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Law and Homagama incident - EDITORIAL

29 January 2016 06:31 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


he  actions of Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera at the Homagama Courts were not  approved by many and have drawn condemnation as no one is above the  law.  Also the Homagama incident and the prelate’s words and deeds  could conjure a spectre of certain intolerance. However, it is easy to  caricature and vilify. 
They are as easy as the rhetoric of Ven.  Gnanasara. There are also difficult questions which need to be answered and not shunned because of the difficulty.  What  are the conditions that give rise to the kind of phenomenon that  is Ven. Gnanasara?  Also there are many answers such as majoritarian  aggressiveness and intolerance.  That has been said.  We could say  that Ven. Gnanasara is an extremist or simply a law-breaker who perforce  was brought to book.    It  is inevitable that the offence gets a lot of play.  You break the law  and the law breaks you, it is that simple. A robe will not give you  relief.  

Belonging to a particular community does not yield privileges  that are denied to others.  The nobility of course, if you will, will not  grant amnesty.    You can say it is a conspiracy, it is persecution or  it is a manifestation of pernicious moves against the community you  belong to or the political cause you espouse.  Your reading is as  legitimate as any other, but the fact of infringement will not be  changed by it.  This is something that Ven. Gnanasara and his followers  probably understand, but being politically inclined they will not say  it.

 The question is, what is it that enables them to say it and get away with saying it?  Is it again, the ‘majority status’?  There’s  an old argument that’s frequently used by those who rebel against the State and also the State of Affairs: ‘If you do not abide by the rules  that you yourselves have made, we see no reason to uphold them!’ Quite  apart from discussing seriously and soberly the historical  underpinnings, clearly a tough task given the fixations and emotions  that the largely self-appointed representatives of the particular  community, there is a need to sort out the culture of lawlessness in the  country.  
This includes, unfortunately, robust but informal structures  that run parallel to those that are legally established and constitutionally  endorsed.  Now that is ‘easy’ and not because of caricature but it is so prevalent in our society, notwithstanding efforts such as the 17th and 19th  Amendments.    Simply put, the notion that everyone is equal before the  law is a myth.  Politicians are treated differently.  When the Police  err, the ‘law’ is hesitant (at best) or blind (usually).    That’s  called selectivity. 

 When  a Buddhist monk breaks the law, some Buddhists believe that ‘going easy’  is a must, a privilege they will not concede to anyone else.    That is  selectivity.   On  the flip side, when a Buddhist (forget the clergy) expresses an  opinion, his or her detractors would sometimes throw the scriptures at  him or her.  They would not demand that others in other faiths should be  ‘pure’, but might even offer the excuse ‘humanly frail’.  That is  selectivity.  Whichever  direction we look, we see this in our society.  We are selective  people.  Like all people, someone might say.  

But when the law is  selective, even in cases where people are charged with contempt of Court  (we recall politicians who have bad-mouthed and even threatened Judges  going scot free), naturally there is contempt for the institutions and  processes of justice.  If  we are determined to see the political and social universe as being  coloured black and white and nothing else, then what we have done is to  open ourselves to the charge of selectivity. We breed contempt on all  counts.

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