By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“Technically, even if a Buddhist sees a robe hanging on the washing line they should, under this social logic, run and worship the piece of fabric. Mercifully, we don’t witness that!”
Could this ever happen in Sri Lanka?
Could this ever happen in Sri Lanka if a Mahanayake of any of the nikayas was found guilty of criminal conduct like sexual abuse and rape of kids under their care? Or a Muslim Mullah? Or even our own cardinal Revd Malcolm Ranjith? However serious the case may be, it would never have reached court in the first place. Furthermore, if it was a high politico, the complainant would have been sent missing under Gota’s kind of ‘disciplining.’ That has become the Sri Lankan way.
Cardinal Pell’s Case
The case in Australia is about a most sensational court verdict handed down to one of the Catholic Church’s highest ever dignitaries. The Cardinal was found guilty by a Melbourne County Court of sexually abusing two choirboys in St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne. This incident had been 22 years ago. However, the issue was raised a few years ago and authorities had to act on the complaint as the law requires.The verdict was given as on December 11th last year but Australian media has been barred from reporting the verdict until now, due to a court-imposed suppression order. The details were out today (26/2/19).
As stated by The Age Newspaper columnist Tony Wright, “[the verdict] will rattle confidence in the structures of the Catholic Church, all the way to the inner sanctums of the Vatican City, as no sex abuse scandal has done before.”Adds Wright: “Here is a Prince of the Church, handpicked in 2003 by a Pope himself, John Paul II, as a cardinal; a prelate, set above others, entitled to be called His Eminence.” Cardinal Pell was one of those 113 privileged Cardinals who sat in conclave at the Vatican to appoint the new Pope Francis. Every reason for special hush hush and protection in a Sri Lankan context.
Law above Persons
On the other hand the scenario is vastly different here in Australia. No person, however eminent and powerful can escape the law. The Australian law stands above everyone. This also means the judiciary, which is at the pinnacle of legal system, is held sacrosanct and is never interfered with. This is the essential core idea of our own Revd Sobitha’s yahapalanaya mission. The United Front government campaign in 2015 was for replacing the lawless and arbitrary regime of the Rajapaksas with a system where the law is above all. Maitripala Sirisena was made common candidate while Ranil Wickremesinghe, head of the largest single party in Sri Lanka, voluntarily sacrificed the opportunity he himself had.
There are many critics of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the United Front government but what cannot be denied is that this government managed to bring in the 19th Amendment and this bit of law had provisions embedded to keep the law above all. Unfortunately, the new law could not do away with the absurd immunity allowed for the Executive President. Maybe because that provision needed a referendum. The rest was fine. President’s direct ability to pick members of the judiciary was taken away as the the Constitutional Council was entrusted with the task of picking form among the nominees given by the President. I think even that amount of leavage should not have been left for the President. The structure of the Constitutional Court reflected an adequate amount of political representation but its independence had been made secure.
And see the results today: Judges and judgments are free from the President’s and Prime Minister’s interference. No Chief Justice had been obligated to give the verdict required by any political power.
The power of the yahapalanaya concept was more than amply demonstrated when our judges saved our democracy both from a crazy President who joined the Opposition forces led by Mahinda Rajapakse in the shameless and frightening October 26th coup that went on for 52 days stalling the operation of governance in the country and holding our people to ransom.
That both Sirisena and Mahinda do not feel remorseful for what they did is clear because these two blokes are now on a campaign to attack the Constitutional Council- the creator of the independent judiciary. Sirisena is madly upset because, occupying as he does the mindset of the incumbent of the President’s office prior to the 19th Amendment, he thinks he is the big boss who can appoint judges without restriction. Knowing the man only too well and being too close to the coup episode, it is easy to imagine what kinds of judges Sirisena would pick. Their attacks on the Constitutional Council and on our judges is totally without logic, reason and evidence. It is an expression of mere frustration-aggression.
Can these two leaders be educated about the beauty of the Australian example as manifested in Cardinal Pell’s conviction? This is a subject that our print and electronic media should take up in seriousness for the sake of raising the consciousness of our people to the vital need for a strong and independent justice system that catches all without reservation.
Clergy Issues in Sri Lanka
With regard to clergy issues, the Sri Lankan culture is also to be blamed. Buddhists give uncritical respect for anyone who dons the robe.This inspite of Buddha’s own advice to be wary of monks who misbehave. Technically, even if a Buddhist sees a robe hanging on the washing line they should, under this social logic, run and worship the piece of fabric. Mercifully, we don’t witness such enslavement!
Our political and other leaders are seen on a daily basis pandering to the Sanga sans reservation.
The other day, I observed two shocking incidents in this regard. One is when Minister Ravi Karunanayake and some Opposition MPs visited the jailbird raucous monk Galagoda Atte Gnanasara in prison. This monk has a terribly bad reputation. However, Ravi Karunanayke is reported to have advised the monk to come out of jail and restore the purity of Buddhism!! It is unlikely Ravi was giving expression to some intelligent sarcasm. Sarcasm, if it was, would have been in bad taste and politician’s don’t do that sort of thing. I think Ravi Karunanayake is a disgrace.
Gotabaya and Bro with Revd Pitiduwe Samantha Bhadra
The other episode was about prospective candidate Gotabaya and his former powerful brother Mahinda paying a visit to Pitiduwe Samantha Bhadra on the latter’s birthday. This monk is a sort different from GA Gnanasara. However, he falsely claims he has reached the ‘rahath state,’ and so he has managed to get thousands of gullible pilgrims visiting him on a daily basis with gifts (pirikara). He gets his followers to arrange lavish displays on every birthday. This practice is incongruent with the doctrine of selflessness (empty self or sunya) in Buddhism. Yet, for the miserably credulous this wouldn’t matter. My point is why did these two politicos go there? Obviously to boost their vote-base among Sinhala Buddhists. In the process of this selfish thrust they only help to cement the false social consciousness around Samantha Bhadra. Our leaders should never set examples like this.
To add to the campaigning politicos, did I not spot Dhammika Perera-Sri Lanka’s richest man- pouring over luxury gifts got down from France? I am hoping that was an optical illusion. It is reported that this ‘Rahath monk,’ was made richer by over 20 million gifts on his birthday!
Instead of uplifting the social consciousness of our people towards modernity, these leaders are working towards a regression of our society.