By Malinda Seneviratne –
There is a school of opinion which holds that the clergy should not be involved in politics. In fact UNP MP Wijedasa Rajapaksha has called for constitutional measures prohibiting clergy from entering Parliament, which would of course see his party man Eran Wickramaratne being barred as well, a fact which neither individual has dared comment upon. The merits and demerits of such a move notwithstanding there is no escaping the fact that every single citizen has a right to opinion and the expression of the same, subject to the caveats pertaining to character assassination, libel and so on. Everyone makes choices and very few choices are apolitical.
As such, no one can complain about the Maha Nayaka Theros expressing opinions on matters of national import, including that of the present tensions between the legislature and judiciary. They can write to newspapers, make speeches and even express views privately. Whether or not such privately expressed views are thereafter published for purposes unintended is a matter they may or may not know about or care about, but that’s not the point. They have the freedom to express.
The word of the Prelates needs to be listened to by all, of this there is no argument. They may not get it right, but that’s a different matter. They have on many occasions made political choices, some of which have been detrimental to the country and the people, which too one can dismiss as decisions prompted by notions of the wellbeing of all albeit based on incomplete information and inadequacies pertaining to reading the political. Opinion is opinion, however, and as citizens they have the right to express views.
So there is nothing wrong about the Maha Nayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter the Most Venerable Udugama Sri Buddharakkita Thero chit-chatting with anyone, even with the US Ambassador Michele J Sison. The Venerable Thero has every right to talk about anything with anyone; even the US Ambassador and even about the current tensions between Parliament and Supreme Court. The Thero can pass judgment too. By the same token the Thero will also be judged, with all due respect.
Sison asked about the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice, as she is entitled to, and the Venerable Thero responded, as is his right. It was then, not just a courtesy call, but a visit to play agent provocateur as has been the not so side-role of US diplomats all over the world.
Now it would be childish to say that the Maha Nayaka Thero is part of an international conspiracy led by the USA against the Government. The question is, why even bother to discuss the subject with someone whose government cares next to nothing about justice, fair play, decency, propriety and such in domestic or international affairs. It is certainly not something one expects from those who are often referred to as the Mura Devatavo (Guardian Deities) of the nation.
The Venerable Thero perhaps out of courtesy is reported to have referred to acts of friendship. Perhaps, again out of courtesy, the Venerable Thero kept silent on unarguable acts of aggression and enmity. Perhaps out of ignorance, we could add, but let’s err on the side of compassion here. Either way, circumspect ought to have been demonstrated. It was not. Pity.