Daily Mirror Editorials
The avowed claim of the Jathika Hela Urumaya for entering politics, was to cleanse the prevailing corrupt political setup and redeeming it from the pits it had descended into. Leading lights of the JHU said their very presence in parliament was bound to bring about discipline among its members and raise the level of debate. This was based on the reverence and regard in which persons of the saffron robe was held. The JHU may have believed that the calm and serene demeanour of the members of Sangha inside parliament would have a sobering effect on the unruly MPs, making them restrain their natural instincts. The JHU was on course to create a Dharmarajya, the slogan on which some 15 members of saffron brigade entered parliament at the 2004 general elections.
But things turned out different, when, on their very first day in parliament itself, members of the JHU were rouged up and manhandled (pun intended) by members of the very party for whose formation the Sangha played a most pivotal role.
However, the party soldiered on holding fast to its chief principal of cleansing the body politic although there were splits in the entity, with some of its leading lights throwing in their lot with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Eventually though, the JHU disintegrated and drifted into a state of being just another political party, inheriting the same afflictions common to all political parties, including the casting off of principles.
This change is today epitomised by the antics of the Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera who had cast himself with the lot of all garden politicians this country has been foisted with. Here is why.
The Ven Athureliye, if he is true to the original JHU precepts, should have first tendered his resignation from his parliament seat before embarking on a mission, which, for all intents and purposes is anti-government. The JHU stalwart, who was nominated by the UNP on the National List, though distancing himself from Mahinda Rajapaksa, nevertheless, is going along with the same Rajapaksa led Joint Opposition slogans.
Ven Rathana states that he would campaign against those seeking to undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status and are pursuing an agenda inimical to the country, sentiments that are heard ad nausem from the Rajapaksa camp. The Ven Thera has also made similar statements against the enactment of the proposed new constitution as that being belted out by the Joint Opposition. This, at a time, when even the Mahanayakas have allayed fears of all and sundry in this regard on the basis that the proposed new constitution is still in the making and yet to see the light of day.
The Ven. Athurelye Thera has apparently taken a cue from the JO in looking for hidden devils in the new constitution. Hence his parroting the same words uttered by the rabid elements of the JO day in and day out. Sentiments and observation of the Ven Athureliye as regards ECTA and the Hambantota port projects are also akin to those from the Rajapaksa hymn sheet.
No less than the elder statesman of the JHU, the Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera has requested his onetime protege to resign from his parliament seat if he intends to chart a new course. The Ven Omalpe is naturally scandalized by the stand of the Ven Athureliye to stay put while criticizing the government. It is this kind of duplicity and doubly speak among politicians that the Ven Omalpe and the JHU sought to remedy through its initial foray into parliamentary politics. By refusing to budge, the Ven Athureliye will only cast yet another pall over the JHU which received body blows by the conduct of some of its stalwarts, notably the Ven Uduwe Dhammaloka and Udaya Gammanpila, thus cutting off the foundation from under the feet of the party.
The UNP is indeed in a dilemma. It cannot be seen to be evicting a person of the saffron robe without inviting a backlash. The JO will ensure this. But the party has to make up its mind if it is going create a precedent that would embolden others of similar bent. As a party, it has suffered the most by way of defections and ought to close this chapter once and for all if it is to remain a strong party.
The Ven Rathana, on his part, should come out clean and declare his true intentions without attempting to swim with the tide of protest campaigns that are being organised by the Joint Opposition. He should unequivocally state in whose camp he is, without trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hound.
Maverick politician Mahindananda Aluthgamage is holding press conferences these days to claim with confidence that several government ministers are planning to mount the stage on the 27th at Nugegoda where the ‘pohottuwa’ party will hold its maiden rally. It is the self same Aluthgamage who at the height of the Presidential Election campaign asked the crowds at the Anuradhapura rally not to leave and that the comely Chandrani Bandara from the Greens would be joining them in a few moments. The crowd waited. Like waiting for Godot.