A citizen’s response to a recent ‘feature article’ in a Sri Lankan national daily
Posted on May 18th, 2016

By Rohana R. Wasala

Following is a slightly edited version of a ‘letter to the editor’ that I sent to the under-mentioned recipient. Since s/he seems to have found it too long to accommodate in the valued columns of that paper, I decided to seek the indulgence of the Lankaweb.

Editor

Daily News

Sir/Madam,

This refers to the ‘feature article’ under the title ‘Thou shall not kill’ (May 16, 2016) by a so-called ‘Dr C.G. Ilangakoon’. Please bear with me, but I don’t believe that this person is what s/he pretends to be. The extremely bad quality of his/her English shows that Ilangakoon cannot be a person of any appreciable education. This person’s writing falls far short of what the  educated DN readers would normally expect of a ‘doctor’ in ‘international law’! . But that kind of language is suitable for the scurrilous contents of the ‘article’ which are a stinking load of rubbish. (Of course, a really educated person could write in the manner of an ignoramus out of mischievous intent.) By featuring this piece, dear editor of Daily News, you have disgraced a premier national English daily of Sri Lanka and insulted the intelligence of your readers.

‘ Dr Ilangakoon’ describes Thou shall not kill” as the the first commandment” of Buddhism, and says that, among religions, it is only Buddhism that makes it the first commandment.! What more evidence is necessary to prove that this particular Dr is completely ignorant. In the Buddhist teaching, there are no ‘commandments’. Buddhists are not taught to believe in a divine authority. The Pancaseela or the Five Precepts are not commandments (divine rules that must be obeyed), but rules for self regulation that a follower of Buddhism voluntarily undertakes to observe because abstention from killing is the morally right thing to do. There is no such god-promulgated rule as ‘Thou shall not kill’ in Buddhism. The Buddhist follower promises him/herself to abstain from killing based on the knowledge that killing is bad, but not based on any fear of divine punishment.

The writer of ‘Thou shall not kill’ tries to sound like a Sinhalese nationalist in order to deflect possible charges of bias on his/her part, which is obvious to anyone who reads with due attention. Just as s/he does not display any knowledge of Buddhism, s/he doesn’t exhibit any clear understanding of our history either.

It is true that some Sri Lankan monks are agitating against cattle slaughter. It is also true that a young monk indulged in self-immolation two or three years ago demanding a halt to the killing of cattle. The latter was an isolated incident, which did not cause any stir among the populace. No one scientifically investigated the real reasons that led that monk to do what he did. There are some monk activists including those of the Bodu Bala Sena involved in that agitation. But that is no cause for alarm. Ordinary people know that their intentions are genuine, but at the same time they only approve of non-violent peaceful methods of agitation. Though Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country (i.e., the majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists), such monks are supported only by a small minority of ordinary Buddhists; they know the practical problems involved in imposing a ban on cattle slaughter, and they prefer to be more realistic and less hasty in their approach. However, it is not the case that hoards of monks are going to march on Muslims threatening to slaughter them unless they stop slaughtering cattle. It is well known that 95% of the Buddhist monks are selflessly altruistic and compassionate, and well disciplined. This is most explicitly appreciated by the Muslims themselves, as far as I know, though there are a few extremist elements that make a loud noise denouncing monks wholesale.

The person writing under the name Ilangakoon advances a number of silly arguments in order to ridicule some Buddhist monks’ activism against cattle slaughter. One of such arguments is that cattle are slaughtered because there is a big demand for meat among the people the majority of whom are Buddhists, and so, if the Buddhists stop eating flesh in accordance with the Buddhist teaching, no cattle will be killed, and hence there will be no need to stage violent demonstrations calling for stopping the practice. This is a cynical tongue in cheek argument, like the rest of his/her arguments. I feel that s/he may have the sinister motive of bringing about disharmony between Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims while setting the stage for a third party (the few Tamil separatist politicians) to fish in troubled waters.

Dear editor, please remember that your paper the Daily News which was once the foremost national English newspaper in Sri Lanka has been, for many decades now, only a government organ that panders to the whims of the ruling powers of the time, and is usually prostituted by them for their own ends often in defiance of the public good. However, the government must represent all of us citizens. You shouldn’t allow miscreants/imposters to use your paper as a platform for disseminating false information among innocent loyal readers thereby promoting divisive forces in the country.

Thank you for your attention.

Rohana R. Wasala

One Response to “A citizen’s response to a recent ‘feature article’ in a Sri Lankan national daily”

  1. Dham Says:

    ‘Dr C.G. Ilangakoon’ ? This must surely be a Marakkalaya in disguise.

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