On the night Cardinal Malcom Ranjith took flight to Rome to see his Pope, the Chancellor of the Colombo University, Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera, lectured on the evening TV news bulletin, saying he thought it improper for the Cardinal to betray his Motherland by airing his grievances to the Pope and at Geneva without keeping it [...]


Hush! Keep it in the well: Not a whisper to the world

SUNDAY PUNCH upholds right of every citizen to seek universal justice

On the night Cardinal Malcom Ranjith took flight to Rome to see his Pope, the Chancellor of the Colombo University, Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera, lectured on the evening TV news bulletin, saying he thought it improper for the Cardinal to betray his Motherland by airing his grievances to the Pope and at Geneva without keeping it confined within these island shores.

What, keep it in the well? Don’t breathe a word to the world that something’s rotten in the state of Lanka?

This outmoded notion of not taking the home fire out even if it burns the house down, that a nation’s shame and stink must be kept concealed and not revealed to the outside world, has been a convenient belief, nurtured and propagated as a fundamental tenet of patriotism, exploited by governments to control public discontent from creeping out of the bag to the global domain. The world must only hear the public purr, not the public’s heart-wrenching wail.

Suits autocratic government’s fine, does it not?

THE VATICAN’S CONFESSION BOX: Pope Francis meets Cardinal Malcom Ranjith In the Holy See to hear his lament of justice denied to his Lankan Catholic flock

It’s a notion that must be exposed for the sham it is and nailed to the mast. It enables the autocrats to continue their atrocities with wild abandon, without undue interference or check by concerned foreign states, shining the torch on the touchy subject of human rights; while the victims maintain a self-imposed censorship on their grievances and dutifully remain muffled by the lion flag of patriotism, with the unspoken threat of treachery dangled ominously before them if they dare speak their grief or reveal to the world, the tyranny of political injustices they suffer at the hands of their dictatorial masters.

It is also outdated for it naively presumes that the watching world, in this revolutionary age of information, does not already know or that the world is not already in possession of the required evidence of what is truly happening in Sri Lanka, when, on the contrary, it may know far more of the ground situation than a cloistered native in this country, living a sheltered life with a closed antediluvian mindset may ever know. Satellites, internet, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, all facilitate instant information and global dialogue. The physical visit is only to add the personal touch.

Take the nurses’ union leader, Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera, now bestowed a Chancellor’s hood on top of his Nightingale’s cap, who spoke against the Cardinal for flying to the Vatican to hold audience with his Pope. What was the wrong, the treachery, the betrayal, Cardinal Malcom Ranjith committed in meeting his Pope, the Supreme Pontiff of his Church, to discuss matters adversely affecting his Catholic congregation, in the same manner Buddhist monks meet the Malwatte Maha Nayaka Thera to discuss threatened Buddhist interests?

The fact that the Pope is in Rome and the latter is in Kandy, makes not the slightest difference. In the sublime wisdom of the Buddha, all humanity are equal; and not race nor creed and nor caste can serve as bar to the right to equality? And wherever discrimination is found to divide mankind into different sects, it violates this cardinal tenet of the Buddha.

So, pray say, is it wrong of a Cardinal of the Catholic Church to meet his Pope, the Servant of the Servants of God, in the Holy See? Was it wrong of Cardinal Malcom Ranjith to have met his Father Confessor? Though no official account can be made public of what transpired in the Vatican’s confessional box due to the confidential nature of such meetings, no doubt, the Cardinal broke his heart out and told his chief – as Jesus said, ‘the servant of them all’ – how the innocent victims of the Easter Sunday bomb blast have been denied justice by the Lankan Government by its alleged failure to ‘reveal the truth’.

Would the Cardinal be wrong if he had spoken of the political injustice they faced, nearly three years after the bomb blast? Nay, he was beholden, as a subordinate cardinal from Lanka, to report to his superior in the Church hierarchy, the Pope, of any injustice meted out to his Catholic flock back home. The welfare of the lambs on the Lankan pasture must be the legitimate and moral concern of the Pope; and the Cardinal bears a similar right and binding duty to inform his God’s representative on earth on the state of his flock.

And was the Cardinal wrong to have addressed the United Nation’s Human Right’s Council and told the world the plight of the Easter Sunday victims and blamed the present government of Sri Lanka for failing to render justice to the victims in spite of promises made before to sweep the polls?

In his brief speech at the UNHRC pulpit in Geneva on Monday, where world delegates had gathered to discuss Lanka’s black record on human rights, Cardinal Malcom Ranjith spoke of his long struggle to bring justice to his dead and maimed, traumatised Catholic people.

He said: “The first impression of this massacre was that it was purely the work of a few Islamic extremists. Subsequent investigations indicated it was part of a grand political plot.’’

“Despite our repeated requests and those of civil organisations pursuing the truth, the incumbent government of Sri Lanka has failed to mete out justice to the victims. Instead of uncovering the truth behind the attack and prosecuting those responsible, there are attempts to harass and intimidate those who clamour for justice. As this is a serious violation of the fundamental rights of the aggrieved victims, we earnestly call upon the UNHRC and its members to devise a means to ensure an investigation to unravel the truth behind the Easter Sunday massacre.”

Is condemning a Government’s action or inaction that wreaks injustices to its people, a betrayal of Mother Lanka? Only those who identify this sovereign nation with its temporary rulers and think they are both one and the same, will pathetically think so.

Would Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera, who lays his verbal flowers of praise at his deified hero’s altar in Mahinda worship, condemn in the same breath Mahinda Rajapaksa’s exemplary attempt to gate crash the UNHRC forum at Geneva without an invite in 1990, to lay bare to the world photographic and documented evidence of the then UNP Government’s extrajudicial killings during the JVP uprising in the late 1980s? Would he have then condemned Mahinda’s admirable, though thwarted, act to hang Lanka’s blood stained linen on the UNHRC’s Geneva clothes line and hold the then political leaders accountable, as a betrayal of the motherland?

On the same day that the Cardinal spoke, and at the same venue, SJB MP Harin Fernando also struck a blow for his fellow Catholic, former SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake, seeking his early release from prison, where he is currently serving a 4 year term for contempt of court.

But even Harin was not spared in his quest for justice by the pervasive notion that to accuse the leaders of his country at international forums of injustices, may be construed as betrayal of the motherland. Either he was heavy with remorse or was playing to the gallery when he told reporters at the BIA terminal before departure that his UN mission was not to let Lanka down, or betray it.

It must sink down to all that to condemn abroad political injustices wreaked by here-today-gone-tomorrow political leaders and seek the succour of international help to end it, is not to betray the interest of 22 million people, who truly represent Lanka, but only to safeguard it. That it’s the right of every citizen to seek universal justice, if denied it at home. A right that must be upheld. Justice knows no borders.

With the vista of a wasteland fast unfolding, the people must know that, next time there’s a fire at home, even if caused by one’s own parents, it is prudent to call the Fire Brigade to douse the flames than keep it in the family and let all perish.

Lanka’s economic First XI to bat for nation’s victoryTottering on the brink of getting all out with the scoreboard heavily against them, cabinet selectors chose on Monday an economic First XI to bat for Lanka in the fast fading light of day. At the eleventh hour, the cabinet drew strength from its inspirational choice of selecting the quintessence of the available players to pull off a stunning victory from certain defeat or, at least, to save the game but, without a rain cloud in sight, that seemed a near impossibility.Of their consummate skills as all-rounders, there need be no retelling.  They are proven mettle. They can hit round the wicket and over the tent; and, in the field of spin, can deliver wily googles that outrank the ‘dhoostra’ magic. Suffice to say, their reputations precede their selection.

Led by skipper President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his able deputy Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who will monitor progress from the Pavilion dressing room, the team comprises

  • star bat Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa who, with his mighty sixers, can make the ball go have hit the kaputas;
  • followed by top fast bowlers, Highways Minister Johnston Fernando, known for his deadly bouncers, and Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, famous for his sharp outswingers, so sharp that they bounce back on him;
  • plus master spin bowlers, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena whose unpredictable leg cutters leave those at the receiving end clean bowled and Plantation Minister Ramesh Pathirana who sometimes doubles up as commentator and often adds his inimitable spin for the side in his commentary;
  • with the fielding left in the capable hands of Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal, brilliant at silly point, Central Bank Deputy Governor Dhammika Nanayakkara at cover, Presidential Secretary Gamini Senarath, handy in the slips, and Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalla as wicket keeper, known for saving the ball after it had left the bowlers’ greasy fingers.

This then is the A team that will play in the coming days to a packed stadium of 6.9 million cheering spectators, thirsting to see the promised vistas of splendorous victories coming  down on the drought ridden Galle Face Esplanade. And, no doubt, with such talent in action, they will.

A win here, will definitely renew and boost both local and international punters in the solid Lankan team and will reverberate successes in other fields as well. In fact heavy hang the shoulders that delivers the ‘dhoostra’ or leathers it for a smashing six, for the team has been told to keep their eye on the economic pitch, to accelerate the run rate and watch how the ball turns on the turf after it was damaged by the viral invasion two years ago. They have also been told to see how best to economically re-curate the ground and to increase ticket sales by revisiting revenue policies.

But rest assured. Lanka’s future triumphs, nay, its very survival on this carbonic turf where the ball hardly turns, is in their expert hands.

Some countries, however, do it differently. Rather than depend on the practical aspect, they place more weight on the theoretical part. The so-called scientific method which is supposed to produce miracles. Take, for instance, India – not the Central Government – where the Tamil Nadu State Government hired an expensive set of highbrows last year to form a team to advise the Government how best to perform better on any wicket.

This council of five include an Esther Duflo, a 2019 Nobel Prize joint winner in Economics, a professor of poverty alleviation and development economist at M.I.T. in USA, who has worked extensively in India during the last twenty years, including in Tamil Nadu; a Raghuram Rajan, a Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School, a former Governor of India’s Reserve Bank and Chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (2003-2006); and an Aravind Subramanian, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Indian Government from 2014 to 2018, and presently a senior fellow at the Brown’s University’s Watson Institute for Public Affairs.

Well, that’s Tamil Nadu’s choice. Different strokes for different folks, eh?  An Indo-foreign hybrid of faint hope to triumph over Tamil Nadu’s poverty of runs and clinch the game.

Lanka has no cause for alarm, no need to fret. She has something more than money can buy. The selectors have chosen the best hopes, the best home grown indigenous strategists to win the day-night series, even on a struggling wicket, even without lights.

But when the Great Voter comes to mark a cross against their names at the hustings, he or she will not only note whether they won or lost but how straight they played the game.

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