The grim reaper’s shadow envelops the land and shrouds it in morbid darkness. The hangman’s noose throttles all conversation and strangulates all positive thought. The subject today is death by hanging. When the national debate and discussion at this hour should be focused on how to regenerate the economy; when the nation’s spirit should be [...]


Dayasiri hangs the first precept on his new ‘doctrine of necessity’

Whilst Sirisena holds onto his hanging noose drawing fire from all around, his new found Man Friday shoots down Buddhism’s precepts with a canon of his own making

The grim reaper’s shadow envelops the land and shrouds it in morbid darkness. The hangman’s noose throttles all conversation and strangulates all positive thought. The subject today is death by hanging.

When the national debate and discussion at this hour should be focused on how to regenerate the economy; when the nation’s spirit should be buoyant and hopeful, upbeat on how to rise from the rut; when the collective conscious of all Lanka should be contemplating how to achieve economic prosperity; when the nation’s energies should be harnessed and directed in rejuvenating economic life and activity; the Presidential mindset is on death and death alone: on judicial execution, on judicial murder.

Sirisena’s ambition to be Lanka’s Duterte, adulating him as he does after his visit to the Philippines; his obsession with executing four drug dealers out of a list of eighteen, carefully handpicked after burning the candle at both ends; his manic  perseverance to break with the forty-year tradition of four presidents before him who did not depart from the precedent Lanka’s first President J. R. Jayewardene set — in the quest to outlaw in practice, at least, what the constitution held allowable  in law — Sirisena’s death wish fetish to see a fellowman swing,  has condemned his countrymen to share the collective burden on their conscience, purely because he wields executive powers to sign, seal and deliver the death warrant on four marked men on his death list.

MAITHRIPALA: Come what may, I will hang on to my hanging decision

Alas, even before the bells solemnly toll for the first condemned man he has earmarked to hang, he sadly fails to realise that the karmic bell will somberly toll for him too.

The Buddhist law of karma is a law of nature. For an action to take karmic force, the requirement is certainly not motive but intention. For motive lies in the manmade domain and though it may serve as a redeeming or mitigating factor in a manmade court of law to exonerate guilt, it holds no sway in nature’s law of karma.

Even as the apple falls to the ground by the operation of nature’s physical law of gravity, the karmic law, too, works – like Newton’s other physical law of motion that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – to ensure that every action has a similar consequence. In Buddhism, it’s called the law of cause and effect. In Christianity, it’s called ‘sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.’

The judge who puts on his black cap and, forced by what the law mandatorily dictates and  is duty bound to follow its provisions without any discretion in the matter, pronounces the death sentence; the president who, having absolute discretion whether to commend the sentences imposed and or commute it to life imprisonment instead, signs the death warrant; and the hangman who is paid by public money to be the instrument to execute the presidential order and puts the noose around another and presses the lever to make the trap door of the scaffolding open – they may all act out of the purest of motives but their intention is clear, disguised though it may be in terms of duty, politics and employment: The intention to condemn a man to his death. Play God whilst hiding behind social masks.  And all will have to suffer one day in their samsaric life, the consequences of their action, irrespective of their best motives.

RANIL: The entire Parliament is against it

“Chethana’ in pali is intention, one of the ingredients to make an act gain karmic force. Motive, on the hand other, is a man-made device, to justice the act according to one’s conditioned thought — even as one man’s beef is another’s poison — and the objective inexorable law of karma recognises it not. Karma knows no forgiveness. No confessions to another will atone it, no repentance of the actions will do but, like one’s shadow, will follow the doer, birth after birth till natural justice is satisfied.

But Sirisena’s fixation with the death penalty did not begin this year. It started with the murder of little Seya four years ago, when a shocked and horrified nation demanded vengeance to be paid in blood.

As the SUNDAY PUNCH commented then on October 16, 2015:

“Intention is indispensable to constitute the karmic act of killing. Motive, be it either good or bad is not. Whether a motive is good or evil depends on one’s own cultural conditioning and religious brainwashing.  What maybe an evil motive to a Buddhist may be a good motive to a Muslim and vice-versa. Who is to decide who is right and who is wrong?”

“Motive is generally considered good when the act benefits oneself or one’s loved ones or one’s community. It may also change with time and what was perceived as good a hundred years ago may today be condemned as evil. The karmic law, like nature’s physical law of gravity and the law of motion, operates solely on the basis that each act accompanied by the vital constituent of intention or mens rea in legal terms, will have an equal and similar reaction.”

“The concept of duty is man-made and though one may be justified in the eyes of his fellow men and stand absolved of any legal wrong if one acts in pursuance of such a legal duty and sanctions murder by proxy, it cuts no dice in the natural operation of karmic law. Man-made courts may order it on the basis of man-made laws and a man-made constitution which governs the petty affairs of men and nations may well impose upon the highest in the land with a duty to ensure that the punishment so ordered is meted out on the convicted doer of the crime.”

DAYASIRI: Necessity is the politician of invention

“Cloaked with immunity from the due process of man-made laws, such a person exercising his discretionary powers may well acquit himself with honour and receive the highest accolade from the people he represents in whose interests he has acted. As far as the citizenry is concerned, his motives are beyond question and his act may well be hailed as one inviting the highest merit. But in the realm of karma, such man-made concepts and justifications hold no place. Thus when a president signs the death warrant that will give final effect to the will of man-made courts and judgments delivered by men, he participates in the act of killing by proxy, however far removed he may consider himself to be from the execution and snuffing of human life, strangulating another human being with a noose round his neck even as Seya was strangled with her own T shirt by her executioner.”

“Speaking at the National Drug Prevention Programme in Galle on September 18, 2015, the President said: “Following the rape and murder of the little girl this week, a public outcry has risen for the imposition of the death penalty. Though I have the power to give effect to the death sentence imposed by the courts, I will place the issue before Parliament, not for a resolution — for that is not necessary — but for their opinion and if there is a consensus in Parliament, then I hope to carry out the death sentence from next year.”

Alas, President Sirisena, though born a Buddhist seems to have failed to grasp the significance of how the karmic law works. And now has decided to walk alone.  And as a result of his ignorance, seems to be hell bent on inviting upon himself, the demining consequences karma has in store for him, for his present intention to commit judicial murder, if he  keeps to his promise and goes ahead with the execution of not one but four. And that, presumably, is only for starters.

Especially when a whole array of opposition, both locally and internationally, is lined up imploring him to desist from committing this crime — premeditated judicial execution: Amnesty International, Britain, Canada, the European Union, Richard Branson, the UNP, Mahinda Rajapaksa and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) .

The President’s response was to label anyone who was against him doling out the death penalty to convicted drug dealers on death row: “I consider those opposed to this move as people who are aiding and abetting the drug traffickers.”

Last week, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a televised speech that “the UNP had always opposed the death penalty. Right from the start of his presidency J. R. Jayewardene announced that he will not take the life of another for whatever the reason and that he will never sign the death warrant to hang one though condemned by the courts to hang. Then came President Premadasa who did not sign the death warrant either. Then D.B. Wijetunga who followed suit. Then came President Chandrika. What did she do? She, whose father had been assassinated, too, never signed the death warrant. Then came Mahinda Rajapaksa. He, too, never signed the warrant but followed the same practice as his predecessors. “

“Then,” continued the Prime Minister, “we came to power in 2015. President Sirisena and we too followed the same policy. But now, Sirisena has announced  that he intends to carry out  the death sentence. That is against our party’s principles. The largest party whose vote base was instrumental to bring Sitisena to power as President is against his decision to hang.”

“I spoke to Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Opposition Leader on this matter; he, too, said that he is against it.  I spoke to the JVP and they, too, said they are against the death penalty. I spoke to the TNA, they told me that they, too, are against it. The four main parties in parliament are against it. It is this principle that we had maintained for so long that made us take a cabinet decision to give a signal to the United Nations in 2016 to their resolution for nations not to implement the death penalty. It is one extended every two years. In 2018, we supported the resolution when it came up for renewal. But at that time I was not the prime Minister. I had been removed. The Prime Minister was Mahinda Rajapaksa. The President was Sirisena. The foreign Minister was Sarath Amunugama. All three supported the UN resolution, even as we had done so. That is not a problem. It was the stance all governments had taken for so long. The date on which the support was extended to the UN resolution was the 17th of December last year. I became Prime Minister again on December 20 last year. Both main political parties had thus supported the UN resolution not to implement the death penalty.

Even as Sirisena’s isolation became more acute due to his decision to rebuild the  scaffolding, revive the death penalty and resurrect the hangman to carry out executions a’la mode new found hero Rodrigo Duterte, a flood of civil rights activities filed petitions in the courts against the implementation of the death penalty.

But that did not deter Sirisena in his judicial murder spree. After having window shopped to find his chosen four to hang and exhibit their scalps as the sole trophies of his presidential safari, not even the cost to the nation could stop him from his predilection for judicial execution and flaunt his machismo in the inane belief that it will increase his ratings at the polls and reverse the image of him painted by no other than his new Man Friday, the recently appointed General Secretary of the SLFP, Dayasiri Jayasekera who, having portrayed him as a man without a vertebra during his ‘hitang, hutang’ campaign against Sirisena on Rajapaksa election platforms, now sings endless hosannas in his praise.

Not even the warning of the damage that will be caused to the economy as a result of his exuberance to hang a ‘gang of four’, expressed by the Finance Minister this Tuesday in cabinet that the presidential decision to implement the death penalty will induce the European Union to withdraw the GSP concession to the nation’s exports affecting not only garments but over five hundred other products, could stop Sirisena in his track as he ventured relentless on his jaunt with only death on his mind.

The GSP had been suspended by the European Union due to human rights violations by the previous Rajapaksa regime and was won only after a great diplomatic effort by the present government in 2017. “The EU is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest export markets accounting for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka’s global exports. In 2016, total bilateral trade amounted to almost 4 billion, and EU imports from Sri Lanka amounted to 2.6 billion. The removal of import duties,” a press release from the EU announced two years ago, “will provide a total of immediate benefits worth in excess of EUR 300 million a year. The value of the scheme could be worth many times more, particularly if Sri Lanka uses the opportunity to diversify its economy.”

The EU press release issued on May 16, 2017, also added: “These one-way trade preferences will consist of the full removal of duties on 66% of tariff lines, covering a wide array of products including textiles and fisheries.”

Now all that is at risk, merely because the President is hell bent on hanging four, personally handpicked by him and scheduled for execution.

In answer to his Finance Minister’s warning of the economic loss the nation would suffer as a consequence of the EU carrying out its already announced threat that the GSP grant will be withdrawn if the death sentences are carried out, President Sirisena reaffirmed his position to implement the death penalty and said it was being implemented at his sole discretion and that the Cabinet had nothing to do with it. “I have taken this decision under the powers vested with me as President’, he declared.

The Catholic Church has, for long, held that the death penalty was a form of ‘lawful slaying’. But even at the Holy See, the passage of time has wrought change and much water has flowed under Venetian bridges since the days of medieval popes. In 1999, Pope John Paul II appealed not for general agreement to continue the enforcement of the death penalty but for a consensus to end it on the ground that it was “both cruel and unnecessary.” Three weeks ago addressing the American Congress, Pope Francis made an unequivocal call for the death penalty, for whatever reason it is imposed,  to be abolished worldwide.

With world winds blowing in the direction of the Buddha’s message of loving kindness to all, what makes Lanka, the self-proclaimed bastion of Theravada Buddhism in its pristine form, fly against the flow?

And will it not smack of official hypocrisy when with lips we make our daily pledge to refrain from killing but with hands we clap when the ‘kill’ is made on our behalf? Will it not further dehumanise this society, already made insensate to mass murder as a result of the 30-year-old terrorist war? And now made worse by Easter Sunday’s carnage?

In 2015, there were 1,116 convicts on death row in Lankan jails. Today there are many more. If the executions were to begin this morning, even with one scheduled hanging per day, it will take an execution every day for the next three years to complete the backlog of 1,117 killings on the official death list – unless, of course, the President wishes more of the midnight in selecting whom to hang and whom to pardon, as if he had no other business of state to attend to than become the nation’s grim reaper stalking death row at Welikade prison.

As stated in last week’s SUNDAY PUNCH, the president’s decision “came at a time when Lanka had regained her seat at the table of civilised nations. A nation that pays respect to the Buddha’s dictate that all life is sacred; and that none is beyond redemption per the example of Angulimala in Buddhist scriptures.

That the first precept must remain inviolate; and that her commitment to the non enforcement of the death penalty must stay unshaken.

Now along comes Dayasiri Jayasekera – whose unbeaten and infamous track record for pole vaulting, as the Sunday Punch stated last week, consists of pole vaulting from the SLFP first in 2001 to the UNP, who then in 2013 pole vaulted to Mahinda Rajapaksa camp and led a vicious ‘hitang’, hutang’ campaign against his present leader Sirisena on Mahinda’s election platform, joining hands and mouth his erstwhile terrible twin Wimal Weerawansa to spout vitriolic filth at Sirisena and who immediately gave up the Rajapaksa ghost on the latter’s defeat on January 9th 2015 and joined the Sirisena victory wagon without an iota of regret or remorse and has now,  being elevated to the seat of the General Secretary of Sirisena’s party the SLFP as a reward for his multiple betrayals of all whom he once briefly served.

He hops out of the burrow of his latest allegiance and, as Maithripala’s mouthspeak, bid  to warp the first Buddhist precept of ‘panathi patha veramani sikhapadan samadiyami”, I shall refrain from killing any being, by adding a new twist of his own interpretation to its tail.

He says that ‘a doctrine of necessity’ entitles one to violate it.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary MP Dayasiri Jayasekera said this week that, “As Buddhists we too cannot accept the death penalty, but it has to be reintroduced as a doctrine of necessity. The President has decided to execute convicted big-time drug offenders as ‘a doctrine of necessity to protect the future generation from the drug menace’.

Funny, isn’t it, that a Panduwasnuwara MP hip-hopping from side to side and faction to faction to better his personal political fortunes and now  rapping his latest master’s voice should be at others who, from Mahanuwara, call  for en masse stoning,  should come with a doctrine of necessity to justify the violation of Buddhism’s first precept with a warped logic of his peculiar own to suit the times and current trends of these weird times we all live in.

And why shouldn’t  this new interpretation of the first precept which no monk, learned or otherwise, could think of but only a leapfrogging opportunistic politician could come up with, serve as the new testament to replace the old? To rephrase not only the first precept but all five precepts.

And to give credit where credit is due to the new prophet in town, here is how the five precepts will read and be observed by all those who take pan sil, day in and night and on poya days. It will also redefine the Christian Ten Commandments which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, accordingly.

n The first precept panathi patha veramani or I shall refrain from killing or thou shall not kill must be interpreted according to Lanka’s own Monty Python in his gospel ‘Life of Maithri’, as I shall refrain from killing unless the Python ‘doctrine of necessity’ compels me to do so and thence I shall be absolved of sin.

n The second precept ‘addhinnadhana veramani‘ or I shall refrain from  stealing must be interpreted according to Lanka’s own Monty Python in his gospel ‘Life of Maithri’, as I shall refrain from stealing unless the Python ‘doctrine of necessity’ compels me to do so and thence  I shall be absolved of sin.

n The third precept ‘kamaya sumichchara veramani’ or I shall refrain from over indulging in sexual activity must be interpreted according  Lanka’s own Monty Python in his gospel ‘Life of Maithri’, as I shall refrain from overindulging in sexual activity unless the Python ‘doctrine of necessity’ compels me to do so and I shall be absolved of sin.

n The fourth precept ‘musavada veramani’ or I shall refrain from lying must be interpreted according  Lanka’s own Monty Python in his gospel ‘Life of Maithri’, as I shall refrain from fibbing unless the Python ‘doctrine of necessity’ compels me to do so and thence I shall be absolved of sin.

n And the fifth precept ‘surameraya muchchamapa veramani’  or I shall not take any intoxicants must be interpreted according  Lanka’s own Monty Python in his gospel ‘Life of Maithri’, as I shall refrain from taking drinks or drugs  unless the Python ‘doctrine of necessity’ compels me to do so to blank my mind from the remorse I feel having violated all the precepts held dear by Buddhists and the commandments held sacred by Christians and thence I shall be absolved of sin.

Such is the limitless ambit of Dayasiri’s ingenuity of innovation to use his own political dogma ‘ the doctrine of necessity’ to justify his jumping like the tree frog leaping  from one tree to the other when the occasion suited  him, like the chameleon, the katussa, which changes colour to disguise its presence, that he has had the audacity and the arrogance to distort Buddhist precepts and the Christian Commandments by peddling a ‘doctrine of necessity’ to justify the vilest ways of man in his own warped theory that all sin can be justified in the eyes of God on the ground of earthy expediency and profit  and will escape retribution even from karma’s inexorable law as expounded by the Buddha, if done according to his ‘Doctrine of Necessarily’.

When Buddhist monks seek to bring religion into politics, when catholic priests seek now to bring the Bible into politics, perhaps this is the first attempt by a politician to infuse politics into religion.  And justify the ways of man and his insatiable greed and lust for power and even murder, on the basis of some spurious ‘Doctrine of Necessity’.

Will the Dark Ever Light By Don Manu

Will the dark ever light;
Will the fallen sparrow
Reveal providence’s plight;
Will my hopes again ever soar
On eagle wings, take flight;
Or will dawn’s tomorrow
Be as dark as tonight

Will the daisies never
Dance rapturous delight ;
But wilt with my hope e’er
Droop in sun’s gaudy light;
The music I savour
Will it never alight;
And bless this soul’s answer,
How through sorrow, bliss enlight.

Will my once waxed hope’s moon
Wane e’er beyond the pale;
Will I e’er lie in doom
When ‘gainst winds I set sail;
To realise opportune,
A love that will never stale.

Will daylight in gloom,
Forever within me loom,
To reveal to the world and me
This wretched soul’s tomb;
Where my urn of tears,
I grievously cry, stark lie;
Entombed with love’s ashes,
When our heart fires die.

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