Condemning a Venerable Buddhist Monk to rigorous Imprisonment points to a much needed reform in the Sri Lanka Legal System.
Posted on June 28th, 2018

By Charles S.Perera

After Independence in 1948, it took 8 years  before SWRD Bandaranayike thought that there should be a meaningful change in independent Sri Lanka, consisting not only the rich and well placed,  but also the Monks, physicians, teachers, peasants and workers.

By then lot of damage had already been done to stop Sri Lanka making its mark as an independent Nation amoung the rest of the sovereign Nations of the world. The minorities had by then been given  equal status along with the majority Sinhala, with the Tamils already demanding fifty-fifty, which made it impossible for the majority  community to build Sri Lanka  as a single Nation  accommodating the minority Tamils and Muslims  as a part of the larger Sri Lankan Nation. It is that error which  made this beautiful country suffer disunity, with  the Tamils demanding separate status and an Eelam within the country, resulting at the end in thirty years of terrorism.

That was the beginning of Independence of Sri Lanka under a UNP leadership.  Successive UNP governments since independence has dragged Sri Lanka backward as its leaders were unable to take decisions independent of their colonial mentality craving  to make  Sri Lanka a capitalist economy.

The people had put their trust on the political leadership they had put into power and was satisfied with their master servant relationship.  The left movement in Sri Lanka the LSSP and the Communist parties did an enormous lot of work to change the mentality of the people that had been blunted  under more than 500 years of colonialism.

But even today there are many who have either because they are unable to recover their sense of independence and self respect remain obedient to UNP and other  ambitious politicians,  satisfied with  crumbs falling from their tables.

The present Yahapalanaya Government talks of democracy, freedom of the press, the freedom for people to manifest, and freedom from a white van culture, abductions and deaths as a reward of their incompetence to give the people  meaningful  dividends from a progressive visionary government’s development projects.

The Yahapalanaya Government speaks a lot of an independent Judiciary of Sri Lanka, as if Sri Lanka’s legal system today is a world model. The reality is that  Sri Lanka’s legal system and democracy  as it exists today, is as old as it was in 1948. That being an aspect the change of political system in 1956 had failed to attend.

The Last  Constitution written by the British for Sri Lanka, though the British Colonial rule was to destroy all that was held in respect and honour by the natives , yet  made an effort to leave the distinctive characteristics of Sri Lanka from which the country was identified-  the Buddhist Religion and the culture and customs following from it.  But yet the descendents of that 1948 UNP  without wisdom or vison, have not gone far enough to preserve Buddhism   which nurtured the island and its people for 2600 years or more .

It is very honourable to keep the Judiciary independent of the Legislature and the executive following the doctrine of Montesquieu. But Sri Lanka should go further because its Constitution provides a special place to Buddhism with which the country and its people are  inseparably bound even if the late comers into the Island  through aggression –the Tamils, or  through business interest-the Muslims may not agree.

That is an aspect of the Constitution which has not been touched since independence and remains archaic, distanced from the people whose lives remain unalterably bound from birth to death  with the teachings of the Buddha. The Constitution states:

9. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).”

The Buddhism here does not include only the teachings of the Buddhaand the ceremonials, but it also includes the Temples, the living quarters of the Monks, and the lands offered to the temples. There are Chief Priests and Priests versed in the Vinaya or the Disciplinary Conduct of the Buddhist Monks. It is they who should be consulted before a Buddhist Monk is accused for breach of the law by the police and other security authorities.

Immunity of a Buddhist Monk in the face of the law of the country is like the immunity of a Diplomat in a foreign country.   Everything that affects a Buddhist Monk is protected by the Vinaya or Disciplinary rules and the law courts of the country could act only with the consent of the Chief Priests. The Buddha Sasana may perhaps be equated to  the Vatican.

If it is considered inappropriate to give special consideration to a Buddhist Monk,  as every one is equal before the law, there should be an exception to it in Sri Lanka, for a  Buddhist Monk as he represents one of the three refuge of a Buddhist” protected by the Constitution.

If one were to  shake ones head  in denial , to say that it is impossible  as the law stands today, it means  that  certain aspect of the Constitution has been left un attended. There is therefore a lapse in the law which should be rectified appropriately.

When a Buddhist monk visits the home of a lay person, the venerable Monk is offered a seat appropriately covered with  a white cloth. That is the respect that should given to a Buddhist monk when he is amoung the lay followers. But the law of the land does not recognise that place of the Buddhist Monk amoung the people,  therefore one of the Judges went so far as to order that a Buddhist monk in a court house should stand up when the Judge enters the court.

If not it is a contempt of the court as, much as it is to shout at some one within the court house !!! What delicate attention to assure the independence of the Judiciary ?  But where then is the rightful place the Constitution demands for Buddhism.

This is where the Judiciary should be reformed in keeping with the Constitution. This we cannot expect from a UNP Government which is what we have under the name Yahapalanaya. There should be a another Bandaranayake” to change what had not been changed when the UNP of 1948 took over the administration of  the Independent Sri Lanka from the British.

Many voices have been heard from different quarters  and NGO Agents including those in Robes, condemning the Venerable Gnanasara Thero.

That is not unusual as any Sinhala Buddhist who stands up to criticise the Yahapalanaya Government’s one sided” reconciliation moves to please the Tamils is immediately labelled a  racist and a Sinhala Chauvinist.  What Venerable Gnanasara Thero did was to defend his Community the Community of Sinhala Buddhists.

But a Judge,  who cannot see right and wrong beyond the letter of the law” sentenced a Venerable Buddhist Monk to rigorous imprisonment, not considering  the consequences of his act.

6 Responses to “Condemning a Venerable Buddhist Monk to rigorous Imprisonment points to a much needed reform in the Sri Lanka Legal System.”

  1. Randeniyage Says:

    Dear Charles,
    Are you saying those catholic priests who have abused boys too shall be given only light sentences ?

  2. Nimal Says:

    All criminals should be without an exception should be punished according to law of the country. Priests of any religion should face the severest of the punishment because their profession should lead the high moral ground expected to lead the people on high moral values they are suppose profess. If they contradict and become criminals and law breakers justice should not be spared. One of them even murdered the very person who gave them all the privileges of life and Buddarakkitha and Somarama broke the trust put upon them by the MP which ended up in his murder. We were glad that the latter was hanged and Buddarakita shocked the nation when he walked out in handcuffs smiling as he had won the cup Final.These rascals brought down the countries’ high values left for us by the colonials and by heavens we will have those values back.
    This is the ongoing debates that are going on among the innocent people of the third world. Thanks to the internet people have the chance to have a honest debate and compare themselves of the failed nations with the values of the developed world where likes of some writers prefer to live and write tosh.
    At the end all the wrong dowers will pay and face justice and punishment.

  3. Charles Says:

    I wrote about Buddhism and Sri Lanka. I am not concerned with other religions. Buddhism has a special place in Sri Lanka with its 2600 or more years of history. There is no other country in the world that had been nurtured by its religion for such a long period of time. It is our duty to protect it.

    It is the the Buddhist Priest who protected Buddhism for such a long time and it is they who will protect it in the future. The legal system does not keep ith that special situation Buddhism has in Sri Lanka. Therefore it has to be changed to adopt it to Buddhism without which Sri Lanka would not be what it is. Rhys Davis says that democracy before it came as a political theory, the Buddha had applied democratic solutions in the administration of his large order of Sangha. If a Buddhist Monk commits a crime it is for the Maha Sangha to remove his robes before he is sent to be tried in a cour of Law of the Country.

    Venerable Gnanasara thero did not commit crime. He did not kill any one !!!

  4. Charles Says:

    Randeniya and Nimal:

    2018 ජුනි 30වන දින ආචාර්ය සුරිය ගුණසේකර විසින් ලියන ලද බෞද්ධ භික්ෂුව හා උසාවි අධිකරණ බලය නමැති ලිපිය කියවන්න .

  5. Randeniyage Says:

    Thanks for the link.
    I agree Bodu Bala Sena had done a great service to Sinhala Buddhist and Sri Lanka. I also agree sending him to jail is not warranted based on the charges ( while murderers are in the Parliament).
    However, Ganasara Thero’s language and behavior ( even though his fights are 100% necessary) has done more harm to Buddhism than benefit.
    But it is impossible to justify different laws to Buddhist Monks and others. Serious crimes need serious and uniform punishments regardless of priesthood. Our country cannot be allowed to be isolated in the world.

  6. Nimal Says:

    I wonder if someone could translate Charles’s link?

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