Gnanasara reignites anti-muslim sentiments

Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera.Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero has reignited anti-Muslim sentiments after he warned that another “Aluthgama” was in the offing.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka wrote a letter to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujitha Jayasundara while a group of Muslim lawyers filed a complaint at the police headquarters last week accusing Gnanasara Thero of attempting to incite violence against Muslims through a speech he had made in Mahiyanganaya.

Attorney-at-law Shiraz Noordeen said that three complaints were filed at police headquarters against Gnanasara Thero.

Now extremist Buddhist groups have begun thrashing the Muslim Council and the Muslim lawyers through social media.

This has resulted in a social media war between Muslim groups and Buddhist groups which is posing a threat to reconciliation efforts in the country.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka last week wrote to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara saying BBS General Secretary the Venerable Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero had threatened a repeat of the Aluthgama violence against the Muslim community, during a speech he made in Mahiyangana on 23 June.

President of the Muslim Council N M Ameen said in the letter that the Venerable Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero had also threatened the police in his speech.

Together with the letter to the IGP, Ameen also enclosed a DVD containing the speech made by Gnanasara Thero in Mahiyangana.

“As you are aware, two years ago on the 15thof June 2014, Ven. GnanasaraThero incited the people of Kalutara district to cause violence, death and destruction to the Muslims of Aluthgama and Beruwela. The rioting caused the death of two persons, destroyed house and property and inflicted damages to businesses worth billions of rupees. The repeated calls by the Muslim community for a commission of inquiry and punish the perpetrators have fallen on deaf ears. Two years on, Ven. Gnanasara Thero is proudly claiming that he will repeat Aluthgama in Mahiyangana,” Ameen said in the latter.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka called on the IGP to immediately initiate an inquiry against the said threat and take necessary police action against the provocation to violence.

The Muslim Council also called on the IGP to conduct an inquiry on the Aluthgama riots against the Muslims and take necessary police action against the perpetrators.

When contacted by The Sunday Leader, Ameen said that he was yet to receive a response from the police to his complaint.


Gnanasara Defiant

Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero rejected the allegation that he had made statements against Muslims in the country.

He told The Sunday Leader the Muslim Council had misinterpreted his speech and  they must “go to Angoda.”

The monk later made an even more blasphemous comment on social media where he told the Muslim Council to send the letter they sent to the IGP to Prophet Muhammad.

Gnanasara Thero said he was not scared even of the letter was sent to Prophet Muhammad and insisted that Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhalese Buddhists.

“This is not Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or the UAE,” he said.

He said Muslims cannot teach monks about reconciliation or co-existence and if they confront Buddhists then Buddhists are ready to respond accordingly.

Noordeen said the threats made by Gnanasara Thero was raised with the police in the complaint filed last week.

He said that one complaint pertained to a threat made to the police through Gnanasara Thero’s speech including a warning to free some suspects arrested by the police.

Another complaint was over the statement made by Gnanasara Thero on social media where he had said that the letter sent to the IGP by the Muslim Council should be sent to Prophet Muhammad.

Noordeen said they expect the IGP to launch a comprehensive investigation on the allegations raised against Gnanasara Thero and take appropriate legal action.Meanwhile the Muslim Ulama Party condemned the failure of the government to take action against Gnanasara Thero.Gnanasara Thero earlier told The Sunday Leader that a group of Muslims had recently set fire to a Buddhist flag and Muslim groups were silent over that incident.

The Muslim Ulama Party said the Muslim community in Sri Lanka did not condone the action and had called for the arrest of the youth involved in the incident.However, the Muslim Ulama Party said that ordinary Muslims have now been targeted over that incident and so the government must act swiftly to arrest the situation.

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera was freed on bail in February over another incident where violent behaviour was on show.

Gnanasara Thero was granted bail today by the Homagama Magistrate in connection to the case involving the alleged threat made to Sandhya Eknaligoda, the wife of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera was initially granted bail by the Homagama Magistrate over contempt of court charges.However he was remanded for allegedly threatening Sandhya Eknaligoda but was released in February.Last year cabinet had approved a proposal to the amendment the Penal Code to prevent hate speech.

The government had said that in the past decades instigation on communal basis, hate speech focusing various religious and ethnic groups and related printed material have caused in breach of communal harmony.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had recommended that laws should be enacted and empowered for prevention of such behaviour.

Accordingly, a proposal made by Dr. Wijayadasa Rajapaksa, Minister of Justice, to make suitable amendments to the Penal Code, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.However local civil society had in December expressed deep concerns about two Bills tabled in Parliament to criminalise hate speech and the instigation of communal violence and disharmony.

One such Bill tabled was an amendment to the Penal Code which creates the new offence of “causing of or instigating acts of violence, hostility…” which is punishable by imprisonment of upto two years. The other Bill is an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure which provides for the conditions necessary for the initiation of prosecutions for the new offence.Civil society had said the new offence under the Penal Code was particularly problematic as it is a near verbatim reproduction of the language in Section 2(1) (h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Civil society noted that the offence as provided in the Bill at the time was overbroad and general, and was not a permissible restriction in relation to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution and by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).Furthermore, they said the proposed amendment, if enacted, could lead to a culture of self-censorship and perpetuate a chilling effect on free speech. (Courtesy The Sunday Leader)