The Sunday Leader

On ‘Nightclub Buddhists’: The Disrupted Vigil

The Bodu Bala Sena said the people at the vigil should be arrested for distorting the national anthem

It all started with a Facebook group titled ‘Buddhists Questioning Bodu Bala Sena’. A tense situation developed last Friday (19) as members of this group gathered in front of the Buddhist Cultural Centre on Sambuddatva Jayanthi Mawatha. The people planned to hold a candlelight vigil in front of the building at 7 p.m. During the vigil, the gathering planned to chant stanzas from the Subashithaya, which deal with the concept of ‘Samma Vacha’ (translating as good/beneficial words) and a section of the national anthem.

It was meant to be a peaceful event, but it quickly spiraled into chaos.

Fifteen minutes before the vigil was even scheduled to start, police descended on the crowd and began abruptly detaining the people gathered.

The incident

Roshan and Thilina (names changed to protect privacy) both attended the vigil. According to them, police arrived on the scene even before the event was scheduled to start, and told the people gathered there that they could not light candles in front of the Centre (which also happens to be where the Bodu Bala Sena headquarters are located). Some Bodu Bala Sena members, including monks, came out of the building. Around this time, police abruptly detained two of the crowd for questioning.

The police then pushed the crowd back towards Perera and Sons on Havelock Road, Roshan and Thilina said.

A policeman on the scene then said the IGP had given the order to arrest everyone if they did not disperse. There were two police vehicles on the scene – and those attending noticed that the policemen were equipped with tear gas canisters.
At the same time, one of the people attending began to explain what the purpose of the vigil was to the media assembled, and the police began threatening to arrest him as the leader of the group.

“The police were very keen to find out who the leader of the group was, and repeatedly asked the leaders to come forward,” one of the people said. The crowd said there was no ‘leader’ and that they had gathered solely based on information from the Facebook page, as they did not want one or two people to become scapegoats. “Arrest all of us,” they said.

By this time, there was a crowd of around 150 people, far too many for the police vehicles, so it was proposed that the crowd walk to the Bambalapitiya police station. At Gower Street the procession stopped as the crowd refused to walk through dark by-lanes, saying they wanted to travel to the police station on the main road. The policemen began recording statements from the crowd, some of whom began to light their candles again.

At around this time around 30 Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) supporters, including Executive Committee member Dilanthe Withanage, arrived on the scene, eye-witnesses said.

Withanage began to abuse the crowd accusing them of being, ‘NGO kaarayas’ and ‘kotiyas,’ the vigil attendees said. The BBS supporters had further said the people gathered were ‘nightclub Buddhists’ as they were not wearing white and many did not have the ‘pirith thread’ on their wrists, Thilina said, before going on to accuse that many of the gathered were not Buddhists at all, but rather Muslims and Christians. They were also brandishing pieces of paper and saying that the people gathered were trying to change the national anthem, and calling for the police to arrest those gathered.

Meanwhile, the policemen told those gathered that if they did not douse their candles they ‘could not be held responsible’ for any harm that came to them, Thilina said.

The crowd had become agitated, but realizing that Withanage was trying to incite the crowd, they had not responded to the abuse.
Once again the police asked people to disperse, but the vigil attendees began lighting candles, at which point the police began physically assaulting them. One of the witnesses who spoke to The Sunday Leader said his candle was knocked out of his hand by the police officer who was recording statements. The officer then stomped on the candle, jabbed him in the stomach and threatened to break his hand if he did not stop. The crowd walked to Vajira Road and eventually dispersed.

In all, five people were picked up by Bambalapitiya Police, and taken to a couple of police stations. However several lawyers arrived to plead their case and they were all subsequently released. Police spokesman Buddhika Siriwardena in the immediate aftermath said that no one had been detained or arrested despite several witnesses saying they had seen five people being taken away before their eyes.
The ‘Buddhists Questioning Bodu Bala Sena’ Facebook page posted a statement shortly before 7 p.m. explaining that the vigil was not an anti-Bodu Bala Sena rally but only a peaceful vigil, adding that they had informed the Cinnamon Gardens police station beforehand and had received their support.

The Bodu Bala Sena’s Response

Executive Committee member Dilanthe Withanage said the Bodu Bala Sena had known about the vigil one day in advance. They had been planning a pirith ceremony at 6.30 p.m. but postponed it for fear of clashes, Withanage said.

The Bodu Bala Sena had also closed their office early at 4.30 p.m. in readiness for the vigil, he said. “The first thing these people should have done is written to us and come and met us… the first step should have been dialogue,” Withanage said.

Withanage further added that the vigil organizers had done something illegal as they had distorted the national anthem by only singing a part of it. He added that he had requested the policemen to arrest the vigil attendees as soon as they gathered as they were violating the Constitution.

In the aftermath of the incident, Withanage circulated a text to the media with a disturbing allegation. “Arrest fake Buddhists (who supported LTTE) who distort national anthem of Sri Lanka,” the text message read. Upon being asked what evidence the Bodu Bala Sena had that the people who attended the vigil were LTTE supporters, Withanage said that he was quoting an article published on the Colombo Telegraph website.
Several people wearing Bodu Bala Sena T-shirts took photographs of the people lighting candles, which were later circulated on Facebook. Withanage denied that the photographers were from the organization, saying that anybody could purchase a Bodu Bala Sena T- shirt. “It’s like purchasing an Adidas T-shirt,” he explained.

 

Vigil attendees’ photos circulated

Whoever the photographers were, pictures of the people attending the vigil soon spread to several Facebook pages, with unknown culprits revealing the identities of several of the protestors and even lifting photographs from their personal profiles. Many posted profane comments under these pictures, some even threatening to rape the women there or claiming that they were prostitutes. Others had labelled the attendees as not being Buddhist and then castigated them for attending. Even journalists covering the event were not spared; following the incident several news sites and journalists’ Twitter accounts were labeled as ‘Traitors’. One of the Facebook pages sharing these photos bore the Bodu Bala Sena name and logo, though it was not the Bodu Bala Sena’s official website – the site was later removed from Facebook.

Videographer Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai’s picture was circulated as well, although she was only covering the event in her capacity as a journalist. Kanagasabapathipillai said she was caught between the crowd and the police, and had been taking pictures. Tensions had been high and as she was one of the few women taking pictures she said it was possible the photographers mistook her for an organiser as well. Several people were videoing and photographing the attendees, including a man who was attempting to incite the police to arrest the crowd, although the crowd was remaining mostly silent.

Meanwhile, at least one of the victims said they would be submitting a report to the Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) following the incident.
Upon being asked if it was the Bodu Bala Sena who had circulated the pictures, Withanage said, “Officially, no.” The group was only responsible for the website ‘bbs.org’ he reiterated. He added that he had had several issues with people misusing the Bodu Bala Sena logo in the past, and that he had an inkling of the identity of these people. “I can guess that they belong to some of these other Sinhalese groups,’ Withanage said. ‘We completely disagree with circulating someone’s photos without their permission,’ Withanage said. He added that he himself had received threats following the incident with anonymous calls threatening to ‘destroy’ him. ‘We don’t do any harm although of course we will always fight against extremism,’ Withanage said.

Withanage on Norway funding issue

On April 7, the website Asian Tribune interviewed Executive Committee member Dilanthe Withanage and alleged that the Bodu Bala Sena had received funding from Norway. Below is an excerpt of the interview:
Asian Tribune: There are some other things I have to ask you. It is about Mr. Arne Fjortoft. Also about the TV debate you had some time ago with Mr. Azath Salley in the Max TV. I think if I remember correctly, he asked you at the course of the discussion, whether Bodu Bala Sena is receiving funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo and also about the visit of the Norwegian Ambassador Ms. Grete Løchen along with Mr. Arne Fjortoft to the office of the Bodu Bala Sena, at Sri Sambuddathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya, located at Thunmulla Junction, Colombo and about five of your Buddhist monks visiting Norway.

I was told that during that debate you haven’t responded to those questions.

Mr. Dilantha Withanage: No I have replied to those issues he raised.
Asian Tribune: What did you say? Who are those five Buddhist Monks who visited Norway?
Mr. Dilantha Withanage: I can tell you. I think that was in 2010 … I think.
Asian Tribune: No, I think that was in October 2011.

Mr. Dilantha Withanage: I must check my passport, I can’t remember. May be on October 2011, but not happened in 2012. I know for sure, because after we visited Norway only we launched our Bodu Bala Sena on 07 May 2012.
Asian Tribune: You also went in that delegation to Norway.
Mr. Dilantha Withanage: Yes. I can give the names of those who were in our delegation that visited Norway. They are-

1. Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thero (Presently General Secretary of Bodu Bala Sena)
2. Ven. Witharandeniye Nanda Thero (He is now the national organizer of Bodu Bala Sena)
3. Ven. Aluthwewa Ananda Thero
4. Ven. Dapane Sumanawansa Thero
5. Ven. Welimada Shantha Thero
6. Mr. Pujitha Wijesinghe and
7. Mr. Mark Antony Perera

If you say that Bodu Bala Sena members went in a delegation to visit Norway, then it will be wrong. At that time there was no organization as such. They represented different organizations.

Asian Tribune: So these were the eight people including you who visited Norway in 2011. What were you doing in Norway?
Mr. Dilantha Withanage: In fact we were invited by one of the organization in Norway. In fact I have forgotten the name of the organization. Actually we visited Norway and had discussion with some of the Tamil friends there. I don’t know whether friends we met in Norway represented actually the section of the vociferous Tamil diaspora? Some of them we met, I learnt were supporters of the LTTE. You can say they are just a very small section of the Tamil diaspora. Then we visited some social organizations including a couple of Elders Home and we visited the Norwegian Parliament. We had meeting also with former Minister Erick Solheim. We also had meetings with some Norwegian Parliamentarians. Also we visited houses of some of the Tamil friends.

Withanage in response to questions from The Sunday Leader said that he had in fact answered the allegations in an interview with former Deputy Mayor of Colombo, Azath Salley on Max TV. He confirmed that a delegation had visited Norway but said that the group had received no funding during the visit, adding that the Bodu Bala Sena had not been in existence at the time of the visit.

43 Comments for “On ‘Nightclub Buddhists’: The Disrupted Vigil”

  1. Sam

    BBS seem to be like a lynch mob. No proper Sinhala Budhist would be a part of this group. Why don’t the authorities take action against the BBS for inviting religious hatred?

    • kalu

      Sam, These guys are thirst for blood. Who are behind these mops?. How we dealt with LTTE now we can not handle these mops?, I fear for the island. Bad name for Budhist

    • Ranasingha

      Who are the “proper Sinhala Budhist” s ?. Are you one ? I am Sinhala and practice Dhamma and I am a supporter of BBS. I support them because (1) They are there to safeguard our rights that govt after govt failed to do. Sri Lanka is a ‘Bhuddist’ country with freedom for people to beleive or worship other religions and we want to keep it that way. SL cannot be a Muslim country or a Christendom and we dont want their cultures to influence the Bhuddist culture of Sri Lanka.

  2. Surprise

    Is there such thing called “Night Club” Buddhist ?

    Sound More like “Issa telling mama suddah”

    • Triad

      Bodu Bala Sena is a wonderful concept. The journey has just begun to rescue the country of Singhalese from the clutches of dubious politicians in Sri Lanka. As a Buddhist living in a foreign country, I can definitely see the value of this organization. Those who attempt to scuttle the noble activities of BBS are very clearly identified as the “Buddhist frequenting Night Clubs and engaged in every associated vice activity that we can think of”. Simply we must question these fellows “what sacrifices did they make when LTTE and other Non Buddhists were engaged in Destroying the Nation of Singhalese before 2009” Most likely they were having “Tamashas”. BBS; a silent majority understands your noble activities and they support you 100%.

    • Anthony Fernando

      yes, one of the vociferous leader monks of the BBS was caught for drunk driving. Probably after a night club visit!!!

  3. Kapila

    How can you call these guys Buddhist Priests?

    • sandman

      So NORWAY the enemy of the Lankan people for having so staunchly supported the LTTE cause, is now the “dearest” friend of the BBS including the much hated Eric Solheim. This tells you something does’nt it Dilantha ?

      • Iresha

        And then they call themselves “Patriotic”. Connect the dots and understand who are the real Kotiyas? BBS = Norway interest…..

    • Triad

      Very simple; because non Buddhist like you cannot recognize a Buddhist monk.

    • Anthony Fernando

      There are beasts!!

  4. jehan

    now we know who is funding these trators

  5. singingfisher

    BBS is mere thugs only & nothing else

    • Triad

      Look who is talking now. Always truth hurts but do not use abusive language.

    • sandman

      Of course they are, their Secretary/Spokesperson’s Police track record is very interesting and also the YouTube video of his “fish market” language words to the Police is a case in point. These are the leaders that the BBS types look towards to. But then they are the favorites of the Maha Raja and his family, so they would seem to be invincible for the time being.But time will tell how much their liability is going to be.

    • faz

      I am humbled by our new generation who hates this racist.
      Never let them bread, they are cancerous cells.
      Good sign for New beginning for all Srilankan.
      Lets built our new Srilanka with just tolerant peaceful society.

      • Triad

        It will be difficult to build an artificial nation. But it will be easier to build a robust, developed economy and hence the nation based on noble capacity, knowledge and heritage of “SINGHELA” people. If you need any proof just visit our CITIES and Hamlets depicting our heritage but destroyed by those who came to our country with the intention of building ” NEW SRI LANKA”.

    • Singingfisher: you are right.They are not only thugs but seem to like the taste of humanflesh and blood

      • Peace

        Dear Sandman you have seen the U-Tube Video, That’s the BBS Slogun & the followers too must be the same kind of people. Why we should call them as Bhuddist Munks they are Baberians.
        Dear Ranasinghe if BBS is respecting freedom for people to beleive or worship other religions thats why they are destroying Cristian Churches and Muslim Religius places. and who is funding to BBS to buld up Seven storage Building by Billions? Witch Western Country or American Citizen?

  6. Saint

    at least that monk protesting in the picture has taken the time to shave off his bush from under his arm pits LOL……. mockery, hypocrisy, and whatever not at its best in Lanka…. go go lanka!.

  7. Uditha

    Mr. DW….Pants on fire……

  8. Hell is very near to Sri Lanka. Avoide this country.

  9. Shaik Anwar Ahamath

    If the government cannot ban groups like the Bodu Bala Sena they should at least make it illegal for the BBS to discriminate on who was allowed to join. A like minded group in the West (The National Front) was compelled to allow all comers to join them and soon the club disintegrated to oblivion.

  10. Dr M L Najimudeen

    The police will disrput a peaceful candle light vigl occasion but will not do anything to stop a prcessaion carrying the pig and the name of Allah. Over to you Defence secretary

  11. Dr M L Najimudeen

    The police will disrupt a peaceful candle lit vigil march but will not do anything to stop a procession with Allah’s name on the pig shouting very indecent slogants. The police will not take any action.

  12. kudson

    the buddhist version of KKK

  13. Malcolm X

    Suspicions gradually been confirmed…Sure there is more than what the eye can see for now,only time will tell who the real handlers are of these puppets.

  14. Vimal Carlos

    Its seams that anyone that is light skinned sinhalese in Colombo now are suspected to be muslim. But these colorfull buddist thugs are happy to get married to light skin woman , but abusing and calling light skinned sinhalese for half forigners, and traitors, and muslims is OK today.

  15. Lari

    Dilatha is not fool to day he met Erich sohim and met many other tamil friends .This another big consiperacy, they were asked say like this so that people will not suspect the people who behind the game.

  16. mohamed

    this is a country like China, in the face of it all seems ok. but everything is government controlled. in china religion is what the govt allows. everyone else is branded a traitor. so BBS is the new Sri Lankan Budism. all of those who hailed the govt when they wiped out innocent people as terrorists – - well now its time for you to taste the medicine.

    anyone who opposes any form of govt endorsed idea will feel the full wrath of them.

  17. Dilan

    IM PROUD TO SAY A BUDDHIST ..BUT THE WAY B.B.S ACTING AROUND THE COUNTRY CANOT ACEPTED,,CAZ AROUND THE WORLD HAVE SOME BAD IMAGE ABOUT OUR COUNTRY NOW AND ALWAYS SOME COUNTRYES LOOKING FOR US TO DO SOMETHING AGAINST..PLEASE STOP AND DONT HELP FOR THEM THEY DISTROYING BUDDISAM IMAGE AROUND THE WORLD..IF WE HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WE HAVE TO USE OUR MIND AND BRAIN TO SOLD OUT THE PROBLEM..WITH OUT SHOWING FOR THE WORLD..ALSO THINK WE ARE BUDDHIST WE LIKE NON VIOLATION AND PEACE……..DO..BUT COOL

  18. Herbert Siri Perera

    They are a disgrace to Buddhism and disgrace to Sri Lanka.

  19. SHM

    Yes, BBS chief is in a night club in Les Vegas- USA now! He is enjoying life in the US!

  20. BBS members should be catogorised as Buddhist religious terrorists. The GOSL is behind BBS and no one can expect them to ban BBS.

    The IC should name BBS at Buddhist religious terrorists and ban the BBS members from entering their countries.

  21. Balurala

    This is how Taliban started.

  22. Naman

    We need a Buddhist Council similar to Medical Council for doctors to regulate the ones who are wearing the ROBES. The Buddhist Council should be legally empowered to take action against errant Bhikkus.

  23. Diego Garcia

    Budu Bala Sena is created to unite tamils and Sinhalese as ONE people ONE nation. Its supported by the WEST, and INDIA. Against Islam and muslims and Christians. It will make them the new enemy of the lanka nation . Its have for long time allready been working to take away the sinhalese catolics in high positions in the army, and they who wants to stay in ..needs to convert to buddism. Also with the Buddist monks have discriminated Kuarava monks (Coastal sinhalese cast) Usually in the army and fishermens.

  24. BBS the next generation of Sinhala Eelamists heading for southern Nanthikandal Lunugamvehera lagoon.

  25. Sean

    WOW ! another bunch of refugees off to…. where ??? ahh NORWAY and for a second I thought it might be to AUSTRALIA;

    1.Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thero (Presently General Secretary of Bodu Bala Sena)
    2.Ven. Witharandeniye Nanda Thero (He is now the national organizer of Bodu Bala Sena)
    3. Ven. Aluthwewa Ananda Thero
    4. Ven. Dapane Sumanawansa Thero
    5. Ven. Welimada Shantha Thero

    WHAT A LOAD OF BULL !!!!!!!

  26. Sean

    Check out the monk in the photo;

    ” hey wait for me !! ” its my turn to leave to NORWAY

  27. Jaya

    ‘Buddhists Questioning Bodu Bala Sena’ – WOW! Really? If this group is really interested in the best interest of Sri Lanka, why is it that they have not also gone and protested outside Bishop Rayappu Joseph’s Catholic church in Mannar – as this so called “man of God” is today once again promoting the same LTTE racist-separatist “We-Tamil” agenda that he promoted when LTTE was carrying out mass murder and mayhem in the country?

  28. alex pandiyan

    modaya with shaved head and nothing in the head

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