We have recently seen religious dignitaries, both Buddhist and Christian, vociferously voicing their views on politics. As a mere observer, I think the time they have devoted to this would have been far better spent in the guiding of their flock.
One of the reasons for youth moving away from spirituality is that they see priests involved in political protests, indulging in abusive language and this keeps them away from devotion to their religion, whatever it may be. Democracy is such that a government voted into power will remain unless outvoted in Parliament till the next election. None has the right to demand otherwise in a democracy, unless they have a private agenda for saying so.
I am an Anglican, niece of the first two Sri Lankan Anglican Bishops. The late Bishop Lakdasa de Mel was my mother’s brother, the late Bishop Harold de Soysa, my father’s first and favourite cousin, both grandchildren of the late Charles Henry de Soysa. Bishop Harold was also my godfather. When I decided to marry a Buddhist, it was the two of them who stood by me and supported me despite objection from other members of my family. From childhood on, we were taught to respect other religions, learn about them; the first alms-giving I attended for Buddhist monks was at my uncle Lakdasa’s home in Kurunegala. His successor, the late Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister’s uncle also followed this tradition and there was always good rapport and steadfast friendship between them and Buddhist priests. The Prime Minister’s thinking that all religions and races must have equal rights and the freedom to practise the religion of their choice in peace is probably inspired by Bishop Lakshman whom he closely resembles. I am very proud of Bishop Dilo, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo’s stand and dignified statements on the recent bomb blasts and other issues. He doesn’t rush into situations where angels fear to tread, with diatribes to bask in cheap publicity, but speaks when necessary, confined to the subject. This is probably why the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided to pay a visit to Colombo soon. Bishop Dilo has never forgotten Jesus in his utterances unlike some others, and some Buddhist monks who have forgotten Gautama Buddha. They must realise their folly before it is too late; that driving youth away from religion is the worst thing that can happen for the future of our beloved country.
"Govt. made remarkable progress by completing 37,212 housing units"
Dignitaries of all religions must set an example and talk about the values and principles of their respective faiths. The lack of this is why we have people changing religions, to further their ambitions for higher posts, political loyalties also change with the drop of a hat and are built on the shifting sands of victory, defeat and personal ambition. They forget those who gave them a place, who built them up, opened windows of opportunity for them. As we saw from the disgraceful behaviour in Parliament recently, and others violating party discipline by holding meetings when they were told not to, this lack of discipline is a bad example for youth. It is a necessity in life to adhere to rules, principles and self-discipline. Changing spouses has also become a common occurrence today.
One cannot expect those disloyal to one’s spouse to be loyal to one’s boss!
There is a lot of criticism aimed at the government; some true and some not. But remarks heard frequently that it had done nothing are untrue. They could certainly have done more; my main grouse is that those guilty of corruption, murder, abductions and so forth in the previous government were not punished. But on inquiry I have been told there is insufficient evidence and that most files with evidence had been destroyed or removed in one way or another. The fact that there are several cases still pending in this respect proves there was and is an effort made to punish the culprits. I would like to state what I know as an observer, of some of the things this government has done which are of immense benefit to the people.
In the health sector, there were several benefits; free stents, free cataract operations and the ambulance service which has helped to save many lives. In education, several new buildings were provided to schools under the ‘Langama Pasala Hondama Pasala’ service, insurance for schoolchildren was introduced for the first time and the opening of digital schools.
In agriculture, compensation was paid to peasants whose crops were destroyed due to the recent drought. Salaries of government servants and pensions were increased, 98% of the lands taken over by the army during the past regime were returned to the rightful owners, the percentage of women in the local government and government was increased to 25%, exports were developed, Hambantota Port – one of the white elephants of the Rajapaksa regime – was turned into a profit-making venture, GSP was regained, friendship with all democracies around the world regained. The nation’s housing development saw remarkable progress; 37,212 housing units were completed. Former Minister D.M. Swaminathan was responsible for 17,536 units, Minister Sajith Premadasa for 6,069, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for 4,750, Minister Champika Ranawaka for 5,051 and Minister Thigambaram for 3,806 units.
"98% of lands taken over by the army during past regime returned to rightful owners"
We also have an independent judiciary, freedom to speak or write as we wish. If anyone in the previous regime was criticised then, as the PM is slandered now, they would have been taken away in white vans. So the government hasn’t been exactly sleeping. One hindrance was the illegal government set up from October to December 2018, which halted progress and development, and was also responsible for a colossal waste of money in true Rajapaksa style.
Another reason was infighting in the UNP. MP’s who should be in their electorates telling people at grassroots level of the work done are too busy pointing fingers at their leader whose fault is that he is too much of a gentleman who thinks others have the same values and is not tough and forceful enough with them. One has to deal with them with an iron hand uncovered by a velvet glove. Some powerful people have even resorted to slandering the Prime Minister’s niece with fabricated stories in order to mar the premier’s reputation. This is disgraceful, especially as she is a young widow with three children.
This issue must be taken up by female activists. We cannot allow this kind of character assassination to continue. The UNP must get its act together soon. The propaganda machine is weak and has been so for many years. Those in charge were and are too busy with other things; doing little to promote the party and carry the message of what has been done to the masses. As a longtime UNPer who has never asked for or ever got any favours from the party, with all my heart, urge them to get moving fast. Otherwise, we are back to a family dictatorship.
‘O God of Earth and Altar, bow down and hear our cry, our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die. From all that terror teacher, from lies of tongue and pen, from all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men. Deliver us, Good Lord’