Lee Kuan Yew’s ‘manthra’ for a reconciled state

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2017-07-15

By Manekshaw

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met a group of young Buddhist monks at the Temple Trees on Wednesday (12) and discussed various important issues, particularly on ensuring the dignity of Buddhism.

The Prime Minister assured the young monks that Leader of the Opposition and Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan will not oppose Buddhism being the premier religion in the country and pointed out to the monks that when the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters faced a crisis situation during former President Rajapakse's regime, the TNA leader stood by the two foremost Buddhist chapters.

The Tamil leaders from the British period always stood by safeguarding Buddhism and one of the pioneers of Sri Lanka's independence struggle Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and his family members Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy were in the forefront in highlighting the importance of Buddhism and the marvels of Sinhala culture.
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan addressing participants at an event at the country's prestigious Buddhist institution Ananda College, Colombo, encouraged the Sinhalese students to speak in Sinhala when the Sri Lankan students showed an aversion to speaking in their native languages at schools.

Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy doing researches and authoring several books on Buddhism and Sinhala culture – another member of the Ramanathan clan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam who was a historian wrote extensively on ancient Sri Lanka and Buddhism's influence in the country.

Late Tamil United Liberation Front leader M. Sivasithamparam's house in Colombo was also severely attacked when the 'Black July' riots occurred in Colombo.

Commenting on the damage caused to his residence M. Sivasithamparam who was a trilingual eminent lawyer said that he virtually lost everything but he was happy to see that the statue of Buddha which was kept in his study remained intact.

The historic Buddhist shrine in Nagadeepa in the North has a portrait of late R. Ramachandran, who is a native from Ngadeepa Isle, which is known as Nainatheevu in Tamil, for the charity work he had done for the Buddhist shrine in the Isle. Late R. Ramachandran had been a senior official at the Sri Lanka Railways, and he was the father of two well known Sri Lankans – former Deputy Inspectors General of Police R. Suntheralingam who later ended up as a member of the Interpol, and renowned Eye Surgeon Dr. R. Pararajasingam.

Another prominent Sri Lankan Tamil who had taken Buddhism to great heights internationally was late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and it was on his initiative Vesak was declared as the day of International observance.

The Tamil intellectuals have always considered Buddhism as the refined version of Hinduism.

Therefore, it was realizing the contribution made by the Tamils in the country to Buddhism and Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan's broad outlook towards the religions, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with his rich Buddhism background has enlightened the Young Buddhist Monks Front led by Ven. Welimada Chandrarathana Thera.

At the end of the meeting with the young monks the Prime Minister also made a fervent appeal to them not to use religion for political purposes and create problems over religious issues.

Sri Lanka being a country of several scholarly Buddhist monks had even experienced several setbacks politically due to the interferences of Buddhist monks in the country.

The latest announcement by the prelates of the premier Buddhist chapters in the country on bringing out a new Constitution has even made the minorities particularly the people in the North and the East to think how far their political aspirations will be fulfilled by overcoming racism and religious fanaticism.

Veteran Tamil politician and the Secretary General of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) V. Anandasangaree in response to the announcement by the Buddhist prelates on rejecting the new Constitution has even appealed to the prelates in the country to give their blessings for peace in accordance with the noble principles of Buddhism, instead of creating obstacles to the moves to maintain unity and integrity in the country by making adverse comments on the moves put forward towards strengthening peace and reconciliation.

The TULF Secretary General in his latest statement has also appealed to the Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan to hold a meeting with the Buddhist prelates over the obstacle faced in bringing out a new Constitution towards fulfilling the political aspirations of minorities in the country.

Moves have even been mooted by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) circles to hold a meeting between the TNA hierarchy and the Buddhist prelates to explain how best through a new Constitution a durable settlement could be reached for the ethnic question in the country.

Since Sri Lanka successfully preventing the country being divided by ending the three decades of separatist war, racism and religious fanaticism should not be allowed to rise again ridiculing the immense sacrifices made towards strengthening peace and reconciliation for an economically prosperous Sri Lanka.

From the Sri Lankan leader late President J.R. Jayewardene onwards, dreaming of building Sri Lanka on par with Singapore, it is important at this juncture to look into a famous saying of the architect of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew on fanaticism.

Lee Kuan Yew building a highly successful Singapore with the support of his late colleague Rajaratnam who hailed from Sri Lanka once said: "Churchmen, lay preachers, priests, monks, Muslim theologians and all those who claim divine sanction or holy insights, take off their clerical robes before you take on anything economic or political."

The Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Tharman Shunmugaratnam who is another Singaporean of Sri Lankan origin being a pillar of strength to the present Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong making the country of racial and religious harmony focused towards its economic prosperity, the quotation from Lee Kuan Yew remains a 'manthra' for Sri Lankans to focus more on a reconciled peaceful nation.

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