‘Be­hind Bars’


Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - OPINION - The au­thor can be con­tacted at - kksper­[email protected] By K. K. S. PER­ERA

The coun­try be­longs to peo­ple, not to its rulers. The rulers should be mind­ful of it - Car­di­nal Mal­colm Ran­jith

I would rather sac­ri­fice my life for this holy is­land than to wit­ness a part of it be­ing given to the LTTE ter­ror­ists - Ven. Omalpe So­bitha

As we look around our en­vi­rons, it’s use­ful to keep in mind that se­cu­rity has moved into a lot of ar­eas of our lives. It’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for the places that we go for refuge and shel­ter and to pray also af­ford the sim­i­lar se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures as other places we visit fre­quently. The vi­tal com­po­nents of state machin­ery are ei­ther ob­so­lete, re­dun­dant or out of ser­vice.

Mo­hamad Fuzi Harun, their IGP said, “Soon af­ter the shoot­ing in New Zealand, I in­structed all se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers to in­form their sub­or­di­nates to be on high alert and to ob­serve tem­ples and churches,” Malaysian Lo­cal Po­lice an­nounced on March 19, as per the coun­try’s in­tel­li­gence, that they have in­creased vig­i­lance at tem­ples and churches through­out the coun­try as they as­sessed risks of re­tal­ia­tory vi­o­lence to non-mus­lim places of wor­ship in a most mul­ti­cul­tural na­tions in South­east Asia.


State is an idea/con­cept or a name used to sig­nify a com­mu­nity of peo­ple liv­ing on a given ter­ri­tory and or­gan­ised for the ex­er­cise of au­ton­omy. State is ab­stract, can­not be seen, whereas Gov­ern­ment is made by the cit­i­zens of the State. It is formed by the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives. It has a spe­cific and de­fined or­gan­i­sa­tion and form. It is a team of peo­ple ex­er­cis­ing the power of the State. The in­de­pen­dence of the Pub­lic ser­vice, the im­por­tance, the dig­nity and in­tegrity of the ser­vice are lost due to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence. It should be given its ap­pro­pri­ate place as an im­por­tant ‘State Ser­vice’ in charge of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of poli­cies and to play a more ac­tive role in the so­cio-eco­nomic growth of the na­tion. Like in de­vel­oped na­tions, the state ser­vice ought to be looked up to rather than looked down as a ser­vant, but a distin­guished ser­vice, tak­ing the ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity for all ac­tions. It is a dif­fi­cult task to be at­tained, with the men who have been, ridiculed, looked down upon, and at times pressed about, by the politi­cian who wield power—the poorly paid, and not been trained and de­vel­oped. Th­ese of­fi­cers sur­vive by singing hosan­nas, yield­ing to pres­sure and bend­ing down, rather than chal­lenge the author­ity and lose the job. To­day a good ma­jor­ity thinks in this man­ner. The for­mer Au­di­tor Gen­eral is a rare ex­cep­tion. Hence we are a ‘State-less’ na­tion. All gov­ern­ments since 1970s are re­spon­si­ble for cre­ation of this pa­thetic state.


As re­ported re­cently, His Em­i­nence Car­di­nal Mal­colm Ran­jith who vis­ited Ven. Athure­liye Ratana Thera dur­ing his fast unto death has re­minded our two Buddhist lead­ers on this Po­son month, the sa­cred words of Arhant Mi­hindu who made a sim­i­lar de­cree to the then Monarch De­vanampiy­atissa at Am­bassta­laya in Mi­hin­tale 2300 years ago.

He stated, “the prob­lem would not have blown out of pro­por­tion to­day if Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena and Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe had acted against those who dis­creetly aided and abet­ted the ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Peo­ple have given a man­date to the two lead­ers and the Cab­i­net to gov­ern the coun­try for five years. They had not been given a life­time right to be in of­fice. They have not been given the coun­try on free­hold ba­sis. The coun­try be­longs to peo­ple, not to its rulers. The rulers should be mind­ful of it. The time has come to take a de­ci­sion on the Pres­i­dent and the Prime Min­is­ter: if it were the Pres­i­dent and the Prime Min­is­ter who could ap­point Min­is­ter Rishad Bathi­udeen, then it was they who had the author­ity to re­move him.”

Con­tin­u­ing, The Car­di­nal said that there were no proper in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the East­ern Sun­day at­tacks so far.

“No one is in­ves­ti­gat­ing to find out about those in­di­rectly in­volved in this at­tack. Be­cause of that, there should be im­me­di­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tions to find out who were be­hind this at­tack. So we call on the Pres­i­dent and the Prime Min­is­ter to launch a proper in­quiry into the at­tack im­me­di­ately, I urged the Pres­i­dent and the gov­ern­ment find out the per­sons who were cre­at­ing ha­tred among the com­mu­ni­ties and take nec­es­sary ac­tion against them. I be­lieve Ven. Rathana too con­duct­ing this fast be­cause the gov­ern­ment had failed to do what the peo­ple want in this con­text,” the Car­di­nal said.


The land-of-the-free has be­come a coun­try of pris­ons! An un­prece­dented se­cu­rity drama at tem­ples, churches, mosques, Kovils and schools have cre­ated a pho­bia among peo­ple. When fear be­comes so se­vere that they cause anx­i­ety and in­ter­fere with our nor­mal life. No mat­ter how dev­as­tat­ing or out of man­age­ment your pho­bia seems, though, it’s im­per­a­tive to know that any un­founded fear can be over­come. En­sure that the se­cu­rity checks does not ex­ceed the lim­its. En­sure that ado­les­cents and chil­dren are treated in a man­ner ap­pro­pri­ate to their age, and that they are not sub­jected to checks. Re­duce or elim­i­nate armed guards at places of wor­ship. En­sure that search op­er­a­tions are not bi­ased against any racial, eth­nic, or re­li­gious group, as for ex­am­ple, in the dis­pro­por­tion­ate en­force­ment of se­cu­rity. To­day we are pro­tect­ing the places where our chil­dren study, the places of work, and the theaters and re­cep­tion halls we visit for en­ter­tain­ment. But why should we have armed guards at places that we at­tend for wor­ship? Churches, tem­ples and mosques have be­come a tar­get for ter­ror­ists and hate crimes, de­not­ing that a place that many peo­ple have con­sid­ered a refuge is no longer re­sis­tant to vi­o­lence.

Ven. Omalpe Sob­hitha Thera,jhu par­lia­men­tar­ian com­menced a fast unto death on June 6, 2005, at the Dal­ada Mali­gawa, in protest against Chan­drika Ban­daranaike’s pro­posal for a Joint Mech­a­nism with the LTTE for dis­tri­bu­tion of Tsunami aid. In an un­prece­dented move a fast to death was held at the Dal­ada Mali­gawa, the holi­est Buddhist tem­ple in the coun­try. It was pre­ceded by a Satya Kriya and an all night Pirith chant­ing by the JHU monks. Ly­ing down in­side the Tem­ple of tooth, Ven. Omalpe Sob­hitha said, there were sev­eral eth­nic groups in the coun­try, but, and, there was a risk of di­vid­ing the coun­try by blood-thirsty ter­ror­ists who had mur­dered thou­sands of in­no­cents in as well as men of the se­cu­rity forces.

The Joint Mech­a­nism, pop­u­larly known as P-TOMS was in ef­fect an at­tempt to bring the group back to demo­cratic stream was not with­out the dan­ger of LTTE dom­i­nat­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of coastal re­gions of East. “We can­not al­low this to hap­pen. Sri Lanka is a coun­try that was granted to the Bud­dha sev­eral times, and I would rather sac­ri­fice my life for this holy is­land than to wit­ness a part of it be­ing given to the LTTE ter­ror­ists,” thun­dered the ul­tra-na­tion­al­ist monk. The Gov­ern­ment’s main coali­tion part­ner, the JVP de­clared that they would be leav­ing the gov­ern­ment un­less the Pres­i­dent de­cided to drop her plan. Ven Athu­raliye Rathana, who af­ter 14 years, fol­lowed the foot­steps of Sob­hitha, but be­gan his fast out­side the Mali­gawa and con­tin­ued for three and-a-half days un­der med­i­cal care, know­ing well that the men around him would never al­low him to die of star­va­tion.

Some 200 Buddhist monks sur­rounded the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of Pres­i­dent Ku­maratunga, crashed through a bar­rier at Pres­i­dent’s House, The rep­re­sen­ta­tive monks threat­ened to set them­selves on fire un­less a pres­i­den­tial en­voy made a pledge on be­half of Ku­maratunga to ditch the plan which they al­lege gives ac­knowl­edg­ment to a ter­ror­ist group and later as­sem­bled op­po­site ‘Lake House’ in Colombo be­fore they started a march to Kandy, but were forcibly dis­persed by the po­lice to pre­vent an un­nec­es­sary provo­ca­tion and a back­lash. Co­in­ci­den­tally, Ven. Galago­da­datte Gnanasara, fresh from his re­lease from jail, planned a walk from Kandy to Colombo on the fourth day of Ven. Rathana’s fast, to which the Po­lice func­tion­ing un­der the Pres­i­dent, turned a blind eye.

One and a half years be­fore the Mali­gawa fast, in Dec 2003, Ven. Omalpe Sob­hitha and Ra­jawat­te­wappa Thera be­gan a fast unto death de­mand­ing from UNF gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion ban­ning what they called im­moral and un­eth­i­cal con­ver­sions of Bud­dhists by Us-based Chris­tian Evan­gel­i­cal fun­da­men­tal­ists. In­stead of Dal­ada Mali­gawa, they se­lected pave­ment op­po­site Bud­dha Sasana Min­istry for the fast. How­ever, this ended tri­umphantly, on De­cem­ber 30, when the gov­ern­ment gave-in and agreed to en­act leg­is­la­tion. Deputy leader of the gov­ern­ing UNF and Min­is­ter Karu Jaya­suriya agreed to the de­mand of the fast­ing monks that a Com­mit­tee be ap­pointed to draft leg­is­la­tion within two months . The gov­ern­ment as­sured ap­point­ment of a Supreme Coun­cil of Buddhist monks rep­re­sent­ing all three sects bring­ing the num­ber to 15, and a gov­ern­ment gazette would an­nounce the Com­mit­tee within 14 days. Such leg­is­la­tion if nec­es­sary would be passed with a two third ma­jor­ity.

Peo­ple, gen­er­ally ig­nored th­ese death fasts in the past. Ven. Rathana skill­fully un­der­stood the tem­per­a­ment of the masses since Easter Sun­day car­nage, and he grabbed the op­por­tu­nity like the ex­pert smith [ar­charya], which re­minds late Ven. Madu­luwawe Sob­hitha Thera’s wise old say­ing, ‘THETIYA AND ROTIYA’. A mem­ber of Par­lia­ment who changed loy­al­ties too of­ten and lost his way be­came a ‘na­tional hero’ among the na­tion­al­ists and ex­trem­ists in 24 hours!

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