|Monday, 21 January 2002|
by Uditha Kumarasinghe
Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Communications and Acting Chairman of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd Kumar Abeysinghe, referring to a feature on the Sacred Tooth Relic which was prepared for publication in the Sunday Observer but was held back, apologised to members of the Maha Sangha and the entire Buddhist community in Sri Lanka, addressing the members of the Maha Sangha and representatives of premier Buddhist organisations at a meeting held in the Lake House premises in relation to the above mentioned article.
He also assured the members of the Buddhist Clergy that he would be receiving the report of the inquiry within the next day or two following an impartial investigation. He also pledged that the offenders would be punished irrespective of their positions or any other such criteria.
Mr. Abeysinghe further said; " Minister of Mass Communications Imtiaz Bakeer Markar was greatly perturbed by this incident. Irrespective of the Minister's busy schedule, he met Chief Prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeyaratne and personally apologised over the incident. I also issued a media release to the Lake House newspapers, SLBC and Rupavahini indicative of my profound sorrow and apology in my capacity as Chairman of Lake House."
As a private citizen, anybody has the freedom to make any statement. It is also their social duty. I vehemently condemn any action that causes pain of mind and touches upon the sensitivities of any religion, race or caste.
Mr. Abeysinghe also said that disciplinary action has already been taken against the journalist who wrote the offending article while written explanations have been called from others involved. All editors have also been briefed on this and maximum punishment will be meted out to offenders in the event of any repetition.
Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharadhipathi Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera said; "There are numerous instances where newspaper articles which are detrimental to Buddhism are published. The Sunday Observer has also published such articles. In a similar instance, there was an article about Buddhist ordination which denigrated the Buddha Sasana. I do not approve of any religion being denigrated.
Kotte Nagaviharadhipathi Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera said; " The protection of Buddhism is enshrined even in the Constitution. However, in the recent past, some Lake House English newspapers have acted to the contrary. The said article has been fed into the Internet edition also. I believe this article has been written with a view to embarrass the government.
Secretary of the Deshapremi Bhikku Peramuna and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Buddhist Conservation Council Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera; "Lake House was established by D.R. Wijewardene, a pioneer Buddhist. It was only in recent times that articles disparaging Buddhism were published. There could be an unseen hand behind this. Since the publication of such articles should have the Editor's approval, he should take the full responsibility. Therefore, all responsible for this article should be severely punished. There was another article in a Buddhist weekly which said that the Singalovada Sutta is inappropriate today.
Secretary of the German Dharmadutha Society Senaka Weeraratne said:" This article has been deliberately written and published, aimed at bringing Buddhism to disrepute. This is not the first time that such incidents happened. There is a group behind this.
Secretary of the All Ceylon Buddhist Women's Association Mrs Indrani Devendra said:"The English newspapers of Lake House do not publish enough features on Buddhism. The attack on a small church at Hingurakgoda was once published as the lead story on page One. However, this was not a church in the real sense of the word."
ANCL General Manager B.A. Jinadasa said:" The Editor of the Sunday Observer has taken the full responsibility for the article in question. The journalist who wrote the story has already been interdicted. We have published an apology to the Maha Sangha and the Buddhists public as well. We promise that there will be no relapse of this nature. We will also caution all editors on respecting the religious sensitivities of the people."
The delegation which met the ANCL management included: Ven. Weligama Dhamissara, Thotapola Amarakeethi, Pasgoda Dhammaloka, Kiniyawela Palitha, Muruththetuwe Ananda Theras, President of the YMBA Noel Wijenaike, President of the Friendship Foundation Gamini Kiramananda and International Advisor of the World Federation of Buddhists Ratnasiri Mutukumara.
This delegation also submitted a report to Mr. Abeysinghe which contained a collection of articles published in ANCL newspapers which had brought Buddhism into disrepute.
Produced by Lake House