‘Sil Redi’ And Subversion Of Buddhism

Exposures made in the Sil Redi (Holy White Cloth) case have torn the sanctity of the garb worn by pious Buddhists on Full Moon Days to shreds. The massive Rs. 650 million ‘gift’ to the pious adherents by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), the High Court held, amounted to misappropriation of state funds.

The verdict delivered has been hailed by some legal pundits, self-declared pundits on many subjects, most of the general public and delighted UNPers as ‘justice being finally done’ while the Rajapaksa faithful are attempting to cover up the hideous exposure pointing out that judgment held the two accused, Lalith Weeratunga the Secretary to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Director of the (TRC) Anura Palpita had not benefited from the transaction.


Buddhism betrayed?

The whole issue was analysed and critiqued in the media last week but in our view the woods have been missed for the trees. The issue involved the state owned institution (TRC) donating white cloth worth Rs. 650 million along with the picture of a candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa to Buddhist devotees – presumably spread out in most parts of the island – on the eve of the last presidential election.

Quite apart from the violation of election laws, was not the attempt to sway public opinion with religious inducements at the expense of the state, an attempt to subvert Buddhism for political gain – winning an election with a massive state handout for devotees?

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa leaving Welikada Prison after visiting former presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga and former TRC director Anusha Palpita

by Gamini Weerakoon

Although Sri Lanka after J. R. Jayewardene’s constitution was called a ‘Democratic Socialist State’ and is continuing to be described as such, it also appears to be a de facto theocratic state with Buddhism being granted the status of primus inter pares – the first among equals in religion. It is granted the ‘foremost place’ in the Constitution itself. Successive governments strive to be more Buddhistic than their predecessors. On days of religious significance to Buddhists, activities considered contrary to Buddhist principles such as open meat stalls, liquor outlets, bars and serving of liquor at public places even tourist hotels are prohibited. Every citizen or foreigner – irrespective of their religious beliefs – is subjected to such laws. It is in this context that the attempt to influence political thinking of Buddhists should be considered.


Presidential piety

It is hard to find a president – past or present – exhibiting greater piety than what Mahinda Rajapaksa was. Clad in pure white, carrying a tray of jasmines with an entourage and camera crews following was a regular scene on prime time TV. Since he is reported to have admitted to the media that he took responsibility for giving orders to Lalith Weeratunga and Anusha Palpita on this issue before the presidential election, did he not realise that he was exploiting Buddhism at state expense for his presidential victory?


Sinhala Buddhist politicians cry themselves hoarse about them taking to politics to serve interests of Buddhism that has lasted 2500 years in this land etc, etc. The cynical among us often wonder whether Buddhism serves interests of politicians rather than the other way round.

Sinhala- Buddhism has been Rajapaksa’s calling card that is what he played in the 2015 Presidential Election and lost.

But that is the only card left for him to play and that is what he is going to do. But the ‘Sil Redi case’ has caught him with his hand inside the temple till – not taking money out but putting in money – unauthorized state funds of Rs. 650 million – into the till. Does Buddhism that has survived conquests of the Cholas, Pandyas and numerous other invasions from South India down the Centuries in addition to conquests by the three most powerful imperialist nations the world has known, need such puny and dubious assistance for survival?



True bearers of Buddhism

The dedication of the humble Buddhist monks living in caves and village temples down centuries and the commitment of poor peasants to the teachings of the Buddha led to the survival of Buddhism quite apart from the monarchs of yore who left inscriptions in granite of their mighty deeds and contributions. The doddering old Upasaka ammas and Upasakas clad in white seen regularly in temples on Poya days are the carriers of the great traditions that made the Buddhist doctrine survive. They can do without state handouts – legal or illegal – of the holy Poya day garb.

Perhaps they made their point at the last presidential elections. The Sil Redi ‘gift’, ‘bribe’ or ‘donation’ does not seem to have influenced them. The President at that time Mahinda Rajapaksa who was instrumental in making the presentation scored lesser number of votes than he did in the previous Presidential Election in electorates where Sinhala Buddhists are predominant. Upasaka ammas and Upasakas, numbering tens of thousands if not millions, apparently could not be influenced by such dubious material gifts.

2 Comments for “‘Sil Redi’ And Subversion Of Buddhism”


  2. Nimal

    This is a disgrace to the country,an attempt to bribe the voters.Some one has to pay for this.

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