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Can Ven. Rathana Thero?s defiant act set off a chain reaction?

Asiantribune.com, May 18, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- After a slow slide into the background the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) seems to have bounced back into the forefront again with yesterday's dramatic intervention at the Sri Lanka Development Forum by its Parliamentary Leader, Ven. Athureliya Rathana Thera.

Today?s editorial in The Island, titled,"Ven Rathana said a mouthful !," echoed the general reaction to his act of defiance: ?Formality and etiquette notwithstanding, the fact remains that Ven. Ratana had the courage to convey a strong message to the donors who have become demigods in the developing world, whose leaders cringe and crawl before them.

His message to the donors was that they must listen not only to those who are armed but others as well. He said a mouthful in that the LTTE has ready access to the diplomatic community and is entertained at ministerial levels in foreign countries, especially in Europe.?

The editorial concluded by saying:

?If the LTTE can kill an incumbent President of Sri Lanka (Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa); blow to smithereens a former Indian Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi); make an attempt on another Sri Lankan President?s life (Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga); recruit thousands of child soldiers; massacre thousands of civilians; assassinate democratic Tamil politicians; destroy an airport and public property worth billions of dollars; bomb civilian targets and still have a hearing from the international community, then there is no reason why an educated Buddhist monk from a democratic political party with representation in Parliament cannot make his voice heard at an aid group meeting.

Let his message be heeded!?

Ven. Rathana Thero?s unscheduled act of protesting against the LTTE in the presence of 150 foreign donors is seen by its supporters as an act comparable to that of Ven. Wariyapola Sri Sumangala Thero who pulled down the British flag and hoisted the Sinhala Lion Flag on March 2, 1815 in Kandy. In the present climate, where opinion is whipped up against the Joint Mechanism, this intervention is bound to fire the imagination of its supporters. The websites of Sri Lankan expatriates are buzzing with favourable comments, hailing Ven. Rathana as the latest hero.

Ven Rathana Thero?s bold act is also seen as a blow to the JVP which is making noises on the sidelines without taking any decisive action on this issue. The JVP which was in the forefront of the movement against the LTTE has been overshadowed by the act of Ven. Rathana Thero which stunned the audience gathered at Earle Regency Hotel, Kandy. Political observers say that the defiant act of the JHU may not have an impact on the foreign donors but its impact on the electorate could help to revive the JHU which has faced many set backs since they entered parliament.

Capturing the imagination of the Sinhala-Buddhist electorate seems to be the prevailing strategy of the leading parties in the south. Yesterday Ranil Wickremesinghe launched the book which contained his collection of essays on Buddhist values and principles. He discarded his well-cut Western suit and picked the white turned-up collar top as a concession to the Sinhala-Buddhists.

Wickremesinghe dodged the Aid Forum in Kandy, possibly to avoid meeting President Kumaratunga. As usual he sent his deputy Karu Jayasuriya.

In the meantime, the JVP, outshone by the headline-grabbing act of the JHU, is licking its wounds. It has issued a statement saying that the President was not adhering to civilized norms in raising internal political differences at international gatherings. Her critics agree that she has a penchant for bringing up domestic quarrels at various international forums. But this is not going to help the JVP in the electorate. The most formidable rival for the JVP is the JHU. They set out to attack the JHU from the time JHU enter political arena in the last elections. The nine seats captured by the JHU in the last election would have probably gone to the JVP if the JHU did not cut into their votes.

Political observers believe that the JVP will harden its attitude against the Joint Mechanism as means of countering the JHU attempts to grab the nationalist vote. If the JVP keeps on issuing paper protests without taking decisive action they are likely to lose the votes that came with the ?patriotic movement?, according to analysts.

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