Winning hearts and minds of community
‘Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Community’
Author: Dr. Kingsley Wickremasuriya
Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police – (Retired)
by Major-General (Retd) Lalin Fernando
This is an interesting memoir of a police officer who having served in the Volunteer force may have done equally well, in either the army or the police. He chose the police and was an exemplary if reserved senior. This is not an action-packed adventure book of daredevils or roller coaster recollections of the sharp end of police life but more about human relations with the public. Sadly and regrettably, he states that he was deprived of the highest command by the frailties of politicians. The choice of the politicians was a travesty, abnormal but not unusual. In this case, the chosen person, mentioned in the book had deserted the police years before and left the country when posted to Jaffna but had the audacity to claim political victimisation years later when the government changed. A silly claim, stupidly upheld. A chapter on political interference would not be out of place.
The book would have been much more interesting and relevant if it had recorded the terrible events of that time from the JVP terror and atrocities (1971 and 1988-9) to the murderous Eelam conflict.Here was a police officer whose mission appears to have been to build up public relations as practiced elsewhere in a terrorist setting as in Jaffna and later Batticaloa by setting up “Community Oriented Policing Programmes” to bring about law and order and harmony when relationships were under heavy strain.
This is pleasant, well-written, and easy to read. It shows in equal measure both the vicissitudes and skullduggery of the worst and best of humanity during his service in the police. It is an honest, moving, and personal insight into an eventful career with defining moments that affected the lives of many. It was a life of tackling not only lawbreakers but careerists among his own ilk while having to bear, not exceptionally, the burden of interference by power-mad, smooth-talking, corrupt politicians, their slights, and machinations. It finally ended his career prematurely.
It has fascinating tales that are humane, enlightening, and informative. It is a studious book by a prolific writer. It is a compelling story with a lively and not-too-subtle style of writing, with considerable research material included. It is close to real life, relaxing, entertaining and not too heavy. It should be made available in Sinhala and Tamil, not only in the Police Training School and Academy, police stations, zones, districts and divisions but in the reading lists of schools.
His was also an attempt as by many others to change the mentality of the police from a colonial to a national one. Colonial police would use firearms freely. National police should not. A Colony would use the army to buttress the police. A national army should only be used as a very last resort. The police are a country’s first line of defence. For this to be workable, SL’s police force should first be made independent of politicians by law as reasonably possible. A greater strength (presently nearly 75,000), higher pay, better equipment and facilities, imposing office buildings, good accommodation, improved communications, reliable transport including access to helicopters and high standards in recruitment are essential under knowledgeable leaders whose integrity is impregnable.
The book is also heartwarming, sad and at the end, maddening. It is opportune too as the author’s life work to keep the peace is falling to pieces thanks to the incorrigible, venal, mainly poorly educated and therefore easily misled and misleading, utterly corrupt and cowardly politicians the people have bred for their own selfish, cruel, greedy and bullying interests. They portray the police as aliens. The people must realise that the police reflect society and never the other way around. They will then accept their own faults, just as the police would wish to do whatever correct thinking people want them to do. If spectators rush onto the field of play to question the referee bringing the match to a halt, the police if in attendance do not arrest the referee. They disperse the mob.
It is only the police that prevented total anarchy in the country last year (2022) as those who promoted it well know. This book should be a clarion call to the police to lift themselves up by their jock straps. They, possibly one of the first (1866) if not finest police forces in the region have so far kept the country far safer than many others as even their worst critics must admit. This is despite carping criticism by those who are no better or worse than the police. There is no dearth of respected, tough-minded, well-disciplined, and fearless police officers as good leaders at all levels. They have proved themselves as fearless guardians of the law, especially when all others have failed. Thanks are due to the standards set by senior police officers, like the author and others he identifies in his book, who was affectionately known to older generations.
Jerome Fernando and his profane gimmicks – II
By Rohana R. Wasala
(Continued from yesterday May 24, 2023)
Some well-meaning, erudite, but very naive and innocent, young bhikkhus are challenging Paster Jerome Fernando to a debate over his deprecatory remarks about Buddhism; that, I think, is ridiculously ingenuous and unnecessary, because that is giving that man a measure of dignity that he doesn’t deserve, and also because he cannot be credited with a decent understanding even of Christianity, let alone anything additional outside that domain. These young monks are being eclipsed in their calm but determined attempt to react to Jerome’s disinformation and deception without any ill will. By whom? They are getting overshadowed by a few yellow-robed imposters who are themselves Buddhist versions of pastor Jerome Fernando. Actually, those few false monks and the fake prophet are birds of a feather probably fed by the same hands, as some say.
It has also been observed that certain discredited politicians are exploiting the opportunity that came their way through this obviously well-rehearsed Jerome Fernando episode to take a dig at each other for the heck of it, without utilising it to repair the damage it is causing to reconciliation. Last but not least, where are the Ven Mahanayake theras? Their silence in crisis situations has often aggravated issues affecting the Buddha Sasana. The online media I normally consult have nothing in this regard. However, one can’t blame the Ven Mahanayakes because they avoid politics, as they have done down the centuries. They used to advise the monarch only in spiritual matters, and the monarch took responsibility for looking after the Shashanaya. The most senior monk or monks, close to the royalty, offered their opinion in succession matters on rare occasions, and also when the ruler failed in his duties or when there were foreign threats to the nation. The Sangha never took part in ruling, but remained above the ruler. The Buddhist Sangha is a very democratic community, where one monk has no control over another. Times have changed. It is urgent that the Mahanayakes do more to save the Buddha Shasanaya including the Fourfold Assembly of Followers (Sivvanak Pirisa) of male and female lay Buddhists and bhikkhus and bhikshunis.
Back to the topic. Meanwhile, a complaint was lodged with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) by the propaganda secretary of the political party, Pivituru Hela Urumaya (PHU), Iranga Vidvath Mendis, in connection with the relevant offensive statements made by Jerome Fernando who calls himself a prophet, which are derogatory to the Buddha, Buddhism, and other religions. This is the only meaningful reaction I have seen so far to Jerome Fernando’s outrage (up to the time of writing). The complainant demands that the law be applied to the (suspect) offender in this case in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007.
The aforementioned petition to the CID was published in a news report in the online lanka c news. It quoted the following fromJerome Fernando’s importunate harangue:
“This is what separates Christianity from Buddhism. Because for a Buddhist in their mind, it’s like, okay, අනුන්ට කලදේ තමන්ට පලදේ in a sense, it’s true, especially if you do something to a prophet. Anyways. Now, but in the Buddhist mind, they never hear the love of Buddha. Are you hearing this? Their focus is enlightenment. But to be enlightened, you need light. The Buddha himself, the name Buddha means enlightened one. Ladies and gentlemen, what is greater, light or enlightened? Jesus said, I’m the light of the world. so i tell you now, jesus didn’t said I’m the enlightened one, No, no, no, no. Jesus came from a different wavelength. Jesus said I’m the light. So, I submit to you, the Buddha was looking for light. He was actually looking for Jesus. This is why every Buddhist needs Jesus.”
I came across a YouTube video clip of the relevant part of Jerome Fernando’s coercive religious rant against the Buddha, Buddhism and Buddhists that contained more. There was a singing part to it too, that ridicules such traditional curative and protective magical remedies as tying charmed threads, anointing charmed oil, etc., usually found among rural folk, as superstitious practices based on Buddhist teachings. Those are cultural things and should not be confused with Buddhism. Buddha did not advocate such things. He himself visited a physician called Jeevaka when he fell ill, according to the known life of the Buddha. He preached no religion, and never prescribed blind-faith based devotional practices or mindless rituals. Even the most ignorant Buddhists know that magical cures like charmed threads, oils, and chants are not part of the doctrine they actually follow. Instead, those ritual performances are part and parcel of the established holistic native healing culture which maintains the vital balance between the physical and mental aspects of the patients’ health. These ancient healing arts have survived, particularly among villagers, into modern times. Jerome also staged some faith healing episodes, not different from them. Such magical fake cures are daily performed in many hundreds of devales dedicated to local deities found across the country which are patronised not only by gullible villagers, but by superstitious city dwellers including politicians and businessmen among others of the same ilk seeking divine assistance with their nefarious projects. Why should a ‘prophet’ demean his god by descending to the level of a village kapurala unless he was a genuine fake?
In the letter to the CID referred to above, Mendis has left out (probably, as irrelevant to the point of his plaint) Fernando’s disparaging references to Hinduism and Islam and relevant sacred figures, which are equally outrageous, such as that Hindus venerate animals. A common allegation he raised against the leaders of all three non-Christian religions did not preach Love! But this fake prophet’s real target is the Buddha, his teaching and the Buddhists, his followers, whom he demeans, by implication, as a spiritually misguided lot. Though it is evident that Jerome is proficient enough in Sinhala for preaching to them, he speaks only in English and has himself interpreted in Sinhala. That, I think, is just an act he puts on to further impress his apparently mesmerised audience, whose awed gazes were fixed on his constantly beaming beatific smile.
What is Jerome Fernando saying in the snatch of speech quoted above? Simply, nonsense. He appears to be ignorant of his own religion of Christianity and its truly great founder Jesus Christ. Christianity came five or six hundred years after Buddhism. The latter is definitely beyond pastor Fernando’s power of understanding. What did Buddhists do to him (if he means himself by ‘prophet’) for him to say “anunta kala de tamanta pala de” (which would be equivalent to the English proverb ‘Curses come home to roost’)? (When he said this, though, he seemed to be mocking his own ‘prophet’ act!) This idea of ‘retaliatory justice’ is not part of the Buddhist concept of karmic causation. People from different cultural backgrounds accept the idea that bad deeds earn you bad results and that good deeds bring you good results, as a self-evident truth. The Karma concept taught in Buddhism is much more profound and complex than ‘Curses come home to roost’.
A word about the idea of love that Jerome finds missing in Buddhism. Buddhism is nothing if it is not about wisdom and compassion. The Buddha does uphold love as a positive emotion, but says that it is ultimately based on selfishness/the illusion of ‘self’. The Buddha’s teaching recognises a difference between love (that you feel for a person) and unconditional universal compassion or loving-kindness (maitri, friendliness) towards all sentient beings, something that is completely selfless. I think Christian love is also very close to or identical with the Buddhist concept of loving-kindness. To me it looks like the highly intelligent Jerome Fernando has not so far cared to grasp at least a faint idea of the Buddha’s profound dhamma. He has no sense of history, for he doesn’t know that the Buddha lived five to six centuries before Jesus was born. Otherwise, if he is in his right senses at least temporarily, how can he say that the Buddha was looking for Jesus? What do you know about the Enlightenment concept taught in Buddhism, Jerome? Obviously, NOTHING! You equate enlightenment to lighting up or illuminating something. That is stupid. An Australian YouTuber of Sri Lankan origin says that he had some slight acquaintance with Jerome as a young Burgher with a different name doing modelling work for commercial firms about twenty years back. It’s plausible information. He uses both Sinhala and English equally fluently. Oops! I almost forgot. At the end or thereabouts of his Buddha bashing, quite paradoxically, like a true Christian preacher or a genuine Buddhist monk for that matter, he admonishes his congregation: “Never persecute anybody, never shame another person’s faith”.
I will wind up with a reference to the Buddha’s famous Kalama Sutta discourse. The Buddha advised his disciples to question and examine even the Tathagata (Buddha) himself to find the trustworthiness, the authenticity, of the teacher they chose to follow. A group of young men called the Kalamas came to the Buddha with a question. They wanted to learn from him how they could separate truths from falsehoods uttered by the various venerable recluses and brahmanas who visited their village of Kesaputta from time to time and preached their different doctrines that disagreed with each other. Obviously, the young men had heard of the fame of the Buddha who himself had studied under the most famous teachers of the time and exhaustively analysed their teachings, and dissatisfied, had embarked on his own long and assiduous search for the Truth and eventually attained Enlightenment. The Buddha’s advice to them was: “Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic and inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’. But…when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong, and bad, then give them up… and when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept them and follow them”. (I am quoting here from Ven Walpola Rahula thera’s classic dhamma compendium ‘What the Buddha Taught’ first published in London in 1959, and reprinted many times since, which Jerome Fernando may profitably read and still remain, or learn to be, a pious and virtuous Christian, which, I am afraid, he is not at present.)
I can easily answer your criticisms of Hinduism and Islam, but it is better for you to learn by yourself their moral essence that is as noble and as ennobling as Christianity.
Pastor Jerome Saga: Buddhist perspective
A statement made by a Christian pastor, Pastor Jerome Fernando, has taken the print and electronic media by storm. Buddhist monks, politicians and media men cry foul and sanctimoniously demand immediate action to be taken against him for his heinous crime of insulting the Buddha. I have watched their antics with a certain amount of amusement and disgust. Do these self-proclaimed protectors of the Buddha Sasana have an inkling of how the Compassionate One reacted to abuse and blame?
In the Akkosa Sutta [Samyuththa Nikaya 7.2], it is stated that on one occasion a brahmin of the Baradvaja clan went up to the Buddha and abused and insulted him.The Buddha listened silently and said,” Brahmin, If you offer food to guests who come to visit you and they do not accept it, to whom does it belong? The brahmin replied: ‘”It belongs to me”. Then the Buddha stated,” In the same way when you abuse and attack us who do not abuse and attack you, and we do not accept it; then it’s all yours brahmin, it’s all yours.” The brahmin was deeply ashamed and begged for forgiveness and became a follower of the Buddha.
There were many ascetics living in India during the Buddha’s time whose views differed from the Buddha. Nigantanathaputta, Makkaligosala and Sanjaya were some of them. On several occasions these ascetics openly criticized the Buddha but the Buddha never reacted with anger. Once they orchestrated the murder of a courtesan, named Sirima, and buried her body in the premises of the Buddha’s abode, falsely accusing him of sexual misconduct and murder. Even then the Buddha did not retaliate in anger but patiently bid his time till the truth surfaced and the actual culprits were exposed.
The suttas quote many instances where the Buddha had friendly and amiable discussions with followers of other sects.
We, as Buddhists, should follow our Teacher’s example in situations such as the Pastor Jerome episode. The so-called protectors of the Buddha Sasana, namely the militant politically inclined monks and the pseudo upasaka politicians, should realize that by reacting hysterically to such statements will cause religious and communal disharmony. This in turn will develop into hatred and anger thus resulting in racism raising its ugly head as what happened in the past.
These individuals should take a leaf out of the Buddha’s book and stop behaving in a manner which is completely contrary to his teachings. By doing so they only disrespect to the Great Teacher, who enlightened the world by his boundless compassion and wisdom.
Doctrine of Anatta
This refers to the piece by Dr C Ratnatunga, a Consultant, published in the Sunday island recently. Among the important concepts enunciated by the Buddha, in his doctrine/philosophy as being universally valid, are dukka, anicca and anatta. The first two, state of unsatisfactoriness/sorrow and impermanence, are easy to understand, while the third ingredient of “no self” or the absence of a never changing soul or a stream of consciousness, defies comprehension to a non-Buddhist. Of course, it is a logical step arising from impermanence.
In biology/evolution we know that the rare beneficial effects of random mutations get accumulated in the genes and get passed down to the progeny. This is how evolution is supposed to operate. But this process operates with respect to matter though the theory of “memes” advocated by Richard Dawkins, a sort of cultural trait, implies that it operates in the non-material sphere, too. The evolution of the mammalian and human brain retaining the reptilian part deals with the material plane.
There is also the case where the effects of good and bad actions cause changes in the changing or evolving soul or the stream of consciousness in an individual when he “re-becomes” another individual at death. This matter is raised as a question put to the Buddha by a Ven. Monk as recorded in “What the Buddha taught” by the Rev Walpola Rahula (page 66 of the 1990 Reprint). The question posed by the monk is “… if there is no self or Atman who gets the results of the kamma?” The answer of the Master was “I have taught conditionality everywhere in all things”.
What then happens at the stage of rebirth? Is it that at the time of death the “atman” becomes permanent for an instant for the net balance of kamma to take effect in the new being?
Dr Leo Fernando, Talahena,
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