“The Bodu Bala Sena was never involved in any violent activities and we will never approve of such moves,” says Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage in an interview with Chamitha Kuruppu for “DailyFT”.. “We are trying to warn the people that in another decade or two there will be clashes between religious groups in the country. Unfortunately, it is happening right front of our very eyes.”
Following are excerpts:
Q: What happened in Aluthgama?
On 12 June, two Muslim boys assaulted a Buddhist monk and his driver. This is something that cannot be approved in a Sinhala Buddhist country. Especially individuals of one religion should not assault leaders of another religion; it would cause clashes between the two groups. Knowing this, these two Muslim boys has assaulted the Buddhist priest. This cannot be considered as an isolated incident. We strongly feel some extreme groups were behind this and there was a plan to cause trouble.
Following this incident, 17 shops were set on fire and clashes in the area continued. We (BBS) received requests from Buddhist priests in those areas; they urged us to intervene and resolve the situation. If someone says the BBS should be held responsible for what happened in Aluthgama and Beruwala, we could have done it at that time.
Two days after this incident took place, a protest rally was organised to alert the Muslim leaders.
This was organised by the Buddhist priests in those areas. They invited the BBS too. Ven Galabodaaththe Gnanasara Thero delivered a speech at the rally. The organisers had planned to march through Dharga Town. Ven. Gnanasara Thero refused this idea and openly said that such a move would only invite trouble and therefore it is not a wise idea for the gathering to march through Dharga Town.
During his speech Ven. Gnanasara Thero stated that Muslims should understand they cannot survive in this country without the support of Sinhalese people. But after his speech he instructed all the participants to disperse peacefully.
After the rally the monk who was assaulted was taken to his temple. A convoy of six vehicles carrying Buddhist priests left the place. On our way we saw people running and screaming; they said they were attacked. Over 1,000 men hiding inside a mosque had started pelting stones at the men who were going back home after the rally.
We are not idiots; after delivering a speech like that, we would never plan to assault people. We are not behind this unfortunate incident. We know nothing about this. All we know is that there was a clash between Muslims and Sinhalese. We don’t accept this situation. We condemn such moves.
People should not point fingers at the BBS. During the last two years we had organised massive rallies. Not a single incident was reported. We never attacked anyone.
Q: Are you denying that the BBS was involved in this matter?
A: We refute all such accusations. We urge the Government to carry out a proper investigation and take legal action against the people who were behind this unfortunate situation. In fact this is what we were trying to say. All these years we were trying to warn the people that in another decade or two there will be clashes between religious groups in the country. It is happening right front of our very eyes.
What power did those two Muslims have to assault a Buddhist priest
There were over 1,000 men gathered inside the mosque. Muslims from Maligawatte, Dehiwala and other areas were requested to be there. This is the conspiracy. This is where everything started.
We have the strength and manpower to organise much bigger protests and if our intention was to attack people and damage property, we are capable of doing it in a more harmful way. But that was not our intention.
Q: Watareka Vijitha Thera has been beaten and kidnapped and was found last morning with his hands and legs tied. It is a known fact that there was an ongoing clash between him and the BBS. People feel your organisation is behind this act. Your comments?
A: That is very unfortunate. If he was beaten and kidnapped, we condemn such an act. But please remember there is no ongoing conflict between the BBS and him. He is not an important person for us and we don’t want to assault someone as unimportant as him.
But what was he doing so late at night?
I don’t think any other organisation would have assaulted him either. Then he would have beaten more and more injuries would have been caused to him. I actually feel it was he who tied himself and pretended that he was beaten. His intention is to cause more trouble for the BBS.
Q: What do you have to say about the rumours that BBS Leader Kirama Wimalajothi Thera is to resign from his position and due to that there is a possible split in your organisation?
A: To date Kirama Wimalajothi Thera has not informed us about his resignation. In fact I met him on Wednesday and he didn’t mention anything of that sort. But for the last two to three months, he has been saying that he will be away from BBS activities for a while since he has other priorities to attend to. At times he may not agree with what we are doing. But that is common in any organisation. There are all types of views and opinions. However, there isn’t a possible split in BBS. People want to see us divided, but that will not happen.
Q: What is your involvement with the ‘Mahasen 969’ organisation?
A: We are not aware of such an organisation. It was on Tuesday that we first heard about this organisation. We have no connection with them. But I have to tell you one thing; we don’t know whether members of such organisations attend our rallies and events. We are not in a position to prevent people attending our rallies.
Q: What are you views about the Badulla Magistrate issuing a Court order preventing the BBS and Ravana Balaya organising meetings and demonstrations in Badulla?
A: It is a good move. In a tense situation like this, the wisest thing would be not to organise any rallies or meetings. Therefore issuing such a Court order is the best remedy. We have no issues about that. But we heard that people are threatening that if anything harmful happens in these areas, the BBS should be held responsible. Now that, we don’t accept. What happened in Mawanella on Tuesday cannot be accepted. The BBS did not organise any rally in Mawanella.
Q: Following the Aluthgama and Beruwala incidents, many similar cases were reported from other parts of the country. If you are not involved in these incidents, what action will you be taking against the groups who are actually behind these?
A: Today almost everyone in our country carries a mobile phone. When such things happen call the Police or take pictures of the people who are involved. We urge the Police to arrest the people who are responsible. We have never been involved in any violent activities and we will never approve of such moves. But we have been bold with what we have to say. We are trying to warn the people. The entire world thinks it was the Sinhalese who assaulted Muslims. But they attacked our people. They damaged our property. Why aren’t people talking about that?
Q: Do you approve of innocent Muslims being killed, attacked and their property being damaged?
A: I don’t approve of innocent Muslims being attacked and I don’t approve of innocent Sinhalese being attacked. When we look at this matter, we should never forget that there were two parties.