3 December, 2020

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Ma Ba Tha & BBS – Deadly Combination

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

The recent elections in Myanmar marked a significant milestone in the world political landscape with the return of a fully-fledged democracy to a country that had been governed by successive military regimes for over five decades. The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by the most globally popular democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi had a landslide victory against her political rival, though she cannot assume the highest position of presidency due to a constitutional barrier. The foreign matrimonial links of ‘The Lady’ – as she is popularly known in Myanmar – does not allow her to take up the position. Many believe that this is a technical point that had been brought forward by the designers of reforms – mainly the military junta –to block her in assuming the highest post in the country.

Apart from The Lady winning Myanmar’s the most awaited democratic polls, there was another significant feature in Myanmar’s politics – the role played by the extremist Buddhist clergy, who were openly campaigning against The Lady and her political party NLD.

The stand of the Buddhist ultra-nationalist group was clear. “If you vote for NLD, that will be the end of Buddhism.” They supported the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and sometimes openly requested the people to vote for USDP “to protect Buddhism in Myanmar.”

Many accuse the Patriotic Association of Myanmar (Ma Ba Tha in Myanmar language) as the sole perpetrator behind the religious violence that were taking place in the country for the past few years. The movement received extensive state support – both indirect and otherwise, as it is widely believed.

The significant results of the polls were clear responses to the claims of the Ma Ba Tha movement. More than 85 percent voted against their request and brought The Lady’s party into power. We are talking of a country where the total Buddhist population is over 80 percent, yet the support of the ultra-religious nationalistic movements failed even to get 15 percent of the total votes for USDP.

Myanmar through its 2008 constitution has banned mixing religion and politics. According to its section 364, “The abuse of religion for political purposes is forbidden.” The same military juntas who were enjoying the support of extremist Buddhist clergy during the recent polls totally banned them in getting into politics through tough laws that designed some six years ago. The monks are not supposed to vote or form political parties, according to the constitution. This decision mainly influenced by the popular monk’s uprising called “Saffron Revolution” in 1988.

But the recent elections in Myanmar saw a sudden rise of communal violence mainly between Buddhists and Muslims. According to popular belief, Ma Ba Tha movement instigated these violence with the blessings of the state. The government used them as a tool for their own existence – and show cased themselves as the sole saviors of Buddhism mainly by accommodating requests of Ma Ba Tha. A few months before polls, the government enacted four controversial laws undermining the rights of minorities, mainly to satisfy Ma Ba Tha, but the polls indicated that the people were against such moves.

The world has begun to realize the fact that the religion and politics – mixed together – would become a deadly combination. I think mainly the people at large have understood this fact but the politicians and their ‘goons’ are yet to realize it.

The issue of mixing politics with religion and creating a deadly “ideological nuclear bomb” was commenced – at least in Asia in the recent history, by Pakistan’s military dictator Zia Ul Haq who even went to a stage of changing school text books to infiltrate religious extremist ideologies into the minds of people for his own political survival. Today not only Pakistan, but the entire world is suffering from this deadly ideological bomb, which has converted into a mass killing machine in many parts of the world.

The clash between Muslims and other religions extended to the predominantly Buddhist countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. But when analysed, there exists an extensive political interest rather a religious one. Both Myanmar and Sri Lanka became classic case studies on this aspects, mainly during their recent elections.

In fact both Ma Ba Tha and Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) had a common understanding “in protecting Buddhism” according to their own interpretation in safe guarding the religion. They went onto signing of a memorandum of understanding and adopting a common action plan to fight the ‘course.’ Though Myanmar had constitutional provisions to ban monks engaging in politics, the Burmese government provided the nod to conduct ‘voter education seminars’ country-wide and perhaps ‘educate’ the masses on whom to vote. Thus, Ma Ba Tha movement travelled all over the country and told voters to take action to ‘protect Buddhism’ at the polls by not voting to The Lady.

In contrast our BBS formed a political party and contested for the same course ‘to protect Buddhism.’ Though they had some cracks with the regime at later stage, state sponsorship or blessings were visible for the past few years. BBS through its political arm with the Cobra symbol accused Maithri-Ranil camp as conspirators against Buddhism.

In a nutshell, both Ma Ba Tha and BBS became extensively significant political forces with ultra-nationalistic ideologies. But when faced the people at polls, both were ruthlessly rejected by the masses at large with clear messages – both to the extremist monks and to the politicians who were entertaining them. But would they learn from this bitter lesson is the million rupee worth question.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    Not sure if i agree Ranga.The vast majority of burmese budgist like the Sinhala Budhist of Sri Lanka are recentfull of the Rohinga Muslim minority abd do not see them as burmese.May be they have thier own version of the mahavamsa drenched with xenofobia with deap cultural rules and justifivations.Wrong to see such extremist grops as anomolies.They are gosts of a cultural past that is yet to end.

    • 2
      2

      May be at it is the case with Vaas Gunawardahna…
      This pseudo monk Ghanasara – nation s rabid has all charges to get convicted for all the deliberate murder, klling actions taken against anyone who would go aainst the the bugger. Either the man should be sent to rehablitation or beheaded to heal the wounds of the nation.

      I am ashemed to see this still not happening as person who thought everything would work to safeguared justice after the 8th.

    • 1
      1

      Looking from the rule of Zia-ul-Haq in Pakistan, the Militaary Junta in Myanmar, the MR-GR regime of Sri Lanka and other countries where dicatatorial or autocratic forms of regimes such regimes have used religion as a tool to ensure the continuence of their power. Although the situation in Pakistan is still complicated due to several other international and national factors the Situation in Sri Lanka can be seen fast changing with the demise of the MR-GR regime. With the space for democracy is being gradually ensured giving the opportunity to the civil society and intelligent sections taking more interest in politics the influence of the extreme Buddnist groups seems to be declining. In the case of Burma there was some concern over the role of Aung Sans Suu Kyi when she was noticed of not expressing her stand on the atrocities committeed on the Rohingya Muslims. It could be somewhat understandable that if she had not done so as it would have been used against her by the Military Junta and the extreme Buddhists jeorpadising Suu Kyi’s chances in the elections. It is hoped now that she has extablished her popularity she would be a true demoract and will treat the Rohingiyans also as human beings.

  • 7
    4

    Another question that begs for an answer is why the chief goon of the BBS has not yet been arrested, charged and (when found guilty) put away?

    Could it be his relationship with the other big goon, Gota, be a factor in this??

    • 5
      1

      GOTA intended to cover up all wrong doing using Budhism as a shield he had no pure love of Budhism. He underestimated us as Buddhist of srilanka.

  • 6
    4

    Thank you Dr. Kalangsooriya.

    In Sri Lanka Gotabaya was building a Buddhist military business complex to consolidate the Rajapaksa Brothers dictatorship.

    Even Vesak celebrations were militarized and the message of non-violence and tolerance that the Buddha taught – Ahimsa, metta Karuna, upeka, muditha of the Buddha was being distorted by thugs in robes.

    The Sangha needs to modernize and hold the BBS accountable.

  • 7
    10

    another NGo goon at work to tarnish BBS…

    • 6
      5

      Does the BBS need tarnishing?

      • 4
        2

        Exactly. The whole world knows about BBS and their hateful rhetoric against those of the ‘other’ non-Buddhist faiths, thanks to the efforts of just one man. Wirathu and Gnanasara are birds of a feather and if their public performances and the responses at the hustings is anything to go by, it just proves only one thing. It indicates how much they are despised and rejected by the common people. They are both truly – lost cause.

    • 5
      4

      Balugoon sounds like he is a Booru Balu Sahodarayo supporter!

      • 3
        1

        [Edited out]

  • 3
    0

    The UK has UKIP and Australia used to have Pauline Hanson.

    They are mostly narrow/single issue groups. UKIP has made immigration its core issue and BBS made Halal its central issue.

    There is nothing in their policies that make them attractive proposition in the long run. So the phenomenon rises and soon fades away in most cases.

  • 2
    5

    Someday in future, at the point of no return, they will be remembered as prophets who rang the bell. They were riduculed, chased away by fake do gooders like the author of this article. They were not men of extalled character, dared to suffer insult on behalf of future generations as do gooders grabbed the opportunity to shine as saints.

    These good men didn’t go to war either.

    Soma

    • 2
      0

      Soma are you reffering to the rioters here?

    • 4
      1

      They will be forgotten in the dustbin of history. Yes, both of them. Unlike the Prophet of Islam who alone and single handedly revived (some may say ‘propogated’) Islam to become what it is today, a religion with a following of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, second only to Christianity. These two (Wirathu and Gnanasara) are no Prophets but trouble makers who intend to keep the ‘pot on the boil’, simply to further their own causes to win elections. Don’t get duped by them.

    • 1
      1

      Hopefully Soma no one will RING YOUR BELL. The bells are already ringing for Buddhism with Goons such as Gnanasara giving leadership to Communally divisive actions. It shows an extremely bad face to the enlightened. The electoral bombing that was received by Gnanasara and his BBS goons at the latest elections would testify to this fact.

  • 4
    3

    somass

    “Someday in future, at the point of no return, they will be remembered as prophets who rang the bell.”

    He rang the bell to inform people that he caused the death of ordinary people and scare the rest.

    For whom the bell tolls.

    By the way no man is an island.

    Are you one of the rent a mob fraternity which provides security for this saffron clad Cobra head?

    The monks that my Elders associate with are full of compassion towards people.

    Here we have a thug whose face expresses hatred towards all beings.

    • 1
      2

      Native

      In order to divert the attention away from the message you all are attacking the messenger.
      What the messenger wears, whom he sleeps with or what he is supposed to do has no relation to the message. The face may be ugly, the voice with which the message is delivered may be hoarse, it is the message that we have to deal with.

      The message is prophetic.

      Soma

      • 2
        1

        So Soma, the message of hatred comming now from Lord Budha via BBS ? Give us a break please.

  • 5
    3

    Actually BBS was formed to tackle the furiously growing Muslim extremism in the country, so far the shenanigans some were up to that BBS have revealed were true.

    Who caused the civil unrest in Beruwala is no longer a secret, The civil unrest was caused by non other than the extremist Wahhabi groups in the area just as the 1915 riots were initiated by then recently migrated Muslims (not the genuinely patriotic Muslims). They initiate troubles and thereafter play innocent.

    Let’s all hope and pray the BBS’ mission to eradicate Wahhabi extremism be successful.

    • 0
      2

      David make sure you pray to Alah as lord Budha is sick and tired of hooligans gooning on his belhalf in Sri Lanka.

  • 2
    2

    how and what the author of this article tying to say, where ever the muslims are a trouble have shooted up. It is nothing to do with the geography, 100% of world’s violence nowadays started with muslims. Its the Burmese people’s right to defend their country from islamic invasion babarism. I believe the author is a well educated man and has a found knowledge of history, taking from iraq,iran, afghanistan, etc, all used to be countries of other religion before the babaric islam invasion, who forced the people of the country to follow the belief without questioning it.No matter howmuch you try to paint a white picture to islamification, the world will rise against it. Look all around . this is a reply to muslim fanatics in here aswell.. 1.6 billion vs the whole world. Lets wait and see.

    • 1
      3

      Prageeth perhaps you are not aware of UN investigations onBudhist Babarism in your home town?

    • 3
      1

      Get real. Statistically the Muslims can never take over Sri Lanka or Myanmar. They are simply persecuted because not very intelligent people are made to believe they will take over the countries. If anyone can do basic maths they will know it cannot be so. The answer lies in who has financed this campaign. There are millions of dollars put in for a anti Muslim campaign, which started in the US. Goons like the BBS are not capable of this anti Muslim campaign, and have been backed by other nations. There are no Muslims going around forcing Buddhists to convert. Yes, they are being radicalized, but Sri Lankan Muslims are not asking for their own state, nor are they going around preaching the religion to non Muslims.

      Like any other religion, the Muslims will feel persecuted, and persecution will lead to defensive measures.
      Those who are instigating these attacks and killings on Muslims, want the Muslims to respond in the same way.
      Master plan.

      • 0
        0

        The fact remains, they (Muslims) will remain minorities in Myanmar and SL, but will soon become a majority in the rest of the world, more than even the Christians at least by 2030, according to a recent PEW forecast.

        • 0
          0

          It seems those who are acting bigoted against our Muslim population are ignorant about the fact that the Muslims can NEVER outnumber the majority. They are simply acting out of hatred and being instigated by others taking advantage of their ignorance. Pew also says despite Islam being one of the fastest growing religions in the world, it will on par with the Christians. Only insecure people will be threatened by that.

          “Islam, the world’s fastest-growing faith, will leap from 1.6 billion (in 2010) to 2.76 billion by 2050, according to the Pew study. At that time, Muslims will make up nearly one-third of the world’s total projected population of about 9 billion people.

          Christianity is expected to grow, too, but not at Islam’s explosive rate. The Pew study predicts Christians will increase from 2.17 billion to 2.92 billion, composing more than 31% of the world’s population.

          This means that by 2050, more than 6 out of 10 people on Earth will be Christian or Muslim. And, for perhaps the first time in history, Islam and Christianity would boast roughly equal numbers.”
          CNN article.

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