|Letters to the Editor
25th July 1999
I was shocked to see a teledrama on Rupavahini on Vesak poya, where a layman portrayed the character of Lord Buddha. This is a shameless and sinful act.
For 100 years after Lord Buddha attained nirvana people were reluctant to make even his statue. Subsequently, symbols denoting the Buddha and later statues were used to portray Him.
Even in the film 'Angulimala' nobody acted as Lord Buddha. Similarly in the west in movies like 'Little Buddha', though the character of the Bodhisatva was portrayed, nobody acted as Lord Buddha. They preserved respect for the Enlightened One. If people in a Buddhist country do not safeguard their own religion, eventually drunkards may portray the character of Lord Buddha.
Rupavahini should know what they should and should not do. The actor in the teledrama had memorized the stanzas which Lord Buddha uttered and repeats, "I am the Lord Buddha." Isn't this a crime? Couldn't they use a symbol of Buddhism and say Lord Buddha uttered so?
There should be an Intellectual Forum (Buddhi Mandala) to look into such acts. What is the Buddha Sasana Ministry doing? Lord Buddha is not a layman (Pruthagjana), but the noblest among men, pure in mind, body and speech. Should people who cannot protect even the five precepts (panchaseela) portray the character of a ''unique being"?
The violence at the demonstrations on July 15 in Colombo with the hope of forcing the ruling party leadership to honour the main pre-election promise of abolishing the executive presidency, has made the people feel that more peaceful alternatives should be considered.
Protests and demonstrations will be quelled by force as done by the previous regime. Accusations were then levelled at the ruling party for using thuggery, tear gas and batons. So July 15 was another case of the present rulers continuing the wrongs of previous leaders.
Violence should not be condoned. But what can the people do when promises are not honoured? Should the hoodwinked masses grin and bear, while ministers appear on state television, side-step issues and give irrelevant reasons for broken promises.
Recently thuggery and other forms of intimidation were used on striking doctors, but finally the leadership had to listen to them. So in future when election promises (not that bread would be sold at Rs. 3.50) on vital issues like the abolition of the executive presidency, reduction of the number of ministers and deputy ministers, transparency, accountability, control of wastage and corruption are not kept, powerful unions such as the Government Medical Officers' Union (GMOA) should resort to trade union action. There is no doubt the people will support them and bear the hardships.
I am compelled to write this letter in the hope that a higher authority at the Bandaranaike International Airport will take a hard look at what is happening to ordinary people like me at the airport.
I was an officer of the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Department from 1966 to 1981, but due to economic and other reasons found a job in Oman in 1982. Like thousands of others, I in my own way have contributed towards the Sri Lankan economy through regular foreign currency remittances.
It is distressing to read and hear how Middle East expatriates are not only exploited at various places, but also ill-treated by public officials including those at the airport. This incident is another example.
When I was returning to Oman after my last vacation recently, I was stopped near the entrance to the departure lounge by a person who 'demanded' my passport. Asked why, he said he wanted to check whether I had paid the insurance money.
I handed him my passport. Having gone through it, he said I should pay the expatriates' insurance money. From the way he was looking at my passport, I felt he could not read or understand its contents.
I was beginning to lose my cool and tried to explain to him that I paid my dues only a year ago and the payment would stand good for two years. I also produced the receipt issued by the insurance agency earlier.
To my dismay, I found he could not read the receipt correctly and had to give the receipt to another officer. The other checked the documents and asked him to allow me to proceed.
When I asked for my passport, he refused threateningly and said that I should wait - as if I had committed a crime. He acted as if he owned the airport.
It took me some time to get my passport from that bully and leave.
What bothers me is that the officer was obviously harassing me because I belong to a minority community. Such types should be rooted out of public office because they create communal disharmony.
If an educated, mature man like me can be treated like that, I could well imagine the abuse ignorant and innocent housemaids or lesser educated people have to undergo.
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