NewEra - the way forward
It was 216 years ago that Arahant Mahinda visited Sri Lanka and paved the way for a new civilization. The society was transformed. His significant contribution is remembered and commemorated to this day in the month of Poson. We have now entered a new ‘Mahinda Era’. It’s time to reflect and plan the way forward.
People suffered for thirty years under LTTE terrorism. Now it has virtually been erased off. It is a miracle. It is a great victory. Although the Opposition, certain NGOs and foreign interests insisted that the LTTE cannot be defeated, we are aware that from the day this Government came into power, His Excellency the President, the Defence Secretary and the Army Commander were confident that the LTTE could be wiped out. A senior MP of the Opposition went to the extent of saying that he will don robes if the war ended!
His Excellency the President has united the ‘Thrisinhalaya’ and created a new Sri Lanka where the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers can live peacefully without fear. This is why everyone who fervently hope for a peaceful forward march devoid of narrow political differences, are blessing the Commander-in Chief the President, armed forces, police and civil defense force.
The Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka Thera and the Most Venerable Palipane Chandananada Maha Nayaka Thera would have been overjoyed if they were living to witness the transformation that the President has achieved.
It was in the latter half of the 1950s that Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera drew attention to the Tamil separation issue. From the time the Tamil leaders led by Mr. S J V Chelvanayagam started promoting the racial movement to divide the country thus creating the backdrop for Prabhakan’s Tamil terrorist movement, particularly from the days of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact, the Maha Nayaka Thera had the foresight to realize the imminent danger to the country and publicly showed concern. Until he breathed his last, the Maha Nayaka Thera appealed for unity among the Sinhalese insisting that Sinhala unity was the foundation of national unity. What he meant was that if the Sinhalese were united without dividing themselves into different sections, they would be giving a lead to other communities who would join the Sinhalese and live harmoniously. Those in power totally ignored his plea for unity. The result was that the entire country suffered for many decades. The Opposition should be commended for accepting this position even at this late hour.
President Mahinda Rajapakse was one leader who took this advice to heart even at the time the Maha Nayaka Thera was living. He may remember how when he paid a courtesy call at the Maharagama Dharmayatanaya, the Maha Nayaka Thera gave him a copy of the Life of Dutugemunu and reminded him of the responsibility on the shoulders of a son of Ruhuna to save the country. Among the suggestions made by the Maha Nayaka Thera, two merit attention:
1 That the area around Elephant Pass should be transformed into a security zone by creating a village of the armed forces providing them with all facilities including schools, hospitals and shops, thereby making the whole area a protected zone for everyone.
2 That the jungle area between Elephant Pass and Vavuniya be cleared leaving behind the big trees, tube wells are set up and agricultural colonies established by settling down Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim people thereby fostering communal harmony.
These suggestions are valid even today and can be put into operation. It is possible that Tamil leaders like Mr Sambandanan M.P who are pro-LTTE may shout but there is no doubt that the Tamil people who have suffered for thirty years would welcome such a move. They will look forward to the humanitarian service rendered by the armed forces in the future as well.
It is apt to quote from the speech made at the State funeral of the Maha Nayaka Thera by President Rajapakse who was then Leader of the Opposition. "If our governments followed the philosophy of the Maha Nayaka Thera, we could have had a better country and a better society. He took the initiative in creating a liquor-free society. He strived to promote unity in the country through the unity of the Sinhalese. It can be said that his sermons are more apt today than the time he preached. We should take his vision forward."
President Rajapakse recently declared that just as terrorism was defeated within a short space of less than three years, the war against alcohol and drugs will also be won. We have not heard such a bold statement from any other political leader in this country. If prelates like Kalukondayawe Pannasekera Maha Nayake Thera and Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera who played a leading role in the temperance movement hoping to see an alcohol-free country during their lifetime were alive today, they would have been more than pleased with the President’s pledge.
It is indeed a great achievement to have passed legislation curbing the use of smoking and alcohol in keeping with the policy laid down in the Mahinda Chitana, in spite of pressures from multinational companies. Signs of the dawn of a new virtuous society can be seen today. We should not forget that dark clouds have not disappeared completely.
The programme titled ‘Samma Ajiva Samaja’ (Societies based on Right Living) launched by Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera in 1976, if revived can deliver fruitful results. This programme which promoted good conduct by abstaining from the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, encouraging others as well to abstain, and to refrain from activities which are harmful to society, was highly successful in the schools in the Colombo district. The Minister of Education will find this programme a very practical one to be implemented covering students of all religions thereby assist in the President’s drive to build a virtuous society. Another helpful programme will be the promotion of the concept of ‘Building up man before country’. That is the way forward as preached by the Buddha.
In his historic address from Parliament, the President declared: "I do not believe that we have a right to be engaged in politics if we are unable to accept the responsibilities thrust upon us by time. I have accepted that responsibility. We have been victorious in facing one challenge. Time is now raising a new challenge before us. It is the challenge of building the motherland. From now all, everyone should change in keeping with the needs of facing up to that challenge, too. Just as I accepted the earlier challenge, I accept this new challenge too."
This is why I stated that a new Mahinda Era has dawned. There is a new sense of patriotism in the country today. Everyone is enthusiastic in building a better society. The need for national unity is everyone’s concern.
We should not forget that the fruits of this labour will be enjoyed by today’s children. At a time when the thoughts are of a new country and a new tomorrow, we should reflect on the mistakes made in the past and throw away the notion of colour and party. All citizens should rally round to build a just society with good governance. This is the need of the hour. Instead of accepting the numerous ideas thrust upon us in the name of globalization, we should build our own identity promoting mutual respect for each other.
We should applaud the statements promoting national unity not only by the Government but by the United National Party as well. If it is a genuine statement, then the people are very fortunate. It is the duty of the Government to pave the way to achieve it. It is opportune to quote from the acceptance speech made by Nobel prize winner, Alexander Slozhenitsyn, referring to conditions in Russia, his motherland. He said: "My friends! Let us try to be helpful, if we are worth anything in our own countries, torn by differences among parties, movements, castes, and groups, who for ages past have been not the dividing but the uniting force. This, essentially, is the position of writers, spokesmen of a national language, of the chief tie binding the nation, the very soil which the people inhabit, and in fortunate circumstances, the nation’s spirit too."
All the political leaders should rally round to build national unity which foreign interests or their local counterparts would not be able to break in any way. This is the strategy to prevent anything untoward happening in the future. The words of Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera re-echo: "Sinhalese unite. Unity of the Sinhalese is the foundation of national unity comprising the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims. Let us banish the traitors who don’t heed."
2006 Sambuddha Jayanthi
A new country and a bright tomorrow cannot be achieved by materialistic gains alone. It is absolutely essential that the human resources are properly managed and the mental environment is planned in a manner that is beneficial to the human race. The fault in doing so became obvious with the annihilation of the LTTE. The tragedy of the LTTE is small when compared with the harm done not only to the Tamil people but the entire country.
We won a bitter struggle against terrorism which threatened our motherland, humanity and development Now we have another struggle before us. In the words of the President, it is the ‘struggle for national revival’. It is not a struggle that can be solely won by technical skills. Non-violence, brotherhood, national unity and determination as well as commitment are absolutely essential. Along with the ruling party, the Maha Sangha and other religious leaders are invited to provide leadership for this struggle. They should be the commanders. It is essentially a struggle targeting a Dhamma Victory or a Victory of Virtue. There is no enemy to be defeated. There is no enemy to be eliminated. The goal is for everyone to be victorious.
In 23 months’ time, on Vesak Full Moon day 2011, we have the opportunity to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. Now is the ideal time to launch a massive drive to develop our country, our society, achieve economic prosperity and mental progress. The 2600 Sambuddha Jayanthi provides a target acceptable for both the Buddhists and non-Buddhists. We should always recollect that Enlightenment marked the phenomenon of human suffering through ‘Jati-Jara-Marana’ (birth, decay, death).
Although certain initiatives have been taken in planning the commemoration of this sacred occasion, nothing of significance can be noticed yet. Now is the ideal time to launch a national, social and cultural revival movement with the participation of the entire nation. Ten years of planning prior to the 2500 Buddha Jayanthi produced a political and social revolution. An even more meaningful, influential and pleasant social transformation can be achieved through the 2600 Sambuddha Jayanthi. A perfect start for a momentous celebration has been made with the eradication of cruel terrorism aimed at separating our blessed island.