15 December, 2019

Blog

Can Sobitha Pull Off Victory Where Fonseka Flunked?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

A significant political development that has gained momentum this month is that a substantial and growing number of political organizations and individuals have begun to promote the candidacy of Ven. Maduluwewa Sobitha Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Kotte Naga Vihara, as a presidential challenger to Mahinda Rajapaksa. This was implicit (there was no explicit reference to a candidacy) at a meeting of the National Movement for Social Justice at the Colombo Public Library Hall on Wednesday 15 August. The meeting was well attended (the hall was full but not overflowing). General Fonseka and his stalwarts, UNP types mainly but not only from the among the dissidents, and several leftists like yours faithfully more out of curiosity than pledge, and a large contingent of Buddhist clergy made up the audience. The podium was reserved for religious big-wigs including Buddhist high priests, two bishops (Chickera and Gomis) and one body each as token reps of the Hindu and Islamic creeds. No denying it was an impressive launch with upside potential.

The sixty-four thousand question is can he do it? Can Sobitha pull off victory where Fonseka flunked? Given the drought of credible alternatives to the incumbent whose popularity remains high, is Sobitha the best option, and more important, does he look like a winner? The second question first. I think Sobitha is a winner if two conditions can be met:-

a) He presents himself as a clear-cut single-issue candidate.

b) The UNP can be persuaded to drop counter bids and throw its weight behind him.

Both are doable and in the interests of several persons and parties, the UNP included, so my guess is that Sobitha’s candidature has better than even odds of materialising. However, I need to emphasise that unless both conditions are met, he will lose. A hundred other things can happen on the political and economic front between now and the next elections, so frankly all bets are off at this early stage. However a crucial point is that unless the Thero announces his candidature early, preferably now and as a single-issue aspirant, he will lose vital time.

A single-issue candidate

Sobitha, to rally the largest possible support, must present himself in the following frame: “I am contesting this election seeking a mandate to abolish the Executive Presidency (EP). Apart from that I have no political ambitions and will not attempt to run the country. Upon election I will set in motion the mechanism to abolish the EP – I will dissolve the then existing parliament if does not respect the mandate that the people give me. I will initiate procedures to replace the present dysfunctional mess by a genuine parliamentary system. I will ask the then existing or a fresh parliament, depending on circumstances, to function as a constituent assembly. Once these changes are in place I have no further political ambitions; I will get back to my temple and return to my religious duties”.

So it is clear what I mean by a single-issue candidate. It is a candidate who has no long-term ambitions to be a politician, but rather, focuses on one supremely important task. Such a candidate must not wish to hang on as president for even one term – actually that’s an oxymoron; once EP is abolished there will be no EP to hang on to – nor have prime ministerial ambitions for the subsequent phase. It is only a sharp well focussed bare minimum, single-issue program that can enthuse every section of the community. Take people like me, that is, leftists. A programme to run the economy, deal with the national question, foreign policy, reform the administration, and so on, well the good Thero and the left may have difficulty in finding a much common ground. But a one-shot, single-issue, task oriented abolish-the-EP strategy, will delight even the most sectarian leftists. What do they care what his ideology? What do they care if he likes socialist or capitalist economics? None of this matters in a one-issue task oriented front.

Taking the left as an example is not the best, but the same consideration applies to the minorities (more on that later), persons of other faiths, the UNP, the JVP, the Frontline, the Backline, (Can the Dead-Left which waxed so eloquent against the EP before it sold its soul, get time-off from its own funeral to attend?). Everybody who is fed-up with the EP and thinks the Eighteenth Amendment and this rotten regime is blight upon the country can unite for this single well targeted objective. The one-issue framework is a necessary condition for victory.

And there is another elemental consideration. Chandrika and Mahinda swore on all they held sacred (if anything) to abolish the EP as soon as elected and both turned out to be liars. There is a crucial difference with Sobitha; everyone I have met who knows him, is certain that if he says it, he will do it. He is that type of character I have been assured, which is a relief. In any case, having won on a single-issue mandate how on earth can he not implement it!

There is however a nagging worry. It has come to light that the actors behind his candidacy are drafting a 10-point programme. Oh so what’s that, is it a governmental and socio-economic programme? Ah so after winning the elections the Thero will stay on as president and implement the programme eh? Otherwise what’s the need for a governmental programme? Hmm shades of Chandrika and Mahinda! Perhaps the Thero will not bow out of politics but hopes to continue as prime minister (Executive Prime Minister!), lead a cabinet and enter governmental politics. Most unwise, most unwise; any suspicion of ambitions beyond the single-issue task will spell difficulty in gathering together an alliance.

I will withdraw my criticism if the other nine points pertain to the new constitution to replace the rotten JR Constitution as amended by MR. If the nine supplementary points are matters such as (a) the new parliamentary system, (b) separation of powers, (c) a bicameral legislature, (d) devolution, (e) protection of minority rights, and such like, directly flowing from the repeal of the present constitutional system, that would make sense. But not a governmental programme please; that will have to be mandated by fresh elections, after the new constitutional dispensation is in place.

The UNP’s febrile initiatives

The UNP it seems is building up former High Court Judge W. T. M. Warawewa along similar lines; by which I mean that both Sobitha and Warawewa are scorching, scathing, blistering in their indictment of this rotten, corrupt government.

“Today only rogues, thieves and drug lords and other dubious characters can dabble in politics”.

“There is no law in the country, people don’t trust the police. Any murderer or rogue affiliated to the ruling party is set free.”

“We could see that good governance, social justice, fairness and equality are fading away from Sri Lanka under the present political setup”.

“Today people have no right to information, and the Bribery Commission is defunct. These inactions have opened mass scale irregularities and malpractices in the country”.

Some of this was said by one and some by the other of the two putative candidates, it matters not. In so far as frying the regime is concerned both keep the oil scorching hot.

I have not met either contender but know a little about Sobitha’s politics since he has sometimes been in the news. I know absolutely nothing about Warawewa’s politics (the White Flag dissent, strictly speaking, is not politics) hence it is inappropriate for me to venture an opinion upon who personally is the better choice. What I will say is that Sobitha is much better known in the country and may be a better vote fetcher. And more important; I understand that Sobitha Thero is on record having made what I have called single-issue promises, but nowhere have I come across a single-issue type pronouncement from Judge Warawewa. If Warawewa intends to be a UNP programmatic candidate and not a clear-cut abolish-the-EP style one-issue contender, I can see many sections of the community not lining up with him. If it’s a three way run, it will be a one horse race with Mahinda romping home like Usain Bolt.

A word about the minorities who once imagined that a presidential system would afford them greater protection than a parliamentary system: the JR presidency and the last five years have proved that this is mythical. If a Sinhalese candidate collects 60% of the Sinhalese (75% of the population) vote he/she garners 45% of the national vote; a fraction more help from here and there (Upcountry, Muslims or Colombo Tamils) and victory is in the pocket. No, the minorities are in cloud cuckoo land if they wish to play off one part of the Sinhalese against the other and become king makers. History has proved them wrong at tragic cost. All Lanka’s minorities are better off in a parliamentary system with a bicameral legislature incorporating constitutional checks and balances.

Mursi defangs Egypt’s military

I wish to close my argument in favour of a resolute single-issue thrust with a reference to Egypt. In a bold and decisive move Egypt’s new president Mohammad Mursi dismissed the army’s three top commanders, annulled the decrees that the Supreme Military Council had adopted awarding itself overall control of the budget, constitution making and of itself (the president was not to be the supreme commander). He transformed the balance of forces in the country by asserting the supremacy of the elected civilian authorities – president and parliament. Timing, boldness and determination, this is the stuff of victory. A bold single-issue candidacy in Lanka can also achieve decisive changes.

From time to time it is necessary to support a compromise candidate for the purpose of defeating a dictator or a hardening autocrat. One may, or may not have much confidence in the government that such a figure may establish, but stalling a plunge to dictatorship circumvents a worse fate. I was impatient with so-called Egyptian revolutionaries who attempted to sabotage Mursi’s presidential election bid with a boycott, but fortunately the people of Egypt were less irrational and turned up in large numbers to defeat the military sponsored candidate Ahmad Shafi. Electing Mursi fulfilled an urgent need to defeat and dethrone the military dictatorship that ruled Egypt for decades but this does not imply that those who support this tactic support the government and programme that may unfold under Mursi. I think my point is unambiguously clear.

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Latest comments

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    Despreatly looking for NEW President candidate for Regime change by Trostkist in Sri lankan,on behalf of so-called working class in Island.

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      re

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    Re: ‘From time to time it is necessary to support a compromise candidate for the purpose of defeating a dictator or a hardening autocrat’.

    Terrorist to dictator to religious leader…

    I see the same common denominator in all, small minded and personal agendas. It took one nasty piece of work to bring down the terrorist. Similarly, it will take a nastier piece of work to bring down the person who brought down the terrorist. Will we ever really be in ‘better’ hands?

    Why can’t we just have an intelligent, educated, secular leader to represent the best interests of the country, as apposed to those of a select few? Oh yes, any such candidate will be white vanned or gunned down before he or she can say Um…

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    How bankrupt Kumar D is to advocate a ‘extremist sinhalese budhist’ monk to the post of president?
    Pathetic situation, isn’t it Kumar? Do you think it is easy to trick the majority by creatring splits among them?
    You kind of people have tried once putting Sarath F and it ended up with utter failure … SF is now afraid to put even a single candidate in the current elections?
    At least, Kumar understands elections are not so abused using ‘computer jilmarts’ as JVP told …. Because, in the article he accepts it is extremely difficult to win if everything is not perfect from the opposition. I know, winning elections is becoming more and more uphill battle with even all these blunders of the government …
    Have you, Kumar, thought about it, why?
    Reason is this —.. The majority of the country know that these coalitions of opposition aided by external forces want ‘regime change’ not because of their love of the country but to deny the rightful place to the majority … You know who majority is … Don’t you?
    Majority know some monks are going on ego trips … If it is not, how could one justify that at the dawn of Srilankan ‘spring’ (just after the elimination of terror in 2009), these monks were going to have a ‘sangha sammelanaya’ to topple the government without any reason? The ‘sangha sammelanaya’ is a very rare meeting of Budhists monks which last time happened was about 5 centuries ( not sure about the number 5) ago … So, theses bhikkus thought that the worst thing happened to them for centuries was the continuation of the government which brought the ‘spring’ to SL .. NOT THE TERRORISM WHICH EVEN TRIED TO DESTROY THE MOST SACRED PLACES FOR BUDHISTS IN THE ISLAND FOR DECADES ….. What a pathetic role played by a group of monks?

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      ‘Pathetic situation, isn’t it Kumar?’ ..says it all. What happened to all these armchair critics when their warlord Prabakaran went on to brutally murder all the liberal Tamil thinkers and a million Tamil youth to feed his blood-thirsty megalomania? Whether the politically wise majority will vote for a Buddhist priest with a history of only opposing everything and no worthwhile project to his credit,is the question?! Particularly with the present President developing the country so effectively. Also, we do remember how governments changed overnight under the old system when a group of cut-throat politicians undermined a Prime Minister, however good, and created chaos for their own gain. The Presidential system must continue for the advancement and good of the country. More strength to them. Only opposition politicians and morally bankrupts favour a regression to the past.

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    Thanks for a point well made, Kumar. Well-written and lucid despite coming from one of those Fourth International intellectuals!
    One little carping criticism: why do you insist on even mentioning your erstwhile comrades in the “Dead Left?” They are the worst thing that has ever happened in S. L. politics: collaborators in revolutionary garb and deserve to rest among the ignored.

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    This is a silly piece! The future of Lanka is not with the Sobitha, Fonseka, Rajapakse or the Ranil Wickramasinghe generation – who have ruined Lanka in their greed for power! It is with the YOUNGER GENERATION and the likes of the new FUTA – a younger generation of internationally educated Dons who are leading the struggle for a different sort of country and equitable development.
    The previous generation of Dons, like the politicians of that generation played dirty politics and messed up education, so the new generation of Dons who have taken over FUTA and are not interested in running behind politicians for personal gain, unlike the previous generation of Don’s who now sit as corrupt VCs appointed by the corrupt president of Lanka, and in the UGC fawning at MR’s every command!
    Stop looking to those who have destroyed democracy in Lanka to save it. Time for all the old fogies to resign and find an exit strategy and something to entertain themselves in retirement!

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    Its an unthinkable proposition about ven. Sobhitha Thero. If at all the Sinhala Buddhists vote for him it will be because he is a Buddhjst Priest and not for any statecraftmanship he possesses. It is expected that the wise Thero realises it; He would also realize that those others who would vote for him would do so only to defeat the incumbant President, as they used a popular Army General like Sarath Fonseka and failed. Just the proposion tantamounts to a conspiracy to debase Buddhism.

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    This President will not be there for long, his stars are fading, he will face an untimely demise very soon, he bloody well deserve it becouse of the crimes he comitted for the Tamils, how many thousand lifes he took, he deserve to be blown to pieces.

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      Yes! Stars are fading in daytime and come back in the night … You know the routine… Don’t you?
      You are like Kumar D … Look … He is banking on Ven. sobhitha … And you are on Stars … How pathetic the situation is?
      No end to the misery , sir ….

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        Bruno Umbato

        Would you vote for Kumar David if and when contest election?

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    Hope we can get rid of the corrupt Family Dictators and save our mother land.

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    At first place a Buddhist monk cannot enter in politics and this is very clearly written in Buddhist books.They should not mix up with politics or interfere with kings in controlling countries Buddha said.Anway Chikera was a LTTE sympathiser and now all these remnants of LTTE is looking for a regime change.Like many monks this person is also greedy of grabbing power and pushed ahead by many NGO’s to divide Sri Lankan society.

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    This white haired Prof talks nonsense, Religious leaders like Ayatollahs have destroyed or slowed down growth economic Developments of countries where such changes took place….it will be like ‘KAHI GANI DEELA HOTU GANI GATTAWAGE’….what people need is a strong vibrant one party opposition to fight the incumbent….Lots of parties and Leaders have to Sacrifice and give up their fancy Leadership Ambitions and have single opposing party ( Two party system) like the western Or USA/UK type…Look at the Ballot papers for such an election ..How many Guys/parties contest …all should cooperate and have ONE to contest the incumbent …

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    Dangerous ULTERIOR MOTIVE. Not worthy of any comments.

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      Gamini Lindagedera

      is warning us:

      “Dangerous ULTERIOR MOTIVE. Not worthy of any comments”

      Whose motives are we talking about?

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    First of all the write should not address the monk as just ‘Sobhita’. He is a buddhist monk and need to be given the due respect. It seems that the write is not a buddhist and disregards that fact. Secondly he is only assuming that Rev.Sobhita is a candidate and jumping the gun.
    Thirdy , in my opinion a buddhist monk should never contest the presidency for two reasons. First, Buddha did not get involved in politics and am sure did not want his monks to do that either. Second, this seems to me as a trap by the Ealam remnants, to depict Sri Lanka as a country run by the Buddhist clergy and gain international support to carve an Ealam, like they did in South Sudan, East Timor etc; I have a feeling from his name that the write is a tamil , and a part of this plot. I hope that the Rev. Sobhita is intelligent enough not to fall in to this.

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      garawi says:

      “First, Buddha did not get involved in politics and am sure did not want his monks to do that either”

      Perhaps the saffron clad politicians aren’t aware of this hence it is only appropriate for you to convey this message to the many who have been indulging in mundane activities. Their machination goes far back in the island’s history.

      You defend:

      “He is a buddhist monk and need to be given the due respect”

      Politicians do not command respect so does ‘Sobhita’. As long as the monks practice their vocation they deserve respect, not politicians.

      You state:

      “Second, this seems to me as a trap by the Ealam remnants, to depict Sri Lanka as a country run by the Buddhist clergy”

      Obviously the saffron clad politicians want to establish their brand of theocracy in the island. It is sad that you haven’t looked back on the islands history.

      Time and again the stupid Tamils and stupid Sinhalese look for enemies outside for their misfortunes.

      Your enemy is within. Perhaps you are one of them.

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    Absolutely they seems to seeing day times dreams and stars on unseating a popular president which the majority Sri Lankan’s come love so much.(Perhaps not the regime change oriented remnants of the defeated LTTE rump, their backers the White masters, the NGO and Human rights buddies and some Colombians, and the defunct leftist elements ). The mandate of the people will be a foregone conclusion in the next Presidential election, even though the government has been messing on certain issues. These issues don’t affect the common man at the country at large to effect a change. The people of Sri Lanka is well aware of these crusaders who shed crocodile tears.

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    It is encouraging to see that Sarath Fonseka, Rev. Sobitha, Judge Warawewa and the like are making strong voices against the incumbent regime which, certainly more than ever has strengthened more the corrupt, communal and violent political culture in Sri Lanka. But it could be noticed that every such person who his making such voice is only looking at the country’s present predicament only from one particular angle emerging from their own thinking. In case people accept them in those circumstances there cannot be much of a change under their rule and again we will be stuck where we are. So it is necessary that the people do not go behind and follow the agenda of these individuals but the people, led by a strong civil society movement with the agenda of addressing all the ills of the country vic; Tamils and minority issues, education, economic,etc. all which are now on a negative path, should find a leadership, not of an individual, but a group of individuals who are answerable to the civil society. That would be the need of Sri Lanka in the present circumstances. Egypt’s Mohamed Mursi is a clear example of such leadership as he acts to implement the views of the civil society and not of his own. It is, therefore, that the Egyptian military too is careful in dealing with him as he is represents the majority of the civil society.

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    need a oscar wining actor to challenge MR. Ven. Sobitha no match to our awards winning superstar.

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    This is a possible sinario for the one issue presidential candidate.But Gen.Fonseka did not loose the presidential elections.He was robbed of his victory . Even the election petition was thrown away becacause of the dictatorship.As long as the elections are held under the present administration ,unless we find out how the presidential election was rigged,there is no point in even contesting the elections.So the job at hand is to find out “How do they do it”.or “How did they do it”

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    Dear Mr. David , When you say Fonseka flunked, I really don’t know whether you talk in ignorance or whether your warped thinking then, like those of your leftist colleagues, in abject subservience to communist ideals, just wanted that unprincipled, deceitful scoundrel to win, except for that lot called the left, and some low grade thug politicians who were capable of being bought for money,(tsunami money) others definitely were aware of the circumstances that led to the rogue’s ascending the thrown.

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    I can see the quality of this so called professor. He could be a professor but he hasn’t got the basic manners as how to address a priest.

    Do you call Bishop Saundranayagam just as Saundranayagam though everybody knows very well what type of a priest him to be ?

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      Mendo

      laments:

      “He could be a professor but he hasn’t got the basic manners as how to address a priest”

      Do politicians command respect?

      You ask a valid question:

      “Do you call Bishop Saundranayagam just as Saundranayagam though everybody knows very well what type of a priest him to be ?”

      I will defintely call him Saundranayagam if he chose to indulge in mundane activities, contesting elections is one of them.

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        Who cares about how you call the Bishop?
        President is called by many names in these blogs- MR, MaRa, King,
        War hero, War criminal etc..

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          Punchinilame

          is not sure how to address the president:

          “….War criminal”

          Rightly so.

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    Sobitha opposed parity of status between the two national languages – sinhala and tamil – from the very beginning of the ethnic conflict.
    The Buddha laid down that his disciples must not be involved in ‘worldly pursuits’.
    But Sobitha belongs to the band of monks who disregard this.
    Hence he is totally unfit to be head of state.
    Only religious and racial extremists will vote for him.

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    Many have argued, and I think quite rightly, Buddhist priests should not enter the snake pit of electoral politics. If Ven. Sobitha enters the fray the Sangha will be split and there can be violence – as Elle Gunawansa threatened the Kandy Prelates when the fear of The Great Gathering of the Maha Sangha gave the shivers to the Rajapakses 3 years ago. Ven Sobita is both anti-Tamil and anti-Indian. That is a bad start for a potential Presidential candidate in this tottering country. But like Sarath Fonseka, this political priest might re-arrange his priorities not to alienate the Tamils and India. Don’t bet too much on a future where the priest, in the event if he wins, will get back to the temple. That is ideal but unlikely to be real.

    From the looks of it, looks like the Rajapakses will hold sway for quite a while conning their way around. As the old saying goes a people eventually get a Govt they deserve.

    Senguttuvan

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      Any member of the clergy ‘engaging in politics’ should be separated from ‘holding political position’. Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself engaged in politics guiding the people between right and wrong. The confused people need a honest and sincere leadership to salvage them out of the on-going corrupt, communal and violent politics. So those of the clergy who wish to provide this guidance should be welcomed and encouraged.

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    Dr David must be appointed as the lead theoretician of the soon to be formed ‘Free Sri Lanka Army’, over anyone including me.

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    Dr Kumuar D. support for Buddhist Monk for democracy for President and DR Bahu looking for Sarath Fonseka for President candiatute,some thing fundamentallly worng of Trostkism in the Island.
    Can this type of people be ABLE TO EMINICIAPTION OF WORKING CLASS FROM CAPITALIST YORK OR EVEN NO ALTANATIVE TO CHANGE MAHINDA RAJAPAKESA?
    I ADVICE DOT’N BE POLITICAL CLOWNS IN BEFORE the PUBLIC OF SRI LANKAN!
    Sorry made such comments is not inslut for two persons,but think seriouslly WAY OF BOURGEIOSE DEMOCARCY TO OVERCOME SOCIAL ISSUES AND SOICIAL PROBLEMS in THE PEOPLE OF this ISLAND.

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    Will Warawewa or someone like him be the new “Mohammed Mursi” of Sri Lanka?
    If anyone promises to abolish the Executive Presidency and the 18th Amendment, and solemly swears to do so in public,he will get votes from people of all races and religions.
    But MR & family will try to eliminate him physically.
    They have the goons and hit squads.

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    Buddhist monks have a specific job to do and politics is not it! So, Ven Sobitha, please leave the politics to the laymen and you do your service for which you are committed as a Buddhist monk.

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