Rein in the vandals
A news report this week said that the historic rampart
in Polonnaruwa had been destroyed by excavating the area with
backhoe machines with disregard to the archaeological value of
Earlier it was reported that damage has been done to the wasp
hives at Sigiriya by trying to chase away the wasps by setting
fire to their hives.
Instances of treasure hunters damaging archaeological sites
and sacred sites in search of hidden treasures are very often
reported in the press.
All these are acts of vandalism that damage the country's
rich heritage. To this it is possible to add numerous other acts
of vandalism such as setting fire to forest reserves and ripping
off furniture at public places and damaging public property.
It is high time to rein in these vandals, bring them before
courts of law and punish them according to the law of the land.
Very often these acts of vandalism are not the doings of
ordinary citizens but well to do people who are either members
of the law enforcement bodies, or politicians and public
officials with authority.
It is a case of custodians themselves destroying property
under their care, a situation amply described by the saying 'Vetath
niyarath goyam kaa nam'.
Among those who were caught treasure-hunting were officers of
the Armed Services and the Police, members of the Buddhist
clergy and henchmen of politicians. That is why the Archaeology
department seems impotent or helpless in many instances.
What are being destroyed by these vandals are the country's
history and its rich heritage and tradition. It is also
appropriation of public property by private individuals with a
view to augmenting their personal wealth.
Underneath all these activities lies the false thinking that
public property unlike private property is not inviolable.
Another myth is that such historic sites should be sacrificed
for the sake of development.
Though not defined as such the rape of virgin forests and the
destruction of the environment and the country's rich
bio-diversity also constitute vandalism of the first degree.
By destroying environment or disturbing the ecological
balance man is only quickening the doom of the species of Homo
This ugly practice of vandalizing historic monuments,
destroying rich cultural heritage and defacing archaeological
sites etc. should be stopped. For this purpose stricter laws and
stricter supervision are necessary.
It is also necessary to increase the people's awareness of
the necessity of preserving the cultural and archaeological
valuable sites and objects as well as the need to protect public
Since it is not possible to police each and every site
engaging the people, especially the local communities in the
preservation of such archaeologically and culturally valuable
sites and objects becomes an urgent need.
On behalf of beggars
In a smart move the Railway authorities have banned
begging in trains. They reason out that beggars act as
accomplices in crime, often gathering intelligence about
commuters or as participants in crime. Perhaps the pickpockets
would find it easy to act when the commuters' attention is drawn
to the beggars.
Whatever the reasoning and logic behind the decision train
journeys would be dull and un-entertaining from now on. Actually
very many were not just beggars. They were performers too. One
could find blind singers, some playing instruments performing in
train compartments to the delight of the commuters who willingly
contribute in appreciation of their talents. Pity such
entertainment too would face the ban.
Though there may be crooks among beggars, all beggars are not
crooks. Even among commuters there may be worst crooks than the
poor beggars. In fact there are crooks in every profession.
A blanket taboo on begging smacks of discrimination. Why
prevent the honest beggar his livelihood when bigger crooks in
high society go scot-free or are adored and rewarded?
As most beggars claim begging is a noble profession for it
gives a man thrown into destitution a way out rather than taking
to crime. Isn't the ban a violation of man's right to a
In this age when finance ministers of over 100 countries roam
the globe with a begging bowl in hand, it is a tragedy that our
local beggar cannot beg in his own country without harassment.
Let the beggars free, for begging is neither crime nor sin.