By P. Soma Palan –
Member of Parliament, Ananda Aluthgamage (AA) has proposed an Amendment to the Presidential Election Law, in Parliament, as reported in the Daily Mirror of 28th March. I wish to respond as follows:
Ananda Aluthgamage states that “We all believe that only a Buddhist (that is Sinhala) could become the Head of State, but it is more important to include a clause in the Presidential Election Law, saying one has to become a parent to be eligible to contest the Presidency”. What a profound piece of thought. It would even baffle a half sane person. He says it is because that, “only a parent with children could understand the needs of the people”. Why only the President? Even those who get elected to Parliament and come to serve the people should also be eligible to contest elections only if, he or she is a parent, who will understand the needs of the people. Those bachelors and married people without the status of parenthood should be debarred from contesting elections, both General and Provincial. The President is only an individual. Whereas, Members of Parliament are 225, who should “understand the needs of the people” more and better, particularly their electorates, than the President.
Further, Mr. Ananda Aluthgamage states that “parenthood is the only condition to understand the needs of the ” If this is so, then the Monks of the Buddhist Sangha and the Priests of the Christian Church, who are “Celibates” should be disqualified from giving pontifical advice to the State, as they are incapable of understanding the needs of the people.
To understand the needs of the people, it does not necessarily require the status of parenthood. What it requires is, education, knowledge and awareness, which is woefully lacking in our politicians.
The other limb of his statement states that “only a Buddhist (means Sinhala) could become the Head of State”. This violates the Constitution, which says all citizens are equal. Sri Lanka is a Democratic country and not a Theocratic State, at least “de jure”. But “de facto” it is a theocratic State. However, Mr. Ananda Aluthgamage is honest enough to overtly say that only Sinhala Buddhist should be the President of the country. But covertly, the Government ensures that ,all important Leadership positions are held by the Sinhala Buddhists, such as the Chief Justice, Attorney General, the Speaker of the Parliament, Auditor General, Prime Minister and even Heads of Ministries and Corporations. Example the removal of the Director General of Customs, Mrs Charles. Even the Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team- example the obstacles faced by Angelo Mathews as Captain. It is widely believed that a potential Prime Minster, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar was pre-emptively eliminated by assassination.
In the Daily Mirror of same date, the writer, Ravi Nagawatte reiterated this rule in his article “Buddhist Sri Lanka at Crossroads” that “only a Sinhala Buddhist can become the Head of State in this country”. He even says that “this condition is a blessing in a way because it forces the Head of State of this nation to be a cultured and religious minded individual who has compassion towards everyone”. According to Mr. Ravi Nagawatte only a Sinhala Buddhist can be a cultured and religious minded individual, who would have compassion towards everyone, and no one else. This is the doctrine of religious absolutism. These noble qualities are the preserve and prerogative of the Sinhala Buddhists only. Implied in this statement is the notion that individuals of other religions have no such virtues.