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Sri Lanka

Three monks tussle for seat in Sri Lanka's parliament

Intrigue mounts after general secretary of Buddhist party disappears

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: August 18, 2020 01:37 AM GMT
Three monks tussle for seat in Sri Lanka's parliament

Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero has decided to go to court over the national list seat for the Ape Jana Bala Party. (Photo: YouTube)

Three Buddhist monks are vying for one seat in Sri Lanka's parliament, which is set to open on Aug. 20 following the recent general election. 

Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero has decided to go to court for a clear decision regarding the national list seat for the Ape Jana Bala Party. It is against the backdrop of Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero, general secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena, suggesting that the issue be resolved through discussions. Meanwhile, party general secretary Ven. Wedinigama Wimalatissa Thera has nominated himself for the seat.

The party received 67,758 votes (0.58 percent) at the recent general election. Despite failing to win any seat in the districts it contested, the party did manage to receive one national list seat.

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Meanwhile, Ven. Wedinigama Wimalatissa Thera, who is responsible for informing the Election Commission of the nominee chosen for the seat, has suddenly disappeared.

Nuwan Adithya, a party supporter, said all three monks are competing for just one seat and ultimately it is all about power.

"The monks' behavior reveals their inability to face a crisis and shows they are greedy for power. These three monks are at the top of the newsprint and electronic media these days," he said, adding that due to the disappearance of the party secretary, it has not been able to carry out the required activities.

Ven. Magalkande Sudaththa Thera said Ven. Gnanasara Thero should take a seat in parliament as no one else is suitable.

"Ven. Rathana Thero should be flexible and should give an opportunity to Ven. Gnanasara Thero. He was in parliament for 15 years. What has he done for the Sinhala Buddhists?" he said.

"Gnanasara Thero has a better understanding of the threat Muslim extremism poses to Sinhala Buddhists, therefore what Ven. Rathana Thero should do at this time is bless Ven. Gnanasara Thero." 

The hardline nationalist Buddhist monk received a presidential pardon after serving only a few months of a six-year term for contempt of court.

He was charged with contempt of court last year after shouting at a judge who had found him guilty of accosting the wife of missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda outside the court. The Court of Appeal initially sentenced him to 19 years but later commuted this to six years.

Buddhist monks and Christian leaders have urged religious figures to stay out of politics.

Warakagoda Sri Gnanaratana Thero, chief monk of the Asgiriya Chapter, recently called for an amendment to the election laws to prohibit the granting of nominations to monks to contest elections.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has urged religious leaders to stay out of politics. "If religious leaders get on the political stage, it will be a disaster for the country. As clergy, we should provide leadership outside the political arena," the prelate said.

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