Buddhist monk calls off protest

by V.S. Sambandan, The Hindu, June 12, 2005

Move follows Chandrika's assurance

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- A senior Buddhist monk MP from the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Omalpe Sobitha Thero, called off a five-day protest fast on Saturday, after an assurance by clergy leaders that President Chandrika Kumaratunga would not take a decision on the proposed joint mechanism without consultations.

<< Ven. Sobitha Thero

The Ven. Sobitha had been on a protest fast in Kandy since Monday, demanding withdrawal of the proposed post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS), which envisages equitable distribution of resources and projects in the north and east.

The JHU, which has nine MPs, has opposed the joint mechanism with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Ven. Sobitha said he opposed the proposed agreement as it would "amount to rewarding assassination, theft of land and property, ethnic cleansing, violation of human rights, desecration and destroying archaeological sites and places of worship, forced conscription of children, and a people, a culture, a nation and a civilisation."

Two influential clergy leaders who met Ms. Kumaratunga on Friday conveyed her message to the fasting monk. Ms. Kumaratunga had "assured that the rights of all citizens in the north and the east would be safeguarded" and that she had "proposed to further discuss the matter" with the Buddhist clergy leaders "before arriving at a final decision,' the Daily Mirror reported.

NBF launches protest

Another group of monks belonging to the National Bhikku Front (NBF) on Saturday launched a "fast unto death" protest in Colombo, demanding the withdrawal of the proposed mechanism.

The NBF is seen as the Buddhist monk arm of the ruling ally, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. The protests are also against the backdrop of the JHU and the NBF competing for the same political constituency.