CBK & Buddhist Governance

After we went through the processes of being checked by security officers we went inside and waited for the President. I felt comfortable and within me appreciated the difficulties that the President must have gone through not only as President of an ethnically divided country but also as a woman. 

by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(July 28, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I respond to the article ‘CBK: The President who might save Sri Lanka’s lost prestige’ by Ms Pearl Thevanayagam, published in Sri Lanka Guardian.

These days, I am driven by my own experiences and mine with the first lady President – Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was positive. In 2005, after I had completed the assessment of the needs of some groups of Tsunami victims in Batticaloa District I prepared formal proposals – just as I did/do here in Australia to the higher authorities. I had the proposals endorsed by the local authorities in Batticaloa and as indicated by them I took the proposals to get approved by the respective Departmental heads in Colombo. My first target was the Department of Hindu Cultural Affairs. I caught the bus to Colombo and went to my aunt - Pathma Sanmugarjah’s home at Bambalapitiya. My aunt had already passed away but her home still felt like my home. The following morning , using the telephone directory, I made a note of the telephone numbers of key officials and left home.

I felt like going to the Ganesh temple close by – where I have had good experiences that strengthened my belief that True work is always rewarded. After going there I learnt that it was a special day for Hindus – Maasi Maham – and there were special ceremonies at the temple to celebrate Maasi Maham. To me – it was Blessings from Above. I came out of the temple and started walking in the direction of the Department of Hindu Cultural Affairs. Then my inner voice said to call a relative of mine who might know someone at the Department. I used the public phone at Bambalapitiya flats and called my relative. My relative said to come in an hour’s time. I went and he asked me to prepare a proposal and come back. When I went back with the proposal – he said that Mrs. Maheswari Velayutham had arranged for us to join a religious group to see the Minister – the Hon Douglas Devananda. So, I went to the ministry with my relative and we waited. Whilst waiting Mr. Maha Ganapathi – the big man in charge stood up and said to me words to the effect ‘I really appreciate the work you are doing in Batticaloa area. I am also from that area and I know the difficulties you must be working under’. With that kind of appreciation, I felt settled and ‘at home’ and continued to wait. We were eventually called in and then I realized that there was a whole group of leaders of Hindu organizations. After initial discussions with the Minister – who asked me to speak to the President after the Swami from Ramakrishna Order spoke, we left to meet the President.

After we went through the processes of being checked by security officers we went inside and waited for the President. I felt comfortable and within me appreciated the difficulties that the President must have gone through not only as President of an ethnically divided country but also as a woman. I could identify with the difficulties that Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga would have experienced, in not only winning the position but also retaining it.

When the President finally came, the order of presentation was changed by some in our group, who bulldozed their way. I thought ‘this won’t do’ and I stood up soon after the Thiruketheeswaram Priest stop talking. I did not however get close to the President because I was conscious of the damage to the President’s eye, due to LTTE attack and I myself had worked with the LTTE in 2003 through a UNDP project. The President in me therefore would have been initially wary of that part of me. Hence I kept my distance whilst presenting our proposal. The President asked me whether I was from that area – Batticaloa? I said ‘no I was originally from Jaffna’. Then the President started conversing naturally. I felt included. Big man Maha Ganapathi also stood up and spoke in support of me. All in all – it was an experience that confirmed to me that Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga did not hold any grudges against the Tamil Community subconsciously or consciously.

Ms Pearl Thevanayagam seems to have assessed Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga through her own angle and this seems fine to me. Ms Thevanayagam says also ‘Can CBK deliver and more to the point can she muster enough support to revive SLFP. Her recent speech could be seen as a clarion call to her investiture as the future President. She needs to prove she could deliver much more than the victory of MR through wiping out LTTE terrorism. She needs to not only flex her biceps but prove she can do one better than MR?’

Like many of us in various angles of our life, Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, is no longer seen by the common voter, as being an active participant in politics. Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is more like a Governor than an Administrator / Politician. Governors have special spiritual powers due to realization of Truth starting with the essence of their experience through their previous positions. In terms of structured Administrative positions, Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as President, held the highest position in Sri Lanka. There are parts of the position that Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga would not have been able to fill to complete some of the issues – including the ethnic issue. We can go only up to a certain point through the structured path which usually help us ‘show’ our work in the backdrop of our position. The rest of the distance has to be walked by ourselves – using our own feet. That is when we realize Truth and become Governors who first govern themselves and then naturally share their powers with others – by just being there. Some of us get there from small positions. Once we get there we are Governors in Common.

By stepping down to lower positions, we lose the opportunity to realize that fullness of self-governance and therefore the natural powers to strengthen others in need. If we are to contribute naturally, our positions at each stage of our life need to be as per the way we are ‘seen’ by majority. UN seems to be the current opposition of the Sri Lankan Government and due to lost Global status, Sri Lanka seems to have dropped in stature. By sharing her wisdom with other seekers Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga would also be honoring the Constitution of Sri Lanka which has preserved a special leadership role for Buddhist Governors.

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