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Violent deaths of monks: Asgiriya Chapter pleads for protection

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

 

The Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Sect appealed to the Government to ensure the protection of religious leaders yesterday (5) following recent incidents which resulted in the deaths of monks.

“We hereby request the Government to provide protection to monks and religious leaders, and ensure the non-recurrence of such incidents,” Siam Sect Asgiriya Chapter Supreme Sangha Council Secretary Dr. Medagama Dhammananda Thera said in response to a query by The Morning.

The appeal comes in light of the alleged abduction cum murder of a monk in Hanwella pertaining to which four persons have been arrested; this came in the wake of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the recent death of a Dutch national monk in the South.

Article 9 of the Constitution holds that the Sri Lankan State is duty bound to, among other matters, protect the Buddha Sasana.

Dhammananda Thera added that the Asgiriya Chapter will be requesting relevant authorities including the President, the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister in charge of the subject of Buddhasasana, and the relevant Government authorities to pay attention to these incidents during discussions to be held next week.

He said that since monks and religious leaders are a segment of society that receives much attention and are treated with respect, such tragic and untoward incidents could even give rise to public unrest.

“If such incidents of monastery-dwelling, meditating monks facing harassment, or even the loss of life, become commonplace, then it would be an extremely unhealthy situation,” he explained.

Elaborating further, he pointed out that the Government is obligated to look into such matters as a special duty and act responsibly in this regard.

With regard to the latest incident, Dhammananda Thera said that they would make the same appeal they had made to the relevant authorities in the aforementioned case of the Dutch monk, which is that since the facts pertaining to the cases are uncertain, a complete and thorough investigation should be conducted by the competent authorities to ascertain what exactly occurred.

Speaking to The Morning in this regard yesterday, Ministerial Advisor and Ministerial Co-ordinator for Religious Affairs, Ven. Agrahere Kassapa Thera said that when investigated, it was found that the root cause of these unfortunate incidents were by and large due to personal agendas and reasons. The way forward against crimes committed targeting monks is for the Police to arrest the relevant suspects and file legal action in courts.

The body of Ven. Olande (Holland/Netherlands) Jinarathana Thera was found floating in the Rathgama Lagoon in December last year. The monk was staying at a hermitage in Polgasduwa, Dodanduwa. Some of his limbs were found tied. Although multiple police teams including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) are probing the matter, no conclusion had been reached as to whether it was a case of foul play or suicide.

In the latest incident reported from Hanwella, the body of Ven. Uduwila Dhammasiri Thera, who had been abducted last week, was found from a cemetery in Kotadeniyawa. At the time of the abduction, the monk had been staying at a monastery in Kodikanda, Koswatta, Thummodara. His remains bore the signs of being set fire to. The Police have since arrested four suspects in connection with the incident including a female and the parents of a novice monk also staying at the said monastery. A feud has been put forward as the possible motive.