Letters to the Editor

26th August 2001


Understanding the tricky question

I am not an expert on or, even a student in Constitutional Law but I believe that in a referendum, the question asked should be one that can be answered with a definite "yes" or "no".

For example, the question "Do you want the term of the present Parliament extended?" will be bad in law, while the question "Do you want the term of this Parliament extended by 10 years?" will be quite valid in law. This is because the first question cannot be answered either in the affirmative or in the negative by a person who wants to give an extension to the Parliament but for a fixed period.

There are also other obvious questions like "Have you stopped taking bribes?" which cannot be answered by either "yes" or "no".

If, in the present intended Referendum, the question asked was "Do you want a change in the Constitution?" it could have been answered either "yes" or "no", and there would have been no need to ask this question, as every one in this country, would have said "yes".

It is a fact that the present Constitution permits the President to call for a Referendum to change the Constitution but the condition is for the President and not for the people. In other words the President can, as a matter of national importance and necessity, ask the people in a Referendum whether they want a change in the Constitution. The President cannot ask the people whether they want "a new Constitution as a matter of national importance and necessity". This cannot be answered with either "yes" or "no" by a person who wants a new Constitution but not as "a matter of national importance and necessity".

Therefore it is obvious that the question which has asked for a "yes" or "no" answer means more than "Do you want a new Constitution?" It is asking for a blank cheque for the President to take cover under "matter of national importance and necessity" and to force on the people a Constitution tailored to her own personal requirements.

Taking all this into account, I was sad and shocked to hear that clergymen of all faiths assured the President of their fullest support at the forthcoming Referendum. I wonder whether they would have extended their support if they understood the question that was being asked. However, there was a redeeming feature in this news report because it stated that the report was from a "senior governmental source".

What is most important in this Referendum is not whether you want a change in the Constitution, which is a question that will be answered by all with a "yes", but whether you are going to authorise the President, under the clause of "a matter of national importance and necessity" to force a Constitution on the people of Sri Lanka, which is unknown to the country at large.

W.R. de Silva

Stop victimisation of Buddhist monks

Are the Buddha Sasana Ministry, Buddhist organizations, the clergy and the public aware of the spate of nefarious activities carried on in our country by NG0 funded organizations to oust Buddhist monks from their temples? Several hapless monks have been harassed and tormented till they were forced to vacate their premises.

The methods adopted are varied; some monks are accused of sexual misconduct, some of raping minors, yet others of forging currency notes and some, like the monk in Tanamalwila of unearthing buried treasure.

These false stories are disseminated among the people in the area and the gullible public, lap them up. The tactics adopted to gain their mean and sordid ends vary according to the available circumstances. These organizations operate from "behind the scenes" using the unsuspecting public as a catspaw. Police officers and other relevant people of clout are heavily bribed into collaboration. Many are the monks who have fallen victim to these evil machinations.

These unscrupulous gangs have effectively silenced Ven. Aryadhamma, the Nikarawetiye Thera, the Dolukanda Thera and Ven. Sumangala Thera of Devram Vehera. The Ven. Sumangala Thera is being cruelly harassed in order to chase him out of his temple.

The reason for these pernicious deeds is that these harmless monks draw massive crowds. Hasn't the public noticed that the temples that conduct "daham paselas" are targeted for such deeds? Whoever draws crowds is not spared. For crowds mean potential converts. These activists are not in the least concerned that they give their religion a bad name.

Then, there are the self-styled preachers supposed to be 'Sovan' who go about propagating their own brand of Buddhism - a highly distorted version. The tragedy is that there are unwise people who fall for these charlatans.

If their atrocious and insidious activities are not stopped forthwith, it will spell doom for Buddhism. And that is exactly what they are aiming at.

Many were the monks who were assassinated ostensibly for political reasons, such as the Dimbulagala monk. At Tanamalwila, a monk who was conducting a 'daham pasela' was shot point blank and killed by an unknown assailant. Strangely, there are no inquiries initiated into this killing. Some temples have been petitioned against for chanting 'pirith' and stopped from doing so.

We urge the Buddha Sasana Ministry and other Buddhist organizations to lose no time in taking action to prevent the monks being harassed and ousted from their temples. To achieve this, such NGOs should be banned forthwith. The victimized monks should be exonerated and re-instated in their respective temples.

Time is running out. Please save Buddhism from annihilation before it is too late.

Concerned Buddhist

Vigilance and complacency

Recent incidents at the Katunayake air base and the airport are stark examples of the relevant authorities not being vigilant. This is not an isolated occurrence since it has been reported earlier too that many a terrorist attack had been the result of lack of vigilance.

It has become a national trait to become complacent once the initial heat of the game is over, so much so that the term "Just like a bottle of soda" quite correctly exemplifies it. 

The enemy is obviously quite conversant with this and is taking advantage of the situation.

Considering the grave consequences this trait has already thrust upon Sri Lanka, it is high time that the nation as a whole changes its attitudes.There is absolutely no further room in Sri Lanka for non-vigilance and complacency.

Palita P.S.


A fraction of Paradise
Costing 60,000 lives
Deal so Raw 
And a cat's paw; 
"A simple fracture" 
For what lies

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5.

Then it was a paradise

I read with interest what has happened to the bird sanctuary of Kumana in The Sunday Times of July 22. Marlon Saldin's sad lament deserves to be noticed. 

In the late fifties I made a 16 mm colour documentary of Kumana on my Rolex camera. Christine Wilson and Dr. Drogo Austin invited me to screen this film for the Wild Life Society. 

Even after nearly 50 years, the film is in perfect condition with no fading of colour. I have transfered it to video, and shown it to many Australian audiences who were enthralled by this bird paradise. 

Today, global warming, the tragedy of civil war and deforestation have taken their toll. Poaching in sanctuaries and the proximity of villages can account for the tragedy of Kumana. It is a pity that the birds have flown from an icon of world heritage. 

Noel Crusz


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