By Shamindra Ferdinando
Justice and Prisons Reforms Minister and attorney-at-law Thalatha Atukorale has informed Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Sri Dharma Sangha Sabhawa that Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara would be treated like any other prisoner.
In her letter, dated June 19, 2018, Minister Atukorale has insisted that the Commissioner General of Prisons had no option but to treat Ven. Gnanasara in accordance with the Prisons Ordinance.
The letter was addressed to the Most Ven. Prof. Kottapitiye Rahula, Chief Registrar, Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Sri Dharma Sangha Sabhawa.
Justice Minister’s spokesperson Nalin Rajapaksha told The Island that the letter had been delivered to the Thera yesterday in response to a missive, dated June 16, from Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Sri Dharma Sangha Sabhawa in respect of Ven. Gnanasara.
The Homagama Magistrate, on June 14, sentenced Ven Gnanasasa to one year RI to be served in six months for threatening Sandya Ekneligoda, wife of missing media personality, Prageeth within the court premises.
Addressing the media, on Tuesday, at the Sunethradevi Pirivena, Pepiliyana, Ven. Prof Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera said that according to the disciplinary texts, the Vinaya Pitakaya, a bikkhu who spent seven days out of the robe could lose his status as per the rule cheevara vippavaasi (residing out of the robe).
The Thera pointed out that in other instances bikkhus who were found guilty of transgressing established laws were punished but never forced to remove their robes.
Justice Minister Atukorale insisted that the prisoner would be dealt with the Section 106 of the Prisons Ordinance therefore Ven. Gnanasara, too, was to receive usual prison garb, commonly referred to as ‘jumper suit’.
Earlier, Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Sri Dharma Sangha Sabhawa has advised Minister Atukorale that the power to disrobe a monk lies with the Sangha Sabha that ordained him. The Sangha Sabhawa asserted that even the Commissioner General of Buddhist Affairs couldn’t take a decision in respect of a monk unless specifically instructed by the relevant Mahanayaka Thera.
Minister Atukorale has informed the Sangha Sabhawa that the measures mentioned by Ven Rahula couldn’t be accepted as part of the law of the land. She has pointed out that in addition to the steps that could be taken in respect of those who had been found guilty of offences, monks could give up robes voluntarily.
While assuring the Sangha Sabhva that the government, political leaders or any section of the administration wouldn’t hinder or interfere with the way the clergy responded to such situation, Atukorale has stressed that all citizens, irrespective of their social status, should be dealt with equally under the law.
Minister Atukorale responded to Ven. Rahula in the wake of President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) U. R. de Silva, PC, asserting that members of the clergy, too, were subjected to the law of land.
The BASL chief told The Island yesterday that there had been about 15 Buddhist monks and three other clergymen at Welikada at the time Ven. Gnanasara was brought in. Responding to a query, De Silva said that the Homagama Magistrate could have dealt with the monk’s bail application, on Tuesday (June 19), without putting off the hearing to Friday afternoon (June 22).
The President’s Counsel pointed out that no one had objected to other monks being compelled to wear usual prison garb. “The BASL believes that there shouldn’t be interference of any sort from any part and the judiciary should be allowed to address the issue.”