I must candidly say that I am disappointed as our politicians act without much foresight in their efforts to please acolytes who were loyal to them at the expense of good order and in the process defame the national legislature.
Mark Twain said that politicians must be changed like diapers often and for the same reason. Yes, such change took place recently; sadly the majority came from the same caboodle that rotate and cling to the legislature. In referring to what MT said, I am kept guessing whether we have men of stature who can place the image of the country first and not pander to the whims and fancies of leaders who act for short term gain and stand up to what is right.
Assuming that there was no legal impediment for him to be sworn in it’s my humble view that it was important to give more weight to the morality of having a man convicted of murder in the legislature.
There is a landmark decision given by a man of learning, eminently suitable for the position of Speaker who did not act to protect his position. He was the late Anura Bandaranaike.
When he was Speaker he gave a historic ruling on the 20th June 2001 when a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court issued a stay order to restrain the Speaker from appointing a select committee to inquire into the conduct of the Chief Justice consequent to a motion of impeachment against him. Quite apart from his standard of moral conduct, he did irreparable damage to the justice system and the country has paid heavily for such omissions and commissions.
Anura Bandaranaike ruled on the SUPREMACY of Parliament and rejected a THREE-JUDGE BENCH stay order, REFUSED intervention or interference and amply strengthened the hands of those who took office after him on how to administer Parliament and maintain the dignity of the August Assembly described as “UTTARITHARA ” However politicians mouth this word when it suits them.
In this back drop I fail to comprehend how a man convicted of murder and sentenced to death now in jail for life as the death penalty is not functional being allowed to come to Parliament to be sworn in. Is the Parliament supreme now with a convicted murderer as a member? He is a man who had transgressed the law and was sentenced by the High Court and hence is he a suitable person to legislate to law abiding citizens.
I learnt with horror that a leftist has said Jayasekera is presumed innocent till his appeal is heard. It is evident that he is cannot appreciate that a murderer in the death row is unfit to be sworn in a as a legislator. Are other accused sentenced to death allowed to revert to their normal lives till they are pronounced innocent by a higher court on a future date.
The person who figured must go through the due process and the Appeal Court must provide a verdict that the accused is innocent and cleared of the charge of murder since that is the practice that exists in our country and I guess all over the world. If the law is the same for all then it should apply to him too.
Mr. Editor you without any ambiguity said in a recent editorial that a person being tried for murder should never have been nominated to contest an election. None who value good order will disagree with you.
The country is well aware as a reader pointed out recently that a leading light of the ruling party mounted the stage and exhorted the ignorant gullible voters to give a Manape to him. It is indeed sad that we have in our system politicians who are incapable of assessing the incalculable harm they do and the horrendous lesson they impart to the young when they act in that manner.. The many substandard politicians who had a piggyback rides who got washed into the legislature will now follow him as the senior did not recognise the need for credibility and for public acceptance of good order. Any politician of whatever hue, must set standards to the people and this applies to the 225.
Is this a signal that a pardon is to follow and possibly apply to others too who have political connections?
Sri Lanka has many firsts starting with the world’s first woman Prime Minister emerging from our small country which gave us immense joy. Therefore what has taken place is most unacceptable.
Mr. Speaker I learnt that some ignoramus had requested you to expunge from Hansard what took place so that future generations will not observe the quality of our legislators. I do not think it’s correct to expunge since only what is unprintable that flow from the mouths of substandard men who engage in fisticuffs after a heavily subsidized meal enjoy that luxury gets expunged. The Hansard must contain an accurate record of Parliamentary proceedings and that is the tradition that prevails in all Parliaments.
Mr. Speaker to your credit none has said that you are a corrupt politician. However your image stands badly sullied. In any other country, the Speaker would have resigned over such an issue. Perhaps, you are aware the president and Prime Minister have gone public claiming that they did not influence any person regarding the entry of a man from the death row.
If you do history will place you among erudite men who adorned that seat before the era where copies of the Bible and the Quran, chilie powder etc started flying with the blessings of seniors.
We were recovering slowly and getting back to the civilised world after acquisition of honours like sacking the Chief Justice after a trial by nondescripts and the jailing of the war-winning general tried by a kangaroo court when a murderer was brought from the death cell by you and an oath administered.
Another matter of critical importance for the present ruler is to bear in mind that the results of laws implemented now will be felt only in decades to come and those who brokered them will not be around to observe the good or bad. Hence they should give serious THOUGHT before fresh legislation is enacted.
I am confident the current non-traditional politician President whose simple life style demonstrate, will ensure only laws that will benefit generations to come will be law when they can proudly say we are Sri Lankans.
I make this humble appeal as we observe that much of the chaos that prevails today is due to short term gain decisions of politicians to gain power.
May the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem be with the rulers to take wise decisions that will not impact adversely on generations to come and use the rare opportunity gained to strengthen institutions. We desperately need strong institutions where the law applies to all citizens alike.
Brian de Silva
Cattle slaughter ban and common sense
By Rohana R. Wasala
It was reported in the media (September 8, 2020) that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proposal for a ban on cattle slaughter received cabinet approval, as well as the approval of the government parliamentary group. Some Buddhist monks, and allied groups who have long been agitating for such legislation to be enacted, raised euphoric cries and invoked blessings on the Prime Minister and the President. I don’t know how the two privately reacted to the acclamation they received on the basis of a controversial measure, tentatively proposed, but not finally agreed upon: Did they accept the still unearned accolades with a feeling of exultant self-vindication or with a sense of gnawing doubt that the whole thing might misfire? They are more likely to experience the latter state of mind, because this ban cannot be imposed without harmful repercussions, given the unalterable ground realities that must be recognized and accommodated before enacting and implementing the proposed ban. This is so particularly in relation to the prevailing economic and political crises in today’s globalized world, of which Sri Lanka is a small member, hardly noticed, except for her strategic location and her beleaguered state due to the same circumstance, trapped between three superpowers – two global and one regional. The domestic fallout could be even more critical. This is the worst imaginable time for such a radical measure to be implemented, however popular it could be among a section of the people.
But let’s not be too alarmed. Media Minister and Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella (a good choice for the latter job, in my view) managed to assuage the fears of sceptics, like me, who are not convinced about the actual benefits, but are really concerned about the possible unsavoury economic, socio-cultural, and political consequences, of a ban being imposed on cattle slaughter, when Rambukwelle told the local media that Prime Minister Rajapaksa ‘hopes to ban cattle slaughter’ and that ‘he would decide when to submit the proposal to the government’. The government announced that a final decision will be delayed by a month (as reported in the online Istanbul/Turkey based TRT News Magazine). Rajapaksa’s cautious non-commitment hints at the possibility of a reassessment of the pros and cons of the move and points towards the likelihood of sanity finally prevailing. But this will need a lot of reverse convincing to do among the convinced (I mean, among those who are for the ban).
From my point of view (for what it is worth), it is vitally important to be mindful of how the ban would be viewed abroad, as well as among domestic non-Buddhist religious minorities, though it might go down well with a majority of Buddhists and Hindus. There is no question about trying to assert our rights as an independent sovereign nation and to pursue political and economic policies that we believe serve the best interest of our people. However, divisive party politics of the recent years have landed Sri Lanka in such a vulnerable situation, globally, that any government that even occasionally dares to defy undue superpower pressures in order to accommodate the legitimate demands of its own people, gets labelled as undemocratic, autocratic, oppressive, and therefore ripe for replacement. For a Sri Lankan government to be on its best behaviour is no guarantor of its survival in a context where India, China, and America are each looking after their own national interest in a competitive relationship with one another at the expense of Sri Lanka’s very survival. But what can we do about it? I think that the present government, under the joint leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, is doing what it can in these internationally beleaguered and internally treacherous times. Insisting on passing potentially divisive legislation is no way to help them.
Today, with Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President, we have the first executive head of government since independence who has found a way to consult with the Maha Sangha as a monolithic entity through non-political, non-sectarian interaction. He appointed a board of monks called the Bauddha Upadeshaka Sabhawa (the Buddhist Advisory Council) to advise him, and had its first meeting on April 24, 2020. It consists of the Mahanayake Theras of the Three Nikayas and a group of prominent scholar monks, who are specialists in various fields, connected with the Buddha Sasana, in which they have time-honoured claims and commitments. The monks meet with the President on the third Friday of every month. In their last meeting, on September 18, they commended the President for taking steps, in accordance with their proposals, for, among other things, the protection of historical sites of archaeological importance, development of Pirivena education, designing of a national educational policy, control of the drug menace, etc. But, as far as the Derana TV news coverage was concerned, there was no mention of the cow slaughter ban proposal. Can’t this be an indication that it is not being perceived as such a pressing issue?
There is no gainsaying the fact that Buddhist monks worked tirelessly for the victory of the nationalist camp, and they did not do so for any personal benefit. There are a number of activist monk groups each articulating different issues of broad national interest such as environment protection in addition to the central issue of the threat to the Buddha Sasana, the predominantly Buddhist nation (the people) and the unitary state that comes from the handful of foreign-sponsored separatist racists and religious extremists among the peaceful mainstream Tamil and Muslim minorities, respectively. These traitorous elements dominated the previous regime. The President appointed the Buddhist Advisory Council, partly in recognition of the service they did in helping to save the country from misgovernance, but primarily in fulfilment of the constitutional requirement of giving foremost place to Buddhism. We can expect nothing but good from this interaction between the prominent Nayake and scholarly monks and the President. Is it likely that they will fail to understand the problematic nature of the proposed ban on cattle slaughter?
Be that as it may, we can’t overlook the fact that some well known leading activists, heads of some animal rights and public health maintenance-related organizations, welcomed the proposal with great enthusiasm, despite the principal proponent’s non-committal stance. These included such prominent personalities as the Justice for Animals and Nature Organization Chairman Ven. Dr Omalpe Sobhita Thera, founder of Sarvodaya Dr A.T. Ariyaratne, and GMOA head, medical specialist Dr Anuruddha Padeniya. They published a public announcement-cum-invitation to ‘all professional and civil organizations’ asking them to attend a meeting at the ‘Sangha Headquarters,’ on Alvitigala Mawatha, on September 20. They are urging the enforcement of the ban proposal. An announcement-cum-invitation was issued on September 17, the day that marked the 156th birth anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala, who had pioneered the agitation for putting an end to cattle slaughter. In his time, probably, it was more meaningful and less controversial to do so than today. This announcement appeared in the online Lankaweb Forum page the same day, where I read it. It must have been published elsewhere, too. The author and principal signatory to the document, Ven. Sobhita, wrote (in translation): ‘It need hardly be stressed that the principled, determined and fearless enactment of the praiseworthy decision taken by the government MPs, headed by the Prime Minister, requires the approval and support of the general public. We believe that we are going to get your fullest cooperation in this regard. We intend to call a meeting of delegates from such organizations and take decisions in connection with organizing the relevant future activities to achieve this aim.’
Personally, I have the highest respect for these three eminent persons (who have already done much commendable service to Mother Lanka in their different capacities), and the others mentioned in the document, and also empathize fully with their commitment to the cause they believe in, but I do not share their conviction about the feasibility, the functionality, or the actual benefits, of the proposition that they are wholeheartedly supporting. I would support a movement with the same devotion to stop animal slaughter in general, not just cattle slaughter, if there was such a movement, but I know that it is an unlikely initiative, an impossibility even. I don’t see any rationality in such a project. The kind of free rational thinking that the Buddha advised the young Kalamas to adopt without blindly following him – the way to Enlightenment, budh,rational intelligence, that Narendra Modi identified some months ago, invoking the common intellectual heritage of India which we, too, share through Buddhism, as opposed to yudh, war/conflict, as the best way to resolve problems – seems to be at a premium, i.e., there is paradoxically little available of it – in the sacred Treasury of Theravada Buddhism that Sri Lanka is often claimed to be. Occasional submergence of practical rational thinking as in this case – our rational faculty sometimes becomes manifest in its humblest form of common sense – could prove costly in more than one sense for the whole country.
Rational minds can conceive of alternative ways of dealing with a problem, when sometimes the most direct solution is likely to create worse problems than the original problem itself like the cattle slaughter ban, if implemented, will certainly do. It is not likely to contribute towards enhancing intercommunal goodwill as already implied above. Many Muslims are employed in the meat industry, and there are secondary industries, like tanning (making leather out of animal hides), shoe making, and the manufacture of leather products, such handbags, waist belts, saddles, some percussion instruments, etc. Import of beef from abroad will lead to increase in prices, in addition to the loss of jobs, and the drain on scarce foreign exchange that it will entail. We may easily imagine the problematic implications for the important dairy milk industry, the development of which is essential for stopping the import of toxic milk powder.
Youth battle against drugs needed
Twenty-one-year-old student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read a 10-point manifesto aimed at reform of Thailand’s politically powerful monarchy
If our university students are daring enough to challenge the government for their rights for a clear-cut education policy, that no government could change, according to their whims and fancies or for the benefit of corrupt ministers, and state officials, then our university students’ unions could also challenge the government, regarding the drug mafia.
They should follow the 21-year-old. Thailand girl, from Thammasat University, who stood up against Royalty and called for a monarchy change, saying all humans have red blood and called for various reforms, as she fearlessly delivered the manifesto, including the call to change the constitution and education. This speech could have sent her to jail for 15 years, but she stood her ground.
Our university students, for the sake of our young generation, and those to be born, could challenge the government to take genuine action, as promised at the recent election, against all those who are involved in the drug mafia, be they ministers, officials or relatives. It is a well known fact that such an amount of drugs, etc., cannot be imported without the help of VVIPs.
Only the challenging from the young generation of all fields could induce positive action to expose the culprits. Mr. President, you asked the people to give you the strength to fight all corruption. You got it, but the people are worried about the outcome. Was it an ‘election gundu’? Do it, though you may not get the goodwill of corrupt ministers and officials, but the people, the honest and the hard working parents will be thankful to you.
Save the children before introducing any long term plans. Remember this drug mafia is very much worse than terrorists, because ministers did not get commissions from the war, but drugs bring in millions of rupees.
Reduce number of vehicles on our roads
Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.
Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.
Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?
Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.
In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.
He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.
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