14 August, 2022


A Reply To Prof Carlo Fonseka

By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B. Senanayake

Prof Carlo ( hereinafter called CF) has returned to the original issue now dragging various other personalities to the debate, In his first criticism of my article he stated that ethical and moral values are only for individuals and not for governments. He also argued that human behavior , moral or otherwise ( not moral values) are the product of evolutionary biology. These are the issues particularly the latter.

I pointed out that whatever the origins of human behavior there is a case for moral judgments on the behavior of individuals. He argued that the State is not bound by any moral code. Now he drags Dr Jayantha Dhanapala citing his argument elsewhere that foreign policy must be pragmatic. He has never justified the violation of the moral code and obviously his pragmatism criterion assumes that whatever actions are taken in the pursuit of pragmatic foreign policy must be ethical as well.CF seems to be a moral nihilist who thinks there are no moral values.

Lord Devlin, in an essay “Morals and the Criminal Law” in The Philosophy of Law (ed R M Dworkin) Oxford (1977) at p 74 said: If men and women try to create a society in which there is no fundamental
agreement about good and evil they will fail; if having based it on common agreement, the agreement goes, the society will disintegrate. For society is not something that is kept together physically; it is
held by the invisible bonds of common thought. If the bonds were too far relaxed the members would drift apart. A common morality is part of the bondage. The bondage is part of the price of society; and
mankind, which needs society, must pay its price.”

There are various UN rights Declarations and the Laws of War and Humanitarian Law which are the bedrock of International Law which is binding at least on those countries that have signed up to as members of the UN and  accepted its Declarations. Of course the UNO is not a strong organization – not a form of world government or a body that can hold States to account for the violation of International law or UN Declarations.  But to argue that each Sate can pursue its own interest untrammeled by any moral principles is not a position that the majority of States or people will uphold. So the UN has not been inhibited in criticizing the human rights records of some States. It
does criticize those States which engage in atrocities against their own people particularly ethnic and religious minorities. CF says there is no reason for the State to accept my moral code.  I have not
authored any such moral code but may have passed judgments on the basis of a commonly accepted moral code binding human beings. States are a collection of human beings who wield power. They may do so for their own selfish purposes  to exercise and strengthen their power. I hope CF doesn’t call into question the UN moral code regarding the unjust treatment of its people or some of its people by the state.

Machiavelli and Kautlya are two philosophers who argued that the ruler should enhance and consolidate his power by any means- by hook or by crook. So Hitler who came to power through a free election and consolidated his power by suppressing all those who would criticize or
oppose his actions. The Lutheran Church originally supported him but when they saw his ruthless killing of the Jews and the suppression of those against  Bishop Bonheoffer opposed him and  was executed on trumped up charges of a conspiracy – a favorite ploy of dictators. Hitler thought the German race should be kept pure and believed in a Jewish conspiracy to undermine the German race. So he inaugurated the holocaust and killed 6 million Jews. The world considers this genocide and a crime based on the moral commandment that no human being should be killed..

Although CF thinks that a state is free to pursue its national interests violating the human rights of its subjects the UN will not accept such an attitude. The world does not recognize that a ruler can resort to any action in the national interest as perceived by him. CF thinks that a State is free to pursue its national interest such as to maintain the territorial integrity. Serbia thought so and massacred thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. Such action is considered a war crime and the Serbian ruler Milosevic was tried before the International War Crimes Tribunal.  Milosevic was charged for war crimes as were several rulers of countries like Somalia, Kenya, and the Congo etc. As I keep pointing out the positive aspect of ethics is distinct from the normative aspect. CF can keep saying that there is no moral code binding on States but the world’s people don’t seem to agree

CF says “it is not ethics but the anti-thesis of it namely economic self interest that governs relations between nations”. May be so but the distinction between the positive and the normative cannot be ignored. International Law and the UN Declarations don’t permit a State to violate the accepted moral code among States in such pursuit of national interest.

Whether there is still a need to resort to force to counteract the Tamil separatists or not is a matter for the Defense authorities and I certainly don’t consider myself a judge of such a situation. But the
laws of war and humanitarian laws cannot be violated in any such exercise of force in the past, the present or the future. Those waging such war cannot say they are free to do anything in the national interest which is to preserve the territorial integrity of the country.

CF also draws out another argument against a moral code. He says moral values are relative. Bu many believe accept certain core moral values as contained in the Ten Commandments. The UN Declarations on Human Rights are based on such core values. So is International Law. Today there is discussion of the use of chemical weapons. Yes most people and even States would agree that chemical weapons should not be used in war. It is said that in the war of Rama and Ravana Lakshmanan prohibited the use of poisoned arrows. Here lies the core moral values. Of course animal rights are not accorded the same status in this core value system. Buddhism equates animals with human beings and opposes animal slaughter for human consumption. But this seems to be a relative moral value for mankind as a whole does not accept such a moral value however noble it may be.

CF  raises another very fundamental question: What is the basis of authority in ethics?  To somebody who thinks ethics is only relative the source of ethics may well be the society. So in certain African
societies in the past cannibalism was practiced. I would say it is a violation of the core moral values. But if there is no such core moral values and all moral values are relative to each society then cannibalism would be justified. Many people hold certain values such as are contained in the Ten Commandments as part of the core of permanent moral values and all other religions also have such values in their dogmas. If moral values are relative then the authority may be the society. But speaking for myself my authority for the core of moral values is God himself who gave Moses the Ten Commandment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    We all have our moral codes as stated in our respective religons or philosophies. These regulate our dealings with other people, our neighbours, our friends, our families.

    Governments are headed by people who have their moral codes. As recently stated by the President,

    “I am a good Buddhist. I worship three times a day like you worship five times a day. But it is because that I am a good Buddhist that I respect other religions,” he added. (Colombo Gazette)

    Above all these moral codes we are governed by the laws fo the land which every citizen is bound to follow. Globally as a nation we are bound by the charters, protocols and convenants we have signed with the United Nations.

    So there is no space for people to change or decide on moral codes according to expediency and circumstances.

    According to the Communist System, all morality and ethics would be dominated by the state. In his manifesto Marx states –

    The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

    Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

    These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.
    Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

    Question 21: Will nationalities continue to exist under communism?
    Answer: The nationalities of the peoples who join together according to the principle of community will be just as much compelled by this union to merge with one another and thereby supersede themselves as the various differences between estates and classes disappear through the superseding of their basis – private property.

    Question 22. Do Communists reject existing religions?
    Answer: All religions which have existed hitherto were expressions of historical stages of development of individual peoples or groups of peoples. But communism is that stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and supersedes them.


    It is not known if the present day communists and marxist subscribe to and practice these ideals.

  • 0

    So it ends up Carlo Fonseka receiving a lecture on ethics, morality, human rights. !!

    He shouldn’t have tried to defend Rajapakses. -:)

    • 0

      ..and RMBS batting for US neo-imperialists, mentions only Hitler’s & Serbian’s killings, not US killings of 05 million Vietnamese or very recently 1.2 million Iraqis.
      Further UN has become a tool of US State dept.

      No wonder RMBS writing crap only these days, [Edited out]

  • 0

    Could someone please provide a link to the original article written by RMB Senanayake (Island 5 July) that Pof. Fonseka responds to? I’ve Googled the hell out of it but cannot find it!

    • 0

      Could it be that you have the wrong date? is it what CT carried at


      Try “googling” in CT’s SEARCH box in future – Manel F

      • 0

        Many thanks for directing me to the right article. Very kind of you. Take good care of yourself.

        Best regards

    • 0


      Is this what you are looking for?

      The disappearance of morality
      July 4, 2013, 7:46 pm

      Most ills in our society today stem from the fact that our politics and governance are without any morals. We have come to accept that politicians and politics can be carried on without any reference to moral values. Our politicians who were elected from the Opposition crossed over to the ruling party for very base motives. They were either bought over with perks to be funded by the people such as duty free permits to import vehicles- the most expensive ones too. Some others crossed over to avoid being prosecuted for violating the criminal law. What does this mean – the misuse of power for base motives.

      The Government carries on flaunting religion but actually violating all moral principles and following only the Machiavellian ethics of politics which boil down to no ethics at all. Long before Machiavelli there was Kautilya in India and Sun Tzu in China. Machiavelli argued that it was better for a Prince to be feared rather than loved. He also argued that morality does not apply in politics. He said prudent rulers should shed moral principles adopting whatever means are necessary to preserve his power. Critics have pointed out that Machiavelli defended the evil methods of tyrants. But some have said that he exposed the deceit or lies that rulers resort to hoodwink the people so that the people would learn to be on their guard against tyranny. Would the people learn? Depends on the people. If the people themselves are dishonest liars and deceivers they will see no difference. But what about all the ‘bana’ preaching from morning to evening exhorting people to follow the principles enunciated by the Buddha? They don’t seem to amount to anything judging from the state of evil in our society. Now the monks themselves are setting a fine example in propagating hatred and violence.

      Here is what a Chinese scholar, Chang Hsin-hai, wrote recently in his article on “The Moral Basis of World Peace,” He asserts that this disease of our society stems from a double standard of morals. He says that the root of our troubles, both national and international, lies in the acceptance of moral standards in government totally different from those accepted and demonstrated as necessary for a good society so far as individual conduct is concerned. If a politician, either national or international, engages in practices and policies which in individual conduct would be considered as most contemptible, he is commonly honoured for his “progressiveness and farsightedness, and for the great service he is rendering to the citizens of his country. He is elected again and again to public office, even though the same practices by the operator of a private grocery store or a farm would lead to his being all but run out of town’.

      Now we find some Buddhist monks who have organized themselves into organizations resorting to hate speech directed at the Muslims and Christians. What they are campaigning for are political goals and have nothing to do with Buddhism as preached by the Buddha . But they spring from hatred. Such hatred may lead to violence against these minorities. Are these radicalized monks resorting to terror to frighten the minorities. Will they be frightened and give up their religious convictions? What is their ultimate aim? Do they want to prevent the practice of other religions in the country? They don’t seem to believe in the ethics and values taught by the Buddha.

      How can we account for the treasure hunting among Buddhist shrines by Buddhists who display so much piety in the temples? Are the Sinhala Buddhists reneging on Buddhism? Are they becoming racists and hate mongers? Will their actions be accompanied by more and more violence? In Egypt we see today Muslims who love the democratic values opposing the Muslim Brotherhood. When good men are silent evil men triumph.

      Will the majority of Buddhists who do not associate themselves with these hate mongers keep silent? That would be a tragedy for it would lead to disaster as we witness today in the Muslim countries. Recent study on why nations fail by two American economists Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane argue that countries decline when they fail to adapt to changing economic forces. The decline of the Roman Empire has been ascribed to the growth of a welfare state and centralized governance. We are suffering from the same evils, unable to carry on the welfare state owing to fiscal bankruptcy and unwilling to devolve power. Earlier we did not have the tyranny of the Roman Empire. Now we have it too. So there is the collapse of several state functions including that of maintaining law and order. We are heading for a failed state and these are manifestations of it. What it will mean is that a new form of radical Buddhism will emerge similar to the fundamentalism in the Muslim countries.

      Raja Senanayake


      • 0


  • 0

    Worth reading, Concerning Mixed Principalities
    Three Years On After The War: Our King And Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya –
    Did you know that President Mahinda Rajapaksa read the Sinhala translation of “The Prince” which was serialised in the Sunday Lankadeepa, ‘Raja Veediya’ supplement?


  • 0

    “There is nothing either right or wrong, but thinking makes it so.”
    ~ William Shakespeare

    In Sri Lanka a majority of the Sinhala Buddhists believe:
    1. This country belongs only to the Sinhala Buddhists.
    2. The Sinhala race, language, religion and culture is far superior to that of any other race, religion, language or culture in the world.
    3. The LTTE killed civilians, but the armed forces never ever killed Tamil civilians.
    4. Even though the armed forces killed Sinhala civilians during the two JVP insurrections they never killed any Tamil civilians.
    5. The final months of the war produced zero casualties, 3,00,000 Tamil civilians imprisoned in so called welfare camps were treated humanely and no Tamil women were raped or continue to be raped by the armed forces.
    6. The Channel 4 videos and all they pics on the internet showing half naked Tamil girls who were raped and killed are all fake.
    7. Our armed forces went to war with the UN human rights charter in one hand and a gun in the other hand.
    8. The international community is jealous of the country because they destroyed terrorism and they want to destabilize the country and destroy the Sinhala race and the Buddhist religion.
    9. Devolving power to the North and East will pave the way for a separate state.
    10. The Rajapaksas’ are the only ones who can save this country from the enemy at the gates, and anyone including Ranil Wickramasinghe who talks about devolution of power to the minorities is a traitor.

    As long as a majority of the majority believes such absurdities, they will join in or remain silent when atrocities are committed in the name of saving country, race and religion…
    …what they do not realise is that their blind patriotism and ignorance is gradually destroying the country….and if or when they wake up from their kiribath induced triumphalist, it will be too late to do anything. :(

    • 0

      no Tamil women were raped or continue to be raped by the armed forces.

      Percy – Gilmart:

      Do you think if Army Rape Tamil women, LTTE Tamils living in the North, Catholics Bishops Living in the North, Christian – NGOs who are thriving on Anti-govt, Anti-sinhala-buddhist work would not make that a BIG BIG ISSUE ?

      don’t you think, Navi Pillai would not talk to those RAPE VICTIMS.


  • 0

    Prof. Carlo Fonseka has got me rather confused. Until now I thought the following delineation of responsibilities enshrined in our Constitution was the ethical basis for the conduct of the State. Although we may all have our own religious authorities, it is the Constitution that brings together what we as Sri Lankans deem acceptable to us. I’m not sure where exactly in the Constitution does it state that money trumps ethics.


    Directive Principles of State Policy.

    27. (1) The Directive Principles of State Policy herein contained shall guide Parliament, the President and the Cabinet of Ministers in the enactment of laws and the governance of Sri Lanka for the establishment of a just and free society.

    (2) The State is pledged to establish in Sri Lanka a democratic socialist society, the objectives of which include –

    (a) the full realization of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons;

    (b) the promotion of the welfare of the People by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice (social, economic and political) shall guide all the institutions of the national life;

    (c) the realization by all citizens of an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, the continuous improvement of living conditions and the full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities;

    (d) the rapid development of the whole country by means of public and private economic activity and by laws prescribing such planning and controls as may be expedient for directing and coordinating such public and private economic activity towards social objectives and the public wealth;

    (e) the equitable distribution among all citizens of the material resources of the community and the social product, so as best to subserve the common good;

    (f) the establishment of a just social order in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are not concentrated and centralised in the State, State agencies or in the hands of a privileged few, but are dispersed among, and owned by, all the People of Sri Lanka ;

    (g) raising the moral and cultural standards of the People, and ensuring the full development of human personality; and

    (h) the complete eradication of illiteracy and the assurance to all persons of the right to universal and equal access to education at all levels.

    (3) The State shall safeguard the independence, sovereignty, unity and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

    (4) The State shall strengthen and broaden the democratic structure of government and the democratic rights of the People by decentralizing the administration and by affording all possible opportunities to the People to participate at every level in national life and in government.

    (5) The State shall strengthen national unity by promoting co-operation and mutual confidence among all sections of the People of Sri Lanka, including the racial, religious, linguistic and other groups, and shall, take effective steps in the fields of teaching, education and information in order to eliminate discrimination and prejudice.

    (6) The State shall ensure equality of opportunity to citizens, so that no citizen shall suffer any disability on the ground of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion or occupation.

    (7) The State shall eliminate economic and social privilege and disparity, and the exploitation of man by man or by the State.

    (8) The State shall ensure that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and the means of production to the common detriment.

    (9) The State shall ensure social security and welfare.

    (10) The State shall assist the development of the cultures and the languages of the People.

    (11) The State shall create the necessary economic and social environment to enable people of all religious faiths to make a reality of their religious principles.

    (12) The State shall recognize and protect the family as the basic unit of society.

    (13) The State shall promote with special care the interests of children and youth, so as to ensure their full development, physical, mental, moral, religious and social, and to protect them from exploitation and discrimination.

    (14) The State shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.

    (15) The State shall promote international peace, security and co-operation, and the establishment of a just and equitable international economic and social order, and shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in dealings among nations.

    Fundamental duties .

    28. The exercise and enjoyment of rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of duties and obligations, and accordingly it is the duty of every person in Sri Lanka –

    (a) to uphold and defend the Constitution and the law ;

    (b) to further the national interest and to foster national unity ;

    (c) to work conscientiously in his chosen occupation ;

    (d) to preserve and protect public property, and to combat misuse and waste of public property ;

    (e) to respect the rights and freedoms of others ; and

    (f) to protect nature and conserve its riches.”


    • 0

      NOW the Roman Democracy and the CHRISTIAN MORALS and ETHICS (That is also what Romans wanted) HAve created problems.


      (12) The State shall recognize and protect the family as the basic unit of society.

      See how christian Countries are in Trouble by following the Christian Values of ETHICS AND MORALITY. they want to accept HOMESEXUALITY as normal and HomoSEXUAL FAMILIES. See how they have messed up CHRISTIAN ETHICS AND MORALITY.

      Instead, buddhism accept as the Society become polluted all kinds of pervert sexual practices become normal.

      READ ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY OF BUDDHISM which says internal Environment of a person affects the external environment. So that, start preserving the internal environment which automatically protects the external environment.

      See what Sri Lanka’s Rights of the Living Beings 2560 years ago. WHEN ARAHANT MAHINDA Came to MIHINTALE; his saying was “O’ KING. These skies are owned by the migrating birds. 2560 years ago, it was that grand.

      Now you people talk these BS.



    • 0

      CARLO FONSEKA was just lucky to be employed in the Medical Faculty. That is in Sri Lanka and when was that ?…. Other than that, he is just a Physiologist. He thinks he is a very very big shot.

  • 0

    In Philosophy Ethics and Morality are christian Values.

    Anyway,Luthern Church killed ?

    It is Like Islam killing non Believers.

    “The Lutheran Church originally supported him but when they saw his ruthless killing of the Jews and the suppression of those against Bishop Bonheoffer opposed him and was executed on trumped up charges of a conspiracy “

    buddhism Says that animals can be born as humans and vice versa. So, when Animals are born as Humans they have those animal qualities of their previous life.

    That is just one reason why we should have compassion for animals.

    ETHICS and MORALITY Are very difficult to define, postulate and establish as the standards.

    Instead of Ethics, Talk about what is said in DHAMMAPADA and see how civilized you are and how easy to accept or follow those are.

  • 0

    One of the greatest periods in the history of man were those invariably called (1) The Age of Reason and (2)the Age of Enlightenment. Philosophers and thinkers of that age argued, from an angle of ethics and morality, the source of authority should be Reason. This, I believe, was around the 17th/18th centuries. Prior to that the source of authority was Force and Might (Might is Right)
    However, these took a long time to evolve. The United Nations Organisation that succeeded the League of Nations uphold these principles. That the world has been free of a global catastrophe of the scale of WWI and WW2 since 1945 is, arguably, due to the universal
    acceptance of these principles.


    • 0


Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.