2 December, 2020

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Could These Vesak Lanterns Bring Light To Life Of Political Prisoners? 

By Ratna Bala

Dr Ratna Bala

During this period of Vesak day celebrations my heart calls me to do something for those suffering in anguish without any hope of help. Few years ago, I wrote many appeal letters to our political and spiritual leaders to consider releasing all political prisoners soon. The very demoralising plight of political prisoners shouldn’t continue any longer in Srilanka. For some reason, I strongly believe our leaders can show courage and compassion during this auspicious time and give pardon or amnesty to all political prisoners. This act of empathy, kindness, compassion and love with a very clear and beautiful message of forgiveness will encourage all our communities to come closer, united with hope, to celebrate these very special Vesak days.  What could be a better time to engage in this magnanimous endeavour?

However much we call these prisoners terrorists or criminals, we can’t deny that they were arrested under PTA for various reasons, while they were engaged in such alleged (or proven) activities merely following the orders of their leader. They were acting in the belief that they were following their orders for the benefit of their people. In their eyes, they were taking part in a selfless act and not acting to attain any personal gain or revenge. It’s very likely they wouldn’t be alive now had they refused to obey those orders. With a little empathy, it is not hard to realise that they are not bad people filled with selfishness and greed for power and wealth. They must be much better people than normal average person, wanting to do something or dedicate their life for their peoples’ future. Hence, it would be the right thing to do to recognise them as political prisoners and consider forgiveness for their crime, to give pardon or amnesty, and release them. This will also give hope to those political prisoners and their family. This could be a major step towards reconciliation, helping heal the wounds, and promoting healthy dialogue for cooperation and coexistence. 

Inmates of the Magazine Prison, Welikada get ready for Vesak [2014] .Pic by Rukshan Abeywansha

One can argue they all (or a few) may be a threat to national security and peace in the country. But history in other countries has proven that the release of political prisoners can be the driving force for promoting peace and stability. In countries like Ireland and South Africa many political prisoners (after release) actively promoted peace, positively contributed to reconciliation and led the peace process to a successful conclusion. I have no doubt that these political prisoners could also constructively contribute towards peace and reconciliation in our country.  Maybe the release of political prisoners is an essential initial step in initiating a genuine reconciliation process.

Vesak days play an important role in Sri Lanka. While we celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, we also reflect on his teachings and promise ourselves to strive to follow them. In the Buddha’s teaching empathy, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and love in relationships are constantly repeated to stress their importance in life. They definitely play a significant role in conflict resolution and reconciliation too.

In his teaching about communication the Buddha said “ … Better than a collection of a thousand meaningless words is one word full of meaning, on hearing which one becomes peaceful..”. In talking about reconciliation we may have uttered few thousand words without any use. Let us make this release of political prisoners into words of useful impact to make peace. Let these words, as the part of Right Speech of our leaders during these Vesak days have the qualities of truthfulness, kindness, usefulness and promoting concord.

Even for an unrepentant criminal person, one cannot justify torment caused to that individual and his family by keeping him in prison for many years without proper judicial proceeding under rule of law, so it is inconceivable for political prisoners. Every day they and their family wake up and spend the day not knowing their future. This kind of life in Kafka-esque limbo is the worst life one can get in modern society. Many of these political prisoners and their families have been living this unbearable life for many years now. I would humbly request our leaders to show courage and compassion by granting amnesty to all political prisoners and release them to join their families without further delay.

Releasing political prisoners is a more meaningful act during Vesak celebration days.  Many of us embark on meditation to experience higher state of consciousness and development of universal loving kindness. We may be more motivated to follow Buddha’s spiritual path with enthusiasm, and to keep away from the Five Poisons -Distraction, Anger, Craving, Conceit and Ignorance- and enrich our hearts with the positive emotions of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity and faith. These efforts would be more meaningful and fruitful if we could encourage our leaders to show empathy and compassion towards these political prisoners to promote peace, healing and reconciliation. Giving hope to these political prisoners languishing in prison in unfortunate circumstances for many years, is one simple noble act our leaders could do to make this Vesak day celebrations meaningful in our country and for its people. It would also be kinder to their families, who have been similarly impacted by their incarceration. 

Wish you all happy Vesak Days!

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Latest comments

  • 3
    6

    Suicide bombers and black tigers who blew buses, railway stations, petrol stations, buddhist temples, now are political prisoners.

    DO you know how many killers are there who do not talk about their terrorist activities ?

  • 3
    2

    May these Vesak Lanterns and the LIGHTS emanating bring WISDOM to all “PRISONERS OF POLITICIANS” – the PEOPLE of Sri Lanka.

  • 2
    6

    These Tamils are very self centered.

    for their ones getting killed, need war crime tribunals,

    On the other hand, their killers are political prisoners.

    Just shameless people.

    • 0
      0

      Could not agree more, I thought they want to punish all the killers in this tribunal of theirs!
      Their tribunal is also like their Peelam dream! slowly dwindling in the hands of UNP!

      • 2
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        srinathan gunaratnam

        “Their tribunal is also like their Peelam dream! slowly dwindling in the hands of UNP!”

        So you don’t seem to have any qualm with UNP as long as it remains bigoted Sinhala/Buddhist anti minority party avoiding all independent investigation into war crimes and crime against humanity.

        However you blame JR for 60,000 death and Siri Mao for 15,000 and praise the UNP for dodging responsibility for more than 40,000(?)death.

        What kind of hypocrite are you? A Dyan inspired smart ass patriot perhaps.

        • 0
          0

          You are too clever, You know me better than your self!
          And you are so good in twisting!

          I was simply explaining the irony. Tamils are colliding with the wrong partner. You could get a better solution with MR. He is more genuine than Mr bean. After all he is the one who gave something to the north, What have you got from Ranil yet?
          Not even a tarmac!

          For the 60,000 I mainly blame JVP for misleading youth. partly blame JR an RP.

          For the Black July, I fully blame JR!

          And for your lot, I blame your federalists and the sun goat for misleading youth.

          What do you care? You live in Wellawatta!

          • 0
            0

            No doubt you Srinath Gunaratnam is a hell bent on MR clans.
            No matter their men would have raped your lovely ones you the ilk would continue that. The kind of social fractions are not avoidable in developing countries.

            But tell one one think, as one who live on the social funds being in UK (where the democracy is not limited to the books only) but your behaviours have been very undemocratic… as is the case with anyone coming from low profiles.

            My question would be if JR to be fully blamed on BLACK JULY,
            Why not you guys put the blame of MR, on the Aluthgama muslim riots, that killed few but destroyed the lively hood of some signifcant numbers of people ?
            t

            Besides, having learnt it from 83, why should any leader allow any kind of riots since then ?

            According to you a thug man no second to MARUSIRA of an old film known to many, can be the person to do it better than a man with a cultured profile ? Ranil’s has been damaged by RAJAPAKSHE propaganda for their zimbawian style hedgemonic politics.

            • 0
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              I said it then and say it now, It is the responsibility of MR’s failure to intervene to prevent the communal clash and which at then end caused his demise!

              Besides, having learnt it from 83, why should any leader allow any kind of riots since then ?

              Exactly! Intelligence services should be used to the core to gather intelligence and suppress these gundas, irrespective of the religion!

              There are lot of players in this game and failure to identify them is the biggest problem!

              You know who is responsible for the plight of UNP today and he could never win without MS’s help by dividing SLFP!

  • 4
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    Symbols of conquest and signs of oppression

  • 2
    0

    A valid and thoughtful message composed by the author for the Vesak season in accordance with the teachings and universal ideals propounded by the Compassionatee One for a balanced and enobling mind devoid of base passions like hate, arrogance, conceit, craving, ignorance and conceit as an antidote against petty mindedness if people or so it are to live in a world of peace and progress.

  • 2
    4

    Mr Bala

    You are doing a great disservice to these “political prisoners”. We can move forward if we agree to call them what they really are: “LTTE suspects”. I am much worried than you over these LTTE “suspects” being held in prison without trial. If the government cannot bring up credible charges we must definitely release them. It is so much over due. You are playing a devious cruel political agenda over this unjustified prolonged detention of these “suspects”.

    Let us demand all “LTTE suspects” be tried legally or released forthwith.

    Sorry mate, there are no “political prisoners” in Sri Lanka.

    Soma

    • 4
      1

      Soma,

      According to you there are no “political prisoners” in Sri Lanka.

      No doubt you will also maintain there are no “war criminals” in Sri Lanka.

      If I try to swallow everything you say I will suffer from a terrible case of indigestion.

      • 1
        1

        Estate Labourer

        “If I try to swallow everything you say I will suffer from a terrible case of indigestion.”

        Why do you want to swallow what सोमस जी (somass ji) types? Rather you your spit it on his typings.

        Don’t worry Soma and his fellow noisy minority will be locked up in their much cherished Sinhala/Buddhist 10 square mile ghetto soon.

        • 0
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          Native,

          Sinhala-Buddhist heaven/paradise area is 65,610 square kilometers.

          • 1
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            Johnny boy

            “Sinhala-Buddhist heaven/paradise area is 65,610 square kilometers.”

            You may be right Sinhala/Buddhist heaven/paradise area could be 65,610 square kilometers, in their ancestral homeland South India.

            Take them back to their traditional homeland Chola Mandalam.

    • 2
      2

      सोमस जी (somass ji)
      नमस्ते जी(Namaste Ji)

      What are you doing here in this forum. I thought you would be in the front line greeting Modi the head Hindian who has been cordially invited by president to officiate Vesak festival.

      Please tell him to keep his hands off your women folks (the country).

      By the way will you speak to him in Hindi, or Sanskrit, or Urdu, or Marati, …

      You should impress upon him to declare Sinhala too a classical language after all he believes Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of Hindia.

      By the way Ranawaka Arachchige Patali Champika Ranawaka believes Sinhala language is much older than Hebrew hence the demand for the recognition of it as one of the classical language.

      This is an important matter hence I am leaving it with you hoping that you are the best qualified person to deal with it.

      धन्यवाद! सोमस जी (Thanks somass ji)

      • 1
        1

        “By the way Ranawaka Arachchige Patali Champika Ranawaka believes Sinhala language is much older than Hebrew hence the demand for the recognition of it as one of the classical language.”

        This guy once said geological evidence suggest that Sri Pada mountain emerged even before Everest!. Trust me-I was in the audience.

        Soma

        • 1
          0

          सोमस जी (somass ji)
          नमस्ते जी(Namaste Ji)
          धन्यवाद! सोमस जी (Thanks somass ji)

          “This guy once said geological evidence suggest that Sri Pada mountain emerged even before Everest!. Trust me-I was in the audience. “

          And you continue to believe him. He also believes zero was discovered by his ancestors the Sinhala/Buddhists.

          Modi should consider awarding Bharat Ratna the highest civilian honour to Ranawaka Arachchige Patali Champika Ranawaka. Speak to Modi about this.

          Any how did you speak to Hindian Modi in Hindi?
          What did you demand from him?

          Did you raise issues such as their metal housing project, illegal fishing in our waters, possibility of taking back all the descendants of Sinhala/Tamil speaking Kallathonies, ……. Bridge, trade, Oil farm, …..?

  • 2
    0

    People who Profess whatever religion use it to Pray, Preach, Persuade and Pontificate about that religion and they even go on Pilgrimages. But they fail to Practice the really meaningful things Prescribed by it.

    Hypocrisy, no less.

  • 3
    1

    Ratna Bala

    Buddha the awakened one was the last Buddhist.

    So you would not see, feel, hear, .. much compassion in this island especially among the leaders.

    Please give them some idea to strengthen their bigoted positions, how to make more money, how best to rape the country, perpetuate their corrupted life style with impunity, …. reasons to continue conflicts, … possibly more riots in the future, another war to glorify the little islanders, …. and keep their paranoia alive.

  • 3
    1

    Ratna Bala, Thank You for this noble suggestion at a special time for Sri Lanka.

    I would suggest that we go further; not only release all political prisoner’s but also to come clean and confess to the whereabouts of all those who went ‘missing’. This sacred time is ideal for a major push towards reconciliation. Leaders of ALL political parties should have this at the top of their agenda’s. Of course, it would be even better, if at this late hour, we identified those who should be punished, but this will never happen. I would even suggest that some of the worst culprits are taking their families out, dressed in lillywhite garments, to marvel at the over-the-top-un-Buddha-like decorations around the country.

    Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

  • 0
    1

    Article title: “Could These Vesak Lanterns Bring Light To Life Of Political Prisoners?”

    Will not. The Lankan language/religion divisionists must see the significance of Vesak first.

    Modi must learn from the divisions here. It is time to bridle the rise and rise of Hindu bigotry. He has gone far enough appointing Yogi Adityanath as CM of UP. The so called rent-a-cow-vigilantes are bringing bad name for India.

  • 1
    0

    Let’s get one thing straight! Barbaric LTTE terrorists are definitely NOT political prisoners, they are invaders of Sinhale (Sri Lanka) from Tamil Nadu, they were trained and financed by Tamil Nadu politicians.

    When barbaric LTTE terrorist invaders complete their jail time, they should be deported to Tamil Nadu.

    Those who sympathize with barbaric LTTE terrorist invaders, must be revoked their Sri Lankan citizenship and kicked them out of the country. Otherwise these buffoons will keep causing havoc.

    • 1
      0

      Johnny boy

      “they are invaders of Sinhale (Sri Lanka) from Tamil Nadu,”

      So are the Sinhala/Buddhists. When we deport Tamils they will have to take you with them to your ancestral homeland South India.

      By the way what is Sinhale? Another myth making tool?

      “Those who sympathize with barbaric LTTE terrorist invaders, “

      What are you going to do to the army commanders who gave arms ammunition, medizine, …. to the LTTE between 1987 and 1990?

      • 0
        0

        Native,

        Sinhalé (Sri Lanka) is a Sinhala-Buddhist island nation, locating in the Indian Ocean and separated from Indian subcontinent by the Palk Strait. It is located between latitudes 5°55′ and 9°51′ N and longitudes 79°41′ and 81°53′. Unfortunately, there are some annoying Muslims and Tamils as well.

        LTTE were given arms to attach IPKF, it was a strategic move, two birds in one stone scenario.

        • 0
          0

          correction:

          LTTE were given arms to attack IPKF, it was a strategic move, two birds in one stone scenario.

          • 0
            0

            Johnny Baby

            “correction:”

            If you are always wrong why do you need corrections?

        • 0
          0

          Johnny Baby

          You don’t seem to take in my question.

          Don’t you think you find it most difficult to refresh your conditioned mind?

          Please stop typing out prepared text which you don’t seem to understand in the first place.

          You seem to carry too much of other’s trash. Start learning, grasping, thinking then typing here.

          • 0
            0

            Native,

            If you think John’s comment is “prepared text”,it should be a compliment. It’s better than “unprepared text”,don’t you think so?

        • 0
          1

          Sinhale is the Pali or Prakrit version( well Pali is a Prakrit language) of one of the ancient Tamil names for the island. Chinkallam, meaning the land of red or copper. Chepu/Chikappu in Tamil means red. Chembu means copper. Alam means a sliver of land. Chepu+Alam or Chembu+Alam+ =Chingkalam. The land of red or the land of copper. Understood
          Another ancient Tamil word for the island is Eelam the land of metal or toddy like Era in Tamil or just Ra in modern Sinhalese. Iyam means in Tamil a sheaf of metal and Ilama in modern Sinhalese is still a vein of Metal.
          Serendib comes from another Tamil word for the island Cherantheevu meaning the island of ancient Tamil Cheras.

          Taprobane or Dhamppani is the corruption of the word Thamaraparani river that flows in southern Tamil Nadu and empties in the Gulf of Mannar. The ancient Greeks mistook all this area for the island and started call is Taprobane.
          When the ancient semi Tamil Elu speaking Chinkallavar in the south of the island became Buddhists and started to corrupt their Tamil with the Pali and Sanskrit of Buddhism , they were called Chinkallavar that later became Sinhala. Nothing to do with a lion. The population in the north and east than remained Tamil became Eelavar or Eelam Tamils. Elu or Hela

  • 0
    0

    I welcome Ratna’s timely intervention on prisoner’s release. I understand that our President pardoned nearly 600 prisoners on this significant day. I am saddened that the appeal doesn’t reach some uncultured minds. April month is significant in many ways. Easter for Christians, Full moon for Hindus, Vesak for Buddhists etc.Appeal for prisoners release is not the political one. It is a humanitarian call. Former President Mahinda pardoned many prisoners who are sentenced to death. They were drug smugglers and released within few months of a sentence to death. Do we accept this kind of politically motivated pardon system?
    Prisoners not angels but they are human beings and the crime committed under the prevailing social conditions. Who created that conditions? Politicians promised to their citizens to change their lives but they changed their lives, not theirs. Prisons not for punishment but for rehabilitation. Where is rehab? Think about Lord Budha, who left his palace to lead simple non – harmonious life. The people who claimed Buddhists should read Lord Budha’s teachings again to illuminate their minds.

    • 0
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      Mr Sivalinga

      No. Ratna Bala is playing a political game. Not out of any genuine concern over this unjutified prolongation of detention without trial. Please refer to my comment May 11, 2017 at 9:56 above.

      Thanks.

      Soma

  • 1
    0

    सोमस जी (somass ji) नमस्ते जी(Namaste Ji)

    Have you had time to meet your distant relative(?) Modi?

    Part of his International Vesak Day celebration oration is in Hindi. You would have understood and benefited from it.

    So you are ready to accept the Hindianisation of Sri Lanka and along with it Hindutva.

    Hope you wouldn’t mind replacing Mahawamsa with Ramayana. Does it matter when one myth replaces another?

  • 0
    0

    Soma, look at Amnesty International ‘s definition of political prisoners.
    What ever we call them, they are definitely different group of prisoners and holding them in prison for many years not justifiable at this juncture.

    I do agree with RB that they should be released as soon as possible. It is recommend in LLRC report as immediate initial step necessary to facilitate reconciliation. This could open new thinking about the ways to resolve atriocities commited during final war. Truth and reconciliation commission could take precedence over war crime tribunal.

    As RB wrote, we need empathy and compassion, lots of it, to bring Srilankans together to live as one family. I am sure you wish the same for our country.we can do it. Country need help from all of us united with trust and friendship.

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