Crimes Unpardonable
Posted on June 5th, 2019

By Rohana R. Wasala

Many opinion writers, particularly in the English medium newspapers, expressed more consternation at the release from prison of the Bodu Bala Sena leader Ven. Galaboda-aththe Gnanasara Thera on May 23, 2019 than they did at the National Thawheed Jamat’s terrorist suicide bombings on the Easter Sunday a month before (i.e., on April 21), that claimed the lives of more than 300 innocent men, women and children, and grievously hurt more than 500 others, most of the victims being Catholics at prayer in churches.

When it was announced that the monk was granted a presidential pardon, one writer described it as a ‘Pardon, Unpardonable’ (Sarath de Alwis/Colombo Telegraph/May 29); another lamented that it was the end of ‘good governance’.

There is a strong element of tragic irony in this hostile reception, among an anti-national minority of Sri Lankan citizens and the mercenary NGOs-led Sri Lanka-bashers abroad (both in the literal sense of the phrase ‘tragic irony’ and in the sense it is used in classical Greek tragedy), of an event that should be warmly welcomed by everyone as a case of natural justice served, though belatedly. The reason is because the vast majority of ordinary Sri Lankans know the irrefutable truth that those ISIS inspired and sponsored terrorists were able to carry out their attack, the worst ever such attack on civilian targets in South Asia as a senior journalist points out, so easily without anyone trying to stop them, primarily due to the authorities’ refusal to heed this monk’s evidence-based warnings repeatedly and passionately sounded over many years past about growing Islamic and Christian fundamentalist activity in Sri Lanka and their resultant failure to adopt necessary security precautions to prevent untoward incidents of that sort. Instead of listening to the monk, who even felt compelled to resort to a threatening voice and a belligerent posture uncharacteristic of a bhikkhu in an attempt to be heard where those in power turned a deaf ear to his peaceful pleas (the only fault he committed to earn his demonic image among his detractors), successive governments (particularly the present one in a decidedly brazen manner) ill-treated Ven. Gnanasara Thera as a racist Sinhalese Buddhist monk and a violent anti-minority rabble rouser.

But in reality, he exemplifies the exact opposite of these qualities. He hasn’t committed any crime, except perhaps the alleged contempt of court for which he was handed down a lengthy prison term of nineteen years (subsequently reduced to six years) hard labour.

Naturally, one may guess, the monk did not ask for a presidential pardon because he believes that he had done no wrong according to his conscience . However, self-motivated individuals and groups, registering the massive swing of public opinion in favour of the imprisoned thera were seen to plead with the president for his release.

It is not known whether the president responded to these favourably. What is clear is that, whether he did or not, it was nothing compared to the pressure he must have felt exerted on him by public opinion. But instinctively exploiting it, in the despicable way of an opportunistic politician that is ingrained in him whose cautious pragmatism has no nobler aim than self promotion, the president made the ‘pardoning’ of the monk an excuse to try to recoup his irretrievably lost credibility. In this, he is second only to the PM.

Many acts of commission and omission have been performed under the present government that are not in the best interest of the Sri Lankan people in recent years in the name of promotion of ‘reconciliation’, protection of ‘human rights’, introduction of ‘good governance’, generation of economic development, and efficient management of foreign relations. These have brought the country to a state of sheer anarchy through the worst form of misrule ever experienced by Sri Lankans since independence, where economic development has come to a standstill, national security has been abysmally neglected, external affairs foolishly messed up, the human rights of 99% of the population including the right to live and the right to the freedom of expression threatened to the point of near extinction (it is doubtful whether the mainstream media are able to adequately freely report on the growing public disaffection and anger against the government), with the captive citizenry resigned to a life fraught with mortal fear, unnerving uncertainty, deep despair, ruptured communal harmony and serious material deprivation. These are the direct result of the choices made by the so-called ‘good governance’ masqueraders who came to power through a partially externally engineered regime change in 2015.

Some of these undesirable choices are: The dilution, through the 19th Amendment, of the powers of the executive presidency without adequate safeguards to protect its positive features that saved the nation at critical junctures in the recent past (This was done at the individual whims of the two persons elected to the two highest posts in the land, who happen to be of incompatible personal temperaments and incongruous social and educational backgrounds, a mismatch that is spelling disaster to the whole country); a deplorable omission was the apparently willful negligence of national security including the demoralizing of a once excellently performing intelligence service (the most recent, unimaginably treacherous, act in this regard being the serving intelligence chief being grilled by a parliamentary select committee consisting mostly of MPs of questionable credibility (all of discredited Yahapalana origin) whose undeclared brief appears to be to protect the politician widely suspected to have some connection with the recent Islamic terror attacks, in an attempt to save the careering current administration from certain collapse, one of them being a national list MP, one of the principal drafters of a proposed new constitution, who, intentionally or unintentionally, casually admitted before the media, that the clause that makes it impossible for the president to dissolve parliament until it has completed the first four and a half years of its mandated five year term was surreptitiously included in the 19th Amendment at the committee stage, because they wanted to circumvent the constitutional requirement to pass that provision with a two thirds majority in parliament and to get it confirmed at a people’s referendum (in terms of the existing constitution).

The loss to the country caused by the repeated central bank bond scams of 2015 and 2016 runs into trillions of rupees; the main suspect in this regard is the PM’s close friend Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran who is absconding, and he remains safe from arrest and prosecution because apparently there is no extradition agreement between Sri Lanka and Singapore. This was most probably a case of planned robbery that involved something larger than a couple of daylight bank-robbers. The selling out of the various national assets of inestimable value built up by the previous government at great cost soon after the conclusion of a costly thirty year civil war is another great crime. The despicable truth is that this amounts to an intentional betrayal of the national interest solely due to the present government’s abject submission to the dictates of the three competing external powers active in the region – imperialist America, its opportunistic local ally India and their formidable common challenger China.

In contrast, the activism of Ven. Gnanasara is focused entirely on the promotion of the national interest. He has been for years demonized as a trouble-maker, a Sinhalese racist, a chauvinist, a xenophobic, a fanatical monk, and so on and so forth. In reality, though, his critics are the demons, and he himself is an angel. The absolute demonization and nonstop persecution of the innocent but inspired Buddhist monk activist Ven. Galaboda-Aththe Gnanasara Thera is a great mistake whose unpardonable consequences are now clear for all to see. He is championing a non-political cause, which, unfortunately is being more or less distorted or misrepresented as a political one by both the government and its supporters, and the opposition and its allies, with a very few honourable exceptions.

Politicians in power today who believe that the monk’s activism is directly against their interests, though they understand the legitimacy of his concerns and complaints, oppose him openly and try to harass him in order to keep him in check. Those in the opposition who similarly understand what he is actually saying and doing, and are sympathetic and sensitive to his revelations and goals have to date played shy of having any truck with him in public. Both groups of politicians adopt their respective attitudes towards Ven. Gnanasara Thera because of one common reason: that is, their anxious fear of losing the block votes that a few communalist minority politicians have become accustomed to commanding among their own people.

Of course, not all those who criticize the monk for ideological or political reasons can be decried as evil-minded. I have come across the writings of some well meaning respectable commentators who do not approve of his ideas. The Island political columnist C.A. Chandraprema, for example, describes Ven. Gnanasara as a ‘volatile’ monk (i.e., one who changes his opinion frequently), probably for the reason that, in my opinion, he tried to co-opt various individuals, and groups of differing political ideologies and allegiances into his strictly non-political ‘crusade’, and abandoned them as readily as he approached them when he found that he was not getting anywhere with such relationships. (As far as I can judge, he is not a volatile character, but an unreasonably impetuous one.This is amply evident in his speech and behaviour and it has cost him and the country a great deal.) The only persons whose supportive involvement he doesn’t tire of beseeching are the Venerable Mahnayakes, especially the two in Kandy.

Their relative inaction in this regard has also contributed to the present vulnerability of Sri Lankans of all faiths to fundamentalist religious terrorism. The leaders of the present government and the president as the executive head of state are directly responsible for bringing the country to this tragic situation in which the majority Sinhalese community are alleged to be facing threats of genocidal proportions. May the Venerable Mahanayakes fulfill their historic duty at least now without pandering to the whims of errant politicians, while enlisting the support of the other religious leaders including particularly His Eminence the Cardinal.

4 Responses to “Crimes Unpardonable”

  1. Christie Says:

    I am no fan of Nanasara.

    But the jail term handed out to him for contempt of court is far excessive looking at similar cases here and overseas.

  2. samurai Says:

    I too agree the jail term given to him is far too excessive.

  3. Randeniyage Says:

    Crimes Unpardonable using ISIS to private benefits.

  4. Vaisrawana Says:

    I think your observation is correct, Christie. But I am not familiar with legal matters. Though it is a fair sentence according to the existing law, only idiotic religious fanatics could believe that Ven. Gnanasara got the punishment he deserves, and they secretly rejoice in the fact.

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