Monday, 19 November 2012


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Exposition of Sacred Relics at Gangarama temple

The President of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa made arrangements to exhibit the Sacred Relics of Lord Buddha in Sri Lanka, which were brought from Kapilavasthupura in India. The sacred relics were exhibited at the Gangarama Temple in a very religious manner, with the highest of devotion paid by the public. I was fortunate to have spent only five hours in the queue of people who came from all over to worship the relics.

We the devotees, were very pleased and taken with the arrangements made by the incumbent High Priest of the Gangarama temple, The Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara Thera. The generous High Priest who loves the people of Sri Lanka and in consideration of them, had not forgotten the public at this grand occasion offering homage to the sacred relics.

The high priest had taken all possible measures to supply the devotees with a light diet meal. This was a meritorious act on the part of the high priest, as devotees would have not found a place to get a meal around the place. The crowd who came there were quite happy as they were supplied with all the necessities.

Offering Atapirikara Packages

On the television screen and in the print media, we are quite often treated to perceptibly inspiring spectacles of some of our well to do persons inclusive of politicians and bureaucrats of the high middle and lower order, offering the regulation type atapirikara packages to prelates and other monks whenever the concerned donors visit them at their temple abodes, displaying all manner of respect and obeisance feigned or otherwise, one can never say.

The practice of offering an atapirikara package to the senior monks and other items of clothing bedding and consumables to the junior monks is resorted to at alms givings not only on showy politically significant events, but on other genuinely devoted religious occasions as well. From the highest to the lowest of our Buddhist laymen be they politicians, bureaucrats, the well-to-do or the ordinary folk by force of habit and tradition or by genuine piety they have adopted this popular custom of offering atapirikara packs. They seem to think that offering atapirikara is the highest form of offering that would bestow on them a high degree of merit and resultant blessings.

This is well and good and no one his right frame of mind would protest or fault the underlying idea of traditional religious customs. There are, however, certain discardable features worthy of review with a view to preventing their misuse. Atapirikara, a package of eightfold requisites comprises three sets of robes, a sash, begging bowl, razor, needle and thread and a water strainer made of cloth. The begging bowl is prominent by its visible projection on the pack. In this age of easy and comfortable domestic living, temple abodes too are not exempt from such updated living standards. In this scenario, we do not expect monks to use such outmoded items as the cloth-water strainer and the begging bowl in their day to day living. The begging bowl is very rarely used or not used at all and is almost an anachronistic item. So it has come to a situation where the recipients of such atapirikara packs rarely open them for use and when the packs pile up in their premises, the temple authorities are inevitably tempted to sell the packs back to the points of sale setting in motion a reciprocal system of financial benefit to both temple authorities and the sellers.

In this process, one cannot hope for or expect the desired merit from such offerings. It would, therefore, be much better to offer the monks separate sets of robes, towels, beddings, packs of milk-powder, tea, soap and such other items of daily use instead of the regulation atapirikara pack. It is generally accepted that when the monks make use of the offerings in their day to day living, their blessings would bestow the desired merit on the donors. A change over to such procedure would no doubt be materially beneficial to the recipients and would also be of meritorious blessing to the donors. This would also prevent any mercenary misuse of the atapirikara packs.

This point of view, self opinionated as it is, and doubtlessly controversial, may stir a hornets' nest and those who would not be reasonable enough to rethink and review certain obsolete practices in their correct perspectives, may disdainfully condemn such viewpoints as antics of heretics designed to created disharmony and irreligious feelings among the devoted Buddhist public.

Strengthening the Fraud Bureau

With reference to the recent news items in the daily newspapers that the Police Department intends strengthening the Fraud Bureau, I wish to state that it is a timely and commendable decision.

Strengthening the Fraud Bureau will provide for greater efficiency of the Bureau which is providing a remarkable and exemplary service, despite severe constraints of manpower.

Visiting the Fraud Bureau on a few occasions, I was surprised at the unprecedented escalation of crimes pertaining to frauds, forgeries misappropriations and other heinous crimes that the Bureau has to handle. The staff at the Bureau have an Herculean and unenviable task to attend to the ever increasing number of complaints. I observed on my visits, that the staff was very courteous, polite and helpful to the complainants despite the ever increasing number of complainants who visit the Bureau daily, depressed and aggrieved, been victims of some fraud.

The Director of the Bureau dealt with every complaint in an exemplary manner providing some relief and hope. The manner in which he handled the various complaints demonstrated abundantly and manifestly, his high degree of proficiency, his dedication and commitment. The example he sets I observed, was apparently contagious as all the subordinate staff also showed a high sense of duty, dedication and above all, courtesy.

It is quite apparent that the Fraud Bureau has been well organized and the staff geared and enthused to serve the public in an exemplary manner. While today the Bureau is a credit to the Police Force, providing for additional manpower, will inevitable provide for greater efficiency and be able to serve the public better.

The Cardinal and the Judiciary

Rev. Fr. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjit, as President of the Catholic Bishop Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) has said '......The judiciary with its specific role of being the interpreter of the Law should be respected and given its freedom to function as is should and any interference in this process is a serious threat in the rule of law and democracy'.

Indeed a noble statement, correctly expressed. However, readers are reminded of the action of Rev. Fr. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the protest he demonstrated, by threatening the government that he would not attend any state function if action was not taken to release the nun who was remanded in a case filed in courts, over running a Children's Home in Moratuwa. The outcome was that the prosecution did not press the case and the Judge reprimanded the prosecutor. Had the judiciary allowed the case to take its normal course without the protest of the Cardinal, it would have been an interesting case to follow and the verdict may have been different.

This is to illustrate that when an accused is not given a verdict in his favour, the Judge is accused of wrong dispensation of justice. It is considered relevant to quote what former Prime Minister of France Silvio Berlusconi, said when he was convicted of a sex case – 'Intolerable judicial harassment'. If you cannot count on impartial Judges in a country, the country becomes uncivil, barbarian and unlivable and stops being a democracy. One should be true to oneself when making statements on vital issues.

Fiat justia rural caelum – Let justice be done, though heavens should fall.

My final plea

To all those responsible. This is the third letter and I hope it will not suffer the same fate as the other two. The tiny bit of road in Ambagahapura which stretches alongside the Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe School has not been repaired for many many years, in spite of my repeated requests and now it is in an extremely dilapidated condition, getting worse and worse after each rainfall. May be no one is interested and therefore disregards it, without any concern for the people travelling on this road. So this is my final request and may be the last, as I may fall down the precipice very soon and then there will be no one to write about it.

Sri Lanka cleared of earthquake threat – A reply

This is a reply to the news item titled 'SL cleared of earthquake threat' published on November 15, 2012 by Nimal Wijesinghe, the Anuradhapura additional district group correspondent.

The count appears to be correct because the focus of this report is a very small area + time window. What follows is a list of events that occurred between 7N-8S (latitude) and 65E-94E (longitude) since 1973. The diffuse zone is much larger and a geologically more complex area than the interviewee implies in this report. I am sure there are more events including the 7.8 + 7.5 ones that occurred back in June 2000 than what is reported by the interviewee and given in the following list. I am also aware of several 8.0 events that occurred further to the South with the largest one being a 8.6 event near 96.76E 28.38S. Perhaps the selected title was an attempt to sensationalize the story.

To say that Sri Lanka is cleared of earthquake threats with such conviction, however, is completely unwise.

What should be noted here is the fact that we do not know what faults are going to rupture at what time particularly in an intra-plate/diffused zone setting where the recurrence interval can be as long as ~1000 years.

Therefore, conclusions based on a 30 year record are quite unreliable. On average about 17 events with M 7 occur around the world yearly. A 7.0 quake is about 500 km long, 15 km wide and moves roughly about 10 cm. As you can imagine, the 500 km “limit” proposed in this report doesn't make much sense in the wake of a large event close to Sri Lanka.

I also got the impression that technical experts seem to think that diffuse boundaries are not a part of plate tectonics and only narrow plate margins constitute plate tectonics. On the contrary, based on plate rotation rates, it appears that diffuse-boundaries are not that different from narrow plate margins. So, the current thinking is that diffuse-boundaries are an extension of plate tectonics, a fact that was not recognized in the early development of the concept due to slow deformation (i.e. release of seismic energy) associated with these regions.

The suggestion that it takes about 10,000 years to form a well defined plate boundary is inaccurate. Deformation in the diffuse-boundary is at least 15 millions old with accelerated active deformation taking place in the last 8 million years. 

I can certainly understand the point the interviewee makes about building codes. Retrofitting buildings is a costly endeavor that we may not be able to handle at this time.

Nothing can start to exist nor can cease to exist, only transformation is possible.

Newspaper competitions

With monotonous regularity, various and diverse competitions are conducted in the newspaper for readers to participate. Apart from the competitions conducted by newspapers, various business institutions also conduct competitions, essential to promote their products and services. Of late, an increasing number of film theatre establishments are seen conducting competitions to afford publicity for their various films and theatre shows. The name of the winners of the competitions are published with a footnote “Your complimentary tickets/prizes will be delivered shortly,” which means, that winners will never receive their prizes.

My daughter and myself won four prizes during the last six months. We have not received our prizes despite the assurance of the organizers.

Further the letters addressed to the organizers are not even responded to. In this context I wish to inquire:

a) Whether there is any authority that regulates/monitors these competitions.

b) Can a duped reader complain to the 'Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka'?

c) Whether the particular newspaper conducting the competition has a responsibility that the organizers of these competitions fulfill their obligations.

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