Oil lamps and candles are symbols that people of most religions use in their places of worship and even at home. Unfortunately, due to lack of proper awareness and understanding, this has become largely a ritual for most people. In some places of worship hundreds of candles are lit on feast days or days of devotion, but they are soon thrown away – making it not only a meaningless practice but also a waste of money.
Oil lamps and candles are symbols of what must happen within us. While the candle gives light it dies to itself. If it does not, it will be of little or no use. Significantly, the candle burns most brightly when it is about to totally die to itself.
This gives an enlightened message to human beings and for human life and relationships. We also need to be a light to others, to the family society and the world. Like the candle we will be a light to the extent we are ready and willing to die to our self-centeredness and ego. If we are selfish, we will never be happy and we will not be a light unto others and make them happy. Instead it will be a case of the blind leading the blind, and both will fall into a ditch. In the light of the spiritual wisdom that comes to us from oil lamps or candles, we could take a deep look at what is happening in our country two days before we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Independence. The day calls for deep reflection on whether freedom has grown since 1948 or whether we are marching back to self-styled authoritarianism. Today we have an executive presidency with absolute powers especially after the 18th Amendment was imposed on the people.
The 1978 constitution for an executive presidential system was manufactured largely by J.R. Jayewardene and his well-known lawyer brother H.W. Jayewardene. They apparently wanted to keep the UNP in office for decades. But it did not work largely because President D.B. Wijetunge miscalculated the 1994 elections.
The then SLFP leader Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, who became the President in 1994 with a huge majority, described the executive presidency as a curse and gave a written assurance she would abolish it by July 1995. But she went on with it till her term ended in 2005 on the basis she did not have a 2/3 majority.
In 2010, President Mahinda Rajapaksa patched together or bought a 2/3 majority. Instead of abolishing the executive presidency, the Rajapaksa regime is consolidating it into a family dynasty. The SLFP has said it does not want an executive presidency. Its ruling allies, the LSSP and the CP also do not want the executive presidency. The JVP and the main opposition UNP also do not want it. Then why are we continuing with the curse? It reminds us of candles in the wind – candles that do not give light because of the desire for personal gain or glory, power prestige and popularity.