Patriotism, not self-aggrandisement, is the need of the hour

The absorbing and forthright editorial – ‘Political Cross Currents’ “or the good of the people” – which appeared in The Nation of April 8, hits the nail on the head with reference to the current body politic. It is heartening to observe that well-meaning editors and others, apolitical and law-abiding citizens in civil society, who have a genuine interest in the welfare of our motherland, continue to offer valuable ideas, and comments through the media and other fora, with sincerity of purpose. But the pertinent question remains. Are these of any avail? It appears that no amount of wholesome advice, constructive criticism and revelation of blatant misdeeds rampant in many places would stir our politicians to take urgent and transparent corrective measures, where necessary.
Most of them appear to be politically blind and deaf sometimes, but, of course, not dumb because they are loquacious and garrulous when they have to deliver sermons and dole out attractive promises to the gullible voters. If our politicians (barring a few patriotic and honest men) of all hues and persuasions, whether in the seats of Government or the Opposition, at a given time, had delivered the multitude of their promises with sincere concern for the welfare of the community, devoid of self-aggrandisement, our beloved motherland would not have descended to the present crisis-ridden state after 59 years of independence.
Despite the tall talk we hear occasionally about progress in agriculture, buoyancy of the economy and what not, can anyone deny the glaring fact that the large majority of our people are in dire straits striving to eke out an existence? However, it is not denied that appreciable strides have been made in certain spheres of activity over the years. But the big question is whether our rulers have achieved optimum results through commitment and selfless endeavour since independence.
We have only to compare ourselves with some countries in the Asian region which have developed very fast, beyond our imagination – thanks to the patriotism of their true leaders who have selflessly and sacrificially acted with the sole motive of developing their respective countries while at the same time improving the lot of the population.
Let me refer to just one critical area we have blundered. For a few years, even after independence, we could boast of sustaining a well administered, organised, exemplary public service far superior to others in our region. Certain essential changes to accord with post-Independence requirements became necessary, but what is sad is that with such necessary modifications even salutary features of a by-gone era were discarded. We threw out the baby with the bath water. Can anyone dispute the fact that today the same public service has progressively deteriorated in efficiency and service. Incompetence, lethargy, delay, incivility and occasionally bribery and corruption are pervasive. Recruitment to the public service, which is a crucial arm of the State, was in the good old days almost always via examinations and / or interviews to ensure that persons with the proper qualifications, competence and aptitude, who could fill the bill, were selected. Even after selection their performance, official conduct, integrity etc were monitored through periodical inspections by superior officers. Additionally, a good system of maintaining annual confidential reports was in existence to evaluate an officer’s work and conduct for promotions. Promotions, where tests were not prescribed, were effected having regard to merit and seniority alone. A dedicated, efficient, disciplined and honest public servant had ample opportunities to reach higher positions. Do such salutary systems and procedures exist to-day? With the passing of time what did really happen?
Politics made inroads to the hitherto independent Public Service. Politicians discovered another convenient avenue to fulfill their needs, vote-wise and even monetarily. The infamous “chit system” crept in. Even where recruitment was via prescribed procedures, instances have come to light where certain successful candidates have had their names deleted from the list of selected persons for the simple reason that they happened to be supporters of a political party from the Opposition. In such instances a supporter of the governing party, from the bottom of the list, found a place on the recommendation of a government M.P. or minister. Thus political victimisation began to raise its ugly head in the public service too. Instances also have come to light where recruitment, mainly to boards and corporations, have been made for political reasons ignoring qualifications, competence and even the availability of approved vacancies. Kith and kin and supporters of politicians in power have thus received preferential treatment. A very easy and useful method of tackling the unemployed problem perhaps! But how about the poor, politically un-influential, but qualified jobless who continue to knock at the door year after year? A thorough overhauling and streamlining of the public service so as to be capable of playing an efficient and independent supportive role to good governance, devoid of political influence and interference, is a crying need – a sine qua non.
Numerous revelations of misdemeanours, involving colossal amounts of public funds, allegedly committed by persons in very high positions and at times by certain political personalities, are being spotlighted in the print media quoting government audit reports too. Scandals of alarming proportions such as receipt of unauthorised commissions, acceptance of bribes, corruption, disregard to tender procedure, arbitrary expenditure of public money, neglect and waste are some of the allegations pin-pointed. Investigations are proceeding we hear. The average citizen battered by a galloping cost of living and anxiously awaiting a speedy and lasting solution to the North East problem would certainly look forward to a speedy, thorough and unbiased investigation into every single allegation, disregarding the status or the elevated position held, politically or otherwise, by those against whom allegations are levelled.
It is a crime to let the poor and the indigent continue to suffer in silence if scoundrels, what ever position they hold, could embezzle public funds with impunity. Nothing short of maximum punishment meted out to the guilty would serve as a deterrent to prospective plunderers. The comments in the editorial that “politicians drunk with power and blinded by power-lust care only to secure their personal future and that our people have long since stopped expecting them to do anything else” should jolt all our politicians to turn the searchlight inwards if they call themselves patriots. A good number of them would then realise that the picture they see through the light would accord with the above comments.
Pray, to begin with, let every minister and M.P. consider Parliament as a sacred institution, the fount of legislation from which enactments for the well-being and the progress of the nation spring. They are the law-makers for society. Morality, law and order, justice and fair play are all enshrined in laws made by them. Therefore, law-makers must possess and uphold these noble attributes. They cannot be law-breakers under any circumstance. But what is happening in the august assembly today?
Gone are the days we listened to useful debates replete with cogent and rich ideas and arguments, at times spiced with good humour, sans acrimony. It was a treat to listen to good speeches. Do those who sit in parliament today consider it as a place of sanctity where dignity, decorum and decency need reign, where debates need be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere? It is a tragedy that we have to often witness certain M.P. attempting to bring down the august Institution to the level of a circus or madhouse by their repulsive language, conduct and behaviour.
At times we hear some members resorting to language of the Billingsgate variety to sling mud at rivals. Physically sabotaging the conduct of proceedings has also become a feature nowadays. It is high time that leaders of all parties in Parliament intervened collectively to mend matters. Every M.P. can learn a lesson from the erudite, disciplined and sober Speaker of the House.
A. Abeygoonawardhana,


‘Future Leaders’ programme irks the poor

United States sponsored programme, ‘Future Leaders’ Conference continues to irk rustics like us because, unlike most other educational programmes, this one caters exclusively to a small privileged band of students, the vast majority of whom attended expensive international schools, and whose parents are affluent enough to afford travel and other costs of a US visit.  Concerns raised by me, and a couple of others through the columns of the national press urging a change in the selection process – so long as you call it ‘Future Leaders’ – or at least a change in the programme title – so long as the present system remains unchanged – apparently go unheeded perhaps with the underlying thinking that ‘Poor children are poor because they are poor, so who cares?’
No one would grumble USA (or any other country for that matter) hosting a programme for our children with the aim of admitting them to their universities, and other tertiary educational institutions.  In fact, in the context of limited local opportunities in certain fields of higher education, it is a welcome thing. 
But our grouse is this.  Why gift the tag of ‘Future Leaders’ to a small group of children, whose selection for participation in the USA programme is determined foremost among other things, by their parents’ purchasing power, be it local private education, foreign education or even air tickets and warm cloths?.  Call them successful candidates or any such thing, no body would grumble as after all these are also our children.  But please refrain from calling them ‘Future Leaders.’  The other thing is being equal. If it is the parents’ economic power that determines who is to be called a future leader –  pardon me my US friends – such usage is unacceptable.
To those who agree with me on this issue, I make a fervent call. Let’s get together, design and implement a programme to breed our own home grown future leaders through a Sri Lanka future leader initiative.  In such an attempt, our focus should be to select bright children from poor families and under-privileged schools.  Our express aim should be to nurture their qualities, and skills and make them patriotic leaders of the future who’ll have an undivided loyalty towards the motherland.  In this regard a proposal is being drafted in consultation with a few concerned parties.
I do hope that the ever-smiling Blake, the US Ambassador will read this letter.  Perhaps he is well aware that the US Democratic presidential hopeful, Barrak Obama was raised with food stamps during part of his childhood. Obama should consider himself lucky that he was not born a Sri Lankan to a ‘Samurdhi’ (our equivalent of US food stamps) family with no chance at all to be called a future leader under a US sponsored programme.
 Y.W Gunawardane


Of meat consumption – myths and facts

We are at a loss as to how Allah, called the ‘All-Merciful’ by his followers, could have created beings, with every cell and nerve pulsating in their sentient bodies, able to feel pain, for the principal purpose, as mentioned in her above mentioned note by Dr. Mareena Thahaieffai, to feed hungry Muslims. One who is merciful would certainly have created a production belt of insensitive robots who, although possessed of flesh, and blood (as letting out of blood is deemed important), are impervious and incapable of feeling pain.
We invite all those who are familiar with the word slaughter to witness just one killing of any animal, with its desperate cries of excruciating pain, fear and horror rending the air and tell us how they enjoyed the spectacle of sacrificing another’s life! It is being understood that brain-washing makes the brain and its reactions totally numb.
Prema Ranawaka-Das


2550 years of Buddhism remembered

Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago,
In all its brilliance the Vesak full moon glowed.
Heralding the birth of a great teacher even born
To preach the dhamma to redeem us all.

He was born a prince to a king of fame,
Suddhodana and Mahamaya were his parents’ names,
All the worldly comforts and pleasure they gave,
To groom him to be the ruler of Bharate.

Seeing the sick, the dead and the strife,
He began to ponder the purpose of life,
Renounced all worldly pleasures and strived,
To find a way for eternal peace of mind.

Enlightened, enunciated the eight fold path,
To end sorrows and suffering at long last,
All living beings should follow his sublime path
To do good, be good and no evil cast.

‘Sabbapassa Akaranam
Kusalassa Upasampada
Sacitta pariyodapanam
Etam Buddhana Sasanam’

(Not to do evil, to cultivate good, to purify one’s mind – this is the teaching of the Buddhas.)

Amali Seneviratne


Remembering  Mahamaya Devi

The fullmoon on this Vesak Day, so serene,
Shone brightly, casting its mellowed golden beams,
Over the sylvan garden at Lumbini
The ideal place for solace and peace.

To the melodious songs of birds and dancing trees,
The fragrance of flowers scenting the breeze,
Beautiful Mahamaya Devi, King Suddodhana’s queen
With her retinue rested here, enjoying peace.

This day we should reservedly remember,
Mahamaya Devi the Queen Mother,
To whom a prince was born, named Siddhartha,
Who enunciated the eight-fold path to attain Nibbana.

His knowledge of life was boundlessly vast,
None could equal nor ever surpass.
Ending suffering in Sansara, he found at last,
And attained Buddhahood and showed us the path.

Let us on this eventful day remember,
With gratitude and bow in prayer,
To that Mother who gifted a noble teacher,
To the world, he preached the dhamma.

As done in our homes, worship and adore,
Our mothers who bore hardships untold,
Let us not forget to say the same prayer every morn,
To Mahamaya Devi, mother, of the greatest being ever born.

“Dass Mase Urekathwa, Posethi Uddhi Karanag
Ayu Deegan Vassa Sathan, Mathu Padang Nama Mahang”
G. A. D. Sirimal








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