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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

Giving foremost place and fostering Buddhism?

The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in Chapter 11 says that Buddhism will be given the foremost place and foster Buddhist Sasana. It is not possible for the government alone to meet this requirement in the statute, without the advice and guidance of the Maha Sanga, Buddhist Organisations and even the lay Buddhists. Such advice had resulted in the establishment of the Buddhist Commission and the presenting of the Anti-Conversion Bill to Parliament.

But what is the role the Buddhist clergy now resorting to, anything but bring down and discredit Buddhism? A few examples of recent happenings and utterances will prove my case.

One Buddhist monk of the JHU at a discussion over the private electronic media had said that he cannot accept what the Maha Nayaka Thera said and what was said had not been ratified by the Sanga Sabha. Answering another question, he said that the organisation which is headed by Ven. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera is not a recognised one and hence his statement could not be accepted. Does this not show disregard to superiors?
Then comes the alleged cheating and fraud by a Buddhist monk who has been arrested and now out on bail and also a Buddhist monk in Maligawatte has been arrested for possessing hand bombs and is in remand. Does this not bring disrepute to Buddhism?

Another Buddhist priest contesting the coming general elections cursed Prabhakaran, Wijeweera and J. R. Jayewardena and said that these men will go to Hell. Speaking further he said JRJ is the worst offender as he brought in the ‘Manape’ preferential vote system. Has he not violated main preaching of Lord Buddha – Karuna, Metha, Mudhitha?

To end, here is a very humorous piece, which came over the electronic media where a Buddhist priest contesting the last parliamentary elections said. He questioned a child as to whether he knows the prayer to worship his mother, to which the child replied in the negative. Then he had asked whether he knows the prayer to worship his father, to which he said, ‘No’. Then the Buddhist monk has asked as to what prayer he knows. The child replied that he knows the prayer to worship his uncle. When the Buddhist priest asked him to recite, he recited “Maame Baala Samagamo.” Does this not ridicule Buddhism, coming from a Buddhist monk?. Come to think of it, the child is not wrong. ‘Maame’ means uncle and children call elders ‘Maama’ or uncle. ‘Baala’ means ‘fools, imbeciles’ so there we are - the rightful place as elders - voters.

Is it not time for the government to foster Buddhism, to amend the Constitution or add that priests of any religion cannot contest any election, be they be local, provincial or general? The more they enjoy the life of a layman they move away from the noble doctrine. It is hoped that all Buddhists inclusive or a major section of Buddhist monks will give full support to the Rajapaksa government to bring in such legislation, which will be the only way to give foremost place to Buddhism and Buddha Sasana.

G. A. D. Sirimal
Boralesgamuwa

 

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) devalued on his birthday

Hardly two weeks ago the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was celebrated among some of the Muslims of the island in a grand manner with processions, buntings, singing of songs, recitals of mowlids and many were the speeches made of the Prophet (PBUH) and also many were the articles of the Prophet (PBUH) that appeared in all the newspapers. The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation too highlighted the prophet’s birthday together with the television stations. The Sri Lankan Government declares a holiday on that day despite the fact that Saudi Arabia, the birth-place of the Prophet (PBUH) not declaring a holiday on the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH) as they claimed that such celebrations of birthday were innovations and have banned any celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH).

This writer heard many speeches and read many articles of the Prophet (PBUH) during the time of the celebration, but was very disappointed with the contents of the speeches and articles. They were all banal and confined only to his spiritual attainments and his personal habits only. His role as a politician determined to establish the sovereignty of God on earth, his role as a law-giver and judge, commander of troops to face attacks by idol-worshippers and non-believers, his clever agreement with tribes who were not in agreement with his ideology and his rousing of the believers for battle to defend themselves against his enemies were all ignored.
There is an unseen hand that is responsible for a long time to deprive Muslims of knowing the true personality of the Prophet Mohammed(PBUH). This writer was asked to deliver speech on the Prophet (PBUH) on an occasion where his birthday was celebrated about two weeks. Hardly seven minutes after the writer began to highlight the true personality of the Prophet (PBUH) the organisers said time-up and stopped his speech. Needless to say the writer walked-out of the celebrations. The organisers were foreigners who claim that they have established an Islamic Republic.

At this point for the sake of brevity only two comments by non-Muslims are quoted to portray the greatness of Prophet (PBUH). Michael H. Hart, astronomer and mathematician in his book of ratings of men who contributed towards the benefit and uplifting of mankind writes.” My choice of Mohammed (PBUH) to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he is the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.

Lamartine, the renowned historian said, “It greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the criteria of human genius, who can dare compare any great man in history with Mohammed (PBUH)”.
“Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and one spiritual empire that is Mohammed (PBUH). As regards all the standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask is there any man greater than he.”
For the sake of brevity only two comments by non-Muslims are quoted, there are several more by non-Muslims who have recognised the greatness of Mohammed (PBUH), however in Sri Lanka. Muslims continue to highlight only his personal habits ignoring his role as a politician, commander of the Muslim army who fought only in self-defence, a judge, a law giver and one who had charisma that was unmatched because of his honesty, trustworthiness, kindness and forbearances in his relationships with his followers.

Another drawback is that in mosques and in public speeches, the age-old practice of speaking in Tamil only is being continued. Presently, many Muslims are educated in the Sinhalese medium. They do not understand anything that is being sermonised in the mosques and at public meetings. The trustees of mosques and organisers of the Prophet (PBUH) birthday should take serious note of this and the Sinhalese language should and must be used in Sinhala speaking area of this country. Friday prayer leaders must attain the ability to make the Quran relevant to the contemporary times and not always hark back to history. Most important of all, in Sinhala speaking areas the language that should be used is Sinhala only and not Tamil. This should especially be so at the time of the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH).

Soybhan Samat
Social Justice Movement
Rajagiriya

 

An open letter to all parliamentary candidates

I presume that it is in order to believe that all of you have “read, marked and inwardly digested” the 1978 Constitution. It is vital that you, the future MP’s, must know the law of the land. However, I am sad that all of you seeking to become lawmakers are breaking the law. What do I mean?
What I mean is simply this! Despite the law, a number of you have put out cutouts. Our walls are full of your faces. Some of you are paying plenty of money to advertise yourself in the papers.
Why all this? If you have played the game according to the rules you should not worry.
However, please remember that from 1931 the Sri Lankan electorate has used the ballot. We have changed governments. We have sent MP’s back home. Remember the Sri Lankan electorate has the power to change.
Obviously some of you seem to have plenty of money. Why don’t you use this money to help some of the poor? Some of you have told us about your plans for the future.
Of course we will take all this with a bag of salt. You know why?
However my hope and prayer is that the Sri Lankan electorate and the political parties will in April this year find 225 men and women who can be considered to be persons of integrity and certainly persons who will fight the giant enemies of our time - the national problem, poverty, bribery and corruption, and human rights violation.
May I conclude wishing you all the best as you aspire to be ‘servants’ of the Sri Lankan electorate!

Sydney Knight

 

Monumentally yours...

Never living in the future
Must superman put asunder?
Never a dull monument
In this Indian Ocean Island!

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5

 

An eco-friendly transport for common man

I wish to comment on an article printed in The Nation newspaper regarding the promotion of cycling as an alternative means of transport.
Firstly, I would like to laud the minister concerned for the initiative taken by him and the National Cyclists Forum bringing this very important matter to the forefront of the public domain. The benefits of cycling are immense and their virtues should be extolled.
However, I would like to enlighten your esteemed readers regarding another aspect of the cycling industry which is essential to achieve the goal of promoting cycling. This is the Tariff Department. Surprisingly, the rates of duty imposed on import of bicycles are one of the significantly highest rates of duty:

H.S. code for cycles: 87120090
Children cycle $20 CIF = Rs. 2,300
Customs duty 1,500
SUR 225
BIL 575
PAL 115
VAT 566
SRL 26
NBT 141
Total Rs. 3,148
This adds up to a total rate of 135% on CIF value.
Selling prices of bicycles could be slashed by 50%, if the state introduces a reasonable duty structure which will be beneficial to the wider public, rather than give protection to one assembler for over two decades.
A.K. Perera
Colombo 12

 

Peace on Earth and goodwill to men

Peace will emblazon this Earth when Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism learn to extract the essence of those religions, which is ethics, and live by the moral principles and unerringly follow the rules of conduct prompted by one’s conscience. Moral principles do vary, but underlying is an unyielding thread of honesty to oneself and one’s maker. The animal in man wants rest when his maw is full. That is basic to all mankind, for man is of the animal kingdom. All life is acquisitive, thereby goading countries to prey on their neighbours. That is the animal in man. However, amicability will prevail if religion steps in. The ethical contents of religion, if exploited, could curb and mellow human relations. However, the ground reality is that religion serves as a fillip to plunder and mayhem as was seen around the world recently. History goes on serving Christendom that preys and fattens on the wealth of other countries. If children are taught the wisdom of ethics, it will generate harmony and understanding between countries. Religion tends to impact and clash with the political aspirations and ideologies of Nations. It becomes simple if children are taught to recognise between right and wrong in human relations - between child and child. Soon they will learn of the brotherliness of man. Religion confuses the child. Sans religion, the world which God Almighty gifted to man will be a haven.

Ivor Samarasinge
Dehiwala

 

Appreciation

Senaratne Bandara Wellawa

Fondly remembering beloved grandfather

“Come quickly, Montague, or I am dead,” says Warwick. In response, Somerset says, “Ah, Warwick, Montague hath breath’d his last, And to the latest gasp cried out for Warwick, And said, ‘Commend me to my valiant brother.’ The former, as most of us evoke, is none other than an act from Shakespeare’s most renowned “Henry the Sixth.” In dotingly remembering a dearly beloved grandfather of mine, Senaratne Bandara Wellawa, or widely known as Wellawa Aththa amongst us, his grandchildren, at a moment in time that he is no more, I can think of nothing more than quoting Shakespeare, in forming the opening paragraph in this note of remembrance, for we often heard him doing so, all through his noteworthy, yet much self-effacing life. When the Duke of Somerset reports that Warwick’s brother Montague has “breathed his last,” he means that Montague has drawn his last breath, or expired in his last gasp. Similarly, Wellawa Aththa, having lived a life that was full, breathed his last at Colombo Hospital’s Merchant Ward in the early hours of February 17, 2010.

Hailing from a Kandyan aristocratic background, Aththa joined the prestigious Trinity College in Kandy in the year 1929. He conducted his studies in the college until 1941. Subsequently, preparing himsaelf in completing the London Matriculation Examination, it was palpable that he was in his youth, was at the initiation of his career, and was a product of generous years of school training, all rudiments for same. Having accomplished a syllabus fairly practical, especially in areas of mechanics, chemistry, heat, light and electricity, falling under the category of General Elementary Science, he too was an outstanding example of a “practical” man in actual life.

He chose as his wife, a charismatic and graceful maiden named Enid Anula Wattegedera, who bore him three children, the eldest, a son named Kamal-Kithsiri and two daughters Nilanganie and Udayanthi. However, fate turned an eye of malevolence on the Wellawa family, not allowing the three children to grow in the loving tender care of their beloved mother, as she departed from this world at a drastically young age. Later, her husband entered wedlock for the second time, and his second bride became Anula Nillegoda, who bore him a son named Chulanga.

With time, he joined the key administrative service of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS), with civil servants working for both, the Central Government as well as the provincial councils. Having joined the Cooperative Department, he conducted duties as a Headquarters Inspector and worked along with the late D.B. Wijetunge who was three years his senior, and who later served as the third executive president of Sri Lanka. Aththa was an eminent pioneer in commencing cooperative development work in the island. During the decade of 1970, he retired from the Department of Motor Traffic as the Assistant Commissioner of Motor Traffic.

Having been a die-hard cricket fan until the time of his death, Sanath Jayasuriya remained his favourite local cricketer. Even if we missed a match every now and then, he made certain that he ardently followed every single cricket match and tracked the scores precisely, as an umpire would.
This unpretentious man, as in the late Sinatra’s evergreen “My Way” had undeniably travelled each and every highway. He may have had regrets, but then again too few to mention. He had done what he had to do, and saw it through without exemption, before facing the final curtain. He was a simple human being who never refrained from lending a helping hand to those in need, who crossed his path.

Now, as I call a halt, as per this remembrance note, may I quote Shakespeare once more, in fondly remembering and desolately missing Wellawa Aththa, who faced it all, and still stood tall. Even in his share of losing, in diverse aspects in life, his endearing smile never seemed to fade. He always said what he truly felt, not the words of one who kneels, and even took the blows, yet never gave in to deceitfulness under any given circumstances.
Jaques, the resident sourpuss in the forest of Arden, home to political exiles, banished lovers, and simple shepherds in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” states in Act 2, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” According to Jaques, the first of these ages is infancy and the last is “second childishness” and mere oblivion. Wellawa Aththa too, in his time played many parts, yet I must lay emphasis on the mere fact that, even during the second childishness, he never endured oblivion. His memory was as fresh as the morning dew. His soul was intact.

He was only six months away from his ninety-first birthday when he departed this life. He was blessed to have never suffered from any major complications in aspects of health. Wellawa Aththa set us a great example in facets of learning the pleasures of life’s simplicity and showed us the invaluable rewards of being ingenuous. We loved him dearly and shall always do.

The rest of the family members and I shall perpetually miss his cheerful conversations, which always made absolute sense, in any theme he chose to converse. My one last opportunity to meet him was when I visited him in late 2004, when I was down in Lanka for a prolonged stay. I made it a point to visit him, along with my family members at his abode in Malagamuwa. As always, he greeted us with his pleasing smile, chatted for hours with much fervor, and treated us with the best. He spent the latter portion of his life in Bandaragama with his family. His absence leaves a momentous, cherished vacuum behind, that may never be filled by another. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!

Sunalie Ratnayake
California, USA

 

 

 

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