By Sharmini Serasinghe –
No leader of a multi religious society, can afford the luxury of being seen practicing his religion, in the full glare of the public!
The President of this country is a representative of all its people; Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Therefore, such a President cannot be seen favoring one faith, even though it is his own. If he must, then he ought to pay equal obeisance to other religions as well. After all, he is the leader of all of us, not just the Buddhists of Sri Lanka.
Hence, it is with deep despair, that I as a Buddhist noted, you President Maithripala Sirisena, paying homage to a Bo tree, even though it is venerated by a majority of the Buddhist populace of this country.
Furthermore, by paying homage to a Bo tree, you Mr. President are also openly violating the teachings of the Buddha, who denounced the worship of objects!
Many would argue that such, are harmless cultural practices. But, nevertheless, such practices are associated with Buddhism, and the leader of this multi religious nation, cannot afford to be associated with one set of cultural/religious practices and not the other.
There are many of us who regard our respective faiths as a very private matter, and to exhibit it in public is in poor taste. Unfortunately this ‘culture’ will not take root in a country like ours, as long as our elected leaders such as you Mr. President don’t give leadership to it.
Furthermore, by publicly paying obeisance to a Bo tree; a symbol of Buddhism, you Mr. President are rubbing salt into raw wounds of the minorities, caused by the maniacal Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).
It is yet not too late, for you Mr. President Sirisena to take a cue from former Presidents JR Jayewardene, Chandrika Kumaratunga, and your Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe, and keep religion where it belongs, and governance of the country, as further away from it as possible.
Those of us who voted you in, would much rather see you spend your time fruitfully; putting the country back on track, instead of worshipping trees.
*Sharmini Serasinghe was Director Communications of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) under Secretary Generals Dr. John Gooneratne and Jayantha Dhanapala. She counts over thirty years in journalism, both print and electronic media.