Posted on May 24th, 2020


Ven. Ellawala Medhananda was very active politically. He took an active part in settling Sinhalese in Maduru Oya, in the 1980s, when Accelerated Mahaweli” started, Gamini Dissanayake; Minister for Mahaweli had asked Ven. Medhananda to do a study of the history of the Mahaweli region. While engaged in this, Medhananda had met Ven.  Kithalagama  Seelalankara of  Dimbulagala.  

Ven. Kithalagama  had come to Toppigala area in 1960s.   He  created the  Dimbulagala vihara and had   started to settle Sinhalese in the surrounding  area  when the Mahaweli scheme started. Mahaweli scheme included the  development of Maduru Oya basin in the  Batticaloa district.

Dimbulagala and Medhananda decided that the best way to prevent  LTTE coming into the East was to settle Sinhalese in the Maduru Oya area.    ‘We settled the excess population from Hingurakgoda  and Minneriya, numbering 40,000 in Toppigala, Kunchanamalai,  Nelugala,  Atubandigala,  Vesibandigala and  Piyangala.     We informed President  JR  Jayewardene that we were going to settle Sinhalese there. JR was against this, but we  continued  with the project, recalled Medhananda .

The settlers were    assaulted and chased away, on JR’s orders, by Paul Perera, said Medhananda .  UNP Minister Paul Perera was  the invisible leader of the Gampaha underworld, observed Dharman Wickremaratne. The houses of the settlers were set on fire. The settlers  took refuge in Dimbulagala pasala. They were later sent to Dollar and Kent farms  where they were  killed, said  Medhananda.

Sociologist Asoka Bandarage confirms this. Ven. Kithalagama Seelalankara had  led the movement to settle some    40,000 landless Sinahla peasants  in Maduru oya, she observed. The proposed settlement of Sinhalese on Maduru oya right bank  came under opposition from  Tamil separatists and international donors. Under their growing pressure JR ordered the forcible removal of all settlers. The settlements were dismantled and the Sinhalese displaced. Subsequently Maduru oya and 20 other small projects were close down,  concluded Bandarage..

In 2008, Medhananda went to courts to stop Muslim encroachment on to Dighavapi lands. This  is case  no SC FR 178/08. Ven. Ellawala Medananda thero vs. District secretary, Ampara and others

Medhananda was joined by other petitioners for this case. They included   the Viharadhipathi of the Deeghavapi Raja Maha Viharaya, the President of the Dighavapi Surakeemay Sanvidanaya, the Deeghavapi Pratisanskarana Sabhawa and other bhikkhus who, coming from different Buddhist organizations, represented the interests of persons concerned in preserving the Deeghavapi Raja Maha Viharaya.

The petitioners informed court that 60 acres of land to the south of the Dighavapi Raja Maha Viharaya was given to 500 Muslim families without a good reason. Sinhalese who had requested land were not given any. The settlement of such a large number of Muslims within  close proximity to Dighavapi Raja Maha Vihara would have an adverse effect on the temple.

The Petitioners submitted that the Deeghavapi Raja Maha Viharaya is one of the 16 most venerated sites of Buddhists in this country. They provided historical evidence to support their statement, including a Report of the Director General of Archaeology.

According to this report the name Deeghavapi has been used from the 2nd Century B. C. and the Viharaya was constructed by King Saddhatissa in the lst century B. C. Further, the Viharaya had been reconstructed by King Kirti Sri Rajasinha of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1746.

In the circumstances nothing further need to be stated as regards the sensitivity which has been affected by the impugned action from the perspective of the Buddhist, not only in that area but in the entire country, said Supreme Court. Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners that fundamental rights have been infringed and allowed the application.  Medhananda had  won the case

Ven. Medhananda   also spoke out about unethical conversion of Buddhists to Christianity. He had encountered this on a visit to Ampara district. In 1993, Ven. Kalutara Dhammananda of Buddhangala monastery, Ampara had asked Medhananda to help 46 families living in Ratugala village, situated near Wellassa, Galgamuwa. He had gone there with dry rations, clothes, books soap, toothpaste, coconut, medicines in July 1993.

He then found that Ratugala village was in the clutches of a Christian evangelistic church, Kristiani subharanchi sabhava”. The headquarter of this evangelistic church was in Makandura, Gonawela. A team of three persons had come to Ratugala and set up a society called Jinaloka samaga subha sadaka sanvidanaya in 1990.

This team had established contact with the leaders of the village, Kaira and Gombira. Gombira said that his two children had converted and the missionaries had taken them away. His granddaughter was staunchly Christian and refused to speak to Medhananda.

 The evangelists had got hold of Kaira’s land and built a chapel on it.  They baptized 23 children on Poson Poya day.  Before the baptism, the children had been made to smash and trample Buddha statues, they were given dodol to eat and told that this was the Buddha’s flesh. The evangelists were making use of the poverty of Ratugala and other such places, said Medhananda .  (Kahatapitiya p 357-358)

This situation is also seen in Badulla, Moneragala, Ampara, Polonnaruwa and  Hambantota, very strongly said Medhananda, and at a lesser level elsewhere. He pointed out that to protect and preserve Buddhism, it was necessary to preserve the Buddhist population, not temples. What we need to look after it not the temple, it is the Buddhist population. Temples came later. To look after temples we need a Buddhist public”, he said.  

Ven. Medhananda was responsible for the birth of the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya. Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya started under my direction, said Ven. Medhananda. The first discussions were at Kuppiyawatte Jayasekeraramaya. We met there to discuss how to combat the anti- national and anti-Buddhist activities that were taking place in the island.

 Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya (JSS) was set up as a formal organization  in 2002 in Colombo  Ven. Medhananda was appointed President. We had all island meetings and talks, recalled Medhananda. We set up districts units of the JSS.

Medhananda played a prominent role in all JSS proceedings. He addressed the Sammelanaya at its inaugural meeting. He gave the key note address when the Gampaha district branch was set up.

JSS was very active in 2002 and 2003. There was a huge Sangha Samuluva at BMICH in September 2002. Medhananda presided. The JSS decided to meet the President that night itself. They went straight from the   conference to meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga and placed before her the recommendations of the Conference. Ven. Medhananda led the  group.

 JSS held another well attended meeting at Dharmavijaya Foundation in  2002. A second Sangha samuluva was held in 2003 at BMICH. JSS also went to Kandy, in 2003 and there it set up Trinikaya committee   with Medhananda as President. At this meeting, JSS vowed to protect the unitary state. 

In 2003  JSS also went to Ministry of Buddha Sasana and complained.  Buddhist ruins were being destroyed, Buddhist lands were in danger, unethical conversion of Buddhists was going on at a rate. What was the Ministry doing? The Minister should resign if he cannot take action, said JSS . JLL asked for military protection to go and look  at the Buddhist remains in North and east.

JSS was very clear as to what its focus was. Its focus was    ‘rata, jatiya and agama.’  When rata agama, jatiya are  in danger ,it is traditional for the Sangha to  intervene, said JSS. The Sangha have the right to comment on all matters relating to this country. In a situation  like today, it is the duty of the Sangha is to alert the public as to what is happening,  there are international conspiracies hatched to undermine the sovereignty and independence of Sri Lanka. 

Medhananda went around the country making speeches on the political situation . He addressed the meeting of  Delgamu hela  bodu Sanvidana, held  at Degamuwa Sri Dalada raja maha vihara, Kuruwita .

He was firmly against the  Tamil Separatist Movement. He criticized the four conditions put forward by Tamil Separatist Movement at Thimpu. There is no historical basis for a Tamil homeland in the north and east said Medhananda .  

He heavily  criticized the Ceasefire Agreement.. The LTTE has got strengthened as never before due to the Ceasefire agreement. What  is happening now beats everything that  Dutugemunu,  Valagamba, Dhatusena  had to face, he said. But there is no one speak up on the matter.  LTTE was  now getting ready to get itself    recognized    internationally using a foreign country.

Medhananda  was well informed on the Eelam issue.  Tamil nationalism was created by the British, he said. He commented on Pongu Tamil movement   and noted that the LTTE had created a half hour time difference for the ‘state of Eelam’. LTTE went for peace talks whenever it got weakened, he said.  He  also pointed out that LTTE  were destroying Buddhist   monuments in north and east .

Shivajilingam had said that there were now two countries in Sri Lanka . Medhananda pointed out that if so, Shivajilingam  could not have arrived in Colombo as he had done. Shivajilingam was able to do so, because Sri Lanka was one country. There is only one government and just one breakaway province, declared Medhananda .

JSS found it  was not getting anywhere despite its efforts. It was suggested that JSS should enter Parliament. A new political party, Jatika Hela Urumaya, was launched for the purpose. Ven. Ellawala Medhananda together with Kolonnawe Sumangala  and Omalpe Sobhitha were founding members.

The Jathika Hela Urumaya contested its first parliamentary election on 2 April 2004. All of its candidates were Buddhist monks,  led by Ven. Medhananda. The other monks entered Parliament through elections. Medhananda went to Parliament on the National List. He stated later that he was sent to Parliament, ‘giya nova yavuna’.

Medhananda said that he was firmly opposed to the idea of a bhikkhu contesting  the post of President of Sri Lanka . Medhananda explained his view of Bhikkhus in politics in an interview with CA Chandraprema.

We first became politically active through the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya,” he said. At a certain point, we came to the decision that in order to win the war against terrorism and to put an end to unethical conversions, bhikkhus should be represented in Parliament. I agreed to the decision to contest elections only after discussing it six times, rejecting the idea and finally agreeing to it in the seventh round of discussions.

I stated very clearly that a bhikkhu whether in Parliament or in the temple had to remain a bhikkhu. We held large meetings and protest campaigns but in all such instances I ensured that the bhikkhus maintained the decorum expected of them by the laity. For example we held a protest in front of the British High Commission which was attended by a large number of bhikkhus all of whom behaved in a manner befitting a monk.”

Medhananda replied an MP who had been very  critical  regarding the arrival of  bhikkhus into Parliament. Medhananda said, our  Parliament  has been  modeled on the British Parliament, but this is not England. This is a Sinhala Bauddha rata and  JHU came into Parliament on the Sinhala- Buddhist  wave. JHU  has been the first to challenge the English model in  Parliament.  Certainly, we do not stand when the Speaker comes in, but that does not mean that  we do  not recognize  him, Medhananda said.

Ven. Medhananda made use of his period as an Member of Parliament,  to make lengthy speeches and place certain facts on record.  He spoke forcefully.  At one point he was asked by the Speaker whether he was taking the full 15 minutes allocated to the JHU. Yes, said Medhananda firmly, there is no other speaker,  only me.

Medhananda drew attention to the privatizing of national assets. He referred to stoning of judges houses  and garlanding  a person declared guilty in J.R Jayewardene’s time. But his main subject was the ethnic issue, in its various manifestations.

He relentlessly attacked the Tamil Separatist Movement, the Eelam war and Eelam itself. The government must as soon as possible  defeat the LTTE, he said. He pointed out that the basic services in the LTTE controlled areas was provided by the government using government funds. He criticized the merger of North and east.  He condemned the Millenium City raid.

Medhananda spoke out against  a Tamil homeland. Sampur is  a historical Tamil village, said Sampanthan.  I will show you  how Tamil  it is, replied Medhananda, with gusto,  and  gave the documented  history of  Sampur, citing Sinhala king after Sinhala king. Medhananda  also said that by putting ai” before   a word, such as Wellawattai,”   does not  make it Tamil. 

Medhananda submitted a long memorandum , with supporting documents, to Parliament, to be  recorded in Hansard. It  showed the Sinhala Buddhist history of north and east. It contained detailed information on the Buddhist ruins and other archaeological remains, such as  tanks, irrigation channels, still visible there. 

Medhananda also drew attention of Parliament  to a statement forwarded to  the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva by K Sachchitanandan   which argued that the north and east belonged to the Tamils.  He has distorted our history, said Medhananda .  I  have provided a 12 page reply to be included in Hansard. The Speaker agreed to include the statement in the Hansard.

In his reply  Medhananda had taken each statement made by Sachchitanandan, and demolished them one by one.  Medhananda said that there was no Sivam Senior and Sivan  Junior ruling in Jaffna.  There was only one Siva in history and that was Devanampiyatissa’s father. Many of the Tamil names were actually  distortions of  the original Sinhala name, e.g. Mannakamam was Medagama.

Medhananda was regularly interrupted by Tamil MPs, especially when he spoke out against  a Tamil homeland.  Medhananda, continued undisturbed. Shout as much as you wish ,said Medhananda. MP Sri Kantha said ‘if you will allow me I will educate you.’ Medhananda replied ”Sit down, It is I who is speaking. You can speak after me, if you wish.  MP Shivajilingam was reprimanded by the Speaker, for threatening Medhananda.

Medhananda spoke strongly against the LTTE .he started by listing the villages LTTE had attacked. The LTTE had hit the following villages and towns, Bakkiella ,Bakmitiyawa, Damminna Gonagala, Keenwatte, Kent farm,  Kiri ibban wewa,      Kombanachchi,  Lankapatuna,  Mangala oya, Mutur, Namalgama, Omanna, Pottuvil, Sampath town ,Sastravela, Seruwila, Thamalthala, Tirumangala,   Trikonamadu    and Villumale . LTTE also attacked Hulannuge School,   and chased away Sinhalese from Akkaraipattu

Medhananda  referred to a training given by LTTE to young persons, this was supposed to be  health training. Did they need guns for such a training asked Medhananda . He observed that a  LTTE  group  who had gone to Norway  to  study federalism had actually been given training by Norway’s Special Forces.   He spoke against the  NGOs  in the north. ZOR was one of the  NGOs that is helping LTTE, he said.

He spoke favorably of standardization. Medhananda gave statistics of education, for all  28 districts (year was probably 2005).  He  showed that  Jaffna with 492,000 population had 33 schools ,Colombo with 17,00,000  pop had 32. Jaffna with  2434  (sic) pupils had 32 schools, Colombo with  7454  (sic) had 40. Similarly, Colombo had  9301 doing science  , Jaffna had 2486, Kandy 1124, Galle 1208.

He took a strong Sinhala Buddhist line.  He said the government did not give any land to the Sangha for  providing houses for tsunami affected person, but they gave 207 acres to World Vision,  a Christian NGO. He drew attention to unethical conversion of Buddhist to Christianity.   He spoke of the plight of  viharas. Of the 10,200 vihara about 3000 are in difficulties. 

He spoke of Muslim assertiveness. He said that it was not necessary to obtain permission from Muslims, to erect a Buddha statue at Pottuvil.  He spoke of a [Muslim] bank  where they give easy loans to Sinhala businessmen. Then when they fail to pay back they seize their property. 

He spoke of colonization schemes.  Gal oya settlements were to going into the hand of non-Sinhalese, he said. In 1974 7597  acres were allotted to settlements 1,2,3,4,7,8.  Of these 3,4, and 7 are now held by non Sinhalese. 

 At Dighavapi 585 acres were set aside for Sinhalese. Of these settlements several are now  occupied by  non-Sinhalese. The land was taken forcibly and houses built. In 1996, against Sinhala Buddhist opposition, 250 acres at Dighavapi were bulldozed  and non-Sinhalese were given houses with 2 ½ acres each. 

In the Akkaraipattu water scheme in 1994,  three projects were for Sinhala settlements but the was reduced to one.  Eventually it is Akkaraipattu which will be the main town of the district not Ampara, said Medhananda .

Medhananda stated firmly that he did not make use of  any of the perks available to MPs. He did not go on foreign jaunts, or  obtain land in Colombo to build a house.   His car permit he gave the JHU,  and continued to use his own old car. He did not even  use  his position to improve Napawala temples. The decentralized  budget he received was used to improve roads, electricity supply, drains  etc.

The money he received as a Member of Parliament  was  used  to help others. He was particularly keen on opening bank deposits  of Rs 1000 for  poor students  in schools and daham pasal. The first beneficiaries were 70  pupils in Gomadiyagala village, Kurunegala district. This was followed by schools in Dambahara gammanaya in Madahapola,  and Kukulega in Kahatagasdigiliya.

He also provided every child who left for school from Napawala preschool, with a bank deposit. . 120 clever children from Siripura, Padaviya and   Weli oya  were given  assistance including clothes..Medhananda had  also provided books to   school children, who were poor. He has also donated books to school libraries  and Pirivena libraries.

He had also  helped the poverty stricken people in the north and east. At Padavi Siripura he came across  an old woman who   had had an operation on her neck and was asked to attend a monthly clinic at Anuradhapura,  but she was unable to do so as she did not have the money to travel there. Medhananda made arrangements to provide her with the money. 

Medhananda  helped badly off temples in north and east as well as other far flung places with monthly deposits paid into their  bank accounts.  In 2004 he started a scheme at Siripura Pirivena  to provide dane, pirikara and money  to these  monks.

Ven. Medhananda was openly critical of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. He was heavily critical of  the Ceasefire agreement which he attributed directly to Ranil Wickremesinghe  Medhananda also noted that Ranil Wickremesinghe had got ready to celebrate  the  500th anniversary o f the  arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka   .

Ranil Wickremesinghe returned the compliment.  He used the car permit given to Medhananda as MP  to discredit him. Medhananda explained to his biographer that he had collected his car permit and put in a drawer and forgot about it, The JHU bhikkhus has decided that they would not obtain cars nor would they sell  the permits.   Since the JHU kept asking for the  permit, he had, after three months,  taken it to a JHU central committee meeting and placed it on the table, saying ‘here is the permit, do what you want with it.’ He said that was the last he saw of the permit.

Ranil Wickremesinghe  however, thought differently. He charged that Medhananda had bought himself a silver, E-class Mercedes Benz car with the permit. Ranil Wickremesinghe   personally travelled in it  to   a  media conference held at Vidyodaya. Medhananda flatly  denied purchasing the car and said that he had never seen it before. He knew nothing about it.

The foreign press, including New York Times, pounced on this issue. The tale of the Buddhist monk and his shiny, new Mercedes-Benz has sparked a national drama that has enthralled Sri Lanka and left many questioning the political and religious ethics of the cleric’s hawkish political party, said Indian Express.

Medhananda did not last long in Parliament. In 2010, at the party’s seventh national convention JHU ousted Ven. Medhananda from the post of party leader and elected Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha. JHU said Ven. Medhananda had  resigned from the post   as he needed to devote time to his archaeological research. He did not have the time to engage in full time politics. 

Medhananda denied this. He had not told the party that he wished to be relieved of leadership. At no time had he cited time constraints and  said his archaeological work was  an obstacles to his work in the party. He was unaware of what happened during the Jathika Hela Urumaya national convention. He was in Mullaitivu on an archaeological study at the time.

In  2014, Medhananda  stated that he was not in agreement with the JHU.The Jathika Hela Urumaya and Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya are now working against their [original] policies, he said. If the common candidate Maitripala Sirisena wins the Presidential election, [the country will get divided.] The bhikkhus of the Jathika Hela Urumaya and National Bhikkhu Council who  see this looming danger will rally round President Rajapaksa[ at the next election].   (  to be continued)

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