Yahapalanaya, the curse? May be changing!
Posted on May 28th, 2019

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana Courtesy The Island

My apologies to parliamentarian Sarath Fonseka for misquoting him, by changing the term he used “kodivinaya” to “hooniyama”, and my thanks to B.S.Perera for pointing out this error on my part, in his piece ‘Bungling Politics’ (The Island, 22 May) wherein he also questions whether I am promoting a party or a person, which certainly is not my intention. In my defence may I point out, not being a believer of the occult, neither kodivinaya nor hooniyama mean much to me and are not too dissimilar. But one thing I know, and many will agree with me, is that by its’ ineptness and subservience bordering on treason, Yahapalanaya has become a curse.

“Worse, the President stands accused of having acted in violation of the Constitution. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet allegedly enter into international agreements without the President’s knowledge. Vital pacts the government signs with foreign powers are not presented to Parliament and thus the people in whom sovereignty is said to reside are kept in the dark.”

These are not my words; it is a revealing paragraph from the excellent editorial “Another Danger” (The Island, 22 May), which should wake up Sri Lankans with any modicum of patriotism. I am sure even Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Maha Thero, had he been alive today, would agree that this “Yamapalana” administration, parading as a “Yahapalanaya”, has become a curse on Sri Lanka. If rebirth is true and Venerable Sobitha is reborn in a place with visibility to the political bungling, surely, he would be shedding a few divine tears too! Unfolding events, on a daily basis, confirms the impotence of an administration held hostage by minority votes. To this end, they do not seem to mind interfering in the good work done by our police and the armed services, even.

Perapalanaya

I am interested in the present and now, rather than hark back on a “Perapalanaya”, which is an excellent diversionary tactic. Suffice it to say that ‘Perapalanaya’, though corrupt, handed over a country at peace to a ‘Yahapalanaya’ that sleep-walked into a terrorist disaster, on top of breaking records for corruption and cover-ups as well as destroying the image of the country. I am sure Arjun Mahendran is the happiest man on earth today, as the bond-scam has got submerged in the torrent of terrorism!

Rishad-gate

Interestingly, the latest gambit of the Minister Rishad Bathiuddin is to throw down the gauntlet to the President and the Prime Minister: he will resign if either of them requests him to do so. Otherwise, support him or the government will lose the vital support of him and his henchmen. I do not know what to call it; Hobson’s choice? Catch 22? Rishad’s Ruse?

Even if we agree with the government’s contention that the no-confidence motion on Minister Bathiuddin is nothing but an opposition attempt at mud-slinging, can we disregard the statement of the Army Commander? Afterall, Lt. Gen. Senanayake, who left Si Lanka just after the 2010 presidential election to return soon after the 2015 presidential election, is Army Commander because of the implicit trust of the Yahapalana administration. Further, he won admiration and gained public trust after the terrorist bomb-blast. His statement “I told the Minister to ring me in one and half years-time, as that is the period, I can hold a suspect for” is in utter contrast to the Minister’s explanation. Who does the public trust; the Minister or the army commander?

We were made to believe that the cornerstone of Yahapalanaya is good governance: after all, the term itself is a direct translation. Honouring this concept, is it too much to expect either the President or the Prime Minister, preferably both, to request the Minister to step aside, if any honour is left in him, while accusations levelled against him are investigated? Sorry, if any honour is left in him, the honourable minister would have stepped aside on his own volition. Do our two leaders display a lack of courage or complete deficiency of statecraft? Can the pubic be hood-winked by a select committee?

Venerable Gananasara

The battered President can derive some comfort from the support extended by Brigadier Ranjan de Silva who, in a piece titled “To Be Fair” (The Island, 22 May), states:

“His decision not to pardon Gnanasara Thero on Vesak Day, resisting pressure from politicians and dusseela Buddhist monks is statesmanlike. Media reported that former Ministers Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa and Thilanga Sumathipala had called for the release of Gnanasara Thero.

Dr Rajapaksa must be aware that Gnanasara Thero was jailed for contempt of court. The Thero aspires to be a leader of the people. If this is the example he sets as a leader, how will his followers behave vis-a-vis the country’s court system? Already the courts system is functioning under tremendous pressure to dispense justice without fear or favour. Dr Rajapaksa is also an attorney at law.”

Poor Brigadier must be disappointed at the President’s statesmanlike attitude evaporating like a dew-drop struck with the first ray of the rising sun! ‘Hopeless’ politicians like Wijedasa Rajapaksa and dussela monks have succeeded; Venerable Gnanasara is released!! I do hope the venerable monk will behave with dignity, not insulting the saffron-robe he adorns.

It is a pity that the Brigadier fails to understand, had the Yahapalanaya heeded the warnings of Dr Rajapaksa, delivered in the most diplomatic way in the parliament, and Venerable Gnanasara, delivered in a way most of us objected to, we would not be in the current predicament. By the way, the ever-talkative Dr Rajitha Senaratna, who repudiated Dr Rajapaksa, based on his claimed close connections with Muslims of the four-corners of the country, and reassured that there will be no Islamist terrorists attacks, seems to be resting his vocal chords! Why cannot he tender an apology, at least? Pretty obvious, he has no sense of shame.

I have no problem, at all, with the jailing Venerable Gananasara but also feel that the Presidential pardon is justified. Let me explain. I have been regularly expressing concern about the bad behaviour of some Buddhist monks but have not gone to the extent of castigating any pleading for compassion as dussela Buddhist monks, as the Brigadier had done. In my article “Men in Robes” (The Island, 14 October 2017) I wrote:

“Unfortunately, the actions of men in robes in the guise of Buddhist monks have been troubling me for some time. I do not expect Buddhist monks to be perfect; after all they are human and can have faults but I cannot condone conduct that is totally un-Buddhist. The behaviour of some Bhikkhus of BBS leaves me startled. Though I was initially against Buddhist monks engaging in political activity, after reading Venerable Walpola Rahula’s thought provoking and inspirational book, ‘Bhikshuwage Urumaya’ (Monk’s Heritage) I have changed my mind. As long as Bhikkhus indulge in politics for the common good, not for personal benefits, it is totally acceptable. After all, if not for their political activity where would we be today? If not for the campaign led by Bhikkhu’s like Venerable Rahula, we would not have had free education and, in all likelihood, I would not be writing this; would have died some time ago as a retired teacher or clerk.”

Crime and punishment – proportionality

What concerns me is the length of the sentence passed on Venerable Gnanasara. Being a lawyer, Dr Rajapaksa probably realised this too. I am sure he would have been greatly embarrassed when lawyers who destroyed property in Colombo courts, shown to the whole nation on television, continued to practice unhindered, whereas a 19-year sentence to be served in 6 years, was passed on a Buddhist monk for contempt of court. Intrigued, I too made inquiries from luminaries of the legal profession and was told that this the longest sentence, ever passed, for contempt of court in Sri Lankan legal history, which goes against the well-established principle of proportionality. Where were the human rights activists? Did any of them move a finger to protest at the undue harshness of the sentence? Maybe, they thought he deserved it, considering his ‘bad behaviour’! But we do not punish for overall bad behaviour, punishment being only for the crime under consideration.

If bad behaviour is to be punished, should not Mr C.V. Vigneswaran, former governor, too be jailed? Inflammatory statements he made, insulting the Sinhala race, made me wonder how such a racist warmed the benches of our supreme court.

Ranil’s reawakening

UNP strategy of a blood-bath, probably following JRJ’s lead of 1983, having failed to evoke a backlash from Sinhala Buddhists, in spite of Lakshan Kiriella’s kela-pattare, Mangala and Thalatha’s loose-talk among many other things, Ranil is announcing a series of measures: ‘Sharia’ University will be taken over; all Madrasas will be under the Education Ministry, not Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry; name-boards will be only in the three official languages; etc., etc. Looks as if Yahapalana blindness has had a miraculous cure. Congratulations, Ranil! May I wish you the courage to stop shielding terrorist supporters and make Sri Lanka one country, under one law!

It was John Milton who said “Every cloud has a silver lining”. Maybe, some good has come out of this terrible act of terrorism!

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