19 October, 2019

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Paedophile Buddhist Sanghanayaka Of Great Britain And The Sri Lankan Media

By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya –

Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

He was “Venerable” Chief Sanghanayaka Thera of Great Britain and chief incumbent of the Thames Buddhist Vihara and also Parivenadhipathi of the Vidyaravinda Pirivena, Pahalagama, Gampaha and Chief Lekakhadhikari of the Sri Kalyani Samagi Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha. From the 1st of May he is just a Somaratna.

What Happened  

It is worth to look at what has happened to him. Here is a brief account of the story. In May 2010, Child Abuse Investigation Command officers in the United Kingdom began an investigation into allegations of sexual assault and rape against the chief incumbent of Thames Buddhist Vihara Ven. Pahalegama Somaratana.
On Tuesday, September 14, 2010 a (then) 64-year-old monk was arrested on suspicion of an indecent assault and rape. The monk had tried to sell the temple and escape the country, but some of the management board members of the temple had opposed the move. The monk still tried to escape. But he was questioned at Heathrow police station and later bailed pending further enquiries.
He was charged on September  12, 2011 and further charged on November 11, 2011. On Friday, September 23, Pahalagama Somaratana Thero appeared on bail at Feltham Magistrate Court charged with rape of a female under 10 years between January 1, 1977 and December 31, 1978 at an address in Chiswick and indecent assault on a female under 16 years between January 1, 1977 and December 31, 1978 at an address in Chiswick.
Pahalagama Somaratana Thero, had been charged with another eight counts of sexual abuse on Friday, November 11, the London Metropolitan police said.
According to the Metropolitan police, these eight indecent assaults on a female under 14 years of age took place between January 1, 1985 and December 31, 1986 at an address in Croydon. The 65-year-old Pahalagama Somaratana Thero appeared on bail at Feltham Magistrate Court on Friday, December 2  and was bailed to appear at Isleworth Crown Court on December 20, 2011. The monk denied all charges against him. The first victim spoke of ten instances of abuse in the spring of 1978, including rape and five instances of sexual assault with which Somaratana has been charged. When asked why she had not come forward sooner, the witness said Somaratana had threatened that her “parents would be angry and that her father would die”. Prosecutor Richard Merz told the Court the girl had been enticed into the monk’s room with fruit, Polos and told to sit on his lap. Later Somaratana is said to have cornered her in the temple shrine and raped her.

The former “Venerable” Pahalegama Somaratana, The monk with Mahinda Rajapaksa and The Thames Buddhist Vihara

The second alleged victim, said to have been sexually abused in the mid-1980s, described to the Court that she remembered “being alone” in Somaratana’s room on the pretence of discussing upcoming temple services. When questioned why she had only come forward about 25 years after the alleged assaults, she told the Court: “At the time as a child, I thought that it was all an accident. Looking back on it now as an adult, I know that this was definitely not the case”. The Court was told that she went to the police after details of the alleged abuse were revealed during a hypnotherapy session three years ago.
Giving evidence monk Somaratana said that he did not remember the first victim during the time of the alleged rape and sexual abuse. He further claimed that as a monk he does not “touch people, especially women as it is wrong and considered a sin”.
When asked by his own lawyer whether he attempted to rape the first victim or touch her in an inappropriate way during the said time, the Buddhist monk’s response was: “not at all… no”. The prosecution brought attention to the statement that the chief monk had made in his first police interview, after he was arrested in September 2011 at Heathrow Airport. He had suggested to the police that the first victim might have got him mixed up with someone else and also that she may have said it was him due to the victim’s family having issues at that time with the monk.
The prosecution team stressed that this simply could not have been the case. With regard to the victim getting Pahalagama Somaratana mixed up with someone else, the chief monk himself confirmed that “priests in their robes were distinctive” and could be told apart. Further, the issues that he said he had with the victim’s family which would have encouraged the victim to accuse him of rape and sexual abuse, was confirmed by both the chief monk and the prosecution team as only having occurred very recently in 2010. The victim had made the complaint about Ven. Somaratana to her sister much earlier, between 1991 and 1992.
Pahalagama Somaratana, was convicted at Isleworth Crown Court on Tuesday, May 1, on four counts of indecent assault on a female under 16 years between January 1, 1977 and December 31,1978 at an address in Chiswick. He was found not guilty of the rape of a female under 16 years between January 1, 1977 and December 31, 1978 at an address in Chiswick and not guilty of indecent assault on a female under 14 years between January 1, 1985 and December 31, 1986 at an address in Croydon. He will be sentenced at the same court on June 1, this year. Despite this, some section of people domiciled in London were not willing to accept these charges against Somaratana. But now they are also in trouble, because of what he said in Court. One commentator said; “Mistaken identity was a really feeble excuse that the Courts have not accepted. By attempting to pass the buck to an unknown monk in this way, Bhikku Somaratana has not only tried to evade his responsibility, but also he has stained all other brother monks that had associated him and resided at those premises during his periods of tenure at those places. As a result of his claim, Sri Lankan Buddhists in London would now wonder who else amongst the monks that they know could be a child molester and rapist.”

Mainstream Sri Lankan Media

The victims were very brave ladies. But the mainstream media in Sri Lanka would not help get their story out to the world. The mainstream media have been censored from covering this case of child sex abuse. It was only The Sunday Leader and a few websites and BBC Sandeshaya that covered the story.  This is clearly a public interest issue. Firstly, this story is about the welfare of children; child abuse victims are usually not willing to come forward, but they did. Secondly, this case is based on historical allegations. It is worthwhile for the public to know how Courts deal with historical allegations. Thirdly, Somaratana was a religious leader, who breached the trust of his followers. Finally, this same monk Somaratana is running orphanages in Sri Lanka. Why did the Sri Lankan mainstream media not cover this story? Why did they censor this story? Was it because of media suppression or are they under pressure from Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalists? Editors of Sri Lankan mainstream media should answer these questions.

Sri Lankan Authorities Must Investigate His Orphanages

According to “THE GAZETTE OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA -Part II of May 7, 2010, the Pahalagama Sri Somarathana Nayaka Thero Foundation”, a private Bill presented in Parliament by Hon. Vijitha Herath, MP for the Gampaha District, Somaratana can establish and maintain institutions for educational and social service activities such as childrens’ homes, elders’ homes, hostels and other social service institutions. Now Somaratana runs the Pahalagama Orphanage in Gampaha.  Talking this writer the head of the Colombo based “Justice for Victims”, Visakha Tillekeratne said, “They would like to unequivocally request the Government of Sri Lanka’s institutions for child protection which are the Ministry for Child Development and Women’s Affairs, the National Child Protection Authority and Department of Probation to look into the orphanage run by Ven. Pahalagama Somaratana. A monk convicted of sexual violence cannot be responsible or trusted with tender young lives. This orphanage ideally should be brought under state control or be handed over to a respected and credible organization to run. In the alternative, it can be closed up and the children transferred to other orphanages. The state cannot abdicate its responsibility by the children of this country.”
“Children living in orphanages or homes are more prone to child abuse because of several reasons,” a former Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority Prof. Harendra de Silva said. “They are powerless and have no parents or relations: to whom can they complain? Only to the authorities in the home who are likely to be the perpetrators or linked to the abusers through monetary or power gain. Some are dependent on the persons for employment and are likely to be silent – ‘passive perpetrators’”, he added.
The power wielders in the orphanage are often abusive.  Both physical and emotional abuse is thrown at the children and they would be terrified of such a person. There is often blackmail through denial of food and throwing them into dungeons where they would perish, etc. (In an index case in the Katharagama area, the head clergy threatened to kill four sisters and imprisoned them by putting them in a dungeon in the room that was covered with metal sheets!) He abused them all. In the same case he used to phone a magistrate, the OIC and officials in the presidential secretariat in front of the girls and tell them how powerful he is! He also asked the girls to count 15,000 /= from the donations telling them the OIC is coming to collect it.  They have access to the children without scrutiny by others. Some of the persons getting employed in homes are people who are pedophiles and the same would apply to games masters, Scout masters and Hostel wardens and masters. However it must be stressed that only some may be attracted to these positions and not all. Ideally these persons should be screened before employment by psychologists and periodically reviewed. The children also have to be assessed with special emphasis on abusive episodes from peers and teachers.
So, the Sri Lankan government must investigate this pedophile monk’s orphanages and the Editor’s Guild of Sri Lanka should clarify why they did not cover this story.
uvindu@journalist.com

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Latest comments

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    Children end up in orphanages because unprotected sex or lack of sex education in Sri Lanka. I blame our previous education ministers for this. In our society an unmarried women having babies is a big issue. So they dump the baby in a toilet bin and the baby end up in a orphanage. Or the lack of family planing.There should be a proper way for families who want to adopt a baby and the orphanages should take immediate actions to settle their “Valuble asset” for a positive family but not to keep them like Pinnawella. I think now that the Vesak festival is on it’s way our media is silent on this issue. Otherwise they will be like vultures on a dead carcase for this Somarathna story. I too think the duty of media is not just to blast the case but to popup it till the governors get attention and fix it with superglue or whatever. Anyway do you guys have more pictures of this monk with other political leaders? Why you guys keep on posting our President picture? If this was Premadasa time you will not do that will you?

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      Bodi, I have a picture where that monk is talking to a child. But I can’t post it on the web, because you and Kshenuka are also there. :) Anyway, let’s get straight to the point. What you are suggesting is either grow condom tress in poor villages or replace the Samurdhi card with a Condom card. Anyway,being critical is one thing but you can be a bit more sensitive to the poor people’s sentiments, the situation in the country is nothing like what you experience in Britain. For example, how many thousands of orphans the Tsunami made? It was only 8 years ago. And the war? The war lasted 30 years, the buggers blasted busses all over the country in that period killing poor people who travelled on busses. There are other regular natural disasters, which orphan people on daily basis.Street children are another side of the catastrophe. Majority of the people are self-employed with no job or life security. During the world’s recession in the last four years, several garment factories were closed down and the workers who lost jobs are totally helpless. It is not this government or the previous or the next, unless our economy develops at about 20% rate during the next decade or so, these problems will stay on forever.

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        I like the idea of growing condom trees. But it’s still on experimental stage. Very soon we will deliver best quality condom seeds free to our local growers. :)
        The problem is we have to teach them how to use it. I remember once we had given them wrong instructions and we drop our economy 85% down in nine months. That’s ” Kosu pollate prethie eka dapau sean eka”? You remember?

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    Religion is still a very sensitive subject in Sri Lanka, not like in UK or Australia where many are atheists. However I have seen in SL many Buddhist monks were brought in to justice. Not only Buddhist but also Catholics and Islam leaders try not to send negative news about their religion in good faith because they believe when society loose trust in their religion more bad things happen. I remember the incident about the Orphanage managed my a Catholic none made some news and due to their most powerful leader the police couldn’t investigate the matter properly.

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    Almost all Religious leaders are Pedophiles.

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    ….those who work for the media in SL are scared of the connections that Somaratne may have here, especially in the team, the Maha Sanga & the citizen SilVa’la …… they’d rather get White Vanned for something more useful for them than getting involved in some crap case of a pedophile …. they will certainly get at it, if it involves kids of their own, friends, relatives or their bosses….. SL media need more freedom, training, certification by recognized institutions and so on…..
    Since religious Leaders sacrifice their entire lives to LOVE, CHARITY, SHARING & Community work etc….. their intentions themselves are enough for us or the media to overlook the petty or lustful indulgences they may perhaps have “gotten carried away” into….. so can the mainstream SL media be excused for their oversights ?…….

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    My wife and I knew Ven. Somaratana and all the other Buddhist monks at London Buddhist Vihara, Chiswisk very closely from 1977 when I was living in Chiswick so close to the temple. I am so confident Ven.Somaratana would never have done anything with this regard to this accusation. In my view it’s totally fabricated and malicious. At that time we went to the temple often and at times my wife waited at the temple for me to come from work. Giving a polo or sweets is nothing, what all priests did was anything remaining / excess from what they received from dayakas, they gave it to all of us (anyone who wanted). We were in London from 1977 to 1982 and now we live in Australia but I wish I was in London now to truly to come forward and defend Ven Somaratane, the Buddhists and Sri Lanka. The damage this false accusation (in my view and my wife’s view and I am sure shared by many others) has caused to Ven Somaratena, the Buddhists of the world and Sri Lanka as a whole is enormous. What I cannot understand is (1) Why was this allegation ever brought towards Ven. Somaratana (2) How come a lady (at that time 9 years old girl) bring this allegation after 35 years and (3) How come a jury found evidence beyond reasonable doubt of Ven.Somaratnas guit in Indecent Assault? (4) How can anyone ever imagine that a rape or indecent assault could have ever taken place at London Buddhist Vihara, Chiswick (at that time a very small building).
    If Ven.Somaratana would ever have even attempted to do anything like this he would have definitely be banished from the temple at that time. He was only a podi hamuduruwo at that time. Ven. Saddhatissa, Ven. Piyatisasa, Ven. Khemananda, etc., had so much power and influence. Further more if I ever got even a hint of this at that time I would never have even attempted to defend Ven. Somaratana. Why I am defending him is because I am so sure that he never even hinted of any such behaviour at that time (We were physically there and went to the temple at least twice a week). What he wanted at that stage was to get to know many people, develop positive realationships and learn English. All of which he has done so well for over 35 years. Yes ! he use to smile with us and joke and he treated us extremely well. He was an outgoing monk who had a lot of potential. Also originally being from Gampaha I know for sure that he did tremendously well for his Pahalagama temple. Our parents have been dayakas of Pahalagama temple for so many years. Now I am in Australia and I am sorry that I am not in London to be of assistance to Ven Somaratana at this time of need.
    Further more if anyone knows the then London Buddhist Vighara which had only 3 small rooms upstairs and one toilet kitchen and a shrine room cum hall down stairs no one could ever imagine that anyone could ever attempt to abuse a child or rape. It’s totally indecent for the lady (then a child) to have fabricated / or thought of how she (at age 9) has been at this small building all alone on Sunday. Obviously (if she ever went to the temple) she would have come to the temple with her father or mother or an adult Uncle or Aunty. Then where were these people when the said incidents happened? In London no child ever goes to Sunday school on her own. Also if it happened after Sunday school where were the other 20 or so children and their parents! Also Sundays were very busy days at the temple and in that temple on Sundays there was no privacy at all for anyone. What nonsense is to say that even an attempt of rape or child abuse could have ever happened in the Shrine room above all places. If the lady (then the girl) ..

    [Edited out]

    I would also kindly request all who write responses to be more thoughtful and avoid writing specially about things they hardly know about. If anyone can write “I was there in 1977 or 1978 and try to substantiate his / her point of view” I would like to hear your views with an open mind.
    About the conviction (which is definitely not rape) but only child abuse (I cannot believe that it ever happened !). How come the jury think that the lady was not truthful about rape but she was truthful about making her sit on the hamuduruwos lap, etc. When one can say one lie telling so many other lies is simple. That’s why as a positive thinker I believe one should not lie even once. Where is the evidence that it ever happened? Has anyone given evidence that they ever saw the hamuduruwo being ever involved in this type of an offence? How can a jury find this hamuiduruwo guilty purely on the word of one lady (then a child aged 9). In my view the jury could have easily been swayed by the lady’s breaking down (which is said to have happened in court). But the jury in my view should have found Ven.Somaratana innocent ! From what I know of law an accused is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt:
    “ The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, is the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. Application of this principle is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognised in many nations. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which has to collect and present enough compelling evidence to convince the trier of fact, who is restrained and ordered by law to consider only actual evidence and testimony that is legally admissible, and in most cases lawfully obtained, that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If reasonable doubt remains, the accused is to be acquitted”. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence)

    (Edited out)

    I respect anybody’s views provided they are backed up with substantial evidence !
    I sincerely hope and wish for the sake of Ven. Pahalabama Somaratna, Buddhism as a whole and Sri Lanka as nation the real truth will come out soon.

    Yours Truly,

    Kushan Dharmawardena

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    They need to introduce castration at ordination then no problem!

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    Having followed this case from England, I would like to inform Kushan that many upstanding professional Sri Lankan expatriates and indeed naturalized citizens came in defense of the ex-monk with testimonials of the kind given by Kushan. The High Commission office for Sri Lanka in the UK too put their full weight behind the defense and there were enough contributors to hire the best legal defense team for the ex-monk. British legal system is very careful not to convict if there is a shred of doubt as presumption of innocence is a sacred principle. Having heard all the evidence, Judge and jury have convicted the ex-monk based on the evidence, and the mental agony of the victim who is today a lady medical doctor, practicing in the UK. For those who wonder why it took such a long time, the circumstances are a page from a psychological journal where the girl’s mother knew, but was scared of what the father might do and for the fear of consequences for the young girl as it is said that the victim is raped twice, once by the offender and again in court by the defense counsel. The victim came forward after demise of her father, and had the full backing from her husband and children who are much more broad minded in a society that has evolved more than 30 years to view children’s and women’s rights in a more just fashion. I recall that, 30 years ago, a judge would always blame the victim for provocative behavior in the way they dressed etc. and in the case of minors, blamed the parents or guardian for creating the circumstances, but today it’s a different story. It is important that the victims of crimes should have closure by seeing that the miscreant is brought to justice, and I can only pity the deluded people who are trying to defend a convicted pedophile by bringing religion into it. If it happened to their children, it would indeed be a different story, and instead of thanking the victim for coming forward to face one of the best systems of justice in the world. Those who try to give narrow-minded testimonies are deluded to think that pedophiles go after all the children that they meet as there is enough research to this subhuman behavior would target few individuals for reasons better known to their sick minds.Defending or sympathising with a convicted paedophile shows a deficiency in the personality that needs therapy.
    The Buddha or the words of wisdom in the form of Dhamma which are timeless cannot be harmed by the parajika behavior of a monk, today, as it happened 2500 years ago. The so called Buddhists including the country’s prominent people who should set an example are notorious for breaking all the five precepts, and if they’re wondering why other religions are gaining ground in Sri Lanka, a close self-examination would help.

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    I have two daughters and I feel for that innocent 9 year old girl…I am a Buddhist and the religion is not to be blamed for some sick peoples crimes.

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    He abused, both the child and his position and Buddhism. Of course he did not mean it back rnen as he was young and horny…just like “stuff happens…what to do…” attitude. However, a daughter, a child of the world is abused by a man regardless of the color of his robe/clothes. Punishment has been meted out be a way better judicial system and process as opposed to our disabled one. So why fuss because he was a monk??? He wronged and dserved what ought to be…get over it boys.

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