Loudspeaker laws, and societal amity | Daily News

Loudspeaker laws, and societal amity

The routine practices of some religious institutions that use loudspeakers etc. against all acceptable norms and most times against the laws in the statute books, have not abated. Such practices are abhorrent, but sometimes sadly have ‘religious imprimatur’ in this country.

The sale of liquor too is heavily regulated and other than the regular Poya day ban on liquor sales, there are liquor bans imposed on all religious holidays including Christmas. These are sensitive subjects however, and it is difficult therefore to elaborate on them in the public space. Nonetheless, suffice to say that religious leaders and more importantly, politicians representing various religious leaderships, jealously seek liquor sale bans for their own religious holidays in competition with bans granted to other religions.

All these practices that pit religions against each other and constitute a hindrance to society — such as noise pollution due to loudspeakers in places of worship — should be regulated by the authorities, but nobody seems to want to lay down the law because religions are deemed sacrosanct.

The recent events including the considerable societal upheaval concerning the economic meltdown the country is experiencing has among other things achieved what was hitherto thought to be impossible — which is amity between different religionists.

It is harder now than it used to be for various seekers of narrow advantage to exploit religion and race to divide people of this country against each other.

Religion and more importantly religious discord, has not entered the equation in any of the civic agitation campaigns in the recent past, and has often been positively absent entirely from the public discourse in recent times. This is a positive development.

However, is it possible to use the new found amity that has blurred religious and racial divides, to get rid of the abhorrent practices such as noise-pollution by various administrators of religious places of worship? It is a fact that such excesses exist — and that all religions are involved to varying degree.

This type of noise pollution with the frequent use of loudspeakers etc. has no consideration for sick people, and for the old and infirm who need rest or recuperation. Those who use such equipment indiscriminately do not think about students who are preparing for examinations, or patients recovering from serious illnesses who require long periods of rest and recovery at home.


The law is not of not much use as Law Enforcement is not willing to bring the offenders to justice or so much as give them a warning that continued use of noise-polluting equipment could have legal repercussions.

Stories are legion of public utility institutions, even those such as hospitals, that have not been able to get some of these religious places of worship to comply with noise related laws. The moral dimension of such conduct is also disheartening. Religious leaders are supposed to keep the peace, to be generally gentle in their conduct, and be a positive influence on society more than others. But very often they are the major offenders when it comes to noise pollution, and some demand that they be given an informal special license to use loudspeakers indiscriminately, because of the religious content they broadcast.

Very often — apart from legitimate broadcasts that are carried out with due consideration given to the neighbourhood— these places of worship use broadcasting equipment in violation of the laws and norms with regard to the use of such devices, because they feel it is important that they as religious institutions maintain some sort of stamp of authority over the general area. It is also felt by some of the offenders that it is imperative that they make more noise than say the neighbouring place of worship which belongs to those praying to a different god, or those who follow a distinctly different religious persuasion.

This competition is not very salutary or ‘religious’ to say the least, but it is a known fact that egos get the better of some of the worst offenders in this regard. It is also known that anyone in the neighbourhood that dares to protest is vilified and ‘put in their place.’ Those who legitimately ask for a lowering of decibel levels are cast as troublemakers and no-goods that do not care for the sanctity of religious worship, when all they have been trying to do is to maintain peace and calm in the community so that the sick could recuperate, and the students in pursuit of their studies could do so without being rudely and regularly disturbed.

The current conjuncture in which the divisions between various religionists are at a minimum, are a godsend in this regard. Is it possible that a set of norms be carefully hammered out between the various different administrators of places of religious worship that would constitute a consensus agreement on how and when broadcast equipment could be used?


The best outcome is if such equipment is not used at all, but if use is deemed necessary, it should be within reason with strict adherence to permissible decibel levels etc.

Religious leaders should agree that if there are violators they too would be susceptible to prosecution without hindrance and without any undue influence being brought to bear to dissuade legitimate complainants.

The current harmony between dovecotes of different religions, or worshippers of different gods as the case may be, is exemplary. People have realized that if there is hardship, they are all in it together, and that is a positive outcome arising from the current circumstances. As Kumar Sangakkara the former Sri Lankan cricket ace said recently, ‘it is hoped that the people of this country always respect each other’s faiths in the way they are doing now.’ In other words he hopes that there should not be adversity for people to recognize each others’ faiths and their culture or their traditions in order than there is a healthy mutual respect between folk belonging to distinct religious faiths and ethnic communities.

If the current phase of amity is to be permanent and not fleeting, there ought to be active consensus-building making use of the current atmosphere of cordiality for institutionalizing the gains that are being made at present.

Laws, as stated previously, by themselves do not guarantee that places of worship comply when it comes to matters that deal with noise pollution etc. That’s due to the unspoken impunity that is accorded to religious institutions no matter how hard some interested parties may try to conceal these facts, and pretend as if no such thing happens.

As stated earlier, leaders — though not every one of them certainly — from all religious persuasions, have been observing laws pertaining to sound pollution in the breach. This definitely is not a matter therefore that’s to be viewed through the narrow prism of parochial division.


It’s a societal issue and it concerns decency and dignity. People, patients and others who deserve peace and quiet in the neighbourhood, including students and indeed those engaging in meditative rituals of a spiritual nature in the privacy of their homes, deserve to have such the undisturbed ambience that they are legally entitled to.

These are transformative times in which such minimum standards with regard to mutual tolerance could be negotiated and mutually agreed upon between various stakeholders of different religious persuasions. Perhaps Law Enforcement can also be involved in explaining to the different actors involved, the legal aspects that they may or may not be fully aware of.

Positive and practical gains are being made these days in Sri Lankan society, irrespective of all of the hardships that people undergo. It has come to a point in which communities are commemorating each other’s war dead sans rancor, which is a positive development because peaceful remembrance of the war dead sans propagandizing, is a positive development. It proves that no gulf that’s imagined to exist between communities of this pluralistic society, is entrenched or inviolable. There is no chasm between communities that’s too broad that it cannot be eventually reconciled. Let the opportunities offered in the current moment be put to productive use, for the greater good of all Sri Lankans.

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