Buddhist sensitivities: Will UNP ever learn?

By Janaka Perera, Asian Tribune, April 4, 2009

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- They say those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to relive it. It appears that the UNP under Ranil Wickremesinghe virtually mirrors the UNP of 1955-56 on more than one issue concerning the Sinhala majority.

When the Buddhist Commission Report of 1956 was republished in 2006, addressing those present at the re-launching ceremony at Ananda College Colombo, Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara said that the UNP should take a fresh look at this report. He had very good reason to say so since it was primarily this document that led to the UNP’s ignominious defeat at the 1956 Parliamentary Election, reducing the party’s number of seats to eight.

It was the failure of successive UNP governments in the immediate post-independence era to address the grievances of Buddhists cited in the Buddhist Commission report that made the majority of Sinhalas to vote for S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s SLFP-led alliance in 1956. Although circumstances are different today, Wickremesinghe’s party is apparently cannot care less about antagonizing a good number of Buddhists by tolerating the antics of a determined Christian Evangelist in the party’s Central Committee.

She is former Mrs. World and former Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Malaysia - Bernadine Rosemarie Senanayake (nee Fernando Ramanyake) - UNP candidate (No.33) for the Colombo District in the forthcoming Western Provincial Council Election. A ‘Born-Again-Christian’ she has become notorious for covert proselytizing.

In an interview with the Lankadeepa about a year ago she said that Buddhism should not be given prominence in Sri Lankan society since this is a multi-cultural country (despite over 70 percent of Sri Lankans being Buddhists!). When her remarks drew angry protests from the Buddhist laity and the clergy including leading Buddhist monks such as Venerable Walpola Piyananda, Venerable Elle Gunawansa, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha and Ven. Weligama Gnanarathana she quickly denied it saying that the paper had misreported what she expressed. Ven. Piyananda said that her utterances were a reflection of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s agenda for Sri Lanka.

On another instance she arranged the distribution of Bibles to a school in Maligakanda where the students are almost entirely Buddhist and Muslim. On a tip-off three leading Buddhist monks, including the Venerable Daranagama Kusaladhamma rushed to the spot and collected all the Bibles which the students and staff readily surrendered to the bhikkus. This was reported prominently in the Divaina with a photo of the monks with the seized copies of the Bibles.

Senanayake has been accused by Buddhist activists of converting among others the daughter of a late President (a devout Buddhist) and the entire family of a leading Buddhist businessman in the transport sector. According to the activists Senanayake had even tried unsuccessfully to convert All Ceylon Buddhist Congress former President Milina Sumathipala.

However former First Lady Hema Premadasa has paid a glowing tribute to Rosy Senanayake in an election pamphlet, saying that she having "won the hearts of everyone," will give the Western Province the "correct leadership."

The irony of it all is that she is the daughter-in-law of the late Stanley Senanayake former Inspector General of Police (a devout Buddhist) and Maya Senanayake, daughter of the late P. de S. Kularatne well-known Buddhist leader and former Principal Ananda College, Colombo.

The UNP with its blinkers fails to realise that the likes of Rosy Senanayake not only damages the party’s image in the eyes of sensitive Buddhists but also can lead to unwanted religious friction in the country. It is the antics of such proselytisers that prompted Buddhists organizations to call for anti-conversion laws. Freedom to believe in a religion of one’s choice does not entail the freedom to convert. Buddhists and Hindus do not go uninvited to predominantly Christian areas and distribute copies of the Dhammapada and the Bhagavad Gita.

The conversion craze is also politically-motivated. Behind this conspiracy are well-funded American Christian evangelist organizations that have spread their tentacles all over the Third World, especially in the poverty-stricken regions where they use medical services, education, and employment opportunities to convert indigenous populations. Most of the medical and charitable organizations based in majority Christian countries are fronts for proselytizing activities. The USA's Faith Based Initiative law provides Christian missionary organizations to proselytize with American taxpayers’ money.

Says Gregory F. Fegel (Pravda, October 21, 2008): "One of the largest international medical relief organizations based in the USA, Northwest Medical Teams, states in their recruitment brochure that their chief mission is to 'spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ', that their medical relief services are subordinate to their stated goal of proselytizing Christianity, and that their medical relief work is merely an 'aegis', or facade, for spreading Christianity."

The UNP of course will always turn a blind eye to this covert 'religious' aggression since it has close links with political organizations in predominantly Christian Western states, especially Ranil Wickremesinghe’s membership in the predominantly Christian International Democrat Union (IDU).