By Hilmy Ahamed –
Today, the Colombo Fort Magistrate issued an arrest warrant on the BBS chief Venerable Galagoda Atte Gnanasra Thero for failing to be present in Court when two cases against him were being heard. The warrant was issued because of a blunder by the lawyers representing Ven. Gnanasara. One of them claimed that he did not attend court, as there was a death threat on him. The other claimed that four police teams have been deployed to arrest the BBS monk, hence he feared arrest if he attended court. The magistrate issued the warrant as it was a blatant contempt of court. Now, the Police has no excuse for not hunting and arresting the fugitive monk. Will there be government or executive interference to thwart this court order?
Earlier, In blatant travesty of justice, Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero was allowed to continue to breathe the air of freedom for another 5 weeks when two Judges of the Court of Appeal, Justice L.T.B. Dehideniya and Justice Devika Tennakoon refused to issue an arrest warrant against the accused for not appearing in Court for the third time to face contempt of court charges? And this contempt of court charge comes from none other than the Magistrate of the Homagama courts Hon. Justice Ranga Dissanayake, who was hearing the case of the disappearance of journalist and social activist, Prageeth Ekneligoda, when Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasra Thero abused Prageeth’s wife Sandya Ekneligoda in open court when he had come to witness the trial. Would a lessor mortal get away with insulting the Court and not showing up three times at the second highest court in the legal system? The Appeal Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the High Court or any lower court, while its own decisions may be additionally appealed to the Supreme Court.
Interestingly, the Counsel at the Court of Appeal appearing for the fugitive monk and accused, Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero informed court that his client is unable to attend court since he is under death threats and he might be assassinated if he comes to court. It was not clear as to who would be interested in assassinating the revered monk, whether it is the special police teams that have been deployed by the Inspector General of Police on the orders of the Minister of Law and Order, Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka to hunt him down or from an external threat from Islamic jihadists or from the breakaway groups of Buddhist extremists which has led to internal conflicts. The escalating internal strife may cause extreme violence amongst the so-called saviors of Buddhism. The threat could also come from the Sinhala Buddhist extremist organizations that are now fighting in social media to get a higher share of the South Korean won.
Of course, prisoners transported for court hearings have been assassinated not just in Sri Lanka, but also in many other countries where drug lords and organized crime syndicates work in cohort with law enforcement authorities to carry out mafia style assassinations. It’s not long ago that our own mafia boss, Samayan and six other notorious criminals were shot at Ethanamadala, Jawatte road in Kalutara while being transported for a court hearing. This bold Chicago style assassination took the lives of seven criminals and two prison officials. A clear evidence of what money can buy within the prison and law enforcement units. But who would be interested in assassinating an attention-seeking monk?
The Counsel for the State objected and informed court that on the previous two occasions too, the accused was absent and the medical certificate tendered were supposedly not genuine, yet the learned judges of the Court of Appeal rejected the plea for a warrant and listed the case for hearing. They clearly instructed the Defense Counsel to ensure that the accused is present in Court on July 18, 19 and 20 of July 2017 for the trial. In the meantime, Counsel for Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara has filed an application for anticipatory bail, which has been fixed for hearing on June 22, 2017. A person who fears attending court due to death threats is seeking anticipatory bail.
The Court also observed that it would be inappropriate if all accused in courts take a similar stance in not attending court hearings and gave a stern warning informing Counsel for Ven. Gnanasara Thero to ensure that the accused appears before court without lame excuses on the next date. The Court also indicated that if the fugitive monk does not appear on the next date, an open warrant would be issued.
What is this drama Ven. Gnanasara Thero is enacting? First and foremost, it should be noted that THERE IS NO WARRANT SERVED TO ARREST Ven. Gnanasara Thero by any court of law. So why is the venerable monk being a fugitive and claiming that he would be arrested? Has his legal team misled him to believe that he is going to be taken in to remand custody if he obeyed the law and presented himself in court?
There lies the problem. If he appears in court on the contempt of court charge during the Ekneligoda hearing, he could be sentenced to a minimum of two to seven years. This is nothing to do with the 84 complaints made at police stations across the country by Muslims. No Sinhala Buddhist or any other citizen in this country is going to shed a tear, should Ven. Gnanasara Thero be taken in to custody and the legal process followed for any illegal conduct, leave alone contempt of court charges. So, his only escape route is to cause a myth that he is going to be arrested because the Muslims have pressured the Government. The Government too is silent on the matter and is trying to blame it on the Joint Opposition and re-introduce the Prevention Of Terrorism act or something worse to postpone elections and muzzle public protests against it. The Muslims are, in common parlance, “Girayata Ahuwechcha Puwak Gediya wage”.
The President, Government, and Cabinet of Ministers have given hundreds of assurances that the violence against Muslims will be stopped; yet it goes unabated. 27 incidents have been reported during the last few weeks. One man has been arrested for the burning of shops in Maharagama based on the video evidence and eyewitness provided by the Muslims. The video could not be muzzled due to the smart move by the Muslims to release it on social media immediately after the burning of Fashion Leather Store in Wijerama. None of these are really racially motivated but undertaken to divert the country’s attention from the contempt of court charges that would eventually lead to the sentencing of Ven. Gnansara thero. Hundreds of Buddhist monks have been arrested and sentenced in various courts of law in the history of Sri Lanka. The Government and the Police, for unknown reason is not announcing the real motives of the Buddhist prelate. There is nothing to believe that a Buddhist priest cannot be arrested for any criminal act. Two Buddhist monks were arrested over the killing of Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD) Bandaranaike on September 26, 1959. Somarama Thero was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was executed in the Welikada gallows on July 6th 1962 and not a single Buddhist protested over the hanging of a Buddhist priest. He was seen as a murderer and nothing less. Ven. Gnansara has blood on his hands from the Aluthgama violence, which marks three years today. He has hundreds of charges of threats, intimidation, violence, and arson against Muslim businesses and homes, not forgetting the constant verbal diatribe against the Mahanayake Theros as those who are just filling up their spittoons and placed in their positions by the British Raj, the President as a spineless leader, the Prime Minister as queer, The Minister of Law and order as a stooge, etc. None of these leaders have made any complaints against the insults that this violent monk continues to make. If these are not enough reasons for his immediate incarceration, what justice in the country?