|The thug: Gnanasara Thero
Why Gnanasara has to be dealt with by C .A. Chandraprema
If there was anything that the May Day rallies showed, it was that the SLFP led UPFA even after nearly nine years in power is still an unassailable political force. Even if one factors away the natural advantage that any ruling party will have in drawing crowds for rallies, the UPFA’s showing was impressive to say the least.
It’s not just the numbers, but the enthusiasm that counts.
The May Day show indicated that nearly nine years after being first elected to power, the Rajapaksa government is still as vibrant as ever.
Things are looking up on other fronts as well. The free trade agreement with China is well on the way to finalization and this will give Sri Lanka some leeway in resisting possible Western sanctions especially if SL reinvents itself as an economic service centre for China in the Indian Ocean to service the Chinese markets in Africa and the Middle East. Even on the diplomatic front, things are improving. At the time of writing, sources close to the government indicate that the number of Senators supporting the pro-Sri Lanka resolution No: 364 in the US Senate has suddenly jumped to 26 with another group of Senators signing it as co-sponsors.
We also learn that a letter to President Obama is also being signed by some US Senators basically asking him to back off on Sri Lanka. These are diplomatic coups of the kind that even India has not been able to pull off with regard to the American cases against Sonia Gandhi and Devyani Khobragade and the visa ban on Narendra Modi. We are just a speck in the ocean. But had the Indians put their shoulder to the wheel, they may have been able to get a good part of both houses of Congress to rise up in revolt against what the American powers that be were doing to Sonia, Khobragade and Modi. The enemies of this government know that it cannot be destroyed by mounting challenges from outside whether it comes as UNHRC resolutions or economic sanctions. The only way to bring down this government is to destroy it from within, to undermine the very foundations on which it bases itself.
It is in this context that we have been writing about this sudden mad-monk phenomenon that we have been witnessing in the past couple of years. This is a sinister attempt to spread anarchy and ethnic disharmony throughout the country using the saffron robe as a cover and to bring down the government through an incremental loss of control. The other part of the agenda is clearly to bring the saffron robe so much into disrepute among the Buddhist community itself that the whole country will be ‘softened up’ and made ripe for conversion.
The force that has been unleashed on Sri Lanka by the Western powers to achieve this aim is made up of genuine Buddhist monks - an insider conspiracy. Until a certain unexplained trip to Norway three years ago, none of these monks had the capacity to organize anything. Their names were completely unknown to the public. When this writer wanted to know where these monks were during the war, the head of the education and research division of the Bodu Bala Sena wrote to our sister paper, the Divaina, the Saturday before last superciliously saying that Chandraprema is unaware that the Bodu Bala Sena monks went from bunker to bunker distributing ‘pirith pan’ to the soldiers.
Is Govt. behind BBS?
So what have we here – a group of monks scrupulously sticking to monk-like duties while the war was on, but once the terrorists were safely out of the way, they come out of their holes to unleash thuggery on all and sundry and the Muslim community in particular.
One would think that given the Chandiyas that these saffron robed horrors now appear to be, they would have taken off their robes during the war and picked up an assault rifle and gone to defend the border villagers from terrorists with the intention of putting on robes again if they survived the war. Had these monks done something like that during the war, they would have been heroes among the people today. But they did not do any such thing at that time.
Now, years after the war, they go about terrorizing the Muslim community and spreading fear among other ethnic communities. Thereby they have defecated over the achievement of this government in bringing peace to the country. This is the revenge of the Western powers. These attempts at subversion have to be crushed with an iron fist. If the government had a duty to protect the people from terrorism, they have a similar duty to protect Buddhism from both internal as well as external threats. The saffron robed thugs that have arrogated to themselves the role of speaking on behalf of the Sinhala Buddhists are out to destroy Buddhism.
All of us have heard some Sinhala people justifying what these marauding monks have been doing. If one really studies the profile of the people justifying such actions, one would find that the main reason why they justify the actions of these mad-monks is because of the widespread belief that the government itself was sponsoring these groups in order to keep the Muslim politicians on a leash. So some people think that if the government was sponsoring these groups, there must be a good reason for it and they assume that the Muslim politicians are giving the government so much trouble that the govt. needs these groups as a counter-balance. If not for this impression that the government is sponsoring these groups, the latter will have no support among the Sinhala Buddhist public. A particular quirk of Sinhala Buddhist history and ideology is that the protector and upholder of Buddhism throughout history has been not the monkhood but the secular authority.
Even today it is the state and whoever controls it that is tasked with protecting Buddhism. Even when the King was a Tamil Hindu from South India, as during the last phase of the Kandyan Kingdom, he was still tasked with protecting and fostering Buddhism. When state power passed on to the British, that role had to be assumed by the British crown which also heads the Anglican church! Through the Kandyan Convention, the British crown had undertaken the task of protecting the faith of the Buddha. Today, that role is being fulfilled by the president of the country. It is due to this primacy of the secular authority throughout the history of Sinhala Buddhism that there has never been in over two and a half millennia a Buddhist theocracy in this country like in Tibet. Indeed there has never even been even a quasi theocracy in this country as in many European states during the dark ages. Throughout the centuries despite the primacy of Buddhism to the Sinhalese, the Buddhist monkhood never became a power centre to rival the secular authority.
The Mahanayakes’ missive to Ranil
We can see how this primacy of the secular authority operates to this day. In December 2011, just days before that now infamous intra-party election within the UNP to elect a leader, all four Mahanayake theros of the three nikayas, (the two Mahanayakes of the Siyam nikaya and the Mahanayakes of the Ramanna and Amarapura nikayas) all signed a joint letter addressed to Ranil Wickremesinghe asking him to hand over the party leadership to Karu Jayasuriya while remaining the leader of the opposition. One would think that a letter signed by the Mahanayakes of all four nikayas would have a career ending impact on Ranil who was deeply unpopular not only in the country at large but even within his own party. But RW basically tossed this letter in the dustbin and went on to win the contest against Karu and RW is still very much in control of the UNP. Today, nobody in the UNP even remembers that all four Mahanayakes of the three nikayas asked RW to leave the party leadership. That is the level of influence that the Mahanayakes wield in local politics.
Some days ago, we saw the Malwatte Mahanayake thero basically giving the Bodu Bala Sena a blank cheque and telling them to topple the government if they can. One would think that when the first among equals among the four Mahanayakes publicly tells a group of monks to topple the government that the Sinhala Buddhists would respond by withdrawing their support from the government. But just days after the Malwatte Mahanayake’s pronouncement just look at the crowd that turned up for the government’s May Day rally. Does it look as if the Sinhalese Buddhists gave a twit about the Malwatte Mahanayake’s statement? The Bodu Bala Sena, being a conspiratorial organization with a certain political project in mind, knows that the word of the Mahanayake thero counts for nothing. Nobody in this country is going to rise up and overthrow the government even if all four Mahanayakes sign a letter calling on the people to do so. We all saw the impact such a letter had on the UNP.
The Mahanayake theros for their part, should not sign letters of a political nature and become public jokes. They should leave political matters to lower ranking monks and maintain the dignity of their high office. Coming back to the Bodu Bala Sena, they know that what is of more importance to their political project than the word of the Malwatte Mahanayake is the public impression that the government is behind the Bodu Bala Sena. This is what gives them even the very limited public support they have and also the apparent impunity that they have been enjoying. One way in which they convey this impression of being a government sponsored outfit is by not joining other Buddhist or nationalistic organizations in for example opposing the Packer and John Keells casino projects. By remaining conspicuously aloof from such agitation, the Bodu Bala Sena gives the impression of barking only when the government wants them to. The Bodu Bala Sena knows that this casino agitation counts for nothing. They know that even if the government issues licences to set up ten casinos in every district, that would not have a negative political impact on the government.
The people of this country are largely indifferent to casinos which are not frequented by ordinary people anyway. Ordinary village folk frequent village gambling dens, not casinos. If the anti-casino agitation succeeds it will not be because of popular opposition to casinos but because of the ideological outlook of the president himself. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a typically SLFPish personal ideology of never reducing the number of government servants, of never privatizing any enterprise belonging to the state, of not issuing new licences to sell liquor and so on. This anti-casino thing is also a part of this government’s ideological make up. This government incrementally increased the annual licensing fee for casinos and pushed many operators out of business. Fifteen years ago, Joseph Fonseka alone had five casinos in Colombo, today there are only five casinos in the whole country. This reduction did not come about due to any agitation by nationalists – it came about as the result of the government’s own attitude towards these things.
BBS aiming for the jugular
The Bodu Bala Sena knows that this anti-casino agitation is just plain nonsense. Casinos already exist in this country and the Packer and John Keells projects will be using the existing casino licences of their Sri Lankan partners. Furthermore, there is no need for these casinos to be located inside the main buildings that Packer and John Keells will be putting up. The casino can be located somewhere in the vicinity and there can be an underground passage or a short boat ride from the hotel to the casino! Packer need to worry so long as nobody is trying to take away Ravi Wijeratne’s casino licence! So for all these reasons, the anti-casino agitation that the UNP and various nationalist organizations have been carrying out is not an issue which can even shake the government. The aim of the Bodu Bala Sena however is not to oppose casinos, but to destroy the government and the Buddhist dispensation with it. This is why they remain conspicuously absent from the anti-casino agitation so that the impression that they are a government sponsored group will be reinforced and they will be able to carry on their activities with the same impunity as before.
The government should realize that members of the government are busy – each in his own field – and there is very little comparing of notes and assessment of threats coming from unseen quarters. But there are committed conspirators whose full time job is to conspire to overthrow the government. That is the bad news. The good news however is that no government has ever been faced with a conspiracy easier to defeat. There are three organisations that have to be dealt with, the Bodu Bala Sena, the Ravana Balakaya and the Sihala Ravaya. If you really narrow things down, the problem is really the Bodu Bala Sena and mainly its leader Galagodaatte Gnanasara. Now what are the options open to the government? One thing that the govt. can do is to arrest Gnanasara and to charge him in courts. That will put an end the impression of the BBS being able to do anything with impunity. Once the impression that they are a government sponsored outfit is taken away, the BBS will lose even the little public support it has.
But the downside of this strategy of arresting and charging members of the BBS is that this may enable them to transmogrify into an organization that is in confrontation with the government in order to champion the cause of the Sinhalese. One member of the BBS has already written a public letter to the president accusing various ministers of having threatened them. To deal with the Bodu Bala Sena, you have to take a leaf from their own book. How does the BBS operate? Last week, this writer stated that the Bodu Bala Sena has terrorized the entire bhikku community into acquiescence. This is why not a single senior monk dares say anything against the Bodu Bala Sena. The way this was done and the extent to which this has gone was explained to the Maubima newspaper in a videoed interview a couple of months back by a monk by the name of Melewwe Kalyanadhamma who had been ordained in the same temple as Galagodaatte Gnanasara.
What this monk said has to be carefully analysed by the government. Gnanasara had evicted this monk Kalyanadhamma along with 17 novice monks at the behest of another monk and once he was evicted by the Bodu Bala Sena, no other temple was willing to take Melewwe Kusaladhamma and his novice monks in. He had gone to 79 temples and all of them had been worried as to how the Bodu Bala Sena would react if they took in the fugitive monks. This is the situation in the bhikku community today. Unknown to everybody, a campaign of terror has been at work within the sangha. Gnanasara today wields far more power within the community of monks than the influence wielded by lay underworld figures like Sotthi Upali, Beddagane Sanjeeva, Nawala Nihal or Olcott all put together. This monk Melewwe Kusaladhamma had recorded Gnanasara talking to him and what the latter says goes like the following “…. Tho h—-putha, thoge sivura galawala, thoge kan adi palala, thoge hamen mahanawa… ballonta kanna danawa…” This is one Buddhist monk talking to another monk! Now the government has to wonder, why is this kind of underworld activity necessary within the community of monks? Why is it necessary for one bhikku organisation to establish this kind of hegemony over the community of monks through thuggery and intimidation? If the Bodu Bala Sena turns against the government tomorrow, not a single bhikku will be willing to stand up for the government due to the fear of the Bodu Bala Sena – such is the visceral fear that these saffron robed thugs have spreadthroughout the sangha.
Bring out the bull’s pizzles!
The only way to deal with this is to copy the tactics of the Bodu Bala Sena. The BBS has now gone into tactical hibernation. But once they get off Scott free for the offences they committed earlier, they will be back on the streets to terrorize the minorities and convey the impression to the world that the government has lost control. The Bodu Bala Sena once they are out on the streets again should instead of being arrested, be set upon by unknown persons without any warning and flogged mercilessly with bull’s pizzles so that Ganansara is caught on TV cameras running ten times faster than Watareka Wijitha. In fact witnesses on the spot should see only a saffron blur going past them. The TV stations should have to play the footage in ultra slow motion for the public to see that this is Gnanasara running. Just one public beating like that and when the minority communities hear the name Gnanasara, they will burst out laughing instead of quaking in fear. It will also in one fell swoop, lift the climate or terror that now grips the entire bhikku community.
Last week, Minister Champika Ranawaka said at a press conference that if the government takes action against Gnanasara, they should also take action against Bishop Rayappu Joseph. This bishop is seen by many to be a Kotiya in a cassock. He also made far-fetched claims that the security forces had been using cluster munitions during the war. But Rayappu Joseph does not pose a danger to the Sinhalese and the Buddhist dispensation the way Gnanasara does. No one individual has so damaged the image of the Sinhalese Buddhists than the thug-monk Gnanasara. The fact that the Malwatte Mahanayake has basically sanctioned the actions of Gnanasara does not elevate the latter, rather it demeans the former. This danger within has to be dealt with before looking at external problems. Anything that Rayappu Joseph says or does can be dealt with at a different level. But as a matter of utmost priority Gnanasara has to be dealt with and made an example of.
The JHU has come to the defence of Gnanasara but the Bodu Bala Sena openly heaps opprobrium on the JHU. In an article written to the Divaina the Saturday before last, the BBS wanted to know where these Sinhala Buddhist lay leaders were when the minorities were doing this or that. But we see Champika meekly defending Gnanasara. The question is whether Champika is now playing Amirthalingam to the Gnanasara terror? Even the JHU appears to have been terrorized by the BBS.