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BBS,To ban or not to ban: Decision in President’s hands, Keheliya 

Although certain cabinet ministers are of the view that the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) organisation should not be banned, even though the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Easter Sunday terror attacks had recommended its proscription, a decision would be taken based on presidential prerogative, The Sunday Morning learnt. 

Last week, several cabinet ministers expressed views regarding the matter. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman and Minister of Education Prof. G.L. Peiris as well as Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila earlier last week stated that the BBS should not be banned. 

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera stated in Parliament that the Government will take action against 11 Wahhabi-influenced extremist organisations that were found to promote the “al-wala wal-bara” (denoting “loyalty and disavowal” signifying loving and hating for the sake of Allah) ideology which directly and indirectly contributed to lay the groundwork for the Easter Sunday terror attacks and is closely followed by the Islamic State (IS) and the Al-Qaeda. 

In the recommendations contained in the final report of the PCoI probing the 2019 bombings, the BBS is listed as a religious extremist organisation that should be proscribed. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Government Spokesman and Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella said: “The documents that we have contain recommendations. If we are to look at the final page of the PCoI report, it says that the recommendations are to be implemented under the prerogative of the President and are to be executed under general action plans. If there are insufficient reasons to consider the BBS or any other institution mentioned therein for proscription, then the decision will be made by the President as per his prerogative.” 

BBS General Secretary Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera had previously informed that they would not mind being banned as long as it ensures that the other recommendations of the PCoI are also implemented properly. However, he had added that the BBS should be provided with reasons as to why they should be banned. 

“We haven’t committed any crime; we only raised our voice against Islamist extremism,” he claimed. 

The PCoI had assigned blame to the BBS for having allegedly caused racial/ethnic/religious tensions, contributing to incidents of public unrest and the disturbance of the social order, and had further recommended that the Attorney General (AG) should decide on criminally charging Ven. Gnanasara Thera under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act in connection with two speeches he had made, including one in Aluthgama in 2014, and their connection to the subsequent deadly riots that took place in Aluthgama, Beruwala, and Dharga Town in the Kalutara District that same year. 

Furthermore, the PCoI had recommended the ban of Wahhabism, the IS, the Sri Lanka Jamaat-e-Islami (SLJI), the SLJI Students Movement (SLJISM/SLJSM), and all Thowheed groups, citing the foundation of Islamist extremism as being the Thowheed ideology and Wahhabism.