18th January 1998

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Can they assure the best

For a Church of Lanka

Can they assure the best

It was unfortunate that Dr. G.L. Peiris and the Attorney General, the chief ar- chitects of the new devolution proposals did not attend last Tuesday’s National Joint Committee sponsored symposium on the subject.

Dr. Peiris was given over a month’s notice. He was asked to give alternate dates if he was busy on the scheduled date - and a man who generally accepts invitations from a wide-ranging assortment of associations ducked this one in the eleventh hour.

No doubt the NJC symposium was a one-sided show, and a bit of a boisterous one at that with no order whatsoever towards the end.

But surely, the Professor has been in a far more boisterous environment in the past three years in Parliament and is no green horn anymore. He could have weathered the storm. But why did he duck it?

It would have been one glorious opportunity to meet head-on and silence the critics of the package, which he has strained for three years to produce - even if the UNP says it is only half baked.

Dr. Peiris could have answered some of the moot questions that were raised – can the Central Government have military garrisons in a province without the approval of the Chief Minister? Why can’t the war be won? Aren’t his proposals the same as the TULF proposals of yesteryear? Isn’t this a Federal State he is creating by another name? Is this the stepping-stone to Eelam, and a pan-Tamil Empire? What happens to the person who opposes the Executive Presidency, but supports devolution and finds both of them in one package?

No doubt this is different to giving a lecture to an audience or to a friendly TV interviewer. This is what democracy is all about. To convince the faithfuls and to convert the critics. Otherwise this debate, as The Island said in its editorial of yesterday, is a “dialogue of the deaf” with neither side willing to listen to the other.

Now Dr. Peiris is trying to push his constitutional proposals through, at an ever quickening pace. Placing deadlines on the UNP - not over willing to debate the issues,-nor very willing to get pro-government intellectuals study and make suggestions.

We would urge the President to intervene at this stage and make sure that whatever the constitutional proposals, they are finalised and adequately studied - not by Dr. Peiris alone, or the Attorney General, but by others as well. As for instance to consider what eminent practising lawyer and now Ambassador to the UN, H.L. de Silva P.C. has to say? He is coming back next month. He has studied the subject in-depth. Surely the country can benefit from his wise counsel. Are the SLFP, the PA and the Government putting all their eggs in one basket, or will they satisfy themselves first that this is the best that they can come up with?

For a Church of Lanka

Two Catholic pastors who for more than 50 golden years have enriched and enlightened the culture and traditions of Sri Lanka while playing pivotal roles in the indigenisation of the Church here are in the news this week though for different reasons. While one has died, the other has virtually been resurrected.

Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody — revered musician, lyricist, poet, writer and journalist — died on Thursday night at the age of 96 after more than seven decades of simple and humble though unparalleled service to the arts and culture.

Fr. Marcelline had a vision and goals for a Church of Sri Lanka in the language and simple symbols of our country and civilisation. His understanding and perception inspired him to seek the truth in all religions and to work for unity among all faiths, earning him the respect of all Sri Lankans, much in contrast to the cheap conversion tactics especially of some foreign-funded sects. It would have been wonderful to see a pastor of such stature at the Swarna Jayanthi of Sri Lanka’s Independence. But he had a different date with destiny though he will shower his blessings from above.

Though it was not as sweet and soft as Fr. Marcelline’s music, Fr. Tissa Balasuriya also sounded the prophetic trumpet for Christians to become a church of the poor and to bear witness to a Jesus of Sri Lanka. Through a corporate dialogue for conflict resolution with intense negotiations involving all parties, Fr. Balasuriya has become the symbol of a historic reconciliation that will give possibly new direction for the universal church in the new millennium.

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