Certainly not on | Daily News

Certainly not on

Eastern Province Governor M. L. A. M. Hizbullah, presently under a cloud, over his pioneering role in the establishment of the Batticaloa Campus, whose study courses include the dissemination of the Sharia law, during a television talk show, on Monday, called for the release of the controversial Bikkhu Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera, currently serving a prison term.

Perhaps, this may be an attempt on the part of the EP Governor to deflect accusations against him in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terror attacks. In fact, like Hizbullah, several politicians, both from the Government and the Opposition, have come under the microscope for allegedly allowing free rein for Islamist radicalization to grow in this country through their acts of commissions and omissions.

The EP Governor was among the first to come under the firing line when Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader, MP Udaya Gammanpila, called for the former’s arrest. On Monday, JO MP Jayantha Samarweera lodged a complaint with the CID against the messrs. Azath Sally, Hizbullah’s counterpart in the Western Province, Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, UNF MP Mujibur Rahaman together with Hizbullah, for allegedly shielding Jihadists. Into the bargain we also had Messrs. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and S. B. Dissanayake leveling accusations against Bathiudeen, which seem strange.

We say this because Minister Bathiudeen and the two MPs were best of chums not many moons ago- Rajapakshe, when he was a front line Minister for the best part of the Yahapalanaya Government, and, Dissanayake who was assiduously wooing Bathiudeen’s All Ceylon Makkal Congress to obtain the numbers in Parliament to oust Ranil Wickremesinghe during the days of the failed constitutional coup.

Surely, Dissanayake could not have been unaware of the shenanigans of Bathiudeen when he (Dissanayake) so desperately was begging for the ACMC’s vital six votes in Parliament, commandeered by the former, to stage a comeback to power. Why, time and again, Dissanayake came on TV claiming that Rishard and his men were in the bag and that Ranil’s days were numbered. True, Rajapakshe made certain accusations as far back as 2016 about the rise of Muslim extremism and the alleged role played by Bathiudeen in this respect. But did he take the matter any further? Why pray did he continue to remain a minister for a full two years after making the accusations instead of resigning forthwith in the face of the threat posed by Muslim extremism, when his pleas to the Government, in this regard, fell on deaf ears? Or did he see the threat as not being worthy of relinquishing the perks and privileges he enjoyed as a Cabinet minister?

Be that as it may, it should be borne in mind that the Ven. Galagodaatte Thera was sent to prison for the offence of Contempt of Court and not for any role he played in the anti-Muslim riots or for speaking out against Muslim radicalization. Hence, there is no justification, whatsoever, for pleading for his release by Governor Hizbullah or any other individual, for that matter. Besides, there are some 15 Bikkhus presently serving jail terms for some offence or other and it would be a travesty of justice to pardon just one among them - especially when the individual concerned stands to pose a threat to communal harmony.

In fact, freeing Ven Gnanasara Thera, at this point of time, certainly, is bound to heighten existing tensions to incendiary proportion, given his past record and anti-Muslim views. This could be gauged from the fact that the Ven. Thera has told media personnel who visited him in prison that some 50 temples around the country were earmarked for attack by the Jihadists. Given his militant tendencies, one cannot but feel that he was bound to inflame religious and communal passions, once out of the can.

This, needless to say, would bring to naught the painstaking attempts made by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to promote peace between the Catholic and Muslim communities. The country, certainly, can do without another flank being opened to rouse the passions of the Buddhists through the intemperate remarks by the controversial monk.

Perhaps, Hizbullah, as mentioned before, may be keen to ingratiate himself with the Sinhala Buddhists of this country by the gesture of seeking the release of the Ven. Galagodaatte Thera. But he is bound to run into lot of flak from his own community. The Aluthgama incidents and that of other anti-Muslim clashes are still fresh in the minds of the community. Things could only get exacerbated by such a move.

Besides, this is a time to act prudently to diffuse all tensions that would keep communal passions in check. In this regard President Maithripala Sirisena has acted wisely in ordering that the media be kept out of the scene where security checks are carried out on residences of Muslims. As the media statement from the Presidential Secretariat noted, such checks are bound to make the inmates of such homes, guilty parties, quite unjustly.

Hence, this is not the best time for a Presidential pardon for the Ven. Galagodaatte Thera, which, it is certain, will be something that is furthest from the mind of the President.

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