Thursday 11 October 2018

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

11 October 2018

Article 9 or Article 14(1)(e) for the Vice Chancellor of Hindu University?

The validity of  Article 9 is to be tested before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka:
[Shrine Room matter:
SC orders Jaffna VC and others to be noticed
The Supreme Court yesterday directed the petitioners to send notices on the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University and several others to appear in court on December 5 regarding a Fundamental Rights petition filed by five students for allegedly penalizing them for bringing a Budu Kutiya to the Vavuniya Campus.
Five students including four Sinhala Buddhists and a Tamil Hindu student attached to the Faculty of Business Studies in Vavuniya Campus of the Jaffna University filed this petition complaining that the university administration is continuously harassing, victimizing and penalizing them for their suspected involvement in bringing the Budu Kutiya (Wooden structure for the placement of a Buddha statue) to the Vavuniya Campus by keeping them indefinitely out of bounds of the Vavuniya Campus.] – Daily News
As per the above report, the petition has been filed on the basis of Article 14(1)(e). This article provides as follows:
14. (1) Every citizen is entitled to –
(e) the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching;
Article 9 provides Buddhism the foremost place as follows:
[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).]
Article 10 states:
[10. Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.]
It is highlighted that this article does not say ‘express’.
The manifestation is approved by article 14 (1)(e).
Such manifestation by a non-Buddhist therefore does not have to demonstrate compliance with Buddha Sasana and therefore Buddhism foremost. A Buddhist has to  foster  Buddha Sasana but at the same time not block the belief based manifestation of another religion.
The responsibility to uphold Article 9 is with the Buddhists in the group and not the non-Buddhists. As per the report:
[The petitioners cited Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University Prof. Ratnam Vigneswaran, Dr. T. Mangaleswaran, P. Priyadarshan and six others including the Minister of Higher Education as respondents.
The petitioners stated that as the Vesak Poya was falling on April 29, 2018, the students had planned to bring the Buddha statue and later placed it in the Budu Kutiya and celebrated the Vesak Festival. They allege that the third respondent, a Sub Warden came there and asked the students to take it out of the campus premises.]
The University of Jaffna is a Hindu University and has Lord Natraj / Shiva  temple in confirmation. It stands on Hindu Sacred grounds.
It is my understanding that here in Australia, Christian schools are allowed to refuse employment on the basis or religious tenets. This confirms that belief cannot be overridden by simple logic based on non-religious laws.
If Article 14(1)(e) is the measure used – then Buddhism foremost becomes passive and cannot be exercised on behalf of the State by the Courts. It is indeed the responsibility of Buddhists to ensure that non-Buddhists are facilitated to practice their religion before they uphold Buddha Sasana.  
As per my knowledge Professor Ratnam Vigneswaran is a Hindu. He is not responsible to facilitate Buddhists to practice Buddhism in a Hindu University. The way Sri Lanka is labelled a Buddhist country – University of Jaffna that was formed through Hindu power is entitled to be recognized as Hindu University – the same way Australian-Christian schools are exempted on the basis of their Christian Sasana/tenets.
The third respondent who asked that the Buddhist symbol be removed was well within her/his rights to do so in a Hindu University. If in addition, s/he is a non-Buddhist – then the Buddhist in the group had the responsibility to clear the block in thinking about his religion towards practicing it. THAT would be the Buddhist tenet of Ahimsa (non-violence) – to a genuine Buddhist seeker – looking within Buddhism for the True solution to practice Buddhism in a multi-religious society. One who has the exemption is not entitled to the common pathway as well.  If Buddhists seek to be governed by Article 14(1)(e) – then they must first fight to repeal Article 9 exemption. Can’t have it both ways.

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