Some Buddhist monks are up in arms against the abduction and manhandling of a colleague in the fraternity in Galle recently after the conclusion of the Southern Provincial Council polls. The victim, Ven. Ratnapure Kolitha Thera of Sri Sumanaramaya, Naranowita, has told the police that a UPFA candidate abducted him and doused him with arrack. The politician, the monk says, was peeved at the low number of preferential votes he had polled.
The protesting monks have, in a statement to the media, said the perpetrator must apologise to the victim in public. Else, they warn they will launch a protest. What they demand is too lenient a punishment for a political thug who has committed an unpardonable offence. If a chief monk is not safe from him, the vulnerability of lesser mortals goes without saying. Stern action is called for.
We are intrigued that the suspect or, more appropriately, the Devatatta of Galle, had not been arrested until this edition went to press.
The police lost no time in rounding up a group of JVP activists in Hambantota and hauling them up in court for having defaced road surfaces and sign boards in the run-up to the SPC polls. Is the unspeakable act of abducting a religious dignitary and roughing him up a lesser offence than spoiling roads?
Another UPFA candidate, Nishantha Mutuhettigama, was arrested and forced to have his head examined, when he crossed swords with an actress in the SPC election fray in Galle and badmouthed the police and the IGP. He has also incurred the wrath of government leaders for his histrionic outbursts and other forms of theatrics such as dashing coconuts and grinding chillies at devales in retaliation for what he terms a grand robbery of his preferential votes at the Galle counting centre. His grievances may be real or perceived but no UPFA leader has thought it fit to lend him an ear because he has taken on a darling of the powers that be.
The government and the police that swung into action against the JVP and Mutuhettigama at the speed of light, so to speak, have not descended on Ven. Kolitha thera s abductor. Why?
Curiously, the Maha Nayaka Theras who, a few moons ago, passionately defended Diayawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, when he came under fire over grabbing two baby jumbos from their mothers at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, have not risen in defence of Ven. Kolitha Thera. The prelates who receive politicians of all sorts bearing ata pirikara ought to tell the government worthies that the provincial councillor concerned must be appropriately dealt with for manhandling a member of the Maha Sangha. They must also demand that the suspect be suspended from the UPFA forthwith and a high level probe conducted into the incident.
The Maha Nayaka Theras must tell the government leaders, especially President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, that while they are flaunting the Mathata Thitha programme aimed at ridding the country of liquor and narcotics, their backers have given a Buddhist monk an arrack bath!
If President Rajapaksa is wondering why the UPFA could not reach the expected target of over 72 per cent of votes in the South, he may find a clue in the arrogant conduct of the ruling party candidates save a few. Most of them are confirmed political freeloaders benefiting from the President`s popularity and driving electors away from the UPFA.
Unprovoked attacks on the JVP and the UNP, the flouting of election laws and an obnoxious intra-party battle for preferential votes were among the factors that made many southerners who would otherwise have voted for the government in appreciation of the defeat of terrorism abstain from voting. Had the UPFA team behaved and conducted a clean campaign without resorting to strong arm tactics, the government would have been able to attract the voters who kept away in protest.
The onus is on President Rajapaksa to ensure that Ven. Kolitha Thera s abductor does not go scot free by manipulating the police and the judicial process, suspend him from the UPFA and ask him to clear his name, if he can, at a disciplinary inquiry.