Multiple questions have been raised over notorious Buddhist monk Galagoda Atte Gnanasara‘s possible release after Buddha Sasana Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera sent a formal letter to President Maithripala Sirisena today seeking Presidential pardon for the monk.
Perera yesterday said he had received letters from Ramanna Nikaya, Diyawadana Nilame Pradeep Nilanga Dela of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagi Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha, Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Nikaya, and the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter of the Siam Nikaya for the release of the controversial monk.
Several allies of President Sirisena including Duminda Dissanayake and Shantha Bandara have already stated that Sirisena is likely to release Gnanasara on February 04. Sirisena has also discussed Ganasara’s release with senior members of the Bodu Bala Sena organization – a militant Buddhist organization led by Gnanasara.
However, the President’s inclination to release Ganansara has raised fresh questions in the legal and human rights circles. Many legal observers said releasing Gnanasara on Presidential pardon could adversely impact pending court cases against the militant monk who was directly involved in inciting racially orchestrated violence targeting Muslims in Aluthgama, in June 2014.
“Gnanasara was jailed for contempt (impeding judicial process) and not religious/hate crimes. Therefore, views of the Chief Justice, Attorney General, Justice Minister and Bar are far more relevant than letters from ‘religious’ quarters, for a pardon to be responsibly considered,” Senior Lawyer Viran Corea tweeted, commenting on the matter.
Human Rights activist Shamara Wettimuny sad, “He was not jailed for offences relating to religion (his or anyone else’s) and so his release should not be determined by pleas from religious quarters. Meanwhile, the continuing failure to hold him accountable for his incitement of religious violence is likely to embolden others (the likes of Amith Weerasinghe etc, who was also released on bail) to continue persecuting minorities with impunity. This will also send a message to minorities that they can’t expect the equal application of the law, particularly when it involves Buddhist ‘monks’.”
“None of this is particularly new but it also shows that nothing much has changed, despite changes in govt and rhetorical commitments to reconciliation (including in Maithripala Sirisena’s recent full-page advertisement),” she added.
Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Director of International Crisis Group said, “If even a self-proclaimed liberal & reformist govt, with Mangala Samaraweera, Mano Ganesan and Harsha de Silva in Cabinet, allow Gnanasara to be pardoned without serious resistance, Sri Lanka seems fated to suffer more violence and tension and instability in the years ahead.”