[Citizens' Mail - (11-06-2019)] | Daily News

[Citizens' Mail - (11-06-2019)]

Pay proper attention to Minister Mangala Samaraweera

TV news channels and political media briefings, as well as private conversations, have focused on an alleged statement attributed to Minister Mangala Samaraweera that “Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist country”. An online search yielded the speech in question (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57kzyox1Lfs).

While it was apparently made to his political party followers in Matara, the views expressed on the nature of our country and its people have great relevance to who we are or aspire to be, as citizens of Sri Lanka. The specific words which have generated controversy have to be understood both as being (only) a part of a sentence and also as falling within a broader theme the speaker pursues.

Minister Samaraweera speaks from the perspective of a ‘Sinhala Buddhist’, including himself and the others present in this category (Sinhala Bouddha api). The sentence in question is made in the context of arguing that all citizens of the country are equal. Equality means (his argument goes) that those who are in the majority should not force a minority to change their customs (dress and law code), but should rather get the support of the latter to adopt changes.

Let us now look at what he said (as per YouTube): “Lanka is not a country of the Sinhala Buddhists, Lanka is a country of Sri Lankans; the majority in the country of the Sri Lankans are Sinhala Buddhist” (Lankawa kiyanne Sinhala Boudhayange ratak nevei, Lankawa kiyanne Sri Laankikayange ratak; Sri Laankikayange ratay bahutharaya Sinhala Bouddha). Taken as a whole, therefore, what Minister Samaraweera argues for is one choice between two contrasting views of the country, or whom the country belongs to. One view is that it belongs to all groups under the umbrella ‘Sri Lankans’ (and is therefore inclusive), and he accepts this. He in fact names groups other than Sinhala Buddhists: “Christians, Catholics, Hindus, adherents of Islam and other religions…” and follows up by reiterating that all groups have the same rights as Sinhala Buddhists.

The other view of the country is, by inference at least (if not specified clearly enough), one which belongs exclusively to Sinhala Buddhists. So in effect, Minister Samaraweera is saying (against this view), that “Lanka is not a country of only the Sinhala Buddhists…” In other words, the speaker sees the country as belonging to all Sri Lankans, not only to the majority ethno-linguistic-religious group.

If this sounds controversial to some, to others it is somewhat obvious. Many of those bearing an identity different from ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ would see themselves as equal citizens in the manner described by Minister Samaraweera. However, there are some twists in the actual reporting of his words. For one thing, only a part of his sentence is reproduced, creating a focus on those words rather than conveying the meaning of the whole sentence. For another, the words reproduced depart slightly from the original, which may possibly create a different, more emotive impact on the listener/reader. What he has been quoted as having said is: “Sri Lanka is NOT A SINHALA BUDDHIST COUNTRY...”. This gives the impression that he is challenging a specific definition/label of the country, rather than describing who it belongs to.

Interestingly, attention has been paid to this (slightly inaccurately reproduced) segment of one of his sentences. But the discussion on the broader issue he raises of the terms on which the different ethno-religious groups should deal with each other as ‘Sri Lankans’ is rarely, if ever taken up. It will not be pursued here as it requires separate scrutiny.

This piece is only an examination of what he said, and more importantly what he (ostensibly) meant.

C. R. Abayasekara


Why this menace in the name of security?

In today’s security context the public is very vigilant about their surroundings. However, some public establishments and organisations serving the public have gone overboard in their security precautions ignoring why they exist in the first place, avoiding their own responsibilities and making the present situation an excuse to inconvenience the public.

Three examples I came across during the last few days are given below.

1. NSB Mount Lavinia has put up an iron chain in front of the premises to prevent vehicles being parked in front. Walk-in clients will have to either jump over the chain or creep under it.

2. Sri Lanka Telecom Teleshop at Mount Lavinia does not allow customer vehicles to be taken inside although ample space is there at the premises.

3. Inland Revenue Metro Office at Jawatte Road has cordoned off the parking area and in addition, has taken 75% of the pavement of Jawatte Road in front thereby inconveniencing the people walking on the road.

In contrast, many commercial establishments including some public banks (Eg. DFCC) have provided their clients' parking facilities with added security precautions.

Sudharman de Silva

Mount Lavinia


The Holy Quran and modern science

The Holy Quran remains original, as same as it was revealed 1400 years ago, sans a letter being changed. So said the holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihiwasallam, (May Allah’s mercy and peace be showered upon him). “All prophets of Allah showed marvels to prove the truth of Allah as the only divinity worthy of worship, and they as his messengers. The marvel I brought through Allah is Quran.”

In the opening chapter of the Holy Quran, it is said (revealed) “praise to be God the cherisher and sustainer of the worlds”. In his Qur – An interpretation, Moulana Muhammad Yusuf Ali interprets, “The world here means, astronomical and physical worlds, world of thought, spiritual worlds and so on.”

Quran says “for those who are clever, there is lesson for learning (through research) in the creatures of space and earth, and in night and day coming, changing”. “Then he (Allah) thought of creating the sky – It is also a kind of steam.”

Quran says the earth is spherical, while the modern scientists, found the earth spherical after the medieval age.

The Quran says the mountains and hills are pinned as nails. (To keep the earth solid and strong). Quran says “space and earth were at the start, together, we only, divided them from each other”.

Quran says “Night cannot overtake the day. Sun cannot overtake the Moon, everything – the galaxies, stars, planets and satellites are all floating in their respective orbits”.

Quran says Sun has self-light -- Arabic word for this is “Liyawun” and the Moon (light) is reflected the light of the sun. The word for the reflected light in Arabic is “Noor”.

Of air, it says it has the nature of producing an embryo. According to Quran “There is male and female gender in everything on earth, and this male, the female gender is found in things what you do not know”.

Quran says everything is created through the water – when the modern science proved this, much later than the Quranic revelation.

On oceans and rivers it says 2 oceans comprising salt water, and a river full of sweetness in between, Allah only, partitioned off by restraint. An eminent European deep-sea scientist of world No 1 fame, researching in Bahrain (means 2 oceans) embraced Islam, after his firsthand experience, compared with the Quranic versions.

Quran gives in detail, about the inner sea, seas in depth and about platforms underneath the seas.

Scientific theories are hypotheses. Quranic revelations are, certainty, fixed, and unchanged, they are philosophical.

The holy Quran is for all eras.

Al Haj Fahim Latiff



Why amend Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act?

It was reported in an English daily recently that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has informed the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka that the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act would be amended to increase the age of marriage to 18 for Muslim women in a move aimed at unifying the personal laws as far as possible.

It was also mentioned in this news item that there were requests from Muslim Women’s organisations to increase the age of marriage to 18.

I am of the opinion that the All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulema should be consulted if the Government wants to make any amendments to the above act as I foresee and I am afraid that Muslim Women’s organisations may also request that even polygamy which is allowed in Islam to be banned as well.

They may also request to make changes to the laws of inheritance, the number of witnesses – the witness of one man being equivalent to two from the weaker sex and other Islamic legislation which may superficially and apparently seem to be in favour of the men but from the Islamic perspective, these are not so.

I can also see some loopholes, in case, this is eventually implemented.

People can defy the law either by forging their certificates of birth or may even resort to living together (which is highly undesirable) prior to formal registration which they may adhere to when they reach the stipulated age. They may also perform a secret marriage ceremony, of course, complying with the required basic Islamic pre-requisites, in case if a girl below the age of 18 (who may be more mature both physically and mentally) has decided to marry.

Therefore, I earnestly request that above amendment to be shelved but the government may carry out a campaign to impress upon the parents to follow the above age category when giving their daughters in marriage.

Mohamed Zahran

Colombo 14

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