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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2707

Bodu Bala Sena: Freedom fighters or terrorists?

By Raj Gonsalkorale

If one accepts that the end justifies the means to that end, then in principle, there cannot be a difference between the LTTE and the Bodu Bala Sena. The LTTE resorted to violence to achieve an end they believed in and the BBS seems to be resorting to means just one step away from violence, which is inciting violence, as they are doing openly.

This is as bad as being violent as incitement can and will lead to violence as Sri Lanka has experienced for decades.

Rightly, peace loving people of Sri Lanka condemned the means employed by the LTTE to achieve their end. They should now condemn unreservedly and with equal vehemence, the means being employed by the BBS to achieve their ends. It is not their message that is under discussion here. It is their means.

A majority of Buddhists in Sri Lanka would be dismayed and disgusted at the very unBuddhistic behavior of the BBS. They would say the BBS is insulting and desecrating the Buddha and Buddhism, whatever their grouse with other religions in Sri Lanka and whatever cause they are fighting for. They would say that while Buddhism preaches tolerance and ahimsa, the BBS is doing the opposite.

While the argument whether BBS or any other organization should be engaged in the type of activity that the BBS is involved in while donning robes, is an issue in itself, although the issue in hand now is the means employed by the BBS to draw attention to what they term as unacceptable activities of some religious groups in Sri Lanka.

Many Buddhists have come to the conclusion that the formal Buddhist orders such as the Malwatu and Agiriya chapters of the Siyam Nikaya, the biggest in Sri Lanka, and others like the Ramanya and Amarapura Nikaya have become impotent in maintaining order and decorum amongst Buddhist monks and failed to enforce the Vinaya Pitakaya or the rules for Monks. This has led to some Buddhist Monks pursuing lay careers like being Parliamentarians and some others engaging in business activities. A far cry from what Buddha intended for Monks when he created the order of the Sangha.

While not generalizing the behavior of Monks as most are very likely engaged in what Buddha intended them to do, which is explaining the Buddhist doctrine to lay persons, it appears that the freedom of the wild Ass has become the behavior of some Monks.

It would not be out of place to say that the country is witnessing a situation where the laxity in enforcing the law of the land and not enforcing zero tolerance of violence or incitement to violence is giving opportunities for various groups to act with impunity and disregard to fellow human beings leaving one to fear that anarchy is not far away.

If any religious group of any religious denomination is acting in a manner that brings disharmony amongst the community, they need to be dealt with according to the law of the land.

Law enforcement officials must be given the freedom to enforce the law without fear or favour. Political personalities, however powerful they are and however well connected they are to those who wield power, should not interfere with those who are employed to enforce the law.

Those who violate the law should be punished and the justice system must be given the freedom, again without fear or favour, to prosecute and punish those who are found to be guilty of breaking the law of the land.

The BBS may have issues that need to be heard and addressed. So would those who are being accused by the BBS. This is why there is a governance system and this is why people elect Presidents, and Parliamentarians to listen to all sides and find solutions to these issues. This is why there are law courts and a justice system so that if any person or group has acted in violation of the law, they could seek redress from the Courts.

This does not seem to have happened as far as the issues irking the BBS is concerned. Those who are being accused by the BBS have also not been heard to know their side of the story.

Whatever the issues the BBS has to highlight, they must know that the majority of Sri Lankans like to live in peace and as equals with fellow Sri Lankans belonging ng to all ethnic groups and religious denominations. BBS must know Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi religious country. It is not a Sinhala Buddhist country and it has never been that as people from many religious denominations and ethnic groups have lived in the island for centuries.

If the Mahanayake’s of various Nikaya’s believe in the plurality of Sri Lanka, this is the time to say so publicly, without reservations. A collective statement from them would go a long way to silence those vociferous minorities amongst Buddhists.

The government on the other hand must do their duty and ensure all citizens live according to the law of the land. Failure to do so and allowing a minority to bring disrepute to the overwhelming majority should not be tolerated.

The government must also take the initiative to listen to all who have issues on religious grounds. They must provide the leadership and the platform for these to be discussed and resolved in a congenial, peaceful manner.

It is then incumbent upon those who have issues to accept a resolution that is in the best interest of the country.

- Asian Tribune -

 Bodu Bala Sena: Freedom fighters or terrorists?
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