Just where will the government led by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa draw the line, when it comes to acting with impunity and callous disregard to the letter and spirit of the law?

That is the question on the minds of many, following the appointment of Galagoda-aththe Gnanasara, a rabble rouser Buddhist monk with proven credentials of racism to chair a Presidential Task Force (PTF) on ‘One Country, One Law’.

Gnanasara thero has articulated his political philosophy very clearly many a time in his public utterances. He believes in a state where majoritarianism and Sinhala Buddhist hegemony should hold sway. He believes that minorities should be subservient to Sinhala Buddhist domination and have lesser rights. He has said so openly- and in quite colourful language that is unbecoming of a Buddhist monk.

Whatever his faults, one cannot accuse Gnanasara thero of maintaining a low profile. He has thrived on controversy and made headlines ever so often. Once, he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. His public utterances were often vitriolic and he refers to minority communities in a derogatory tone.

In 2014, Gnanasara thero visited the Kalutara district following a relatively minor incident where a Buddhist monk and his driver were allegedly assaulted by Muslim youths. The organisation that he heads, the ‘Bodu Bala Sena’ (BBS) had organised rallies in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga Town.

Addressing the rally in Aluthgama, Gnanasara thero reportedly said, “In this country we still have a Sinhala police; we still have a Sinhala army. After today if a single marakkalaya or some other paraya touches a single Sinhalese, it will be their end”. The riots that followed left four people dead and dozens injured.

The riots earned the condemnation of the United Nations Secretary General, the United States and Amnesty International. However, with the government at the time being headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gnanasara thero did not face any consequences for his actions.

In 2016, Gnanasara thero interrupted a court hearing on the abduction of journalist, Prageeth Ekneligoda, in which military intelligence officers were accused. He shouted at the judge and lawyers because the officers had not been given bail, and threatened Ekneligoda’s wife. He was subsequently charged and convicted of contempt of court, receiving a prison term of six years in August 2018.

Fortunately for Gnanasara thero, former President Maithripala Sirisena intervened and granted him a pardon in May 2019. This act by Sirisena in the final months of his Presidency was seen as a move to curry favour with the majority community in a pathetic attempt to bolster his faltering popularity.

Gnanasara thero was soon in the news again. In October 2019, he allegedly led the cremation of a Buddhist monk on a Hindu temple premises in Mullaitivu, directly contravening a court order prohibiting this. A case was filed against Gnanasara thero by Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Shanthi Sriskandarajah, again for contempt of court.

This is the man President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has chosen to head the PTF on ‘One Country, One Law’. Quite apart from the fact that Gnanasara thero’s only experience with the law is being charged with various offences and being convicted, it suggests that there is more to this than what meets the eye at first glance.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his political advisors- and we can safely count political strategist Basil Rajapaksa among them- would have known Gnanasara thero’s appointment would earn widespread condemnation and would be popular only among jingoist Islamophobic nationalists.

Nevertheless, they went ahead with their decision to appoint Gnanasara thero as the head of the PTF. It was not the political naiveté of Gotabaya Rajapaksa that led to the decision; in fact, it is the opposite- a more sinister attempt to alter the political equation.

Ask the average ‘man on the street’ about the government in general and the President in particular and one realises how unpopular they are. The mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organic fertiliser issue, the sale of assets to foreigners with vested interests and most of all, the unbearable cost of living has led to a rapid erosion of the 6.9 million people who flocked to vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa less than two years ago. In their eyes, ‘Sir’ has not only failed, he has failed by a miserable margin.

Where does Gnanasara thero fit in, in this scenario? Remember the Sinhala-majoritarian hype and the Islamophobia that was generated in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terror attacks in April 2019? Not only did Gotabaya Rajapaksa announce his candidacy for the Presidency less than a week after the attacks, the momentum of the anti-Muslim sentiment was carried right through to the election- and the Buddhist clergy played a significant role in that with even the chief prelate of the Kelaniya temple joining in with a remarkable story of a snake emerging from the Kelani river!


This strategy of whipping up anti-minority sentiment hoping that the majority community will take the bait and vote for the Rajapaksas is a tried and tested tactic. The logic is simple as the arithmetic that lies beneath it: More than 70 per cent of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese Buddhists; get 65 per cent of them voting for you and the election is in the bag. This is precisely what happened in the 2019 presidential election and at the 2021 general election- and this is what the Rajapaksas want happening again, come 2024.

What better way to ensure that, than to set the stage for a revival of the ‘pro-Sinhala Buddhist, anti-minority’ image of the government? And who can do it better than Galagoda-aththe Gnanasara thero, rabid racist and convicted offender but firebrand orator and a man who dons the saffron robe, making him virtually immune from the law- for who dares to speak against him, speaks against Buddhism- or so it is portrayed.

The curtain is about to rise in this drama. If voters fall for this farce we will soon have not ‘One Country, One Law’ but ‘No country, No Law’!


What is the most preeminent way to ensure the revival of pro Sinhala Buddhist, anti-minority image of the government?

Appointment of Gnanasara Thero to head the PTF on One Country –One Law would unfalteringly ensure that.


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