The ‘jumper’ rumpus | Daily News

The ‘jumper’ rumpus

Justice and Prisons Reforms Minister Thalatha Athukorale has set the record straight. She has removed all ambiguities with regard to the imprisonment of Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera and the ongoing debate whether the controversial monk should be forced into the prison ‘jumper’ while serving his term of imprisonment for the offence of threatening the wife of missing media personality Prageeth Ekneligoda in the premises of the Homagama Magistrate's Court.

Minister Athukorale, responding to the advice given to her by the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Sri Dhamma Sangha Sabhawa that the power to disrobe a monk lies with the Sangha Sabha, meaning that the Ven. Gnanasara should not be made to wear a prison ‘jumper’, has pointed out that this would go against the grain of the established law in the country. She also referred to the relevant Section of the law that makes it compulsory for the Commissioner General of Prisons to treat all prison inmates on par, including where the ‘jumper’ is concerned. If, as the monks demand, Ven. Gnanasara be divested of the ‘jumper’, the government will stand accused of not applying the law equally. It will also be tantamount to inequal treatment of prison inmates, similar to VIP prisoners getting themselves admitted to the Merchant Ward after sentencing. There is also the likelihood of other prisoners like Potta Naufer, wanting to rid themselves of the ‘jumper'. Why the ‘jumper’ had become such a loathsome symbol to some remains a mystery. Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake, who is fondly known as the Father of the Nation, was put in a ‘jumper’ by the colonial regime and quite recently Anoma Fonseka proudly showed the ‘jumper’ worn by her war hero husband to journalists outside the Welikada Prison. Ven. Gnanasara Thera who is fond of displaying his bravery, we are sure, would himself not object being in such exalted company.

Groups of Buddhist monks held demonstrations protesting the incarceration of the Ven. Gnanasara. They were particularly offended by the Threa being made to wear the ‘jumper’ that is worn by all prison inmates. The protesting monks were also of the firm view that that a member of the Sangha could only be punished by the Mahanayakas, while JHU Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka wants special counts to try monks outside the normal legal system. The latest to enter the fray is Ven. Prof. Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera. Addressing the media at the Sunethradevi Pirivena in Pepiliyana on Tuesday, the Thera, while admitting that Bikkuhus who were found guilty of transgressing the law in the past were punished, claimed that they were however never forced remove their robes. President of the Bar Association U.R. De Silva, meanwhile, said that there were 15 other monks currently in prison and that they wore jumpers. What is more, there was no uproar as at present, concerning the Ven. Gnanasara Thera.

Any discerning person viewing the current issue surrounding the Gnanasara Thera, dispassionately, would not fail to spot the political overtones underpinning the whole affair. A similar selective concern was evident when so called war heroes, who fell foul of the law, were arrested and imprisoned whereas there was a deafening silence when the greatest war hero of them all, Sarath Fonseka, was dragged away and thrown in the slammer. The Ven. Gnanasara was tried under the laws of the land and there cannot be a separate law to deal with members of the Sangha. It is grossly unfair by clergy of other religions who had never asked for separate laws to deal with their members. The Anglican vicar Rev. Mathew Peiris wore the jumper while serving his prison term and what is more the Ven. Mapalagama Buddharakkitha Thera and Ven. Thlawduwe Somarama Thera were also in ‘jumpers’. There was no furore then. No Bikkhu, or a Sangha body asked for special courts to try them or that they be spared the ‘jumper'. It was accepted that every individual was equal before the law - Buddhist clergy included.

Why this clamour only now, over a monk who is known to have flirted with former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, is all too obvious. The Joint Opposition has opened another flank to attack the government exploiting the majority sentiments vis-a-vis members of the Sangha. They have seized on the ideal candidate whose anti-minority outbursts appeal to the majority community. Some question as to why Ven. Gnanasara has been dealt with speedily under the law while others involved in much serious offenses are still at large. We are here not going to question the court procedures. Suffice it to say that the Homagama Magistrate had acted fearlessly, free from political pressure, in imposing the maximum sentence on the monk, knowing it was bound to cause a huge furore and hurt the government much.

Needless to say, the matter would have been dealt with differently under Mahinda Rajapaksas who is known to have openly interfered with the judiciary, and, what is more, pandered to majority sentiments. The likes of Ven. Gnanasara Thera, certainly, would have gone scot-free, to carry on with his antics, to the great detriment of Buddhism.


There are 3 Comments

This Robed Thug should get 6 years not 6 months with no Presidential Pardon for his thuggery done in robes

We see that Religion which is a personal dialogue between Man and his Creator is even not spared or given its rightful place but been prostituted by Political interference. The Hon. Minister has indeed made a good statement on the issue clarfying its true purport. When people try to use religion for political ends it epitomises their true charachter - they will even sell their mother if it would influence a decision. We sadly see that many politicians use religion in the most unbecoming manner - a shame for a country with a 2500 year history of buddhism being exploited for political gain. THESE HUMBUGS HAVE NO MORALS TO SAY THE LEAST.

Have seen all these used by policians misled the public. Religious affairs are personal inherent within the person and his belief. Not to be used for political purposes some beleif in nothing others belief in everything. All of us were told there is only one god to guide us but he comes in different avatar to each of us. Wise to say religion should not be part of politics

Add new comment