Banyan News Reporters was pleased to receive this patriotic open letter to the President of Sri Lanka from a group of concerned parents.
An open letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka
28 July 2009
Your Excellency / Your Majesty,
We are a group of parents who address this letter to you after much thought and discussion. We want to bring to your all-encompassing attention a matter of utmost public interest that concerns current and future generations.
First and foremost, we deeply appreciate your personal interest in all matters: nothing seems too small to escape your attention, and nothing appears too large for your intervention. We especially salute your unprecedented and historic efforts to reassert Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity, national identity and cultural heritage. We know these gains were accomplished against so many international and national conspiracies.
We applaud your government’s ban on students taking mobile phones to all schools â€“ may they be government, private or international. The mobile phone is yet another symbol of western consumerist lifestyle that easily corrupts the impressionable young minds of our sons and daughters.
We know how much you care. Soon after become President, Your Majesty saved our children from having to walk to school in the darkness as a result of your predecessor’s ill-advised change to our standard time. We are recently delighted to hear that your government will outlaw the production and exhibition of all movies that are categorised as ‘Adults Only’. We are equally encouraged by another news item saying that your telecom regulator is currently working overtime to block out all pornographic content from websites.
We know that you and your Cabinet of Ministers have our children’s best interests at heart in making such decisions. This is why we would like to bring to your attention the need to strictly regulate, perhaps even restrict or ban, another widely used item that poses a grave social and cultural harm to our people, young and old.
This item is decidedly low tech, ubiquitous and apparently non-threatening. (Beware: looks can be deceptive.) It is relatively cheap (costing no more than a few hundred rupees), and does not require any electricity to operate. It is compact, durable, easy to carry around (and conceal) and, until recently, people even used to send it by post (that is, before postmen became too fond of these items). It is being carried through security check-points raising no suspicions or questions. Yet, it is one of the most dangerous inventions of the western civilization, now in free circulation in Sri Lanka.
There is a whole industry engaged in the manufacture and distribution of this product. Possibly under their commercial influence, successive governments have invested billions of rupees of public funds in promoting this item among Sri Lankans. Little attention has been paid to the dangers to our national security, cultural heritage and independence of thought.
By now, Your Majesty might have guessed what this dangerous and pervasive item is: we are referring to the printed book.
Indeed, more than anything else in our contemporary culture, this item is responsible for the negative influences of our younger generation (and, indeed, of people from all walks of life). Over the past century or so, these have quietly but effectively spread many subversive political thoughts, including anti-establishment sentiments, among our people. They have also peddled morally degrading concepts of romance, sex and questionable (or abnormal) behaviour patterns such as secularism, human rights and democracy.
The paper-based book is as alien to our island heritage as all other western communications tools and products. If we look back at the over 2,500 years of our glorious civilization, we can see that we managed quite well without printed books for much of that period. Our ancient kings published rock inscriptions, while our scholar monks stored knowledge on ola leaves. It was the Dutch colonialists who introduced Gutenberg-style printing and book publishing to our land about three centuries ago. (Of course, they had a sinister agenda in doing so: they wanted to undermine and destroy our local culture and Buddhist heritage. That is why, not surprisingly, the first books to be printed in Sri Lanka were all various versions of the Bible.)
While the Chinese first invented the concept of printing many centuries before Gutenberg, their rulers carefully controlled who was allowed to print, distribute and use books. The Chinese were smart enough to realise the corrupting influence of allowing free flow of books and ideas. We think that ancient Chinese wisdom holds a lesson in public policy for Your Majesty’s government.
Since our political independence over 60 years ago, western aid donors and United Nations agencies such as UNESCO have aggressively lobbied for the promotion of the western notions of book development as part of our policies on education and culture. Our acquiescent governments uncritically accepted these policies, as a result of which this country is teeming with far more books and other printed publications than is necessary or desirable for a population of our size.
It is only a few vigilant and patriotic Sri Lankans who have realized the danger of this ceaseless proliferation of books, publishers, bookstores, libraries and the book reading habit. In a rare (and perhaps unguarded) admission for a western academic, the Swedish economist and Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal once remarked: “Books are like time bombs. If the ideas contained in them are of value, they will explode one day. It is hard to predict when that will happen.”
Need we say any more? We are sure Your Majesty, having defeated the most ruthless terrorist group in the world, would not wish to have to deal with more time bombs going off anywhere in Sri Lanka. Our country’s hard-won peace must be safeguarded at all costs. Some sacrifices will need to be made for the greater good.
For all these reasons, we appeal to Your Majesty’s visionary and courageous government to strictly control and regulate the writing, printing, publishing, selling and reading of books. To safeguard our impressionable and easily corruptible sons and daughters, we request your Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture to compile a list of book titles that are deemed as acceptable and permitted for Sri Lankans under 18 years of age to read. By definition, we hope it would soon become illegal for our children and youth to possess, share, carry or read any other book that is not explicitly sanctioned and listed by the state. We as parents will do our part to ensure that our children comply and obey.
If Your Majesty’s government so wishes, it may also draw up an approved list of books for the entire population. We are sure the literate and widely-read Members of Parliament and senior government officials can jointly come up with such a list. If anyone objects to this essential safeguard, we can consider them to be traitors who do not like our motherland to raise its head after centuries of foreign domination.
We thank Your Majesty for your time reading and reflecting on the contents of this letter. We eagerly await a right royal decree that finally ends our three centuries of addiction to printed books.
Yours truly and humbly,
A group of grateful, patriotic parents