Saturday, 30 May 2015

Enter the dragon, or will it turn more benign?- BY Neville De Silva

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 00:22
 1  0

A few days ago, the General Secretary of the controversial Bodu Bala Sena, Galagoda-atte Gnanasara Thera was arrested on contempt of court charges for defying a court order and subsequently released on bail.
He represents the aggressive public face of the organisation which former president Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed recently was one of the reasons for his defeat in early January .While Gnanasara Thera has seemingly not lost his ardour for whatever cause he has been pushing, there appear to be rumblings within the BBS over its sense of direction, if not purpose.
Has, for instance, the leader of the Bodu Bala Sena Ven Kirama Wimalajothi Thera actually resigned from the organisation he helped found or was it just speculation that had still not been confirmed?

Media carried reports that the Thera was unhappy with the way things were moving in the BBS and had for some time been distancing himself from the organisation. After the news broke some days back a lay official of the BBS said the organisation had received no letter from the Thera saying he had quit.

Whether he has resigned or not, whether a letter to this effect had been sent to the organisation or not, the fact is that the founding father of the organisation had become increasingly unhappy at the turn of events that left an indelible stain on an organisation that should have been propagating the non-violent philosophy of the Buddha.

There was a time not so long ago when the Bodu Bala Sena – BBS for those who prefer to abbreviate such forces of darkness into a small bite – ‘rode’ into town with the bravado of the James brothers as told in wild west folklore.
The James brothers brandished six-guns as they broke into banks or ambushefsdhd cash-carrying stage coaches. The BBS broke into press conferences and disrupted the free expression of opinion using verbal slingshots to frighten audience and participants alike, especially if they were from our racial minorities or were calling for a breath of freedom and understanding. 

BBS leaders and their acolytes stormed their way into state ministries and offices brushing aside enforcers of the law as did youthful storm troopers in Hitler’s time. Or, they lay siege at a state institution where employees frightened by the presence of fearful hordes at the gates remained shivering inside not knowing what the next few hours would bring.
The law enforcers seemed paralysed into inaction in the face of Sri Lanka’s own Untouchables. Nobody claimed responsibility for the midwifery that gave birth to this noxious and obnoxious religiosity that claimed to represent the Buddha Dhamma.  However there were rumours floating around as to who fathered this force which many considered an abomination that insulted the Great Teacher.

Having released its noxious fumes into a society already threatened by the constriction of personal freedom the BBS tried to frighten people into submission as though it had been invested with some higher authority to play the role of a moral enforcer. It led some to describe BBS as Bluster, Bile and Sacrilege at which extremist Sinhala-Buddhist elements might well be aghast.  

At the time of the presidential election campaign last year and early this January it tried to influence the political outcome but fell flat on its face.
Whether the BBS has learnt a lesson from its failed foray into the politics of this country appears doubtful judging by the remarks it made at a press conference last week which received some news coverage in the local media.

Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera had announced that the organisation would form a political party and contest the forthcoming parliamentary election presenting a Sinhala-Buddhist agenda.
If its previous conduct in the public domain where it spawned a culture of fear and intimidation is to be any indication of its future intentions then one can quite understand what its agenda would read. If the BBS believes that it can storm on to the political stage with the un-Buddhistic credo it has been perpetuating since its unfortunate birth fathered by those who seem to be distancing themselves from it, that would be a grave error of judgment.

“We have already created our political plans and expect to implement them at the next elections. However we are scared to entirely expose our intentions right now to the public,” the thera is reported to have said according to one media report, adding that they fear some forces are trying to sabotage their efforts and conspiring against the BBS.

 Perhaps this English translation of the words spoken at the media briefing is not entirely accurate. But as it stands it is difficult to see how the BBS can “implement” its political plans at the next election. One would have thought that it would require gaining a foothold on power after the election. That, at the moment, seems as remote as the sun rising in the west.
Be that as it may what comes as a real surprise is the seeming confession that the organisation is “scared” of exposing its intentions. It is nice to know that the BBS is scared having previously scared dissenters and those who were striving to resolve some of Sri Lanka’s problems, creating a poor image of the country abroad.

It would seem that the fears and anxieties it created in a society that had in early decades enjoyed the freedom to voice other views and other opinions are coming home to roost as BBS prepares to enter the political arena.

BBS had claimed at the same media briefing that 19A was introduced as a political contract to appease the Tamil diaspora, the Tamil National Alliance, Catholic Church, the National Movement for Social Justice led by Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, Purawesi Balaya and the international community.

It is a pity that these learned front liners of the BBS did not expatiate on who it refers to as the “international community”. It surely cannot be the whole wide world in which case Sri Lanka would have found itself summarily deposited in the international garbage bin reserved for the pariahs of this world. 

One knows that it has not happened and Sri Lanka has not been without diplomatic support in the international arena when some western powers, now coming running to say hello and offer their salaams, ganged up against it.
Perhaps Gnanasara Thera intended to include the radical Islamic movement ISIS, Jayalalithaa and her Tamil Nadu cohorts, Norway and Solheim, the British National Front, Germany’s neo-Nazis, the Mafia, RAW and sundry organisations and agencies but ran out of time or breath.
Now if all these disparate groups were responsible for forcing 19A on us as Gnanasara Thera argues, then those who voted for the passage of that amendment-212 members of parliament- including many who would say they are better Buddhists and practise Buddhist principles more conscientiously than some of those who cloak themselves with a saffron robe, are also guilty of falling prey to international machinations.
Gnanasara Thera criticises former president Mahinda Rajapaksa for saying that he lost the presidential election because of the BBS. One can quite understand the BBS rejecting Mahinda Rajapaksa’s critical observation.
However much BBS tries to hide this truth it was well known in the Muslim community that it would vote almost en masse against Rajapaksa because he did nothing to put a break on the intimidatory activities of the BBS that often targeted ethnic and religious minorities.
Though Sri Lanka came in for severe criticism from powerful international organisations, religious bodies and human rights activists, the then government carried on oblivious to all this and BBS reigned supreme.
So while Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assertion is partly true because it was the minority vote that ultimately tilted the electoral balance against him, he and those closest to him, are also to blame for not reining-in the BBS when it was running wild and the government had the power to do so. 
- See more at: http://www.ft.lk/article/425571/Enter-the-dragon--or-will-it-turn-more-benign?#sthash.zaEuhyCk.dpuf

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