Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) General Secretary Minister Champika Ranawaka called for a speedy return to the rule of law and declared it was necessary to avert incidents like the ones that broke out in Aluthgama. Though he did not agree with statements made by Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, he defended the role of the [...]


Need to avert incidents like Aluthgama through openness, says Champika


Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) General Secretary Minister Champika Ranawaka called for a speedy return to the rule of law and declared it was necessary to avert incidents like the ones that broke out in Aluthgama.

Though he did not agree with statements made by Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, he defended the role of the Bodu Bala Sena in a Q & A with the Sunday Times. Here are excerpts:

- The incidents in Aulthgama and Beruwala have drawn international attention. How do you see the

Pic by Athula Devapriya


The incidents were unfortunate and we were saddened by the plight of the Sinhalese as well as the Muslims in these areas. However, some were trying to portray this at a national level and international level. This was to tarnish the image of the country and the Buddhist society. What happened there was a localised incident. Unfortunately, when the initial incident took place at Dharga town where a monk was obstructed and assaulted the police did not act.

- Are you saying that police inaction aggravated the situation?

Yes, police inaction as well as the arrogance of the youth contributed to this situation. It was only after the monk was hospitalised and an agitation was staged the suspects were arrested. The lesson is that the matter should have been confined to the area. The other is that the law should be enforced as soon as possible. When you delay, people believe justice is denied and they take the law into their hands.

- But some sections believe that the meeting held by the Bodu Bala Sena in Aluthgama aggravated the

The event was organised by the ‘Sasanarakshaka Manadalaya’ to receive the monk of the temple who was returning from Nagoda hospital. The organisers invited the BBS and other organisations which helped to take action against the culprits.
When the monks and the villagers were returning there was an incident where the people were stoned. During this incident a monk was assaulted and was unconscious. The rumour spread the monk was killed. Clashes erupted thereafter. The correct situation was not explained to the public. But there were others who tried to portray this as “Buddhist terrorism” to western media and foreign embassies.

- But, how about the actions and speeches made by the BBS. Don’t they contribute towards portraying this image?

We do not approve the manner in which Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera of the BBS speaks. However, you can’t compare the BBS with other extremist groups. We have witnessed a self-alienation within the Muslim community. Their dress code has changed and they promote social separatism and segregate themselves in society. In Dhargaa town nobody wears helmets, in Akurana, buildings are being constructed without permission.

- Isn’t that an issue for the law
enforcement authorities to take care of?

That is the issue. We have witnessed this in others areas too. For instance the law entrance exam. There was an allegation that the Muslims got the question papers in advance when it was given for translation into Tamil. But what is the answer? The answer is that from next time onwards there will be no more question papers in Sinhala or Tamil, only in English. So the culprits are not being punished.

We have seen various organisations coming up and some of them small, but fundamentalist in their thinking. The head of one organisation called Lord Buddha a ‘barbarian’. He said there was no Sangha order in Sri Lanka.

- What action have the police taken against them?

No action has been taken. This is the problem. This situation should have been confined to the Aluthgama area. The Buddhists were not allowed to talk about them. Even the poojas were stopped. Maybe it was a security measure. But the Muslims were allowed to talk. They were allowed to hold hartals in various parts of the country.

We are sad how the truth was suppressed. The world was told that the aggressor was the Buddhist and the underdogs were the Muslims. We are sorry for what happened to the Muslims, but we should not give moral legitimacy to al-Qaeda roots in Sri Lanka.

- Has there been any evidence to this effect?

The Indian government has clearly warned us about the person who was arrested in Chennai. He is from Gampola. Interpol has warned us about al-Qaeda cells in Sri Lanka. Because of our online visa system Pakistanis, Syrian refugees and various groups come here and propagate ideas. In the global arena there are 26 military conflicts, of them 25 conflicts have a Muslim fundamentalist group on one side.

- As a partner in the government how do you hope to get the government to implement law and order?

Unfortunately some government members speak of Buddhist terrorism. There is nothing called Buddhist terrorism. First the government should control these elements that are tarnishing our Buddhist society. Some Muslim Ministers are trying to propagate wild allegations against the Buddhists and destabilise Sri Lanka. The government is allowing Muslim ministers to do this. The public should know that there is fear among the Sinhalese. There is an increase in the Muslim population. Their social segregation programme is another issue. More mosques are coming up. There are fears of involvement of illegal businesses too.
There are new Muslim organisations coming up. Some of them are unknown to the public. Someone should explain these matters. We know the members of the Muslim Council because they interact with us. They should be open. There are some unknown organisations.

- What do you expect from the Muslim Community?

We are asking the peace loving Muslims to disclose how these organisations operate. This way you can control the situation.

- Some have called for the implementation of new laws?

The existing laws are enough. Laws should be implemented. If the people feel that the implementation of law is delayed and thereby justice is denied, the people will take the law into their hands. That happened in Beruwala. People should realize there is no Buddhist terrorism. All politicians should be responsible to their citizens and they should not propagate in international forums. Haratals will not help.

- The BBS is also accused of spreading hate speech. There are calls to control hate speech by law. What are your views?
Hate speech should be controlled. That is our culture. As Buddhist we are proud there is nothing about revenge attacks in Buddhism.

- What do you suggest the government should do to defuse the tension?

The responsibility is not only with the government. Society in general and religious leaders should also take the responsibly. There should be a direct link between religious leaders when these types of incidents occur. When the incidents took place in Grandpass there was such a dialogue, though there were different views.

- You mentioned about the law

enforcement authorities failing to take action, what is your message to the government?

The government should not vacillate. We should implement the law. We should find the truth. For instance, the incident at Nolimit and Panadura. The incident took place last Saturday and so far the outcome of the investigations have not been made public. Rumours are spreading. We should reveal the truth. It is an era of citizen journalist. So you can’t hide things.

- As the JHU what is your message to the Buddhist?

As the JHU we call on the Buddhist society not to incite against any other community. We have shown that if anybody tries to impose anything on us they will be severely dealt with. Self-defence is our tool. We can protect our nation and sovereignty. We can preserve Buddhism. We appeal to Muslim intellectuals do not close your society. Tell us what are the organisations you have? Do not try to groom al-Qaeda roots. The first victims will be your society.

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