Sri Lanka’s monks in parliamentary storm

Himalayan News Service

Colombo, May 1:

A series of attacks on Sri Lankan Buddhist temples and intimidation in parliament, allegedly by a ruling leftwing party, has triggered fears among monks who entered politics only this year, reports OneWorld.

The Marxist party accused of engineering the harassment of the newly formed Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU, National Heritage Party) is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a key partner in the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The latest provocation was the election of a new speaker in parliament.

The joint opposition candidate for the post defeated the UPFA candidate by one vote, thanks to help from the monks, who were wooed by various political parties for their nine precious votes.

The opposition candidate, former minister of Buddhist affairs WJM Lokubandara, secured 110 votes while the government candidate, communist party member DEW Gunasekara, polled 109.

When the results were announced, government members of parliament started hooting and shouting at the monks when one of them began congratulating the new speaker, ruling party members hurled files and books at him.

Immediately after the vote, Media Minister Reginald Cooray went on national television to launch a scathing attack on the monks for defeating the government candidate for the post of speaker.