12 February 2018
‘We can reconcile at the individual level until the government of Sri Lanka chooses to become a party to the reconciliation process.’ - One of the Statements of Belief by the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney
Param and I decided to directly participate in yesterday’s meeting of the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney. The conscious reasons included – expressions of appreciation for my article on Australia Day & special request from senior members of the Forum on the basis that the ‘Service’ by Buddhist monk - the Venerable Galkande Dhammananda – was high in value. We arrived just as the meeting started with silent prayers followed by respect being paid to our Indigenous elders.
As per published reports - “Reconciliation Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.”
In many ways I am also an Indigenous elder of the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney. An elder picks up intuitively the needs of the place, community, that could be satisfied by her/his services – which are quiet often belief to belief sharing. Many such pointers were picked up by me.
I found the presentation by the Venerable Galkande Dhammananda to be very genuine and of positive value at the level of reconciliation through schools in Sri Lanka. When the meeting went into question time, the young moderator said that we needed to ask the ‘question’ and then wait for the response from Venerable Galkande Dhammananda. When I could see no hands going up – I put mine up. I stood up out of genuine respect for the monk, and introduced myself and stated that ‘I was a strong opposer of Article 9 of the Sri Lankan Constitution that affords Buddhism foremost status. I spoke further words to the effect – ‘I appreciate the value of school children from North going to South and sharing in the valuable experiences including of those who were persecuted during JVP time. I worked directly with the LTTE through a UNDP project in 2003 – during ceasefire- and got to know them personally as individuals. To my mind, none of them were Terrorists. The parallel down South is that JVP also would not be considered Terrorists by most Southerners. Hence would it not have been appropriate for your group to go to a place in North - say for example Valvettithurai – so the Tamil children did not lose touch with their heritage? In your shoes I would have gone North first.’
At around the time before the second last sentence the young moderator said to me words to the effect ‘ask your question’. I then said to him words to the effect – that the Buddhism foremost policy would be seen as being manifested and hence my explanation. I was quite annoyed with the guy for disturbing my trend and after the meeting I said to him that he needed to ensure that in that democratic forum the time taken by the presenter/s was no more than the time allocated to the audience and that it was disrespectful of him to ‘tell’ us how we ought to structure our response – i.e. that we had to ask the question.
The monk responded positively saying that going North was in their agenda and would happen in due course.
By the time the meeting ended, I was encouraged by three more senior lady members commenting on the divisions within the Forum and seeking the monk’s advice. One of them – also a Tamil – was also asked by the young moderator to cut short her response. No male participant was so disciplined by the moderator. If we do not know the cause of the apparent discrimination, we are entitled to conclude as per the effects, for our own purposes.
The monk had outlined the solutions through his own presentation and later through his wise responses to our questions. I identified mostly with the following – as I received them:
(i) As per Lord Buddha’s teachings each individual had her/his own unique Dharma and it was our duty to conduct ourselves as per that Dharma
(ii) Our actions should not be such as to hurt/damage another
The monk spoke about us carrying unhealed wounds from the past – including from Colonial times and identified with this being part of the problem. After the meeting – during social time – I went up to the monk and said that to my mind he was a good monk and that he was genuinely committed to reconciliation at his level. I then shared my own belief – through my experience with my book Naan Australian which ended up at the National Library of Australia and more recently at the National Library of Sri Lanka, without any intervention on my part – mental or physical. To one of the members in that circle I said that the Forum was yet to obtain a copy of my book. I shared this to confirm my belief that Natural Forces work to support our genuine Service.
I thought more about all this, this morning and I came across the following when preparing to tutor a student in Legal Studies for the HSC:
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution:
‘The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.’
The place where we had the meeting of the Reconciliation Forum, was the Epping Leisure & Learning Centre – which is Public Property and had the Queen’s picture on the wall. When we paid our respects to our elders – we paid them to the Queen of England also – even though this was done quietly by individuals who are common.
Hence at that place, at policy level – in terms of religion, Sri Lanka and Australia could not have merged in the same mind. Hence we can only be one or the other in terms of Religious policy. The religious policies are irreconcilable and therefore the two governments have the DUTY to keep their distance from each other to confirm this irreconcilability. The Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney needed the leading representatives of all religious practised in Sri Lanka or expressly ban Government Policy in terms of religion – which is considered by minorities as a key reason for the conflict.
In my mind, I thanked all our elders who confirmed to me yet again that I was fully reconciled as per my Truth and that it was this reconciled person that I shared with others. When I expressly thanked one of the seniors on his way out – he asked me ‘why I was thanking him?’ This senior contributed actively during the only meeting at which I was the facilitator. He is also an elder in Australian legal community. Last night I just said that his presence was healthy for the forum. Today I realised that it was more intuitive – with the senior adding his own strength through his quiet belief which upheld my Australian values in the Equality of Religions and hence the express prohibition through the Constitution, of any religion being State religion.
The Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney was/is dividing due to lack of Common Policy contribution – but rather dealing with current costs and benefits and paying lip service to elders. One who genuinely respects elders will naturally contribute to Policy and the right Policy will come to that person – as Section 116 of the Australian Constitution came to me – a true Australian.
Those with Australia-Sri Lanka Dual-Citizenship are weakened in terms of policy contribution due to such irreconcilable differences. Likewise – the provinces in Sri Lanka where non-Buddhists are in majority and are governed by different sections of the Constitution on the basis of Equality of Religions. At Fundamental level – Sri Lanka is already divided into two Nations.
Each year when 04 February is celebrated as Independence Day – we lose connection with our British heritage – especially in the field of Law and Administration. Some of this surfaced this year in London. Such disconnection leads to shallow planning – as our Belief is part of our planning Energy that would support us during our times of need – through we may often not be conscious of it.