By Mass L. Usuf –
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
My interest in writing this opinion is solely in relation to the Rule of Law (ROL) and its application in post-conflict Sri Lanka. There were promises echoed from the stages of both the Presidential and General elections with much hype, to transform Sri Lanka into an exemplary nation. Nearly two years after, even a semblance of this looks a distant mirage?
Events of the recent past indicates that there are at least three areas which impact on the ROL locally. They are Buddhism, politics and corruption. These three are intertwined and difficult to manage. For instance, politics is tainted with Buddhism and corruption. The solution is to first untwine and separate each of these from the other and, secondly, to distance each of these three factors from this idea of the ROL. To do this there are certain conditions precedent :
- Determination (firm and sincere), to establish a decent civil society;
- Positioning (truly), the interest of the nation above personal interests, ambitions and political party pursuits;
- Inclination (strong), towards upholding truth and justice;
- Resolution (unswerving), to apply the law equally to all including the monks and politicians; and,
- Courage, bravery, impartiality and the real character of patriotism.
It is apt to refer to a statement by the Late Justice Weeramantry, “there can be no democracy in a country unless the rule of law prevails at every level from the humblest to the most exalted citizen.”
Are these monks alone?
For the sake of brevity, I will confine myself only to the first of these three i.e. Buddhism. As far as Buddhism is concerned the excellence of it’s teachings is well known worldwide. What is not equally known is the irreparable damage that is being done to Buddhism. There have been several scholarly opinions expressed in the Colombo Telegraph time and again, mostly written by Sinhala Buddhists. Almost all of which expressing concern on the same lines namely, the damage being perpetrated on Buddhism. Strangely, not by any non-Buddhist but by the Buddhists themselves. More so, by some of those who have chosen to adopt the strictures of Buddha and donned the saffron robe. Are these monks alone? Nay, they are ably supported by the cohorts within the bureaucracy and those outside. Evidently for their selfish political gains and, the cunning foxes among them, eyeing greater political ambitions in the future.
Racialist nationalism and buddhism are opportunistic slogans used by these so called ‘patriots’ and ‘saviours’. The Rule of Law for such elements is an obstacle.
Is Buddha A Prophet Of Islam?
This is a subject of much intellectual debate and scholarship. I must make mention of this in passing. Some may feel uneasy or even jealous arising from a sense of possessiveness that a Muslim is writing about Buddhism. Be aware that Buddhism is a universal message and not the private property of the Sinhalese. I love Buddhism and I love the Buddhism in it’s original form. I, obviously, do not love the corrupted version of Buddhism as it is commonly being practised today.
My love for Buddhism stems from my adherence to Islam. It teaches that to every nation messengers and reformers have been sent at different times. Such Reformers preached what was suitable for that time and for those people.
“And for every community or a nation, there is a Messenger;” (Quran, Chapter 10 Verse 47)
“Truly We inspire you, as We inspired Noah, and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We bestowed unto David the Psalms;”
“And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you,…” (Quran, Chapter 4 Verse 163–164)
Note the last sentence, ‘Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you’. A subject under study is if Buddha can be among one such Reformer who has not been mentioned but was Awakened to guide and reform mankind. Most of what he preached within the context of his time is in harmony with the progressive teachings of Islam. The final Reformer being Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him). This is, however, a totally different subject which can be dealt with on a later occasion.
Environment Of Impunity
It would be really humorous to think of a group of Congressmen writing a letter to their President, Barrack Obama, requesting him to take into custody and charge a suspect for inciting hate. Sadly, what would be considered a joke in the United States of America is a reality in Sri Lanka. Last month, (2nd December 2016) a letter was addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena signed by twenty one Muslim Parliamentarians requesting him “to take all extremists who are causing hate amongst communities into custody and charge them for inciting hate.” Does this action of the Members of Parliament demonstrate the absence of the normal standards of the Rule of Law? Something is amiss to require the intervention of the Chief Executive of the country over a simple investigation and prosecutorial matter. What is clear from this is the environment of impunity that has been created by the politicization of the Executive by successive governments. Wither the Rule of Law. In the absence of ROL chaos reigns and democracy diminishes.
I Will Kill You!
The virtues of the Noble Eightfold Path are very well known to the monks than to the layman. Despite this, it is alleged that Ampitiye Sumanarathana, a monk, by his conduct has either directly or indirectly brought disrepute to Buddha, Buddhism and to the respected venerable monks in the most offensive and disparaging manner. He is perceived by many to have violated these virtues by spewing out hate filled, abusive and derogatory words against another human being.
The essence of Pancha Sila (five virtues) is boundless compassion (metta). One of the virtues of the pancha sila is to abstain from killing (Panatipata). Monks take this pledge daily and also asseverates this virtue to the laymen everyday. It was shocking to see a monk who utters “Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures”, threatening a government servant saying, “I will kill you”. Ironically, in the presence of the Police who are also government servants.
Reflect for a while at the Sila (purity of conduct) Samadhi (Tranquility) and Panna (Insightful wisdom) of this monk. (see video: CT, 12.11.2016). How many times would he have hypocritically mentioned “Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta” (May all beings be happy) in Metta Bhavana (Loving-Kindness meditation)?
Who is bringing disrepute to, and destruction of, Buddhism?
Nexus Between Buddhism And The ROL
Were the laws of this land relaxed just because he is a monk? Does wearing the saffron robe entitle one to make threats against the life of another citizen? Do they enjoy the status of primus inter pares (first among equals) and have stationed themselves beyond justice? Sarcasm would have it that the traditional concept of Separation of Powers be reviewed to include these unbuddistic monks as a new entity along with the Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary.
Here comes the nexus between Buddhism and the ROL.
- Article 12 (1) of the Constitution? “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.”
- Article 9 of the Constitution? “… it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana…”.
- The Police Ordinance Section 79 (2)? “Any person who in any public place or at any public meeting uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour ……., shall be guilty of an offence under this section”.
- The Prevention of Terrorism Act Section 2 (1)(h)? “Any person by words either spoken …………. causes or intends to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups …. Shall be guilty of an offence”.
- The several Penal Code provisions relating to hate speech, threat of injury to Public Officer, criminal intimidation etc. all of which are offences.
Dear Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, what happened to that passionate election pledge that the Rule of Law shall be established?
Gnanasara’s rendezvous with President and the ROL
Gnanasara who famously called H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena, “rukada nayakayek – a puppet leader”, and demanded, ජනාධිපති තුමනි, ඔබ වහාම ඉල්ලා අස් වෙන්න “President, you resign immediately” is also on record stating among other matters, as follows:
To be continued…..