( April 21, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) When President Mahinda Rajapaksa contested for the Presidency in January 2010 for the second time, overwhelming assumption of the people who voted or campaign for him was that it was his last term. That was the constitutional position as well as the tradition of this country, like in many other democratic countries, since 1978 when the presidential system was inaugurated. The two term limitation was ingrained in the Constitution.
Since 1994, the people in Sri Lanka have voted overwhelmingly to presidential candidates, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005, and political parties or coalitions that won majorities in parliamentary elections in 1994, 2000 and 2004, to abolish the presidential system.
It is true that Mahinda Chinthana Manifesto 2010 did not promise to abolish the presidential system. It was a volte-face from the previous policies. Instead it sought a mandate to use it as a ‘trusteeship’ to be accountable to Parliament and accountable to the Judiciary. But that is for six years.
If you carefully go through the document, it repeatedly talks about ‘over the next six years’ or ‘during the next six years.’ It never sought a mandate to abolish the ‘two term limit’ of the Presidency. All indications given were that the President would gracefully retire into history, personal or at best honorable public life. It was the implicit promise. No one discounted that he could even have a political life, if he wishes to, but not as the President any longer. This principle also applies to ex-presidents.
The full section on “Presidency as a Trusteeship” in the 2010 Manifesto on page 38 was as follows.
“I was particularly careful when exercising the powers of the Executive Presidency. In the past, the Executive Presidency was used to postpone elections, to topple elected governments, to disrupt the judiciary, to ban political parties, to suppress demonstrations and lead the country towards a violent culture, to sell state institutions at under-valued price, to defend criminals and to grant concessions to unscrupulous businessmen. Agreements that betrayed the country were entered into using the powers of the Executive Presidency.
I used such powers to unite the country. An open discussion on the Executive Presidency will be converted into a Trusteeship which honours the mandate given to Parliament by being accountable to parliament, establishes equality before the law, is accountable to the judiciary and enacts laws that are accountable to the judiciary, and is not in conflict with the judiciary.”
His assessment of the past was correct although his claim of ‘careful exercise of power’ during his first term was an exaggeration. Things are yet to be unraveled. He was particularly correct when saying “the Executive Presidency was used to postpone [parliamentary] elections.” That was between 1982 and 1989. But he has done much worse by ‘abolishing the two term limit,’ which is considered the most important deterrent against a presidential system turning into a dictatorship or an ‘elected monarchy’ in any country.
Referring to the matter in terms of the first presidential system in the world, an expert on American constitutionalism, Peter Schultz, said the following in his “Governing America” (1997).
“But the most important step Washington took was his decision to limit himself to two terms in office. Under the constitution as ratified, there was no limit on the number of terms that a president could serve. …Nonetheless, the implications of his decision were significant for the presidency and how it came to understood…And by establishing a limited tenure for that office, Washington helped to establish the idea that the president’s power and authority, although great, is limited.”
Of course there were some American presidents after Washington who attempted to serve more than two terms but without success. Most attempts were thwarted by the respective party’s nominations process. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only president who was elected consecutively for more than two terms under the war conditions (1940-45), but after the war the two term limitation was imposed on the constitution in 1947.
When Roosevelt was contesting for the fourth time in 1944, Thomas Dewey said “Four terms, or sixteen years, is the most dangerous threat to our freedom ever proposed.” In America, a term of the President is just four years. In the case of Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa will already be completing 12 years by 2017. If he contests for a third term, what is proposed, to paraphrase Dewey, is “eighteen years, the most dangerous threat to any one’s freedom.”
There is of course a counter or anti- democratic tradition, particularly in Africa, where the presidential systems were fashioned even without term limits from the outset. Beginning with Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) in 1964, following through Hastings Banda (Malawi), Bokassa (Central African Republic), Idi Amin (Uganda) and now Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), this tradition is akin to elected monarchy or perpetual autocratic rule. In 2008, Mugabe who had been President for 33 years refused to concede defeat. He got the Election Commission to recount and got elected again.
Perhaps Mahinda Rajapaksa and others want to follow this tradition, because it is from the South, non-Western countries and so-called anti-imperialist milieu! However it should be challenged morally, politically and even legally. The removal of the ‘term limit’ should not be taken as fait accompli. It is a breach of social contract and democratic tradition.
Back to Mandate
The postponement of parliamentary elections in 1982 under JRJ at least was done through a referendum, although manipulated. But for the ‘abolition of the two term limit,’ through the 18th Amendment, there was no referendum held. This time it was the Supreme Court which was manipulated. It was a major mistake by Dr. Shirani Bandaranayke, as the Chief Justice, to allow the bill to have passage only through 2/3 majority without a referendum and without having a full discussion in the country. She had to pay a price for that mistake. What was demanded from her by the executive thereafter was total submission.
If the people had been consistent in their antipathy against the presidential system since 1994, they could have defeated the ‘abolition of the two term limit’ in a genuine referendum, although consistency is not always the case in people’s voting behavior. However, on the part of the President or the UPFA, there was no people’s mandate whatsoever to ‘abolish the two term limit.’ In addition, it was utterly immoral on the basis of what they have been promising, uttering or apparently standing for since 1994.
The 18th Amendment or the ‘abolition of the two term limit’ also was mixed up with the ‘abolition of the independent commissions.’ For practical reasons, some must have thought the 17th Amendment should be revised. That must be one reason why even the seasoned parliamentarians became confused.
Since the promulgation of the 18th Amendment, three constituent partners of the UPFA, the Communist Party (CP), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) have expressed their reservations or opposition. The Amendment was proposed as an urgent bill in Parliament and rushed through a two thirds majority. As a result, the members of parliament or the public in general had extremely little time to discuss the full implications of the Amendment. Within the UPFA circles it was kept a secret until the eleventh hour. The SLMC General Secretary and Member of Parliament, M.T. Hasen Ali, last year said (Ceylon Today, 27 August 2013) “In fact, I can openly say, I did not support it. I was forced to support it.” This is a terrible indictment of the way politics is conducted within the UPFA.
In parliamentary democracies, with the Prime Minister as the chief executive, there are instances where the same person continuing for more than two terms. There is no prohibition or term limits for PMs. There is no major danger either except under exceptional circumstances. In a parliamentary democracy, the PM is the chief or the head among the others with similar executive powers. If there is a tendency for concentration of power that has definitely to be checked. It is however an increasing tradition even in parliamentary systems for a PM not to stand for more than two terms.
A presidential system is entirely different. There are major dangers if the same person continues. Yoweri Museveni in his “What is Africa’s Problem?” (2000) said “no African head of state should in power for more than 10 years.” He explained that “longer a president is in office, the harder it is to remove him democratically.” Ironically, Museveni was President in Uganda for 27 years after Idi Amin and Milton Obote! Those are the ironies of claims and politics.
In the case of Sri Lanka it is more dangerous. It is the only country which calls the system an Executive Presidential system, emphasizing the executive or the ‘power’ aspects of the system. The President is almost above the law with immunity who cannot be brought before the courts. An impeachment is almost impossible as Dr. N. M. Perera explained in his Critical Analysis of the New Constitution.
There is no clear separation or even necessary distance between Parliament and the President. By having a ‘Jumbo Cabinet’ of 67 and altogether 105 Ministers in Parliament, the President has a close grip on the ‘majority of the majority’ in Parliament. This is an extremely abusive system when the task of a parliament is considered ‘policy making and legislation.’ The 18th Amendment also allows the President to participate or more correctly intervene in parliamentary affairs. This is not even necessary as his task of ‘coercion’ is given to some unruly elements in the middle bench. His brother is the Speaker.
A Possible Way Out
Sri Lanka still is not a hopeless case, hopefully. Sri Lanka cannot be like Zimbabwe or Uganda. There are strong democratic traditions behind it which became largely distorted during and as a result of the ‘thirty year’s war’ and the presidential system. One is out but the other is still in. It was after a ‘thirty year’s war’ in Europe (1618-1648) that the state system became reformed and stabilized. That kind of a change and reform of a modern nature suitable for the 21st century is not impossible in Sri Lanka if there is political will on the part of the responsible political parties and the people, irrespective of ethnic or religious disagreements or divisions.
There are inbuilt dangers too. There is a possibility of resurrecting a war again to perpetuate the obnoxious presidential system for self or family interests. That may be an extreme scenario. Before such an eventuality, it is necessary to seize upon the possible opportunities and try our best to promote a feasible solution to the otherwise rapidly deteriorating situation.
It was rumored or argued during the passage of the 18th Amendment that the proposal to allow the President to contest again was made to avert a succession struggle within the SLFP or the UPFA. It was also added that it was necessary to stabilize the system aftermath of the war. If that was the case, then that danger or the problem is no longer there.
The 18th Amendment does not make imperative for the incumbent President to contest again. He was elected in 2010 by the people on the premise that it is going to be his last term. I repeat, there is no people’s mandate for him to contest again. It is immoral on his part and breach of the social contract. If he has been only a trustee, not the owner, then he can simply handover the trusteeship to another person through the democratic process.
There are two main stages to this democratic procedure. First is the process of respective political parties i.e. the SLFP, UNP, JVP, TNA and DP etc. separately or jointly selecting or electing their presidential candidates. Second is the ensuring and conducting a free and fair presidential election on a level playing field. As far as I am aware, the SLFP has not so far selected its candidate for the next presidential elections. The seniors in the SLFP should have much say in this selection process along with party organizers. If they don’t act now they will be doomed. When it comes to the nominations for parliamentary elections or the preferential voting thereafter, they will be swept away by the Rajapaksa loyalists.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party formed initially by such leaders as SWRD Bandaranaike and DA Rajapaksa has fairly a long democratic tradition whatever the intermittent aberrations or deviations. The time has come to resurrect that tradition and further strengthen it. There had been sudden eventualities in the past when the party found it difficult to find the successor for example when Bandaranaike was assassinated in 1959. However, that is not the case today or any longer.
Having been in power for a long period and having a host of second level leaders managing various ministries, the SLFP and/or the UPFA should know who would be suitable in terms of party’s policies, traditions, and most importantly, democratic interests of the country. It would be a damn dishonor for President Rajapaksa if he is not ready to handover the baton.
If anyone ask me who would be the best possible common candidate from the opposition, I would say, without wasting my words, Karu Jayasuriya, the least controversial; ideally flanked by ‘two informal vice-presidential candidates,’ a (preferably hill country) Tamil from the TNA and a Muslim from the JVP, DP or the SLMC, as agreed.
The purpose of this article however is to argue the point as it has done that President Rajapaksa doesn’t have a people’s mandate or a moral right to contest again and his candidacy, potential or otherwise, should be challenged morally, politically and even legally in the courts of law.
Mahinda Chinthana 2010 started with the assertion “doing what I say, and saying what I set to do.” There was no ‘say’ for a third term. It also asserted “a ruler is only a temporary trustee and not an owner of your children’s heritage.” If that is the case, the ‘temporary trustee’ must go.
( April 21, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Unfortunately Bodu Bala Sena failed to learn Islamic teachings and it's principles from the authentic sources of Islam. Bodu Bala Sena chooses to pick up distorted forms of Islamic teaching from sheikh Google and it's cohorts of on lines teachers: BBS tried to make a fuss of Halal logo in Sri Lanka and yet, people came to know that BBS is dancing to the tunes of some political thugs in Sri Lanka.
Today Singhalese people are cleverer than these idiot monks and political thugs and most of them today interact with Muslim people here in Sri Lanka and Abroad. Today people have access to the true sources of knowledge through information technology and any false and distorted information can be verified through researching into right sources of knowledge. BBS thinks that people would believe them without any verification what they say and what they preach about Islam: falsehood has no place in this world and falsehood bound to perish. False propaganda of BBS is bound to perish soon.
They took some Quranic verses out of context to justify some of their false propaganda and yet they failed on that. Recently they begun to tell people that Quran preach to steals and rob the property of Non- Muslim people: This is mere fabrication and false accusation: Nowhere in Quran tells like this to steal property of any human beings or nowhere it tells to harm any non- Muslim people:
Jews and Christian people have been living with Muslim since the time of prophetic period until today. Muslims and non- Muslims have been living together for centuries in many Muslim countries non of Jewish or Christian community made such a non- sense accusation as BBS claims in Sri Lanka. Non- Muslims lived under Ottoman Empire and they never made such non- sense complaints and they lived under Muslim Spain and they never made such complaint.
Today look at demography of Non- Muslims living in Muslim countries. A large percentage of non- Muslim live in Muslim countries do Muslims in those countries rob the properties of non- Muslims as BBS claims: what a fabrication is this? Who will believe in these none- sense?
Do they have any common sense before they make such non- sense accusations?
Contrary to this false accusation Quran tells Muslims to respect non- Muslims and tells humanity is one and all beings are equal no one human being has superiority over others except through God conciseness and piety.
BBS with its racist agenda fabricates the true facts of the Quran and twists the meaning of Islam what is then this so called doctrine of Thaqiyah?
This concept was practiced by some deviated Shia sect in Islamic history and most of Islamic scholars modern as well as classical consider his concept as a religious innovation and it had no place in Islam at all: even deviated Shia sect never tells to rob and steal properties of non- Non-Shia people. BBS blindly accused Muslim people of spitting on the tea they make for Singhalese people. No sound person would accept such accusation. This is most fabricated childish accusation and indeed this blank fabrication. Muslims have been running restaurant business for many centuries in SL. It should be noted that Muslims people are somewhat good in making tasty food and for that reason people in Sri Lanka prefer Muslim restaurants. No complaint was made about this by any customer in the past and yet, how did BBS come up with this fabrication? This is intentionally done to tarnish Muslims and to distract Non-Muslim people from Muslim restaurants and yet, public knows that truth and they would not bow down to this stupidity of BBS.
BBS not only insulted Muslims but also insulted all other minority communities: like that of Christian and Tamil communities. Look at the way BBS told off some of MPs in Parliament in Sri Lanka. The general Secretary of BBS spoke about some of MPS with vulgar worlds and sentences: I do not even dare to mention some of these words and descriptions. Some of MPS are badly humiliated by these BBS thugs in public and some of Senor Police officers badly told off in public. MPS and Senor police officers had some respect and dignity in public eyes and BBs had shattered those respects for politicians and yet, President has no interest to protect honour of his colleague in cabinet. BBS can be charged with hundreds of offences within the constitution of Sri Lanka and yet, I should mention some of them here that in expectation one day justice would be done.
The general secretary of BBS should be charged with many offences.
For insulting many members of parliament for no reason,
For inciting communal hatred,
For spreading false accusations about Islam and Christianity,
For perverting course of justice,
For insuring law enforcement agents in SL,
For making mockery of court of law in SL,
For bring shame for Buddhists and Buddhism in SL,
It is shame on BBS and its supporters to spread falsehood. It is done intentionally with deliberation to incite public against Muslims in Sri Lanka and yet, public in Sri Lanka knows well BBS is dancing to the tunes of some political thugs. BBS gives bad name for the good name of Buddhist people, and their religious leadership. It is interest of Buddhism that BBS should be banned and should be taken to court sooner rather than later. It should be punished in the court of law for its crimes and racism: for its false accusations and fabrications: justice should be done so that that next generation of people in Sri Lanka would learn lessons. Moreover, monkhood of this mad monk should be taken away in the interest of Buddhism. The general secretary of BBS cannot be a real monk and I do not think any real monk would speak with such vulgar word and sentences. He brings shame to his teachers and to his family and he bring shame to the entire Buddhist communities in the world.
I wonder why religious leadership of Buddhism in Sri Lankan maintain silence on this issue so far. Is it afraid of political leadership of this country? Time will have its own answers.
| by Dirgha Raj Prasai Views expressed in this article are author own
( April 21, 2014, Kathmandu, Sri Lanka Guardian) China, a largest country in East Asia, has emerged as most influential global power. Historical evidences reveal that China established commercial and cultural exchange with western world civilizations from ancient times. Since Chinese civilization began with agriculture that was principle of mode of production for thousands of years, has close connection with nature and is being sustained with such a long history.
There are 56 nationalities in China, of which the largest group by far is the “Han”. Han and Tang contributed greatly to Chinese culture. China’s political, legal and civil service systems were established during those two dynasties. China, during Han Dynasty initiated building strong relation with her neighbor countries. Silk Road opened during the period was key point to link China with rest of the world. The traders did spread Chinese silk, porcelain, tea to other parts of Asia even Europe.
Confucius 551-478 B.C. was famous and probably one of the best known Chinese historical figures of all times. Confucius lived in the state of Lu (King who ignored Confucius’ teaching). In those times, the Shang Dynasty had come to end and China was in a state of disintegration upheaval. However next generations recognized Confucius’ wisdoms. Confucius proverb states- ‘All works of life are lowly, only the scholar stands high’. The religion of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucius’s wisdom and Islam has been influential in the historical and cultural development in China. However religious influence on Chinese has narrowed since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. During the Cultural Revolution, all religious beliefs were denounced and it is said that number of religious monuments were destroyed. However, farther most people in China claim to hold the religious belief. And, then Chinese Government recognized Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestant and Catholicism as official religions.
It seems that Christians may play the conspirator role to divide China in the name of religion. The Chinese former President Hun Jig Tao had said- 'It is important for all of us to focus on saving the Chinese culture in countering and being alert towards the long term strategy predicated on the Western Christian policy of spreading their culture and views in China and ultimately disintegrating China.' mindful of the purpose of Christian missions, European Union, Indian and American intelligence agencies– Raw and CIA– respectively, had given a speech in regards Christian policy at the Chinese Communist Party's central meeting held in October 2011.
Although China has long history but authentic historical evidences can be found after 200 BC. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang-Ti (221 BC) who destroyed the Zhou dynasty and proclaimed himself as China's first emperor, captured the state power and destroyed all the China's historical sources, materials, inscriptions and temples. The King Qin Shi Huang-Ti had expanded Chinese territory to Mongolia in the north and annexed many places. He constructed the Great wall for the security purpose. Now, the Great wall’s various sections have a combined length of more than 6,700 Kilometers. Starting in Hebei Providence at Shanhai Pass, it stretches across China’s Northern providences before ending the Jiayu Pass in Gabsu Provience. The Great Wall is listed as one of the world’s cultural heritage sites and regarded by many as one of the modern wonders of the world. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang-Ti first gave the order to connect and extend existing walls to form one continuous line of defense. The construction project over exceedingly difficult terrain and without modern machinery makes it a truly amazing architectural wonder. More than 13 accessible sections of the Great Wall lie in the mountains north of Beijing within the municipality. The most well-known are the sections of Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, Juyongguan, Gubeikou, Huanghua and Jinlinshan.
During my recent China trip, I accompanied with my family-Sanubaba, climbed Badaling site of Great wall on 2nd April of 2014. An old Chinese saying goes-‘you are not a real man if you haven’t climbed the Great Wall’. It is largest human creation existing on this earth. It is wonderful. It stands as a symbol of human will power. I truly admire centuries’ long continuation of building such a huge construction. It is especially noteworthy when several dynasties rose to and fell down from the throne during its construction. But, there was a single concern - the security of nation, and single mission – protection from foreign invaders. What a brave patriotism!
After visiting ancient Chinese monument, I wanted to visit modern time creation and construction of China. Next day on 3rd Apr. 2014 we decided, to visit the Olympic Stadium of Beijing. This is no doubt, most interesting part of the 2008 Olympics Park. Opening and closing ceremonies of 2008 Olympics were held in this stadium. The stadium is bowl-shaped structure and nicknamed the ‘Bird’s Nest’ due to its design. It is, built with a capacity for 100,000; and covers an area of 204,100 square meters. I was impressed not only with its architecture but also with ultra modern technologies applied here. It is symbol of advancement of Chinese technology. Every Chinese people would feel proud of this historic place.
Again with an enthusiasm to observed ancient Chinese culture and philosophy, we visited the Temple of Heaven which is one of the must-see destinations in Beijing. It was first built in 1420, and was constructed during the late Ming and then Qing dynasties. The emperor used come here to worship Shangdi- the God of Heaven and pray for good harvest. The Temple of Heaven is designed thematically, with the round–shaped walls of the main building represent heaven and square-shaped wall at the base represent earth. The complex is only symbolically laid out on a north-south axis. Ancient Chinese people considered living by the rules of nature to be very important; only then can one obtain good future.
Currently my daughter and son in law are studying in China, so obviously, I was curious about Chinese education system. We visited one of the top universities in China- ‘Tsinghua University’. I was informed that most incredible human resource including the top political leaders of China were produced from this university. I believe that recent Chinese achievements in science and economy must have been seeded in terms of education several years back.
Being quite impressed with Chinese rapid growth and developments, I had a doubt how they are maintaining environment and protecting greenery with such huge human population. Many cities in the world are just dry forests of concrete. There is enough greenery in the city because there are several parks and garden all over the Beijing metropolitan. We along with some Nepalese students in Beijing visited Beijing Botanical Garden. I found the garden as a live museum of plant diversity. In particular some ornamental flowers plant attracted me. It is very nice place to watch nature, get relax and I think it would be wonderful field for education research in this field. We also visited Beijing zoo, one of greater zoo in the world. Not only Beijing climate animals, but also entirely different climate animal species are maintained securely and safely. Visiting these places I felt so happy and satisfied that China is paying to attention to environmental protection, but also developing these places as tourist destinations.
Once you visit Beijing China, you would have great interest to be in Tiananmen Square. On 11th Tiananmen Square, located in the heart of Beijing is the largest city, 880 Miters long 500 Miters wide. The Gate was built in 1417 and served as a rostrum for announcing the enthronement of new emperors and issuing edicts to assembled officials. Top candidates in the imperial exams were also honored there and prisoners were sentenced to death at the foot of the gate. The gate was closed after the end of monarchical system and then from stop Tiananmen Gate. April of 2014, we visited Tiananmen Square area which is center of Beijing. Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao is at the south side of Tiananmen Square. I paid my respect to Chairman Mao, a great historical leader of China, in front of his open coffin in Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. This Hall is divided into three Halls. Mao’s body lies in a crystal coffin in one of the halls surrounded by fresh bouquets of various flowers and grasses. On the other side of the Tiananmen Square, there is Forbidden City which is called Palace Museum where from Mao Zedong proclaimed that the People’s Republic of China ‘Chinese people had of stood up’ and announced ‘Chinese people had stood up’ while standing atop Tiananmen Gate, on October 1, 1949.
The Tiananmen Squire is the biggest and most important place of China where The Great Hall of people, the President Office, National Peoples’ Congress Hall, national and international Guest Meeting Hall, Banquet hall and many official works and activities calibrates. The building of Great Hall erected in 1959. The great Auditorium behind the Central Hall seats 10,000. The Banqueting Hall is a huge hall with 5,000 seats.
The Communism was considered as the gift for the poor Chinese people. The 1917 October Revolution in Russia was the blast that sent the shock waves of Marxism to the Chinese people and successfully guided the Bolshevik Revolution led of 1919 trampled on the rights of the Chinese people. And then gradually after long people’s war, with the continuous struggle of Chinese nationalists the People Republic of China was founded in 1949. The great nationalist Communist leader Mao Zedong made the historical proclamation with People’s Republic of China 1949. The old Beiping became Beijing and was declared the national capital of unified nation under the command of the Chinese Communist Party. The great Proletariat Cultural Revolution was launched in the middle of 1966 with a call to rid the nation of the ‘old culture, old customs, old thinking’. Temples, Churches and many of the nation’s cultural sites were defaced or destroyed in the name of Cultural Revolution.
The Cultural Revolution ended after the death of Mao Zedong in Sep. 1976 and fall of Gang of Four in Nov. of the same year. Following the death of Chairman Mao, with the rise of Deng Xiaoping, China was ushered into an era of political and economic reform and opening up. The winds of change across the entire cities as private enterprises were endorsed. Politically, Chinese people began to demand the standards of living improved as the economy began to soar and industry prospered. This overall and integrated development and progress has made China an immerging power in all over the world. The innovative Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said- 'Poverty is not socialism, to be rich is glorious.'
Since the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China has all along stood for the development of diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges with all countries and against aggression, hegemony and power politics. The Chinese people need peace and development more than anything else and hold them the dearest. China has committed itself to equality, friendship, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation with all countries in the world in keeping with the tide of history, and to self-reliance, reform, innovation and scientific approach to development while transcending the traditional models, so as to achieve a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development and build a harmonious socialist society. China, not only in the field of trade and business, but also became able to develop science and technology. Moreover China is heading towards integrated and multilateral development.
The leader Deng put forward the concept of building socialism with Chinese characteristics 31 years ago. Even after the death of Deng Xiaoping, his policies were continued and the result is present powerful and influential China. President Jiang Zemin (1993-2002) focused on substantial developmental with reforms, and returned Hong Kong from the United Kingdom and Macau from Portugal, and improved its relations with the outside world. President Hu Jintao (2002-2012) led China for peaceful development journey from world’s seventh economy to second largest world economy Since March 2013; the Communist Party of China has appointed Xi Jinping as General Secretary and then The President of China. President Xi Jinping succeeded President Hu Jintao.
The president Xi Jinping, opened the dream depended on, I) the people, and benefits and equal opportunities to them, II) united strength of the people as an invincible force with wisdom and power, and III) having dreams together benefiting from national development. Taking united strength of the people as an invincible force with wisdom and power. The wealth or prosperity gap between the rural and urban sections of the population constrains a sizeable member of people from dreaming big. Xi's Chinese dream also takes care of this section of people and makes them able to dream. China has ranked as the second biggest economy in the world. China is expected to realize its goal of becoming a moderately prosperous country by 2020.
( April 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Sunday newspapers carried credible reports that the Presidential election would be held anytime after November this year, most probably in January 2015 while parliamentary elections would be held before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year 2015. What this means is that over the coming year, the serious political participant or student of politics should think almost entirely in terms of three subjects:
(i) Sri Lanka’s external relations (the OHCHR probe, relations with the incoming Indian administration),
(ii) The Sri Lankan elections and
(iii) North –South or Tamil-Sinhala relations in the light of (i) & (ii).
The crisis in Sri Lanka’s external relations can be successfully addressed only if there is a change for the better in the political behaviour of the regime, which may depend on a change in regime composition. If there is no change for the better, we may expect a dramatic denouement along the lines of what I would term ‘1987 Plus’.
Simply out, the full and expeditious implementation of the 13th amendment would enable us to secure the support of the new Indian administration and neutralise one front. We could then secure the support of India to face and blunt the buzz saw of the international inquiry originating on the Western front. The 13th amendment is the smallest price we have to pay. The window for a settlement based on the implementation of 13 A won’t remain open for much longer. If we do not implement it fully and expeditiously, if the Sinhala hardliners prevent it, the next stop will be externally-driven federalization or worse. If we alienate the incoming Indian administration Sri Lanka will be caught on two fronts. An economic squeeze and legal pressures from the west and a push on Tamil autonomy or more from India will mean a siege that Sri Lanka cannot sustainably resist.
President Rajapaksa knows much of this or intuits it, despite the sunshine stories given to him by his clan and courtiers. Hence the likely timetable for elections. The President is attempting to outrun the external pressures. He obviously does not wish to run for re-election with an economic squeeze in place. Therefore the Presidential election will probably be held before March 2015, when the OHCHR is to report in writing to the UN HRC about the progress of the 2014 resolution, but after November 2014, when he passes the four year mark.
The Opposition which seeks to capitalise on mass disaffection in the wake of sanctions will be unable to simply because the economic crunch will follow, not precede the crucial election.
If the crisis in Sri Lanka’s external relations is not to cause a crash in Sri Lanka’s economy and the living standards of the citizenry, the regime’s policies on the Tamils, India, human rights, good governance and accountability will have to change. The LLRC’s recommendations on reconciliation and limited accountability, as well as the 13th amendment, must be implemented within compressed time frames.
The elections of 2015 and the run-up to them can be utilised to unfreeze the situation, prise open political space, catalyse reform and improve regime behaviour. This requires certain shifts in the Opposition, which can only be undertaken by the Opposition itself.
The most crucial data in preparing for the election came in a poll by the local affiliate of an international polling giant commissioned by the LBO, published in the LMD and reproduced in the Daily FT. The data revealed that 95% of the citizenry regard the West as having double standards on human rights and 85% stand opposed to any external inquiry into Sri Lanka’s human rights record. This is far in excess of the percentage of Sinhala Buddhists in the island.
It is huge patriotic-nationalist ocean of opinion that the regime frolics in but has proven unable to fully utilise because of its poor performance in Geneva over the past three years. However, the enormously widespread nature of anti-external interventionist sentiment among the citizenry almost certainly puts paid to the prospect of a win by the UNP as it stands, given that its spokesperson Mr Lakshman Kiriella called upon Sri Lanka to cooperate with the OHCHR probe.
If Ranil Wickremesinghe or Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is the Opposition candidate, the margin of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory— the gap between Mahinda and either Ranil or CBK— will be roughly equivalent or even more than the percentage of the vote that either of them obtain. Right now the gap between Ranil’s UNP and Mahinda’s UPFA is larger than the percentage that the UNP has obtained.
While there is considerable disaffection within the SLFP at the glass ceiling imposed by the rigidification of clan-based rule, this disaffection is limited to the party’s barons; the old guard whose upward mobility has been unfairly blocked. Just as their grievances are, these barons cannot take their vote bases away from Mahinda Rajapaksa and switch them over to Chandrika Kumaratunga.
There is another quite salient factor which is swept under the rug by the pro-Chandrika ideologues and ‘intellectuals’. In her heyday CBK ran against and beat two of the weakest candidates the UNP ever put up: Mrs Srima Dissanaike who was not even a UNP member when she was pressed into service after the assassination of her husband Gamini Dissanaike by the Tigers (1994) and the incomparable Mr Wickremesinghe (1999). Even in her political prime — which is way past her— CBK never climbed into the ring with a candidate weighing in with as historic an achievement and as an organic a mass appeal as Mahinda Rajapaksa.
As for a Buddhist monk as an opponent of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the less said the better.
What happens if the Opposition gets it wrong and fields any one of these three non-starters against Mahinda? This brings us to the question: What is really at stake at this election? I submit that it is the margin of victory. Mahinda Rajapaksa will most probably win the upcoming presidential election and it is logical that he would do so. If the country gave two terms to CBK who signally failed to overcome the main challenge facing the nation, it is almost certain to give a third term to Mahinda Rajapaksa who did so. Personally I have no problem with that outcome, except that Mahinda Rajapaksa today is part of a package or a matrix— a ruling clan. To me Mahinda Rajapaksa (singular) is not the problem and is not even a problem— but The Rajapaksas (plural) are, and the perpetuation of their rule is.
If Mahinda wins by a handsome margin, he will in all probability purge the SLFP of dissident or suspected dissident elements, give nomination to those who are loyal to the Rajapaksa clan, thereby remaking the SLFP in the Rajapaksa image in a manner that secures the succession, and have a snap parliamentary election capitalising on the momentum of his own win. The ruling clan will secure a greater grip on the legislature than it has today.
If Ranil or CBK has been the Opposition candidate, the UNP’s defeat at the Presidential election will reduce its parliamentary representation by half the current, wholly inadequate number.
These facts, together with the greater grip that the ruling clan and its most hawkish member will have on the President himself, will almost certainly thwart the chances for re-opening of space and democratic reform. This means that the Sri Lankan state will be far less flexible, far more brittle and far less smartly resistant to external pressures from all quarters. The State will splinter at its North-Eastern periphery and the country will be divided. Repression and anarchy will war with each other in the South.
Thus the stakes cannot be higher than those at the coming elections of 2015. What is needed to prevent a catastrophe is a Hassan Rowhani type Opposition candidacy: a moderate patriot/nationalist i.e. a liberal or progressive Sinhala Buddhist.
Even today, only that subset of the Opposition with a patriotic profile and track record showed growth at the recently concluded provincial election: Sarath Fonseka’s DP, the JVP and Sajith Premadasa in Tissamaharama/Hambantota.
Though they will be very difficult to withstand, economic sanctions won’t bring the desired result for the West. In Iran it did because there was an election down the road. In Sri Lanka, a regime re-legitimised by electoral victories will crush economically driven street protests with an iron fist, on the pretext of preventing externally motivated regime change ( what used to be called ‘ destabilisation’ in the 1970s and ’80s).
The only thing that’s work to improve rather than worsen the situation is not economic sanctions but electoral competition.
What analysts and commentators have failed to grasp is that the provincial council results show something new in Sri Lanka’s political landscape: for the first time, the Opposition is multi-polar. To re-state it, the overall national situation is not dictatorial but uni-polar (‘one-party dominance’), while the Opposition has turned multi-polar. The reasons for national uni-polarity and Oppositional multi-polarity are the same—the electoral implosion of the opposition under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe. If (a) the Opposition goes into the 2015 elections under the very leader who has caused the drastic degeneration of the UNP and the splintering of the opposition, or (b) if it fields Chandrika whom the UNP voters will not cast their ballots for and UNP grassroots workers will not work for, the regime and its oligarchic character will be strengthened at the two elections. If so the country will have a crash landing.
Let me take the bull by the horns. Who would be a Hassan Rowhani type candidate? President Rajapaksa retains the option of fully re-enfranchising Sarath Fonseka and tempting him into a ‘wild card’ candidacy or keeping him in the grey zone. In any case, Gen. Fonseka is hardly a moderate, liberal or progressive Sinhala Buddhist. Therefore I can think of only three possibilities: Sajith Premadasa (with Karu Jayasuriya as No 2), Karu Jayasuriya (with Sajith Premadasa as No 2), and Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
If Sajith and Karu deadlock each other and Ranil emerges the candidate with either one in support, then the country would be better served by rallying round an out-of-the box presidential candidacy from the Left Opposition: Anura Kumara Dissanayake. I regard him as a far more serious moral, ethical and ideological challenge to the Rajapaksa Raj, than Ranil, CBK or Reverend Sobitha.
If and only if there is a Hassan Rowhani-type candidacy, Mahinda will have a real race on his hands. If his margin of victory is whittled down, the dominoes will begin to fall at the parliamentary election. The two-thirds majority will be lost, opening the way for the reintroduction of the independent commissions and control of finances. The oligarchy can be dismantled through ‘salami tactics’. The resultant return of rationality and realism will resolve the crisis in Sri Lanka’s relations with its neighbours and the world.
“My opinion is that nobody can make men responsible for the violence against women. Women are responsible for it…”
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa
( April 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Aminal al-Filali was fifteen when she was raped.
According to Morocco’s penal-code, a rapist could escape prosecution if he married his victim. Amina did not want to marry her rapist; but the rapist was willing, her parents were willing and the judge was willing.
After several months of abusive marriage, Amina drank rat-poison. She was just sixteen.
Amina’s suicide caused a national uproar against the country’s ‘rape marriage law’. In January 2014, Morocco’s parliament unanimously approved the repealing of that archaic and unjust law .
Sri Lanka, in the second decade of the 21st Century, is planning to enact her own ‘rape marriage law’.
According to Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs Tissa Karalliyadda, under the proposed law a rapist will be able to marry his victim, if she consents. If the victim is underage, the rapist can marry her when she is eighteen .
This is the Rajapaksa solution to the growing menace of rape/child-rape – not tougher punishments or speedier justice, but enabling the rapist to escape punishment by marrying his victim.
If enacted, this law will have a particularly deadly effect on child victims, many of whom might be compelled by familial and societal pressure to marry their rapists – assuming the perpetrators are not already married or not too closely related to the victim. In a situation where the victim is financially dependent on her family (and the absolute majority of eighteen-year-olds are financially dependent), any clause about ‘consent’ will be a mere fig leaf for a forced marriage. The rapist will escape punishment, the family will be saved from ‘social stigma’ while the victim will be condemned to a lifetime of abuse (especially since under Lankan law martial rape is not a crime). Instead of living with the memory of the nightmare, she will be forced to live the nightmare, everyday of her life.
According to a study by Lawyers for Human Rights and Development (LHRD), “since 2008 there had been a trend in imposing suspended sentences in cases of rape and child molestation…. even convicts of gang rape of underage females including school children had been given suspended sentences by courts.” A recent UNICEF study identified inadequacies in existing laws as a major cause of the growing epidemic of child rape/abuse: “The procedures for investigation and prosecution of child abuse, witness protection and support for the victim are grossly inadequate…. The entire system needs to be assessed and rebuilt, through all the stages, with efficiency as a key priority…” Not only is the law inadequate; it moves at glacial pace. During a recent parliamentary debate, UNP parliamentarian Ajith P Perera pointed out that a rape case usually takes around seven to ten years .
A law to protect children is reportedly in the making but, according to unnamed official sources, “provisions for witness protection and special procedures to deal with child rape cases were not among the new recommendations” . Add the ‘rape marriage provision’ and the law will become a veritable green light to would be rapists.
In June 2012, the Minister Karaliyadde expressed a far more sane, sensible and realistic opinion on the problem of rape. “I noticed the kind of minor sentence the perpetrators are getting…. We need tougher laws….. ” His current advocacy of a bad law is consonant with the Rajapaksa regime’s attitude towards rape (including child rape) which is characterised by ignorance, denial, distortion and trivialisation. Rajapaksa kinsman, Ambassador Jaliya Wickremesuriya, smilingly informed The Washington Times that rape is not a problem in Sri Lanka: “Rapes, this and that, is not taking place…. We have very disciplined people in Sri Lanka…. Like any other country we have couple of cases… I don’t say its zero…” His uncle, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, said that men cannot be blamed for rape and that the fault lies with women. “The way men view women should be changed. Only women can bring about that change” he opined at an event to mark the International Women’s Day no less.
Research indicates otherwise. According to a recent UN Study, 14.5% of Lankan men admitted raping a woman who was not their partner; just under half said they have perpetrated rape more than once. And nearly three quarters of these self-declared rapists identified a sense of ‘sexual entitlement’ as their main motivation; entertainment came second and punishment third .
But Rajapaksas are never hobbled by facts, not when they have a myth to propagate. And blaming the victims is a favourite Rajapaksa tactic. Tamils are exclusively responsible for all their ills; Muslims and Christians are responsible for the attacks on their communities/mosques/churches. The people of Weliweriya got shot through their own fault. Basically in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka bad things happen only when people are unruly and disobedient. Tamils oppose discrimination, Muslims and Christians insist on following their creeds and the people of Weliweriya do not want to drink poisoned water. They all asked for it, as do women and children who are raped, including the 75 year old woman and the barely five months old baby who joined the ever-growing list of victims last year.
And the UNP Parliamentarians were attacked because, instead of enjoying Avurudu bliss in some salubrious location, they poked their collective noses into Rajapaksa business. They were uppity and opinionated; they had it coming.
Historian AGE Blake points out that “every civilisation has at its core a pool of creativity aligned with a set of values” .
The Rajapaksas are creating their own dominant value system. Patriotism – as defined and interpreted by the Rajapaksas - is now the greatest virtue. Any concession to or accommodation with minority communities is deemed unnecessary if not dangerous. Fundamental rights, democratic freedoms and progressive values are rejected as Western imports, inimical to national sovereignty and inconsonant with cultural values.
Casinos – that is quite another matter.
The German couplet, ‘If you do not want to be my brother, I will hammer your skull’ is how the Rajapaksas relate to the nation and the world. They are blasé towards ordinary crime and disposed to welcome the criminally-inclined because crime and criminals are indispensable in controlling dissent and punishing opponents. The pistol-packing Hambantoa Mayor described himself as a ‘toy soldier’. He is right. Murderers, rapists and thugs, they all have a bright future in Rajapaksa-Sri Lanka, as ministers, chairmen and mayors – puppets/toys, weapons and shields.
Under Rajapaksa rule, Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly antediluvian on a host of critically important areas, from democracy to devolution, from economics to socio-cultural issues. The naked attack on UNP parliamentarians and the proposed ‘rape marriage law’ which penalises victims and rewards perpetrators are symbolic and symbiotic of this national retrogression.
Lankan society in general and the Opposition in particular have a choice to make: resistance or subjugation. Unite to defeat the obscene ‘rape marriage law’; form a broader delegation consisting of representatives of all opposition parties, civil society and local and foreign media, and make another fact-finding visit to Hambantoa.
Or let the Rajapaksa tsunami devalue and destroy everything that is good and decent about this country.
( April 20, 2014, Florance, Sri Lanka Guardian) What’s the punishment for a 300 million euro tax fraud? If you are in Italy and your name is Silvio Berlusconi it is about a week hanging out with people your age.
A court in Milan ruled earlier this week that as his sentence the 77-year-old billionaire media mogul and thrice Italian PM would be performing community service in the small northern town of Cesano – “once a week and for a period of no less than four consecutive hours” – in a centre for the elderly and disabled.
The ruling came eight months after his conviction for tax fraud was made definitive by Italy’s supreme court. In August last year the country’s top court had found him guilty of having had a role in allowing his Mediaset company – which has a virtual terrestrial TV monopoly in Italy – to fraudulently lower its tax bill by buying U.S. film and television rights at inflated prices.
Last August, the supreme court judges handed down a four-year sentence, but immediately commuted it to a year.
Under this week’s ruling, the poor ex-premier will be subject to a curfew of 11pm and will not be able to leave the region of Lombardy.
Except, that is, to go to his home in the centre of Rome – and he will be able to do that every week from Tuesday to Thursday, providing he is back at his vast Arcore palace – the venue of his bunga bunga parties located just 40 kilometres down the road – by 11pm on the Thursday.
Furthermore, the sentence could be further cut for good behaviour to nine months.
It is not just the punishment that is dead soft.
Just how appropriate is it? His job may entail entertaining the elderly guests of the home – and his past life as a cruise ship crooner will no doubt help.
But according to Article 47 of the Prison Administration Act community service should only be offered to the criminal “in cases where it can be assumed that the measure…contributes to the rehabilitation of the offender and ensures the prevention of the danger of committing other crimes,” Rossella Guadagnini highlights in the Italian journal Micromega.
As Al Jazeera points out Berlusconi claims total innocence of any crime he has ever been charged. And he is currently involved in two other court cases.
In a trial set to start on June 20, he will appeal a seven-year prison sentence and lifetime ban from parliament for having sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute and abusing his official powers. He is also a defendant in a trial for allegedly paying a $4m bribe to get a centre-left senator to join his party in 2006 in a move that helped bring down a rival government.
As a indicator of the seriousness of the crime of robbing a heavily indebted state blind, the punishment speaks for itself. Tax evasion – running at 130 billion euros annually officially but double that figures according to some sources – is bleeding the public coffers dry. The result is two trillion euros in public debts, which are being used as the excuse for swinging cuts to welfare and public services, privatisation, roll back of labour rights, and attacks on public servants’ wages.
Italian businessmen with access to expensive lawyers and good political links (any serious player in Italy has them) will have been taking due note of Berlusconi’s case.
The worst of it is that, as the Guardian reports, although he has been booted out of the Senate and is now banned from office, he’ll still be ‘allowed time’ to continue his political activities – nominally behind the scenes but no doubt very visible on Italians screens – as head of Forza Italia. The party is the third largest political force in the country, behind PM Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party and Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, according to recent polls. The first appointment is the European elections next month.
Italy has lost two decades under the rule of Berlusconi, who entered politics in person in 1994 when his political protectors – notably former right-wing Socialist PM Bettino Craxi - melted away under the scrutiny of the same ‘communist’ judges Berlusconi has so long railed against. But if this is the best the toghe rosse can achieve, it can only be said that communism is well and truly dead in Italy.
Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian |
( April 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The President has made a final decision on the dates of Uva provincial council election and the presidential election. Accordingly, the Uva provincial council election is speculated to be held on mid-September this year and presidential election on January 30 next year, reports ' Mawbima' newspaper.
President's Adviser on Astrology, Deshabandu Sumanadasa Abeygunawardene says according to the President's horoscope, he would experience an auspicious and powerful period only after 15 January 2015.
The President, who is born under the zodiac sign Virgo, in his horoscope will have Jupiter exalted and move to the 11th house by 19 June. "This is a very auspicious movement but due to the retrograde movement of Jupiter in December, the good fortune of this movement will only be experienced after 15 January next year,” he has said.
Accordingly, following the New Year vacation the seniors of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) are to be informed of the election organizing activities and will be advised take measures to activate grass root level branch organizations of SLFP which are currently inactive and develop them.
The aim is to assess the maximum power the government possesses at the Uva provincial council election and it is also revealed that several crucial changes are to be made in relation to electoral organizers.
( April 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Avurudu week escape of three exotic macaws from the Janadipathi Mandiraya (President’s House) was to cause some flutter.It was none other than President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who noticed that the birds were missing when he went to feed them the morning after he returned from Avurudu festivities in the South.
One of the birds, a female, was re-captured from the Defence Services College at Kompannaveediya (Slave Island).
Two others, female birds, were located in Modera but a re-capture became a difficult task. They gave the slip to those attempting to re-capture them.
Soon an ornithologist in the re-capture team realised there was a way out. He brought a male macaw to the scene and attracted the duo. Soon the two females were drawn in.
( April 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) has come under the limelight regarding the events that transpired in Wilpattu. Many believe that the BBS is acting in this manner due to the backing of a powerful politician. There are others who believe that there is a certain service that is being done by this group of monks and others raising these issues. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, the Executive Committee member of the BBS Dilantha Withanage said that, even if they were killed or criticised by anyone, there will be a day when the people of this country will realise that what they do is for a good cause. He said the BBS had fought for the prohibition of cattle slaughter as, according to Buddhism, it is considered a sin.
Following are excerpts:
Q. How would you respond to allegations that your organisation is an extremist organisation?
A. If we are to be branded as an extremist organisation, then one must cite reasons for doing so. We are not an extremist group but we are causalistic, believing in the laws of cause and effect. Everything we have said has been based on proper reason and evidence. For instance, when we raised the issues in Wilpattu and the Halal issue, these were all based on facts. We tried talking to the respective parties on the issue, but, when there was no response, we told the media. When that course of action failed, we took to the streets. We have never obstructed public life or inconvenienced the ordinary people in our actions against injustice. We have been very transparent in our actions.
Q. It is also said that you are acting so boldly due to the backing of powerful politicians. Is this true?
A. No, certainly not. I personally live in constant fear for my life and have been threatened. It is a blatant lie that we have political protection as there is no one to protect us. The only faith and strength we have is that truth is on our side and we believe in social justice. We are blessed with social capital where people believe in us. We have never robbed anyone or raped or killed. We are not afraid to die, and we have that strength. The reason people think we have political backing is because we had invited a certain powerful figure to open one of our centres, but, in fact, the BBS was not even directly involved. Our main monk Rev Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero is now 34. At the age of 27, he went alone to the midst of a rally held by prominent politicians and told them to go and ask Prabhakaran to stop the war and not the government, without any fear. Even at that time it was the social clout that he had and nothing else.
Q. Where does your organization get its funding?
A. Some say we are getting our funds from Israel but all these are lies. Anyone who has a problem or question regarding our funding can come and see for themselves as we are very open with our actions. We have no hidden accounts and no one helps us in any monetary form. We are blessed with the backing of the people and the temples as even the vehicles and food is all provided to us by them. We have no overheads and extra expenses. If anyone was to organise a protest or gather thousands of monks or people they would certainly have to spend, but we are lucky, in that sense. We can do that with the minimum expenses. Our organisation has no capital in the form of cash but we have a social capital.
Q. You have recently criticised a prominent minister. Is that an accusation against a particular minister or the government as a whole?
A. What Rev Gnanasara meant was that this particular Muslim politician was acting in this way taking the might of a prominent politician. I personally do not like to attack or target any politician in person. I had to resign from my job due to threats. I can clearly state that what the reverend monk meant was that this particular Muslim politician had taken the might of the government and is acting this way.
Q. The BBS is now being seen by some organisations, such as the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC) based in Washington, as a Religious and Cult Terrorist Group. They claim that the BBS is organising various campaigns against the country’s minority Muslim and Christian communities. What is your response?
A. The information on the web site of the TRAC is all false and cannot be taken seriously. If one was to go through the TRAC web site, according to them, 70% of Sri Lankans are terrorists. I would not even call them a research and analysis consortium as they have not done any research before they have come to these conclusions. Most of the vehicles that we use in our work are provided to us by a Catholic person and the logistic work done in our office is done by a Sindhi person. We have certainly not terrorised any minority group in this country as they allege on their website. We only stand up against injustice in this country.
Q. It is stated that Lord Buddha got on with all other religions and that the BBS is acting contrary to his teachings. What is your response?
A. We could be categorised as an organisation that is acting contrary to Buddhist teachings if we had gone and harassed the Muslims or the Catholics in this country for no rhyme or reason. There is no restriction for any religion or person to follow any religion in this country. We even told the police to arrest us if we were breaking the law or acting in a destructive manner. One must research as to why our organisation raises these issues in society when no one else has the courage to do so. If we have been wrong in any instance we have never hesitated to apologise.
( April 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The sheer buffoonery and boorishness reigning predominant in Southern Sri Lanka’s political culture was well demonstrated during the New Year by two incidents exposing a rotten and corrupted political reality despite post-war development and the beautification of roads and cities.
The sacred veil that protects the BBS
Last week’s column dwelt on the first of these incidents when BBS monks stormed into a press conference being held by its critic, the Mahiyangana monk, Ven. Watarekke Vijitha Thero and were recorded live on television with their fists upraised. The press conference had been called to clarify a BBS-leveled allegation of the resettlement of war-affected Northern Muslims within the Wilpattu National Park.
The Wildlife Department clarified this week that no illegal construction had taken place within Wilpattu but that some displaced families had put up temporary shelters within the sanctuary bordering the Park. A magisterial inquiry has commenced into the incident on the complaints of the affected monk and others, into the abuse leveled at them by the BBS monks.
Quite amusingly, the police meanwhile claimed that they had not arrested the BBS monks due to concerns that religious and ethnic harmony may be affected. The question then remains as to whether the hate filled rhetoric of the BBS cannot be said to damage ethnic and religious harmony? What is the sacred veil that is drawn over their activities so that they are rendered impervious to the law? The political patronage afforded to the BBS by powerful individuals in the political hierarchy stands thoroughly exposed. Moreover, the total politicization of the police function in such instances should be the proper subject of comment and inquiry by retired and honourable police officers.
Is this was the Middle Path means?
Further arrant nonsense was to follow. We saw the BBS General Secretary Galagoda Gnanasara Thero, accompanied by his Secretary and Head of Research no less, holding numerous press conferences where it was pronounced that the BBS was following the middle path in ‘speaking firmly’ to ‘tame’ someone (see Daily Mirror, April 17th 2014).
Anyone who has had the doubtful privilege of listening to the abuse and hate filled rhetoric that the BBS engages in against minority communities would be forgiven for laughing out loud at this disingenuous explanation of what being ‘firm’ and what the middle path means. Indeed, one is tempted to ask as to what are the precise functions of this so-called BBS Head of Research? Perchance to collect and store various verbal variations of abuse if not outright filth which may be used on appropriate occasions, one may think.
This is not to say that the actions of Ministers such as Rishad Bathuideen have not been without provocation as we well saw in relation to the mob attacks on the Mannar Magistrate’s Court not so long ago. But there is legal recourse if illegal settlements are in issue. The solution does not lie in inflammatory and racist rhetoric uttered by monks.
And it must be asked as to why there is a deafening silence on the part of the Mahanayakes of the main chapters at least to condemn such behavior, particularly when advice is proffered and statements issued by the heads of the Sangha on diverse topics ranging from the 2014 Geneva resolution in regard to Sri Lanka to the proper functioning of the Sri Lanka Law College.
A toy soldier Mayor and his pistol
In the second instance that is focused on, pro-government political thugs in Hambantota with their sarongs (literally) upraised and brandishing pistols pounced on visiting opposition United National Party (UNP) parliamentarians engaged in a fact finding trip to the Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport. Stones and eggs were thrown at their vehicle. And a pistol brandishing Mayor of Hambantota was merely heard to say ludicrously that he had come there to protect the besieged parliamentarians, that it was only a toy pistol and that he was only a ‘toy soldier’ (see Daily Mirror, Saturday April 19th 2014). As pathetically ineffectual as the UNP may be as a functional opposition, it was a grim reflection as to how dismal our political culture has become.
These events are sharply distinguished from other manifold examples of abuse by the extreme impunity with which jeering abusers acted in the full glare of television cameras. In the wake of this ugly incident, the police spokesman assured that an inquiry will be held as to the non-action of the police in this regard. We await, of course, with bated breath, the outcome of such inquiries. But it must also be asked as to why only an investigation against the police? What about the pistol brandishing corpulent Mayor? Is he also protected by some magic veil?
Ignoring the dangers at our own peril
In sum, it may well be said that rampaging monks and political thugs operated under previous Presidencies as well. Yet the important distinction is that peoples’ rights were not so openly trodden upon with contempt and crudity. The law was not proved to be so totally ineffectual. The police did not shamelessly permit themselves to be recorded standing idly by while abuses occurred. Perpetrators did not act with such deliberate political patronage afforded to them. These are the crucial distinctions between then and now. Many of us are reluctant to awaken ourselves to realize the dangerous enormity of what is around us. Ignoring this however will only be at our own peril for these images and these crudities have increasingly come to symbolize what post-war Sri Lanka has been reduced to in the eyes of a critical world.
Inevitably, critics point to these incidents and ask as to how complex questions of justice, ethnic harmony and equity between communities can be achieved when the most basic civilities in political life are brushed aside? And they are right in their puzzlement. That much is surely clear.
( April 20, 2014, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) One of the strongest risk areas in developing democracies – including many Western countries that carry high status claiming to be democratic through external structures – is the loss of the value of work done by our previous generations and/or by those who are outsiders to us but are seen to be insiders. We need to measure outsiders through objectively measurable outcomes and insiders through attitudes. Often the two are mixed indiscriminately and the effects are damaging.
Yesterday, within a group of Sri Lankans, there were some observations about religious practices being not about attaining Moksha or about karma but about double entry book-keeping. I responded by stating ‘ the ‘double entry book keeping system’ keeps the balance going – so that we do not lose heart when we find that the personalities do not fit our romantic love pictures. Karma in fact is a double entry book keeping system. The same transaction becomes debit and credit not at the same time – for different persons but for the one person at different times. Nirvana is achieved when we are able to still our mind and not go down with debits nor go up with credits. That’s when we realize we are naturally wholesome – in full balance’
In the consciousness of the above I read Rita Banerji’s article ‘Gandhi Used His Position To Sexually Exploit Young Women’ - published in Sri Lanka Guardian. To me Ms Banerji is an ‘outsider’ to Gandhi as one who fought for independence for his home group. One who feels the need to use objectively measurable evidence – is an outsider.
In terms of Sexuality – it is not surprising to me that Gandhi as a ‘free’ Hindu would have been open about his own practices. We Hindus have included sexuality into our religious path – through Kama Sutra and other similar works of philosophy. Directly pictured by primary level readers without the respect earned by biographers who share with us the inner workings of their minds – such works of philosophy would seem vulgar. Even Jesus was not spared by such cheap writers.
Using my own life – I have balanced some fall in status as being due to my past karma - even though as per my own assessment of myself – I am a respectable wife. There are however those who are ‘outsiders’ to democratic family structures - who tend to reduce my ‘family’ and social status – by using my status as a twice married woman – which would be considered to be a strong asset in truly democratic society. Let’s say I was like Gandhi in my previous birth – enjoying more sexual pleasures than my wife did and yet carrying higher social status than my wife due to my social work of high value. By being transparent of his practices – Gandhi was actually removing the credit from those to whom such practices were inappropriate and sinful to some minds. By being Transparent, Gandhi was declaring that he did not feel guilty or bad beyond the level revealed by him. Hence had I been like Gandhi in my previous work – I would now ‘accept’ that to those who are driven by the seen – I would be a weak wife compared to a wife who married only once. Take for example Throupathi – the heroine in the great Indian epic Mahabharatham. Throupathi married all five Paandava brothers and according to the author that was because at that time and age the qualities that Throupathi prayed for could not have been present in one prince in those active royal circles. But during time of conflict, the Gowravar (cousins of Paandavar) called Throupathi a whore. Even though they were cousins by blood relationship – they were outsiders due to their ‘attitude’ to Paandavar who did include the Gowravar as family.
Relatives who keep asking for proof – are confirming that they live close to the ‘border’ with outsiders.
Due to time based distance – Gandhi has become an ‘outsider’ to the likes of Ms Rita Banerji whose name suggests she is currently Indian. But, by taking the essence of Gandhi’s life as a crusader for Independence for the whole country and beyond – I believe I have become an insider to Gandhi family and my attitude towards Gandhi is very positive – that he is a respectable leader who achieved the goal of self-governance largely by disciplining himself. As insiders we are entitled to use the subjective path – which is quicker to attain the ultimate – Nirvana / Freedom. To the eye that is driven by the seen and the heard – it would seem wrong as per the rules applied at that level. Until we condition our minds to be strong enough to accept relevant information to assess seniors – we need to have the discipline not to separate a part of them and ‘tell’ them what to do – as this junior in Gandhi’s ashram seems to have done. This junior is reported to have written :
[ When first I came to the ashram I came with high respect for the ashram and its inmates and its way of life. All that was knocked off in 24 hours…After coming here I must confess to having lost a portion of the respect I had for you….You are the Father of our Nation…You have taken us so far along the path of freedom and independence…You must see the hand of God…in the fact that I have overcome my shyness.]
Having read the above passage – I placed myself in the shoes of the above junior and asked myself as to what I would have done if I had lost respect for the founders of an institution / nation. The response from within was – I would have stayed on for a purpose more important to me than the reasons that when given structure would give the organization a debit. To stay and successfully achieve my own goals – I would need to have more credits than the founders – so that I would not be indebted to another part of the organization / country. If I did not have such balancing strengths – I would have left to become an ‘outsider’. It was on this basis that I was going to return to Sri Lanka when Ms Pauline Hanson said in August 1998 – that we Asian migrants should go back to our countries of origin. But fellow victims of unjust racial discrimination asked me to stay. More than anything else – I felt endorsed by the Lord Himself for staying on and giving structure to my earned rights as an Equal Australian. There may be many migrants who are proud to be Australians. In my case, genuine Australians would be proud of me. I balance also the negatives of the migrant family – especially of Sri Lankan origin – so that at the total level - as Australians we are healthier.
The above article on Gandhi is by an outsider – using violent judgment by an immature mind seeking quick status. I would not / did not undertake the strong penances that Gandhi undertook in terms of food or sexual pleasures – except over short periods of time. Usually the costs I paid were more than the benefits I derived. This to my mind matured into natural ownership. To the group that endowed Gandhi with the status ‘Father of the Nation’ his path did not seem wrong enough to override the rights he had earned. As an individual - I am able to appreciate why he would have undertaken such a path under those circumstances. Gandhi seems to have needed to prove to himself that his mind could control his body to the extreme. Those who think they need to ‘show’ their followers – are likely to undertake such strong measures. Swami Sathya Sai Baba has also been similarly found fault with by some ‘outsiders’ who lack respect for others’ sovereignty. But to me the path chosen by Swami Sathya Sai Baba to deliver the message needed by His followers – is the right one for our generation – in the world I feel a part of. In fact Swami relieved me from pretenders who were blocking our path in a country where transparency in sexual enjoyment is natural. As our wise elders said – there is a time and place for everything.
As outsiders we rely on outcomes; as insiders show attitudes and as owners – we become the Energy – be it positive or negative when manifested.