The Sunday Leader

Rajitha Locks Horns With Gnanasara Thera

Senaratne alleges that Gnanasara Thera disrobed himself at a temple in his village and re-entered the Bhikku community on his own, after coming to Colombo

Galagodaaththe Gnanasara, D.M. Jayaratna, Wimal Weerawansa and Karu Jayasuriya

Minister Rajitha Senaratne a few days ago sought legal advice to sue Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera over the slanderous statements the latter made against him while addressing a press conference in Colombo.

The Minister made this remark while responding to allegations made by the BBS General Secretary who dubbed Senaratne as an anti-Sinhala politician. Gnanasara Thera also added that certain politicians were transporting “kerala ganja” in their BMW vehicles.

The Minister, speaking to media a day after the allegations were made, said Gnanasara Thera should substantiate his allegations with concrete allegations before court. He said he would take legal action against Gnanasara Thera so that the Buddhist monk can prove the veracity of his claims.

Minister Senaratne flatly denied allegations against him saying he was never involved in any such scandal. Senaratne also alleged that Gnanasara Thera disrobed himself at a temple in his village and re-entered the Bhikku community on his own, after coming to Colombo – a statement the BBS General Secretary categorically denied.

Meanwhile, BBS General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera said he would also sue Minister Senaratna for his certain conducts as a minister of the UPFA government. The BBS General Secretary added he had informed law enforcement authorities of the country of the alleged malpractices committed by Minister Seneratna while being a minister in the present government.  It was clear that the both parties were quite serious about their allegations against each other and hell-bent on taking the matter before the country’s judiciary.

Minister Rajitha Senaratne, who started his political career as a Leftist political activist, has been a strong critique of the Bodu Bala Sena and other hardcore Sinhala-Buddhist organisations since their inception.  The BBS, in response, has accused Senaratna of working against the interests of the Sinhala-Buddhist community and being sympathetic towards separatist elements.

While this battle was on going, BBS General Secretary met with Tibbutuwawe Sumangala Thera, Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter on Friday to discuss certain issues faced by the Sinhala-Buddhist community of the country. This was the second time the BBS representatives, led by its General Secretary and held official discussions with the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte chapter.


BBS meeting with Mahanayakes

During his meeting with the Mahanayake Thera, BBS General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera questioned whether the ministers who were attacking the BBS monks had the blessings of the President. It was clear that his criticism was directed at Minister Rajitha Senaratne who is known to be a strong critique of the hardcore Buddhist organisation. At the same time, the BBS representatives had pointed out that there were several ministers in the present government who were acting against the interests of Sinhala-Buddhists.

It is reported that the Chief Prelates have advised the Bodu Bala Sena to avoid conflicts with Ministers as it would reflect badly on the Bikkhu community of the country. They have also asked the BBS monks to resolve issues amicably through discussion.

The BBS representatives had also handed over a book to the Mahanayake Thera – that explains the grievances faced by the Sinhala-Buddhist community.

Gnanasara Thera also made another revelation to the Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter that the BBS was planning to conduct a Bhikku convention in September, with the participation of thousands of Buddhist monks from every part of the country. This convention, will determine the way forward of the organisation – especially ahead of the forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The hardcore organisation, which claims to be a powerful political entity, has already stated that the country does not need a common candidate. Instead Gnanasara Thera said, “the country needs a national leadership that appears on behalf of the best interests of the majority. We are the king-makers of this country and we will show that in the near future.”

Speaking to media after the meeting, Gnanasara Thera said the Mahanayake Thera gave his blessings to the activities of the Bodu Bala Sena. Previously he said that he was ready to dissolve his entire organisation at the sole discretion of the Mahanayake Theras.


How did Ravana become an idol for a Buddhist organisation?

Meanwhile, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratna too found himself in the middle of a controversy last week – thanks to the Ravana Balaya organisation, headed by Iththakande Saddhathissa Thera. Ravana Balaya organisation requested the Maha Nayakas of Malwatha and Asgiriya Chapters of the Siyam Nikaya to exert pressure on the government to remove the Buddha Sasana Ministry from Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne’s portfolio. They charged that the Prime Minister Jayaratne was not capable of discharging his duties as the Minister of Buddha Sasana.

In response, Prime Minister D M Jayaratne slammed the Ravana Balaya Buddhist organisation by asking “How Ravana could be an idol for a Buddhist organisation?” He also added that such organisations are contravening the core-values of Buddhism.

The Prime Minister on Wednesday made these remarks addressing a full-scale press conference held in Colombo- which was aimed at responding to the allegations leveled against him by the Ravana Balaya organisation.

The Prime Minister carried out a scathing attack on the organisation questioning the values of the Ravana character. “While he might have been a great man who achieved many feats, he was also an abductor of a woman, which is against Buddhist ideals”, the Prime Minister said.

Commenting on allegations raised by Ravana Balaya, Jayaratne also told reporters that he was capable of discharging the duties as the Minister of Buddha Sasana. While admitting that he had some hearing imparities the Prime Minister said his eyesight was almost perfect.  The Prime Minister said that he had done unprecedented service to the Buddha Sasana during his tenure as the Minister and that there have been many development projects of temples and other institutions of Buddhism during his time in the Ministry.

However, he was not hesitant to add another caveat.

“I know positions and ministries are temporary. I am ready to let go of anything at any moment. I don’t know when I will have to take off the suit of the Prime Minister. Sometimes, when I wake up tomorrow morning, I may not possess the Prime Minister’s suit.”


SLFP accepts Weerawansa’s proposals

Just a few days before the final day of nominations, the UPFA managed to iron out differences with its constituent party, the National Freedom Front. After the NFF announced that it would contest separately for the Uva Provincial Council elections, the SLFP, the main stakeholder of the UPFA said it had decided to accept the 12 proposals presented to the government by Minister Wimal Weerawansa. Weerawansa previously said the NFF’s support to the government would rely on the government’s response to the 12 proposals.

As political sources said, the SLFP, in a document signed by its General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Youth Affairs Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, had agreed to accept the proposals presented by the National Freedom Front. The proposals, which were endorsed by the National Convention of the party, were handed over to the President, just weeks after the adoption of the controversial Strategic Development Act.

In its proposals, the NFF had asked the government to place a new draft constitution before the people ensuring the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, national reconciliation, good governance, and widening of the democratic rights of the citizenry. At the same time, the party strongly condemned the US-sponsored UN resolution on Sri Lanka adopted at the UNHRC session and demanded the Government must not to allow any international agents to enter Sri Lanka to investigate into alleged war crimes during the final phase of war. The NFF also proposed that the law of the land should be strictly implemented irrespective of political affiliations and the death penalty should be implemented for drug related offences.

However, no time frame has been given by the ruling party to implement the proposals of the National Freedom Front.

However, the media spokesman of the National Freedom Front has already stated that it has decided to support the election campaign of the government. Therefore, the party would not contest separately for the election. As a result of this new understanding, Weerawansa will most probably be a key speaker at electoral meetings of the United People’s Freedom Alliance, which are organised to support its Chief Ministerial Candidate Shasheendra Rajapaksa.

As a goodwill gesture, the UPFA had also decided to desist from granting nomination to the NFF Provincial Councilor who joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party just months before the election. Moneragala District leader of the NFF, Pathma Udaya Shantha Gunasekera, earlier said he would not contest under the UPFA ticket if the ruling party granted nomination to the party member who has crossed over. The decision made by the SLFP has apparently cooled down the sentiments of the National Freedom Front.

Ending months of speculation, UNP Badulla District Parliamentarian Harin Fernando resigned from Parliament to contest the Uva Provincial Council election as the party’s Chief Ministerial Candidate.

Harin Fernando’s decision to resign from Parliament and contest the Provincial Council election strongly resembled the move by the late Amarasiri Dodangoda in 1993, who stepped down from his Parliamentary seat and contested the Southern Provincial Council election as the SLFP’s Chief Ministerial candidate. It was the first salvo against the 17 year long UNP rule and Dodangoda managed to become the Chief Minister of the Southern Province despite severe pressure mounted by the then UNP government.

It is still too early to say whether Harin Fernando would be another Amarasiri Dodangoda.

However, Fernando’s last day in Parliament was marked with mixed emotions. While the UNP Parliamentarians were excited about Fernando’s decision, they were also worried about his absence in Parliament as Fernando was known as a fire-brand MP of the opposition. Over the past few years, Fernando’s scathing attacks against the government in Parliament undoubtedly boosted the spirits of the UNP rank and file. Therefore, many were of the view that Fernando’s absence in Parliament would be a setback for the party.

Fernando made an emotional speech in Parliament explaining the circumstances which led to his resignation. He added that he was making such a sacrifice on behalf of his party and his supporters. Fernando also expressed confidence that he would be able to form a UNP administration at the Uva Provincial Council with the outcome of the election.

The government MPs too were somewhat sad about Fernando’s exit despite rivalry between the two parties. Several Parliamentarians of the government posed for selfies with Fernando on his last day. Some of them even went on to advice Fernando saying that he was jumping into a political trap as he was competing with a formidable opponent such as Sasheendra Rajapaksa. Fernando scoffed at such remarks saying he was confident about victory.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party last week appointed a high profile committee to overlook its election propaganda campaign. The committee is headed by UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya who will oversee overall activities of the committee. It was reported that former UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa was the one who proposed the name of Jayasuriya to be the head of this committee.

When resigning from Parliament, Fernando put forward one condition before the party saying every stalwart of the party, regardless of their internal differences, should be united to ensure his victory. Premadasa’s move to propose Jayasuriya’s names, one would say, a good sign where Fernando’s election contest is concerned.

The committee will be responsible for the election propaganda campaign of the party and will make necessary decisions on behalf of the United National Party during the Uva Provincial Council elections.

‘Abolish poverty from Uva’ will be the UNP’s campaign slogan for the Uva election and the propaganda activities for the Badulla District will commence from August 16 under the auspices of UNP National Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.


Nadeesha Hemamali back in town

Meanwhile, resembling a political trend that strongly gained ground during the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections, actress Nadeesha Hememali too joined the election campaign of Fernando last week. Hemamalee too contested the Southern Provincial Council under the UNP ticket but failed to secure a seat. Although she did not succeed in politics, the actress decided to extend his support to Fernando who was instrumental in introducing her to the United National Party.

2 Comments for “Rajitha Locks Horns With Gnanasara Thera”

  1. Sylvia Haik

    In most countries, Buddhist monks live in abject poverty. Only in Sri Lanka they are assumed to be in possession of sufficient wealth and be sued for damages and able to procure the paraphernalia required to mobilise a crowd from elsewhere and enter Aluthgama for a demonstration and a rally with unfortunate consequences.

  2. Lima


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