Sri Lanka may justifiably be called Nutty Lanka considering the ludicrous conduct in public of some of our monks, politicians and government officials. Two weeks ago some opposition politicians took on the role of being ‘gurus’ to monks making them or those clad in Saffron robes like monks, go on ‘pindapaatha’ with begging bowls traditionally used to collect alms in the form of a meal. But they collected not alms in the form of meals but coins and currency notes in their begging bowls – an event unprecedented in the history of Buddhism. And the money donated to the monks, we are told, will go not to the monks, but make up for fines imposed by the High Court on two accused convicted for misappropriating Rs. 600 million in state funds.
All this political religious high jinks in the land of ‘Pure (pirisidhu) Theravada Buddhism’! The Mahanayakes and other high priests have not yet commented on this novel form of Pindapaatha or political begging, but it is time they did for the sake of Buddhism.
The first conundrum to be resolved will be: How does this all square up with the Vinaya – the disciplinary framework for the Sangha based on canonical texts called the Vinaya Pitaka? This is an issue that has to be decided soon by venerable monks because some politicians may don robes and go in Pindapaatha even to collect their deposits to contest elections and for other pleasures. The Buddhist public will be far more generous with monks than lay beggars.
With the debate for a new constitution now picking up, Opposition politicians led by Mahinda Rajapaksa – that intrepid guardian of Sinhala Buddhism in the tradition of Dutu Gemunu the Great – are having doubts about supporting the proposed constitution because they fear that the ‘foremost place’ accorded to Buddhism in two previous constitutions will be done away. Undoubtedly they want this provision entrenched much more firmly and maybe the new pindapaatha ways of collecting cash as performed last week may be a way of doing so, just like distributing ‘Sil Redi’ worth Rs. 600 million at state expense to boost religious fervour on the eve of the presidential election.
The Mahanayakes of all three chapters too recently declared that a new constitution was not required because it would create more conflicts in the country.
However we hope that they would make a pronouncement soon on the new form of pindapaatha introduced by leading Opposition members not only because it has divided Buddhists into two camps and some cynical observers saying that Sri Lanka would be better known as Nutty Lanka.
Docs going nuts
Another contributory factor to Nutty Lanka is a section of the medical profession running riot on the streets of Colombo for over a year on the issue of a private medical college called SAITM and demanding its abolition for their benefit. Not only on the streets but even indoors, insanity has prevailed. Doctors, professors and even parents of students have advised students to keep away from classes for one whole year! Ever heard of teachers and parents advising students to keep away from class?
Last week the medical men, ignoring the sick in hospitals, came in motorcades to Colombo to jam the streets, bring traffic in the capital to a halt by blocking the vital junction at Lipton Circus with their duty free vehicles. How far they were successful in creating this medical chaos and mayhem on that regrettable day has not been estimated, but one reported incident of an ambulance being blocked and preventing entry into hospital with a sick patient deserves the organisers being struck off the roll of medical practitioners.
After one year of SAITM-ITIS the people are tired, bored, sick and angry but the madness continues. The docs are attempting to keep up their insanity going by seeking trade union solidarity. Some unions have obliged with token strikes. And now teachers and principals are being wooed to join anti-SAITM protests. Principals and teachers have been invited to participate in anti-SAITM protests.
Both these categories have smeared their once respected profession: one category being caught red-handed taking bribes for school admissions and the other being tuition ‘mudalalies’ not teaching students in the class room but at private tuition classes for mind boggling fees. If they desert schools and classrooms to join in the frolic of the medicos, parents should know how to deal with them. The young Minister of Education, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam should not spare the rod and spoil principals and teachers.
On Thursday many TV channels showed the sorrow, anger and infuriation of people in the provinces, most of them extremely sick and incapacitated patients stranded in OPDs venting their spleen on doctors. The government cannot afford to permit this blackmail to go on. Not only is the possibility of patients reacting with violence but the government is being blamed for letting this public harassment go on. The cocky young medical men seem to be confident in carrying out this public harassment with impunity. The government has to act if necessary by invoking emergency regulations. It is apparent that this politically inspired blackmail is ultimately directed at a general strike aimed to topple the government in accordance to the declarations of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Long running comedy
The SAITM comedy has gone on for too long a time with its tentacles spreading out. It has to be curtailed and the issue confined to the Minister of Health and the Medical Council, as it should. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe having obtained 3/4th majorities in Parliament on many controversial legislations should attempt to enact a new law to stop this plague debilitating the nation any further.