Issuing a chilling warning about the power the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) holds to mobilise the Buddhist community to resort to extremes if needed, the organisation’s spokesperson Dilanthe Vithanageaccused the Police of lying about the BBS connection to a youth who was recently arrested.
“We strongly deny that the youth arrested by the Police is a member of the BBS. If a person is a member of any organisation, they should have a membership card, a membership identity card and fill up a form. We don’t have such membership in our organisation,” Vithanage said.
Vithanage insisted that BBS does not have any membership, adding that none of the organisers in the BBS who hold responsible positions within the organisation were consulted to verify if the arrested youth was a member.
Bodu Bala Sena leader Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero failed to appear in Court for the second time yesterday informing Court through his lawyers of his inability to be present due to risks to his life. The Court has decided to reschedule the hearing, he said.
Denying allegations that the Thero is avoiding arrest, Vithanage said that neither Gnanasara Thero nor any of their other priests were afraid of being jailed.
“I can say that if there is any injustice our youth groups and supporters are ready to come forward with no fear of getting arrested or jailed. But there has to be a proper manner in which this is conducted,” he said.
Justifying Gnanasara Thero’s actions at the Homagama Court during the case into the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaliyagoda, which led to the Contempt of Court charge, he said the vitriolic speech in question was one the priest made regarding the State jailing Army intelligence units with the permission of the Court.
Vithanage also said that the priest is still undergoing medical treatment, stressing that Gnanasara Thero was facing death threats from different forces. He explained that Gnanasara Thero was worried about the reaction of his supporters if he was murdered.
“Gnanasara Thero is worried that the country will be plunged into a bloodbath if he is murdered in a plot similar to those of ISIS,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference, the leader of Ravana Balaya Organisation Magal Kande Sudaththa Thero said that there was a major difference in the manner in which the law was implemented for different individuals. Sudaththa Thero said that although Minister Rauff Hakeem made a statement regarding the cause of a fire at a Thalawakele tea factory which accused the BBS of committing arson, when it was later proven that an electrical shortage had caused the fire no action was taken against the Minister despite the fact that it could have caused serious divisions within communities leading to ethnic tension.
“He should be punished for issuing false statements,” he said.
Saying that the hunt for Gnanasara Thero could next turn to other Buddhist priests, the network of Buddhist organisations which includes the Sinhale Api organisation, Rawana Balaya and BBS, called on the Buddhist community to rally against this injustice.