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Sri Lanka: Gnanasara Thera faces fresh contempt of court charge

Image: The police had been present during the entire incident and did nothing to prevent Gnanasara Thera from violating the court order, says the petitioner.

Fresh contempt of court papers have been filed against controversial Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera, over his actions in violation of an order by the Mullaitivu Magistrate’s Court, involving a contentious burial on Hindu temple grounds.

The controversial monk is facing contempt of court charges again, only four months after being freed from prison on a presidential pardon, following a conviction for contempt of court that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The monk was serving a prison sentence of six years on the former charge.

The petition was filed by TNA MP Shanthi Sriskandaraja, in the Court of Appeal and will be taken up for support tomorrow.

The BBS General Secretary, the Senior Superintendent of Police and Chief Inspector of Police (CI) of the Mullaitivu police station have been cited as respondents to the petition.

The TNA MP is seeking an order from the Court of Appeal to issue a rule on the Respondents, directing them to show cause as to why they should not be punished for contempt over the direct violation of the court order regarding the cremation of Gurukanda Raja Maha Vihare thera’s body in disputed land.

Four months after he was pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisena, Gnanasara Thera courted controversy again, allegedly at the centre of the unrest within the grounds on which the Neeraviyady Pillayar Temple stood, at Chemmalai, Mullaitivu on September 20.

According to the petitioner, the issue related to a Buddhist temple known as the Gurukanda Raja Maha Vihare forcibly constructed between 2004 and 2009, when no civilian was permitted to go into that area, within the precincts of the Hindu temple.

Issues smouldering between the parties were aggravated when arrangements were made for the body of the Buddhist Chief priest to be cremated within the temple premises.

“This was the reason for tensions arising in the area on or around September 20 2019. A crowd of people were gathered in the said premises. Being a Member of Parliament resident in the district of Mullaitivu, the Petitioner was herself present during this time,” the Petitioner claims.

The Chief Inspector of the Mullaitivu police then filed a case at the Magistrate’s Court that a police complaint had been filed by the administrative body of the Kovil stating that the chief priest of the Gurukanda Raja Maha Viharaya had passed away. Police told court that in the event that the body was brought to the grounds in dispute, it would result in a breach of the peace in the area.

Counsel appearing for the Buddhist temple informed Court that they were willing to conduct the cremation ceremony at an alternate location, on obtaining the necessary permission to do so. Court made an order of consent directing that the cremation not be conducted at the premises in dispute and instead be conducted at the alternate location. However, when information surfaced that the cremation would take place on the disputed property despite the court order, the Mullaitivu Magistrate issued another order, directing police to ensure the cremation was not conducted on the Hindu temple grounds, and the order of court was enforced.

The petitioner who had been present at the incident states that a group of monks, led by the Gnanasara thera, took the body of the deceased thera from the temple to the disputed grounds. A fracas ensued, during which the priest of the Hindu temple was severely injured.

Thereafter the body of the deceased Chief priest of the Buddhist temple was cremated on the premises in dispute, in direct violation of the Order of Court.

According to the petition filed at the Court of Appeal, the police had been present during the entire incident and did nothing to prevent Gnanasara Thera from violating the court order. Police had only prevented members of the Hindu community, who were present during the incident from entering the premises in dispute, the petition stated.

The BBS General Secretary was previously found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced for a 6-year incarceration and was also found guilty by the Homagama Magistrate for the criminal intimidation of the wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.



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