The Politics behind the BBS

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) in its very name suggests something approximating, if not exceeding, a show of force. Specifically, and paradoxically, Buddhist Force!

Last week the BBS said it would very possibly be sooner or later registering its own political party to fight for the ‘Buddhist Cause’ because political parties cannot be depended on to achieve that end, whatever that might be.

The BBS enjoyed impunity under the Rajapaksa regime and now it would seem that the BBS has a champion in Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.

BBS Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage has reportedly told UCANEWS that the BBS recently discussed with Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya the possibility of registering a political party to contest the forthcoming elections.”

Besides the BBS, there’s the Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya and other Buddhist organizations which many believe have contributed to an upswing in religious extremism manifested in threats to Christian and Muslim congregations and violenceperpetrated on their places of worship. The BBS and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe deny the charges.

BBS Secretary Wthanage has said: “We are not going to transform BBS into a political party, but form a separate political party and BBS will remain as a political organization”. So then, we have it on the authority of his word that the BBS is a political organization and not a Buddhist religious movement.

To define it appropriately, let’s call it a Buddhist Revivalist Political Force, as its name implies.

Also, significantly, last year the BBS joined hands with Myanmar’s controversial 969 Organization, to campaign against Muslims and Christians.

In September 2014 Ashin Wirathu attended a ‘Great Sangha Conference’ in Colombo organized by the Bodu Bala Sena and Wirathu said that his 969 Movement would work with the BBS.

So we are to take it then that 969 is actively backing the BBS in its attacks on Christians and Muslims alike…and the record shows that the former government and the one in office now have done absolutely nothing about these attacks.

A statement issued by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance (NCEA) of Sri Lanka on 27 May claims, that there have been over 20 violent incidents against Christians to date this year and a simultaneous upswing in violent attacks on Muslims in the country.

“Since the current government took office in 2015, over 190 incidents of religious violence against churches, clergy, and Christians have been recorded,” the NCEA said in the statement.

Rajapakshe deems these allegations to be baseless. In other words, Rajapakshe has held Court and delivered judgment that the BBS is innocent of all charges.

The 969 Movement of Myanmar is an extremist Buddhist nationalist movement, opposed to what they see as, Islam’s expansion in predominantly Buddhist Burma and the BBS stance is a mirror image of that of the 969 Movement.

Just as that movement has inspired strong reactions within Myanmar, so has the BBS begun to inspire similar Islamaphobic and anti-Christian reactions from Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka.

The BBS accuses the Government of allowing Islamic extremism to flourish in Sri Lanka, warning that “within a decade or two, Buddhism will be under serious threat in Sri Lanka,” as Dilanthe Withanage has reportedly said. Therein lies the crux of the factor that’s triggering Buddhist extremist violence against Muslims and Christians. Both religions are accused of disturbing the peace and expanding threateningly in the country. But if that were true then isn’t Buddhism, by virtue of its greater number of adherents also expanding to suffocation point in the country?

Human rights groups, religious leaders, lawmakers and the United Nations have called on the Sri Lankan government to take immediate action against sectarian racist, religious violence which are stoking dangerous tensions in the country.

In March, after a Sunday morning service, a group of about 50 people, including Buddhist monks, forced entry into the Christian Fellowship Church in Ingiriya – in the Kalutara District. Later, a mob of around 200 people gathered outside the Police station, including two dozen Buddhist monks, who began shouting and blocking the Pastor and his wife’s passage home.

When they reached home they found it had been stoned and its windows smashed to bits. When the pastor confronted the mob who had followed them home, he was hit with a pole.

More recently, on 18 May, according to UCAN, a large protest against a Christian place of worship was staged in Devinuwara – in the Matara District, and again by a mob of about 2,000 protesters, including 30 Buddhist monks.

Were they the same mob that carried out the March attack and the other attacks on Muslim places? The numbers would suggest they were.

All of this, peculiarly, erupted after the end of the war against the LTTE.

Are the political parties on both sides of the divide possibly more than mere tacit supporters of this extremist Buddhist clerical terrorism?

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