File photo: Monk Gnanasara with his body guards.
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Catholic church has called for an investigation into a claim attributed to a controversial Buddhist monk of an impending terrorist attack, while also denying a claim by the same monk that he had warned the head of the church in 2017 of an imminent attack.
The Archdiocese of Colombo in a statement released on Thursday (16) said the claims, made by Galgoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero on a television interview, were serious enough to warrant an inquiry.
According to the statement, the monk had claimed he had information on a terror plot similar to the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed 269 and injured over 500. The monk had also said he knew who is behind the planned attack and where they’re located, and that he had already written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa about his findings.
However, the Archdiocese said, it is unclear whether any action has been taken by the authorities based on this information. The statement said the inspector general of police (IGP) is obligated to arrest anyone linked to the alleged plot.
“We request the IGP to to take note of Ven Gnanasara Thero’s revelation about an impending terrorist attack and to take immediate action to prevent it,” the statement said.
The Archdiocese then denied a claim by Gnanasara Thero that he had warned Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of an impending attack on the Catholic community as far back as 2017.
The monk had only spoken to the cardinal about “Islamic expansionism”, it said.
“We state categorically that, until after the Easter attack, the defence authorities, intelligence, the police, Ven Gnansara Thro or anyone else had warned His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of an impending attack against the Catholic community.”
In the TV interview in question, the monk said he had requested from the cardinal an audience with coastal parish priests to brief them on information gathered by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the controversial group of which he is the general secretary, and had then warned him of an imminent attack.
The cardinal was receptive to the idea of a meeting with the priests, but nothing came of it, he said.
The firebrand monk has been controversial. His hardline Sinhala Buddhist organisation has been accused of Islamophobic rhetoric which critics claim led to incidents of mob violence directed toward Muslims.
The monk was convicted of contempt of court for berating a Magistrate in a courthouse and threatening Sandhya Eknaligoda, wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisena in May 2019.
Related: Head of Sri Lanka Catholic church alleges attempt to pin Easter attack on ISIS