CORRUPTION IN POLITICS.
LARGE AND ENTHUSIASTIC GATHERING.
On the invitation of the Kothahena Association, Mr. P. Ramanathan, K.C., C.M.G., Patron of that body, delivered a brilliant lecture at the public Hall on Saturday the 11th February on "Corruption in Politics" before a large and interested gathering. The chair was taken by Mr. Advocate Francis de Zoysa. The whole hall and gallery and the corridors were crowded, and there was hardly standing room when the lecturer rose to speak a few minutes after 4 p.m. We publish below that portion of his lecture which is of general interest and which is really the science of politics from the view-point of Indian Philosophy.
THE CHAIRMAN'S SPEECH.
Gentlemen, - I rise not to introduce Mr. Ramanathan to you, for that would be presumptuous on my part, and entirely superfluous on behalf of the Kotahena Association to introduce its Patron, but to thank him most sincerely for consenting to deliver this lecture this evening. No assurance is needed that the lecture will be both interesting and instructive. It has been objected to by those who make it their business to object to everything that Mr. Ramanathan does, that he is lecturing on abstract subjects instead of discussing what they are pleased to call practical politics. These men, gentlemen, do not know or pretend not to know that Mr. Ramanathan is not delivering these lectures to convince the people of Ceylon that he knows how to lecture, and that he understands or can discuss politics or that his political views are sound, but that he is lecturing simply with the object of educating Ceylonese in Politics. Although Mr. Ramanathan does not take up our time by lengthy discussions of such things as ad valorem duty and the salaries of Government officials, he will deliver to us such lectures as will be remembered long after election controversies and animosities are dead and buried. Mr. Ramanathan's lectures will be remembered, read and re-read for ages to come. As far as his politics go, all Ceylon consider him the greatest politician of the day, the Ceylonese have the fullest confidence in Mr. Ramanathan, and in nothing that he has done he has forfeited one jot of their confidence and regard, and the esteem that the people of this country have for him is evidenced by the fact that, as soon as he relinquished Government Service, the people have been eager and persistent in seeking his advice, guidance and patronage in every public movement, proposing him to be President of this association, and Patron of that association, inviting him to preside at this and that public meeting and asking him to take a part in this and that public movement, as well as by the glowing testimony paid to Mr. Ramanathan by the acknowledged leaders of Ceylonese Society from Mr. Dornhorst downwards, including Mr. James Peiris who from the opposite camp exclaimed only the other day that if this country was really in peril that we should all vote for Mr. Ramanathan and Mr. Corea who also from the opposite camp, paid a most glowing tribute to Mr. Ramanathan's worth. And lastly by the manner in which the unanimous voice of Ceylon practically dragged Mr. Ramanathan out of his retirement to come to the Reformed Legislative Council as their first representative. Gentlemen, the persistent form and steadfast manner in which the people of this country of all races, creeds and castes are supporting Mr. Ramanathan's candidature in spite of personal discomfort and personal sacrifice, in the case of many people, in the face of the wrath and vengeance of powerful men, and disregarding the torrents of abuse showered by the gutter press of Ceylon. I say the manner in which the Ceylonese are standing by Mr. Ramanathan in spite of all this is eloquent testimony at once of Mr. Ramanathan's worth and of the eminent fitness of the Ceylonese to be entrusted with the Franchise. True it is, Gentlemen, that Mr. Ramanathan has been made the victim of a campaign of abuse. But that is because certain people who have been endeavoring for the last several years to secure a seat in the Legislative Council, and who like the babe in the Pears Soap advertisement will never be happy until they have it, and who, when the Reform of the Legislative Council came, thought that their ambition should be crowned by having not one seat but two, see that Mr. Ramanathan is likely to upset their apple cart. The people of this country stand by him and support him in every way, and consider him the greatest politician of the day, without any lectures from him to prove that fact. This lecture is, as I said, intended for the benefit of the public, and on behalf of the Kotahena Association I will now invite Mr. Ramanathan to deliver his lecture.
Mr. Ramanathan, rising said: I do not know how I am to thank my learned friend, the Chairman of this meeting, for all the kind things which he has said about me. It is very encouraging to meet with kindness in times when there is so much corruption abroad. Unkindness is the mark – and a distinguishing mark – of corruption, and when I meet with kindness I say to myself, "There is Love fighting its battle against Hate otherwise called corruption."
The subject which the Kotahena Association has invited me to speak about is "Corruption in Politics". It is of great practical importance to know all about it. Corruption disfigures and distorts not only the whole arena of political thought but also every other phase of social life. The subject of Corruption in Politics will be better understood if it is taken and considered as a part of the more comprehensive subject of the Operation of Corruption in Life, which is of absorbing interest to everyone who feels that the Summum bonum of life is to be good, who feels that the end for which we have been ushered into our respective spheres of existence is to escape from badness or evil, and attain goodness.
THE GREAT SUBJECT DOES NOT INTEREST SAVAGES,
nor men and women who, though living in the midst of civilizing, influences, feel no shame at being continually victimized by corruption.
In the case of those who are habitually dominated by some form or other of the unclean, obscuring and distorting power which commonly passes by the name of evil or wickedness, there is no desire to be good; nor is their mind fit for the enquiry why one should be good, and what are the methods for attaining goodness.
To be good is exceedingly difficult, and yet every fond mother believes that her children are very good. The fallacy of this belief is the subject of a proverb in Tamil, which runs as follows "Even to a monkey its own baby is a golden baby". It is a most remarkable phenomenon in human nature that, so long as the mind is obscured by the unclean thing called corruption, it will always believe itself to be right and good. Disinterested observers, like nurses in charge of other people's children, when questioned are wont to say of most children, "when they are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid." May not a similar judgment be passed on grown up persons? In the state called friendliness, are not most persons good and sweet? and in the state where their natural likes and dislikes are crossed, that is, in hostility, are they not horrid/
DO THEY SEEM TO KNOW IN THIS WRETCHED STATE WHAT THEY ARE DOING?
When every disinterested person sees their actions and the thoughts which lie behind the actions, to be plainly horrid, do the persons in captivity to their hostile feelings know that they are horrid? Don't they in the horrid state loudly assert that they are quite right and do not they abuse and even assault their opponents and glory in their shameful action? And do not they in cooler moments say: "I have behaved like an ass" or :what an idiot I have been." These who are gifted with equanimity compare the mind to a sheet of water, capable of reflecting all kinds of images or ideas, and they say that, if the mind is calm or placid, the reflections on the mind are seen clearly and correctly as they really are; but that, if the mind is allowed to be disturbed by the natural likes and dislikes of the body, or by currents of passion or emotion, it will be like a sheet of water agitated by winds and the reflections on the disturbed waters, whether of the sun or moon or of any other object close by, will be necessarily distorted, and will assume unnatural shapes, blurred, elongated and shortened. And they further explain that the on-looking spirit, commonly called consciousness is misled and confounded by these fantastic reflections on the mind. It is obvious that, in this state of confusion, the mind cannot think rightly, the faculty of speech cannot speak truly or fairly and the hands and feet cannot act restrainedly. A man of equanimity, who guards himself against the likes and dislikes of the body and emotions of all kings, is said to be righteous.
BECAUSE HIS FACULTIES OF THOUGHT, SPEECH AND ACTION PERFORM THEIR DUTIES ALWAYS RIGHTLY.
Isn't it worth our while to take stock of our constitution and lay our finger, so to speak, upon the root or cause of all the trouble which man gets into in a trice, unknown to himself? Those who are wise, I mean the Sages of the East and West, have agreed from the remotest times to call this trouble-causing thing corruption because it spoils the spirit and the mind, even as rust spoils metal, and putridity spoils flesh or meat. Tear the skin of the body a little and neglect the wound, and you will find stinking matter pouring forth. Put away burnished steel or copper somewhere for a few days and you will find rust and verdigris cases are in captivity to an unclean and horrid power, which, if unwatched and uncontrolled, would mar all the loveliness of the spirit and the usefulness of the mind. The spirit is a thing of joy and love, quite harmonious in itself, ready to forget and forgive: it is serious, reverent and patient. But the subtle power called corruption is a thing of hate, a thing of discord and differentiation, never stable, ever unsteady and shifty and therefore making the spirit impatient, restless, dissatisfied and unreliable, and making the mind to misunderstand and misinterpret. Corruption thus pollutes and obscures the spirit and the mind, and distorts the natural views of things. When it slyly enters the mind while the mind is considering a subject, it makes the mind think wrongly, and even filthily and criminally, by correlating unnecessary thoughts.
Its nature is to steep the faculties of thoughts, speech, and action in hate, in unspirituality (or non-recognition of God and soul), in worldliness and in rank materialism; to obstruct the recollection of the commandments of God and the dictates of law, and
TO DEDICATE ALTOGETHER THE WHOLE CONSTITUTION OF MAN.
It is impossible for the senses to perceive the subtle and wicked power called corruption, but the spirit, if watchful and introspective can know how its effects, and it rises and captivates the thought-making mind. So long as there is no inclination to make thought on the part of the mind, corruption has no power to captivate it. You have seen mothers say to their children who have grievances against their little brothers and sisters, "Never mind, never mind, attend to some other thing." Now, so long as the mind does not mind anything, corruption has no power to captivate it. The Bible and other religious books of the world enjoin the habit of "peace-making," which is the habit of pacifying the tumultuous thoughts of the mind, or allowing its thoughts to run down to a calm. When a person has been insulted or injured in any way, it will not do for the mind of that person to brood over its troubles, because the diabolical power called corruption will then rise slyly and captivate the mind thinking of its troubles. If the man is wise enough to make his thoughts run down to calm, and say to himself "never mind: that wicked man has had his cruel enjoyment throw this insult and injury, let him have it; but let not my mind run on this matter; let me rather go to my God for relief in the quiet of my chamber," corruption will have no power over him. So you see, if the spirit is watchful; it can know how corruption rises and captivates the thought-making mind by the medium of likes and dislikes, and prevents the mind from doing what Truth and Duty demand.
In the Home ,we see it manifesting itself in the minds of children as waywardness, insubordination and selfishness. In the School, it urges students to be unruly, boisterous, negligent of their books, shifty and trickish; in the Professions it makes men greedy of money and the praises of foolish men do many a dark deed, and lead a life of duplicity, having one thing in the heart and quite another in the lips, striving hard to secure sometimes a lawful end by unlawful means, and sometimes a wholly unlawful thing by covert means or clever deception.
IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION,
it urges the mind and the faculty of speech to the habit of scandal-making out of harmless incident to the terror of honest suitors and witnesses and makes the misguided soul believe that it is very clever and superior to other lawyers.
I assure you, gentlemen, that there is many a fine spirit in the legal profession as certified by judge after judge from the Bench of the Supreme Court. Such lawyers do not care to make scandal out of trifles, or to earn a cheap reputation as a "great lawyer" in the country. These men are the gems of the legal profession in Ceylon. They despise the prostitution of their talents in a place so sacred as a Court of Justice, they will never be tyrannical in their cross-examination. They will not put to a witness a question which they will be ashamed to put to their brother or sister, father or mother if they were in the witness-box. They would treat honest suitors and witnesses as tenderly as possible, because they feel that they themselves are ministers privileged to be engaged in the administration of justice under the supervision of the Judges of the land. But unfortunately there is also another type of lawyers to be found occasionally in Ceylon, who, disregarding the noble traditions of the Bar as we have them from ancient Rome, and from high bred Englishmen – misuse their talents from morning to evening and fancy that they are grand lawyers – that they are leaders of profession. Yes, leaders in scandal-making-leaders in tyrannical cross-examination; leaders in the art of making black white; leaders in everything except the successful maintenance of the tradition of the Bar which they had been carefully taught during their studentship in the Inns of Court, Gentlemen,
CORRUPTION IS A FELL POWER,
rampant at Home, rampant at School, rampant in all professions, and even in the Medical Profession. You know that many students who are sent by their good parents into the Medical College are spoilt within three months of their entry into the College; fine boys, who under proper direction should be shining lights to the rest of the community. Their tricks begin with the flinging of pieces of a corpse at some fellow student. But I would not trouble you with their vagaries or with the way in which corruption works in the heart of medical men.
Corruption makes men swollen-headed, cheeky and proud, having an inordinate opinion of their wealth or learning or official power or family. In every phase of life we see this horrid thing making the heart hard, the neck stiff, the lip curling with contempt, the face averted, the eyes fierce, and the mind impatient and restless. It creates splits in families and among friends, and persists in mischief, wreck and ruin.
In politics it urges men to secret action for secret reason, to undermine its opponents by disgraceful tactics, to make plausible declarations, to practice duplicity, intrigue, misrepresentation calumny, intimidation, mystification and perplexity. No law can touch intrigue, secret action, duplicity, mystification and the like. It therefore confines itself to three classes of corrupt practices, namely, the purchase of votes, the intimidation of voters, and the undue influence of voters. The makers of such laws in different countries confess that even these few kinds of corruption cannot be put down if not backed by healthy public sentiment and by the searching activity of non-partisan vigilance committees.
SO UNIVERSAL IS THE OPERATION OF CORRUPTION IN EVERY DEPARTMENT OF LIFE!
All sound observers of human nature agree that it is exceedingly difficult to shake off the captivity of corruption. The authors of the great religions of the world assure us that, after the spirit had fallen into corruption, it knew not how to extricate or raise itself from it, and that, in consequence of its helplessness, it was placed under the stewardship of the mind, ushered into the world we are living in, and placed in charge of teachers and other care-takers from the day of the fleshly embodiment of the spirit and mind to the last day. Among such guardians must be mentioned the great power known as the law and the upholders of the law. Surrounded though man is by corrective influences of different kinds, he is liable to be victimized by corruption if he is not on the lookout for his horrid enemy. It is only the few who are watchful of the workings of their mind by daily self-examination and self-introspection, and it is they only who can escape from the effects of corruption.
Self-examination and self-introspection will go a great way in purifying the mind, but it is very important to avoid bad associates and to cultivate the friendship of clean minded friends. It must be the standing rule in a good family not to allow the children to come into contact with persons who are habitually corrupt. The vast majority of mankind who are watchful, and do not bar the hatchways of thought against the thief called Corruption.
The Sages of the East and West have been ever merciful to the fallen, owing to the extreme difficulty of avoiding the subtle influences of corruption. You all know the doctrine.
"BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY."
If we are merciful to those who have fallen in their endeavor to resist corruption, mercy will be shown to us by God. We must not pursue them with bitter hatred and make their lives miserable. On the contrary, we should help them with advice and try to uplift them from the influence of corruption and establish them in the path of goodness. When a fallen spirit, afterwards celebrated in history as Mary Magdalen or the Repentant, was brought before Jesus by some Pharisees demanding judgment at his hands. He said to the clamorous accusers 'Whichever of you is free from sin let him cast the first stone at her.' As they felt in their hearts that they were corrupt themselves, and daily given to sinning, none dared to raise a stone against her, and each man went his way.
The human nature of 2000 years ago is not different to what it is now. We have still Pharisees and Philistines among us in every country, but knowing them to be thoroughly misguided me, we should pity them when we have to consider their corrupt sayings and doings, for the purpose of keeping ourselves clean, and our friends untouched by their illusions and delusions.
It is impossible to expose all the acts of corruption which have been perpetrated in our midst during the past few months. But before dealing with any of them, I desire to say a few words regarding the fear of some of our own party that the caste system which prevails in Ceylon and in India, and which is a bot-bed for corruption, is a considerable danger to the Franchise and may be in the way of working it satisfactorily.
It cannot be denied that racial and caste distinctions operate vigorously in the minds of the people of Ceylon, but it is equally true that, notwithstanding such social distinctions, the electorate is quite alive to its duty of protecting their common political interests. The social and political interests of the Ceylonese are different from each other, and admit of being easily demarcated.
THE SOCIAL INTERESTS OF THE PEOPLE
relate to the preservation of their religion and language, of their methods of living and dressing, and of their matrimonial customs. But as the British Government does not interfere with the religion, language and matrimonial usages of any people under its sway, the better informed of its subjects here, especially those who have been given the suffrage, known as fact, that their social interests, as above mentioned, are separable from their political interest; that their political interests relate to the general good government of the country, and the voicing of their wishes in regard to taxation, public works, trade regulation and other matters of general legislation; and that, for the preservation of these political interests, it is their duty to return to Council any man who, rising above race, caste and creed has experience and ability enough to sage-guard them. Our electorate does not consist of uneducated men. They can distinguish between their social and political interests, and I am sure that they appreciate deeply the many blessings which the Franchise has already brought to them. The suffrage granted to the Senior and Junior Cambridge Local men, and to the graduates and under-graduates of Universities brings them on a level with the wealthy and influential men of the country, who treat them with marked courtesy. The children and friends of these wealthy and influential men also greet the new voters cordially. In this manner, a broader love than was possible before has dawned in the hearts of the members of the electorate. Self-love has given place to neighborly love and exclusive interests to common interests. Another great virtue which has sprouted among us, since the grant of the suffrage is the liveliness which reigns now, instead of the lethargy and apathy which characterized our educated classes till some months ago. Everyone is now taking a deep interest in matters relating to the good Government of the country, and I expect that at the end of five years from now the honor now done to education will return a goodly crop of Junior and Senior Cambridge Local men and undergraduates and graduates of Universities, and thus swell largely the number of those who have a direct interest in the good Government of the country. For these reasons, our electorate will not agree with those who say that race and caste prejudices will prove insuperable obstacles to the cause of Political Freedom.
RACIAL AND CASTE DISTINCTIONS HAVE NOT RUINED THE FRANCHISE IN INDIA
Nor in England did the strong antipathy between the Saxons and Normans stand in the way of their acting in concert politically against the bad Government of the country. Why not? Because social interests are, according to the British constitution, separable from political interests. I feel sure that I am expressing what is in your hearts that you will not allow racial and caste distinctions to intervene in matters political, that is to say, in matters which the Legislative Council of Ceylon usually deals with, and I am certain you and I and everyone who has good of Ceylon at heart ought to be grateful to our gracious King and the Secretary of State for granting to us the suffrage we have now.
It is not generally known that the institutions of worldly life, called matrimony, home, school, profession, society, politics, drama, sports and amusements, are ordainments of God for the purpose of purifying the soul. If people generally understand that politics is an instrument of self-culture they would not say that the very guarded measure of popular Government granted to us would be calamitous to Ceylon. Where is the man who would boldly assert that the homes, schools and professions of this country should be done away with, because many members of these institutions do not behave well of properly! It is by gradual education, self-control, and force of public opinion that homes, schools and professions have come to be purifying instruments of self-culture. Similarly the popular Government granted to us should be accepted in all thankfulness, especially as its virtues have already uplifted the voters in the way I have mentioned.