Possible ban of ethnic and religious politics?

The BBC news item reports that President Mahinda Rajapakshe revealed a plan to ban ethnic tags in party names.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8598150.stm

He also said, more controversially, that “racial politics” would not have a place in future – a possible indication that he will seek to revive a recently tabled plan to ban parties with words such as “Tamil” or “Muslim” in their name.

Not sure we can rely on the accuracy of this news item, or even if the news item is accurate, the validity of an election rally statement by MR in Jaffna. I am wondering why MR never mentioned this proposed plan anywhere outside of that venue as yet. Anyway, if there is such real plan, then may be keeping it away from general vote block is south, until the elections are over, could actually be a wise move for MR. This idea can easily be distorted as a move to curtail the rights of the minorities. The bbc news only mentions “Tamil” and “Muslim”. Although “Sinhala” is conspicuously not mentioned, I believe that there is no way only “Tamil” and “Muslim” could be banned. So I would not care too much about BBC wording of it.

As someone who supports separation of ethnicity and religion from governance, I would always support such a move. If this can be followed by a law that bans religious tags on party names as well, that would be a huge step in the correct direction.

I believe religion is not present as a “tag” in any of the mainstream party names. There could be minor parties with religious names, but I do not remember hearing any. The influence of Buddhism is deep rooted and tags are no longer necessary. However, it is nice to have a ban on religious tags as well.

Though I personally would support such bans, I do understand that in a way it is a ban on freedom of expression. I however still would support race and religion ban on party politics as an overriding measure by the state to limit some of the “freedoms” in the interest of reconciliation between races and religions. I would argue that it is similar to a “drink and drive” law. Alcohol is not banned per se, but drink and drive is totally outlawed. People are still free to express their ethnicity and religion outside of party politics; just like they are free to consume alcohol in private.

Once the majority of the voters are matured beyond certain point, such bans would not be necessary. However, currently the vote-base is dangerously polluted with racial and religious fanatics. We can contrast this with ‘caste’. We do not need a special law for banning “caste” in politics. I have heard that a well known but minor political party leader openly states the supremacy of a certain caste. However such people are regarded as “nut jobs” by the majority voters.

There are people in the opinion that while we are at it, we should ban monks from party politics? I guess that is an extreme demand, and something which definitely curtails the freedom of expression. Monks after all, are full citizens of Sri Lanka, and they should have the freedom to do whatever a lay person could. If ones religious sensibilities put monks in a different category, they can criticize and refrain from supporting the political monks. However, demanding a legal barrier that prevents monks from doing politics does not make a lot of sense. Monks are not “government servants”. What if one demands a ban on lawyers to do politics?

It could be non-intuitive; but I believe monks and other religious clergy doing party politics and contesting elections is a step towards separation of religion and the governance. Why do I believe that having clergy in active politics is a positive step in the eyes of those who believe in separation of religion and the governance? The opposition from us with respect to religion in governance is something like this. It mostly refers to the situation of religious meddling coming from the exulted position, using their arbitrary/traditional authority. This can be compared to the relationship between Church and State in the pre-enlightenment era of Europe. The Church was behind every ruler, deciding the shape of the governance. Monks having to get off from that exulted position and having to contest elections to get their religious agendas in, indicates that they have come down to accept the authority of the law (obtained via parliament) rather than the traditional authority that they used to have. In that sense, a contesting monk becomes “just another politician with an opinion” which works well for those who challenge the traditional authority of the monks.

It is difficult argument to challenge the traditional authority religious establishments used to enjoy for millennia. However, it is easier to argue that a law maker getting elected using a religious base is not going make laws that is helpful outside of that religious interest. It is relatively easy to argue that monks leading a totally different way of life, and having totally different interests/worldviews than laypeople, are not going make a lot of sense in their judgment in matters of governance.

While monks in active politics is a positive sign (somewhat in the sense that “it gets worse before it gets better”), the Buddhist establishment in Sri Lanka still has a huge say in terms of shape of the governance. Such power comes from the unquestioned allegiance Buddhist voters has for the “Sasana” (Church). This power will be there as long as the “slavery of the mind” continues. However, as more and more slaves are getting freed and start thinking on their own, such arbitrary/traditional power will begin to fade. It is a matter of time that people get disillusioned with structures that does not help them. However, such disillusions can make things worse rather than better. If the law and order is not something people can “believe in”, the collapse of religious structures will lead to anarchy.

This is why the religious and secular leaders who are genuinely concerned about country’s future should focus on getting the act of “good secular governance” in place, and making sure law and order prevails, The the general populace should be able to trust the law to do the justice. Secular governance is the only structure that can bind a community together when people start falling out of love with their respective religious establishments.

Article by Prasad Mapatuna, Contributing Author to Religurd. [Article Link]

Buddhist monk Amila Thero granted bail

Ven. Dumbara Amila Thero, President of the Patriotic National Center was released on a bail of Rs. 25,000 today by the Horana Court. President’s Counsel Srinath Perera and Lawyers Asoka Weerasuriya, Ravi Jayawardena, Padma kumara Senaratne, and Sunil Watawala appeared on behalf of the accused.

Follow the discussion here: Prominent ultra nationalist Buddhist Monk Amila Thero under investigation

Source: Lanka News

Why We Don’t Believe – Morality : The Immoral Minority

The phrase “The Moral Majority” is a self confirmation of most religious groups. They claim to have the moral high-ground, but do they? A lot of moral things that they do include punishment of the “immoral.” Stoning and beheading are commonplace in Saudi Arabia. This happens in a watered down version of lynching in some western countries. Sri Lanka accommodates these idiocies by changing laws to suit these religions(eg. banning selling of alcohol and meat on Poya Days).

Lets look at some of the so called morals. Well, there’s the 10 commandments, five precepts, the 5 pillars, seven deadly sins and you can go on and on listing all the thousands of religious moral codes in the world. Which one is the right one? Obviously, any religious person answering that will say, “Mine is.” If that is the case, we can instantly assume there isn’t an ultimate moral code. If we look at the commandments as an example(I will go into the others further detail in another series), we can see that most morals are about obeying and believing in God(s). The few good morals listed are not that important to believers as it shows in the current state of the world. George Carlin had a better set of Two Commandments: 1. Don’t kill, 2. Don’t be dishonest. There is a better version that I have heard, which is “Don’t be bad.” and bad defined as whatever is considered bad at the time.

There are some who say atheists have no morals .I have heard amoral people being called atheists, in Sri Lanka. If that is the case, the jails of the world should be filled with atheists and no religious person should(or is it the case that we are so ingenious to evade the law). And even if religious people are moral because of their belief in their religion, will they start killing and stealing if their belief is shattered.

Religions have in the past(and even in the present) been used to justify genocide, misogyny, homophobia, slavery and torture. Are these the morals that are superior to the secular sense of morality that we all share? There is even a correlation of the opposite. The terrorists that planned and carried out the attacks on the New York Twin Towers were devout fanatics; Catholics and Protestants killing themselves in Northern Ireland; and what about those priests molesting little children.

Current understanding of evolution states that most of these morals are not necessary to be in the “holy” books. There is a huge evolutionary advantage of being “nice” since this attitude is likely to be reciprocated(will go into detail in a later post). Furthermore, even the “Golden Rule” that is in both Christianity and Buddhism(in a abstract sense) were pre-dated by the philosopher Confucius. Moral philosophers are doing a far better job than any religious text, but these do not have the rigidity of religious text and can change with the moral zeitgeist. So, who are the moral ones, the ones who do good deeds because of their fear of a God and their afterlife, or the ones who are moral just because it is a good thing to do?