Connect with us

Opinion

Roadblock to the new normal

Published

on

Time to Break the Boundaries – Part III

BY Shivanthi Ranasinghe

ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com 

(Part II was published last Saturday)

The Education Ministry is trying its best to reopen schools amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave. The Ministry announced its decision to reopen schools throughout the Island except in those areas under lockdown. This was met enthusiastically by neither the teachers’ trade unions nor parents. They are worried that schools functioning amidst the pandemic would pave the path to a “school cluster”. At the same time, the trade unions acknowledge that keeping schools closed indefinitely is also not the solution.

To emphasis the need to reopen schools, a trade unionist observed that online education had failed. This is debatable. Segments that have ready access to necessary devices and uninterrupted connection and with the familiarity of using these tools have had their lessons uninterrupted. They even had online exams. Most unfortunately, this situation is not true for all Sri Lankan children. 

Children in lower income brackets could not connect with the online classes. Even for those with devices, inadequate Internet coverage proved to be the issue.

The issue had been accessibility. However, this is only part of the problem. The fact that we could not reach out to all the children means that the status of our education on Information Technology (IT) related subjects does not even warrant a discussion. This thus exposes the extent our education had become outmoded even before the pandemic.

 

Our archaic education system

We are in the midst of the IT Revolution, which is rapidly evolving into the knowledge era. Electronic commerce (e-commerce) and online communications are some of the key components in the world today. It is increasing connectivity, generating real time businesses and reducing the time gaps as never before. Countries, irrespective of their economic policies, are now part of a global village.

The importance of IT and IT based systems has jumped since the pandemic. Work from home, distant education, banking services and even home deliveries became possible because of IT. Many governments have resorted to e-governance to serve the people more efficiently.

Yet most of our budding future generation is completely disconnected from this revolution. Therefore, our online education has failed not so much due to inaccessibility, but because of the lack of will to transform our education to be relevant to the economy.

Our education system is still stuck in the bygone industrial revolution. The fact that needs to be urgently acknowledged is that industries are increasingly becoming automated. As machines replace humans, the remuneration from these tasks is getting exponentially devalued. 

For four generations, free education has been made compulsory for every child in Sri Lanka. Yet, we are struggling to move on at the global pace. Our main foreign earnings are from the tea and garment exports and worker remittances from the Middle East. The tea leaf plucker, garment factory worker and domestic aid that slave away in the deserts are engaged in very mechanical tasks.

Each year we note that our tea exports are fetching fewer dollars. It is an industry that balks at paying their laborers a daily wage of Rs 1,000. We need to rebrand and aggressively market our tea. However, marketing is no longer confined to commercials or billboards. The best and most effective marketing now is on social media as product endorsements. 

Most of our garment factories are still labor intensive. This makes our production costs high in comparison to our neighbours with lower labour rates, giving them a competitive edge over us. To be competitive, we need to adapt technologies such as those that promote “Just In Time” production. This helps designers respond to fashion timely and allows buyers to reduce commitments on bulk orders by placing quantities to reflect actual demand.

Our workers in the Middle East are in hostile environments, without even the protection of the law. The contempt with which their services, considered menial, are treated is an affront to our entire nation. We export our prime workforce only to be re-exported broken souls, who had suffered horrific experiences. They often return to find their families torn apart. As extra baggage, we are now burdened with incompatible ideologies that threaten our way of life and even paved way to atrocities as the Easter Attack. Hence, the ensuring social costs far outweigh the actual monetary remittances we get.

Without a healthy foreign exchange flow, our capacity to invest in new technologies or industries becomes limited. This in turn reduces our opportunities to generate new employment. Without return on investments, we are forced to borrow just to meet day-to-day expenses. As our Gross Domestic Production (GDP) growth rate fails to keep up with the increasing National Debt, our interest rates also rises whilst our debt repayment schedules get shorter. This in turn devalues the currency, further adding to our debt repayment commitments. As the end result, we as a country get poorer.

It has been our tragic experience that poverty and associated social ills have nourished and even justified terrorism in Sri Lanka. Both Rohana Wijeweera and Velupillai Parabakaran were able to attract the youth afflicted by this unfair social platform for their macabre causes. Therefore, if we are to retain our hard-won peace, we must earnestly and urgently address the poverty in Sri Lanka. As such, our education system has a very important role to play.

 

The New Education Goals

We too can connect with the multi-billion-dollar e-commerce industry. It is important to understand that e-commerce is not confined to white collar jobs. Even our core industries on which a majority of our population survives on, such as agriculture, fisheries, construction and tourism can be vastly improved by employing IT-based tools as artificial intelligence, robotics and e-commerce.

To connect with this IT Revolution, our education system must transform itself to produce knowledge-based workers. Learning spellings or even a second language is no longer necessary. There are spell-checkers and translation applications to do that for us. At the same time, with search engines as Google and Siri, the need to cram information into memory has also got obsolete.

 

This means the Education Ministry has new goals. They must produce a workforce that is adaptable, analytical, innovative and creative in new environments. Test scores based on regurgitating facts are no longer the deciding factors in being gainfully employed.

These are not new thinking. In fact, the need to be part of this revolution has been on the discussion board for over 20 years. State Minister Ajith Cabraal’s Lak Mawata Muthu Potak (Pearl Necklace for Mother Lanka) discusses these issues at length. We are already onboard IT and Information System (IS) based platforms. Even the Sri Lanka tea auctions went online during the pandemic.

Today, IT is a promising one-billion-dollar industry in Sri Lanka. Other than a capital expenditure, the IT industry does not have a raw material cost as in the apparel sector. The garment industry, generating a USD 5.5 billion revenue, is the larger industry in Sri Lanka. Yet, it spends about USD 2.5 billion in importing its raw materials. As the IT industry generates its income from mostly skills and resources available at home, almost its net revenue is retained in the country.

However, it is obvious that only a certain segment of our society is engaged with this lucrative industry. Their wealth is naturally increasing and so is their social status. If adequate measures are not employed to include the other segments, the gap between the rich and the poor would also increase. This situation is too dangerous to be allowed to brew.

 

The New Normal – an Opportunity to Correct Abnormalities taken for Granted as ‘Normal’

The pandemic has offered the best possible opportunity for us to correct our course. Troubling or challenging these times maybe it is also a very unique period in our lives. The last time a situation as this arose was when the world was afflicted with the Spanish Flu. That happened in the last century and most probably the next pandemic might not be till the next century. It is with this frame of mind that we need to address the pandemic.

Authorities and experts talk of a ‘new normal’. However, what exactly is entailed in this ‘new normal’ is yet to be defined. It is not even clear if this ‘new normal’ is just to get through the pandemic or beyond it. Entities like Singapore’s famous Changi Airport are using the pandemic to revamp its Terminal 2. Likewise, many others are using this opportunity to renovate, re-engineer and remodel both their premises and business processes.

Instead of trying to bang the head on the wall, the Education Ministry too ought to consider this pandemic as an opportunity to resolve a long-standing issue – providing an equal education platform for all Sri Lankan children. Rather than trying to reopen schools in uncertain conditions and risk disastrous consequences, the Ministry must concentrate on removing the glitches in providing an online education to every single child. Without teachers to ‘spoon feed’ endless facts and measures to ensure rigid exam conditions, the syllabuses must focus on achievements based on analysis, creativity and innovation. This will serve the nation well past the pandemic.

This is truly a window of opportunity to correct many of the abnormalities as poverty that we had thus far taken for granted as ‘normal’. Once the pandemic ends and children return to school as regularly as before, we would lose the urgency to resort to online education. This presents the real danger of resuming a curriculum that is robbing our children of their childhood for very little return for their investment; and a curriculum that is not serving the national interests adequately.

Even before the pandemic, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was working to overcome these issues. He too noted that the cause for unemployed graduates is their degree courses that have little relevance to the economy. The country’s opportunity cost of deliberately making it hard to pass science subjects is significant, he observed. Therefore, he not only plans to increase the capacity of tertiary education, but also expand the courses to include vocational streams and other fields needed by the economy. The objective is to provide a tertiary education to all those who pass the Advanced Level exams.

The pandemic however has shifted this frame of vision that we need A/L results to qualify for a tertiary education. The response from our youngsters since the outbreak of the COVID-19 has been both astonishing and marvelous. Many came up with various developments and inventions to help Sri Lanka face the pandemic-related health and economic challenges. Their effort ought to be acknowledged academically. When a 14-year old converts an ordinary mechanical water tap into a motion sensor auto-water faucet, it is rather ridiculous to make him sit for Ordinary Level exams. Instead, he should have the freedom to skip ahead to follow the relevant courses. The Ministry should thus not only focus on increasing capacity of tertiary education but also avenues for students to access higher education.

After all, education is not confined to school or classroom. Thus, if students cannot come to school, then the Ministry should consider ways to turn the living environment into an education base. A simple, temporary remedy might be to involve temples and other premises with hall capacities to allow neighborhood children to gather and continue with their online education. This will give children the much-needed break from the isolation caused by the pandemic as well. Any cluster of such a circle would be small and manageable. 

More imaginative changes would be to encourage children to take on investigative projects based on their environment. For instance, though nearly 50 percent of our population is engaged in agrarian industries, our education curriculum does not reflect it. This would be a very good opportunity to involve children in the many debates and developments revolving in the sector. 

For the past couple of years, a very strong nationalist sentiment has been building in the country. If we allow ourselves, then the pandemic can be made into the much-needed opportunity we need to turn around our country for the better. In this context, the education sector (Ministry and teachers), parents and students each have an important role to play. Over the past months, we saw many instances where our youngsters rose to the occasion. Hopefully our education sector and parents too will have the strength to meet this courage. 

(Concluded)



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

Opinion

Rise of Cheena Saubhagya

Published

on

Before the Aluth Avurudda dawned, we were talking about the lost crown of Ranjan Ramanayake and the grabbing and fighting over the crown of Mrs. Sri Lanka.

The auspicious time for the dawning of the New Year would have brought joy to those who were able to get enough rice, coconut oil and honey to make kiri buth, kevun, kokis and other delights, and even enjoy some of the avurudu games, although without elevated pillow fights and tugs-o-war. 

But the reality facing us all, with songs of the cuckoo and other birds, is a push into an inauspicious era in the country, with democracy getting its biggest blow from a government that pledged to strengthen the democratic rights of the people. 

We now face the reality of the Bill for the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, which, if enacted, would take us far away from the goals  of democracy that our people, and most political leaders and parties were committed to, from many years before independence. The proposed Colombo Port City has all the promise and assurance of being a new colony in South Asia, with the colonisers, as seen today, being the Chinese.

Is this the reality of the Rajapaksa dream and goal in politics and governance?

We do remember that when the work on the Colombo Port City was ceremonially launched in September, 2014, by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the entire project – the artificial island to be constructed by the Chinese – was written off to China. A permanent Chinese holding.

It was left to the Yahapalana government, which followed in 2015, to have serious negotiations with China, and change the full ownership to a 99-year lease given to China. 

What we now see is that the Saubhagye Dekma of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is, in fact, the rise of the Cheena Saubhagya in Sri Lanka.

A country that has had free elections since 1931, even before independence, and has had a functioning parliament, since 1948, is seeking to do away with the very concept of parliamentary democracy. The Colombo Port City Economic Commission is the display of nondemocratic governance, where the nominees of the President, will be answerable to him and not to the country and people on the functioning of the Port City, its income and expenditure, and all facilities in the new Dictatorial City, inside the Democratic Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan voters have much to do with the threat that democracy faces today with the Port City exercise. The 69 lakhs that voted Gotabaya Rajapaksa to office as President, the somewhat smaller vote that gave a parliamentary majority to the SLPP – Pohottuva – alliance in the general election, and the two-thirds majority the government gained in the passage of the 20 Amendment, are core values of the Rajapaksa-Port City strike at democracy.

Mahinda Rajapaksa may have been a strong supporter of democracy, in his early years in politics, and his first election as President but the dictatorial trend in Rajapaksa politics has been clearly seen in the post-war Sri Lanka. Today’s dictatorial policies coming with the Port City Commission, began with Mahinda Rajapaksa drawing MPs from the Opposition and passing the 18th Amendment, which curbed the democratic trends of the 17 A.

After that, the 19 A of the Yahapalana, restored democracy and expanded the provisions and facilities of democracy with Independent Commissions, and considerable independence in the appointment of members of the judiciary. 

The Rajapaksas came again, after the Easter Sunday carnage, with their full strength, and popular support to remove the values of democracy that were brought into the Constitution from the 19A, to full and shameful strides into dictatorial governance, with the 20A.      

The massive threat to democracy that comes from the Port City Commission is also backed by the draft legislation to remove the court cases on crime and corruption against members and supporters of this government. This dictatorial move is also supported by the removal of the many cases filed in the courts by the Bribery Commission, on technical errors – which can certainly be corrected — but not thought necessary by a corrupt regime.

The Port City Commission is the complete flowering of corruption and dictatorial trends in this country. This is the show of majority dominance, not to serve the people, but to serve a large and powerful family,  and the catchers that serve and benefit from it, with claims of ViyathMaga or any such crooked players.

We now have a member of Parliament of the government, but not holding any portfolio or even a state ministry, come out in a loud criticism of the Varaya Nagara Keliya. Such critics were once very supportive of all the corrupt moves by the Avant Garde players, exposed by Yahapalanaya; but things do change. The Varaya Nagara Keliya is the display of the realities of Rajapaksa Balaya. It is in keeping with the Basil Rajapaksa call to learn more of the Chinese system of governance. 

What we see with the Port City is the vast abandonment of democracy. Such political thinking will not be limited to the Port City, but will soon extend to the entire island. It is the realisation of Rajavasala Thinking, where memorials for deceased parents could/should be built at State/People’s expense.   

What the people are told to accept today is the Cheena Saubhagya. It is just one display of Apey Pavul Saubhagya, which is the reality of Port City crooked governance.

Let us see how much the judiciary can help the people of Sri Lanka safeguard its longer commitment to democracy, beyond the crooked and deadly impact of the 20A.

Cheena Saubhagya, Bunga veva!  

Continue Reading

Opinion

First reign of terror by the JVP

Published

on

By MANO RATWATTE

I have been reading your articles on the 1971 JVP insurrection, quite avidly. A lot has been narrated about the fateful night of April 5th and the events that followed.

It was fascinating to read the accounts by the retired DIG. Thank you for all the articles. It brought back some vivid memories from my childhood.

My personal story from
that fateful period

I was a young boy, just past my 11th birthday and attending Royal College at the time. I was oblivious to the fact that, my father was the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, and my maternal grandfather was the Governor General (Ceylon had not become a republic yet – that would happen later), our family would be under attack. I remember the very tense period, and how my parent’s home had been marked for attack. The markings were faint, a crude “X” made with red brick. This was repeated at the homes of some other relatives of the Prime Minister, as well. We were oblivious, never noticing the ominous markings.

I have no doubt if the JVP had succeeded they would have executed Mrs. Bandaranaike and probably my father, who was her brother, as well. The PM’s Private Secretary is a position equivalent to a White House Chief of Staff. My grandfather, as the GG and nominally Head of State, would probably have been a victim, too. It is more than likely that the JVP would have massacred my entire family, emulating what their heroes, the Bolsheviks did to the Czar’s family in Yekaterinburg, after the Russian Revolution.

When the severity of the threat became apparent, we were whisked away on the night of April 4th to the GG’s residence, Queen’s House, because the Army Commander felt it wasn’t safe for us to remain in our home. My grandfather had been the Governor General, since 1962, so luckily, we had a safe haven that was familiar to us. As a kid I thought it was “cool” to be escorted by armed soldiers. But, looking back, I realise I may not be alive today, if the JVP revolt had succeeded.

The timing of the JVP’s 1971 rebellion was very poor. The United Front government, which had won a massive landslide electoral victory, in 1970, hadn’t been in power for even an year and had not been able to implement many changes. The economic hardships, food queues and rationing, which were to come in the aftermath of the global energy crisis of 1973, weren’t on the horizon yet. Ceylon was a pleasant place with a vibrant democracy; the exception being the notorious coup attempt of 1962. A violent overthrow of the recently elected government wasn’t something likely to gain much support with the populace.

However, it is likely that, not for the serendipitous incidents in March, reported in this newspaper previously, with the JVP’s bombs exploding prematurely, the security forces would have been far less prepared and the rebellion may well have succeeded.

The situation in the early days of the revolt was very tense. My father was very active in the discussions, and was part of the National Security Council at Temple Trees. It seemed ‘touch and go’ for a while, but my father said that the Prime Minister never panicked. I know my father definitely didn’t, remaining calm despite the initial flood of bad news.

My father never panicked, no matter what the threat was. He had previously faced down the Air Force guard that threatened to open fire on my aunt, in January 1966, along with the late Dr. Baduiddin Muhammed, at a political rally. Before that, in September 1959, he had helped prevent the domestic staff at Tintagel, the PM’s private residence, hack, murderer Somarama to death, after SWRD’s assassination on the front lawn of the property. If the assassin had been killed that day, the right wing conspiracy behind it would have never been uncovered.

Reminiscing o 1971, he told us much later, with a chuckle about the ashen-faced (his words) Army Commander who was at the NSC meetings held at the Temple Trees annexe. The General wanted the PM to ask Yugoslavian leader Marshal Tito for military help. I’m not sure if the request was ever made or whether Mrs. B refused as she had faith in country’s military.

Lanka’s innocence was lost forever that day. Suddenly security and protection of VIPs became a thing in Ceylon. Prior to April 1971, the Prime Minister would have just a token escort, with a pilot-car containing a couple of armed guards and one personal bodyguard, typically a Police officer. The Governor General hardly had any security. A sleepy police Sergeant would be posted at Queen’s House. No bulletproof cars or decoy convoys like today. All that began during the war against the LTTE terrorists and suicide bombers.

I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation, until I saw guard points manned by armed sailors from the Navy, between Temple Trees and Queen’s House, during the curfew.

I remember riding in the GG’s vehicle to Temple Trees, and seeing Navy sailors in their blue uniforms and helmets with rifles and lights pointed towards the car, shouting “Halt” at the vehicle. They were mostly armed with obsolete WW1 vintage Lee Enfield Rifles, or the small Sterling ‘Sten’ submachine guns. I still remember their smart blue uniforms and the white garters (boot covers) around their boots. I also remember seeing a fleet of Indian Navy ships in Colombo, anchored facing Galle Face Green.

I remember my father, and the late Anuruddha Ratwatte (his cousin, then a Colonel), flying on Indian Air Force helicopters from the Royal Ceylon Air Force ground, that the retired DIG referenced. I tagged along in the vehicle that was used to drop them off there. They were overseeing the airdropping of surrender leaflets; an idea my father is believed to have thought of and proposed to the NSC. It offered amnesty and rehabilitation to JVP cadres who surrendered. The leaflets were dropped over the thick jungles where the remnants of the JVP were hiding. It may have been later in April or much later in May. I hope the DIG throws some light. The idea was a success with many fugitive JVP-ers surrendering to the security forces as a result of the campaign.

I have a lot more memories of those scary and sad days. The JVP has never apologized for the disruption of Ceylon’s society. Their actions were far worse in their second incarnation, but by then we were inured to violence. In 1971 we were still a peaceful and innocent country.

What if the 1971 rebellion had succeeded?

What if the JVP had seized power that April, 50 years ago? What would a Ceylon look like? A beautiful socialist utopia with complete state control of the economy? Thousands of grey Mao-suited robots with a little red book goose-stepping to herald a strongman similar to North Korea, who were supporters of the JVP? Would Wijeweera have been a Dear Leader and great benefactor? Or an Oliver Cromwell, a Gandhi, or a Pol Pot?

Act 2: Policy mistakes

Harping back to the 1971 insurgency; it shocked the leftist coalition government, headed by my aunt. As a result, some of the radical policy reforms, such as the Land Reform Act, were rushed through to assuage the anger demonstrated by the insurgents.

Land Reform, as my father later used to say, was one of the “most iniquitous” acts of policy. Think about it. Landholdings were restricted to 50 acres per adult. So if a family had adult children they could have 50 acres each, but even if a family had four young children, they lost most of their lands and six people would all have 50 acres in total ! It defied common sense and economic logic.

Did they assume the kids wouldn’t grow up to become adults? Or perhaps it was deliberately written to favour some, with thousands of acres of land and adult children, over others with young families or no children. Either way it was an absurd policy, which destroyed many viable plantations, reducing them to economically unviable smallholder status.

Housing ownership policies also were also rushed as a result of the 1971 rebellion. The implementation of this, too was botched and much wealth was destroyed. If the JVP had been more patient, they could have had a much better chance of wreaking even greater mayhem, when people were angry and tired of the stagnant economy post-1974.

But, indeed, it was serendipitous that those two premature bomb explosions happened in March. The second one happened the day my family was spending time with our uncle to celebrate his birthday.

Act 3 – The next JVP
insurrection

Their reign of terror and counter terror by the Government, in 1987- 89 was far worse for the entire nation. I was by then out of the country and did not experience any of it. My father wrote to me and asked me to stay in the USA as long as possible. An uncle of mine (a first cousin of my father’s) was burnt alive in Matale, during the hell the JVP unleashed in the aftermath of the Indian “invasion by invitation” after J.R. Jayewardene erred in handling relationships with India. Another good friend’s relative was chased down and killed at his estate, because he had raised the national flag on Independence Day as the government had requested. A respected scholar was assassinated on the University of Colombo campus – Professor Stanley Wijesundere. His son and I were good friends and classmates.

And no one should forget nor forgive the brutal murder of a great humanist and charismatic leader Vijaya Kumaranatunge, the leader of the SLMP and most popular celebrity actor. Why did the cruel assassins shoot him in the face after he was already dead and fallen? Was it because of sheer envy and evil thoughts of their leader who could not stand a good-looking popular rival?

My issue with all these lame excuses and talk about a ‘people’s struggle’, is that the JVP never sincerely apologized for the violence they unleashed, and keep celebrating their leader as if he’s a local Lenin; when he and his then generation of combatants had more in common with the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, than Marx.

Recap 1971

Harping back to the successful victory over the JVP, in 1971, it must be mentioned how quickly almost every major nation in the world came to help Sri Lanka. Because of the excellent relationship between Ceylon and India, they were the first to rush in help. I remember they even supplied the Army with SLR 7.62 automatic weapons, much more capable weapons than the ancient rifles and inaccurate Sten guns which was all they had. The Ceylon military, which up to that point was a well-disciplined force but mainly a ‘parade-ground army’, was called upon to quell a domestic armed insurrection while armed with vintage bolt action rifles.

The tiny Armoured Corps, equipped with a few Daimler armoured cars, (the largest of which had a 2-pounder gun) was used to secure Kegalle and Mawanella, which had been seized by the JVP. A few vintage Ferret Scout cars armed with WW2 era Bren guns, were deployed at Temple Trees. Later one of the Saladin six-wheeled armoured cars, with a bigger 76mm gun was also deployed facing Galle Road.

Ceylon’s tiny military, led by professional leaders, acquitted themselves really well. While there were sad incidents like the Premawathi Manamperi incident, they deserve gratitude and thanks of the entire nation. Especially a then 11-year old boy’s sincere thanks for protecting him and his family.

Hope

All is not hopeless. The new younger and more educated leaders of the JVP have embraced democratic politics and their performances in Parliament exposing corruption of governments (whichever government is in power), and their well informed and educated analysis and criticisms, are a fresh positive contrast to the adi-pudi abuse laden politics of everyone else. But they will remain a less than 5% party if they keep celebrating a man who twice took our nation down a path that was disliked or hated by most. Clearly, the UNP could also apologize for the counter terror they unleashed.

Geo political friends

India was the most important ally in 1971. Indian-Lanka relations deteriorated because of President J. R. Jayewardene’s hostile views and his foolish attempts to align himself with the US and ASEAN, totally oblivious to who the regional power was. This is something to be cognizant of today, in post cold-war realignment of alliances. The USA, which was once hostile to India, is now totally aligned in the QUAD coalition against China. India has justifiable fears and concerns about China. It stems from having been humiliated by China in the1962 border war which led to a loss of territory.

Sri Lanka really needs to nurture its friendship with India so that they will be like the 1971 ‘Dhosthi India’ and not the ‘Dushman/badamaash India’ following the gory Black July of 1983. Same country – two different postures.

The paradigm shift about security, in 1971, was significant and permanent.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Buddhism and all beings’ right to life

Published

on

A large majority of human beings deny the right to life of animals and other sentient beings, including insects. Why? (Sentient being is a living being endowed with mind and consciousness). The late Venerable Narada Thera in his book titled, Manual of Buddhism, states as follows- “The tolerance of the Buddha was not only to men and women but to dumb animals as well. For it was the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and admonished the followers to extend their loving kindness (maithree) to all living beings. No man has the right to destroy the life of another living being, even for the sake of one’s stomach, as life is precious to all” He quotes from the Metta Sutta: “Whatever living beings there be, feeble or strong, long, stout or medium, small, large, seen or unseen, those dwelling far and near, those who are born and those who are to be born, may all beings be happy-minded, without exception. Just as a mother would save her own child, at the risk of her own life, even so let him cultivate boundless love towards all beings.”

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi in his book, titled “The Noble Eightfold Path-Way to End Suffering” says: “The positive counterpart to abstaining from taking life, as the Buddha indicates, is the development of kindness and compassion for other beings. The disciple not only avoids destroying life, he dwells with a heart full of sympathy desiring the welfare of all beings. The commitment of non injury and concern for the welfare of others represents the practical application of the second path factor “Right Intention” in the form of goodwill and harmlessness. Abstaining from taking life (Panathipatha Veramani) – Herein someone avoids the taking of life and abstains from it. The intention of harmlessness, is a thought guide by compassion (karuna) aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive and violent thoughts. Compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering; a wish to be extended to all living beings. It springs up by considering that all living beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering.”

The Lankavatara Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism states: Quote: “For the sake of love of purity the Bodhisatva should refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood,etc., for fear of causing fear to living beings; let the Bodhisatva who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh. It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself. Meat eating in any form, in any manner and any place, is unconditionally and once for all prohibited”

 

The Surangana Sutra states: “In seeking to escape from suffering ourselves, why should we inflict suffering upon others? How can a Bhikkhu who goes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings? The Buddha forbade Buddhists from engaging in occupations that involve killing of animals, such as Butcher, Fisher, or Animal farmer.”

When it comes to small animals, like rats, and insects, the attitude of the large majority of humans is as if they do not have right to life.

According to Buddhism, they, too, have the right to life as human beings. While some human beings try to prevent cruelty to animals such as elephants, tigers, dogs, etc., I have never heard of any one talking of cruelty to insects. My opinion is that the first precept in Buddhism ( Panathipatha Veramani) applies to all animals, and insects, as well. They too feel pain.

I would like to obtain the observations of other readers of your newspaper on my opinions expressed above.

 

NEIL PERERA

Continue Reading

Trending