Posted on September 2nd, 2015

By Shelton A. Gunaratne

(Week 1 of September 2015)

Professor of communication emeritus, MSUM, and lead author of Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach (New York: Routledge, 2015)

MOORHEAD, MN–As a mindful journalism practitioner and educator, I show my thumbs up” approval by awarding Prairie Roses and my thumbs down” disapproval by awarding the Leafy Spurge to people, events and institutions that make the news. I make my selections based on the three dimensions of the Buddhist middle path, the moral and ethical aspect of which is remarkably similar to the path of the Hindu dharma, Christian-Islamic Ten Commandments and the basic Confucian moral principles.

 LEAFY SPURGE: To Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as well as the Tamil political leadership in the North and the East, for pussyfooting the obligation they have to help the    formation of a unity government under Ranil Wickremasinghe to enable the implementation of a strong program with national reconciliation and reconstruction as its highest priority. To make that happen, the TNA must discard its Tamil exclusivity and transform itself to a national party and approach all roadblocks for social and economic problems in terms of how they might impinge on every Lankan irrespective of ethnicity, religion, class or caste. They must follow the advice that Lord Krishna, in the guise of a charioteer, gave warrior Arjuna as described in the Hindu sacred text Bhagavad Gita, which shows the path to liberation: freeing oneself from desires, from attachment, and from egoism.This is very similar to Buddha’s magga that requires one to control one’s craving and clinging–the root causes of suffering in the samsara (cyclic existence).

Krishna’s advice calls on the Hindu Tamils, who complain about discrimination by the Sinhalese, to discard their egoism and not put forth unrealistic demands based on their clinging on to past historical glory and rights. Nothing is static because of the law of karma, cardinal to both Buddhists and Hindus.  National reconciliation and integration is possible only by grasping the ground reality now–the present political, social, demographic and economic conditions.

Demanding the amalgamation of North and Eastern provinces (approximating one-third of theisland’s land mass, including most of its coastal belt) for the self-rule of the Sri Lanka Tamils (who constitute 12.3 percent of the island’s population), excluding the 850,000 Hill Country/Indian Tamils, will not bring about national integration, but rather provoke the Sinhalese, who understand federalism ascoterminous with separatism, to react negatively. Moreover, Tamil-speakers in Sri Lanka are themselves a hodgepodge of three distinct groups comprising the Northern, Eastern, and Negombo communities. Thus, the demand for an Eelam is a far-fetched ideal that the Tamils should not pursue at present.

The best course of action for the TNA is to get its principal constituent Illankai Tamil ArasuKachchi (Federal Party) to change its name to emphasize its commitment to national integration and create a consensus among the new coalition/national government about engendering unity in diversity.

The new government should educate all the ethnic groups in Sri Lanka on the positive aspects of diversity in unity. Thumbs down” for the TNA for not being prepared for implementing changes with the dawn of a propitious karmic cycle. It is not in the interest of the Tamil community at large to allow the Northern Provincial Council headed by a lackluster retired supreme court judge to pass resolutions inviting foreign powers to intervene in domestic matters by blatantly ignoring the country’s own democratically elected central government.

The current electoral system has already favored the TNA to become the largest minority party with 16 seats in the current parliament with the backing of a mere 514,963 voters in the North and the East whereas 543,944 voters outside this area enabled the Jatika Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) to get only six seats.

LEAFY SPURGE: To United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), and its titular leader Maithripala Sirisena who showed no moral compunction for violating the principle of Right Action by intentionally misusing the National List to appoint seven defeated political candidates to parliament thereby disregarding the will of the people.  Although this action was not unconstitutional, it dented a big hole in his pledge for yahapalanaya (good governance).  The defeated candidates should be ashamed for pressuring the UPFA to get them back to parliament through the National List for personal benefit of ministerial positions and perks. I think their verypresence in the parliament is detrimental to the pledge of good governance.  No one is indispensible.

I ask the UPFA to share this Leafy Spurge with the leadership of the Jatika Vimukthi Peramuna  (JVP), the TNA, and the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) all of whom forgot the principal of Right Action in favor of political expedience and favoritism.

PRAIRIE ROSES: To Bernadine Rosy Senanayake, 58, the defeated UNP parliamentary candidate who refused to re-enter the House through the backdoor of the National List thereby sparing much flack on UNFGG’s yahapalanaya pledge. (Yet the UNFGG failed to come clean because it fell into the trap of making one exception in the National List to accommodate a defeated parliamentarian from the Muslim community.)

Rosy Senanayake also refused to be tempted by the perks of the position of Sri Lanka High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, the plum diplomatic post the country can offer to one who has ably served the nationwithout much fanfare. She preferred not to play the role of diplomatic dingbat” because she was committed to do her best to improve the lot of women and children and concentrate on resolving their concerns and the problems faced by them” within her native land.

Thumbs up” to Rosy Senanayake. She has taught the seven parliamentary dingbats” who misused the National List of the UPFA, in particular, an elementary lesson on how defeated parliamentarians could serve the country without the perks of parliamentary office.

PRARIE ROSES: To Kumar Sangakkara, 37, the renowned Matale-born Sri Lanka cricketer who has brought fame to his motherland during his 15-year test career scoring 12,440 runs with a batting average of 57. When President Sirisena publicly offered him the post of Sri Lanka High Commissioner in the UK, Sangakkara said, I do not know whether I have the necessary experience and the qualifications for the job.” People noticed his modesty and humility–attributes that Buddha, Krishna, Jesus and Confucius asked people to cultivate. Over to you, National List dingbats.”

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