23 June, 2024


Too Clever By Three Quarters On Bonds

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

‘Monk’s petition on eve of bond debate in House’ was the caption of a front page story in the Sunday Times of 22nd January. The UNP has sent their emissary to Hulftsdorp together with footnotes. There is a palpable air of duplicity.

These are the best of times and worst of times. Bonds between the spiritual and temporal are blurred. Some in the Buddhist brotherhood of our land are worried over treasury bonds. Some are contemptuous over bonds between people of different sexual orientations. Morality is a set of values that demand absolute consistency. Today we are confronted with a societal ethos where the Buddhist clergy define the trajectory of our moral consistency. Scheming politicians coopt them to manipulate minds. The ambitious among the ordained serve the highest bidder.

Go forth, ye bhikkhus, for the welfare and happiness of the many. “Caratha bhikkhave carika bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya’ Buddha advised the first sixty disciples after his first sermon in the Deer Park at Isipathana.

One of their present day successors, Thiniyawala Palitha thero, has now gone forth to Hulftdorp. This writer has known the monk since the eighties. With a winning smile, and a resonant voice, Reverend Palitha is a preacher much in demand. His temple in Nugegoda oozing the affluence of its urban middle class devotees is symbolic of our age. Material prosperity and spiritual solace are packaged and delivered in takeaway containers.

His charming personality has won him many abiding relationships with the mighty and the meek. He is a great raconteur and a good friend. This writer, convinced of his own superior knowledge of what the Buddha taught has never discussed the ‘Dharma ‘with him. That said he is definitely a mover and a shaker. This writer knows him as a venerably political Apparatchik of the UNP, not hesitant to declare his party allegiance. He is a director of Lanka Hospitals [Apollo] appointed by the Minister of Finance. Arjuna Mahendran

He has now, gone forth to the Supreme Court for the welfare and happiness of the many over the Cope report on the allegedly tendentious issue of Central Bank Bonds under the watch of its former governor Arjun Mahendran.

The Sunday Times reporting the story asserts with laconic perspicacity, that the fundamental rights (FR) petition challenging the report of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on the bond issue has been filed, just days before Parliament is expected to debate the contents and findings of the cope report.

There is no doubt that the alleged scam has undermined the credibility of the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration. It assumed office under a new Presidency that was installed in office by a collective moral compass. Venerable Maduluwawe Sobhitha thero was the principal moral voice in forging that moral compass. Sobhitha thero’s purpose was the ‘happiness and the welfare of the many.’

No doubt the Monk, aggrieved enough by the findings of the COPE report to seek redress in the Supreme Court is also in a quest for the ‘infinite possibilities’ of a Perpetual Nirvana. It goes to show that even in the Saffron community there exists different moral codes and moral priorities.

Petitioners Ven. Thiniyawala Palitha Thero and UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake in a jubilant mood outside the Supreme Court Friday following the court order suspending the CPC hedge deal. In the centre is Attorney at Law G.G. Arulpragasam - File photo - November 2008

Petitioner Ven. Thiniyawala Palitha Thero and UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake in a jubilant mood outside the Supreme Court following the court order suspending the CPC hedge deal. Ravi Karunanayake is also a Petitioner | File photo – November 2008

We can only await how this drama will unfold in the coming week in the Law Courts and Parliament. That the UNP has decided to either delay or scuttle the pending debate in Parliament by this puerile ploy would surprise only the naïve who believe that the present leader of the UNP is the brand ambassador for an effective detergent powder.

Ask any maker of detergents. They will tell you that it is dirt that keeps them in business. The manoeuver is no surprise. The choice of the Saffron robed warrior to do battle in Hulftsdorp removes any vestiges of secular leanings among the current leadership of the UNP. That is a disturbing development. It is the United National Party of genteel D.S. Senanayake that is in crisis.
Conversely, Chandrika Kumaratunga the daughter of the man playing midwife delivering the epochal baby of 1956 Sinhala consciousness is found today on record in the Hansard “I am a Sinhala Buddhist, a robust dark Sinhalese as the saying goes and a very good Buddhist. However I will never carry a tray of flowers and sit under every ‘Bo’ tree I see.”

President J.R. Jayewardene got many things right and somethings wrong. But he was acutely aware of the perils of enlisting the priesthood in governance.

He wrote “It was to help humanity that the Buddha founded the Order. …. It is another matter that the order never quite became what it was meant to be. The Bhikkhus (homeless ones) very soon became Priests, living in temples built like palaces. Today the lazy and ceremonious Church, split into Nikayas based on caste divisions, maintains its place in society, not by tendering to the sick, the poor and the helpless but by placing a Messianic halo above the Buddha-myth, and by chanting faint Pali gathas to the cold, fruitless moon.”

Why has the UNP decided to deploy a ‘saffron paw to pull its chestnuts out of the fire? Therein lies a deeper and more disturbing truth.

As long as our public discourse is held hostage by a Buddhist clergy that claims a privileged advantage over all other citizens on secular affairs, this nation will remain trapped in the frozen tribal mind frame of the Sinhala Buddhist majority.

The UNP is trying to play the Mahinda game. They will fail. Piety, pretended or perforce is Mahinda’s prerogative. With his ‘Lichchevi’ doctrine, Ranil is a rival preacher whose clumsy turn of Sinhala phrase, makes him the permanent outsider.

The ‘Apey Hamuduruwane’ of Mahinda, has a proprietary familiarity. With Ranil, it is plain simple counterfeit. We do not know for certain, what made him give way to the common candidate. What is certain is that he would have never made it on his own.

The tribal mentality of the Sangha community is real. It indoctrinates the individuals in to common tribal beliefs, and in particular to a sense of superiority over ‘others’ and more ominously, to an urgent sense of existential peril. Their nationalism pivots on a threat from the ‘other’. The structural reality of the Sinhala Buddhist society is that the Sangha can dictate what is possible and what is not to the average citizen to whom ‘Saffron’ is not just a hue but a world view. It is not something they have deliberately set out to achieve. It is something bestowed on them by Politicians who outsourced mind manipulation to the Sangha in post independent Sri Lanka. Today Bengamuwe Nalaka is an authority on devolution of power. Muruththetuwe Ananda is an expert on public administration. The two monasteries straddling the lake in Kandy claim omniscience on every facet of human endeavor.

The Sinhala National broadsheet with the highest circulation reported the recent government decision to jettison the suggested legal provisions relating to sexual orientations in its front page with a banner headline. ‘The government has rejected proposed changes to decriminalize homosexuality’ it screamed. No doubt, the Editor felt that it merited such prominence.

On May 16th 2016, a young novice monk was admitted to the general hospital at Matara. The doctors at the outpatient unit concluded that the young monk had been sexually assaulted. Only the weekly Sinhala Broadsheet Ravaya reported it. To the editors of Sinhala National News Papers it was not news. Perhaps rightly so. The rampancy of homosexual abuse of the young in our Buddhist monasteries is not as important as the constitutional recognition of the primacy of Buddhism. You may ask why? The answer is clear. We do not practice what the Buddha taught. We are guided by what the ‘Sangha’ preach. At least so it seems.

This essay was not about the issue of bonds. It is also not about celibacy observed by Buddhist monks more in breach than in observance. This is about what prevents the policeman from knocking the shaven heads of saffron clad mobs attempting to climb police barricades. It is about patriotic monks listening to the National anthem reposing on their seats especially covered with white cloth. This essay is about emotions and history which determine our ability to reconcile and adopt to a new set of attitudes and values towards a sustainable settlement of a persistent conflict- a map for national reconciliation. This is about those who recite ‘Faint Pali Gathas to a fruitless moon’.

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Latest comments

  • 17

    ‘We do not practice what the Buddha taught. We are guided by what the ‘Sangha’ preach’

    These are the truest words to appear on this subject.

    • 10

      Mr Sarath de Alwis,

      All kudos to you for taking on this menace.

      “Material prosperity and spiritual solace are packaged and delivered in takeaway containers.”

      Ha ha ha ….

      Buddhism was a one man Philosophy/religion. The only man who practiced it, is, Buddha himself. It was born and died with him. To be a true Buddhist and practice his concepts, he had to forsake all worldly pleasures/possessions and walk into the jungles.

      Now there is “Buddhism.” Not practiced, but preached and intellectualised. Preaching and intellectualizing is a sorry substitute for practising.

      While reading Shyamon’s piece on Dukkha – especially some of the comments – I was struck by how far this intellectualising has gone-on in the years since Gautama.

      If Buddha was to come today, he would be like a kindergarten kid listening to Einstein – people explaining to him his own concepts!

      After all, Gautama is a 2500 year old man.

      I practice no philosophy/religion; give me worldly-pleasures any day. I’m sure to end up in hell/Apaya but at least it won’t be for hypocrisy. One gotta learn to be thankful for small mercies.

  • 0

    Cat’s paw

  • 7

    So far the ritual of tying a “Pirith Nool” by the Buddhist “Clergy” around the wrist of all “Criminals” (mostly Politicians and their cohorts) to bring protection has not brought any noteworthy results, because the arms of Law Enforcement, though slowly, moving around much in answer to public cry. So this “Priest” having followed the Buddha’s Teaching of “Samma Dhitti”, (though much against that concept) has opted to “SEE” a different WAY of protecting those CRIMINALS and found an “Alternative” ritual of filing a case in Supreme Courts. We have to wait and see what those 32 respondents named in the case are going to do and what the “My Lord” of the Supreme Courts is going to decide. In this instance, it would be either “Pirith Nool” or “My Lord” of the Supreme Courts.

  • 7

    True, this tribal culture is causing heavy damage to our administration.

  • 0

    Not all Sangha but only fearless monks like Rev. Gnanassara who are committed to protect Sinhalese culture and Budhism in our Sinhala nation.

    • 4

      Give him the AK47 or T56 this thug monk will safeguard the Chinese land you yakko not the so called sinhala nation.

  • 2

    Ha! Ha! The matter cannot be debated in Parliament; Ven:Palitha Thero has invoked the blessings of Sub Judice!

  • 6

    Bond money will never be recovered. Because Ranil did it. That money will be spent to the election.

  • 3

    Probazbly, UNP itself has asked the monk to do it.

  • 5

    Last minute attempt to scuttle the bond scam investigation has to be a cunning strategy of the UNP leadership. It is a shame to use a Buddhist monk and it is a shame for the monk Palitha to get involved in this type of activity. UNP Leadership helped Perpetual Treasuries by providing information via Arjun Mahendran to steal funding from the citizens of Sri Lanka. Obviously big share of the profits are enjoyed by the UNP politicians sharing it with the other parties who joined them to come to power and who blessed them in the process. Billions of Rupees has to pay by the average citizens thru vat taxes etc. Sri Lankan citizens should boycott this temple and make him aware about their frustration and indignation

  • 4

    Its not the police that can beat them but the gullible public.
    80% village mutts.

  • 0

    We want fully that disclosed of Bond scam of Central Bank by any institution of state outfits.

    Why is that all Bond Money paid by Citizens of this country majorities are poor citizens irrespective of Ethic roots. Nobody has right loot People’s funds or any political parties and high position of VIPS free from charges by Parliament .Nation economic sovereignty as similar as equal of the political sovereignty of Parliament

    In fact today proposed Parliament Debate of CB Bond Scam is not going solve Bond Scam by ex-CB governor and His-son-in-law of Perpetual Trades involvement and engaged by over night.

    The Bonds scam of CB has to goes to the public that is public money, while that the public having every right see that what happen to their money .That right of democracy of majority of public is see the Finical and Fiscal disciple of National Budget and National debt.

    This right should not be that suppressed by Judiciary operation.
    We respect Judiciary independent but it is no way to over-rule Parliament sovereignty by verdicts of court of law.
    We public seek fair rule by Court of Justice.

    Look at Magner Cater 1215 in born out of that cells of Democracy has give authority to Parliament power of exercise Sovereignty of right of Majority of citizens.
    Follow Magner Cater rule of born in democracy was pillars of Parliaments.

    This debate has certain limits, case of CB scam is over due to the engagement of aiding and abating by Prime-Minter, not address by any enforcement authority.

    We cannot give Free hand like this corrupted accuse are free at large of such corrupted scandal of CB Bond scam by UNP leadership.

    We do you mean democracy they should come before the Parliaments.

    This debate Not that going to punished any of them but reveal facts behind seen of Public funds of CB bonds, how is that corrupted operation and its mode of looting money belongs to public by UNP leadership.

  • 2

    sadly though it seems for most of these Priests being a Bhikku means a Profession rather than a Vocation.Pity those devotees who depend on these” Saffron Robed” to guide them through Sansara

  • 2

    Great article, Sarath!! Your article prompted the following thought experiment:

    Let’s assume that all of us are shareholders in a company called John Seals (“JS”) a conglomerate with many interests.

    The last CEO, appointed to two overseas branches (US and Russia), his first cousins who were barely literate in English. He then gave scores of company positions to his relations. To glorify himself, he borrowed on behalf of the company tons of moneys from bank at high interest rates and built unwanted company buildings and facilities which he named after himself.
    Meanwhile, he would visit a range of Buddhist monks on company time and money and the monks would give him advice on how to run the company. Some of these monks started monkhood as child monks and are certainly not McKinsey Consulting material, but everyone pretended that these monks were the font of all wisdom and had the answers for all the problems of the company. Never mind that the monks if asked about the world trading system, inflation, currency depreciation, and export competitiveness would give some nonsensical response. Of course, if these monks advised anything specific such as no night races please in Kandy, our CEO would blithely ignore them. But this did not matter because the company paid for luxury cars for the prominent monks, and treated essentially jumped up village yokels, as the personal emissaries of the Buddha who can do anything they want without any reproof from the company.
    The company allowed the managers to import any luxury car free of duty (the company paying the duty) to perform their job but the vast majority upon receiving these luxury vehicles promptly sold them on the open market for multiple times they paid for it. The CEO would often take his friends and cronies on overseas jaunts, all on company money of course. When the CEO returned, all the managers would travel to the airport on company time and in company provided vehicles to greet the returning CEO.

    Given the above, the shareholders revolted and elected instead a duo who promised the clean things up, great corporate governance in fact. The new chairman was still baffled by his new found status and could boast that the Queen shook his hand, while this thuggish son went on rampages in nightclubs. Going to Davos, the chairman took his son excluding the Finance Minister. Meanwhile, the CEO, he whom fools called Mr. Clean, was up to tricks that would have put a cage of monkeys to shame. He allowed a crony to permit his son in law to buy company debt at an outrageously high interest rate. Then this new CEO had to fill lots of vacant positions in the company that required experience, integrity, and ability. These criteria were suppressed. Instead, the only criterion was that these new appointees had attended his high school. Terrified of putting people better than him on the board, he appointed those he favored (for reasons that cannot be disclosed in a family website) while he relegated former bank CEOs and eminent economists into lower levels.
    Tell me shareholders of JS, which is almost bankrupt and is on financial life support (after you have wept copious tears), do we send this CEO to jail or to a mental asylum?

  • 0

    Adrian: The Shareholders of this JS must be subjected to a thorough PSYCHOPATHOLOGICAL test for being deaf and blind and allowing this CEO to continue in the manner you described. When the “Shareholders” are found to be DUMB, any smart CEO will reap the benefits to his own desire.

  • 0

    Sarath de Alwis,

    Your bana talks will not serve any purpose but now the court’s decision would matter.

  • 0

    You may be right.Who guards the guardians?

  • 0

    While the government bigwigs are giving a full-scale clean up to the Central Bank the country is going down the rabbit hole: this is from today’s news:
    “Sri Lanka has been ranked among the highest risk countries in the world for investors by Bloomberg, which analyzed as many as 29 indicators covering financial, economic and political risks. Sri Lanka appears to be slipping further as its reserves adequacy and inflation forecast also point to high-risk territories with each of those quadrants labeled in dark red. – See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Bloomberg-ranks-Sri-Lanka-among-highest-risk-countries-for-investors

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