The Buddha proclaimed, “May All beings be Happy’, equating animals to humans. The Hindus usually avoid the consumption of meat. Most Christians eat meat, but St. Francis of Assisi, whom Pope Francis has taken as his role model, is the patron saint of animals. The Native Indian chief of Seattle in his epic statement on [...]


Treatment of animals; Govt. must be condemned


The Buddha proclaimed, “May All beings be Happy’, equating animals to humans. The Hindus usually avoid the consumption of meat. Most Christians eat meat, but St. Francis of Assisi, whom Pope Francis has taken as his role model, is the patron saint of animals. The Native Indian chief of Seattle in his epic statement on the environment said: “The beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath – for what is man without beast”. Arahat Mahinda’s words to King Devanampiyatissa on the equal rights of beasts to live and move around, is taught in every history lesson.

In a shocking and shameful report, the World Wildlife Fund said this week that the overall number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish had declined 52 per cent between 1970 and 2010. The main culprits? Humans, who have been wiping out other animals through hunting, fishing, deforestation, pollution, and various forms of habitat destruction, it said.

But, as the country and the world marked World Animal Day yesterday, two significant events made a mockery of the protection of animals in this Dhammadvipa. One was the utter apathy on display by Government agencies towards the animals during the recent drought and the other, the way animal sacrifices are still allowed to circumvent the law and no punitive action taken on either case.

While the first shows sheer indifference to the plight of animals, the second is a brazen disregard for the law of the land. Our INSIGHT Team together with provincial correspondents probed the reason for the lackadaisical approach by the authorities – the respective Provincial Councils, Pradeshiya Sabhas, the Wild Life Department and the Tourism Authority — to the plight of these animals, especially the elephant, the leopard and the buffalo that we are proud to boast about to foreigners.

Not that the Government’s approach towards the people affected by the terrific drought was any better. Drought relief was a case of ‘too little too late’ and concentrated largely in the Uva province where an election was on. The assistance to animals was pathetic. Only some volunteer organisations and some Buddhist monks came forward to help. The Government rakes in money from National Parks, but it can only pick the fruits from these money spinners, not fertilize them – and water them, so to say. Animals were left to die around the country, even in National Parks, or to become skeletal-like — an appalling indictment on the Government in office.

In relation to the animal sacrifices, the Supreme Court on September 2 upheld a Court of Appeal decision that laid down the law in relation to animal sacrifices at the Munneswaran Temple in Chilaw. It prohibited such barbaric practices indulged in the rituals and ordered they be conducted under the Butcher’s Ordinance. Not to be outdone, the sadistic rituals were carried out at the nearby Udappuwa Temple also in Chilaw.

The purported ‘holy men’ conducting these rituals don’t want to be equated with butchers, they say. Yet, they feign ignorance that there is also a law called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance. The Police entrusted with implementing Supreme Court orders, as is now common in this country, turn a blind-eye to the law, and in this case, the illegal slaughter of fowls and goats.

The Supreme Court Order made it clear that these laws are “neutral and non-religious specific”, and they afford “uniform treatment regardless of whoever slaughters animals or inflicts cruelty to animals”. It adds that ‘such intendment of the Legislature cannot be advanced on the grounds of exemptions afforded on the basis of religion”. We cannot agree more; but try convincing the Police in the Chilaw area and those purported ‘holy men’.

Lessons to be learnt from India
While a Supreme Court order is so easily observed in the breach in Sri Lanka, the Indian Judiciary seems to be taken far more seriously, and for obvious reasons. For it has come in for high praise following the conviction and subsequent incarceration of the powerful Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu on corruption charges.

Justice delayed is justice denied goes the legal maxim, but in this case the Special Court was eventually vindicated purely because the long arm of the law finally got the Chief Minister concerned and threw her in jail for amassing assets disproportionate to her income.

For 18 years in-between the filing of the case and the verdict, she reigned and she ruled becoming more than a pain in the neck to Sri Lanka. She made wild allegations against the Security Forces of this country accusing them of “genocide” ; she accused the Sri Lanka navy of shooting her fishermen while encouraging them to go fish illegally in Sri Lankan waters; she made a claim for the islet of Kachchativu; and she allowed her party workers attack Sri Lankan citizens passing through her state. From Chief Minister, she is now Prisoner No. 7402.

Last year, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that any MP or elected councilor convicted of a crime with more than a two year sentence be disqualified from holding public office – from the date of conviction – even while the appeal is pending. Also, it has set in motion anti-corruption Ombudsman institutions in several states under Lokayukta Acts, there is a Lokpal Act at the Centre with Lokayukta courts and of course, the regular courts – all aimed at sending a powerful message to both, elector and elected, that public office is not for milking the public purse.

Several persons have killed themselves in Tamil Nadu to show their love and affection and how painful the jailing of the Chief Minister has been. Earlier, they have done so “for the sake of their brethren in Sri Lanka”. Such shows are just that – shows. Their families are compensated by the party. Party workers, especially the poorest of the poor, are hired to literally ‘die for their leader’.

In a state where the Indian Election Commission itself has reported wide-spread bribery of voters during elections, there are huge larger-than-life cut-outs of party leaders. The fawning and obsequiousness is encouraged for upward mobility in politics, within the party and in government service. We see their Ministers prostrating themselves before their leaders – and these are qualities that we see creeping into this country as well in recent times.

Just the other day, on May Day, in fact, the country witnessed a lady Cabinet Minister falling at the feet of the President on stage, in full public glare and worshipping him. It was all power and energy in the exercise. We must emulate the good from India, not the bad and the ugly.

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