Jathika Hela Urumaya implodes

Present and past leaders trade charges
By Damith Wickremasekera, Pic by Athula Devapriya

The former leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya Venerable Ellawala Medananda Thera said yesterday that he was left out of the party convention – a charge denied by his successor the Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera.

He said that the party's leadership was only for a period of one year. Despite claims by the JHU that internal conflicts in the party are not allowed to surface in the open, the two monks involved in a dispute over leadership reacted publicly this week.

File Photo Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera
On June 23 the JHU called a news conference to explain the changes in its leadership.

The former leader of the party the Ven. Ellawalla Medhananda Thera in an interview with the Sunday Times maintained he was left out of the party convention, while the new leader the Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera said the party leadership was usually for a one-year period and the former leader should have been aware of this fact.

Excerpts of the interviews with the Ven. Medhananda Thera and the Ven. Sobitha Thera are as follows:

Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera

What is the reason the Ven Medhananda Thera who had been the party leader for seven years was kept out of the party convention?

Only party members are involved in inviting the membership. The Central Committee invites the members. According to the party constitution, invitations to members are sent by registered post. Accordingly two separate letters were sent to the monk by registered post.

But since the party leader was being replaced, didn’t the party think it fit to inform him by telephone?

The office may have tried to reach him by telephone; they have not been able to find his telephone number. I am not sure of what happened.

Was it correct to change the party leader in his absence?

The Ven. Medhananda Thera is aware that party positions are changed annually.

Hasn’t the party been affected by the controversy over the change in leadership.

There has been no issue. All members were appointed unanimously.

What new plans do you have for the party?

I have a great responsibility, as party members will decide whether I have fulfilled my tasks.

What was the controversy over the selection of the new leader

Any new party has its problems. We did not make the issues public. Like a family we try to settle our problems.

Do you think it is right for monks to be in politics?

We played a major role in bringing President Mahinda Rajapaksa to power. Our role has been successful and therefore the monks should gradually move out of politics. We hope to do that.

Ven Ellawala Medhananda Thera

What is your reaction to the fact you were not invited to the party convention?

I was on an archeological inspection in Mullaitivu when the party convention took place. The Central Committee had sent me two registered letters. But there was no mention of a party convention or a Central Committee meeting. I will disclose the contents of the letters at the correct time.

Were you not informed of the convention by telephone?

I have two telephones and there should be no problem of contacting me by phone. Usually before a convention there should be a series of party meetings. In this case no such meetings were held.

But the JHU says they have asked the Post Master General for an inquiry into why the letters sent to you by registered post had not reached you.

I cannot understand the reason to call for such an investigation as I received the letters. The point is they have not communicated to me any information pertaining to a party convention in those letters.

There is therefore no reason to call for an investigation.

What will be your involvement with the party in the future?

I am the founder-leader to the party. I am a national minded person. Unfortunately recent events have caused me to lose my trust in how they will carry out their work in the future.

I cannot be removed from the party and will remain a member.

What is your reaction to monks playing an active role in politics?

The current political system is disgraceful and the current political set- up does not befit the presence of monks in politics.

Therefore monks should not be actively engaged in politics.

What is going to be your future engagement in politics.

If the party goes in the wrong direction I will not hesitate to join a new party or form my own party.

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