by G H Peiris
Continued from Wednesday 16
Those provincial boundaries have remained almost unchanged during the
past 131 years, in disregard of ecological, demographic, economic and political transformations. What prevails now is an archaic and outmoded design that catered to different needs and bureaucratic circumstances.
The provincial administrative system had
only nominal contact and control over many functions of government. Those that were under the direct control of the government such as administration of justice, security, health services, road construction, land development, major hydraulic systems, postal and telecommunication services, railways, etc., were centrally controlled and invariably had sub-national spatial networks of their own.
In addition, and more significantly than all else, throughout British rule there was no irredentist threat from the Indian Sub-Continent which was largely under British rule. Nor did ‘Ceylon’ face serious external threats of destabilisation or conquest except, briefly (in 1942), during the Second World War.
Accordingly, an attempt to conduct Provincial Council elections without changing the existing configuration of provinces is tantamount to disregarding the fact that the continued existence of the present network of provinces, while not achieving effective empowerment of the under-represented and impoverished segments of our population, perpetuates the irredentist threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. It also ignores the ‘never again’ mandate offered by the people to the present government at the Parliamentary elections conducted last August for a major constitutional overhaul involving, inter alia, province-based devolution.
When the Dutch possessions in Sri Lanka, transferred to the British in 1796, were granted the status of a Crown Colony in 1801, the existing system of regional administration that had consisted of three ‘Collectorates’ was replaced with a network of thirteen ‘Provinces’, each centred on the coastal town after which it was named.
That arrangement, along with a separate administration over the ‘Kandyan Provinces’ annexed by the British in 1815, lasted with some modification until the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms of 1833 when a unified system of administration embracing the entire country was established. These reforms entailed, inter alia, the setting up of a hierarchically arranged system of regional administration in which five ‘Provinces’, each under the authority of a Government Agent, constituted the basic spatial frame. The Provinces were subdivided into Districts, each comprising several Headman’s Divisions. In many instances, the Headman’s Divisions had some correspondence to the pre-British administrative units of the Portuguese and the Dutch in the lowlands and of the Kandyan kingdom in the highlands.
Yet, in demarcating the Provinces and the Districts, hardly any attempt was made either to draw from history or to accommodate the geographical realities pertaining to criteria such as access to physical resources, resource management, composition of the population, and the interdependence of the different parts of the country from the viewpoint of their development prospects. In practical terms, the main rationalisation of the provincial demarcation appears to have been that of using the best fortified coastal urban centres left behind by the Dutch (Colombo, Galle, Jaffna and Batticaloa), and the capital of the former Kandyan kingdom as bases for developing a system of control over territory, most of which was yet to be explored.
Indeed, it almost seems as if, in establishing a uniform administrative system over the entire country, and in dividing the country into Provinces and Districts, the British made a conscious attempt to move away from tradition as a means of consolidating their hold over the country.
The most pronounced feature of the provincial framework instituted through the reforms of 1833 was the annexation of the outlying territories of the former Kandyan kingdom to the coastal provinces. For instance, while Nuwarakalāviya was included in the Northern Province, Tamankaduwa and a large portion of Uva were placed within the Eastern Province. Likewise, while the Western Province was made to extend well into the Kandyan territories of the western flanks of the Central Highlands, parts of Sabaragamuwa and Uva were incorporated into the Southern Province. It has been asserted (Mills, 1964:68; de Silva, 1981:261-2; Kodikara, 1991:4-5) that the new arrangement amounted to a dismemberment of the former Kandyan kingdom, and was intended, in the words of Mills, “… to weaken the national feelings of the Kandyans”.
British administrative Demarcations of 1833
Superimposed on John Davy’s 1821 demarcation of the Kandyan Kingdom
NOTE: This illustration confirms the submissions by Mr. Samanthe Ratwatte at the SEC meeting on 3 December 2020 on the dismembering of the Kandyan Kingdom by the British in 1833.
Over the next few decades, as population and economic activities expanded, new provinces were carved out of existing ones, bringing their total number to 9 by 1889.
The provincial administration, as indicated by the content of their ‘Annual Reports’, though nominally entrusted with a wide range of functions, was largely concerned during these times with the tasks of revenue collection, infrastructure development in the form of minor construction works, and the monitoring of living conditions among the people. The government activities directly relating to the emerging modern sector of the economy, the administration of justice, and the maintenance of law and order were, for the most part, orchestrated from Colombo. Thus, the creation of new provinces – North-Western Province in 1845, North-Central Province in 1873, Uva Province in 1886, and Sabaragamuwa Province in 1889 – was, in effect, not much more than a process of increasing the number of urban centres used as the principal bases of regional administration. The provinces were not intended to serve as spatial units for the devolution of government authority except in matters of routine administration; nor were they expected to acquire an ‘identity’ in a political sense. In fact, as Governor Ridgeway observed (Administration of Ceylon, 1897:52-53) almost at the end of the 19th century:
“The existing map of the island, compiled chiefly from General Fraser’s map made early in the century, contains errors so numerous and so gross as to make it useless for administrative purposes. For example, 400 miles of provincial boundaries are still un-surveyed. Only three of the larger rivers have been completely surveyed, while in the case of the largest in the island, the Mahaveli Ganga, there is a gap of over 20 miles.”
The provincial demarcation as it stood in 1889 has remained unchanged for well over 130 years. Intra-provincial administrative adjustments were made at various times bringing the total number of Districts in the country from nineteen in 1889 to twenty-five at present. Government Agents of the provinces, holding executive power over their areas of authority, coordinated a range of government activities in their respective provinces. It is important to note, however, that in certain components of governance, while the related regional demarcations did not always coincide with provincial and district boundaries, the Government Agent had either only marginal involvement or no authority at all. This was particularly evident in fields such as the administration of justice, maintenance of law and order, and the provision of services in education and health care, in which there is large-scale daily interaction between the government and the people.
Post-Colonial Territorial Divisions
In the early years of independence, with the passing of the Administrative Districts Act No. 22 of 1955, the province lost whatever importance it had up to that time as a unit of regional administration. Since then, until 1987, the district served as the main unit of regional administration, acquiring, with the increasing politicisation of bureaucratic activities in the country, some recognition as a spatial entity to which the powers and functions of the central government could be decentralised (de Silva, 1993:109-116). A series of reforms implemented since 1973 –the setting up of District Political Authorities, post of District Ministers, District Development Councils, and District Planning Units– not only had the effect of institutionalising the process of increasing political control over the administrative machinery, but also enlarged the range of decision-making functions performed at the level of the district.
From perspective of the SEC, changes that were introduced under the so-called ‘Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution’ and the Provincial Councils Act of 1987 could be seen, not merely as a revitalisation of the concept of the province as a unit of administration to which certain routine functions of the central government are decentralised, but as an attempt to grant political recognition and distinctiveness to the province as a unit of territorial control, and thus make the spatial framework of provinces the unit of devolution of government power from the Centre to the Regions. This latter, as the observations made above indicate, is a feature which the provincial network left behind by the British never possessed and was, in fact, never intended to possess.
The legislation to establish a system of Provincial Councils, drafted in the course of negotiations that led to the ‘Indo-Lanka Accord’ (a.k.a. Rajiv-JR Pact’) of 1987, was passed by parliament in November that year amidst fierce opposition from both the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main party in the parliamentary opposition, as well as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP/People’s Liberation Front) which was engaged in an anti-government insurrection at that time. It provided for the transfer (subject to overall control of the central government) of a fairly wide range of powers and functions to councils elected at the level of the provinces. The powers vested by the Act on the president of the country vis-à-vis the Provincial Councils included that of appointing the ‘Provincial Governors’ and, more importantly from the viewpoint of the present discussion, the discretion of permitting the merger of provinces on a permanent or temporary basis to constitute an area of authority of a single council. The power to dissolve a provincial council was also vested in the president.
The clauses of the Provincial Councils Act pertaining to the merger of provinces were exercised by the president in September 1988 to bring about a merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces. This was a response to what had become an unequivocal demand of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The merger decision was intended to be temporary, pending the verdict of the inhabitants of the areas concerned at a referendum on whether it should be made permanent. Though the ‘North-East Provincial Council’, elected to office two months later, survived only until the final stages of withdrawal of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force from Sri Lanka. On the basis of a Supreme Court decision in 2006 which held that the temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces was no longer valid in law, the two provinces were demerged for the continuing operation of the Provincial Councils Act of 1987.
* * *
The antecedents of the PC system sketched above constitute only two sets of reasons that justify the appeal for its abolition. There are others, the most important among which are the blatant malpractice, extravagance and waste which it has involved all along. As one of our most venerated monks (a staunch source of support and constructive criticism of the ‘regime’) asked last night (13 December) in the course of his comments on the contemplated staging of PC elections, why is it, with all the power you already have, necessary to create more positions of privilege to your henchmen? As reported by the ex-Commissioner of Elections, the last parliamentary elections cost the government a staggering 15 billion rupees.
Burdened, as we are, with the necessity for pandemic precautions, island-wide PC elections will probably cost even more. With that level of expenditure, surely we can achieve a great deal of empowerment of those in dire poverty.
Olga Sirimanne (1923 – 2021)
My darling beautiful angelic wife Olga (First batch of Air Ceylon stewardesses) and I commenced a partnership of love in Holy Matrimony on 17th June 1954. We loved each other deeply, enjoyed a blissful relationship for over 66 happy years with each other. We devoted our lives to give love and happiness not only to each other but also to all those who came to know us during our delightful almost 100 years. Beautiful incidents and memories are portrayed in several photo albums. Our friends and family loved listening to Olga’s exciting experiences and stories laced with humour and laughter as she was an excellent story teller.
Olga was blessed with three loveable children, Sunil, Laksen and a beautiful daughter Minoli; adorable grandchildren, Shelana and Sanjev, Rahel and Sariah, Kaitlyn and Taylor; great grandson, Sevan and darling niece, Ashie whose mother (Olga’s only sister) passed away some years ago. Ashie considered Olga, her ’Loku Ammie’ as her surrogate mother. Her son-in-law and daughters-in-law too loved her deeply with great respect and love. She held them fondly close to her heart with pride.
Her lifelong heart-throb was me. She always called me ‘darling’ but never addressed me as ‘Siri’ though all her friends did. Since I was ‘Thathie’ to our loving children, she too affectionately called me ‘Thathie’ even when she was on the verge of passing away. I too enduringly called her ‘Ammie’ as I loved her as much as our children.
Her gentle protective care and devotion helped me to maintain youthful looks and excellent health to celebrate my 100th birthday on 31st January 2020. She and our daughter had arranged a Holy Mass at home followed with a surprise birthday party attended by a few close friends and relations. She too received Holy Communion with blessings for the peaceful and happy years of coexistence with me. I too responded to her caring ways and helped her maintain her health and beautiful charming looks to the end.
Her 98th birthday was on 12 January 2021. She was greeted by me first thing in the morning, with loving kisses, hugs and prayers to God for giving us another year of peace and happiness. She received with warm wishes lots of beautiful bouquets and baskets of flowers, birthday cards and a countless number of telephone calls from children, grandchildren, relations, friends and loved ones here and scattered around the globe. It thrilled her to know that so many remembered and loved her.
Deep within our hearts, there was this chilling fear of the unbearable sorrow if one of us was left without the other. As age was creeping into our lives, every night we started reciting together a prayer to God before going to sleep, kissing each other and whispering, “I love you darling, God Bless you.”
The inevitable happened on 3rd February 2021 when my darling (Olga) passed away in my arms to the Kingdom of Heaven to be with Jesus. Thus, ended our happy and peaceful partnership, me afflicted with sorrow and yearning for her presence. I love you darling, my love. Rest in Peace.
Our children, Sunil, Laksen, Minoli and I wish to thank all those who attended the private funeral, sent floral tributes and messages of condolences and regret our inability to thank you individually . Please accept our heartfelt gratitude.
Divided people in a distorted democracy
The Geneva Calamity comes more from the thinking of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, than that of the former Chilean politician who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
It is such thinking of disaster advancement that made our Foreign Minister tell the Geneva meeting in his virtual address that Sri Lanka acted in ‘self-defence” in the fight against the LTTE’s terrorism. Was it self-defence that led to the actions of the armed forces or the fundamental right to safeguard the unitary state, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Sri Lanka – whether Democratic Socialist or not?
The debate will go on in Geneva about our actions for self-defence, that defeated the LTTE, and what has taken place after that assurance of self-defence, that relates to wider reaching issues of Human Rights, with emphasis on responsibility and accountability. Now that Yahapalana is no more, it is the task of the Powers of Fortune, or Saubhagya, to make its own case on how Sri Lanka relates to the international community. This is certainly no easy task as we see the unfolding of the politics and crooked governance in Sri Lanka.
As the echoes of Geneva goes on, we are much more involved in the Easter Sunday carnage and the Presidential Commission report on it. The people are certainly puzzled as to why the planners and directors of this hugely bloody act of Islamic terrorism have not been revealed. We have the unique situation where the person who appointed this Commission of Inquiry, none other than former President Maithripala Sirisena, is to be legally punished for this carnage.
Are we to have special satisfaction on the possibility that future Heads of State, who appoint such commissions of inquiry, will be the first accused, even in the much-delayed reports of such commissions? There is not much hope for such satisfaction. The Head of State is the emblem of supremacy, with all the powers of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
The families of the victims of that terrorist attack at the Katuwapitiya -Negombo, Kochchikade – Colombo, and Batticaloa churches, will certainly remain in search for the exposure and punishment of those who planned and carried out these situations of carnage. What we are shown is the true purpose and meaning of a Presidential Commision of Inquiry – PCoI.
We have certainly gone back to the origins of such inquiries, and the powers of Saubhagya at Rajavasala, have shown their honour to J. R Jayewardene, who brought the Presidential Commission as the show of the five-sixth majority Jayewardene Power. Mr. Sirisena may remember how the first PCoI of the Jayewardene era, ensured the removal of civic rights to Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the defeated Prime Minister and Mr. Felix Dias Bandaranaike, former Minister of Justice.
Punishment of one’s political opponents is the stuff and substance of Presidential Commissions of Inquiry, and Sri Lanka is now showing the whole world how much this is a part of a Distorted Democracy. A show of power that was enabled by 69 lakhs of voters in the presidential election, followed by the parliamentary two-thirds gained through those who bowed their so-called critical heads on ‘Dual Citizens” coming to Parliament, and the huge Muslim MP cross-over – for the benefits they must have gained – as all such cross-over politicians always obtain.
The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who certainly prevented the Easter Sunday carnage leading to even more bloodshed, by a few timely words of caution and Christian thinking that tragic day, must be now wanting to know why he was so keen to get the report of this Commission. Who were the planners, the funders, the trainers and leaders of this carnage? What will the people know in the weeks and months to follow, and how much can the feelings of the families that were the bloody victims of this massacre of the innocents, be brought to some relief?
This PCoI is the answer to the political prayers of those manipulating power today. It is the answer to the continually rising Cost of Living, the protection to those who keep destroying our forests and jungles, the safeguard for all those who keep reducing the Alimankada pathways of our elephants, it is the whistle blow of go ahead to the forces of urban destruction, and the show-piece managers of Presidential visits to the rural people.
The rising voices of sections of the Maha Sangha against this PCoI, the call from Christian voices to expose and deal with the planners and movers of this carnage, and the louder voices for the protection of nature and the environment, will be the cause of joy to the powers of a Deadly Dominant Democracy. It is the message of power to those who take pride in killings of the past – be it the Tigers of the LTTE, or the cases of killed, injured and missing journalists, and the abduction of children.
The powers that be will continue to sing loud about how we acted in self-defence against the LTTE terror. The echoes of Geneva will keep ringing in the ears of manipulative politics and power. But this and other PCoI reports that are seen as the substance of crooked power, will soon lead our people and country to an Age of Disaster – an age of new confrontations and calamities. How much worse can we become than the JRJ manipulation of anti-democratic power?
How much can we allow our people to be divided, and thus supportive of a Distorted Democracy?
HOW REBIRTH TAKES PLACE
The passing away of the consciousness of the past birth is the occasion for the arising of the new consciousness in the subsequent birth. However, nothing unchangeable or permanent is transmitted from the past to the present.
(From THE BUDDHA AND HIS TEACHINGS by Venerable Narada Mahathera)
“The pile of bones of (all the bodies of) one man
Who has alone one aeon lived
Would make a mountain’s height —
So said the mighty seer.”
To the dying man at this critical stage, according to Abhidhamma philosophy, is presented a Kamma, Kamma Nimitta, or Gati Nimitta.
By Kamma is here meant some good or bad act done during his lifetime or immediately before his dying moment. It is a good or bad thought. If the dying person had committed one of the five heinous crimes (Garuka Kamma) such as parricide etc. or developed the Jhānas (Ecstasies), he would experience such a Kamma before his death. These are so powerful that they totally eclipse all other actions and appear very vividly before the mind’s eye. If he had done no such weighty action, he may take for his object of the dying thought-process a Kamma done immediately before death (Āsanna Kamma); which may be called a “Death Proximate Kamma.”
In the absence of a “Death-Proximate Kamma” a habitual good or bad act (Ācinna Kamma) is presented, such as the healing of the sick in the case of a good physician, or the teaching of the Dhamma in the case of a pious Bhikkhu, or stealing in the case of a thief. Failing all these, some casual trivial good or bad act (Katattā Kamma) becomes the object of the dying thought-process.
or “symbol,” means a mental reproduction of any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which was predominant at the time of some important activity, good or bad, such as a vision of knives or dying animals in the case of a butcher, of patients in the case of a physician, and of the object of worship in the case of a devotee, etc…
By Gati Nimitta, or “symbol of destiny” is meant some symbol of the place of future birth. This frequently presents itself to dying persons and stamps its gladness or gloom upon their features. When these indications of the future birth occur, if they are bad, they can at times be remedied. This is done by influencing the thoughts of the dying man. Such premonitory visions of destiny may be fire, forests, mountainous regions, a mother’s womb, celestial mansions, and the like.
Taking for the object a Kamma, or a Kamma symbol, or a symbol of destiny, a thought-process runs its course even if the death be an instantaneous one.
For the sake of convenience let us imagine that the dying person is to be reborn in the human kingdom and that the object is some good Kamma.
His Bhavanga consciousness is interrupted, vibrates for a thought-moment and passes away; after which the mind-door consciousness (manodvāravajjana) arises and passes away. Then comes the psychologically important stage –Javana process — which here runs only for five thought moments by reason of its weakness, instead of the normal seven. It lacks all reproductive power, its main function being the mere regulation of the new existence (abhinavakarana).
The object here being desirable, the consciousness he experiences is a moral one. The Tadālambana-consciousness which has for its function a registering or identifying for two moments of the object so perceived, may or may not follow. After this occurs the death-consciousness (cuticitta), the last thought moment to be experienced in this present life.
There is a misconception amongst some that the subsequent birth is conditioned by this last death-consciousness (cuticitta) which in itself has no special function to perform. What actually conditions rebirth is that which is experienced during the Javana process.
With the cessation of the decease-consciousness death actually occurs. Then no material qualities born of mind and food (cittaja and āhāraja) are produced. Only a series of material qualities born of heat (utuja) goes on till the corpse is reduced to dust.
Simultaneous with the arising of the rebirth consciousness there spring up the ‘body-decad,’ ‘sex-decad,’ and ‘base-decad’ (Kāya-bhāva-vatthu-dasaka).
According to Buddhism, therefore, sex is determined at the moment of conception and is conditioned by Kamma not by any fortuitous combination of sperm and ovum-cells.
The passing away of the consciousness of the past birth is the occasion for the arising of the new consciousness in the subsequent birth. However, nothing unchangeable or permanent is transmitted from the past to the present.
Just as the wheel rests on the ground only at one point, so, strictly speaking, we live only for one thought-moment. We are always in the present, and that present is ever slipping into the irrevocable past. Each momentary consciousness of this ever-changing life-process, on passing away, transmits its whole energy, all the indelibly recorded impressions on it, to its successor. Every fresh consciousness, therefore, consists of the potentialities of its predecessors together with something more. At death, the consciousness perishes, as in truth it perishes every moment, only to give birth to another in a rebirth. This renewed consciousness inherits all past experiences. As all impressions are indelibly recorded in the ever-changing palimpsest-like mind, and all potentialities are transmitted from life to life, irrespective of temporary disintegration, thus there may be reminiscence of past births or past incidents. Whereas if memory depended solely on brain cells, such reminiscence would be impossible.
“This new being which is the present manifestation of the stream of Kamma-energy is not the same as, and has no identity with, the previous one in its line — the aggregates that make up its composition being different from, having no identity with, those that make up the being of its predecessor. And yet it is not an entirely different being since it has the same stream of Kamma-energy, though modified perchance just by having shown itself in that manifestation, which is now making its presence known in the sense-perceptible world as the new being.
Death, according to Buddhism, is the cessation of the psycho-physical life of any one individual existence. It is the passing away of vitality (āyu), i.e., psychic and physical life (jīvitindriya), heat (usma) and consciousness (vijnana).
Death is not the complete annihilation of a being, for though a particular life-span ends, the force which hitherto actuated it is not destroyed.
Just as an electric light is the outward visible manifestation of invisible electric energy, so we are the outward manifestations of invisible Kammic energy. The bulb may break, and the light may be extinguished, but the current remains and the light may be reproduced in another bulb. In the same way, the Kammic force remains undisturbed by the disintegration of the physical body, and the passing away of the present consciousness leads to the arising of a fresh one in another birth. But nothing unchangeable or permanent “passes” from the present to the future.
In the foregoing case, the thought experienced before death being a moral one, the resultant rebirth-consciousness takes for its material an appropriate sperm and ovum cell of human parents. The rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi vijnana) then lapses into the Bhavanga state.
The continuity of the flux, at death, is unbroken in point of time, and there is no breach in the stream of consciousness.
Rebirth takes place immediately, irrespective of the place of birth, just as an electromagnetic wave, projected into space, is immediately reproduced in a receiving radio set. Rebirth of the mental flux is also instantaneous and leaves no room whatever for any intermediate state (antarabhava). Pure Buddhism does not support the belief that a spirit of the deceased person takes lodgement in some temporary state until it finds a suitable place for its “reincarnation.”
This question of instantaneous rebirth is well expressed in the Milinda Panha
The King Milinda questions:
“Venerable Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another dies here and is reborn in Kashmir, which of them would arrive first?
“They would arrive at the same time. O King.
“In which town were you born, O King?
“In a village called Kalasi, Venerable Sir.
“How far is Kalasi from here, O King?
“About two hundred miles, Venerable Sir.
“And how far is Kashmir from here, O King?
“About twelve miles, Venerable Sir.
“Now think of the village of Kalasi, O King.
“I have done so, Venerable Sir.
“And now think of Kashmir, O King.
“It is done, Venerable Sir.
“Which of these two, O King, did you think the more slowly and which the more quickly?
“Both equally quickly, Venerable Sir.
“Just so, O King, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, is not reborn later than he who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir.”
“Give me one more simile, Venerable Sir.”
“What do you think, O King? Suppose two birds were flying in the air and they should settle at the same time, one upon a high and the other upon a low tree, which bird’s shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird’s later?”
“Both shadows would appear at the same time, not one of them earlier and the other later.
The question might arise: Are the sperm and ovum cells always ready, waiting to take up the rebirth-thought?
According to Buddhism, living beings are infinite in number, and so are world systems. Nor is the impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth. Earth, an almost insignificant speck in the universe, is not the only habitable plane, and humans are not the only living beings. As such it is not impossible to believe that there will always be an appropriate place to receive the last thought vibrations. A point is always ready to receive the falling stone.
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