Prompt Action by the US Embassy in Colombo has scuttled the well laid plans of Bodu Bala Sena(BBS) General Secretay Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero to embark upon a prolonged visit to the United States of America (USA) in July this year.
Gnanasara Thero regarded as the mastermind behind the anti-Muslim violence at Aluthgama, Dharga Nagar and Beruwela has been the target of much criticism nationally and internationally.
Though the Rajapaksa Regime has been resisting widespread appeals that Gnanasara Thero be questioned over his role in instigating anti-Muslim violence the antics of the notorious ethno religious fascist has resulted in the Sri Lankan Govt facing much pressure.
It was decided by influential sections in the upper echelons of the regime that Gnanasara Thero should leave Sri Lanka and stay abroad for a while until the hue and cry against the BBS bhikku subsided and things cooled off.
Since Gnanasara Thero has a multiple – entry visa to the USA the plan was for him to travel to the USA quietly. The Bodu Bala Sena has a wide network of supporters among Sinhala Buddhist expatriates in the USA.
Accordingly the BBS acolytes in the US were asked to make preparations for Gnanasara’s visit and stay. A number of BBS propaganda meetings under the pretext of being Buddhist religious functions were being organized in different states of the USA.
The plan was for Gnanasara Thero to travel alone without any other BBS bhikkus first to the USA.He was to be accompanied by a Sri Lankan expatriate in the USA. The US expatriate was scheduled to arrive in Colombo in the first week of July to escort the BBS Bhikku to the states.
After Gnanasara Thero arrived in the USA another group of Bodu Bala Sena Bhikkus also intended to seek visas from the Us embassy to travel to the land of the “star spangled banner”.
Gnanasara Thero had first been given a multiple-entry visa valid for five years to the USA in 2001. He had then gone to Indiana state for a Buddhist religious function and returned after a while. The Bodu Bala Sena was not active at that point of time.
However in 2013 a delegation of Bodu Bala Sena bhikkus led by Gnanasara Thero visited the USA and held a number of meetings in different parts of the US building up a support base among Sinhala Buddhist expatriates from Sri Lanka.
Even as Gnanasara Thero was engaged in making elaborate arrangements for his travel to the USA the “Uncle Sam’s|”well –informed embassy in Colombo got wind of the plan.It is learnt that the Colombo embassy promptly informed the S State dept in Washington of the situation and sought “advice”.
The advice as anticipated was that the BBS gen secy should not be allowed to proceed to the USA. Since he had a multiple –entry visa in hand Gnanasara Thero could have proceeded to the US without contacting the US mission in Colombo but would not have been permitted entry into the USA.
Therefore the US authorities decided to immediately revoke the already issued multiple-entry visa to the US. Accordingly a US embassy official telephoned Ven Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero on Friday June 27th and respectfully informed him that his visa was being revoked and that he would be required to apply for a fresh visa if and when he wanted to travel to the US.
The US official also said that the Visa was being revoked on instructions from the US state dept in Washington.Gnanasara Thero was informed that an official letter would be sent to him by post and that upon receipt of the letter the BBS bhikku could call over at the embassy with his passport where his visa was to be duly cancelled.
The Bodu Bala Sena is extremely annoyed over the action by the US authorities.
Bodu Bala Sena Chief Executive officer and coordinator Dilantha Withanage told the “Daily Mirror” newspaper that they would express concern over the visa cancellation following the receipt of a written notification and would request an explanation on the decision.
“Just a phone call is not enough – the official hasn’t even explained the reasons behind visa cancellation. We acknowledge that it’s well within the rights of the US to make this decision. However, we are disappointed over the fact that they made it without any consultation with Gnanasara Thera,” Withanage said.
Contacted by the Daily Mirror, a US embassy spokesman said, “The US government does not comment on individual visa issues as they are confidential under US law.”
Meanwhile Gnanasara Thero told the “ Colombo Gazette”website that he has sought a meeting with the US Embassy in Colombo over his visa issue.The controversial monk said that he will seek an explanation from the US Embassy in Colombo for his visa to the US being cancelled.
When contacted by the Colombo Gazette, the US Embassy in Colombo however refused to comment on the visa of the monk“The US Government does not comment on individual visa cases because those records are confidential under U.S. law,” a US Embassy spokesman said.
The Bodu Bala Sena is very angry over the US snub to Gnanasara Thero but is now awaiting the written response of the USA before finalising its course of action.If the written notification proves to be unsatisfactory from the BBS point of view then Gnanasara Thero will seek an interview to protest against the US action and demand that his visa be restored.
It is learnt that if the US embassy does not grant an interview to Gnanasara Thero for any reason then the BBS will launch a massive anti-US demonstration in Colombo.
If however the interview is granted then the BBS will follow a two fold campaign.The Bodu Bala Sena is planning to stage a huge demonstration opposite the US embassy premises at the time that Gnanasara Thero would be meeting with officials in the US embassy.
The demonstration will initially be a “silent one”while Gnanasara Thero is inside US embassy premises. If the outcome of the meeting is satisfactory from Gnanasara Thero’s perspective the Bodu Bala Sena demonstrators will quietly disperse.
If however the meeting is not satisfactory then the demonstration will turn vociferous after Gnanasara Thero emerges from the embassy. A number of vicious slogans will be chanted. Provocative placards will be displayed. Effigies of US leadrs and officials will be burnt.
The demonstration is also likely to assume a different approach and oppose the US role in initiating a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN in Geneva.
What the Bodu Bala Sena led by Gnanasara Thero will do is to try and intimidate and coerce the USA into granting a visa for the BBS gen secy through the tactics of anti-US street demonstrations.It remains to be seen whether the US will succumb to this pressure or stand firm.
According to informed diplomatic sources the well-informed US embassy is already aware of the BBS plans and is devising an appropriate counter strategy to deal with it.
Given the Bodu Bala Sena’s proven expertise in inciting violence the possibility of violence erupting cannot be ruled out. Judging by what happened during the recent Bodu Bala Sena instigated anti-Muslim violence, the Law enforcement officers are likely to be passive spectators while it happens.
Later the BBS is likely to deny all responsibility and suggest that an international conspiracy was afoot. Ultimately everything would be pinned down on the popular bogey the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)