The Sunday Leader

War Heroes And Bhikkus Are NOT Above The Law

A Buddhist monk, who was observing proceedings of a case last week at the Homagama Magistrate’s court, in a spontaneous outburst not only challenged the decisions made by the magistrate but also shouted out condemning the law of the land and said it will not be tolerated.

Reports quoted Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thero saying: “Cruel officials of the present government are remanding war heroes who saved the country by crushing the Tigers….. This is white man’s law. Give me any punishment. I am ready to accept it. We can’t tolerate this practice and that’s why we are here today”.

This kind of outburst has been very rare in the long history of Sri Lanka’s judiciary. Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake explained to the monk that he had to act in accordance with the law and said that he had listened to the monk for a long time because he was a Bhikku and also for his respect for the robe (of monks). Mr. Dissanayake ordered the arrest of the monk on charges of contempt of court, obstructing the court and insulting public officials.

The scenes that followed outside the court premises following the order of the arrest of the monk where ‘men clad in saffron robes of Buddhist monks’ figured in rowdy scenes jostling and pushing policemen of the riot squad and STF personnel while shouting obscenities were a disgrace to Sri Lanka and Buddhists of this country. Were these self-declared saviours of Buddhism and the Sinhala race attempting to bring glory to their country and faith by this extremely uncouth and vulgar demonstration? If so their fanaticism had completely obliterated their powers of reasoning.

The restrained conduct of the police during this severe provocation prevented what would have been an even greater disgrace.

A Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) spokesman had said that these demonstrators were not of the BBS and supporters of Ven. Gnanasara Thero, but were Siri Kotha Buddhists of Ranil Wickremesinghe. This allegation reveals complete political dementia and also possible hidden political objectives behind this court drama.

It does appear that Ven. Gnanasara Thero does not accept a fundamental precept in the rule of law: The equality of all people in the eyes of the law.

He seems to contend that ‘war heroes’ are more equal than others and cannot be prosecuted even for alleged offences after the war or the civil conflict ended.

We are not referring to the case of the six army personnel before the Homagama Magistrate’s court but if a general principle is extended to all service personnel who were deployed against LTTE terrorists, there are probably a hundred thousand to two hundred thousand who would fall into this category of ‘war heroes’, quite a lot of them being deserters and many convicted for criminal offences in the period after the war ended. Are they to be granted immunity from prosecution to any offence? Probably the venerable monk had a particular type of ‘war heroes’ in mind like his fellow travellers in racism and religious bigotry.

Certainly there are very honourable and decent men and women who served in the armed forces during the long conflict who deserve the respect of the nation but they are all subject to the rule of equality under the law. There can be no exception.The law is also the same for all religious orders including Buddhist monks. While most Sri Lankans respect clergy of all faiths and their own much more, the courts and other tribunals too accord them respect as clergymen but they are not above the law. Leading monks – Buddhist and Christian – have been convicted of murder.

Buddhist monks, collectively called the Sangha, have been shown utmost respect from the days of Sinhala monarchy when they were considered as advisors to rulers. But even before the advent of foreigners Sinhala kings have disrobed monks for various reasons including the violation of the Vinaya – the code of conduct drawn by the Buddha himself – and is still applicable to monks of the main Buddhist orders. But many monks in recent times seem to be giving low priority to the fundamental objective of taking to robes: Forsaking all worldly pleasures and seeking the supreme bliss of nirvana. Instead they are taking to modern professions particularly politics. A bill – Bhikku Kathikawatha – is now being proposed to set up a code of conduct and discipline Bhikkus who may engage in objectionable practices such as business, trade and employment in public and private sectors other than in fields of education, social services and religious affairs. The government is treading very gingerly on this bill, which they say would be presented to parliament and thereafter left to the Mahanayakes for implementation. Banning Bhikkus from politics of course is quite unlikely to happen in the near future.

But if situations like what happened at the Homagama Courts last week are repeated, such as a monk in the undergarments of a Bhikku scaling a wall and uttering dire threats, it will not be the government but Buddhist laity that would have to enforce discipline on the Sangha.

The bottom line in this trend is that neither ‘war heroes’ nor Bhikkus can be exempted from the law of the land and that all citizens are equal before the law.


4 Comments for “War Heroes And Bhikkus Are NOT Above The Law”

  1. Malin

    Did the law apply equally to Rishad Badurudeen who stoned the Courts and went out scot-free?

  2. Siva Sivasothy

    Your last para,that all citizens are equal before the law but it is not so in your country of Srlanka.You should change it to Sinhala citizens are equal before the law because Tamils and Muslims do not belong to Srilanka.
    If and when the Sinhalese including bhikkus and politician change their attitudes
    Towards minorities then Nation will prosper.

  3. Gobba

    Why didnt these racist even lift a finger when FM Sarath Fonseka was dragged into Prison like a Dog ? Is he also NOT a major player in the destruction of the LTTE ?

    • Gon Ponil

      Yeah – Ponseka was holed up in an airconditioned office inColombo and was fighting the war at every corner with a long range gun with many barrels.

      Get real man- the fighting was done by local commanders- |Ponseka was more interested in his commissions. If not MR and GR – this would stil be going on- It was the same Army , Navy, Air Force that was under CBK and Ponil!

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