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Sunday, 14 April 2002  
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Who designed the Buddhist flag?

In an article published under the topic of "Colonel-Olcott-the great Buddhist revivalist" in the Sunday Observer of February 17 2002, the writer had mentioned that Col.Olcott was the designer of the famous Buddhist flag.

This idea is utterly wrong according to the most authentic historical sources. It is true that the need of a Buddhist flag was first understood by Col.Olcott and Rev Mohottiwatte Gunananda thero in order to hoist it on the Vesak full moon day of 28 April 1885, that the then government declared the Vesak full moon day as a statutory holiday.

It was a victory of Col.Olcott as a leader of the Buddhist campaign to win these Buddhist demands.A board was appointed to design a suitable Buddhist flag. The members of this panel consisted of venerable Hikkaduve Sri Sumangala (as the chief of the board) William de Abrew, Don Carolis Hewavitharana, Peter de Abrew, Lansage Don Andiris Perera Dharmagunawardene, Charls A. de Silva, N.S. Fernando, William Fernando, and Carolis Poojitha Goonawardene (as the secretary of the board).

Among these members Carolis Poojitha Goonawardene designed and produced the Buddhist flag to the board and was accepted.

During this period Col.Olcott had gone abroad and he was in India. He was invited to participate in this august ceremony. After arriving in Sri Lanka. What he did was only to shorten the Buddhist flag by both sides saying that the flag was too long in its size. That is the historical truth.

Why do we hesitate to give the devil his due ?

Vide: Lankawe Bauddha Punarudaya (1985) by K.D.K. Wimalarathne. Sasanika Jatika Veerayo, (1987 p 28) by the most venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thero. Vesak Niwaduwa ha Bauddha Kodiya (1985) by Gonahene Jotipala. Nawa Maha Wamsaya hewath Sinhala Aryayo, (1990-p-116) by G.H. de Zoysa. Lamani Mahima (1999-p-31) by D.V. Richard de Silva.

Dayananda Paranamana 
Palatuwa 

Spiritual healing

I am sure the article captioned "A Spiritual healing, a true story" which was published by the Sunday Observer of 24.3.02 would not have come as a surprise to many.

All the different religions in the world have many aspects of healing - including the Holy Quran. Most Muslims know the specific benefits of many of the Suras (Chapters) and the prayers and, everyone who has recited the complete verses of the Quran should know the immense tranquillity, peace of mind and happiness it generates. This is not a figment of a fertile imagination - just try it."

I call my daily 5-times a prayers as a means of plugging into a vast reservoir of energy and blessings ! No frivolity meant but just to emphasis one of the many benefits accrued through prayers. Ask any person who performs daily prayers about the enhancement of energy level and not to mention, the ability to cope with any crisis with equanimity.

Rarely do I resort to taking medicine.

Today, many scientific experiments have been carried out to ascertain the efficacy of prayers. I has been proved beyond doubt that prayers and meditation has the ability to enhance the healing process.Of course the sceptics will accuse that these are all based on blind belief etc. etc. Well, as long as the world exists there will believers and the sceptics. What matters is that there is now undisputed evidence that prayers do make a difference. Well, so far no one has died of an overdose of prayers ! But many have died and suffered by taking an overdose of drugs and in some cases - by taking only the recommended dosage!

Jeoffrey gunasekera
colombo-05

Good work by UNF

As citizens of Sri Lanka we should praise r Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the good work done for this short period of time to bring peace to our country.

The ceasefire itself shows there is hope in achieving a peace settlement. Prime Minister is in the correct path and he is sure of peace settlement.Major General Trond Furnhovde head of the Norway mission is fully satisfied with the talks he had with Mr. Velupulle Parabakaran. Mr. Trond is a veteran in monitoring ceasefire in various countries and he has this experience.

We should praise Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe because he has done away with the war and now there is no fighting and killing. The public is happy that all the roads and barricades have been removed. The people in Jaffna say that Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is our saviour, which is true.

We as citizens of this country hope the Prime Minister will march forward with courage to achieve his goal of a peace agreement very soon and that it will be a success, so that our country will be a paradise once more.

Keep it up, Prime Minister, we wish you all success in all your endeavours.

Tony Nazir 
Moratuwa

Temple lands

I wish to draw your attention to an extremely important issue regarding land belongs to the religious institutions of Sri Lanka. It is well-known fact that the temples in Sri Lanka own vast extents of land. I do not know whether anyone has done a proper study of the issue to ascertain the correct extent involved. Perhaps the Ministry of Buddhist affairs may possess information on the matter.

However, the fact is that extremely vast lands consisting of a large number of acres are in the ownership of our temples. The question is to what use are these lands put? It is public knowledge that the major portion of these lands is not put to any use at all.

The produce of these lands go to the temples, some of which are fabulously rich, on top of which the gullible public keep on contributing more and more.

When there was no land problem in Sri Lanka, this state of affairs was condonable. However, in the current situation where a large proportion of the population do not own a single square inch of land, this aspect should be studied afresh. In my view, the government should take steps to encourage the temples to put these lands to good use. If this can be done, it would be easily found that the income that could be generated is far in excess of what the temples would need for years to come. Moreover, it would also be found that there is no need for the general public to contribute any more towards the upkeep of the temples, the public funds thus saved could be more beneficially diverted towards rehabilitation of the poor.

Many may disagree with me, but I think that after letting the temple retain a reasonable amount wealth, the excess could also be given away to the poor, under government supervision to prevent misuse. Thus, the temples could lend a hand in the raising the standard of living of the poor of this country.

If this may not be done, the government itself may undertake development of these lands and generating income that may sustain the temple as well as benefit the general public, and give away the excess land to the poor of the area.

I also suggest that the excess land held by the temples may be legally converted to property held by the government for religious purposes, which may not be used for any other venture. If the temple no longer needs it or is unable to put it to good use, it may be sold or given on rent at reasonable rates for religious purposes of other persuasions. After all, every faith strives towards the betterment of the human soul.

This method is followed with success in Britain where such land is permanently registered by the government for religious usage, and is given for religious services of any faith in the above manner.

I hope that the above suggestions are taken in the proper spirit and given due thought to broadmindedly by the authorities concerned.

G.N. Dias 
Wellawatte

Dog pound conditions worse than before

I remember taking my dogs and cats to the Municipal Veterinary Surgeon at the dog pound way back in the late sixties/early seventies. I am sorry to say that 30 years later the office area is the same but the conditions for the poor dogs are worse than it ever was. The municipality has done absolutely nothing to improve the buildings or facilities for the dogs. The buildings are dilapidated and an eye-sore. Gas them and kill them if you must but can't you make their last few days on this earth a little more comfortable by at least ensuring they have some water for their thirst.

I believe they are just fed with morsels of raw meat for which there is an almighty fight and scramble. Some arrangement should be made to feed these stray animals with the left-overs from the numerous food outlets in the city. Somebody just has to be interested and human to do it. I have always advocated that sterilisation and not elimination of dogs, is the answer to the number of stray animals on our roads today. We have to educate our people of this especially those that find it more convenient to "dump" puppies/kittens at temples, fishmarket etc.

The Animal Welfare and Protection Association conducts a free steralisation/neutering clinic monthly at their transit home for animals at 107A, Kadawatha Road, Dehiwela. Each clinic costs the association a tidy sum and they meet it with the donations and fund-raising projects they organise. I think it is high time municipal and government veterinary dispensaries also sterilised animals, free or at a nominal cost to help the public. We also have to teach our children to be kind to animals.

I was really happy to hear that they have introduced a new subject in our schools on 'how to be a good human being'. This is more important than having all the qualifications in the world.

Iromi Salgado 
Colombo 2 

Reconstruction of Jaffna Vihara-a welcome step

It was very heartening to read the news item in the Sunday Observer (page 1) of February 24, 2002 wherein it was stated that the only Buddhist Temple in mainland Jaffna would be reconstructed. It was also stated that the Ministry of Rehabilitation would conduct a survey of all ancient Buddhist monuments in the Peninsula which are in ruin. The entire information which the Ministry requires in this connection is available in the book written by late Mr. Cyril Mathew titled "Sihaluni Budu Sasuna Bera Ganivu!" Printed by J.F. and I Printers in 1981. The dynamic Minister in charge of rehabilitation would no doubt issue the necessary instruction to his officials, to rehabilitate the ruins referred to in the above book.

D.C. Abeyratne 
Unawatuna 

Rise and fall of the Sihala Urumaya

Since colonial times several organized attempts have been made to probe into the injustices perpetuated on the islands majority community with a view to resurrect them and facilitate their advancement concomitant with the rest of the islanders.

Curiously though, these efforts have been right along frustrated and sabotaged by elements from within the ranks of the very same forces that sought to ameliorate the grievances. This in fact is an off repeated historical tragedy.

In recent times the Sihala Urumaya mooted the cause of the supposedly disadvantaged majority community.

They eloquently presented the numerous instances where the majority community had suffered distinct disadvantages vis a vis the other communities spanning from colonial times. Their reasoning was appealing to almost all sections of communities in this country because the grievances were genuine with not an iota of malice towards other communities. Consequently, there was considerable sympathy from all communities and a cross-section of intellectuals representing all communities supported the movement.

The humane and liberal approach was so well taken that the Sihala Urumaya was able to win over 100,000 votes at the General Election of the year 2000 which undoubtedly was a very good response for a start.

This was primarily because justice and fair play was implicit in their policies. However disaster struck immediately thereafter. The central committee of the Sihala Urumaya it was reported, apparently axed the very leader who relentlessly worked for its cause. Adding insult to injury insinuations seem to have been made as regards the personal liberties, likes and dislikes and even the religious beliefs and demeanour of the deposed leader. This is shocking for a party seeking to redress injustices perpetrated on its clan.

A political party is generally expected to uphold the society's conception of justice only in the justiciable sphere of social life. That too with satisfactory consultation of public opinion. It has no right to infringe on personal liberties or fundamental rights of any person. It is therefore not surprising that 50% of those who voted the SU in 2000 decided not to vote the party in 2001. It is unfortunate that the present leadership of the SU could not discern these vital factors which caused its rejection. Instead they attempted to depict the insensitivity of the Sri Lankan voter to the issues raised.

The stark reality is that the general public was utterly dismayed by the rough treatment meted out by the SU to its own leader. The public will not tolerate a political party which attempts to interfere with the fundamental rights of individuals and their prerogative to do what they wish as far as such conduct has no detrimental effect on the community. It has to be recognised that an individual's religious beliefs or disbelief are highly personal and no one is obliged to publicly manifest faith in any religious beliefs.

If the SU is to regain lost credibility and achieve the status of a national political party acceptable to the general public it should seek to achieve unity among diversity by not only due recognition of the rights and privileges of individuals in a pluralistic society but also by accommodating such diverse elements within its ranks. It has to work hard to erase the 'fanatic label' it has earned by shedding petty prejudices and by focusing on the major issues that it seeks to redress.

ASHLEY L. S. PERERA, 
Battaramulla

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