5th September 1999
Christians have many opin- ions about the new millen nium. Some believe the world will come to an end, while others believe Jesus will come again. While this is happening among Christians, an amazing revival is taking place among Sri Lankan Buddhists. Since the advent of modernisation and commercialisation in 1977 the Sinhalese have advanced to regain their place in society.
During the past two decades eminent people and Bhikkus have said the Buddhists have distanced themselves from the temple, that they remember the temple only in the case of pinkamas connected with death. Others believed Buddhist culture had been replaced by Hindi and western films, erotic journals and cricket. Then after 1995 when the State's apparent anti-Buddhist attitudes became evident, it seemed what was left of Buddhism would soon disappear. But in the past two years a certain covert movement has been revealed. Its overt proponent is Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero.
Young people whose heroes are Madonna, Michael Jackson, Maduri Dixit and Sachin Tendulkar have started listening to the Ven. Soma Thero on TV. Devotees also flock in thousands to the temples to listen to his Bana. Temples which was mainly a place of refuge for elderly women are once again filled with children, and youth.
While the Gods were displaced in homes, the nation and the religion emerged anew in importance. Every kind of question was asked, 'is there a creator god'? How does science look at these problems? Are the Sinhalese becoming extinct because of population control? Can't the Buddhists eliminate terrorism?
Ven Soma Thero's sermons televised on several channels has become the most popular programme. Viewers glued to their TVs to watch 'Doo Daruwo' and Jayasuriya's sixes have gravitated towards the Ven Soma Thero's sermons.
Buddhism is also receiving a boost from the Ven. Dolukande Nandiwimala Thero and from Kolonnawe Sumangala Thero. Thousands are drawn to their Bodhipujas. Instead of attending miracle healing sessions of foreign Christian Evangelists, thousands go to their temples.
The most notable fact about the appeal of these two bhikkus is the attendance of non-Buddhists to listen to them.
How did these two bhikkus gain so much popularity? Apart from their individual activities will an organized Buddhist movement emerge? Will the end result be that Buddhists who lost their bearing since 1977 would have an influence on the political arena? What will happen to the SLFP the UNP and JVP which appear to have anti-Buddhist stances? How would Ashraff, Thondaman and even Prabhakaran evaluate the emerging Buddhist revival?
What has to be explained first is that these two bhikkus are expounding two basics of Buddhism philosophy- mind and Faith (belief). They are not contradictory and Buddhists should accept both aspects of this awakening as relevant.
It is the Ven. Soma Thero who is performing the foremost service in this Buddhist revival. Because his teachings are accepted by the modern, urban, professional classes his attitudes and opinions are bound to filter into the political scenario. The two bhikkus show the trials and tribulations of the common man has to face in a commercialized society. They are showing the Middle path to Buddhists entangled in Trotskyite concepts and eminent bhikkus preaching verbose spurious Buddhist sermons.
The anti-Soma Thero stance that is being taken by ill adviced state media advisors are making him an instant hero. It is also eroding the Buddhist vote base. But the question is how far will these opinions get organized into systematic activity? With the establishment of the Jathika Sangha Sabha in 1996 there was hope of such an organisation.
Even if it is not immediately obvious, there has sprung up an organized structure between the Sangha Sabha and the Dhamma school teachers. But the activities of the Jathika Sangha Sabha are restricted because they have not understood the demands of the 90's.
The main aim now should be for the Jathika Sangha Sabha and other Buddhist organisations to establish a recognised organisation for Ven Soma Thero and the Ven Dolukanda Nandiwimala Thero to carry on their activities. Otherwise astute politicians will start to exploit them.
An extraordinary force can be built up by the National Movement Against Terrorism and the Veera Vidahana by popularising the ideas and opinions of these two bhikkus.
Dishonourable acts taint an 'honourable' judicial service
By Victor Ivan
The questions raised in regard to the Judicial Service because of the conduct of Magistrate Lenin Ratnayake, District Judge Upali Abeyratne and Attorney General Sarath N. Silva, belonging to three different levels of the Judicial Service are serious indeed.
It is established that Lenin Ratnayake is a person who joined the Judiciary with a questionable track record. How was it possible for a person with such a record to join such an honourable service as the Judiciary so easily? Even when a person joins the police as a constable, inquiries are made about his background. But the fact that a person like Lenin Ratnayake had been able to join the Judicial Service shows such inquiries are not made of people admitted to the Judiciary.
Mr. Ratnayake had not only been able to enter the Judiciary camouflaging his questionable background, he had also been able to get appointed to a position, overtaking a number of Magistrates, where he was to cover the duties of a District Judge. How did such a person get such special treatment? Who is responsible?
Although it is possible to assume that this person was able to gain admission to the Judiciary by hoodwinking the JSC, it is difficult to understand how such a person has been retained in a position of hearing cases for nearly three years after a newspaper had exposed the past.
It is also difficult to understand how a Judge who had got down the wife of an accused remanded by him, on the pretext of recording a statement from her, and allegedly raped her, was unimportant to the JSC. It was on August 17 that Ravaya carried a lead story under the headline 'Magistrate rapes suspect's wife'. This woman and her husband had gone to the JSC before that, and had made a complaint to the Secretary of the JSC. Thereafter, on the basis of an affidavit from her, Attorney-at-Law Kalyananda Tiranagama had made a formal complaint on the matter to the JSC and to the Supreme Court on August 14, 1997. Why did the JSC fail to conduct an inquiry into Mr. Tiranagama's complaint? One could surmise that the complaint made to the JSC had been misplaced. But one cannot surmise that the complaint made to the Supreme Court-about which, the Secretary to the Supreme Court had informed Mr. Tiranagama in writing on August 27, 1997-was also lost.
When the JSC followed a policy of shutting its eyes and ears even though the newspaper continued to raise questions about the failure to conduct an inquiry about the incident the Free Media Movement requested the JSC on February 5, 1998, in writing to conduct a just inquiry into the public accusation made against the Magistrate. As a result, the then Secretary of the JSC (now the Secretary General of Parliament) Dhammika Kitulgoda had a long conversation with me over the phone.
He said an allegation of rape had to be investigated by the police and that there was no possibility for the JSC, to make such an investigation. When he was asked why no inquiry was made as to whether Mr. Ratnayake had been dismissed from the Insurance Corporation on a charge of misappropriation, the Secretary said although the story might have been true, there was nothing the JSC could do because Mr. Ratnayake was a Judge in the Judicial Service. When I asked the Secretary what would happen if, in a case of theft in the accused asked a judge, "how can you hear my case when you are a bigger thief?" the Secretary only said, that certainly could be a problem.
Due to the failure of the JSC to conduct an inquiry against Mr. Ratnayake regarding the first incident of rape he got a second opportunity to allegedly indulge in a similar act. This time the victim was an accused in a case heard before him. This may have been the first time in the entire history of the judiciary that a judge had allegedly taken an accused in a case heard before him into his chambers and raped her.
The policy followed by the JSC in regard to District Judge Upali Abeyratne who heard the case where Sarath Silva had been cited as a co-respondent was still more ridiculous.
W.A. Jayasekera the complainant had informed the JSC on September 24, 1994, about the prejudice caused to him by District Judge Upali Abeyratne in the inquiry into this case.
Taking action the JSC sent a copy of the complaint it had received to Mr. Abeyratne on November 8, 1994 asking for his written observations on the complaint. Mr.Abeyratne submitted his written observations to the JSC on November 11, 1994.
Judges Tissa Bandaranayake and Mark Fernando of the JSC who looked into those observations summoned the District Judge before the Commission on December 14, 1994 and questioned him. Thereafter the Commission prepared a charge sheet against the District Judge and sent it to him on Feburary12, 1996 asking for his explanation and for any reasons why he should not be dismissed or punished for misconduct mentioned in the charge sheet, within one month.
According to that notice Mr. Abeyratne should have sent his explanation before March 12, 1996. Sarath N. Silva was appointed Attorney General on March 1, 1996. Surprisingly, the District Judge did not respond to the charge sheet. Nor was he dismissed from service or otherwise punished for failure to respond, on the assumption that he was guilty. Up to February 12, 1996 the inquiry against Mr. Abeyratne was proceeding towards its logical conclusion, and how it ended abruptly with the appointment of Mr. Sarath N. Silva to the post of Attorney General is a question that the JSC has to answer.
That two committees of three persons were appointed by the JSC, though belatedly, is praiseworthy. However the JSC apparently cause to that decision after a request made to the Chief Justice by a group of former presidents of the Bar Council.
It must be said the attitude of compassion shown by the JSC to these two people even after they were found guilty by the two committees of three members each is surprising indeed.
At the end of the inquiry against Mr. Abeyratne the JSC decided to send him on compulsory retirement. The JSC informed him accordingly. However, after listening to an appeal by the lawyer who appeared for Mr. Abeyratne the JSC changed the earlier decision on compulsory retirement and decided to stop promotions for two years and to transfer him to Moneragala with effect from January 1, 2000.
There appears to have been no substance in what the JSC says about stopping promotions. Mr. Abeyratne was a person who had got all the promotions that a District Judge could get and was in the supra grade. There was no other promotion he could get as a District Judge. His next promotion is an appointment to a High Court. It is not something that the JSC gives but an appointment to be made by the President.
Instead of interdicting Mr. Ratnayake who has had a questionable past and who even after entering the Judiciary was found by a committee of inquiry to have raped two women, he has been sent on compulsory leave pending the JSC framing charges against him and prosecuting him. The JSC has acted more firmly with Judges who have committed lesser offences.
The Acting Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has, for the third time, explained the position of the JSC with regard to its findings on two controversial judges - Mr.Upali Abeyratne, District Judge and Mr. Lenin Ratnayake, Magistrate.
Blaming media publicity for "may" having created an erroneous impression in the minds of the public with respect to these findings the office of the JSC states as follows:
Mr. Lenin Ratnayake
Mr. Lenin Ratnayake was placed on compulsory leave consequent upon a "Preliminary Inquiry" held by three Justices of the Court of Appeal. The "preliminary inquiry" was to inquire into the allegations that have been made and are being made against Mr.Lenin Ratnayake by the Editor of the "Ravaya" and to report to the Commission whether there is material which would justify initiation of a disciplinary inquiry.
The preliminary inquiry has now been concluded and the question of framing charges is under consideration. It is inconceivable that anyone could suggest that the services of Mr.Lenin Ratnayake should be terminated prior to the serving of charges and the holding of a disciplinary inquiry. The Judicial Service Commission has initiated this process. The Judicial Service Commission eschews unreasonable and arbitrary action violative of the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution, and has at all times acted in accordance with the principles of Natural Justice, procedural fairness and other procedural safeguards which would ensure a fair hearing.
Consequent upon a report submitted by a duly constituted Disciplinary Committee consisting of three Justices of the Court of Appeal, Mr.A.H.M.U.Abeyratne was compulsorily retired from service with effect from 31.07.99.
Mr. Abeyratne submitted a written petition of appeal to the Judicial Service Commission against the findings of the Committee and the punishment imposed by the Judicial Service Commission. The petition of appeal was supported before the Judicial Service Commission by Mr.Faisz Musthapha, President's Counsel who made comprehensive oral submissions before the Judicial Service Commission.
Mr.Musthapha submitted for the consideration of the Commission the following matters:-
1. that the acts of misconduct complained of arose from orders made qua judge.
2. that none of the acts of misconduct alleged dishonesty or bias.
3. the alleged acts of misconduct are based on unreasonable, harsh and oppressive exercise of discretion and also abuse of discretion.
4. one of the orders which was the subject matter of the charges came up for judicial review by way of an application in revision and the Court of Appeal refused to issue notice on the ground of delay; delay could not have been a bar to the issue of notice if the order was such as to shock the conscience of the court. The application made to the Court of Appeal in respect of the other two orders was withdrawn.
The Judicial Service Commission gave its anxious consideration to the aforesaid submissions and decided to affirm the findings but mitigated the punishment by making an order debarring Mr.Abeyratne from promotion to the Special Class of the Judicial Service for a period of two years from 19.7.99 and a transfer to Moneragala as the District Judge with effect from 1.1.2000.
The order debarring a career Judicial Officer from promotion for a period of two years has very serious adverse consequences in respect of his promotional prospects.
The Judicial Service Commission is reluctantly compelled to make this statement in view of the erroneous and misleading statements that have been published in the media recently with scant respect to the true factual position.
The Judicial Service Commission also regrets very much that the correct factual position has not been appreciated.
Killing to live and killing as a sin
By Ven. Soma
The first precept teaches us that practising com- passion and loving kindness towards all beings at all times means not only to refrain from killing human beings but refrain from killing all animals. Certain religions teach that if one wishes to eat the flesh of an animal there is no sin, as it will be considered pure flesh if the animal is killed in the name of god.
Here the question arises, is the animal who is killed in the name of god willing to be killed and eaten. Furthermore, does not the animal while being killed experience fear and pain ? If so is god's compassion only for human beings? Does this compassion not extend to other living creatures? Don't all these questions arise, when one begins to think along these lines? Some people link this issue to the on going conflict here and ask how then do Buddhists engage in war?
All people in the world are not Buddhists. And in one religion it is taught that killing is good. That killing in the name of god, in the name of the religion is good. Another religion teaches that one must never kill. Isn't it in this context that it becomes a danger, to teach that in the name of god and in the name of religion killing is not a sin ?
When people who believe it is not a sin to kill in the name of religion attempt to kill those who believe one should never kill, and take over their power, is the answer then to sacrifice their lives in the name of these people?
A country has a leader or a king to protect the country and its people.The king or ruler has an army, to use to protect the people of the country and not as an ornament. If the enemy prepares to harm the people or the nation the ruler is bound to safeguard the country and its people. This is the responsibility of the ruler or king. If that responsibility is cast aside that would mean the rulers did not fulfill their duty. It would mean betraying the people and the nation. One's own life and the lives of the people may be lost when one engages in battle. It is called service to the nation. If one kills in battle it is not meritorious. It is a sin. But sacrificing one's life for the sake of one's countrymen and protecting them is considered a sign of heroism. That is why those who lay down their lives for the country and the people are considered national heroes.
If one is hesitant or afraid to fulfill that duty such a person should not accept kingship. Should not join the army. They should lead a religious life. But Buddhist literature shows instances where ascetics seeing their nation in danger leaving their robes and going to the battlefield to defend their people.
It is wrong to think that a soldier cannot lead a good life. Fighting the enemy on the battle field is one thing, killing animals for mere profit or as game is a different thing. In life off the battlefield desisting from killing or harming animals is not a difficult thing. A soldier who acts thus is indeed a noble soldier. This principle is also applicable to rulers. The repercussions of hurting or killing animals with brutality are great. Killing in self defence is not as great a sin as the aforementioned since, it is not done out of hatred.
Therefore it is necessary to understand that according to the intention leading to the killing the extent of sin varies. Torturing a captured enemy and enjoying it, since the intention here is of an evil nature is a supremely sinful act. In face to face combat, as there is no personal animosity and their sole cause for combat is a military operation, one dying as the result of the other being quicker is not as grave a sin, as torturing an enemy.
Similarly, if one is faced with a ferocious animal, and to save one's life, is forced to act in such a way that it causes the death of this animal, since one did not wish to kill but only acted in self defence, the sin is not as grave as killing out of hatred.
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