Tuesday 4 July 2017

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

03  July 2017                                          
 Picture Courtesy Groundviews

English – the Link Language

 “Freedom of expression, right to a religion and attacks on minority religions have been in discussion within the last couple of days. It has raised a heated public debate, unending discussions among academics of various fields. Following the interviews with Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe and Attorney-at-law Lakshan Dias, the ‘Daily Mirror’ contacted different professionals and leaders in religions and of the civil society seeking their points of view in this social dilemma.”  Daily Mirror

The Karaka Sangha Sabhawa of the Asgiriya Chapter has said a new Constitution was not the need of the hour.
The Sanga Sabhawa which is headed by the Asgiriya Mahanayake the Most Ven.Warakagoda Sri Gnanaratana Thera passed a resolution to this effect after a lengthy discussion.
The members of the council had also resolved that the foremost place accorded to Buddhism and the unitary character of the country should be retained and the executive powers of the president should not be scrapped.
The Council said electoral reforms could be introduced in the form of a constitutional amendment if necessary and noted that the draft proposals for constitutional changes had been discussed with the involvement of NGO representatives who were advocating power devolution. However, the Mahasanga were not invited for this meeting.
Blurb -- The Council has also resolved that the foremost place accorded to Buddhism and the unitary character of the country should be retained and the executive powers of the president should not be scrapped. (J.A.L. Jayasinghe) – Daily Mirror article ‘SL not in need of new Constitution: Asgiriya Chapter say’

At the back of my mind when reading this was the sharing by Dr. Christopher Pulle – a strong believer in Christian Order:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, which when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” - Brutus to Cassius in Julius Caesar.
To my mind, this is about how best we merge with Nature – i.e. – the rise and fall of the sea under the influence of other parts of Nature – such as the Sun & the Moon.

I feel strongly that Sri Lanka’s tide is high now. Those living out of the past get left behind.  In terms of Buddhism – those who are ‘possessive’ of their past status through Buddhism – are asking to be Indigenous while others seeking to ride the high waves and go global which may not be facilitated by the Buddhism pathway in Sri Lanka.

  Article 9 of  the Constitution of Sri Lanka provides as follows for  Buddhism to be  foremost:
9. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e)

The Buddha Sasana therefore  becomes foremost in status – above all other laws. Effectively therefore, discretionary powers to rule are not available to non-Buddhists where the leader is a Buddhist.

The confusion in thought order is strongly highlighted by the Groundviews article -   Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) on Lakshan Dias . A relevant excerpt is as follows:

[The reply sent by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka [BASL] to Lakshan Dias is embarrassing.
Faced with a belligerent Ministerial threat to disenroll him Dias had emailed Amal Randeniya, the Secretary – BASL seeking assistance. Randeniya’s reply was to ask Dias to forward ‘an affidavit with all the facts pertaining to the matter’. The first point of embarrassment is the wording of the response itself. Lawyers wrangle about the specifics for a living yet, Randeniya chooses to be vague. After all there are several ‘matters’ here. They are;
·       The threat made by Minister Rajapakse.
·       The matter regarding the statement made by Lakshan Dias with regard to the attacks on Christians and their churches.
On both matters an affidavit is unnecessary and the request ridiculous. Why does the Bar Council need an affidavit on the threat [point (a)] as Minister Rajapakse has not denied it? In widely publicised statements Rajapakse has in fact confirmed it.]

The root  problem here as I see it is – which law empowered Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse to act as he did? – His portfolio as Minister for Justice or his portfolio as Minister for Buddha Sasana?  Out of the two – the one he is more natural with is as Minister for Buddha Sasana. Mr. Lakshan Dias on the other hand is riding with the global tide and is entitled to outcomes along the global pathway in Justice. His base is through his study of law in the Sri Lankan environment which is different to the way the same law is practiced in other environments. When such are close to the root – some kind of Separation of Powers is needed to prevent conflict at early stages. The allocation of Ministries carrying this kind of risk is the root cause.

The ‘confusion’ is highlighted by the author of the above article:

[The legal profession is the profession of Abraham Lincoln, Mahathma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Impeachments and disenrollments are the hallmarks of tyranny and dictatorship. Rajapakse’s bullying was unacceptable and it should have been condemned. The BASL side stepping is embarrassing and unfortunate. It is a small-minded response having failed to see the bigger picture]

If  the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, (BASL) acted as Gandhi did – they would have been punished by the Executive as the former Chief Justice was. In any case – Gandhi’s glory is due to practicing his Truth. Affidavits have different purposes and they help formulate the matter as per one’s own experience. I learnt that through a Colombo case that Buddhists do not swear but only affirm. To my mind, one who affirms is limited to stating what happened. One who swears confirms her/his Belief in her/his personal form. Fact based merely on observation does not lead to root cause. Fact based on one’s experience is Belief based – and this is confirmed through swearing. An Affidavit from an Attorney at Law who believes in the law – would carry that power and strengthen the due processes of the Profession.

If both sides represented a certain section of the Public – and the side represented by the Minister had stronger belief in the issue through Buddhism than the side represented by Human Rights Lawyer Mr. Lakshan Dias, – through common Secular Justice system  –then the as per the system of Natural Justice, the Minister for Buddha Sasana had the authority to ‘judge’.   I do believe that this is an interesting test case for the Judicial system in Sri Lanka, in relation to the practical application of  the ‘Buddhism Foremost’ clause. It needs to be addressed  before a new Constitution is written from within – as per our Truth.

To my mind – if Buddhism Foremost prevails there needs to be ‘separation’ of Ministerial Powers – so that Common Portfolios are religious portfolios are not vested in the one person. In her speech at the launch of ‘Testimonies of Silent Pain’ on 26 May, PROFESSOR MAITHREE WICKRAMASINGHE –  who to my mind is the first lady of Common Sri Lanka,  stated as follows:
[It gives me great pleasure to join you – young women and men writers – as you launch your work in the anthology ‘Testimonies of Silent Pain’.

I will be speaking in English. As Professor in the Department of English, I am a firm believer in the potential of Sri Lankan English as a link language that could build bridges among the different speech communities in the country.]

The Lady used the language through which she earned her high status in Society. This has helped her have deep insight into the causal reasons – confirmed as follows:

[A couple of days ago we marked eight years since the end of the war.
It is often claimed that time is a great healer. But I would like to question whether this is so for everyone?
Yes, certainly for some people – both in the divides of the South and the North, the war seems to have become a distant, though scarring memory. Life has gone on, been lived, people have moved to new cities, countries and continents; found new jobs and livelihoods, married and had children, begun to treasure and relish life once again.
But for others, specially those who have been directly affected in the North and East, those amongst the two fighting forces, and those lacerated by battle and bombardment, the war still remains a festering abscess. Life remains a daily struggle: to deal with loss – the loss of life, of family and loved ones; of occupations, positions, possessions, inheritances, and heritage. And most crucially, the loss of self – in body and mind.]

As the Prime Minister’s wife – she would not have expressed as she did. But in her own rights – the lady has demonstrated the dignity of the Power of One – the Power of Truth, which is confirmed as follows:

[Remember, we all have the potential for self-initiative, for proactivity, and for resistance. Perhaps not on a grand scale but certainly at the level of the individual and the personal. In other words, when it comes to lasting peace and genuine reconciliation, do not forget that,
we have the power, as individuals, to anticipate and be preemptive in what we say, do and practice;
we have the power, as individuals, to advocate and self-initiate changes that are just and inclusive;
and most importantly, we have the power, as individuals, to question and speak out;
and to rise up and resist fear-mongering, prejudice and injustice as and when they occur.
If you really think about it, it only calls for everyday, ordinary, individual action – not only to prevent a culture of impunity but also to institute a culture of accountability.]  - PROFESSOR MAITHREE WICKRAMASINGHE

Great example not only for citizens seeking Common Sri Lanka but more for the Ministers who lack exposure to wider cultures. If Minister Rajapakse respects his mother – he would respect the First Lady – and would demonstrate commitment to secular law – which in the minority portfolio for him or renounce the secular pathway and become fully committed to Buddha Sasana – as if he were part of the Buddhist clergy.

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