“Today (June 3) is the most wretched day after Prime Minister Bandaranaike tore the B-C Pact on April 9, 1958 giving into pressure from a few extremist Buddhist monks,” Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera was reported as having said when all Muslim Ministers, Deputy and State Ministers in the present UNP Government resigned en bloc from their posts. He is also reported as having said, “PM Bandaranaike did not have a spine. We have seen the disaster that brought on us. Our leaders today, also don’t have a spine. It is extremely dangerous when political power is usurped by religious leaders.” (theleader.lk)
There is yet a marked political difference between Bandaranaike giving into Sinhala Buddhist pressure in 1958 and this government compromising with rabid anti-Muslim vagrancy.
That political difference goes beyond Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith visiting Rathana Thera with a few Bishops and the clergy, trying to reduce it to a call for independent investigations into the Easter Sunday tragedy, when that is not what this whole anti-Muslim campaign is about.
It goes beyond Bandaranaike giving into pressure against Tamil political demands and this government trying to please Sinhala Buddhist demands on an anti-Muslim platform.
The major difference is, the 1956 election campaign of the MEP was solely based on promises made exclusively for the Sinhala Buddhists by Bandaranaike.
When the report of the ‘Buddhist Commission’ was presented on February 4, 1956 to the Maha Sangha, Bandaranaike made a public declaration he would implement all recommendations of the Buddhist Commission, if his MEP was elected to power at the April elections.
His next promise was to make Sinhala the only official language of the country. Rest remained petty election promises.
"Govt’s inactivity compelled Muslim leaders to resign from their posts"
The 1956 election victory of Bandaranaike was thus a victory of the Sinhala Buddhist ideology though his MEP polled only 39.5 per cent of the votes, blessed with a majority 51 seats out of the elected 95 members in Parliament. The UNP was reduced to eight seats though they polled 27.9 per cent while the LSSP won 14 seats with 10.4 per cent of the votes and held the leader of the opposition post. Although the representation of elected members to Parliament was wholly warped, Bandaranaike was obliged to honour the promises he gave the Sinhala Buddhist constituency to retain those votes for the next election. Therefore, the B-C Pact was torn in front of protesting Buddhist monks.
The UNP during the January 2015 presidential election campaign with the JVP and other Tamil and Muslim political parties in alliance with common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, was not into such extreme Sinhala Buddhist demands in their election campaign.
With the TNA and other Muslim political parties, they were restricted to mega anti-corruption issues with loud promises to clean up the stable and have it neat and tidy with ‘Good Governance.’
Once in government, the UNP leadership kept away from directly getting involved in Sinhala Buddhist politics but made sure compromises were possible with Sinhala Buddhist demands on the UNHRC resolution while staying away from North and East Tamil demands.
This neither here nor there politics of the UNP leadership in government did not have the advantage of a countering Left force led by the LSSP that the Bandaranaikes faced in the ’50s and the ’60s. Moderate Sinhala Buddhist politics of SLFP-led governments from 1956 to 1965 were challenged not only by the Federal Party in the North-East but by the Left forces in Colombo and within the Sinhala constituency in the South as well. A strong trade union base with LSSP and the CP too then played a role against Sinhala Buddhist racism of the Bandaranaikes.
"MS allegedly says he will back a new leader from UNP as presidential candidate"
The absence of such an ideologically strong third force in Southern politics, leaves space at present for Sinhala Buddhist politics led by Buddhist monks to play the role of the opposition against this UNP Government that does not say where they actually stand on these issues.
It is that Sinhala Buddhist politics the mainstream political parties keep adopting and accommodating in their bid to be valid with the majority Sinhala constituency that compromises at every turn, and reached a stage where Rathana Thera lifted the anti-Muslim campaign to an extreme level with a fast unto death.
Although with much less credibility than Thileepan in October 1987, Rathana Thera still an Advisor to President Sirisena, enjoyed the increasing heat against Muslim political leaders to launch his protest, and Gnanasara Thera gave the President and the government time till Monday noon to respond to the demands.
President Sirisena wriggled out of the dilemma by accepting resignations from the two Muslim Governors on Monday afternoon. It was evident the anti-Muslim campaign brought to the streets was deciding not only the politics of this government but was also forcing decisions on the government.
Worst still is that this UNP Government does not want to challenge this extremely-dangerous usurping of political power that Minister Mangala Samaraweera is challenging on his own.
That inactivity on the part of the government compelled Muslim political leaders to collectively respond and resign from their positions in the UNP Government and demand an end to trespassing on the executive power of the government by Buddhist monks-led mobs targeting the Muslim community.
That unexpected move saw high priests of Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters requesting Muslim political leaders to get back to their ministerial positions and calm down the situation.
That also saw Gnanasara Thera making an about turn within 48 hours.
He told a press conference, Rathana Thera had confused the whole campaign for his selfish gains. He said: “It was traditional Muslim people who opposed Zahran and gave all details against him. They were the people who rallied against Islamic extremism.” While saying this protest could push the traditional Muslim people also to extremism and it is a crime to do so, he also said, “This protest targeted just three Muslim politicians. Our politicians are no different. Aren’t our Sinhala politicians in contact with the underworld? With drug dealers? With smugglers? Then they should also be opposed.”
"Gnanasara Thera says SL now under a united Bikkhu leadership"
He was prophetic in saying: “Let me tell you now, this way we would create a major Sinhala – Muslim conflict in the future.” Yet, reading between the lines, Gnanasara Thera’s politics is not that democratic and inclusive as he pretends.
He wants the leadership of Sinhala Buddhist campaigns unto him.
“Therefore, we will not allow anybody to handle extremism in the country. This should be conducted under one leadership,” the DM reported on June 4.
His political line was quite compatible with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s often repeated statement, this government was incapable of ruling the country and therefore should leave. “We urge politicians who do not agree with the national agenda to pack their baggage and go home. Because the country had been awakened and Buddhist monks are now united,” the DM reported him saying.
His national agenda is very plainly a Sinhala Buddhist ‘Supremacist Agenda’ backed by violent anti-Muslim protests. His veiled warning, he would: “Not allow anybody to handle extremism in the country. This should be conducted under one leadership,” means plainly, him only. His threatening warning for politicians who do not agree with his yet to be clearly defined national agenda “to pack their baggage and go home” obviously is for the ruling party. The joint opposition (JO) including the SLPP with Mahinda Rajapaksa is there with him, or rather, he is with them as their proxy.
All these hints at another street campaign that would demand to dissolve Parliament way before presidential elections. With news making rounds that Gotabaya was finally told by his elder brother Mahinda, that Gotabaya would not be the SLPP candidate, and then his departure to Singapore for a medical check-up leading to an unexpected cardiac surgery, parliamentary elections before the presidential election in late November or December, now suits ideal for the Rajapaksas. For some in the UNP too, that would make their presence in the next Parliament more certain, than contesting parliamentary elections after an imminent major defeat at the presidential election.
"The fate of the country? As posters that have come up in the city and suburbs indicate, it would be a ruthless campaign in establishing a strictly Sinhala Buddhist ‘Theocratic State’. Perhaps, the first of its kind on this planet Earth"
With Gnanasara Thera taking a new line that suits Rajapaksa more than President Sirisena, wires have crossed again at the helm. Feeling betrayed by Gnanasara Thera and thus forgetting how he engineered Mahinda Rajapaksa to be sworn in as PM only eight months ago, President Sirisena is reported as having told the Cabinet of Ministers, he would not leave room for a Rajapaksa return, and would back a reasonably established new leader from UNP as a presidential candidate. The Muslim community as a collective factor and Sinhala Buddhist leadership Gnanasara Thera says is now firmly under a united Bhikkhu leadership, would thus decide politics in the next few months. Political ‘leaders’ will be mere ‘followers’ running after hard-line Sinhala Buddhist campaigns, while Rajapaksa would remain their ‘popular leader.’
The fate of the country?
As posters that have come up in the city and suburbs indicate, it would be a ruthless campaign in establishing a strictly Sinhala Buddhist ‘Theocratic State.’ Perhaps, the first of its kind on this planet Earth.