1 December, 2020

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BBS: Vigilantism And The Rule Of Law

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), according to some, is a terrorist organization. They call for proscription.  The word ‘terrorist’ begs comparison with the greatest terrorist the world has know outside those states that have made terrorism an integral part of foreign policy, namely the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  As of now, it remains a silly comparison.  The BBS, for all its provocative statements and belligerence, has not included assassination, suicide attacks, bomb blasts, landmines etc., etc in its curriculum vitae.  Should this warrant treatment with soft hands, though? The answer is an unequivocal ‘No!’  The reason is simple: vigilantism of any kind is a threat to the Rule of Law. 

This brings us to the vexed question of a marked reluctance by the law enforcement authority to protect places and persons ‘marked’ by the BBS.  Of late, though, action has been taken to investigate incidents involving the BBS, question its leaders and initiate legal proceedings.  Noteworthy too is the recent pledge by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to set up a special Police unit to move in quickly if and when religious harmony is threatened.  None of this seems to have deflated the BBS.  Its leaders continue to be vociferous and adamantly reiterate that if relevant authorities don’t take steps to curb certain activities which the BBS believes violates constitutional provisions, then the BBS will ‘do the needful’.

Now no one has given the BBS some kind of inalienable right to make determinations on legality and constitutionality.  The BBS has a right to opinion and can at best make their pleas to the relevant authority be it the police or the courts.  Violating one law in order to ensure that another law is protected is indefensible.  If on the other hand, the BBS (or anyone else for that matter) believes that existing laws are inadequate or unfair, then it can petition for change.  Democratically.  If the BBS feels that laws are being violated and the relevant authorities are turning a blind eye, then too the objection has to be formulated and acted out within the democratic framework.  The moment the law is taken into their own hands, the BBS cannot take refuge in the indefensible, i.e. one violation crosses out another.  If the BBS wants to be selective, it cannot cry foul if the Police or any other entity is selective in return.

First, there is the fact that the Secretary, Defense Ministry, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa accepting an invitation to open a regional office of the BBS.

First, there is the fact that the Secretary, Defense Ministry, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa accepting an invitation to open a regional office of the BBS.

But outside the issue of moral relativism and the logic of word play, there are reasons to worry about the BBS.  First, there is the fact that the Secretary, Defense Ministry, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa accepting an invitation to open a regional office of the BBS.  That was read as more than tacit approval and has been tagged to all comments regarding the BBS including allegations of regime-approval. Sloth and inaction by the police on several occasions when BBS activists and/or supporters went on rampage were naturally read as evidence of these actions having regime-blessing.  That one act of indiscretion wittingly or unwittingly committed has made for much inflation.  To be fair the BBS has not exactly had the privilege of soft-hand treatment in recent times, but that ‘scar’ remains.

More serious is the vigilante pretensions of the BBS.  Now anyone can claim police inaction and use it as a claim to deputize.  That’s not part of the social contract though.  On the other hand, what gives credence to BBS-type operations is not the alleged inaction of the police on what the BBS claims are illegal or unconstitutional activities of certain groups but the inaction of the police in general.  It is not about lack of human resources or skill. There have been countless occasions when the Police Department has covered itself in glory in putting a stop to criminal activity and bringing to book criminals.  It is the selectivity of the whole thing that offers more than a window of opportunity to the BBS.   Indeed it gives legitimacy, theoretically, to vigilantism of all kinds, not just BBS adventures.   ‘We are doing this in the name of security, civic responsibility etc,’ has now become an acceptable excuse for all kinds of errant behavior.  A recent example would be the Hambantota Mayor Eraj Fernando brandishing a gun ‘to protect’ UNP parliamentarians.  There’s no fine line any more between exercising civic responsibility and hooliganism, hooliganism and vandalism.

If anarchy is not desired, then the institutional arrangement has to reassert itself. Until such time public confidence in the Police is restored there will be little if any public objection to vigilantism, not because the public approves it but because outfits like the BBS so resemble the Police, in selectivity, belligerence and utter disregard for the Rule of Law.

What is the key flaw here?  The key flaw is the problematic relationship between the police officer and the politician.  In ‘governance’ terms, it is about the independence of the police or rather the lack thereof.  Clearly, the constitutional provisions for that kind of independence are either missing or woefully inadequate to the point where a politician can on occasion act as police officer.   When this kind of behavior is repeated, public confidence suffers.

One can and must call out the BBS for what it is: an un-Buddhist outfit that has no regard for Rule of Law and possessing great potential to develop into something that can wreck not just religious harmony but all democratic institutions.  The bigger problem, however, is in the institutional arrangement that has, due to insufficient provisions and/or marked disregard in the matter of operationalizing provisions, created conditions for such outfits to prosper.  The BBS can and must be brought to heel and made to abide by the law.  If, however, ‘the law’ is compromised not only will the BBS not be brought to heel, other versions of the phenomenon, some of them non-Buddhist and some non-religious, will emerge and prosper in much the same way.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com 

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    BBS should be dealt with with in the law of the country . while repugnant it has not taken to extra judicial avenues like the LTTE or the JVP . (which had to be dealt with differently )

    • 4
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      .
      Law of the country? Is there any?
      :-)

      • 2
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        Sri Lanka does not need imported Roman Dutch law: We have the home grown law – law of the jungle, which the lokka dishes out!

  • 7
    2

    Malinda Mali,

    Time for you to join the BBS. they would find your warped logic most conforting in keeping a lookout for the non budhist. Hope they do not get too upset when they find that your children attend Christian schools so that the can prosper while the budhist goods do the rest in.

    • 2
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      ———————————
      What is the key flaw here? The key flaw is the problematic relationship between the police officer and the politician.
      ———————————

      ha. ha.
      yet, Malinda don’t see MaRa sending the BBS thugs and Medumulane thugs to attack their political opponents.
      It must be the laptop. cannot type anything against the royal family.

      • 0
        0

        Wrong, Malinda has a special oil that he plans to apply on BBS members once he joins them incognito. Once that is done Religion, Power and Corruption will suddenly be disconnected.

        Sumith, pls be patient. He has been applying the same oil on him self for some time.

  • 4
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    BBS is allowed to operate above the law courtesy of the Secretary of Defence. Police have to bend their heads and recieve ‘tokkas’ from Gandasara Himi.

  • 1
    1

    Dear Malinda,
    Thanks for your logical arguments, observations and conclusions. Your way of reasoning does not work in Sri Lanka and other underdeveloped countries because politicians do not allow the law and order system to take place. In that situation, the BBS type organisation will emerge and prosper. It is my observation that academics and other educated people with western mind set are criticising the BBS and even calling to ban the BBS. However, the BBS managed to get an enormous support from the ordinary lay Sinhala Buddhists.

    If the law and order situation is operating in Sri Lanka, the BBS did not have to highlight the following illegal activities carried out by this one particular ethnic group in Sri Lanka:
    1. Collection of illegal and immoral halal taxation system from the 90% of population in Sri Lanka who are non-halal.
    2. Illegal encroachment of wild life national parks and forest reserves with the support of regional politicians. The Wild Life Department did not take any action until the BBS has campaigned against these illegal encroachments and building up illegal settlements.
    3. Destruction of archaeological sites by this particular ethnic group and attempting to create unexcited civilisation in Sri Lanka.

    The above given are a few examples that I can highlight. If you read the “Irida Dhivaina” news paper today, 27 April, 2014, you can see how this particular ethnic group is violating the law and order situation of Sri Lanka in the Eastern and many other parts of the country. This particular ethnic group thinks that they have a separate legal system operating in Sri Lanka.

    Under the above mentioned circumstances, the BBS emerged and they have campaigned against these matters and developed an awareness among the people of Sri Lanka about this “Hidden Cold War” campaign carried out by this particular ethnic group.

    Therefore I kindly request you without blindly criticising any organisation, try to objectively evaluate the good things done by the BBS.
    Without any hesitation, I would say that the BBS has done an enormous service to the Sri Lankan Buddhist society by highlighting this hidden cancer growing within Sri Lanka. Otherwise our beautiful island of Sri Lanka will be invaded and converted by this particular ethnic group within about another 300 years. That would be the end of Buddhist culture and civilisation in Sri Lanka

  • 3
    2

    The actions of the BBS has made the job of converting Buddhists to Christians much easier than before , said a visiting Pastor from Sri Lanka when I asked him about the impact it had on them. Chuckling, he said “The BBS is a good recruiting agency for us”.
    This is well worth researching and I hope somebody with time and resources on their hands will come up with a comprehensive report or article to back this theory and if it is presented to the BBS , who knows they might be a bit enlightened by it . I am an optimist .

  • 4
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    Malinda

    Trying to white-wash GR and exonerate him from the BBS is another futile exercise in boot-licking and “lap-top” patronage!

    Considering inaction on the part of government and law enforcement authorities, it is obvious that the BBS is a Regime Project.

    Like you (a bit player), the BBS is also another tool in the regimes grand plan to perpetuate Dynastic Rule.

    Malinda, all your anti-BBS posturing is therefore mere eye-wash, because you are also part of the Project.

    Not all of us are naive, you know!!

  • 3
    0

    Malinda,
    You are no different from Balusaara, Dilantha Withanage the moron that has decided to lie low feeling the heat… I mean why do you sell your soul for such a cheap price? You speak English, you have been in the US..although you did not complete your degree, do you really have to stoop so low?? You even attended Royal College.. this is my problem being a Royalist myself.

    Hope this comment makes you think.. it is never too late to change. Don’t we all go through our little religious spurts that get us off the main track at least once in life.

  • 4
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    Insidious writes-
    1. Mahinda is taking steps now.
    2. Gota only had one small interaction, which was probably unintentional.
    3. BBS is acting to combat unconstitutional acts by others and they are vigilantes.it is because of theory vigilantism that they should be stopped. I.e. they are not a racist, bigoted organisation.
    4. Don’t call them terrorists- remember the LTTE. Just keep repeating LTTE so that people are frightened.

    Malinda thinks he’s so cool with his double speak.

    S

  • 2
    0

    A Terrorist qualifies as a person uses violence or threats of violence for intimidation or coercion or instils intense and sharp fear is terrorism.

    The writer is on the fence neither defending the Radical Bhikkus tantrums nor blaming them.

    Only way to defend against these Radical and their Rulers is to cut off or stave them of the findings from the SinHellist business establishments.

    • 0
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      Look who defines the terrorists. Its a Jihadi.

  • 0
    1

    Malinda,
    Try to look at BBS this way. All that BBS had done so far is harangue the most. What BBS has challenged Muslims is for a debate. BBS never told Sinhala Buddhists to do anything like the Koran verses told Muslims.

    Koran 45:21 tells us that unbelievers are not equal to Muslims. And Koran 4:141 tells that Allah doesn’t allow non-Muslims to triumph over the Muslims. And my interpretation is that, Muslims can never be loyal to governments of unbelievers. This is the problem non-Muslims face with Muslims the world over. For Muslims, the whole world becoming Muslim is the answer.

    Thripitake doesn’t say such vile things as Buddha said for his followers to follow. But Buddha had many a discussion (debate) with his contemporary religious founders. In the late 1800, there was a famous debate with Christians called ‘Panadura Wadaya’.

    No ‘Panadura Wadaya’ ended up in brawls or street fights. It brought Col. Olcott to Sri Lanka and that followed the revival of Buddhism. So, debate is not averse to Sinhala Buddhists specially to emulate when Sinhala Buddhists are under threat. And we Sinhala Buddhists are under threat right now.

    Law has become an ass and it doesn’t protect Buddhist interest as per constitution. Muslims are taking advantage of everything everyway.

  • 1
    0

    When Malinda suddenly wakes up to talk about the Rule Of Law I know that he is bluffing. No need to go further beyond the title of the article. Who will take his ideas seriously?

  • 0
    0

    BBS version of Buddhism Vs Rule of Law

    There is an accepted norm in the law that If it is not explicitly stated it does mean that it is implicitly included. This is the case of impunity with regard to the well proved present status of the BBS version of Buddhism which is beyond reasonable doubt.

    Dear Mr. Malinga as you described. First, there is the fact that the Secretary, Defense Ministry, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa accepting an invitation to open a regional office of the BBS. That was read as more than tacit approval and has been tagged to all comments regarding the BBS including allegations of regime-approval. Sloth and inaction by the police on several occasions when BBS activists and/or supporters went on rampage were naturally read as evidence of these actions having regime-blessing. Can you incriminate the culprit publicly without presenting the fact passively please

    You see now what happened to storming of the Press Conference of Ven Wateraka Vijitha Thero. His Right to be heard has not been restored yet. Even the media is not prepared to raise the issue with BBS or Police. No media has publicised the news about the right of Ven Vijitha thero being deprived of, by this rampaging Monk or the Police inaction. The inquiry about the incident of raiding Hotel Nippon Press Conference despite amble evidence to prove Criminal trespassing has been entrusted to the CID. What does it mean ? You as one of a very few recognized and respected journalist should know more than the ordinary citizen where it will end. Why don’t you try to elicit it from the Police itself.

    There is a tendency on the part of journalists as well to maintain silence in case of such incidence of Police excesses or ignorance. Whither the democracy,

    whither the freedom of expression, whither the human values and customs. Whither the Buddhism in Sri Lanka

  • 0
    0

    The actions of the BBS is simply stemming out of a sense of fear. This is not new in Sri Lanka. in the 40’s sinhalese was made the official language for the “fear” of it becoming extinct. In 87riots were fuelled a second time in July on the famous day “koti enewa” was through fear. So we Sri Lankans have a physiology that when in fear attack the opposition rather than trying to negotiate and work things out. Even now the heavy handedness seen by the Govt. towards Jaffna and the tamils is simply out of “fear” of the LTTE coming back to life, thus not professing some true honest reconciliation process.

    If the BBS were truly concerned about protecting buddhism then they would first lay a good foundation over the buddhist people by teaching them to be “strong” buddhist by the way they live according to the teachings of the buddha. No the BBS have turned to thuggery which will definitely lead to a weak buddhist population who will destest the robe and embrace christianity or any other faith they can find true comfort, solace and peace.

    Well don’t BBS – destroyers of Buddhism !

  • 1
    0

    First time I saw Gotabhaya smiling. Must be coming from the heart…..

  • 0
    0

    It may not be entirely correct to say MR and Gota have created BBS. Rather, BBS is a natural culmination of Southern Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism cum racism in fertile post war grounds. MR and Gota are just fully aware of how deep rooted that nationalism/racism is. BBS is just the tip of the ice-berg. A vast majority of those who condemn BBS have a soft corner for them at the very least. A seasoned politician like MR won’t go to mess with it. Even the so called Westernized JRJ bowed down to it. That is why MR is tip-toeing around it. The solution is power devolution! nothing else will make minority communities live in dignity. And that is already in the constitution. Just implement it.

  • 1
    0

    The BBS is an extra-legal arm of the Rajapaksa reigme contracted by strongmen of the Rajapaksa clan to carry out a campaign of intimidation against the non-buddhist communities so as to appease the hidden desires of the Sinhala Buddhist religious community.

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