With over 2000 years of Lanka’s history looking down at him from the stupa Sinhala king Dutugemunu built in Anuradhdapura as a fitting monument to commemorate the defeat of Chola King Elara’s fifty-year rule, and thus uniting the nation under one Sinhala banner, Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday midday took his oath of office as Sri [...]


Gota wave takes Lanka by storm


With over 2000 years of Lanka’s history looking down at him from the stupa Sinhala king Dutugemunu built in Anuradhdapura as a fitting monument to commemorate the defeat of Chola King Elara’s fifty-year rule, and thus uniting the nation under one Sinhala banner, Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday midday took his oath of office as Sri Lanka’s 7th Executive President.

It was a remarkable climax to his meteoric rise that like a Californian wildfire on the rampage felled all obstacles as it advanced, an unstoppable fiery tornado lit by a communal spark that made all opposition in its chartered course fall like skittles and be razed to the ground to inexorably bring him nearer to the throne of Lanka and place him on the purple seat bearing the lion scepter in his hand and the Sinhala crown of his forbearers on his head.

In the shadow of Dutugemunu’s statue, the King who had blazoned Sinhala rejuvenation in the 2nd century B.C. next to the looming Ruwanveliseya built to symbolise Sinhalese sovereignty and supremacy over the island mass, the newly inaugurated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa heralded the birth of a Sinhala renaissance tempered with respect for all minority rights when he espoused his belief that this was and is a Sinhala Buddhist country.

V FOR VICTORY: The Rajapaksas return in full swing to reclaim the lost throne and a paradise again

After thanking the Maha Sangha for the blessings showered upon him to make his victory possible, he declared: “I knew that I would be able to win the election with the support of the Sinhalese only, but I requested the Muslims and Tamils of the country to be a part of this victory. But I didn’t get the response I expected. However, as the president of the country I urge you to join me in ushering in progress. I thank all those who voted for me at the election. I also thank others who voted for different candidates and exercised their democratic rights.  I come from a Buddhist family from the South. I studied at one of the leading Buddhist schools in this country, Ananda College. Therefore, Buddhist philosophy has fashioned my thinking.”

True, a brief cursory look at the electoral map of Lanka shows that Gotabaya had swept the entire Sinhala landscape.

Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Moneragala, Ratnapura, Badulla, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Gampaha, Kandy, Matale, Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Kegalle and Anuradhapura – one by one these heavily Sinhala dominated districts fell under the spell of the Gota mystique and banished the myth that the minority vote was indispensable for anyone to win the presidency.

Gota had proved his point and proved it convincingly by winning 16 out of the 22 districts. He had polled a total of over 6.9 million votes to Sajith’s 5.5 million votes. Gota’s winning margin was 1.36 million votes. His winning percentage was 52.25% of the total polled to Sajith’s 42%.  The NDF, the UNP led coalition, only managed to win 6 districts.

Even as the bud bloomed and the lotus unfurled its petals in the excess of triumph and joy, Rajapaksa gushed forth his optimistic hope to fulfill the aspirations of all Sri Lankans. He said, “Now, we have the responsibility for coming together as a nation to develop Sri Lanka. You have voted for me to implement the policies spelt out in my manifesto, which promises to ensure the unitary nature, sovereignty and the security of the state This is a programme that will fulfill the aspirations of all Sri Lankans. This will create a nation that future generations will be proud to live in.

“I will fulfill everything in this manifesto during my tenure. Ensuring the national security will be one of the fundamental responsibilities of my government. We must protect our motherland from terrorism, the underworld, drug dealers and make this country safe for women and children. I will re-establish and strengthen the security apparatus that can ensure that.”

The President also vowed that his administration will maintain friendly ties with all countries and that he doesn’t want to get involved in power struggles among powerful nations. He said, “We want to remain neutral in our foreign relations and we want to request all nations to respect the unitary status and sovereignty of our country.”

He also said that he has a prime responsibility to protect the environment and that he expects to make Sri Lanka achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

SWEARING IN: The President-elect arrives to take his oaths before the Chief Justice with the Ruvanveli Stupa in the background

He also promised “to establish a state administration that ensures the rule of law and social justice. My administration will also be corruption free. As I promised in my manifesto, when tasks are assigned, priority will be given to those with abilities and knowledge. The government must always set an example to the society. Professionalism, and efficiency should be the cornerstones of government administration. Meritocracy and technocracy should be promoted at all times. Corruption will never be tolerated under my administration.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also declared:

n “I expect your support to create a moral, disciplined and lawful society.”

n “As the President my responsibility is to serve all Sri Lankans and I will respect the rights of all Sri Lankans.”

n “As per our manifesto I am willing to fulfil the aspirations of the people. There is nothing we can’t achieve if we have the will.  There is no challenge we can’t overcome. We have the vision to develop the nation.”

And then at the end of his speech he pledged: “I will not hesitate to use my executive powers for the betterment of society. I will form a new government that will help me implement the policies I have detailed in my manifesto.”

On Thursday, UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe resigned from his post saying: “I respect democracy so I am stepping down as PM”, even though it would not have been undemocratic of him to have retained his position according to the Constitution. It would, however no doubt have expedited his return to his familiar post of Opposition Leader. With the vacancy conveniently created by Ranil’s supposedly magnanimous gesture, Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as Prime Minister even though he did not command the confidence of the majority of the House, unless of course MPs of the defeated UNP were waiting in line to jump ship.

The following day, Friday, the rest of the Cabinet was unveiled. In a welcome move, it had been cut down to size. Now only 15 plus the Prime Minister sat across the table which only 13 months ago accommodated 45. This, of course, meant that the Ministers were burdened with more than one portfolio giving rise to the question whether they were given to bite more than they could chew?

Ramesh Pathirana, son of Richard Pathirana, and Arjuna Rantunga’s brother, Prasanna Ranatunga were making their first appearances in the Cabinet room. They have never held a single Cabinet portfolio before. Mahinda Rajapaksa sets the record for holding the highest number of Ministries, namely, Finance, Economic Affairs, Policy Department, Buddha Sasana, Cultural, Water Supply and Urban Development Housing facilities whilst the eldest of the Rajapaksa brothers, Chamal Rajapaksa is the Minister of Mahaweli Development, Agriculture and Trade. The only female face in the Cabinet is the siren from Ratnapura, Pavithra Wanniarachchi now made responsible for the nation’s Health plus Women’s and Children’s Affairs and Social Security.

LANKA’S NEW FIRST FAMILY: President Gotabaya with wife, son and daughter-in-law

And of course, for shouting himself hoarse with all the speeches pitched at high decibel levels made during the course of the Election campaign, Wimal Weerawansa could not go unrewarded. He has bagged, apart from the Ministry of Small Medium Enterprise(SME) & Enterprise Development,  the important Industries & Supply Management Ministry.

His other half, with whom he shared the rousing cheer and applause on the SLPP stage for their speeches, Udaya Gammanpila, tried desperately to be the better half in the President’s eyes. Rather than being miffed off to find his name not on the Cabinet invitee list on Friday morn, he dashed off a quick letter to the President that he will not accept any ministerial portfolio even if it were offered to him.

He wrote in his letter that since the Cabinet had been reduced to 15, the President and Prime Minister must have found it extremely difficult to choose a limited number of Ministers. Obviously considering himself Cabinet ministerial material and, perhaps, fancying his chances of getting a seat in the post-election Cabinet would be better than in an interim one he possibly reserved a seat well in advance.

He sent his regrets before receiving the invite to spare the President pain in having to drop him due to the new Cabinet limitation. Or was it that he was more keen to spare himself the disappointment of not being one of the chosen few. Alas, better luck next time.

But for some of the Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in there was not much to cheer. Gone was the ‘chit system’ to hand over jobs to their cronies. In a welcome move the President had ruled on Friday that the appointments of heads to State corporations, boards and other institutions would be made through a Selection Board to ensure only the qualified and professionals would be appointed as chairpersons and directors.

President Rajapaksa said the statutory bodies and corporations have become loss-making institutions in the past. He said, “We should be able to maintain them without being a burden to the Treasury and to make them profitable. This can be done by selecting the right person to do the right job. Therefore, only the qualified and knowledgeable professionals should be appointed as chairpersons and director board members.”

CLEAN SWEEP: The electoral map that says it all

He further said that he had outlined in his Presidential Election manifesto that a Selection Board would be appointed for this task. “I request the Ministers to submit the names of their nominations.”

When filling unskilled job vacancies, President Rajapaksa said all MPs should be given equal opportunities to make nominations.  “All MPs should be given equal opportunity to fill the unskilled job vacancies without one single minister directly filling them. If there are such vacancies, please inform us at the Presidential Secretariat then we can ensure that all MPs can be given the opportunity to fill these vacancies,” he said.

The President seems to have got on to a great start though he may have stepped on a few Cabinet toes. But one cannot make an omelet without breaking a couple of eggs first, now can you?

If Gotabaya had once been the truant in class, he has now been appointed as the Head Boy and is now responsible for the welfare of all his charges. As he himself said at his inauguration “I am the President of all, irrespective of whether they voted for me or not”. May that be the guiding light during his presidential tenure and may a new era of harmony, peace and prosperity dawn on this thrice blessed land.

The people have voted. They have made a pact with President Gotabaya. And until and unless that trust is breached or is impaired in anyway, that covenant must hold sacred.


Who is the Sangha in Buddhism’s three refuges?

A high ranking Buddhist monk has lodged a complaint at the Police Headquarters, this week complaining over a twitter message former Minister Mangala Samaraweera had posted.

The Ven. Ahungalle Sri Jinarathna Thera, Executive Director of Buddhist Information Center, felt that Mangala Samaraweera had insulted the Sangha in his message.

The tweet by MP Samaraweera: “I weep for my beloved country. May the blessings of the double gem, the Buddha and Dhamma be with you.”

The three refuges of a Buddhist is the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The triple gem.

Now when Mangala Samaraweera invoked the Buddhist blessing, why did he only mention the Buddha and the Dhamma? Why on earth did he leave the Sangha out?

Perhaps it’s due to a common misconception many Lankans have as to who the Sangha, in whom they are asked to take refuge in, truly is.

Many are under the belief that the ordained monks found in Buddhist temples and who belong to the Buddha Sasanaya comprise the Order of Sangha, declared as the third refuge of a Buddhist. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Bhikku is also a searcher of the truth, one journeying to find the bliss of enlightenment at its end. Until the dam of conditioned thought is breached and the ultimate goal reached, one remains chained to ignorance.

The Sangha, the community of monks who form the third refuge, is described by the Buddha in the Rathana Sutta – the Jewel Discourse.

It was expounded by the Buddha in the city of Vesali which had been inflicted by plague and famine. The Buddha had been asked by his disciples to visit Vesali and bring solace to the people. Death was in the air that night when the Buddha set foot on this city plagued by the fear of famine, by the fear of evil spirits and by the fear of pestilence.

Attended by a large following of monks including the Ven. Ananda Thera, the Buddha entered the city. Soon a torrential rain swept away the putrefying corpses and the atmosphere became purified and the city cleansed. Once a large group had assembled to hear the masses speak, the Buddha arrived to deliver his discourse. The subject he chose was the Triple Gem of Buddhism. The three refuges. First the Master described the Buddha, the first refuge. He described it thus:

‘Whatsoever treasure there be either here or in the world beyond, or whatever precious jewel in the heavens yet there is none comparable with the Accomplished One.

Verily, in the Buddha is this precious jewel.

By this truth may there be happiness!’

Then he described the Dhamma, the second refuge. He described it thus:

‘The tranquil Sage of the Sakyas realised that Cessation, Passion-Free, Immortality Supreme. There is nought comparable with that Dhamma.

Verily, in the Dhamma is this precious jewel.

By this truth may there be happiness!’

‘The Supreme Buddha extolled a path of purity, the Noble Eightfold Path, calling it the path which unfailingly brings concentration. There is nought comparable to this concentration. Verily, in the Dhamma is this precious jewel.

By this truth may there be happiness!’

Then he described the Sangha, the third refuge. He described it thus:

‘The eight persons extolled by virtuous men constitute four pairs. They are the disciples of the Buddha and are worthy of offerings. Gifts given to them yield rich results.

Verily, in the Sangha is this precious jewel.

By this truth may there be happiness!’

‘With a steadfast mind, and applying themselves well in the dispensation of the Buddha Gotama, free from (defilements), they have attained to that which should be attained (arahantship) encountering the Deathless. They enjoy the Peace of Nibbana freely obtained. This precious jewel is the Sangha.

By this truth may there be happiness!’

‘As a post deep-planted in the earth stands unshaken by the winds from the four quarters, so, too, I declare is the righteous man who comprehends with wisdom the Noble Truths. This precious jewel is the Sangha.

By this truth may there be happiness.’

‘Those who realised the Noble Truths well taught by him who is profound in wisdom (the Buddha), even though they may be exceedingly heedless, they will not take an eighth existence (in the realm of sense spheres).

This precious jewel is the Sangha.

By this truth may there be happiness.’

‘With his gaining of insight he abandons three states of mind, namely self-illusion, doubt, and indulgence in meaningless rites and rituals, should there be any. He is also fully freed from the four states of woe, and therefore, incapable of committing the six major wrongdoings.

This precious jewel is the Sangha.

By this truth may there be happiness.’

‘Any evil action he may still do by deed, word or thought, he is incapable of concealing it; since it has been proclaimed that such concealing is impossible for one who has seen the Path (of Nibbana).

This precious jewel is the Sangha.

By this truth may there be happiness.’

‘Their past (kamma) is spent, their new (kamma) no more arises, their mind to future becoming is unattached. Their germ (of rebirth-consciousness) has died, they have no more desire for re-living. Those wise men fade out (of existence) as the flame of this lamp (which has just faded away).

This precious jewel is the Sangha.

By this truth may there be happiness.’

Thus did the Buddha describe the third precious jewel, The Sangha.

Or to put it briefly, the Rathana Sutta as
expounded by the Buddha describes the Triple
Gem in the following way:

  • The Buddha is the unequalled Realised One.
  • The Teaching or the Dhamma is Nirvana and the unsurpassed leading to Nirvana.
  • And the Sangha is the Noble community of monks who have attained Nirvana after realising the Four Noble Truths after abandoning the three fetters, namely, self- illusion, doubt, and indulgence in meaningless rites and rituals.

In other words, the Sangha in whom the Buddhist take refuge in are those who have followed the Dhamma as preached by the Buddha and attained the status of Arahants.


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