Posted on January 23rd, 2021

By Rohana R. Wasala

We have all read or heard Aesop’s fable ‘The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey’: A man and his young son set out taking their donkey to market to sell it there. Listening to different censorious comments of a number of people they encountered on the road, they first rode the animal, then they carried it. First the man rode the horse, then the boy, then both of them together, and finally, they started carrying the donkey tied to a pole by its legs; while passing a bridge over a river, the donkey struggled to kick himself free, which resulted in the animal falling into the water and getting drowned. You can’t miss the lesson taught by the story. If you try to please all, you will please none; and what’s more, trying to please everyone could have disastrous consequences. Your conduct should be determined by a realistic assessment of your own circumstances to suit your own best interest and that of those who depend on you. Don’t be distracted by a desire to win praise from all the people that come into temporary contact with you. By the way, Greek fabulist Aesop (620-564 BCE) in Greece was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha (623-543 BCE) in India.

The moral of the well known fable is worth the attention of our present rulers, who seem to believe that they have to please the minority of diehard federalists/separatists and the handful of Muslim religious  extremists parasitising on the local body politic at the expense of the wellbeing of the peaceloving fairminded majority of the Sri Lankan people. Both these groups are trying to strategically position themselves, to their undue advantage, between the government and the especially aggressive faction of the geopolitical  gamemaster fraternity in the region. It would be a grave error if the ruling politicians took for granted the loyalty of the silently suffering peaceful ordinary Sri Lankans (95% of the population), including the nationalists who elected them to power, fighting on the ‘One Country, One Law’ platform. There seems to be a growing general perception as though the government is too narrowly focusing on the few local extremists and the brazen international bullies of different types from outside weaponizing them for their own advantage.

The cow slaughter ban introduced in September 2020 was intended to please and perhaps also silence the Buddhist monks who had been sincerely agitating for it for a long time.  But will these monks stop, when the much more crucial issues that they have been raising for decades such as the destruction of Buddhist archaeological heritage sites in the north and east provinces, forcible proselytization of Buddhists and Hindus by foreign funded Christian and Islamist extremists, allegations of sterilization of Sinhalese mothers without consent by a  Muslim doctor with suspected Islamist connections, persecution of traditional Muslim men and women by Jihadists, and many other infinitely more significant problems are apparently being relegated to the backburner? What’s the status of the cow slaughter ban now? Is it being implemented? How can the same government reconcile the imposition of the particular ban with the opening of the largest meat processing factory in South Asia in the Katunayake Investment Promotion Zone hardly three months later? Won’t the economically more important industrial project have been marketed to the people with less embarrassment had there been no cow slaughter ban? Or perhaps the ban was a strategic measure to create a local market for the general meat products of that factory, however tiny the beef consumer base in Sri Lanka may be? What could then be said about the moral basis of the particular ban?    

A thirty year old young Buddhist monk, by the name of Bowatte Indaratana, set himself on fire at a place adjacent to the Dalada Maligawa on May 24, 2013 demanding that killing of cattle be stopped, and later died in hospital. His commitment to his cause was not in question. The Ven. Mahanayakes didn’t say anything in public in praise of the monk as far as I can remember, nor did the government of the day under Mahinda Rajapaksa say or do anything of permanent significance in response to the monk’s self-immolation. Years later, a maverick monk claiming to be an Arhant had a birthday bash where a variety of dishes were served including beef and pork! The activist monks mentioned above have been raising much more crucial issues that are threatening the very survival of the Sinhalese and the Buddha Sasana. It is these problems that politicians must help resolve if they genuinely want to please the monks and the general public including the majority community.

It is a fact that public opinion about banning cow slaughter is not unanimous (primarily because it is divisive, economically unaffordable, and impractical). We have to tolerate ideas and practices that some of us disapprove of, but some don’t, provided that  these ideas and practices don’t interfere with democratic governance and our age-old people friendly way of life. Personally, I have no objection to the ban on cattle slaughter, I’d rather rather support it without remaining neutral. I am a vegetarian, and have been that for most of my life. Common sense would suggest that a strictly regulated meat industry may be allowed. But community-alienating separatism and murderously violent religious extremism which are bound to destroy our country in every way should be not be tolerated, though both are attractive to the geopolitical players, who are only concerned about their own respective national interests. (The present government, under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has started dealing with them amidst the many unnecessary obstacles placed on its path, such as the corruptibility, indifference, and inaction of a few rotten eggs among the vast of majority of responsible, patriotic civil authorities, and the pressure exerted on them by conscienceless communal politicians; the situation has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.) 

A twofold cause that the handful of young vocal monks out of the 36,000 strong Maha Sangha have been championing, for the most part non-politically except where they can’t help it, amidst many physical and mental hardships, is the containment of unethical proselytizing efforts of numerous foreign-funded fundamentalist Christian and Islamic sects making inroads into the traditional Buddhist and Hindu religious spaces, and the protection of the ancient Sinhala Buddhist heritage sites – most of them gone to ruin many centuries ago, but the invaluable common archaeological inheritance of all Sri Lankans, particularly in the north and the east provinces – from treasure hunters (who usually happen to be some criminals among the Sinhalese Buddhists including even politicians), and non-Buddhist vandals and landgrabbers, the last motivated by aggressive politico-religious ends. Monk activists have gathered much valuable information to back up their various complaints against both violent and non-violent extremists. 

But leaders of successive governments, with a single brave exception (GR),  have largely ignored them, and refused to get involved out of the unfounded fear of alienating minorities. These leaders do not seem to understand that, through their feigned political correctness policy, they encourage opportunistic minority politicians to willingly embrace extremists for political advantage, instead of engaging their genuine, up and coming, broadminded young rivals to tackle the extremist menace. (In the same breath, it must be said in fairness to MR that though he has also resorted to the policy of political correctness in dealing with minority politicians, he never did so to cheat them or to deceive the people. Often, on such occasions, his goodwill was not adequately reciprocated, especially, by conservative Muslim politicians who are still flourishing; but they will have to call it a day when the fresh awakening Muslim youth overtake them in a few years, maybe. Once when confronted by the fact (it was by a journalist I think) that the majority of Muslim voters did not vote for him even though he behaved in that friendly way towards them, MR admitted that he knew that to be the reality, but that he was still hopeful of winning them over. Opportunistic minority politicians (they have so far managed to sidetrack the modern thinking progressive young contenders) and the extremists invariably politicize both the problems we have touched on here – namely, cremation and syrup issues – and other problems that they create. Thus, the misapplied political correctness policy of successive governments has led to increased politicization of issues which should be resolved without recourse to politics.

The cremation vs burial problem and the issue of various traditional remedies of dubious or untested efficacy/safety proposed to fight the spread of Covid-19 have been politicized, not by the government or its supporters for it should be obvious to anyone that such a thing will not help them or the general public in any way. These things have been given a political colour by the opposition, the extremists, and their supporters in the mainstream as well as the social media; it is they who have politicized it and who are trying to make the most out of those non-issues by falsely imputing their politicization to the government, in pursuance of their different objectives, at the expense of the truth. 

Unfortunately, some overenthusiastic government politicians have mishandled the ad hoc adoption of  ‘syrups’ and other herbal remedies and magical cures such as charmed pots of water thrown or emptied into streams, as a default coronavirus containment measure, by inadvertently inviting a media frenzy over the process, depicting it as a display of traditional local superstitions that are allegedly being offered as a substitute for a more modern scientific approach to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The politicizing of the ‘syrup’ issue was done by the media and political critics of the government. Of course, few or none of these traditional methods may be explainable or in terms of modern science. Some of them may show positive results or may just enhance immunity against diseases, and do nothing more; some may have only placebo effects. One carping scribe called Sri Lanka a syruplic instead of a republic.

A reasonably large section of our highly literate population (15+ adult literacy rate: 93.2/2017) do not like to see their rulers indulging in what looks like risible superstitious rituals even in a desperate situation like the one we are undergoing at the moment. It was at the instance of the WHO that available indigenous medical practices specific to each society across the world were also proposed in the continuing absence of a strictly scientifically tested drug or vaccine for the novel coronavirus disease (Desperate times call for desperate measures). While following the WHO’s suggestion in this regard, the government initiated a scientific attitude to it. The Rajarata University at Mihintale was entrusted with carrying out a study of the local remedies with particular attention to medical ethics based on Western medicine that generally obtains in the world and the country’s laws governing medical and healthcare. 

Internationally recognized young medical researcher, physician, and pharmacology professor  Channa Jayasumana (40), MBBS, PhD, FRCP Edin., is State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals. As a scientist, he knows how best to deal with the WHO-proposed use of traditional cures, remedies and preventive measures as an easily available additional method to combat the unknown virus. What is known as ‘Dhammika paeniya’ (one of many such syrups or alleged indigenous medicinal infusions or decoctions) has been recommended only as a placebo in the form of a supplementary food drink, but not prescribed as medicine, while it is still being laboratory-tested at Rajarata University. However, in their inexcusable naivety and voracious appetite for publicity, some of his clueless, credulous colleagues in the government made a mess of things by guzzling down the stuff in public, in an apparent unnecessary promotional effort, with obvious relish as the vehicle or medium of the alleged drug is ‘pure’ bees’ honey (almost impossible to find in the market nowadays). 

Eventually, though, for some reason, the authorities could do precious little to control the ‘rate vedas’ (crooks) who went berserk exploiting the opportunity to brew and market hundreds of impromptu medicinal concoctions in order to hoodwink the masses and fleece them of what little they have by way of money. Meanwhile, the detractors who customarily deal in a different kind of concoctions, went to town on their familiar disinformation campaign against Sri Lanka, trying to let it appear to the world that the country is today being run by people who believe more in supernatural cures than in scientific medicine. Such falsehoods are grist to the established anti-government propaganda mill, in advance of the anticipated diplomatic showdown in Geneva in March. 

Cremation of Muslim dead due to Covid-19  is a much more controversial issue, though equally bereft of a supporting base in facts, with possible, nay, probable, unjustified, international consequences. The over 90% non-Muslims of the country and perhaps some Muslims as well who accept cremation (of Corona-dead) as a necessity in the present national and global emergency, during which, science, not religion, must be given preference, make no hue and cry about it. Right from the beginning, the healthcare authorities let science determine what should be done. The decision of the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) to order mandatory burning of Covid-19 dead bodies was to ensure the total destruction of the deadly virus with still unknown pathological implications leaving no room for it to contaminate the soil or the naturally shallow aquifers of the country. Local experts have found that cremation is the best Covid-19 infected corpse disposal method for Sri Lanka. There is no need to listen to politically motivated contrary suggestions offered by international specialists who have little scientific awareness of the ground realities in Sri Lanka. Cremation was decreed by the DGHS, the competent authority, acting on proper scientific advice. The government has nothing to do with it. It is wrong to charge that the decision was influenced by politics to hurt a particular religious group.

Certain Muslim commentators who claim to be scientists and even koranic scholars,who advocate burial of Corona-dead Muslims and the so-called ‘moderate Muslim’ politicians like Ali Sabry who passionately urge it  in spite of the mandatory cremation directive issued by the DGHS, I am afraid, are not revealing the truth that they know and that I know, at first hand: the truth that  there is nothing in the Quran (which I have read) to say that burial is an inviolable religious obligation for Muslims. I worked for nearly eighteen years before the turn of the century under the Ministry of Education and Youth Affairs of a Gulf country (1982-1999), adjacent to where the religion of Islam was born. I came across oral and material evidence to suggest that other forms of disposal of dead bodies than burying were used in that country in the then recent past. One method had been to place the duly wrapped corpse in a rock crevice and seal it with pieces of rock beaten into place to protect it from wild animals. I didn’t see this being done during my time there; but I saw scattered bones of a dead person thus deposited in a rocky grave some years before (My Arab friends told me that probably hyenas had somehow disturbed that grave). This was conceivable considering the fact that few places are available in the usually rockhard stony terrain of that region where deep enough graves can be manually dug for burying bodies. Today the situation may be different with the availability of machines to do the job. Arab Muslims were a trading seafaring nation. Dead sailors must have been consigned to watery graves. They were a warring people as well, and probably proper burials for the wardead could not be afforded all the time. So, there apparently is no reason why an exception to the burial mode that is traditionally practiced by Sri Lankan Muslims cannot be made in this deadly emergency.


  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    If you have too many trees to spare you burn the bodies. If you have too much sand and no trees? Then there is
    only one option. After all no god going to be upset whether you burn or cremate since the gods don’t live any more
    anywhere after the advent of science.

    People used to worship rivers, mountains, trees, gods in the olden days in the absence of science. Today, religions
    have to pass the science test to be accepted as true. Why people look different from race to race (to fight each other?), country to country? Darwin’s Theory of Evolution explained it and all honest, literate people accept it to
    be 100% true. Why there are millions of creatures of which the most dangerous creature on the planet have no
    use? Flies, mosquitoes etc. etc.? Darwin’s book, The Tree of Life, explains it and there is no conflict for the honest people. Then why the earth’s size is a grain of sand in the vast vast vast universe (NASA’s findings) where no scientist knows where the edges are to date? Why the earth created with earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis etc etc. built in? What is gravity, why the planets orbit, why they are round in shape etc. etc.? What is a light year? What is an Exoplanet? Science and Buddhism can explain all these while the others have no clue.

    All the crimes (sins) any two legged creature can do under the sun:
    1 killing
    (animals included? of course in Buddhism only. Animals have a right to life? Yes/no? No, then they give
    the most dangerous creature on the planet Covid19, Covid20, Covide25 etc. etc). The most dangerous creature
    who used to run naked in the wild developed their brains to land on the moon, to build unbelievably complex
    machines and the poor creatures who give their lives by billions on daily basis didn’t develop their brains to curse
    the two legged is absurd. Eating meat causes a lot of cancers and we hear about diseases we never heard a
    generation ago. Animals revenge?

    The two legged are supposed to eat a fibrous diet and their teeth tell what
    sort of diet (Theory of Evolution) we should be eating. Moreover, the two legged have a long intestines to digest a fibrous diet while meat eating creatures have a shorter gut. Is there any wonder then, the most dangerous
    creature getting Covid19 etc. etc gobbling up eating meat which they aren’t supposed to eat? That’s not all,
    animals too have diseases (no docotors/hospitals)) and they pass them to the two leggeds. Revenge? And they
    also create a lot of green house gases to destroy the planet, revenge again? Also a lot of pristine forests are
    cleared to make farms for livestock and this again aids the destruction of the planet. Revenge, revenge, revenge!
    Are the two leggeds going to behave? No chance in hell! While science making enormous advances, the two
    legged take so many steps towards destruction! All the problems the planet facing today are due to population
    explosion and religions of conveniences which don’t regard sins as sins and encourage people to sin!

    Fastest breeding religion aka religion of violence says you can get 72 whatever if you kill non-believers! Can
    any one believe such a thing in this 21st century, if one has more than >0 brain cells and honest?

    2 stealing

    3 sexual misconduct (having an illicitaffair isn’t against the low. But if the hurt party make a hole in the chest of
    the third party?)

    4 lying

    5 alcohol/drug abuse (polishing a bottle of arrack isn’t against the law. But if the most dangerous creature get
    behind a wheel and mow down some people? Not to get those aforementioned 72 by the way)

    Refrain from the above five is Buddhism’s Five Precepts and all the countries in the world use them as the basis
    for their penal code! Lying is a major sin and people who sin pay for their sins in the animal world for 1000s
    of lifetimes before being promoted to be two legged creatures again (Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?). Fastest
    breeding religion mussies should be careful, since willfully lying they going to find themselves with more than
    two legged existence in their next lives.

    Iran, afganisthan, pakisthan, bangladesh, malaysia and indonesia used to be Buddhist countries before the
    fastest breeding religion mussies arrived in those countries with their baby machine wives. They multiplied and
    multiplied and outnumbered (murdered) all the natives and made them all mussie countries. In Sri Lanka they
    know Sinhalese deshapaluwas will do anything to secure baby farm output (votes) and demanding more and
    more to make it a mussie country. Sinhala modayas who are divided along religious lines, petty party politics
    will soon surrender the country to two foreigner groups. Fortunately for the Sinhala modayas there is sea
    all around the country and can jump into it at any time. Traitor foreigners will be more than happy to see the
    end of the Sinhala modayas since their current programme of getting ready to annihilate the Sinhalese won’t be

  2. Nimal Says:

    Yes we must stick to science,not to superstitions and other very stupid practices maily generated by religions.

  3. aloy Says:

    I am no supporter of the clique who believes in superstitions. But there are many things we humans cannot explain with current science knowledge.
    For instance just a couple of days ago BBC’s click program showed how a person could control a device (for that matter a chip on the high seas or a plane in the sky) just by giving a sign on to his mobile without actually touching it, just like a magic wand kind of thing. That is with the use of Electro Magnetism digitally in a medium (through wires and wireless). But what about other waves like gravity and the weak forces inside atoms which are not yet fully understood. The attraction of opposite sexes is another thing venerated by certain set of people (eg. Hindus).

    And what about the signals all those animals received before tsunami struck both our shores and Indonesia. Same thing has happened there.

    So, we must not ridicule every thing as garbage.

  4. aloy Says:

    Sorry please read as “(for that matter a ship on the high sea ….)”

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