responsibility, mutual understanding -cornerstones of life
Extracts from an address by Judge
C.G. Weeramantry at the annual prize- giving of St. Thomas' Preparatory
School, Kollupitiya, on July 16.
On this great occasion I
wish to give you one or two ideas to think about.
In the first place I want you to realise how privileged you are
to grow up in Sri Lanka, the home of so many great cultures of the
world. We all have the privilege of being in the midst of four of
the world's greatest cultural traditions - Buddhism, Christianity,
Hinduism and Islam. Each of these has immeasurably enriched the
world and each of them flourishes in Sri Lanka in the midst of all
the others, showing how the great cultural traditions of the world
can live together and continue to cross fertilise each other as
they have done throughout history.
are privileged, whatever group we belong to, to have close friends
in each of the other groups, sharing their wisdom, participating
in their festivities, knowing something of their scriptures and
appreciating each other as friends for life.
few countries do all the citizens have this privilege and you must
make the most of it. Do not grow up in monocultural compartmentalised
boxes within your own particular background but be receptive to
the ennobling influences of them all. You as citizens of Sri Lanka
have a unique opportunity for doing this and as you go through life
make the most of it.
I would remind you that you are a very privileged generation for
the barriers between the different nations of the world are breaking
down and we are increasingly realising that all of us are citizens
of one planet, sharing its limited resources.
previous generations only remotely did we even feel that we were
all co-citizens of planet earth. Today it is the reverse. Increasing
ease of communication whether through information technology or
travel has broken down many barriers and we are growing up primarily
as fellow citizens of planet earth and only secondarily as citizens
of this or that country.
we think in this fashion, humanity is lost and I want you young
people to think of yourselves as global citizens and train yourselves
to be such. The world is so inter-connected today that what a citizen
of Peru may do can affect the citizens of China whether it be by
the felling of rain forests or by introducing a virus into the information
system if one speaks of negative things or by conserving earth resources,
spreading cultural knowledge or disseminating fruitful ideas to
speak of things positive.
students we were trained to be good citizens of our country. You
are being trained today to be good citizens of the world. A third
message I would leave with you is that you should never forget that
there are enormous disparities of wealth and privilege in every
country and Sri Lanka is a very special example of this. When there
is vast disparity in wealth and privilege,a gap opens up between
the members of the two groups - the privileged and the under-privileged.
It is our job - the job of each of us - to seek to abolish this
gap, and where it does exist to build bridges between the two groups.
at St. Thomas' are in an extremely privileged situation and should
bear in mind that privileges always carry responsibilities. You
should make it one of your guiding principles in life to give some
attention to the problems of less privileged.This can be done not
only by giving them a helping hand and taking an active interest
in understanding their problems. In fact many of the problems we
have in this country are due to the lack of bridges and lack of
understanding between the world of privilege and the world of the
under-privileged. We must not perpetuate this, and you can be the
leaders in showing the way.
also wish to draw your attention to the increasing dominance in
the world today of the mercantile ethic. This tends to swamp traditional
values in all parts of the world. The caring habits of previous
generations, especially for the elderly and the disadvantaged are
yielding to the school of thought which asks "What can I get
out of this?"
is important in life is not so much what you can get for yourself
but what you can give back to society in return for the privileges
you have enjoyed.
again, you can show the way to others, for habits of service and
concern are infectious. When people adopt such service oriented
attitudes and act on them others will follow .
societies of the world have been enormously successful because they
are oriented towards duties rather than rights. An outstanding example
is Japan where children are taught from the kindergarten level to
think of their duties towards society.Our societies are becoming
increasingly oriented towards the rights of the individual rather
than the individual's duty towards society. Rights are of course
important and must be respected. But that is only one aspect of
one's relationship with society, which must be seen in its total