Multiple scandal behind Japan Buddhist festival

The Sunday Times, Sept 13, 2009

Sri Lanka Prime Minister and Minister become unsuspecting victims; entourage monk deported

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Two senior Government dignitaries -- Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Ports Minister Chamal Rajapaksa -- who traveled to Japan for what was billed as an "Exposition of Sacred Relics of Lord Buddha", it has come to light, were unsuspecting victims of a move to misrepresent Buddha's relics, misuse Sri Lanka's name and engage in a human smuggling operation.

<< Premier Wickremanayake and Chamal Rajapaksa

Minister Rajapaksa, as the President's Special Envoy, headed a 20-member delegation. He was joined a day later by Prime Minister Wickremanayake for the event from September 5 to 10 at the Royal Grand Hall of Buddhism in Kobe.

Ven. P. Vijitha, a Buddhist monk who was part of the 20-member delegation that arrived in Osaka with Minister Chamal Rajapaksa was detained at the airport by Japanese immigration officers and deported to Sri Lanka on the next available flight. The monk had been on the blacklist for illegal entry into Japan, but he had managed to get into the

Minister's official delegation in a bid to enter Japan abusing the Minister's good offices.

This is the first known instance of a member of a Sri Lankan government minister’s entourage being refused entry into a country and being deported.

The mega-show organised by Nenbhitshushu Buddhist Sect in Kobe has obtained the concurrence of influential Sri Lankan Buddhist monks to organise the event in Kobe and portray the fact that it was being held under the patronage of the Sri Lankan Government. They had stated that the exposition was of the Buddha's relics (Sarvajjna dhatu) that were in the possession of a temple in Pelmadulla.

The organisers of the event had obtained special messages from President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Maha Nayakes as well. A costly two-page advertisement in one of Japan's leading newspapers, the Yomiuro Shimbun, had stated that these were "Buddha relics from Sri Lanka".Commissioner General of Buddhist Affairs Chandraperuma Gamage told the Sunday Times that they were not involved in the event, while Archaelogy Chief Dr. Senarath Dissanayake said, "we do not have confirmation that the Pelmadulla Viharaya has Buddha relics. It is only if we have such confirmation that we consider them as an archaelogical item. In Sri Lanka there is a tendency to claim that some items are Buddha relics when they are not".

According to Foreign Ministry sources, these organisers of the exposition had given Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Japan, Jayantha Palipane a message in the Japanese language to be published under his name in the newspaper advertising the event. In that advertisement, they had stated that the event was being held under the patronage of the Sri Lanka Government and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Japan. He had also been told that should anyone ask who is paying for these advertisements, to say that the Sri Lanka Government was doing so.

A letter sent by Ven. Getamanne Gunananda, coordinating secretary to the President, to Pamela Deen, Additional Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, states that the event is being organised “on the advise of the President” at “state level” and has requested her to urge the ambassador to comply with the request of the Kobe organizers to issue the message concerned.The day before that the President of the Nenbutsushu Buddhist Sect, Ven. Dr. Kyuse Enshinjoh has written to the President threatening to “reconsider” the exposition ceremony unless the ambassador agreed to say that the advertisement supplement stated it was “under the patronage of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Japan.”

Ambassador Palipane is reported to have refused to permit the message to be published the way it had been drafted. The Foreign Ministry was told that one of the paragraphs had referred to the Kobe temple as the 'spiritual centre of the 370 million Buddhists worldwide'.

The Foreign Ministry in Colombo is in receipt of a full report on the matter from the Ambassador who says that he could not agree to the averments of the Kobe organisers message when Buddha Gaya, the Dalada Maligawa, Sri Maha Bodhiya etc., were of much greater significance to Buddhists worldwide than the Kobe temple. The Ambassador had said he would write his own message.

The Sunday Times learns that the Ambassador Palipane's refusal to these requests had been one of the grounds for his recall this week as one of the influential Sri Lankan monks and the Kobe organisers had written to President Rajapaksa claiming that the ambassador was not co-operating with them.