“End all immoral activities, not only casinos”
Following are excerpts of an interview with Ven. Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena:
Q: The media reported that the Government has agreed to provide alternate lands to Muslim families living in temporary shelters inside the Wilpattu National Park. If those families move out of the wildlife sanctuary, will you call off your campaign?
A: We too heard that 50 acres of land will be given to families in the northern reserve. For the last one week we have been receiving information about this decision, but we were not officially informed. However, according to the information we gathered, we feel the land will be provided to the families in near future.
We are not against resettlements. Resettlements should take place. But it should not be limited to one particular ethnic group. This country belongs to the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Why would someone try to resettle just one ethnic group? Remember, our campaign is not against Muslims. If it was Sinhalese families that encroached on the land, we would have agitated in the same manner.
Wilpattu is one of the largest and oldest national parks in Sri Lanka. It has both historical and environmental value. We can’t let people destroy these assets. We have a responsibility to protect these places so our future generations too will be able see them. Unfortunately when we expose illegal clearing of land and resettling of families inside the wildlife sanctuary, the politicians try to make it look like a hate campaign against the Muslims. That is wrong. We don’t have any issues about Muslim people receiving land, but we are against the strategy and mechanism they used.
The location of Wilpattu is significant. We have ended a 30-year war. Although we have ended the war militarily, we are yet to find remedies and solution to the country’s ethnic issue. Thalaimannar is the closet seaway to India. Resettling people in that area will be the beginning of many other problems. This will be an ideal opportunity for drug peddlers too. There are such valid reasons for our agitation against these resettlements.
Q: You recently met the Chief Prelate of the Malwathu Chapter. What was the outcome of this meeting?
A: We educated Malwathu Mahanayaka Thero about the Wilpattu resettlements and we discussed many other things. One such important matter was the spreading of extreme religious groups in the country. Some of these groups are distorting Buddhist teachings. They are twisting and giving wrong interpretations to our Buddhist literature. We informed Malwathu Mahanayaka Thero about our decision to take legal action against these extreme groups.
Q: What are your views about the Casino Act? What measures will be taken to stop the Government going ahead with these controversial projects?
A: It was the BBS that first objected to the Casino Act. We first spoke against this Act over a year ago. Later various other organisations such as the Hela Urumaya started campaigns against the Act. However, as we got busy with other projects, we were not actively involved in this matter.
Our stand is that not only casinos, we should end all sorts of immoral activities. The Government has not been clear about this project. We strongly feel the Government should be more transparent about this matter. However, if we feel we need to put an end to this matter, we will not hesitate to take to the streets.