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BBS wants to kill me “ Watareka Vijitha Thera

2014 Apr 28

by Niranjala Ariyawansha
United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Member of the Mahiyangana Pradeshiya Sabha, Watareka Vijitha Thera said in an interview with Ceylon Today, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is looking for him, in order to kill him.
Following are excerpts:

What is the dispute between you and the BBS?
A: The BBS has been driving the country towards a bloodbath by creating divisions between religious and ethnic communities. As a bhikkhu who has been working to bring religious and ethnic reconciliation to the country for a very long time, I established the Jathika Bala Sena (JBS). That is why they are looking for me to brutally kill me.
I was the Chairman of the National Unity Front established in 1996 under the leadership of late Minister A.H.M. Ashraff. We tried to create reconciliation among ethnic communities and unity among minorities. The sudden death of Minister Ashraff disrupted our work.

The BBS charges that Minister Rishad Bathiudeen is funding your cause. They say you appear for Muslims for money. What is your comment?
A: It is a lie. I engaged in inter-faith activism even 20 years before Minister Rishad Bathiudeen entered politics. We even held discussions with the LTTE. I have met the minister only once. It was when we visited Wilpattu with seven or eight monks. We met at the Divisional Secretariat there. These allegations over funding were concocted to sling mud at us.
Do you receive funds from Muslim organizations?
A: So far nobody has funded me. I spent
Rs 2,000 out of my own pocket to pay for the booking at the Nippon Hotel for the press conference on 9 April. If you visit my temple in Rotaweva in Mahiyangana, you will understand how we live. The power supply to the temple is disconnected due to default of bill payments. Small novice monks fetch water from far away wells. I depend on the alms of the laymen and not the funds given by others. I am so helpless at the moment. But I think we will receive some help in the future. Many people contacted us and offered to provide assistance to the JBS. They like to join the organization too. I thank Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera for giving some popularity to our organization.
Were you hiding inside the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on 23 April?
A: It is a joke. I participated in the monthly meeting of the Mahiyangana Pradeshiya Sabha recently. The BBS tried to kill me there too. I was saved by the police. I went underground after that, but I did not come to Colombo. The BBS is trying to insult me by accusing me of having contacts with Minister Bathiudeen.
On 22 April, chief prelates of 21 temples in Mahiyangana passed a Sangha Agna (resolution) not to allow you enter any of the temples there. What is your view on it?
A: An organization established to provide assistance in deaths cannot pass such resolutions. The Mahiyangana Regional Sangha Council, which was set up 10 years ago, is not one like Malwatta Chapter of the Siyam Nikaya. It is more like a welfare and funeral assistance association, which provides Rs 10,000 and other stuff when a Buddhist monk passes away. They organize a pilgrimage annually and grant scholarships to novice monks. They have never passed resolutions and they have no power to do so either.
On the other hand, this association comprises monks of all three nikayas. There is no such tradition where a multi-nikaya body can take decisions against one monk.
A group of BBS monks set forth a charge sheet against me based on a speech I delivered during the Ramazan fast last year. The charge sheet is now proved false. They have no legal power to act against me. The monks who had entered the order during their adulthood, long after I was ordained, have signed that document. There are four Sil Mathas (female monks) as well. Do they have the power to decide a Brahma Danda punishment against a bhikkhu? This is a joke. Such acts destroy the dignity of the Buddhist monks.
Brahma Danda is a way of punishing a monk who committed an offence by giving him the silent treatment. The night the resolution was passed some monks called me and said they had no idea for what they put their signature. They breached their own resolution by calling me over the phone.
Why do you appear only for the rights of Muslims? There are Sinhalese people who were displaced due to the actions of the LTTE. Why don't you appear for them?
A: It is a very important question. The BBS is allergic to Muslims. Severe environmental degradation is taking place inYala, Horton Plains, Sinharaja and Ampara, and there are massive cannabis cultivations in Thanamalwila. But, the issue concerning the Muslims living in Wilpattu is different. They have resettled in an old village and not inside the 300,000-acre Wilpattu National Park. When we speak of that problem, which was created in the first place to rouse a Sinhala-Muslim clash, we are misunderstood as a people who appear only for Muslim people. But we hope to discuss with the authorities and settle 300 Sinhala Buddhist families near the Thalaimannar Temple in the Mannar District. This temple is maintained by Tamil and Muslim people. The BBS only shout. These Sinhala people are also internally displaced persons. We are collecting information regarding them through the Divisional Secretaries and they will be resettled soon.
Why did the head monks of 21 temples pass a resolution against you, if you are appearing for the rights of Sinhala people?
A: The caretaker monk of the Mahiyangana Temple organized a BBS meeting on 21 August 2013. He is the Chairman of the Regional Sangha Council. The monks there follow his orders, but neither I no the Chief Incumbents of the Nikayas accept them. They have sent that letter to the President, the Ministry of Buddhist Affairs and the Chief Incumbents of the Nikayas in August 2013, but there was no follow-up action.
Are you afraid of the BBS?
A: The Buddha preached that fear of death is common to all men. I have felt fear of death when they were running after me threatening to kill me. I know the BBS terrorists might hack me to death. They are in such anger and it is a very dangerous situation. No Buddhist monk has ever run after another to kill him in the entirety of Buddhist history. This is a sign of the decay of the Buddhist Sasana.
Why do you say the BBS is like a terrorist movement?
A: They are a terrorist movement. What they have done in the past are actions similar to a terrorist organization. They said several times that they were an unofficial police force. The legitimate police force comes under the State. The unofficial police belong to terrorist movements. The LTTE had a police force led by Nadesan. Now, there is a police force led by Gnanasara Thera. I'm not saying this. Gnanasara Thera himself says it. Any organization that acts beyond the law is a subversive movement.
Although you say the BBS is coming after you to kill you, they reject such claims. Do you say so to attract attention?
A: Are they searching for me so much to breastfeed me? I think you saw on TV that over 300 persons chased me at the Mahiyanagana Pradeshiya Sabha grounds. You may have seen that I ran faster than Susanthika Jayasinghe. I could have been killed if the police failed to protect me.
What is the reason for the BBS to be so angry with you?
A: I am going to reveal this for the first time. A group of 20 persons, including Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera of the BBS, went inside the Wilpattu National Park on 19 September 2013. They removed their robes and held a party wearing only the andanakada (underwear worn by Buddhist monks). They drank alcohol, played cricket and drove vehicles. A young Buddhist monk of the BBS, who opposed this, videoed all this with his camera phone. I have that video with me and they want to kill me before I release the video.
Do you like to publicize that video?
A: All the media have asked for it. But, if I release it now, the Chief Incumbents of the Nikayas will be subjected to embarrassment. The scenes in the video are so much shameful. Buddhist monks have never performed such anti-religious acts in their entire history. A leading Buddhist monk in Anuradhapura was also part of this group. Therefore, I do not wish to release it. I ask Gnanasara Thera not to be afraid.
Why do you hesitate so much to release a video that is related to a group that is coming after you to kill you?
A: I have no personal hatred towards Gnanasara Thera or any other. I do not act in the way they act and embarrass society. I implore them to live in peace and unity, in line with the Buddhist doctrine of loving the environment and human kind. We can discuss the problems and come to a settlement. That is the Buddhist teaching.
What if I suggest that you do not release the video as you are afraid of the BBS?
A: No. I act this way due to the respect I have for the robe of the Buddhist monk. I must say to the BBS that we must seek ways for national reconciliation instead of wasting our time on these unnecessary things.
Q:What is your nikaya?
A: I belong to the Malwatta Chapter of the Siyam Nikaya.
Haven't you informed the Chief Incumbent of the Malwatta Chapter about the threats made against you?
A: We hope to meet him in the future. At the moment I am not in a situation where I can come out of hiding.
What is the composition of the JBS?
A: It consists of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim priests. The BBS robbed the documents that had our contact details, policy documents and so forth. This is not a country that belongs only to Sinhala Buddhists. This land belongs to Tamils and Muslims too. Our aim is to create an environment in which all the communities can live without fear and with love and trust. The JBS was established on 7 April 2014. We called the press conference at Hotel Nippon on 9 April to announce its formation. But it was disrupted and we had to waste our time in police stations and Courts since that day. We have to hide in order to save our lives instead of building the organization.
Who funds JBS?
A: Nobody has given us even five cents. The only expense so far is the Rs 2,000 I paid for the hotel for the press conference, and a small sum for documentation. We haven't done anything so far. There is an allegation at the international level that there is no reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Now we have to build it on our own in our country. I promise that we will do it, no matter what threats we have to face.
Is the video clip the only reason for the BBS to come after you?
A: I think there is more to it. The reason may be that I work with various communities to build peace and also the establishment of the JBS.
The way you run away from the BBS and the fact that you are hiding may compel one to think that you are guilty of what they accuse you of?
A: We will not be in hiding forever. Do not think that we will run every day. What can I do when they come after me to kill me? Renowned Sinhala poet, Keyas (Sagara Palansooriya) described a river in one of his poems. I am like that river. I am very calm at times. I appear as though not flowing sometimes and I become violent at other times. Life is like that.
What is your response to the BBS renaming you as Mohammed Watareka Vijitha?
A: I had nicknames when I was in school too. I was called 'Temple Idler'. But I was patient. The Buddha also bore such insults patiently. Eventually, those who tried to vilify the Buddha were vilified themselves.

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