By Dhaneshi Yatawara
Contesting from the Kalutara District under the ‘Bodu Jana Peramuna’ banner, Ven. Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera, the ‘Bodu Bala Sena’ (BBS) General Secretary says that he would use this opportunity to restore the good name of Buddhists. “More than anyone else, it was the Buddhists who faced prejudice despite their compassionate approach.
They are feeling disheartened and it is our duty to correct the situation,” Gnanasara Thera said, commenting on his decision to contest from Kalutara – where the BBS faced a controversy following the Aluthgama-Beruwala communal violence in June 2014.
Q: The ‘Bodu Jana Peramuna’ was planning on selecting suitable candidates from all districts through interviews, as you mentioned in previous media briefings. What is the current situation?
We have already commenced our election campaign. In a short time, the BBS under the ‘Bodu Jana Peramuna’ (BJP) flag has listed over 230 candidates in 17 districts. Due to lack of time we could not hand over the Matara district nominations. Therefore, we are contesting 16 districts.
Q: What was the clash reported between Vijith Rohana Wijemuni, now contesting from ‘Jana Setha Peramuna’ and the BJP, recently. He has alleged that the BJP/ BBS did not give him the due place as promised?
A: There is no clash actually. He was not even a member of the party. With his patriotic background, I spoke to him, inquiring whether he would like to contest under the BJP.
He agreed. He has never been at BBS events since its inception. Initially he requested nomination from the Gampaha District claiming he has a sound base there. We agreed to it. He has come to the head-office on a day when senior members, decision makers of the party were absent and demanded the Gampaha district leadership. He said, if he was not given the post, he would not contest. The office staff has said, they were unable to take a decision. After a heated argument, he had left the office.
Q: Bhikkus are contesting now under the BJP, despite your earlier decision to avoid them coming in to politics. Your policy decision was to make the Bhikkus lead the campaign but not to have them contest. What is the reason for the change in the policy decision?
Party members, supporters continuously requested that Bhikkus do contest. That is the reason for the change in the decision.
Q: Yet, the change in policy does not create a good impression. What is your comment?
As a party, we had no intention to put forward Bhikkus as candidates. But the sudden political instability compelled us to do so. And we pledged to turn a new leaf in the country’s politics.
Q: Do you strongly believe Buddhist priests by entering politics, can bring about positive?
There were Venerable Theras who entered parliament who did nothing to protect Buddhism or Buddhists. We will enter Parliament to make a positive change. We will represent the Buddhists and make a true change.
Q: The BBS worked closely with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Why are you contesting separately instead of supporting him, as he is now a candidate?
I must say that the former president or any of his family members, never supported us. When we cautioned the authorities on religious extremism in the country, the previous government ignored it.
Q: Why did you select the Kaluthara district to contest knowing that it is where the Aluthgama-Beruwala violence occured?
That incident did injustice to the true Sinhala Buddhists. I will correct the situation. They are feeling disheartened and it is our duty to correct it.