha said was that killing was not at all permissible, but the consumption of meat was left to the discretion of the persons concerned whether it be the lay persons or bhikkus.
Some may dislike meat out of sheer sansaric habit while others may relish it, but the Budhdha laid down certain important pre-conditions on the consumption of meat. He prohibited eating the flesh of 10 animal species like the lion, elephant, tiger, leopard, bear, horse, dog, cat, snake and human flesh.
On the other hand he prescribed an important Vinaya rule known as the ‘thri kotika paarishudda‘ which literally means that whoever gives it as an offering or consuming it must make sure that the meat comes from an animal which was not specifically slaughtered for the purpose. Meat bought at a market is without doubt such a meat and may be offered to and received by a Bhikku..
A previous Buddha has even assisted a bhikku through his infinite knowledge by suggesting that he should go begging for alms on a particular street where a lay dayaka was preparing a meal of rice with crab curry. The bhikku concerned was extremely pious but could not attain arahat status as he had an excruciating earache. No sooner he ate the crab meal his acute pain ceased and he concentrated his mind on the dhamma and attained Arahathood then and there. The layman who offered the crab meal noticed the difference in the Bhikku and was thrilled to know that he had given alms to an Arahat.. This hppy thought came back to him at the time of his death, whicn occurred very much later.
His Chuthi chiththa was so powerful that he was born in a splendid divine abode with a huge mansion which had the insignia of a large golden crab at its entrance to remind him and all of the crab meal which was offered to an Arahat.
A lay person once asked the Buddha whether it was correct to recommend the eating of foul smelling flesh like fish for instance and the Buddha has replied that tanha irrsiya krodha maanna dhitti are more foul smelling and should be eschewed completely if you wish to attain the bliss of Nibbana. Looking down on people who consume meat is also a sinful thought which should be avoided , as it does not benefit anyone.
Dear friends, I have tried to tell the English speaking folk who do not have the opportunity to listen to our Sinhala sermons some profound truths. They even do not know that there have been more than 500,000 Buddhas in the past aeons of time and a Mahaa Kalpa is an enomous space in time which only a Budhha can comprehend. The knowledge of a Sammaa Sambuddha is infinite.
Lastly a word of caution to those who obstruct the doing of good deeds. They cannot even receive the Anumodnaa Kusalaya by a mere wish of happiness at a good deed, [sadhu] but will certainly reap the evil rewards of obstructing good deeds, May you all be well and happy.
Cecil de Mel,
Tel. 011 2648565
Nuclear power for Sri Lanka
There is much talk at the moment of nuclear power generation for the country. The idea is certainly very good. We do need more energy to run the county and the future demand will be far higher than now.
I do understand that nuclear energy is clean, cheap and harmful effects on the environment are minimal. So far the thinking is fine; but it’s important to bear in mind that in case of an accident, the damage will be colossal as we have seen in Chernobyl. What a disaster that was! And in a country much more disciplined than us and with far better technological knowledge and experience. Our knowledge will be wanting.
If all does go well, it will be fine but in case of an accident I hate to think of the kind of disaster we shall have to face.
We have a reputation for using cheap material and also for taking short cuts. Our work ethic too is most wanting. A nuclear power plant needs to be handled with the greatest care. An accident will cause much irreparable damage.
If we do go ahead with the nuclear power proposal, the project (including, most importantly, construction) must be handled by those who have experience and an unblemished record.Nuclear power will be a must some time or other. We must tread the road towards it extremely cautiously.
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