By Norman Palihawadane and Cyril Wimalasurendre
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera called off his hunger strike around 2.45 pm, yesterday, after learning that Governors Azath Salley and M. L. A.M. Hizbullah had resigned from their posts.
Rathana Thera launched his fast in front of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy on May 31, demanding the removal of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, and PC Governors Hizbulla and Salley from their posts.
Earlier yesterday, Salley and Hizbullah submitted their letters of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena. Central Province Governor Maithri Gunaratne arrived at the Mahamaluwa where the protest was in progress and informed Rathana Thera of the resignations.
Thereafter the Thera broke fast and was taken to the Kandy General Hospital in an ambulance for treatment.
Rathana Thera said that the President could not remove Minister Bathiudeen from his post and that he believed that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would take necessary action.
The demands of Rathana Thera must be fulfilled in order to ensure the security and wellbeing of the people, Ven Galagama Sri Aththadassi Thera, and Ven Tibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Mahanayake Thera – the Chief Prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwathu Chapters, respectively, stated in a letter to the Prime Minister, yesterday. “We request that these demands be met to restore the prestige and the security of the land for the security and well being of the people,” the letter said, adding that the issue should be resolved before the Thera’s health condition deteriorated.
Many including Buddhist monks and politicians visited the Thera in Kandy.
Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith called on the Thera yesterday morning. He said that Rathana Thera was standing for the rights of those affected by the Easter bombings.
The Cardinal said that a proper investigation had not been conducted into the attacks and that it had not been revealed who sponsored them.
Instead of hunting officials and allowing fear and doubts about Islam to spread among communities, investigations should be conducted to find out who indirectly supported those attacks, he Eminence said.
Tamil and Sinhala traders in Kandy closed their shops in support of the hunger strike and visited the Mahamaluwa to see Rathana Thera. Later, they converged at the Getambe Junction, where a rally was held in support of the protest by various monks and civil organisation leaders, including General Secretary of Bodu Bala Sena Ven Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera.
Private buses operating from many outstations including Negombo, Moratuwa, Maharagama, Nugegoda and Kottawa staged a strike action in support Rathana Thera’s hunger strike which was in its fourth day yesterday. Later the three-wheelers operating in Negombo area too had joined the strike thereby inconveniencing area residents in terms of transport.
Hundred of schoolchildren dependent on public transport were forced to walk home in many areas as there were very few buses on roads.