- A political tragedy
a telling indictment on the current status of the
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) is the prominent statement
mewata waga kiyanne?
months into office, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her alliance
government including the Janatha Vimukthi.....
- A political tragedy
Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero, Tilak Karunaratne and Ven.
Omalpe Sobitha Thero
a telling indictment on the current status of the Jathika Hela
Urumaya (JHU) is the prominent statement displayed on its web page
which states 'under construction.' The specific page which is not
available to surfers is that detailing the history of the JHU.
Leader, Supreme Sangha Council, JHU, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero is
convinced a "coup" by "religious fundamentalist
groups" is the reason for the present havoc reigning within the
are many enemies to destroy this national front and national
programme. They are fundamentalist Christian religious groups, also
the Tamil Tigers and the other political parties. We have made many
enemies," he said. And that is the understatement of the year.
to protect and breed a pure Sinhala national heritage shortly after
President Kumaratunga sacked the United National Front (UNF)
government on February 7, this year, the stage was set for a right
wing nationalist party of this nature to be born.
monks have since stirred a recipe for racial discrimination and
repression that can be compared with that propagated by the Taliban
in Afghanistan and Islamic militants that call themselves Mullahs in
Iran and Saudi Arabia. Is it no wonder they have cultured many
Omalpe Sobitha of course will not agree with this view - but how
else does one term a Sinhala nationalistic party, other than on
similar lines to that of the LTTE?
Sobitha Thero talks about a holistic approach of the parliamentary
monks. The nation however is yet to bear witness. Fighting to keep
on track as the party is wracked with controversy and conflict, Ven.
Sobitha obviously means well, but even he can hardly defend current
perception that the monks' entry into parliament has been but a
party's former founding member, Tilak Karunaratne having
"washed his hands" off the monks who he says "became
impossible to manage" in retrospect asserts that "this was
an experiment that went horrendously wrong."
was Karunaratne and former Administrative Secretary, Udaya
Gammanpila together with sacked JHU Secretary, Champika Ranawaka who
masterminded the birth of the JHU.
is these three who are now being accused by the MP monks of staging
a coup and attempting to take control by daring to question the
priestly method of political administration. A moot point these
monks have missed. And that is, once they have donned the mantle of
being politician, then not only are they answerable to the lay
members of their party, but to this entire nation.
they do not think so only proves their political immaturity. If they
believe they can walk the corridors of parliament without being held
accountable for their monetary and other transactions, all because
they are cloaked in a robe, then it is indeed a fool's paradise they
party came into being after Tilak Karunaratne, together with
Gammanpila and Ranawaka merged policies of the Sihala Urumaya and
its associated organisation of Buddhist monks, the Jathika Sangha
Sammelanaya (JSS) to form the JHU and field some 278 monks at the
last general election.
the JHU successfully managed to convince sections of the urban
dwellers that the monks were the answer to curbing corruption and
instilling a model type parliamentarian, one that would re-instill
traditional values, respectability and decorum. So far, they appear
to have failed miserably.
the JHU failed also to convince the die-hard Buddhists in
Anuradhapura, Mahiyangana and Polonnaruwa that the monks indeed were
the option to a better and brighter future in Sri Lanka. At the last
general election they won three seats in Colombo, two in Gampaha,
one in Kalutara and one in Kandy. The other two monks were elected
on the national list.
fact is, the target group for the JHU were sections of the middle
classes. Frustrated with corruption and fearful of growing social
unrest, the JHU appealed to certain levels in the middle classes
when they pledged to clean up politics and establish a righteous
six months into active politics, the JHU has fast realised they have
bitten off more than they can chew. The party's 36-year-old General
Secretary, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka has succeeded in getting himself
steadily involved in one controversy after another.
week speculation was rife that he was contemplating a crossover to
government ranks. Rumour has it that he had made the threat saying
he would do so if "the laity" within the party continued
to question his conduct.
in Uduwe and hailing from a family of the lower income group, Uduwe
Dhammaloka Thero comes from a family of eight siblings. His father
was a baker. He speaks about his 'poor' economic background claiming
he joined the monk-hood at the tender age of nine, by choice.
the Venerable Uduwe Dhammaloka is the monk at the centre of a
controversy. Soft spoken and charismatic, Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero is
facing serious charges. His integrity is under question.
admits he demanded the removal of former JHU Secretary, Champika
Ranawaka. According to Uduwe Thero, the latter began pointing
fingers at the monks and this, the monk said, could not be
tolerated. He adds that while Ranawaka was making false allegations,
he (Ranawaka) could not account or explain how he had accrued Rs.
8.9 million to spend.
Ranawaka angrily denied the charge. "He is lying," he
said, accusing Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka of breaking one of the five
precepts preached by Lord Buddha. Ranawaka explained that Rs. 8.9
million was spent for the entire television campaign of the JHU in
the lead up to the April general election.
said this whole amount was funded by a single businessman - "A
very honourable patriotic man highly respected in the private sector
- not some casino owner or gambler."
went onto assert that since the money was spent to promote the
election campaign of the monks, "it is they who should account
for this money and not us," drawing a clear distinction between
the monks and the laity of this party.
the writer on a late Thursday afternoon, Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero sat
together with Dr. Lohith Samarawickrema who described himself as
being a close friend and confidant of the monk and Treasurer, JHU,
Tissa Abeywickrema. Insisting on being shown a statement of income,
Abeywickrema after an intense search produced receipts which showed
donations made from loyalists or dayakayas as the monks call party
the donations ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 30,000
was one receipt made out to Jagath Sumathipala, brother of Thilanga
Sumathipala for a cash donation of Rs. 200,000. The receipt
indicated the donation was made together with a group of eight
others. The names of the other eight however are not on the receipt.
Uduwe Dhammaloka was at first puzzled as to why it would be improper
to accept money from Thilanga Sumathipala. "What can be wrong
with that?" he asked, saying Sumathipala's mother has also been
a benefactor of the JHU contributing some Rs. 300,000. He believes
though it was a group donation made together with 30 other people.
told it is cause for concern given that Sumathipala earns his living
from the gambling industry and is a bookie by profession, Ven.
Dhammaloka replied even the Buddha accepted a donation from a
a man is willing to change, then we must practice the teachings of
the Buddha and follow suit," he said.
further, Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero preached the art of forgiveness and
compassion. He recounted an incident which he said happened when he
was just 15 years old. Already a monk Ven. Uduwe said, a person who
was very angry with him had attempted to poison him. He survived the
attempt, but recalled how five years later this same person came to
him seeking shelter and he housed him in his bedroom, having
forgiven this individual for his attempt at murder.
in the same breath, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka says he personally sees
nothing wrong in accepting gifts. His justification for doing so is
merely that these are "donations from ardent dayakayas."
contrast, when questioned on some of these issues, Ven. Omalpe
Sobitha Thero is embarrassed. He refuses to divulge any further
details other than saying that a disciplinary committee is already
probing charges against Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero.
after the April 2 general election, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka and Ven.
Kolonnawe Siri Sumangala submitted an expenditure statement to the
Supreme Sangha Council which detailed they had spent approximately
Rs. 6 million on their campaign. However, laity members claim the
monks refused to divulge an income account.
questioned, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka denied this aspect saying an
income statement was indeed submitted. He was however unable to
produce this document if indeed it exists as proof to The Sunday
Leader, even after we sat an hour in his company. He showed us his
statement on expenditure insisting an account of income was
confidant of the JHU speaking on grounds of anonymity said certain
people in the UK had contributed sums of money to fund the election
campaign of Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero. The monies had been
donated to the Sihala Urumaya branch in the UK with specific
instructions that it must fund the monk's election campaign. The
funds were duly diverted.
Uduwe Dhammaloka and Ven. Sri Sumangala may or may not have divulged
an income statement but admit the party receives significant
donations from sections of the local community comprising of
businessmen, the military and state bureaucrats.
was how the JHU during its election campaign had access to dozens of
vehicles to travel around the country while distributing thousands
of pamphlets and leaflets. It also carried regular TV advertisements
which cost around Rs. 20,000 for 15 seconds.
Ranawaka himself confirmed these advertisements were paid for by a
businessman and Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka admits that vehicles he has
given some of the other parliamentary monks to use were given to him
fact remains that Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero while standing accused of
accepting "presents" from government ministers has been
spotted enjoying their company as well. This by itself may not be a
crime but when it is with ministers who stood accused of manhandling
and verbally abusing the monks in parliament then it is matter for
the party to sit up and take notice.
Uduwe Dhammaloka was in August seen viewing the Dalada Maligawa
perehera in the company of Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. It was
whispered that Mervyn Silva was also present. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero
says this was a mere coincidence as when he went to view the
perehera he was shown to a special area reserved for MPs. He claims
Mervyn Silva was not present.
Ven. Dhammaloka's denial with regard to having accepted two vehicles
from Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, we stand by our story that he
did. We have previously recounted how both Ven. Kolonnawe Sri
Sumangala and Ven. Ellawella Medananda at the last meeting of the
central committee on October 4, confronted Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka
with his denial asking him how he could say so when they had
together discussed this previously and decided to keep it only among
themselves. Neither monk has issued a denial since we ran the story
quoting them both.
later in fact Ven. Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala resigned. Apparently in
displeasure against being questioned by the laity within the party.
Earlier, two other dissident monks, Ven. Kathaluwe Rathanaseeha
Thero and Ven. Apparekke Punnananda Thero of Gampaha were forced to
resign. Founders, Tilak Karunaratne and Udaya Gammanpila soon
followed suit while Champika Ranawaka was sacked this month by the
Supreme Sangha Council.
Omalpe Sobitha attributes all this to the fact the JHU is still
"politically immature." But a more telling statement made
by Ven. Omalpe Sobitha alleging that Christian fundamental religious
groups are part of the cause for the conflict within the JHU lends a
more sinister connotation to the fact that both the JSS and SU
recently engaged in a vicious anti-Christian campaign.
JHU thereafter spearheaded a ban on missionaries and what they
termed to be unethical conversions. By this time more than a 100
churches had been torched or destroyed by thugs. Several police
complaints accused Buddhist monks of being directly responsible.
That is not to say any of the JHU monks were involved or instigated
to a negotiated settlement
even more serious is the JHU's opposition to a negotiated settlement
with the LTTE. Bitterly resentful of Norwegian facilitators, the JHU
has repeatedly accused the facilitators of being LTTE stooges and
consistently called for a strengthening of the military.
the eve of his election into parliament, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka told
the media, "We do not see our campaign as contesting elections
but as a measure to safeguard the Buddha Sasana and to prevent the
country from falling into enemy hands."
a 12-point programme the JHU declares that "the Sri Lankan
state should be built, as in the past, according to Buddhist
principles." Moreover the "national right of the Sinhala
nation" is asserted above others on the basis that
"national ownership of a country lies with the people who
habitated it and built its civilisation and its culture."
out of this melee, another important factor emerged. And that is
that the birth of the JHU effectively split the Buddhist hierarchy.
prelates and sections of the media have strongly objected to the
monks being directly involved in politics. A recent editorial
comment observed, "The kings of Lanka would constantly seek the
advice of the monks in order that they guide the destinies of their
people righteously: And that is the way it ought to be today.
Nowhere is it said that a monk should be the king himself."
that mildly is putting it in a nutshell.
mewata waga kiyanne?
Bandaranaike, Wimal Weerawansa and Varuni Amunugama
months into office, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her alliance
government including the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna are still owing
state media institutions over Rs. 22 million in dues having failed
to pay for television and newspaper advertisements carried in the
run-up to the April 2 general election.
UPFA owe The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) a sum of
Rs. 10,819,049.30/-, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation
Rs. 9,083,295.29, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Rs.
1,269,600, ITN Rs. 904,006.25 and Lakhanda Radio Rs. 126,500.
sent to the advertising agency requesting a settlemetn
monies are outstanding despite guidelines which dictate that any
political advertisements in the run-up to an election must be paid
for upfront and that no political party will be allowed credit.
institutions do not accept political advertisements unless payment
is made upfront but with the state media being under the control of
the UPFA in the run up to the 2004 general election, the party has
literally gone to town, ironically pushing their slogan, "kawda
mewata waga kiyanne?"
Advertising Pvt Ltd., and its sister company Adpack Productions (Pvt)
Ltd., handled the advertising campaign for the United People's
Managing Director, Triad, Varuni Amunugama, daughter of Finance
Minister, Sarath Amunugama, said that they have made repeated
requests to the government urging them to meet these costs but to no
avail. "We have
spoken with everyone concerned," she said, when asked if she
had discussed the matter with Presidential Advisor, Mano Tittawela.
Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, M.M. Zuhair, on the other hand
claimed he knew nothing about this.
"I am not personally aware - if this has come up for
recovery then you will have to speak with the Finance
Department," he said. Zuhair denied Mano Tittawela had
discussed the matter with him and asked him to keep it under wraps.
reliably learn that Tittawela had indeed discussed the matter both
with Zuhair and Varuni Amunugama.
the Chairman of the SLRC remains unaware that a sum exceeding Rs. 9
million is owing to the corporation only confirms the sorry state
this state arm of the media is in under his stewardship.
May 28 this year, the accounts officer of the marketing division at
SLRC wrote to the media manager at Adpack Production drawing
attention to the outstanding balance of Rs. 9.8 million.
According to the letter, the monies are due for television
advertisements carried for Tourism and Investment Promotion Minister
Anura Bandaranaike and the JVP.
reminder dated October 15, 2004 this time from the finance manager
at SLRC details the outstanding amounts stating that the letter is
to be forwarded to the government audit branch.
Amunugama said Adpack handled the media campaign for the United
Alliance in the weeks preceding April 2, 2004.
She reiterated there is no hard and fast rule that insists on
payment upfront for political advertisements but said credit is
given in certain cases if the advertising agency lends an assurance.
we are an agency with a credible reputation we gave these media
institutions our assurance that the payments would be met.
What has happened now however is certainly not pleasant and
our credibility is seriously at stake."
Amunugama added that if a push comes to shove, she is prepared to
even raise a bank loan and meet the bills as she will not risk
professional suicide as far as her agency is concerned.
"We definitely do not want to be known as an advertising
agency that has no credibility and integrity," she said.
the UPFA was using the state media as its private property and
depriving them of their legitimate dues is also underscored by the
fact that all payments due to the private media organisations were
settled in time.
Managing Director, Triad, Dilith Jayaweera confirmed to The Sunday
Leader that the private sector
bills for the ad campaign were paid on time.
media campaign carried out by Triad and Adpack on behalf of the
alliance was done in three stages. The first stage was titled: "Kawda mewata waga kiyanne?"
(Who is going to be held accountable for these?) The second,
"Than athi - karunakara yanna" (Now enough - please go)
and the final, a song with the theme: "A new beginning - a
change of government." Interestingly, in the backdrop of the
UPFA, JVP and Bandaranaike refusing to meet these bills, the Finance
Ministry however found the time and funds to fork out a whopping Rs.
8.6 million to purchase two brand new super luxury Nissan X-Trails
for Treasury Secretary, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara and Mano Tittawela.
two vehicles were purchased last month from AMW
at a cost of Rs. 4.3 million each. Dr. Jayasundara
chose the last available black Nissan X-trail which had been
reserved by another customer but given to Jayasundara, while Mano
Tittewela chose a beige.
two vehicles come complete with leather interiors, power seats,
climate control and are fully automatic.
vehicles were purchased just weeks before the government slammed a
duty on all imported vehicles.
Chandrika Kumaratunga arbitrarily took control of three key
ministries including media last November, claiming the UNF was
misusing the state media institutions. Now we know the reason why.
Eleven months later, the President and her alliance government have
clearly abused financial ethics, robbing state media organisations
of revenue while also placing in jeopardy the reputation of a
leading advertising agency.
this while the government and its erstwhile partner, the JVP cry
foul- finger pointing accusations at opposition parties and daring
to preach principles of accountability and transparency.