Casino near temple: An opportunity to preach the Dhamma We have seen Buddhist monks with clenched fists and raised robes along with lay Buddhists demonstrating against setting up of a casino near Sri Sambuddhaloka Viharaya in Fort. Do Buddhists monks and lay Buddhists know the advantages and brighter side of allowing a casino to operate [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Casino near temple: An opportunity to preach the Dhamma

We have seen Buddhist monks with clenched fists and raised robes along with lay Buddhists demonstrating against setting up of a casino near Sri Sambuddhaloka Viharaya in Fort.

Do Buddhists monks and lay Buddhists know the advantages and brighter side of allowing a casino to operate next to a temple or as a matter of fact any religious place of worship? Apart from the foreign exchange earnings which will boost the economy and convert it from a dormant agricultural economy to tourist economy, look at the other advantages. A loser or winner at a casino would walk straight into the nearby temple and while gazing at the sedate serene Samadhi Buddha statue, the monk in charge should or could preach to him the Dhamma that craving causes sorrow, quoting the Dhammapada Thanha Vagga verse 22.

Hananti bhoga dummedham – no ye paragavesino
Bhogtalandhaya dummedho hqnti anne va attanam

(Riches ruin the foolish, but not those in quest of Beyond [Niibana] Through craving for riches the ignorant man\ruins himself as [ if he were ruining] others.)

When a casino addict realises that craving for riches only leads to sorrow, he will certainly give up craving and embrace Buddhism. Of course, the Buddhist monk concerned must be well versed in the Dhamma and not be a man in yellow robes who has made a business of Buddhism. If the monk can give him good advice, the Casino player will walk away convinced, with pirith noola round his wrist.
Didn’t Gauthama Buddha convert a criminal Angulimala by preaching the Dhamma to attain Arahathood? Aren’t there similar stories in Buddhism where after hearing the Dhamma people have embraced Buddhism and attained higher stages? It is the right perception that leads to the realisation of truth.

I leave the readers with a question as to what purpose a religion serves unless it is to shed evil thoughts and deeds and guide a person to live a righteous life.

G.A.D. Sirimal

Disquieting news item

The Sunday Times last week carried a disquieting news item headlined, “Batti peace seminar disrupted by mob.”

It read: “A seminar on national reconciliation organised by a non-governmental organisation in Batticaloa was disrupted by a mob led by a Buddhist monk in the area on the grounds that an invitation had not been extended to him for the event, Police said. They said that two participants of the seminar were also assaulted by the group”.

The incredible part of it is that the “Police intervened and advised the organisers to call off the seminar. Accordingly the event was called off.”

So we can only take it as an established sign of our times that law-and-order officers do not restrain those who disturb the peace, but rather opt to break up peaceful meetings. What a joke the police have become! I am reminded of a comment that passed between two foreigners seated immediately behind me at the Lionel Wendt Theatre as we waited for a play to begin: “You must remember that this is Ceylon, where everything is different from normal!”

This pronouncement was made a long time ago, as evidenced by the word `Ceylon’. If it applied then, how much more relevant it is today when law and order agencies have been so politicised that they no longer serve the public, but do as they think their political masters would want them to.

Anne Abayasekera
Colombo 6

Let this country be synonymous with tea once again, not thuggery

The horrific murder of the manager of Noori Estate in the line of duty, projects but one aspect of what estate managers are faced with today. It is a hard fact that today most planters are subject to what Nihal Perera faced. The law and order situation in and around estates is now directly proportional to the behaviour of the local politician and his retinue of thugs. What is the message we have given to the American investor who has expended millions of dollars to upgrade this group of estates.

It is no wonder that direct foreign investment is virtually zero although the necessary resources of land, trained workers and management skills are available. A foreign company I was negotiating with for a plantation project packed their bags and left, never to return, once again due to an issue of lawlessness.

Thankfully, when I was a working planter, politicians engaged in politics and the Police did not enforce two sets of laws. Interference was not in the dictionary. This is how a country should be governed. At the cost of a good man who laid down his life to safeguard Government-owned property, the authorities appear to have woken up at last. The country is silently watching to see if justice will be meted out to the animals responsible. Wake up, if you want the country to be synonymous with tea and not thuggery.

Russel Tennekoon

Why review only some judgments?

I read that there is a call to review the judgments of C.V. Vigneshwaran and P.B. Warawewa.
Why stop at that?

Let us also review the judgments of:

1. District Judge S.S. Kulatillake appointed Minister in 1970.
2.Supreme Court Judge Vanam Rajaratnam appointed Member of Parliament in 1970.
3. Justice Jaya Pathirana, former SLFP Member of Parliament appointed to the Supreme Court.

Nihal Ratnayake

Why have a court especially for Buddhist monks?

It is reported that the Chief Justice Mohan Peiris had said when addressing the Kandy Bar Association that he proposes to set up a ‘Sanghadikarana’- separate courts for the Sangha. Naming such a court as ‘Sanghadikarana’ is I believe, a misnomer, as such a court could only be held by the Sangha. What I believe the Chief Justice has in mind is to set up a separate court under him to hear cases against Buddhist monks who have committed offences against the law of the land and not the religion.

Does this mean priests of other religions would be treated in the same manner as ordinary persons? Would it be advisable to set up a separate court for clergy and direct all cases pertaining to clergy to that court without naming it as Sanghadikarana? A Sanghadikarama’ is quite different as it is to take action against Buddhist monks who break the Vinaya rules. What is really needed is to expedite hearing of cases without dragging them on for years which costs litigants heavy expenditure to retain lawyers for every date fixed and postponed.

Why have a court especially for Buddhist monks? What of those priests of other religions? Should they mingle with ordinary people? Do they deserve special treatment for committing criminal acts?

If the intention is to respect the Sangha and save Buddhism from being discredited, the proposal of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress passed at the last annual general meeting to set up a Sangaraja Mandalaya should receive urgent attention, perhaps on the same lines as that organization in Thailand where Buddhist monks are punished even to the extent of disrobing. Selection of members from the Sangha for such a Mandalaya should be done with utmost care to avoid those who appear to be saviours of Buddhism but engage in politics and neglect to serve the needs of Buddhists in preference to other personal ventures.


Will Lankan priests heed Pope’s advice?

A recent Reuters’ story from Vatican City said that Pope Francis had said it pained him to see priests driving flashy cars. He advised them to pick something more “humble”.

The story also said:

As part of his drive to make the Catholic Church more austere and focus on the poor, Pope Francis told young and trainee priests and nuns from around the world that having the latest smartphone or fashion accessory was not the route to happiness.

“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this,” he said.

“A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world,” he said.

Catholics in Sri Lanka are waiting to see what action priests and nuns would take to accede to the Pope’s request (Remembering Mathew. Ch 7 vs 21 — are you serving the Lord for your own glory or for God?)

Benny Tissera
Colombo 5

Police inaction warrants independent commissions under 17A

There are widespread allegations of police inaction by religious dignitaries, journalists, students, academics, diplomats and civilians. These allegations among other things warrant the immediate restoration of the 17th Amendment and the establishment of the independent commissions for the judiciary, elections, Bribery and Corruption, Police, and the Public Service.

Recently, Newton Gunaratne, a member of the Police Commission, complained that he as a member of the commission could not move the police into action over telephone threats to his daughter and mother-in-law. This is because even a home guard knows the different between the Police Commission under the 17th Amendment and the Police Commission under the 18th. He knows Mr. Gunaratne’s position is only titular.

Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem has long been critical of police inaction and once suggested the need for community police to avoid racial tension. When Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe went to pay his last respects to the fishermen who died in the recent storm in Balapitiya, he was attacked by a mob allegedly led by an MP and there was clear absence of law. Deputy Minister M.L.A.M. Hisbullah wrote a letter to the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa complaining of police inaction following the attack on Arafa mosque in Mahiyangana.

Religious dignitaries are no exception to this. Following the incident of setting fire to a lorry parked in Dematagoda slaughter house allegedly by some Buddhists monks, Ven. Ella Gunavansa Thera made an appeal to them not to take the law into their own hands. Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious dignitaries too have expressed their dissatisfaction over police inaction. The Lankadeepa editor devoted his editorial to deploring the Dematagoda attack and the absence of law.

These incidents stress the need for an independent Police Commission under the 17th Amendment. Opposition Leader Wickremasinghe, an ardent advocate of the 17th Amendment, along with MP Mangala Samarasinghe, has long been agitating for the restoration of the 17th Amendment and even placed it as a condition for participation in the PSC.

The Independent Police Commission under the 17th Amendment has many benefits. It will build people’s trust in the police, reduce racial tension, dilute the demand for provincial police power and check the executive presidency. But the problem is there are many eager to jump on the pseudo patriotism bandwagon but only a few to call a spade a spade.

M.A. Kaleel

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