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Radical monks aim to form political party in Sri Lanka

BBS says the party will defend Buddhist rights, while critics say it will spread hate

Radical monks aim to form political party in Sri Lanka

Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and members of Myanmar's 969 organization take part in a rally last September in Colombo (Photo by ucanews.com) 

Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, or Buddhist Power Force), a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization, announced this week it will try to register its own political party, saying the group had been let down by previous political alliances.

BBS, which has sought greater power in the majority Buddhist nation, previously held close ties with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), though former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has since claimed his recent election defeat was the fault of the extremist group.

In January, the SLFP failed to secure another term for Rajapaksa, who was ousted by reformist Maithripala Sirisena.

“BBS discussed with the Elections Commissioner to establish a political party to contest the forthcoming elections and the BBS will never support any political party at the forthcoming elections,” BBS Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage told ucanews.com. 

“There are various allegations against BBS and there is no political platform to raise these issues,” he continued. “There is a big demand to form a new political party and many people are ready to contest for the elections.”

Withanage said the group was unhappy with parliamentarians who fail to support the needs of the country’s majority Buddhist population, and did little to defend against allegations directed at BBS.

“There are verbal attacks to the BBS as a racist organization involved in religious attacks and disharmony among religious communities,” he said.

BBS, Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya and other Buddhist organizations have been blamed for the country’s growing religious extremism. Tensions hit their peak last year, when anti-Muslim riots broke out in July, resulting in at least four deaths and the displacement of thousands.

Withanage said that the new political party would protect the interests of Buddhists.

“We are not going to transform BBS into a political party but form a separate political party and BBS will remain as a political organization,” he said.

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BBS last year joined hands with Myanmar’s controversial 969 organization to campaign against Muslims and Christians.

Some minorities feel that a radical Buddhist political party would inevitably be used to incite religious tensions.

“Everybody has a right to form a political party but they form a new party to spread hatred, violence and intimidation,” said Sym Saleem Been, a member of the Dambulla Mosque, which was attacked several times by unidentified gangs. 

“The BBS took laws into their hands to attack minority religions during former government’s period,” he said. “The BBS doesn’t care on sensitive issues among religions.”

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