Racist thugs dressed in saffron robes have once again entered the political fray. Some might say it is blasphemy to call a Buddhist monk such a foul name, but judging by the actions of these unsavoury individuals, it is clear that they really are nothing more than bigoted hooligans. Make no mistake, these are not Buddhist monks; they’re not followers of the Dhamma; and they’re certainly not preaching Lord Buddha’s message of compassion and tolerance, as amply evidenced by, among numerous other incidents, their antics in front of the Homagama magistrate court premises earlier this week.
Pandemonium reigned following the arrest of General Secretary of the controversial Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Ven. Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, with men in saffron robes shouting in choice language, disrupting legal proceedings and threatening police officers on duty. A few of them went to the extent of lying on the ground under the prison bus that was supposed to transfer Gnanasara Thero from the court premises, blocking its path. Video footage of this embarrassingly unruly behaviour not befitting clergy of any faith let alone Buddhism, one of the most peaceful religions in existence, has now gone viral on every social network. It’s time we asked ourselves if this is the image we want to portray of ourselves as a predominantly Buddhist nation.
In a turn of events that many say was unthinkable little over a year ago, Ven. Gnanasara Thero is now in police custody – though, unsurprisingly, in prison hospital – and, to add insult to injury has been refused bail by the Homagama magistrate. It’s far from over, however. The BBS is just one of many radical outfits that promote chauvinistic thinking. To write off the hate-mongering and anti-minority rhetoric of these antisocial elements as being the inconsequential mutterings of a fringe movement that doesn’t enjoy popular support would be unwise, to say the least.
The BBS’ political wing, the Bodu Jana Peramuna (BJP), meanwhile, has requested the Elections Commissioner to rename their party as the United Sinhale People’s Front, in what we can only presume to be an attempt to jump on the increasingly popular SinhaLey bandwagon that we wrote about in these columns two days ago. Either that or they really want to stay on top of the chauvinist food chain, the go-to party for all things racist and xenophobic. Last year’s general election results notwithstanding, this is serious cause for concern.
President Maithripala Siresna, though he has demonstrated time and again that he genuinely wishes for a peaceful Sri Lanka, took a step backward by holding discussions with the BBS recently, giving this dangerous outfit an unnecessary legitimacy that they, no doubt, will flaunt at every available opportunity in the days and weeks to come. As the Government’s popularity continues to wane, often for the wrong reasons, this might prove to be a costly mistake: the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It is hoped that both the President and the Government come to appreciate the true nature of these organisations and what they represent and take every possible step – within the confines of the law, needless to say – to curb them from the onset.