No monks in parliament, please!
Posted on August 22nd, 2020

By Rohana R. Wasala Courtesy The Island

A few Buddhist monks who have long been vocal protestors against the anti-Buddhasasana activities of a large number of foreign funded fundamentalist religious groups and a hitherto unheard of, relatively obscure monk by the name of Wedinigama Wimalatissa are embroiled in a violent controversy over the single national list seat won by the Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya (AJBP) at the recent parliamentary election. (AJBP did not belong to the monks until a few days before nominations for the election closed. They arranged, apparently, on an ad hoc basis, through some commercial transaction, to contest under this previously registered party.) Wimalatissa Thera is a resident monk of the Asgiri Vihara monastery in Kandy, involved, as can be guessed from scrappy  information available in the social media, in some proprietary dispute with the hierarchy there; he is not known to have had any relationship in the past with the aforementioned agitating monks. The visage of the monk that first came out in the media was that of a bearded bounder. 

At the time of writing, Wimalatissa is reported to have disappeared amidst the controversy, either gone into hiding, or held hostage by a rival group in some unknown place. But a YouTube journalist tracked him down and interviewed him a couple of days ago. Wimalatissa Thera was/is said to be the Secretary of the AJBP. It is also claimed that he has been replaced by the party’s working committee. He told the journalist that he nominated himself for the seat in order to prevent a clash between two senior monks of the party over it; he claimed he wanted to go to parliament and after a short time relinquish his MP post and hand it over to one of the two senior monks who he thought was more suitable to occupy the seat. Earlier on in the interview, he mentioned the name of the particular monk he had in mind; but he forgot about it towards the end of the interview, where he said he would make way for the other monk who, he said, was more  knowledgeable and more experienced as he had already been an MP previously. 

The two senior monks alluded to here are respectively the well known Gnanasara and Ratana Theras. There appears to be something more than meets the eye here. It is claimed by a prominent lay activist (who, presumably) was among the founders of the AJBP) that a Sri Lankan man he named with a shady past who is based in France is directing Wimalatissa to throw the allocation of the AJBP’s national seat  into crisis as an attack on the monks’ legitimate nationalist cause (of countering the threat posed by certain extremist religious fundamentalist sects, protecting the historical Buddhist archaeological and cultural heritage of the country, and ensuring the survival of the majority Sinhalese  in their hallowed homeland of many millennia). Another version is that this is all Ratana Thera’s doing. He is even alleged to have abducted Wimalatissa Thera. Ratana has been in parliament for fifteen years (through the previous UPFA and Yahapalana administrations of 2005-19), but he has little to show for it, except his substantial contribution to the ouster of the war winning MR government, that helped in inflicting the Yahapalana misrule on the just liberated country. In any case, the monkeyish buffoonery is a wheels within wheels affair that is bound to reflect very negatively on the whole Maha Sangha, who have historically been required to always face the brunt of enemy attacks on the Buddhist nation. But these squabbling monks (a mixture of good and bad ones) are only a handful out of the total 36,000 who, unfortunately, do not have the united ecclesiastical leadership and guidance that they can’t do without in these trying times.  

The unseemly struggle of a few monks over a parliamentary seat has already left a bad taste in many a mouth among the voting public who have delivered a two thirds majority victory to the nationalist SLPP led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa under the overall leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the purpose of implementing their ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ program of economic development as spelt out in the SLPP election manifesto. No better guarantor of the protection of the Buddhist archaeological and cultural heritage of the country and of equitably distributed economic development  without any discrimination towards the minorities, than this duo can be imagined at present. But these monks could prove to be an impediment to the realization of the nation’s dreams.

The fact that only one monk has been elected to the parliament in a country where over 70% of the population are Buddhist shows that they don’t approve of monks doing parliamentary or party politics. The new government must introduce legislation to ban MP monks. It is respectfully submitted here that the Venerable Maha Nayakes ensure that this is included in the new Constitution.

It is the conviction of the monks and the people led by them that only a strong Sinhala Buddhist leader is capable of providing good governance for all Sri Lankans of diverse ethnicities and religious persuasions without discrimination, something explained by Arun Janardhanan of The Indian Express newspaper/August 16, 2020 in these words: 

‘A top leader close to the ruling dispensation said poll results means nothing but the fact that Sri Lankan people wanted a strong Sinhala Buddhist leader. MR (Mahinda) is the most popular, Gota (Gotabaya) is the most powerful (now). They are not racists. Gota knows that development-focused policies alone will save our country, not a racist-ethnic politics. He was working towards that, to improve the economy, he will continue to do that,” the leader said’.

That legitimate hope has just begun to be realised with the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president in November last year and the swearing in of the new parliament overwhelmingly supportive of his brother prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.  It is time the monks left them alone to do the needful. –

4 Responses to “No monks in parliament, please!”

  1. Nimal Says:

    No time to read this article but this is my comment.
    No developed country will give a sweat to a clergy of any religion in the parliament, but they have clergy in the non elected upper house where they might raise a moral objection to any controversial bill passed in the lower house. They will sent the bill back to the lower hose to reconsider the bill which will result in a new debate or if the reasons are very severe then that bill will be abolished in the lower house. This is how civilized countries run their countries.Well we have to catch up with them but it will be difficult to catch up with our balu culture.To day the TV says that many accidents and many deaths in one day reflecting our non Buddhist, selfish and careless culture of the people driving on our streets.

  2. Charles Says:

    It is Great th

  3. Charles Says:

    It is Great that there is no Monk in the Parliament. It is most objectionable to see a sacred yellow robe in a place like that which is meant for the laymen. An appropriate place for a monk is his Temple and no where else except in a meditation Kuti, and where other yellow robes are seen.

  4. Charles Says:

    I agree that Monks should not be elected to parliament and that should be entered in to the Constitution which states that, 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).

    Ratana thero does not speak or behave like a Monk. If he wants to be a paliamentarian he should give up his robe he cannot have both , the Parliament and the robe.

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