Good? Bad? Who Knows?View(s):
Last month I happened to be reading a most interesting book entitled ‘Good? Bad? Who Knows?’
Written by the famous Buddhist monk Ven. Ajahn Brahm, the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, this is a collection of stories written in the monk’s engaging and humorous style that I very much enjoyed reading.
But what really intrigued me and had me musing was the title of his book.
When we come across incidents in life, it is not always easy to label them as either Good or Bad. Very little in this world is clearly Black or White! More often than not, there is both Good and Bad in most situations – and we are often left wondering “Was this a good thing or a bad thing – or a bit of both?”
Take for example the case of our president. Some label Ranil being elevated to the presidency as a Bad Thing– because he is someone who got into the top job without a mandate. He was never elected president, in fact, he did not even get enough votes at the last election to win a proper parliamentary seat!
On the other hand, there are many who consider Ranil being president as a Very Good Thing. The queues of 2022 have virtually disappeared, power cuts are no more, and the people have food to eat — albeit at a price. He is one of the few politicians who can be deemed to be rich enough to afford to be honest (even though at times, it must be admitted, he has afforded protection to his political supporters who are not so honest). And we have to grudgingly and sheepishly acknowledge that the presidents we citizens enthusiastically elected to office by exercising our democratic votes ultimately proved themselves dishonest or incapable – or both.
Should presidents be elected – or selected? Who knows?
Let us now consider our former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Was he Good or Bad?
In 2009, he led the country to a victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – a victory that nobody in their wildest dreams would have anticipated a few years previously. I am sure all of us – unless of course we were Tamil Tigers ourselves — would agree that this achievement of Mahinda was VERY GOOD.
However, in the years that followed, Mahinda presided over an era of widespread corruption and blatant nepotism that was marked by him and his family bleeding the economy. All of us today – unless of course, we were Mahinda’s cronies, catchers and family members – would agree that this was VERY BAD.
Was Mahinda Good? Was Mahinda Bad? Who knows?
It all depends on one’s perspective.
What about the case of Puttalam District MP Ali Sabri Raheem, who was detained by Customs officers at the Bandaranaike International Airport recently after he was found to be in possession of undeclared gold and smart phones worth over 78 million rupees? Raheem was fined Rs 7.5 million – a mere fraction of the maximum fine that could have been imposed.
Was this a Good Thing – in that it showed that even an “honourable” member of parliament” gets punished when he is caught breaking the law? Was it a Bad Thing — because it let him get away with a paltry fine that was just a slap on the wrist — and then continue being a member of parliament as if nothing had happened?
Raheem is not the first Member of Parliament who was detected smuggling contraband into Sri Lanka. In 1982, the UNP MP for Hewaheta, Anura Daniel, was caught smuggling gold watches into the country. It is not clear whether Daniel was fined – he was never prosecuted – but in a show of making him pay for his crime, then President JR Jayewardene got him to resign from parliament.
Was this a Good Thing – or was it a BAD Thing in that JR appointed the wrongdoer’s own sister to replace him as MP for that seat and then allowed Daniel to continue as the UNP’s political campaign manager in the electorate? Was this politics – or Poditricks?
I have discovered that the dictionary provides two definitions of the word Mule.
One definition of a Mule is “the sterile offspring of a female horse and a male donkey, valued as a work animal, having strong muscles and a body shaped like a horse with donkey-like long ears and small feet”. A more modern colloquial definition of the word Mule is “a person who agrees to carry contraband into another country in return for payment”.
Are Raheem and Daniel classic examples of MP Mules who got caught? Do they represent just a fraction of politicians who fraudulently make use of their parliamentary privileges to break the law and smuggle prohibited goods into the country? Will we as vote-casting citizens continue to send dishonest folk like these into parliament, elevating folk who are no better than mules to positions where they can call themselves “honourable” members and do dishonourable things?
Are our current parliamentarians Good?
Are they Bad?