YOUTH AND DISCIPLINE
Posted on September 9th, 2021

By Rohana R. Wasala

Ref. ‘Compulsory training to instil discipline, not jeopardise freedom of choice’ by Rear Admiral (Rtd) Dr Sarath Weerasekera/The Island/September 4, 2021. It is a response to an earlier opinion article of mine under the title ‘Candour without caution dangerous naivety’ (July 29, 2021). Thank you, Dr Weerasekera, for your lavish compliment ‘erudite academic’, which I don’t think I deserve, but I sincerely appreciate your generous sentiments regarding me. I have similar thoughts about you. I am very sincere when I say this.

There is absolutely no disagreement between you and me about the subject you are broaching.  The themes announced in the titles ‘Compulsory training to instil discipline, not jeopardise freedom of choice’ and ‘Candour without caution dangerous naivety’ are not contradictory, but complementary.  

I decided to write this after reading Dr Weerasekera’s piece only to  state two things: 1) that he seems to have misread my Candour without caution….” article, and 2) that he has inadvertently misquoted me at the beginning of his piece, both not surprising, given the busy circumstances he must cope up with as Minister of Public Security.

To take the second point first, here is Dr Weerasekera’s obviously unintended misquote: 

He has written: Wasala at the outset says not so arbitrarily, not so hastily” and continues to ask isn’t it more urgent to look after the discipline of minority Police officers who act in ways unbecoming of their profession?”, whereas what I actually wrote was: ‘But, anent this idea of his, I’d say in all humility: Not so arbitrarily! Not so hastily!” However, as education is not his responsibility, the Public Security Minister may be making an implicit suggestion to his cabinet colleague who is in charge of that subject. Isn’t it more urgent for the well meaning minister to look after the discipline of  the minority of police officers who sometimes act in ways unbecoming of their profession, by getting the police hierarchy to enforce discipline on those few of their subordinates?’. I need not dwell too long on the potentially harmful implications of this faux pas on the part of Dr Weerasekera. His …..minority Police officers who…..” and my the minority of police officers who…..” imply two different things.

To anyone comparing the two texts above (Dr Weerasekera’s and mine) the following will be instantly clear: I didn’t mean to reprimand Dr Weerasekera by cautioning him in a friendly spirit with the words Not so arbitrarily! Not so hastily!”. It appears to me that he sometimes acts arbitrarily and hastily because he is direct and honest in asserting what he believes to be the truth in any situation. I always admire him as a patriotic war hero, an honest politician, and an honourable upright human being. Ironically, he has a combination of good qualities that is likely to make him vulnerable in the cut-throat world of politics. 

As the famed English playwright and poet William Shakespeare said To be direct and honest is not safe” (Othello) in a world where There is no trust, no faith, no honesty in men; all perjured, all forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers” (Romeo and Juliet). These pieces of wisdom are easily applicable to the political theatre in any country including Sri Lanka where the struggle for power is an immorally amoral, no-holds-barred contest. Honest men and women in politics, beware! be cautious! That’s all I tried to say in my opinion piece of July 29, 2021.

In the article that Dr Weerasekera is responding to, I explained my reasons why I believe that young people everywhere are generally uncorrupted, creative and sensitive to ethical direction. I am talking about the majority of young people, not the minority who display traits of delinquency and criminality, for which the adult society is generally responsible. It is more often than not the doings of the few young miscreants that hog the limelight in the media. That is also something rotten with the adult world.

If some of the young act in ways that reflect a negative standard of behaviour, then the adults must be held accountable for that. It is true that daily we hear in the media about delinquency among the youth. But what is the percentage of delinquents? Usually, delinquency among children and young adults is not without its causes, which often have no connection with any inborn moral depravity among them. It is often an acquired trait, something learned from corrupt adults. There is a grave lack of adult leadership in our country. Often, those who should model good behaviour for the young people to learn from, fail them. There are many youth betrayers in the country, many more of them than there ever were in the past. The point is clear enough, I think. I need not suggest examples.

But I can’t help pointing at one example. Look at how some of our teachers (under the aegis of trade unionism) are behaving like zombies in obedience to the rash dictates of their equally mindless leaders who don’t seem to have had the benefit of even a smattering of education or culture. How unfortunate it is that a nation has no option but to entrust their innocent young to their care!

Incidentally, I watched a social media video of a group of striking teachers trying to get an audience with the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras in Kandy a couple of days ago.  The Nayake monks refused to see them. They were only allowed to hand over a petition that they had with them to the security officers at the gate in both places. For once the Most Venerable Mahanayakes were asserting their power of unquestionable leadership. Then the teacher delegates called on the Venerable Gatembe Hamuduruvo: He was blunt as usual. This is roughly what he said: Your pay anomaly is a question that has been dragging on for over twenty-four years  passing on from government to government. We got Gotabaya Mahattaya elected as President because there is no one else for the job. We trust him. He will do whatever he can do to resolve your problem. But these are trying times, especially with this ravaging Corona pandemic. Not only our country, but the whole world is in dire straits. You are doing something that you should not be doing; that is, instead of doing what you can do to help control the pandemic, you are engaging in trade union activity”. (One could say that the plain-spoken prelate spoke for all the monks.) The teachers showed agreement with the monk, paid him obeisance, and left the place. 

I am not against the idea of providing some sort of mandatory personality and leadership development training to our youth comparable to what the Higher Education Ministry conducted in May 2011 for new university students as a kind of initiation for them prior to the beginning of their academic lectures. (I mentioned this in my ‘Candour without caution….’article.). Some 20,000 fresh university students participated in the training at 28 centres across the island. I’d wholeheartedly support such a programme for young people above 18 as Dr Weerasekera proposes, be it ‘military’ or not. (‘Military’ in this context may not be politically correct, though it is no harm in reality. Shouldn’t we be mindful of that?) But it must be introduced after wide consultation and meticulous planning. Discipline is something that cannot be imposed on thinking people, be they young or old. What we can do is to design a course of meaningful physical and mental activities for them to engage in that induce discipline in them on the lines of the 2011 leadership programme. However, it is good to remember that, in the information saturated world of today, packaging and marketing aspects cannot be neglected even when perfectly good things are offered for popular consumption.

One Response to “YOUTH AND DISCIPLINE”

  1. aloy Says:

    Food security is the no. 1 thing for any country or nation. Our forefathers ensured that for this by making Sinhale the granary of the east. These were achieved by constructing engineering marvels like Ellanga system and thousands of vewas. One ven. monk from one of these mahanayake sects came out recently to speak on behalf of all to say that reservoirs like Parakrama Samudra are no longer needed for the prosperity of Sri Lanka. What a set of imbeciles doing the kadeyama for the sole purpose of their survival!. Another imbecile wanted a Hitler without even knowing what he was actually trying to do: to keep his set of people (the Aryans) pure by killing all others whom he thought are working against it to keep its purity.

    BTW, are we, as a set of people, not doing a similar kind of thing?. The opening line of any matrimonial ad in a news paper says it all. And it seems to have failed us.

    To my mind this writer is also doing some sort of ‘kadeyama’; he doesn’t seem to have read the mood of the people or the trade unionists.

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