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Baby jumbos, Buddhism and baloney

By Janaka Perera, Asian Tribune, August 8, 2009

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Do Sri Lanka’s Buddhists today have a moral leadership? This question has to be raised in the wake of humbugs calling themselves Buddhists trying to cover their naked immorality with a legal fig leaf.

<< Sindu and Raju, the two baby jumbos at Pinnawala before they were taken away to Kandy

If ever there is contest in obfuscation Kandy’s Diyawadana Nilame Nilanga Daela Bandara, Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge and the Mahanayakes of Malwatte and Asgiriya will be the top prize winners. Their response to the baby elephant abduction issue reminds us of a deaf character in a Sinhala folk tale. When asked where he is going he says, “I have coconuts in my bag” (Yanne koheda malle pol).

Addressing a media briefing over the Max television channel on Thursday Daela Bandara seemed to be blowing his top off over the accusations he is facing. He made a stupid attempt to justify his sinful act by diverting attention to utterly irrelevant issues like the wild elephant slaughter by Europeans during the British colonial era and blasting imaginary NGO conspirators trying to undermine Buddhism.

His and Minister Lokuge’s attempts to cover up the dastardly deed is not going to fool anybody since the crux of the problem has nothing to do with violating the law or stealing but forcibly separating sucklings from their anguished mothers violating all accepted moral norms. Babies whether they are humans or animals are not meant to be snatched from their mothers but weaned away whereas what occurred at Pinnawela was a ‘legally sanctioned’ bull-in-a-china shop scenario.

Are these a new breed of terrorists in religious garb?

Hats off to the National Bhikku Front demanding a public apology from the Diyawadana Nilame and others for insulting Buddhism The NBF’s action is all the more laudable since the Buddhist Jaathika Hela Urumaya which strongly supported the Animal Welfare Bill is deafeningly and strangely silent on this issue, which also relates to the same subject. We wonder whether the DN will now allege that non-Buddhists and Christian Evangelists are manipulating the National Bhikku Front.

It is heartening to note that the ‘Sathva Mithra’ organisation has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, against the forcible removal of the two under-age baby elephants. Whether or not the petitioners win the case (because the law is an ass) the matter will surely draw wide public attention both in Sri Lanka and abroad.

The forcible removal of the two baby tuskers – Raju and Sindu – from the Pinnawela Elephant orphanage on the pretext of festival requirements goes to prove that this country is fast becoming a case study in ‘Show Boat Buddhism.’ Using Cabinet approval as a license to separate sucklings from their anguished mothers exposes the depths to which the so-called custodians of the religion have sunk. While the government is promoting the International Breast Feeding week that began on Saturday August 1 two baby elephants have been deprived of their mother’s milk and warmth.

Adding insult to injury Minister Lokuge (on Rupavahini news July 31) is saying that if the need arises the mothers would be brought to feed the babies! Otherwise it is powdered milk for them. And Diyawadane Nilame Daela Bandara is pictured feeding the two captive elephants after having done all the damage. No explanation is given to the agony caused to the mother elephants. This is no different from forcibly taking away a breast feeding human baby from its screaming mother and then saying everything is okay because it is given powdered milk and other food items.

Whom are these clowns trying to hoodwink? Surely it cannot be the intelligent public.

The Young Zoologists Association have charged that the two calves were being beaten with poles by their keepers as they had turned aggressive deprived of mother’s milk and care. Pictures of this brutal act have been published in the , August 2 The most heart-rending part of story is of the mothers pining for their off-spring at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage. An Island report states orphanage officials as saying that the nipples of the she-elephants were swollen as they could not feed their babies. When the vets were treating the mothers’ milk was spraying from the nipples. They had also been injured when they were desperately trying to prevent the babies from being separated. According to the vets the mothers’ milk might clot in their breasts causing serious complications unless they are allowed to feed their babies.

The morons who caused this unimaginable suffering to these hapless animals should drink the milk themselves, as a Divaina journalist has suggested. These imbeciles are perhaps giving a new twist to panathipatha – Buddhism’s first precept. That is “killing is bad but cruelty is okay.” Panathipatha does not mean only abstention from killing but also refraining from deliberately causing harm and suffering to living creatures as writer L. Jayasooriya has correctly pointed out.

Article 9 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution gives Buddhism a predominant position and condemns cruelty to animals. What occurred in Pinnawela was downright torture according to eyewitnesses. Have these self-proclaimed Buddhists forgotten ahimsa (non-violence) and maitri (compassion) towards living creatures?

According to the Sri Lanka Wildlife Veterinarians’ Association as reported in the press weaning baby elephants at an early age could lead to nutritional complications such as protein deficiency resulting in the swelling of the abdomen, calcium deficiency that could cause abnormalities and fractures. Bottle feeding these very young animals could cause indigestion, lactose intolerance, infections of the digestive systems causing diarrhea, anemia, dehydration and other complications which could be critical to their survival, the association further stated.

Officials have also warned that sudden separation of baby elephants from their mothers leads to behavioural changes like aggressiveness in those females that could cause conflicts between other elephants as well as their keepers. Elephants are known to have very good memories. If as a consequence of the incident the pachyderms develop hatred towards humans and cause the death of an orphanage employee or a visitor the self-righteous abductors will have to bear full responsibility for such a tragedy.

Here we are reminded of the famous king elephant (Raja) which died of under a hail of bullets trying to save its herd during an attempt to push them into a kraal (enclosure) many decades ago. The Sinhala song Panamuray Eth Raja composed in the memory of this brave tusker still mesmerizes many a listener

Neither the Buddha Dhamma nor the laws of nature approve man’s cruelty to animals and we earnestly hope that retribution will come to the culprits behind this despicable act. There can be no hope for the future of Buddhism in this country if everyone who condemns evil deeds done in the name of the noble religion is branded an anti-Buddhist conspirator and enemy of the Sasana. Sweeping the dirt under the carpet is definitely not going to help Sri Lanka’s Buddhist cause.

It appears that these bogus Buddhists and foreign-funded Christian evangelists are competing with each other to see who will cause the most damage to the island’s Buddhist heritage and image.

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