YAHAPALANA VERSUS MAHA SANGHA Part 3
Posted on August 25th, 2019

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

The Maha Sangha continued to show opposition to Yahapalana in 2019. The result was a ding- dong battle between the Sangha and Yahapalana.  The Maha Sangha have opposed Yahapalana on a range of issues.

The Sangha have spoken out against the   new constitution that   Yahapalana was planning to foist on the country. Ven. Bellanwila Wimalaratana said that Kotte Sangha Sabha had met and decided unanimously that ‘this constitution making process was not timely’. Problems of the people in the North and the East could not be solved with a couple of sentences in a Constitution, he said. Ven. Keppetiyagoda Sirinimala of Getambe temple also spoke against the new constitution. Yahapalana is ‘playing around with the country’ ,he said. ‘Now all of us and the country are going to be destroyed.’

The Sangha opposed other activities too. The Sangha opposed the decision to display photographs of intelligence operatives  before the public. They compared it to the Millenium City attack. Ella Gunawansa, Medagoda Abhayatissa,  Ittakande Saddhatissa and  Pahiyangala Ananda all protested about  this  before the media.

The Sangha also pounced on industrial ventures. Magalkande Sudatta and Pahiyangala Anandasara spoke very vehemently on the subject of the hospital waste brought from UK. ‘There are    103 containers. They have been getting these down in 2016 and 2017 too’, said the well informed bhikkus. Thinniyawela Anandasagara showed  the camera the customs details of the consignment where it came from and who had got it down.. Jathika Bhikshu Peramuna representative  Vatinapana Somananda  also  commented on the  subject.

A delegation of the Maha Sangha undertook an inspection tour of the construction work on the second stage of the Central expressway. The tour started from Gettuwana junction in Kurunegala. Lakshman Kiriella and other Members of Parliament were present.

The Sangha took a firm stand on Muslim separatism. From their comments made to the media, it was clear that the Maha Sangha   had known about Muslim extremism and  have been watching Muslim separatism for a long time. They were well informed about Muslim activities. They spoke of madrasas,   Sharia University, date palms and the use of Arabic.

At the National Conference on Peace Harmony and Coexistence, July 2019, Omalpe  Sobitha commented  openly on the  Muslim  separatism, ‘ why  do they wish to have separate law, dress, schools, universities’, he asked.  At an Anti Wahabi meeting at Kurunegala in July 2019  there were three monks  on the stage. There were also four rows of bhikkus in the audience.

Individual bhikkus  were active on this subject.  Pahiyangala Anandasara  has pursued the matter of the illegal Muslim settlements at Wilpattu. Medagoda Abhayatissa said on television news that he has evidence that at Kattankudy 20 persons were killed according to Sharia law. Nithyawela Palitha said it was charged that the police had accepted money from Muslims and were refusing to record complaints against Muslim extremism.

Jamburewela Chandraratana said that    Yahapalana was preparing a Bill make the Batticaloa University” (Hisbullah’s institute) and other such bodies legal. Once the Bill is passed it will not be possible to go to courts on the matter. Atureliya Ratana led a large procession in Batticaloa against the Batticaloa University” In August 2019.  Many bhikkhus participated and television news showed them shouting slogans. There was also a satyakriya of about 30 monks with two Catholic priests and one Hindu priest.

The Sangha also decided to try their hand at national policy. A  Samagi maha sangha samuluwa”   was  organized by all Ceylon Buddhist Association   in March 2019, to formulate a framework of national policies to protect peoples’ rights”. Nothing was heard of this thereafter.

But in August 2019 The Buddha Sasana Karyasadhaka Mandalaya, composed of 12 very senior, erudite monks and 14 Presidents of Buddhist organizations, with Diviyagahe Yasassi Nayaka Maha thera as President came up with a set of recommendations for candidates standing for Elections .  A sub-committee of monks  prepared the initial draft, presided over by Vajiraramaye Nanaseeha (formerly Olcott Gunasekera) together with  lay persons. Diviyagahe Yassasi and  Thirukanamale Ananda presided over the final draft .

This document  was submitted to the Mahanayakas of the three Nikayas, the Archbishop of Colombo, the Bishop of the Colombo Diocese, the  Kurrukal of the All Ceylon Hindu Congress and the President of the  All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama.  These persons also placed their signatures to the recommendations indicating their approval and endorsement. 

The document was titled “Towards the dawn of a new political culture of integrity in Sri Lanka” and subtitled “Recommendations that are proposed by Heads of all Religions on the initiative of the Buddhasasana Karyasadhaka Mandalaya in respect of candidates standing for Elections”.  It was published in the three languages.

The document was officially handed over at the ceremony at  BMICH to the President, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and all leaders of political parties or their representatives; also to the Secretary-General to Parliament, the Elections and Bribery Commissioners and to Ministers and MP and members of the public.       I have included this here as  an example  of the Sangha ‘s new activism. It is unlikely that anyone would to take action on these recommendations.

Mangala Samaraweera said publicly that Sri Lanka was not a purely Buddhist country.  In retaliation, Nithyawela Palitha openly accused Mangala Samaraweera of vancha and dusahana.’There are 47 files against him’, he said. ‘I have them with me’. He said Mangala had sold some Benz and BMW cars got in 2014 for CHOGM at less than their real value. 55 Benz, 55 Nissan  Tirana  60 Nissan Silfie   were  sold by Mangala’s ministry. Mangala was also involved  in the  SAGT commission. Mangala had brought down containers of karunka, pepper, ethanol. He is the  one person who had most  abused state property , he is a  darunuma thakkadiya, and hora, he owns 6 houses in London , said the  monk. He is a fashion designer,  he added.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera  promptly replied. He said  that he would sue the  two private television channels for Rs.1000 million each for giving wide coverage to the recent unsubstantiated allegations against him made by Thiniyawala Palitha. Anybody can make this type of wild allegations, but any responsible media organization should be careful before giving publicity to them. I was not even the subject minister when some of those alleged incidents happened,” he said. 

Yahapalana government  was deeply antagonistic towards the Maha Sangha and was determined to  hit   hard. Shakthika Sathkumara,  wrote a story on a gay monk. He was promptly locked up. But that was only the preliminary.  Yahapalana then charged that there had been considerable sexual  abuse of samanera in the Buddhist temples. This is the first time that this charge has been made so openly. Therefore  it is significant.

Ranjan Ramanayake announced publicly that  there was sexual abuse of samaneras in the Buddhist temples. He said this was an open secret.  He  told the television media that he has a folder of appeals from samanera and  showed the file. He said that  had shown it to the Prime Minister too. Then he added that the bhikkus who are politically active  today are doing so because they have all been sexually abused.  This  absurd  statement is good for a laugh, but the Sangha did  not think it funny.

The Sangha responded instantly. From Uva, High priest at Ella, Kithalelle Shanthasiri, flanked by about nine monks   protested  publicly about the remark. Pahamune Sri Sumangala, and  Amburevela Chandraratne scolded Ramanayake  at a media conference and said ‘this is a crime and Ramanayake  should be arrested.’

 Muruddeniya Dhammaratana, said that  there are others behind what Ramanayake said. He is only a tool. Jamburevela Sangharatana said that  Ramanayake has got together with an American NGO and is saying things which could create in the public a sense of anger and repulsion (kalakereemak) towards the Sangha. There is the danger that others may use this accusation. Then we monks will have to stop the work we are doing against this government . Television news showed about ten monks going to the police division to inquire about the many complaints made on this matter. Police said they have received 6 complaints and they will look into it.

Ramanayake was Catholic and   the Catholic Church quickly distanced itself from the remark. Catholic bishop P.S.K. Francis  said he was concerned about the remark. ‘It is now time for the Catholic  clergy and the Sangha to join hands to ensure independence in this country. I apologize if the Sangha have been insulted.’ Ranjan Ramanayake  then went to  Malwatte and Asgiri,  worshipped  and apologized if he had hurt the feeling of  silvat bhikkus.

By his conduct, Ramanayake, who is a Christian, broke one of the golden rules which need to be observed, particularly, among multi religious and multi cultural societies, observed an analyst. One of the guidelines to be followed is, that, a follower of one religion should refrain from making disparaging remarks about the teachings of other religions, or of institutions belonging to other religions. Even if the Minister’s remarks only related to a few monks, as claimed by him, it would invariably, reflect on the institution of the Maha Sangha and therefore, should be a ‘No go’ area, as far as any person who is not a Buddhist is concerned, concluded the analyst.

During British rule, in the 19th and 20th  century, the  Protestant church  (which permits its priests to marry), would have watched the Buddhist   temples very closely and if there was regular sexual abuse, of samaneras and older bhikkhus, it would have been  immediately exposed.  I specifically looked for such  observations in the research literature ,but could not find any. This can be taken as confirmation that there was no broad based sexual abuse going on,  at the time, because if there was, then the  Protestant church would  jolly well have  pounced on it and publicized it. That would have been the best way to  discredit the Maha Sangha. NOTE: I have used the term ‘Ven’ in the first paragraph and discontinued it thereafter.(Continued.)

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