Bodu Bala Sena to tone down its stance on Muslims
Bodu Bala Sena has agreed to make public announcement that - ‘Bodu Bala Sena will be in no way responsible for creating a situation of religious discrimination in this country.
This was agreed upon by Mr. Dilantha Wirharnage, the coordinator and the only lay committee member of the Bodu Bala Sena.
Chief of Bhodu Bala Sena is Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Thera. Secretary of Bodhu Bala Seana is Ven. Galagadatthea Gnanasara Thera. Other executive committee members are Ven. Haputhalea Paghgasara Thera, Ven. Vitharandheniyea Nandha Thera and Dilantha Vithanage (Lay Member).
Bodu Bala Sena has been told not to be the cause for any allegations by the international community as the main cause for religious disharmony and discrimination in the country.
Since of late, they have taken a battle against the Muslims regarding the halal food issue and this has created much cause for religious disharmony in the country.
Religion is a subject of private belief of an individual. Unfortunately not only in Sri Lanka, but world over religion has become a hot political subject. Islam and cross are state symbols in many countries.
Even earlier Mahavansa made a virtue of killing in deference of Buddhism, but Buddhism values human life as being the one and only condition from which nibhana is attainable.
Unfortunately in Sri Lanka allegations are surfacing, that since of late Buddhists are grudgingly trying to propagate Buddhism in the country at the cost of the religious beliefs of the minority communities.
It became clearly evidenced that after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – 19th May 2009, several Buddha’s statutes have been erected in Vanni where no Buddhists live.
Similarly many Buddhists statutes are being erected in Colombo Roads which are being used not only by the Buddhists but by all those who professed different religious beliefs. Many are of the view that these are seen as practicing religious discrimination in the country where multi- religious, multi-ethnic groups live.
Latest is the attack on the religious beliefs of the Muslims. They have been challenged on their food practices and their religious sentiments have been unnecessarily tampered with.
These attacks had brought about the ire of nearly 50 Muslim countries in the world and last time almost all the Muslim countries - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Mauritania, Maldives Islands, Indonesia, Bangladesh supported Sri Lanka against the US resolution.
For the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, there are 13 Muslim countries and their support is very crucial for Sri Lanka. But if Bodu Bala Sena continues to irritate Muslims in Sri Lanka, it would be difficult for Sri Lanka to count the support of the Muslim countries.
Asian Tribune brought it to the notice of Bodu Bala Sena and appealed to them to not to be a party to the allegation of religious discrimination in the country.
Asian Tribune contacted Dilantha Wirharnage, the coordinator and the only lay committee member of the Bodu Bala Sena and appealed to him to refrain from involving in any attacks on the minorities religious beliefs.
Given below the excerpts of the interview Asian Tribune had with Mr. Dilantha Witharanage:
Asian Tribune : What is happening in Sri Lanka?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: In what sense?
Asian Tribune: Regarding - Bodu Bala Sena- Muslims’ – halal foods, while the international community is watching very intensively the unfolding drama in the country.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: It is a very complicated issue and answering your question is all about a very complex situation here, anyhow, I can speak only on behalf of Bodu Bala Sena.
Asian Tribune: Kindly tell us about the position and involvement of Bodu Bala Sena in the present complex situation?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: I don’t think, things are moving in the right direction. As an organization - Bodhu Bala Sena does not want to have any communal disturbances or any communal disharmony or anything of that nature. But for some reasons, whatever we have demanded that were taken up by some other groups – it can be Sinhalese groups, Muslims groups and so on.
We were talking about rights of the Buddhist Sinhalese in this country, preserving the Sinhala Buddhist culture in this country. We never wanted to tamper with any other people’s rights.
But for some reasons or other, some extremists’ groups and some fundamentalists’ groups both Muslims, as well as Sinhalese – I blame primarily Muslims, because they are unnecessarily creating tension in this country.
Also I have to blame media as they are also not reporting things in a responsible manner. I think what we are preaching here is to develop the country and to have peace and ethnic harmony here. Unfortunately lot of things are happening and they are happening not in the right direction.
Look at the Facebook’s posts by different groups. We request authorities to take stern actions against those anti-social elements. For example some have sent SMS to various people in the country stating that Bodu Bala Sena –(with our telephone numbers, address and everything given), that there was in 1915 Muslims attacking the Sinhalese and the one hundred year celebrations around the corner and Sinhala Buddhist should take action against Muslims. This was completely wrong. We never sent such SMS to people.
But such SMS messages are circulating in the country. We have complaint to the authorities about this and we must find out who are at the bottom of all these mischievous condemnable activities.
At the same time, unethical posters using all the filthy words and vulgar languages are now available on the Facebook. I think that Government should take serious action against them. I personally met last time our President with the Buddhist monks in a meeting and raised this issue that authorities should take serious measures to stop this.
Asian Tribune: When did you last met Sri Lankan President?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: I think you know about the meeting we had with Sri Lanka President, I can’t come up with the exact date. Bodu Bala Sena group had a two hour discussion with him. In that meeting we also requested, the Inspector General Police who was also there, to take actions against those anti-social elements, because those were unethical practices.
Asian Tribune: I wish to draw your attention that the country is facing a big problem. Do you know anything about that?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: That is about Geneva?
Asian Tribune: Including about discrimination of religion in Sri Lanka? We reliably learnt such clause is introduced due to Bodu Bala Sena showing discrimination to Muslims.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: No, that is completely wrong.
Asian Tribune: You say that it was completely wrong but international community thinks otherwise –
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: We challenge the international community to come up with any incidents of Bodu Bala Sena’s involvement of any such attacks on Muslim places of worships or on any Muslim persons.
Asian Tribune: But there are already reports available that you have attacked Muslim places of worship as well as on Muslim people.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: No – I flatly deny this.
Asian Tribune: Even I have carried those news reports.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: You mean to say about attacks by Bodu Bala Sena?
Asian Tribune: Of course … by Bodu Bala Sena.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: No it is completely wrong and I deny it. It is false information. I will challenge you or anyone about it.
Asian Tribune: Don’t challenge me I am only a journalist and I only report facts as it evolves. Any how I will ask anybody to make a statement that Bodu Bala Sena was never involved in any such incidents.
There is an allegation that Bodu Bala Sena has put the country in a big dilemma. The international community doesn’t believe you or me, but they allege that Bodu Bala Sena is bringing about religious discrimination in this country. And also you are trying to sideline and get rid of the Muslims of this country.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: No ... No …never.
Asian Tribune: Do you know that there are nearly 50 Muslim countries in the world. Out of them, 13 Muslim countries are members of the Human Right council which total around 47 members in all.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: When did they have that resolution?
Asian Tribune : Asian Tribune had already carried the third draft of that resolution proposed by US against Sri Lanka.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Did they use Bodu Bala Sena’s name in that resolution?
Asian Tribune: No … they did not use Bodu Bala Sena’s or anybody’s name. It is all about religious discrimination. But they did not use any names, but if you read the third draft then you will understand.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Then we can’t answer? What I say is that I can answer on behalf of Bodu Bala Sena. But you say that our names are not there?
Asian Tribune : International community never used to name any organizations that are within a country. But they only blame that Government of that country as solely responsible for aiding and abetting organizations and thus practicing religious discrimination in a country. There were allegations that you were having a militant youth organization. The issue of Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka was raised as follows in the third draft of the US Resolution against Sri Lanka:
PP9 Expressing concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings, torture, violations of the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: There is no truth behind such allegations. We don’t have militant groups.
Asian Tribune: What you say is not acceptable. There were allegations that you have semi-paramilitary youth groups. Do you have one?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: We don’t have.
Asian Tribune: They say …
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: I can’t comment on that. But we don’t have any para-military group.
Asian Tribune: So you don’t have any youth groups? Any youth organizations?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: We have some youths who work with us. They are not involved in taking any arms.
Asian Tribune: You know the Barathya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) parent organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) they had militant youth organizations. They only had a stick. Have you heard of RSS?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Listen, recently at our Maharagama meeting as well as at our Malabe meetings, we definitely spoke about this and requested not to have any communal problems in the country.
Asian Tribune: Last time one of your offices was declared opened by Defense Secretary.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Actually one German person who was in Sri Lanka, created a trust with Buddhist Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka. The Head of our Buddhist Cultural centre is Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Thera. He is the Director of the Buddhist Cultural Centre and he invited Defense Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse for that function.
Asian Tribune: Who is this Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Thera?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Thera - he is the President of the Bodu Bala Sena, but he is also the director of the Buddhist Cultural Centre. And he invited Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa to this function.
Actually what happened was when this German man wanted to donate the land, he basically came to Bodu Bala Sena and met with us.
As we don’t want to own properties or temples, we told him to speak to our Nayaka Thero, because he was running couple of Buddhist cultural centres. Of course he helped to establish these centres and support various programmes. You know any organization can invite Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and there is no issue about that.
Asian Tribune: You have said that Bodu Bala Sena does not own any properties. But how come you own 12 storied buildings?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: What …? You mean to say Bodu Bala Sena?
Asian Tribune: Yes?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: It is completely a false information. That building is also owned by Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Nayaka Thera’s organization called Buddhist Cultural Centre. This was established during the 2600 years of Lord Buddha’s ceremony. It was established by them. We have only a two-room office and the building doesn't belong to Bodu Bala Sena.
Asian Tribune: That 12-stoery building is located where?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: In the Thunmulla junction.
Asian Tribune: Whether this building is owned by Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Nayaka Thera or by Bodu Bala Sena – I think both are the same. It doesn't make any difference.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: No … no it is completely different. When we wanted to find an office space, he has kindly allocated two rooms for us in that building.
He has taken around Rs.240 million loan to construct the building.
Asian Tribune: Ven. Kirana Vimalajothi Nayaka Thera is one who has renounced all the material benefits of the world and how come he was able to obtain such a big amount as a loan from a bank?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: I don’t know anything about that. You have to ask this from him. I don’t get involved in all these things. They are trusted people. There is a Bank of Ceylon branch also there. There are number of offices also housed in that building.
Asian Tribune: However the general perception is that the building rightly belongs to Bodu Bala Sena. What is the name of this 12-storey building?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: The name is Sri Sambuddathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya. For more information about that place kindly go to www.buddehistcc.net.
Asian Tribune: Do you have information in the English language?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Yes all is in English.
Asian Tribune: Then why Bodu Bala Sena’s website www.bodupalasena.org is only in Sinhala language?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: We are going to do it in English language. But we don’t have the capacity. We started to have it in Sinhala and English, but we could not update it because we did not have the capacity and money …
>Asian Tribune: I can’t agree with you. If Bodu Bala Sena does not have money then who in this world has the Money?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Actually we don’t have. I am not joking.
Asian Tribune: The most important thing I want to bring to your notice is that according to country’s constitution Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and I don’t know why you Buddhist people are creating more and more problems to the country?
I am not worried, you can fight, but internationally you are creating problem to my country. No Muslim country in the world will support Sri Lanka if you all try to suppress the rights of the Muslims living in this country?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: We are not creating these problems. These problems are indeed created by Muslim groups.
Asian Tribune: You can’t simply pass the blame on somebody. Listen to me. I am not a Muslim,
I am not a Christian, I am not even a Hindu. I am a Sri Lankan. That is my religion, Nationality and everything. Also understand that I am not a Sinhalese, I am not a Tamil, but I am a Sri Lankan. I am only interested in the welfare of my country – Sri Lanka.
In the third draft of the resolution they have sharpened their fangs and attacking my country. According to the last addition in the draft, they have included another accusation – Religious discrimination – It is all because since of late Bodu Bala Sena and the Muslims are up in arms against each other.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: I don’t think that Bodu Bala Sena is involved in any religious discriminatory activities.
Asian Tribune: It is not what you or I think about, but what actually matters is what the international community think about us. Therefore, be sensible and tone down your activities.
In fact if you want to promote Buddhism you may do it. Nobody is going to stop you from promoting Buddhism, but not at the cost of Islam and Muslims.
Why? Lord Buddha was a very great preacher and his preaching is more than enough to promote Buddhism not only in Sri Lanka but in all the other countries in the world.
You may be aware that it was the Tamil Buddhist monks such as Dinnaga a celebrated Buddhists logician was a student of Nalanda and later lived at Kanchi, Bodhidharma who went to China to preach the doctrine of Lord Buddha was a monk from Kanchi, South India and they all preached and propagated Buddhism in Thailand, China and in many other South Eastern countries.
Lord Buddah was a great teacher. You can propagate Buddhism based on his teachings. Why do you want to have someone like Muslims to promote your religion? You don’t need it at all.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Yes we don’t need them. If you come to Colombo I can show you our position very clearly. I will show you lot of things which will show very clearly that Buddhist are in a very dangerous situation because of certain elements.
Asian Tribune: How can that be? When Buddhism is given the topmost position and protected by country’s Constitution, there can’t be any danger to Buddhism. Then what about others – like Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, which are not given any privileged position as given to Buddhism in the Constitution.
Buddhism enjoys this privileged position since 1972 – for the first time this position was given in the Republican Constitution of Mrs. Bamdaranayake and followed it up in the 1978 constitution of J.R.Jayawardebne,
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: In the meantime I wish to bring to your attention that three thousand acres of prime forest lands in the Wilpattu jungle reserves are to be allocated to the Muslim IDPs.
Asian Tribune: Dear Sir, you have got your information all mixed up and wrong. It is not in Wilpattu. It is in Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu areas where Muslims lived before they were being chased out by the LTTE in 1990.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Then why they have to get the clearance from the Wild Life Department?
Asian Tribune: As far as I am aware, those lands are now suddenly claimed as jungle lands, therefore they have to bring to the notice of the Forest Department to get their lands back. According to geographical location Mannar is in the North and Wipattu is in the North Central Province.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Then what are this environmentalist talking about it?
Asian Tribune: I don’t know who those environmentalists are.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: What I will do is that I will fax you those documents we received from these environmental specialist.
Asian Tribune: Please don’t refer them as ‘specialists’. Please look at the Sri Lanka map and see where Mannar is located and where Wilpattu is located? Furthermore Bodu Bala Sena is not an environmental organization to be worried about Wilpattu.
In 1990 Muslims were chased out by the LTTE. They were living in Puttalam area for the last 23 years. Unfortunately Government did not consider resettling them with the other three hundred thousand IDPs. Government termed the Muslims as ‘old IDPs’ and failed to resettle them along with others to their original places.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: But Wilpattu Jungle Reserves are not the original places of the Muslims.
Asian Tribune: Those Muslims IDPs are not coming to Wilpattu, but they are coming to Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu where they lived before 1990.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: We are not worried if they are coming to their original places. But Wilpattu was not their original place.
Asian Tribune: I am sorry to say that somebody is misleading Bodu Bala Sena.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: I might not be sure and I am not going to argue with you. I will try to send that information then you decide on that.
Asian Tribune: I think you have to contact Minister Basil Rajapaksa who is responsible for North and East and he will be able to give you the right information. Ask him where these Muslims are going. You may telephone him or send him a letter.
I may come by the middle of April, but what I am now worried about is that on the 22nd March, US is going to have the vote against Sri Lanka in the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council. I, like many other Sri Lankans, wanted the situation cleared. That is all I am interested.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Last year also they did the same thing.
Asian Tribune: Last year is different and this year they are too vigorous against my country.
I doubt that US and the West are trying to bring about a Kosova situation in Sri Lanka. What they planning and plotting – the international community is to separate the North and East from rest of the Country and create a Kosova state in Sri Lanka. Does Bodu Bala Sena want to be the very organization that would be responsible for such a situation in Sri Lanka?
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Please understand that for all what is happening in Geneva and if somebody is going to put the entire blame on us, then it is completely wrong. The other thing is that Bodu Bala Sena has not contributed in any way to create this problem. There are a lot of the elements. What we are saying is that please take action against them.
Asian Tribune: I think I must make a suggestion. If you are so interested in the welfare of Sri Lanka, then you have to immediately make a public statement in English saying very clearly that Bodu Bala Sena was in no way responsible for creating a situation of Religious discrimination in this country. You may make a statement immediately maybe by tomorrow.
Mr. Dilantha Witharanage: Yes definitely we will issue a statement and send you also a copy.
- Asian Tribune -