Military denies Gota link with BBS

Thursday, 3 July 2014 02:50 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Army identifies 27 houses, 47 shops with major damages in Aluthgama and Beruwala clashes

  • Another 67 houses and 90 shops with minor damages, 31 repaired under first phase

Sri Lanka’s military yesterday denied there was any link between the country’s powerful Defence Ministry Secretary and a hardline Buddhist organisation accused to sparking communal clashes that left three dead. Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is seen by many as connected to the hardline group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or Buddhist Task Force, a claim he has denied. Military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya described the affiliation as an “unrealistic allegation” insisting Rajapaksa had participated at the opening ceremony of a meditation centre linked to the BBS in March 2013 “in good faith.” “The invitation to participate at this event was extended by respected members of the Buddhist clergy and the Secretary simply accepted it. It is wrong to say he is supportive of the BBS based on this one event,” he told reporters, adding that top members of the BBS being present was merely a coincidence. The meditation centre called ‘Methsevana’ was opened on 9 March 2013 by Rajapaksa and also houses a BBS training centre. Since its opening the property, which was donated by a national, has run into legal problems. The BBS, during a press conference on Tuesday, claimed that the property had been offered to a catholic organisation and the military, but had been rejected because of problems with the deed. When it was subsequently offered to the BBS, they had been reluctant to accept it as holding property was not part of their policy. Since BBS Chairman Kirama Wimalajothi Thero is also connected to the Buddhist Cultural Centre, the property was then passed on to the centre, they said. “Twenty-seven houses, 47 shops have major damage while another 67 houses and 90 shops have been identified as having minor damages. The attacked buildings also include a mosque in Adhikaragoda. Thirty-one shops and houses will be repaired under the first phase,” Wanigasooriya added. Meanwhile the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the police recorded a statement from Gnanasara Thero over the incidents that occurred in Aluthgama. Police will also record statements from other speakers at the rally in Aluthgama, Police spokesman Ajith Rohana told reporters. On Thursday the Government allocated Rs. 200 million to repair and reconstruct shops and houses of both Muslims and Buddhists damaged in the clashes. It also deployed over 700 Army, Air Force and Navy personnel to carry out the rebuilding, Wanigasooriya added. The bulk of the funds have been allocated to the Army, which will use Rs. 130 million for reconstruction while the remainder has been given to district administrative officials to provide assistance for the process.  
 JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva addressing the news conference in Colombo yesterday – Pic by Kithsiri De Mel

BBS has State patronage: JVP

Joining a growing Opposition chorus about Government protection for hardline movements inciting violence against the Muslim community, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday insisted that the Bodu Bala Sena was operating under State patronage. Addressing a media briefing in Colombo yesterday, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said leading Bodu Bala Sena monks were now openly challenging the Government to arrest them. “The organisation that is protected by the Government is now telling the Government openly, ‘arrest us if you can’,” Silva told journalists at the media conference. He said the BBS monk’s statements during the rally in Aluthgama alone were sufficient to arrest him for inciting communal tension. On Tuesday Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe slammed the Government for complicity in the Aluthgama violence. Wickremesinghe said certain Government groups had been involved in getting the BBS to the rally in Aluthgama the evening of the riots. (DB)