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Journal shows dedication to academic excellence

Review by Professor Asanga TILAKARATNE, Lanka Daily News, Feb 24, 2007

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- The Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka has produced its annual research journal for 2006. The university and its academic staff deserve to be congratulated for their achievement.

Those who are in the field of Buddhist studies in particular, or humanities in general, in Sri Lanka know-how difficult it is to get a decent amount of scholarly papers for an academic journal.

It is well known that in many developed countries the motto for university people is: Publish or perish! What this indicates is that unless a university teacher maintains good record of academic research and publications she is not likely to retain her teaching position or get promotion.

But fortunately for the university teachers of this country no such thing exists. Once appointed and confirmed in their positions the university teachers may go till their retirement without too much hassle.

In such a circumstance it is indeed a praiseworthy effort by BPU to have been able to bring out a substantial collection of papers on various aspects of Buddhist and Pali studies mostly by its own academic community.

Ven. Professor Wegama Piyaratana Thera, the Vice Chancellor of the university and Professor Oliver Abenayaka have contributed as Editorial Consultants to this journal. Ven. Prof. Gallelle Sumanasiri, the Dean of the Faculty of Buddhist Studies, Ven. Dr. Neluwe Sumanawansa, Dean of the Faculty of Languages, Ven. Dr. Ittademaliye Indasara, Head of the Department of Buddhist Philosophy and Ven. Akiriyagala Nanda, MPhil have served as the Editorial Board with Ven. Dunukewatte Gunaratana, Head of Department of Modern Languages, serving as the Secretary to the Board. The journal is bi-lingual, contains papers in both English and Sinhala.

Buddhist studies

The journal contains 21 academic papers, of which seven are in English, and a composition in Pali. The papers cover various aspects of Pali, Sanskrit, Sinhala and Buddhist studies.

Although I do not propose to summarise and comment on all the papers let me give at least the shortened titles of these papers so that the reader may get an idea of the rich variety of the subjects that have been dealt with.

The papers as they appear are: ‘A study on the use of similes in the Sutta-pitaka’ by Ven. Prof. Wegama Piyaratana, ‘Tri-temporal dimension of Buddhist information’ by Prof. Oliver Abenayaka, ‘Practical Buddhism based on the idea of bhakti’ by Ven. Prof. Gallelle Sumanasiri, ‘The two-fold soullessness’ by Ven. Dr. Neluwe Sumanawansa, Differences in the Middle Path in early Buddhism’ by Ven. Akiriyagala Nanda, ‘A brief account of the Sarvastivada tradition’ by Ven. Dr. Ittademaliye Indasara, ‘Bodhisathva concept in the Jataka stories’ by Ven. Dunukewatte Gunaratana, ‘The place of ascetic practices in Buddhism’ by Ven. Dr. Kollupitiye Mahinda, ‘Ruins of a dagoba at Kasikote’ by Senior Prof. Wimal Wijeratne, ‘Political participation of women in early India’ by Ven. Dr. Makuruppe Dhammananda, ‘The evolution of Sankrit Alankara Sastra’ by Prof. E.A. Wickramasinghe, ‘Chinese version of the Pali Samantapasadika or Sihala Vinaya Atthakatha’ by Prof. Toshiichi Endo, ‘Foundation of Buddhist Psychology’ by Ven. Pitigala Vijita, ‘The Madhyamaka philosophy and the Middle Path’ by Ven. Moragollagama Uparatana, ‘An examination of vakrokti (...) and riddles’ by Ven. Medagoda Abhayatissa, ‘Uniqueness of local way of thought as revealed from grammar’ by Ven. Mavatagama Pemananda, ‘Dialectical logic and method of debate in the Kathavatthuppakarana’ by Ven. Hettimulle Rahula, ‘Methodology of proof employed in supporting the principles of Buddhist philosophy’ by Ven. Vigitapura Gunaratana, ‘Concepts fundamental to religious studies’ by Ven. Ratnapure Rahula, ‘Administration of Buddhist monasteries as revealed in inscriptions in Sri Lanka’ by H.M.Y.V.K. Herath and ‘The Buddhist attitude to natural beauty’ by M.A.C. Munasinghe.

The last item of the journal is a poem in Pali composed by Aruna K. Gamage, holding a special degree in Pali from the University of Kelaniya.

Impressive character

An impressive character of this collection is that almost all academic members of the BPU have written papers for it. Except for two or three all the other papers have been written by the teachers of the university.

This augurs well for the future of Buddhist research in the country. The key aim of establishing BPU was to promote Buddhist and Pali studies worldwide. This was an effort on the part of the pioneers of this higher education centre who took Buddhism and Pali language associated with it as special religious and academic heritage of this country, which is worth preserving, promoting and sharing with the rest of the world.

The academic journal clearly is on the path to realise this noble goal. Although the journal is meant to be annual publication, with every academic member writing at least two papers every year, the university may well be able to bring it out every six months.

There is no room in this space to comment on all the papers published here although all of them deserve to be commented on in some respect or other.

Let me highlight a few. Prof. Toshiichi Endo’s paper on the Chinese version of Samantapasadika (Chien-hi-p’io-sha) adds to the value of the journal.

The author argues that the Chinese version is really based on Pali Samantapasadika and not on Uttaravihara-atthakatha or any version of Vinaya Atthakatha in Sinhala. By establishing this the author tries to counter the claim made by such scholars as Prof. Ananda Guruge of the University of the West, USA.

Apart from its academic merit my reason for highlighting this paper is to direct the attention of the young and emerging Buddhist scholars in this country to the vast amount of academic opportunities if they master a Buddhist source language such as Classical Buddhist Chinese.

Traditionally the Buddhist scholarship of Sri Lanka has been known for its expertise in Pali and Buddhist (hybrid) Sanskrit.

Although it is a matter of speculation today as to how many young Sri Lankan Buddhist scholars master at least one of these languages, the state of the Buddhist scholarship in the world is so advanced that knowledge in Pali and Buddhist Sanskrit are almost taken for granted.

This means that many of the Buddhist scholars know Pali and Sanskrit and they also know one or two other Buddhist source languages such as Classical Chinese or Tibetan. The field of Buddhist studies is no longer traditional, and also not centred on the traditional seats of Buddhist learning.

The centre has shifted to the West for some time now. The struggle at the moment is not to regain the centre but to keep pace with the new developments taking place in these newly established non-traditional centres of Buddhist learning.

In this context I would like to make two comments: one is on the need to be well versed in where we have been traditionally strong, that is, in Pali and Sanskrit. The other is the need for our emerging scholars to be able to make effective use of the Western languages such as English.

Those young scholars who have presented their research in English deserve to be commended on that account. The last item of the papers, the Pali poem by Aruna Gamage deserves to be commended not so much for its content but for the mere fact that he has been able to produce a poem in advanced Pali with notes providing justification for his innovative use of language.

As I highlighted in the Oriental Studies Society of Sri Lanka 2004 annual oration we in Sri Lanka need to take Pali studies very seriously and there is so much in the contemporary world Pali scholarship that need to be re-examined from an insider’s point of view.

descriptive presentations

Most of the papers in the collection are descriptive presentations and serve a purpose as useful references for those who look for content. But I think a more advanced stage to be aimed is to write not merely descriptive but analytical papers in which one not only tries to present facts but also try to establish/ prove a point/ thesis.

In such papers presenting facts comes always within the context of serving as arguments to prove a point. Looking from this point of view there are contributions showing signs of capacity for experiment.

Due to limits of space let me just take a few. Ven. Mawatagama Pemananda’s discussion on language clearly shows that the author tries to say something worth saying. But the treatment could have been more focused and pointed. When we try to say too much finally we end up saying almost nothing.

The discussion on the logical method in the Kathavatthu by Ven. Hettimulle Rahula and the one on the methodology used in Buddhist philosophy by Ven. Dunukewatte Gunaratana deal with less trodden areas of Buddhist studies among our scholars.

The logic behind the dialogues in the Kathavatthu has to be unearthed and clearly articulated. Ven. Rahula’s discussion ends without really proving any of his own theses as to what this method is all about.

Ven. Gunaratana also touches this Abhidhamma book in the last part of his discussion without showing any direction towards a final conclusion. What they still need to know is that they should adopt an objective attitude in dealing with these (or any type of) subjects.

If they start with the assumption that they are dealing with the best logical system in the universe, they cannot go too far! If that comes as a result of comprehensive analysis of all the logical systems in the world let that be so. But it is very unlikely that one can do such a gigantic task within the limits of an academic paper.

Finally, I would like to make a suggestion on a procedural matter: most of the papers published could have been improved, made concise, precise, and better organised if these papers were reviewed by other scholars.

Although this is not fully practised among our scholars it is time all our academic journals adopt a reviewing process as a necessity. Besides it is part and parcel of academic humility that we as scholars show what we write to our seniors or colleagues for their comments.

I see in the journal a need to have more care for observing stylistic conventions, and accuracy in grammar and spelling in both Sinhala and English languages.

All these are suggestions for the future. Quality is not something we achieve overnight; it is a virtue to be developed over time with a lot of practice and patience.

I congratulate again the academic community of the BPU for their hard work and dedication for academic excellence.

The reviewer is Director, Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies (University of Kelaniya)

Overview of legislative framework of insurance

Legal and Regulatory Framework relating to Insurance in South Asian Countries

Edited by D. C. Jayasuriya

Published by South Asia Insurance Regulatory Forum

Review: Dr. Wimal WICKRAMASINGHE

INSURANCE: At the outset this compendium does not contain the year of publication resulting in the reader not knowing the period of this update.

This book is an overview of the legislative and regulatory framework relating to insurance in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka dealing with 98 aspects that are of relevance to regulators, insurers and other market participators.

The object of the present review is not to summarize the contents relating to these countries but to enlighten the reader with an exercise in order to profit from this compendium in the field of insurance in Sri Lanka.

All these four countries have principal laws pertaining to insurance, for example, the Financial Institution Act of Bhutan (1992), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act (1999), Insurance Act (1992) and the Regulation of Insurance Industry Act (2000).

The regulatory authorities are the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, the Insurance Board of Nepal and the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka.

All have the legislative power to supervise and regulate the insurance industry in their respective countries.

Foreign equity

Coming back to Sri Lanka, the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka can issue rules independently and draft regulations are submitted to the Ministry of Finance which have to be finally approved by Parliament.

While other countries have licensing manuals on guidelines, no specific guidelines are available in Sri Lanka, only the Act demanding compliance of the provisions of the Act and stipulating the documents that have to be submitted to the IBSL on a regular basis.

Separate licences are issued for each class of insurance, i.e., long term (life) insurance and general insurance, without them being renewed annually.

Insurance Agents and surveyors are not licensed by the Board and only the insurers and brokers are appointed by the IBSL in compliance with the provisions of the Regulation of the Insurance Industry Act (RIIA).

While foreigners are allowed to own insurance companies in Sri Lanka with its paid up capital being up to 100 per cent, India restricts foreign equity to 26 per cent. Insurance companies are prohibited from investing in brokering companies.

Although approval is said to be needed - not in the law - for opening or closing of branches, the present reviewer does not think that insurance companies in Sri Lanka do comply with the requirement.

There are some other rules which are not followed by insurance companies. One notable thing is engagement in bancassurance by some commercial banks that engage in insurance business on behalf of the insurance companies as a one-stop shop.

The reason for this practice is that in terms of the RIIA, only the individuals could function as insurance agents - not the corporate bodies.

The present reviewer suggested to the IBSL as far back as early 2005 that this anomaly be corrected by an amendment to the Act, so that the corporate bodies could also function as insurance agents legitimizing the business of bancassurance.

legislative process

The IBSL responded positively to this suggestion but it takes time for the legislative process to come into operation.

Until recently, employment by insurance companies of insurance agents who have not passed the pre-qualification examination was done though the stipulation to this effect was carried out under the Insurance Agent Qualification Rules, 2002 and made effective from August 30, 2002.

But by end 2005, the IBSL made these rules effective and the insurance companies had to fall in line though those who were in business as insurance agents for more than 10 years were exempted from these regulations.

At the moment this regulation is only applicable to life insurance business and this would be made applicable soon to those who engage in general insurance.

Unlike in other countries, agricultural insurance, export credit insurance and social security insurance are administered by separate laws.

Reinsurance companies are not operative in Sri Lanka but in case such a reinsurance company is to be established, it needs approval from the IBSL.

Nevertheless, the government in the budget proposals made for 2007 indicated to establish a Reinsurance Trust Fund, taking over the assets and liabilities of the Strike, Riots and Civil Commotion Fund administered by the General Treasury.

A revolutionary feature in the proposed Reinsurance Trust Fund is that all the insurance companies would be required by law to cede at least 50 per cent of their insurance business to the Fund for reinsurance cover.

Once this requirement comes into force, reinsurance scenario of Sri Lanka would undergo a significant change, placing foreign reinsurance companies coming from various parts of the world into secondary position.

Advantages

It has a number of advantages from the viewpoint of Sri Lanka, the most important of which is the saving of a colossal amount of foreign exchange for the country.

Needless to say that the outflow of foreign exchange in terms of reinsurance premiums is many times more than the inflow in terms of settlement of claims by the foreign reinsurance companies, the only exception being the unprecedented claims that had to be paid into Sri Lanka on account of the tsunami disaster on December 24, 2004.

Another advantage for Sri Lanka is the renewed bargaining power vested in insurance companies when negotiating for determination of reinsurance premiums at the renewal as one monolithic organisation is in operation within Sri Lanka that can compete effectively with the foreign reinsurance companies.

Since this organisation is backed by the Sri Lanka Government, insurance companies can rest assured of the legitimate payment of claims by the Trust Fund, irrespective of the amount.

In India there is one reinsurance company which is called the General Insurance Corporation of India (GICI) that also provides reinsurance facilities to many insurance companies in Sri Lanka.

Corporate Governance, an important and innovative concept embracing all aspects of administration and financial management, has not been given pride of place in the insurance laws of Sri Lanka, even in other two countries but India has gone a step forward though no specific guidelines have been issued because insurance companies there are expected to follow the guidelines of the Securities and Exchange Board of India and establish audit committee.

Maintenance of Solvency Margins in respect of each class of insurance is a prerequisite for infusing confidence into the minds of the Insured and this is determined by the IBSL and followed up on quarterly basis.

This is important because these funds are not guaranteed by the government. Although the IBSL has power to review reinsurance arrangements, no criteria have been stipulated.

Guidelines

There are many other stipulations and guidelines that are yet to be formulated in Sri Lanka. Among them are the valuation of assets, corporate governance, manual for actuarial reviews, enunciation of supervisory rules on a consolidation basis applicable to insurance companies and its subsidiaries.

There is a complaint that some insurance companies in Sri Lanka do cipher their resources to loss-making affiliates - the requirement for the external auditors of insurance companies to report to the IBSL of the facts relevant to effective regulation, streamlining of the procedure for declaration of dividends to ensure that under-capitalized insurance companies do not engage in this practice, development of curricular for insurance agents and brokers, etc.

In conclusion, I should say that since of late the IBSL, with the assistance of foreign actuaries and insurance consultants, is in the process of tightening practices in financial reporting.

During the period of a liberalized regime, the IBSL has left insurance companies to engage in insurance business, almost independently in the fields of development of products, changing of premium rates, affording of fringe or rider benefits, determination of the rates of no claim bonuses even for new vehicles and loyalty rebates, etc.

The IBSL is terribly understaffed, having been in operation for the last six years, not realizing the gravity of it. Earlier, they were happy with the issue of licence to new insurance companies as those operating before 2000 were deemed to have been given license under the law, conducting monthly meetings with the CEO’s of insurance companies and the principal office bearers of the Association of Brokers, calling financial reports on quarterly, semi-quarterly and yearly, etc.

The present reviewer gets an inescapable impression that with the accumulation of experience in the supervision of insurance companies, together with the technical support from foreign experts, the IBSL is now in a better position to direct insurance companies to abide by its rules and regulations. Violation of such rules by insurance companies is not reported.

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Buddhist and Pali Studies
The Academic Journal of the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka
2006



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