In the wake of fears that communal tensions may once again be on the rise post-Aluthgama and Beruwala violence, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), already under intense criticism and scrutiny over its alleged role in the unrest, asked the country’s citizens to stop engaging in provocations and violence ‘immediately’.
Addressing a media briefing at BBS headquarters in Colombo, BBS General Secretary, Ven Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera appealed to Sinhalese not to be misled by rumors and to avoid clashes. “The only victors of clashes would be external enemies bent on destroying this country,” he told journalists.
Addressing leaders of the Muslim community and telling them to rein in elements within their ranks Gnanasara Thera said, “We have stopped. It is time for you to stop also.”
The BBS general secretary also spoke about the speech he delivered in Aluthgama that many blame for inciting the violence, claiming that people were only listening to several minutes of it and taking his comments out of context.
“If those criticizing me had bothered to listen to my speech in its entirety, they would see that I instructed people to disperse peacefully and not hold any processions through Dharga Town. Some elements who were unhappy with this actually hooted at us at the end for telling people to disperse. Some monks even accused us of betraying Buddhists”.
However, as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Prime Minister explained correctly, the violence erupted when some people in a Mosque threw stones at Buddhists making their way home through Dharga Town, Gnanasara Thera said.
Regarding the content of his speech, the Thera claimed he was using ‘psychology’ and attempting to counter poison with poison. “I took all the anger and frustration of those who were present and used myself as an outlet to express these feelings in strong words. I criticized everyone from the police to ministers, even the President and his family,” he further said.
Speaking further, the Thera denied the BBS was being backed by the Defence Secretary. “We have criticized this government more than the opposition. We are not carrying out anyone’s contract,” he claimed.
Lamenting that the BBS was being blamed for inciting the Aluthgama violence when it had done more than anyone to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control, the BBS general secretary, however, said the organization was willing to take the criticism.
Regarding Saturday’s fire that destroyed the Muslim-owned Nolimit clothing store in Panadura. the Thera denied any involvement by the BBS, and pointed out the investigation into the matter was being conducted to determine whether it was an act of arson.
He also played down speculations regarding a split within the organization, following remarks made by BBS Founder Ven. Kirama Vimalajothi Thera which were critical of the organization’s recent activities.
“Vimalajothi Thera is like a father to us all. He has warned me even in the past that I sometimes step out of line and say things I shouldn’t. We respect his views. There is no split within the organization. All it shows is that democracy prevails in the BBS, and that is exactly why people like Vasudewa, Hakeem, Bathiudeen and others flay us in public. They know they won’t be assassinated for doing so. We’re not the LTTE,” he quipped.