Sri Lanka’s parliament Monk shuns Nonviolence- paper

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 14:25 GMT]
Athurliye Rathana, a celebrated monk and a Sri Lanka parliamentarian, “sounded more like an army general than a legislator or monk” when he said, "[w]e can sort this out on our own. We tried to discuss things, but the LTTE always wanted to fight. We must do our duty on the battle field," Washington Post said in an article that appeared in the Wednesday edition.

Rev. Athuraliye Rathana
“Rathana is a celebrated figure in this predominantly Buddhist nation, where monks are cherished for their spiritual guidance. But he is known for more than just his religious leadership. Dubbed the Parliament Monk and the War Monk by the Sri Lankan press, he is a legislator who has pushed for the use of military force to end this island nation's 25-year civil war, which has left 70,000 dead and displaced nearly a half-million people at its height,” the paper said.

"Am I an extremist? Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am not," Rathana said over green tea, when asked about reports from foreign human rights groups that accuse his party of hindering peace talks. "The point is that we need to end this war. And we are forced into a military solution," the paper said quoting the Budhist monk.

Noting that Rathana fits into the tradition of monks who have embraced political causes, the paper said , “Rathana's party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya, is led by monks and is the staunchest supporter of the government's military offensive.” The paper quoted Rathana as saying, "[a]s a Buddhist monk, I think every bad thing should be finished. Here in Sri Lanka, we have terrorists who brutally murdered people. As monks, we must defend ourselves and fight back. That is reality."

As many as 30,000 mostly Sinhalese young men have signed up for the army in the past few months, spurred in part by activism by Rathana and others. The Tigers still control the northern tip of the country and have vowed to continue their struggle for a separate Tamil homeland, the paper said.

“While Rathana is treated like a rock star in Colombo’s elite circles of Sinhalese, he has vocal critics. Mano Ganesan, a Hindu Tamil member of Parliament, characterized him as "highly divisive and offensive." He said Rathana and his party have "not helped in pushing for a peaceful solution. They are only creating more militant Tamils," the paper said. "This is not Buddhism at all," the paper quoted Ganesan as saying. "This is using Buddhism to justify politics and a policy of war."

Rathana's name, meanwhile, invokes panic among many ethnic Tamils, who say they are often targeted for harassment by police and paramilitary groups, the paper noted.

Rathana has defended keeping foreign monitors out of Sri Lanka, saying the country has for too long been ruled by outsiders, from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the British. The British once favored the Tamils for jobs in their administration, and the Sinhalese, Rathana said, "had to fight to regain representation in the government, even though we were the majority," the paper quoted Rathana as saying.


External Links:
WP: As Fighting Flares in Civil War, Key Buddhist Shuns Nonviolence


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