Treat the patient not the symptoms
BBS Dealing with extremism requires prudence.
It involves addressing religious and sectarian extremism.
It is a battle for both hearts and minds.
Mindsets cannot be changed by force. They must be transformed through superior logic and action.
We have to facilitate this transformation.
It involves mobilising the silent moderate majority to rise and play a positive role.
The Government and Society cannot afford to shirk its responsibility.
As a people, as a State and as a media that reported, discussed and pontificated over the growing threat of violence that the Bodu Bala Sena was ultimately proven capable of, many more than we wish to admit to are responsible for it.
The threat was clear from the beginning.
The tone with which its General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnasara addressed a growing number of the gullible, willing to lend an ear, should have proven a warning to the authorities.
Responsibility lay with every law enforcement officer who watched as the BBS rally’s gathered strength, espoused terror and carried out its warnings, with no action. The arrests that refused to be made and the actions that refused implementation as the threat grew unchallenged, are all equally at fault.
History points to the negative effects of war victories.
It is difficult to contain the sense of power one community can project over the defeated, in battles dealt between ethnicities. That the Sinhalese community that had its ego tested and broken as the LTTE unleashed its terror over the majority community is a fact. Therefore although the literate majority rejoiced at the end of an era of violence as the LTTE was defeated, the petty and illiterate believed it a victory over the minority communities.
It is in the vacuum of an intelligent discourse at this crucial point that the fanaticism of Sinhala Buddhism of the BBS gained strength.
The country’s plans of reconstruction and resettlement should have necessarily included room for communal harmony. The country should have had a plan of action to strengthen and mobilize the moderates to overcome the ignorant. This should have been the path on which the transformation from war to peace was allowed to tread.
Now politics playing a petty role, praying silently on the electoral strength leaving little for the tolerant.
A crucial area of investigation must be the funding agents behind the BBS.
The planning and the organisational skills of the organisation point the finger at a heavy and consistent funding arm.
Questions have earlier been raised at reported funding made available to the group by Norway.
It was reported last year that the Group had initially received funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo coupled with the reported visit of the Norwegian Ambassador Ms. Grete Løchen and Mr. Arne Fjortoft to the office of the Bodu Bala Sena, in Colombo.
A visit made by five monks attached to the Group to Norway in 2010 led to serious questions on Norwegian funding behind the BBS.
Its Excutive Committee Member Dilantha Withanage admitted that he in fact also took part in the visit, and that the BBS was formed two years following the visit, in May 2012.
Those who made that visit to Norway included Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, Ven. Witharandeniye Nanda Thero (national organiser of Bodu Bala Sena), Ven. Aluthwewa Ananda Thero, Ven. Dapane Sumanawansa Thero, Ven. Welimada Shantha Thero, Mr. Pujitha Wijesinghe and Mr. Mark Antony Perera.
“In fact, we were invited by one of the organisations in Norway. In fact, I have forgotten the name of the organisation. Actually, we visited Norway and had a discussion with some of the Tamil friends there.
I don’t know whether friends we met in Norway represented actually the section of the vociferous Tamil diaspora? Some of them we met, I learnt were supporters of the LTTE. You can say they are just a very small section of the Tamil diaspora. Then we visited some social organisations including a couple of Elders Home and we visited the Norwegian Parliament. We had a meeting also with former Minister Erick Solheim. We also had meetings with some Norwegian Parliamentarians. Also, we visited houses of some of the Tamil friends,” admitted Withanage.
A US visit by the group in April 2013 where the delegation received visas ‘over the counter’ without the usual hassle involved with visits to the country, especially given the reputation the BBS has gained by then, also raised controversy.
The delegation which included Withanage, and several monks including Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera and National Organiser Ven. Vitharandeniye Nanda Thera, was recorded as a measure of the organisation going ‘international.
‘Bodu Bala Sena is all set to go international,’ Withanage was quoted.
“There is a high demand from abroad for our organisation. It has become essential to extend our organisation and our contribution internationally so as to raise awareness among the international community about our mission,” he said.
It is today too late to drive the teachings of the Dhamma out of the misinterpretation.
Instead, there must now be legal action against those who believed and acted themselves above the laws of the country.
It is an undeniable fact that the country’s Penal Code stands violated by the actions of the BBS.
They stand guilty of inciting religious and communal hatred. The group and its religious fanaticism must be stopped. If such an end lay in a legal ban on the organisation, then that is where the solution obviously must be.
It is imperative that the CID must look into the BBS fast.