Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force”, addresses the gathering during the Buddhist monks' convention in Kandy, Sri Lanka, 7 July 2019 - REUTERS
- Gnanasara Thero in Kandy severely censures all politicians for destroying public faith, harmony
- Denies BBS has any political agenda, says any mistrust because organisation’s aim not understood
- Insists Buddhist clergy must lead battle against extremism
- Says Govt. must stop talking to Ulama organisations
- Calls on Govt. to talk to moderate, Sufi Muslims when engaging with community
- Calls for unity among Buddhist sects, says he has the Maha Nayakas’ blessing in effort to unify SL
Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero yesterday pledged to build a Sinhala Parliament that would enable the Sinhala people to decide policy and laws as they wished, which in his view, is essential to rejuvenate the country.
Speaking in Kandy, the Thero was insistent that hung Parliaments where minority political parties typically have some clout was detrimental to taking forward national plans. He emphasised that with the support of thousands of temples, the Buddhist clergy has the capacity to bring together the Sinhala population into one vote block, to elect a party with a clear majority in Parliament.
“Democracy has not necessarily worked for us. We now have a situation in Sri Lanka where there is no clear demarcation of power. Even if there was a true leader, he would find it difficult to put in place a strong set of policies and laws to build this nation. We have the competence to change that.
We will build a Sinhala Parliament. If we can get 7000 out of the 10,000 temples we have on our side, and they work to gather votes, it will not be as difficult as people imagine.”
The Thero also called on the Government to stop holding discussions with “Ulama organisations” and engage more with moderate Sufi Muslims that he said have traditionally lived as part of Sri Lankan culture. Addressing the “Sivu Hele Maha Samuluwa” at the Bogambara Stadium in Kandy on Sunday, the controversial Thero spoke for over an hour about what he termed as the twin challenges facing Sri Lanka. In the Thero’s view, these were political incompetency and Muslim extremism. Referring to the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), the Thero said the Government was concentrating only on talking to one organisation, and ignoring other moderate, progressive voices to deal with the issue of extremism. He also directed threats at the members of the ACJU, insisting they advocated a more strict form of Islam that deviated from the traditional moderate form.
“Today we have a Government that talks to the Ulama. The Prime Minister talks to them, the Muslim Ministers talk to them, everyone talks to them. They need to stop doing this immediately, and start talking with the Sufi and other moderate Muslim communities that have lived in Sri Lanka for generations. They are the people we must gather together. But this is not happening because of political greed, because we have Sinhala politicians desperate for Muslim votes,” he told the gathering.
He began his speech with a call for unity among the Buddhists and the Buddhist clergy.
“We Buddhist priests should come together and set aside our differences. In matters that are of paramount importance to the people and to this country, we must step forward as one and lead this battle and unify all Buddhist Nikayas together. I had a dream to gather monks of all Nikayas together and inspire this fallen nation. On one hand we are faced with serious political incompetence, and on the other we see rampant extremism. This country is now divided and fighting each other. We must work to unite this nation, so that our children can have a country they can be proud of. The Maha Nayakas and Sanga Councils have blessed what we are doing, and plan to join us in the future. I will always remember this support.”
The Thero said he welcomed organisations taking up the cause of extremism and other issues facing disharmony in Sri Lanka, but reiterated that the battle has to be taken forward by Buddhist priests. He called on the dozens of monks attending the rally to join the cause of unifying the Sinhala race.
“There are people here who have been directly affected by the 21 April attacks. They want to know what we will do. Give the battle against extremism to the Buddhist clergy. We have the ability and knowledge. Today we see SOFA coming to Sri Lanka. Powerful nations are trying to infiltrate Sri Lanka. Politicians must look after this aspect but give us the battle against extremism.”
“As in the time of the “Panadura Wadaya” our Buddhist priests are ready to go to every single corner of this country, hold meetings, and create the Muslim culture as we want, without going towards extremism. That is our responsibility, because this is the country of the Sinhalese. Just because we say that our Tamil brothers should not become angry with us. Any place requires an owner, even a country, we are the ones who built this country, according to historical evidence. We only want to destroy the snake of extremism. We must all come together to destroy this menace because it will make us all suffer.”
Thanking those who worked to release him from prison, the Thero hailed the fact that there were people who attended the rally from other religions, and insisted that it was not their religion that mattered, but the fact that they were all Sinhalese and dedicated to finding solutions of the problems that the country faces. He also faulted the Ulama organisation in Kandy for what he termed as “spreading panic about the rally”, and blocking Muslims from attending the event. He also spoke welcomingly of the Tamil community and Tamils attending the rally.
“This is a space for moderate Muslims, for the people who are afraid of the extremist elements that are emerging. We would like to see them here, we would have welcomed them.”
The Thero severely censured politicians, pointing out that the political system has become corrupted to the extent that people of all ethnicities and religions disrespected their representatives, and had no regard for them. This has led to the public having no trust or faith in governance.
“There is only one way out of this morass. That is the way of the Buddha. Let us make a pledge today, which is that our leader is Lord Buddha and no one else. He is our leader, our teacher, and our best friend. We have no other agendas, we work for no one else. If we can come to that point then we can bring about a good future for everyone. We must come to that determination. Today where is harmony? They are divided between different politicians and political parties. So how can we bring together the nation?”
The Thero also denied any political affiliation and emphasised that they “only have a national agenda.” Any distaste for the BBS comes from the inability to understand the organisation, which has not taken up any agenda to undermine the Buddhist population, he said.