Ven. Gnanasara and the rule of law | Daily News

Ven. Gnanasara and the rule of law

A determined bid is been made by certain groups of the Bikkhu community to challenge the verdict handed down to Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera by the Supreme Court which found the Ven. Thera guilty for contempt of court and sentenced the latter to six years RI, and secure his release. These monks contend that the Ven. Gnanasara Thera’s case was not properly presented and the verdict was delivered on that basis by the Supreme Court. In the forefront to secure the Thera’s release is the Kotte Maha Sangha Sabha to which the Ven. Gnanasara Thera belongs. Speaking to the media, Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagi Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha Nayake the Ven Dr. Iththepane Dhammalankara Thera said they have a special responsibility on Ven. Gnanasara Thera because the Thera belonged to the Kotte Maha Sangha Sabha.”We have now faced a legal problem. All the Maha Sangha and other Nikayas are awaiting the decision of the Kotte Maha Sangha Sabha with regard to Ven. Gnanasara Thera’s case” the Kotte Sangha Sabha Maha Nayake was quoted as saying by an English daily. The Mahanayake Thera further goes on to state that: “The Ven. Gnanasara Thera was not acting for his own benefit but for the betterment of the country, Maha Sangha and the Buddha Sasana. Therefore, we wish that the Ven. Gnanasara Thera would be able to fulfill his aims and we will take the necessary action as soon as possible.

It is difficult to fathom how the Kotte Maha Sangha Sabha Mahanayake Thera arrived at the conclusion that misbehaving in a court house and speaking abusively to a female within its precincts was tantamount to advancing the cause of the Buddha Sasana or how it will benefit the country. Far from standing up on behalf of the Sangha the Ven. Gnanasara Thera’s conduct only served to besmirch the good name of the Bikkhu community in the country. Nor is it clear what aims the Ven. Gnanasara Thera intends to fulfill. If this includes fanning the flames of communal strife in the country and inciting the Buddhists to violence against minority religions, the Ven. Gnanasara Thera will be best behind bars, lest this further aggravate tensions in the country.

Those with independent minds who viewed the antics of the Ven. Gnanasara Thera on television, which was virtually on daily display, no doubt, would have drawn their own conclusions if indeed the Ven. Thera disported himself in a manner that typified the image of members of the Sangha in the eyes of the Buddhist public, that of serenity, composure and benign deportment.

Besides, the Supreme Court verdict was based on the laws of the land and members of the Sangha cannot claim immunity from the law. According to media reports there are some 20 Bikkhus serving time in the prisons for lesser offenses and no voice had so far been raised on their behalf. There was no clamour among members of the Sangha for the release or a state pardon for Ven. Thalduwe Somarama and Ven. Mapalagama Buddharakkitha, the main actors in the Bandaranaike assassination. This is as it should be.

Does the Kotte Sangha Sabha consider the Ven. Gnanasara Thera a special specimen, or, is politics playing a hand in the whole affair?

The Maha Sangha cannot and should not interfere in the verdict of the Supreme Court which, no doubt, has issued its judgement taking all factors into consideration, including the fact that the accused is a member of the Buddhist clergy. Besides, the Ven. Gnanasara Thera had shown no remorse on his conduct at the Homagama Magistrate’s Court, but continued to justify it in TV interviews. A Supreme Court judgement cannot be reversed and only a Presidential pardon can get the Thera released. Here too caution is in order, lest a bad precedent is created that will encourage the likes of Ven. Gnanasara Thera to take the law into their hands.

Militancy among the Bikkhu community is not something new in this country. But Ven. Gnanasara Thera, it will be agreed even by the staunchest Buddhist, had overstepped the bounds. Breaking into government offices and threatening officials, leading a pack giving chase to a fellow monk, the intemperate language liberally used to attack other religions and minorities is not exactly the persona of a member of the Maha Sangha. It is therefore prudent that those clamouring for Ven. Gnanasara Thera’s release to act with circumspection, lest they too be tarred with the same brush as those bringing disrespect to the Buddhist religion.


Bring them to book

The attackers on Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Yohan Koralage should be arrested forthwith and dealt with firmly by the law enforcement. It was reported that the assault was carried out by a group of students of the Peradeniya University Arts Faculty on August 3 and the doctor is receiving treatment at the Colombo National Hospital. The Anuradhapura Branch of the GMOA has threatened to go on strike if no action is taken to bring the culprits to book. On this occasion GMOA is fully justified in its action, though not at other times.

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