Buddhist monk assaulted at anti-Rajapaksa protest

Chief monk of Sentul temple punched and kicked, NGO leader Elangovan apologises and agrees religious places should be open to everyone

KUALA LUMPUR: The chief monk of the Sri Lankan Buddhist temple in Sentul was assaulted by a small group among demonstrators conducting a protest against former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa who is visiting Malaysia.

The group of about 50 people had gathered in front of Putra World Trade Centre to protest against Rajapaksa’s attendance at an international conference of Asian political parties.

The protesters went to the Sentul temple when rumours of Rajapaksa’s supposed visit began to spread.

The group comprised members of the Malaysian Indian Progressive Association, Malaysian Tamilan, and the Malaysian Indian Education Transformation Association. They began to burn an effigy of Rajapaksa in front of the temple.

When the chief monk Sri Saranan came out of the temple, some unknown individuals went to question him about Rajapaksa’s arrival. They then abused him with vulgarities and obscenities.

The assault began after one person touched the monk’s face, prompting another to punch Sri Saranan in the face. Two members of the crowd also kicked the monk, forcing Sri Saranan to retreat inside the temple.

Sentul police prevented the crowd from further attacking the monk, and MIETA chairman A. Elangovan entered the temple together with the police to apologise to the monk.

He said his group had gathered at the temple “because we want to give a stern warning to all Buddhist temples to not allow the mass murderer here.”

Tamil groups blame Rajapaksa for being behind the massacre of 100,000 Tamil Sri Lankans during the country’s 25-year-long civil war.

Elangovan agreed it was wrong to assault anyone at a protest and said he did not know who the attackers were. Several people had just joined the crowd to protest. “They are a bit emotional. But still, we can’t beat them up because this is a religious place.”

He said he had agreed with the chief monk that no one should be restricted from coming into a temple. “This is a religious place. We have no right to dictate who should come here and not.”

He said that if Rajapaksa came to the temple “to seek forgiveness from God, then it is fine. We have no say in who should come and not”.

FMT was prevented from contacting members of the temple.

When asked if his group would turn up tomorrow, Elangovan said they would only carry out a protest if Rajapaksa made an appearance. “We do not want to destroy the sanctity of a holy place”.

Police later told reporters that members of the Light Strike Force and some officers might be stationed at the temple to ensure peace as certain people might turn up with sticks and stones.

M Shammuga, leader of another group, said that they would keep vigil to make sure that Rajapaksa did not make an appearance. “Once he (Rajapaksa) comes here, we are going to demonstrate against him so that he will not enter the temple,” he said.

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