Sep 29

Informal inquiries made by members of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) from friends, relatives and colleagues establish that there is universal gratitude to the Supreme Court for its landmark judgment about the need for all citizens to conform to the laws relating to the use of loudspeakers, which constitute one of the most widespread contributors to harmful and offensive noise pollution.

Notwithstanding the strong rationale for controlling noise, a few religious lobbies – not confined to any one creed – seem determined to undermine the relevant laws, justifying such action by claiming that voice amplification is an essential prerequisite for their religious observances. Controverting this claim, many pious religious newspaper readers have rejected the need for loudspeakers as an aid to the practice of their religions. There is no need to repeat here all the detailed arguments put forward by them. Inter alia, they have pointed out that Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohamed and the holiest of Hindu figures did not have recourse to voice amplification. The messages of these revered figures got across all the lands and oceans, and across the centuries, without resort to electronic augmentation of any kind. Patently, it is a gross insult to the teachings these exalted religious figures to suggest that their messages will not thrive if the unfettered use of loudspeakers is disallowed. Moreover, is it not quite absurd to insist that a powerful assault on ones ears is the best way to make one think in depth about ones religion and what it means?

We come next to the contretemps about the monk who was charged with violating the loudspeaker laws, his failure to appear in Court, and the action taken by a small group from the Maha Sangha to show their disregard for the Supreme Courts authority by refusing to rise from their seats upon the entry of their Lordships into the courtroom. In this context, we were greatly encouraged to learn that the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter had spoken about the need for the laws of the land to apply equally to all citizens, without special privileges for any one group. From an editorial in one of the national newspapers, we also gathered that the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter was of a similar mind. Nevertheless, a well-known religious MP took it upon himself to contradict the Asgiriya Mahanayake by stating that the position taken up by the latter was his (the Mahanayakes) personal opinion. We are obliged to recall that this religious MP not only sold his duty-free car permit unlawfully but, when exposed, raged that he would turn the car over to the dogs in his temple, forgetful of the fact that the foreign exchange for the import of his car and the duty concessions had been contributed by the citizens of this country, mostly poor, the preponderant majority of whom would consider themselves lucky if they could buy a bicycle at their own cost. There is no point in enumerating how many transgressions of his religious vows and civil oaths this MP committed by his acts and statements. On the other hand, we know that the Mahanayakes of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters have never been accused of either selling their car permits or losing their temper to the extent of declaring that they would turn their cars into kennels – or, for that matter, any other offence against creed or country. Self-evidently, their views deserve and demand a respect which we cannot accord to those of the aforementioned MP.

Indeed, the Mahanayakes have done much more than give their opinion on whether monks should stand up in Court or not. What they have done is to give their powerful support to the principle of equity and justice for all. We applaud them wholeheartedly and sincerely hope that they will continue to emphasise more and more strongly the importance of creating a level playing field for all citizens, irrespective of who they are or what group they belong to – that is, if we are ever going to create a unique Sri Lankan identity devoid of race, religion, caste, education, party, gender or any other divisive branding.