27 October, 2020

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Parliamentary Blows & The South Asian Buddha: The Case Of Dignity In Sri Lanka

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

On this World Press Freedom Day, I urge all Governments, politicians, businesses and citizens to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent, free media. Without this fundamental right, people are less free and less empowered. With it, we can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all.” ~ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

World Press Freedom Day

The 3rd of May marks the world press freedom day. Among other factors, unimpeded violence against the press culminated in the Silent Revolution one year ago. Of this violence included injustice toward media giants, press freedom fighters such as Lasantha Wickrematunge and many others who were brutally assassinated. The contribution of Sri Lankan journalists over decades of civil war and before remains immense. Despite multifold limitations to freedom they continued work which needs to be appreciated. I remember the words of Ariyarathna Dombagahawatta senior journalist and Sunday Lankadeepa editor sometime ago, he said during the insurrection in 1989 he fled the country to India as the assassins targeted to kill him and he only returned after this horrific time. A politician who was kind to him helped him to save his life by calling his contacts in India.

According to the Freedom of the Press Report 2016 by Freedom House, Sri Lanka is ranked at 64th place. This is not a positive rank comparison to our neighbours with India at 41 (Nepal 54, Bangladesh 61, Pakistan 64 and Afghanistan 62). Sri Lanka is categorized out of Free, Partially Free and Not Free categories as a country “Not Free” for the press, the report confirms. The report explains “Unlike its neighbors, Sri Lanka experienced a marked improvement in press freedom conditions after a new government took power in early 2015. Journalists faced fewer threats and attacks than in previous years, investigations into past violence made progress, a number of websites were unblocked, and officials moved toward the adoption of a right to information bill.”

Another report is Press Freedom index by Reporters without borders which ranks Sri Lanka at poor 141st place, before us ranks South Sudan and on par with us sits Ethiopia.

I hope the next year reports will improve the status of our country as the new Government is working hard to fully implement Right to Information act with amendments to the existing act tabled to Parliament and also fully restore media freedom. After 14 months of careful study a comprehensive report “Rebuilding public trust- an assessment of media industry and profession in Sri Lanka” was handed over to Prime Ministers with 101 important recommendations to rectify the issues in our media industry by the media experts and stakeholders. Hopefully we will see some progress in implementing the recommendations.

Health of individual citizen

With the ongoing increase in tax on private medical services which will be high even further in future, I wonder how the common people could afford even today and after the completion of our own Mount Elizabeth. The common people will find it difficult to obtain medical services with the tax increase and with their nominal income specially from private hospitals and Government hospitals will be the only hope.

Health Minister of Sri Lanka who fled the country for medical treatment to Singapore at Mount Elizabeth, a popular hospital for very important people (VIP) of our community when returning back to the island was impressed by the quality of service in Singapore said he will build three hospitals as equal to Mount Elizabeth in Sri Lanka. This is a great thought to improve our ailing medical service.

In a recent visit to Norway I learned about the high life expectancy and quality of life and health. Life expectancy in Norway is 81 compared to Sri Lanka at 77 (still a high figure as a South Asian nation). The quality of life is an essential part in the modern era. The water and food you and your family consume should be of highest quality to contribute to long life. What we hear in Sri Lanka is not a positive story when it comes to our water, food and the certain fertilizer used. Recently 21 trade stalls were seized of unsuitable food for human consumption by health officers in Piliyandala Town and also in Dehiwala – Kohuwala restaurants. Strict measures of legal punishment and regular checks will help to catch these culprits.

Equal to the lives taken for the three decade war, the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has killed 22,000 lives for the last two decades. The CKD is a serious problem in Sri Lanka, World Health Organization reports around 15% of the population in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Badulla Districts between the age group 15-70 years are affected. WHO believes CKD is an environmental-exposure disease caused by multiple factors such as chronic exposure to kidney damaging pesticides, arsenic, lead, cadmium, poor diet and genetic susceptibility to kidney failure.

Our President made a pledge at Paris COP21 to introduce smart solutions and we should believe in him. I hope the Government will encourage electric cars and other sustainable methods of generating electricity and improve quality of food we consume.With the economic crisis we are facing now as a nation this status may further deteriorate and the political leaders should make the correct policy decisions to improve quality of life. The air we breathe and food we consume should be a top priority, the situation will not help by adding more coal power plants to our nature. Whatever status in society or wealth you possess will not help to cure a chronic illness if we keep polluting our environment at this rate.

Violence against women and children

The tallest Buddha statue in South Asia stand at 135 feet was unveiled by President Sirisena in Matugama was a great deed to spread the message of Dhamma to a world which is in disorder and needs heeling specially at a time when Buddha statues were destroyed by ruthless terrorist such as Taliban in Afghanistan. Addressing the gathering President said “Buddhist philosophy has been instrumental in moulding a righteous society in the country and a moral society could be built based on Buddhist philosophy”. On the same day due to the high number of cases reported in the country the task force on prevention of violence against women and girls handed their action plan to Prime Minister. Buddhism in practice is essential more than a symbol. A principal value of Buddhism is to respect and love women and children, Buddha once said, a nation could be judged how they look after their women and children. Sri Lanka needs to invest and improve in this area.mathugama buddha statue

Parliamentarians should work collectively bearing in mind the critical economic situation and social issues our country is facing. The parliament ideally should be the most esteemed place to debate to implement the right policy to make our society better, the place we send our representatives to safeguard our children’s future has fallen due to lack of respect and dignity of the parliamentary space and institution. Having written to the education minister to include global dignity to school curriculum which will teach children about respect and dignity, I am debating the benefits of introducing the same program to parliamentarians of my country.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Dear Asanga,

    “Teach your children well and feed them on your dreams” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

    I am all for teaching our children about respect and dignity.

    The vast majority of Sri Lankans young adults display that major whole in their education. It visible in Sri Lankan society everywhere.

    Our schooling system churns out tuition class & exam oriented, socially unintelligent, dysfunctional individuals. In their millions. Every single year.

    Sri Lanka’s Parliament reflects that reality. Plus many other deep-seated social problems.

    We should start by cleansing our parliament of criminals. You did see them on last Monday morning. During that disgraceful brawl. Start by firmly showing those criminals the doors of Welikada prison.

    Then by not allowing politicians tainted with criminality to file nomination papers for Sri Lanka’s elections.

    SLFP and UNP are the major culprits in this regard. The corrupt, rotten culture of these two organisations have been fertilizing the cancer cells of Sri Lanka’s tomorrow. They have been eating this nation alive. Ever since Independence.

    criminals in our Parliament have missed the bus for dignity & respect education. I propose a very public spanking of their shameless bottoms instead.

    Cheers!

  • 3
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    Cannot the upright people of this nation form a new political party that will not sell its principles for power by aligning with the slfp/unp? Are there any upright people left?

    • 0
      0

      India has a Professionals Party. Maybe we could have one?

      • 2
        0

        New Vanguard

        “India has a Professionals Party”

        A what?

        • 0
          0

          The Professionals Party of India is a small political party set up in India in 2007.[1] It was registered with the Election Commission of India in 2008 and starting receiving international attention in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.[2][3] Its main support is from India’s middle class and its stated aim is “improving the Quality of Life of every Indian”.[4] It plans to stand 12-15 candidates in the 2009 general election.[5] The party has yet to win any seats in parliament.

          Theier website is up for sale. I guess they have gone back to their professions.

  • 6
    0

    A BUNCH OF HOOLIGANS THE PEOPLE ELECTED EVEN AFTER THEY HAD RUINED THIS COUNTRY’S SOCIAL FABRIC OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS, DISPLAYED THEIR BARBARISM IN PARLIAMENT.
    THE BORULUGODA SINHAYA’S SON HAS STOOPED SO LOW WE HAVE NO NAMES TO CALL HIM.
    WE ARE ASHAMED OF THIS WILD BUNCH WHO WALKED INTO THE LOBBY OF PARLIAMENT.
    PEOPLE YOU MUST NOT VOTE FOR ANY OF THESE USELESS , DISRESPECTFUL, HOOLIGANS NEXT TIME

  • 3
    0

    Parliamentary blows and the South Asian Buddha: The case of dignity in Sri Lanka.

    This is not the beginning of their misbehavior. But the last week’s incident has received more media coverage than the previous ones with strong condemnation.

    It’s not fair to blame one side as both parties are responsible for it. They have made it a tradition.

    This is lack of discipline; disregard for rules and regulations, we see it not only in parliament but also everywhere.

    Where shall we start making our people disciplined and law abiding?

    I think it’s good to start in this way.

    1. Make parents perfect 2. Make teachers perfect 3. Make police officers perfect. 4. Make Buddhist monks perfect

    Stop rat race in society, give children their childhood, prohibit tuition classes for school children, Evaluate teacher performance so teachers will work with a sense of responsibility setting good examples for children.

  • 4
    0

    Is there anyone to start a new Political Party??
    UNP AND SLFP the Big two has swindled our Nation Since the Independence in 1940s.

    They have done Nothing , Nothing , Educationally, Scientifically , Culturally , or Spritually.

    People it’s time to wake up before they The Two Biggies Swindle the country Wholesale.
    UNP AND THE SLFP are the cause of this ill state of our country.
    The Liars ,Thieves , drug Peddlers , and Murderers should be out of our Parliament.

    • 2
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      CT Please correct my name to Analyst , not “Analysy ” as above.

  • 1
    3

    Batalanda? Why have you forgotten Batalanda torture and rape camp? Why target Buddhists only? Is this part of the Evangelical agenda? As for the Parliament attack 2 UNP MPs attacked first and they got away because the committee did not have a representative of the Joint Opposition. Keep being a propaganda bile duct for the UNP buddy.

  • 3
    3

    ‘Buddha once said, a nation could be judged how they look after their women and children’. Then why did Gautama Buddha desert his family and leave home secretly in the night, leaving his wife and son Rahula alone never to return to them ever again? Also why do Buddhist monks (specially in Theravada Buddhism) not marry and bring up children? Why don’t they practice what their Lord preached, although the Lord himself did not practice what he preached? This religion of Buddhism is all too confusing. Can someone explain?

    • 4
      0

      ‘Buddha once said, a nation could be judged how they look after their women and children’

      I don’t think this quote is true

      ‘Then why did Gautama Buddha desert his family and leave home secretly in the night, leaving his wife and son Rahula alone’

      He left them in order to save them. He realised that everyone, including his own family, was subject to old age, sickness etc. He left to find a cure. If your family was starving or very ill, would you not leave them to find food or medicine?

      ‘never to return to them ever again?’

      He returned and showed them what he had discovered.

      ‘Also why do Buddhist monks (specially in Theravada Buddhism) not marry and bring up children?’

      In order to practise the teaching and awaken to Nibbana it is necessary to abandon the many things that tie us to a life of delusion. Nothing ties us to life more strongly than wives and children.

      ‘Why don’t they practice what their Lord preached’

      To find monks who practise what was preached you have to visit the many forest meditation centres and monastaries. Most city monks have used the robe to have its advantages as well as the comforts of a lay life. They use money, take part in politics, espouse racism, nationalism etc.

      ‘although the Lord himself did not practice what he preached?’

      This is not true.

      ‘This religion of Buddhism is all too confusing. Can someone explain? ‘

      On the contrary, Theravada is the clearest and most convincing of ‘religions’, without blind faith, prayer and holy books.

      http://bs.dila.edu.tw/zh/downloads/download_document.html?gid=4210

  • 1
    0

    Mt. Elizabeth is a 5-star plush hospital with private rooms for the wealth of Singapore. I wonder that even one like Mt. Elizabeth could exist on Lankan soil when our country doesn’t have the same GDP ratio anywhere near that of Singapore.

    How is the country going to afford even one of this type of hospitals, when the common man is struggling to pay taxes for the already existing hospitals. Surely these hospitals aren’t going to come out from nowhere?

    For the common people to conserve their tax-rupees at greatest advantage, is with basic facilities in a public ward-system hospital (albeit clean with good medical staff and equipment).

  • 1
    1

    We need to have compulsory post-election education for parliamentarians.

    Some topics:

    Conflict Resolution
    Democracy
    Political Science
    Sustainable Development
    International Politics
    Military Science
    Political Psychology
    Ethnicity and Culture
    Separatist movements
    Terrorism
    Philosophy
    Government Finance
    Economics and Political Systems

    Instead of pistol shooting

    • 2
      0

      They will not attend the classes but they will claim all the expenses. Its not education that is needed. What is needed is a group of honest sincere people who have the benefit of the nation as their goal.

      • 0
        0

        No education is wasted, my sincere hope is that when our beloved parlimentarians start attacking the task of learning instead of their opponents some common sense will sink in, and they can make up their own minds:

        A series of slide presentations from prominent political stalwarts with a Q and A session, ‘Knowledge- Sharing’ would be a welcome change.

        Here are some suggested topics:

        Ranil W. on “Appeasement or corporation – the path for Sri Lanka for the next 50 years in the context of the Global Power Struggle”

        Harsha W, on “Government Finance, Economics Political Systems and the aid trap-a review of Sri Lanka’s BONDage to the West”

        Wimal W. on “The post-colonial landscape and geopolitical realpolitik in 2016”

        The. Hon Minister from Kurunegala, on “Separatist strategy and the Sinhala mindset – possible soutions to the National Question -my search for peace”

        Prof. GL Peiris: “Constitutional reform within the bounds of the present constitution – pitfalls and opportunities”

  • 3
    0

    The meagre punishment given to the alleged culprits of the fracas in Parliament is a clear sign that it is considered only a minor misdemeanour.

    They should have been debarred for life and a by election held. BTW a by election is a forgotten term !

    • 3
      0

      Punishments meted out are absolutely laughable. It is an insult to people’s outrage.

    • 0
      0

      The traditional punishment of ‘on the form’ treatment for two minutes would have been better. For schoolboys this used to take the form of standing on their benches for 45 minutes or so. Very embarrasing and effective.

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