By R.M.B Senanayake –
Ever since Jesus refused to pass judgment on the woman caught in adultery and who was produced before him and he instead, asked those of her accusers who were without sin to cast the first stone, people have been saying that those who are guilty of an offence themselves have no right to pass judgment on others. The President echoed those views when he told David Cameron that those in glass houses should not cast stones. He also quoted a Pali stanza “Na paresaa vilomani – na paresam katakatamAttanova avkkheyya – katani akatani ca” which was interpreted to mean that a person should be concerned with his own actions rather than of others. The implication is that the British should mind their own business and look to their own wrongful actions. The British resorted to brutal methods to suppress the 1848 Rebellion in the Uva, laying waste vast tracts of arable land- a scorched earth policy. They showed similar brutality in suppressing the Indian mutiny in 1857.
But the world has changed since then. The UN Declarations have accepted the need to protect human rights and International Law such as the revised Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, do not permit ethnic cleansing, war crimes etc. even where there is civil war. So the UN has set up institutions such as the Human Rights Council and the International War Crimes Tribunal. The tolerance level of crimes against humanity has changed in the world community of people. Even after 50 years Bangladesh is prosecuting those who committed humanitarian violations during the war waged by Pakistan against East Bengal , a part of its territory. The Khmer Rouge are being prosecuted in Cambodia. Kenya’s former leaders are to be hauled before the ICC.
The campaign for justice is being driven by the victims and their supporters. So it is the Tamil Diaspora that is driving this campaign against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Since many of them are citizens in the Western countries they are pressurizing these governments to take up the need for an international inquiry. But the first call is on the government of the country and it is only if they fail to hold an independent inquiry that there is space for the UN to step in. But what is equally important is to compensate the victims- restorative justice. Have we provided restorative justice? If we have not, we need to provide compensation for the victims.
What about the claim by some that “sinners” have no right to judge others. Should we not judge others or call for accountability even if we are sinners ourselves. According to the bible we all sinners anyway? We often hear politicians say that the UNP has no right to blame or criticize the wrongful actions of the government because they themselves have indulged in similar wrongful actions. Can this view be correct? What about the judges who are fallible human beings themselves but are called upon to judge those accused of some offence or wrong. Are the judges debarred from judging? What about parents or teachers who are responsible for teaching the right ways of behavior to children? Should they not have the right to censure their wards despite their own faults?
Judge not that you be not judged” is spouted by a lot of people who have no idea what Jesus meant by that. Parents ask their teenage daughter not to keep company with a certain boy because they don’t think it would be good for her good name. So, she screams, “Judge not that you be not judged!” ”
Or some student gets drunk and has to be disciplined in a school. But when the principal tries to punish him his friends rally round him, saying, “Judge not that you be not judged.”This saying of Jesus has been misused by people to justify their own life style asking others to mind their own business.
Jesus wasn’t saying we should never assess people with some discrimination, but rather that we should not have a harsh, judgmental spirit as the Pharisees had.
Has the recent Commonwealth Heads Conference been too harsh or overly judgmental? They have only asked us to put in motion an inquiry into the allegations made by the Tamil Diaspora about war crimes and violations of humanitarian law. They speak on behalf of the victims. The victims have a right to be compensated for what they have suffered if the allegations are proved to be correct. Can we overlook offences which would constitute crimes under our laws merely because they refer to the period of the war? Weren’t they our citizens and doesn’t the Penal Code apply during wartime to soldiers where they are non-combatants?
It’s nice to have a verse from the bible or the Buddhist texts to prove what we already want to believe. But it doesn’t hold water.