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Friday, July 12, 2024

Mervyn’s epiphany – Editorial, The island

Minister Mervyn Silva has apparently experienced an epiphany and a spiritual flash. (That happens to some people when the moon waxes.) He announced a few days ago that he intended to ban the sale of meat and fish in his fiefdom, Kelaniya. Later, he got cold feet and changed his tune. Someone must have reminded him that the country’s biggest fish market was located in his electorate. Now, he tells us that before banning meat and fish stalls, he would commission a survey to gauge public opinion.

Minister Silva may go ahead with his proposed survey to ascertain the food habits of the people of Kelaniya, but he need not expend time and energy on such an exercise to find out what his supporters consume. We could tell him offhand that their staple diet is pasturage and provender such as grass, hay and poonac. Electors are known by the elected, aren’t they?

Kelaniya is so holy to Buddhists that they believe one could absolve oneself of all the sins one has committed since birth by worshipping at the ancient shrine there only once. Unfortunately, that sacred place the Buddha himself is believed to have trodden has come to be desecrated by political dregs who masquerade as the guardians of public morals.

We are wary of preaching, especially to the incorrigible. But, Minister Silva needs to be told that he is, true to form, barking up the wrong tree. As for the ban on meat and fish he is mulling over, he is trying to obviate the effect and not the cause. If he wants to rid Kelaniya of the sale of animal flesh, he should strive to wean people from their carnivorous habits so that the demand for carrion will decrease and the meat and fish stalls will go out of business. Let him promote vegetarianism––not by fiat. Perhaps, he need not exert himself. His government is tirelessly working towards that end. At the rate prices are ballooning, the day may not be far off when fish and meat stalls put up the shutters on their own as meat and fish are already beyond the reach of the ordinary public.

Before trying to impose bans and enforce morality on the people, Minister Silva should stop making a mockery of the law. He rode a motorcycle without a helmet on through the township of Kiribathgoda the other day in full view of the police. Worse, his cheap publicity stunt worked! He got enough media exposure. But, the question is what the police who swiftly nab and fine motorcyclists who do not wear helmets were doing. A few moons ago, another politician of his ilk, namely Deputy Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena, dashed through Kalutara on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. The guardians of the law looked the other way. The police are either too impotent to enforce the law or simply do not care to do so because they think the crania of such hoity-toity political creatures are too hollow to require extra protection.

No sooner had a group of ruling party parliamentarians signed a motion calling for the removal of Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake than the government initiated a parliamentary process to impeach her. But, the same government turned its Nelsonian eye to a petition that all Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members save one or two signed calling for an investigation into a host of serious allegations they levelled against Minister Silva. But, he stays put! It is not only the executive presidents who are above the law; even those who lick their boots and slippers also enjoy legal immunity!

There are many things that Kelaniya needs to be purged of. It is awash with dangerous drugs and guns and has become a haven for criminals of all sorts such as killers, robbers and extortionists. The presence of meat and fish stalls, ubiquitous as it may be, is the least of people’s problems in that sacred area.

The biggest service Minister Silva could render the people of Kelaniya as well as all Sri Lankans is to rein in his unruly son. First of all, he should set an example to his son by comporting himself with decorum as a father should. That will be the first step towards stopping the desecration of Kelaniya.


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