Colombo, May 20 (Daily Express): The jailed Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary, Ven.Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero might get a Presidential pardon and the controversial Muslim Minister Rishad Bathiyudeen may be asked to resign, in view of the changed political mood in the country, an informed political source said on Monday.
The source, which spoke off the record, said that President Maithipala Sirisena’s meeting with the radical Buddhist monk in the Welikade prison here on Saturday, on the sidelines of a function to pardon 734 prisoners on the occasion of the Vesak festival, definitely had political meaning.
A member of the cabinet, the source pointed to the surge in support for Gnanasara Thero among the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community and even among Catholics.
It is now realized among this section of the population that Gnanasara Thero had, for the last few years, warned about radicalization in the Muslim community, with a section lurching towards extremism if not terrorism, per se.
When asked for the source of his information, Ven. Gnanasara Thero would say that he was making the charges on the basis of complaints from Muslims themselves.
But no one in the government had taken him seriously.
However, after the April 21 suicide bombings, there have been calls for the release of Ven.Gnanasara Thero, who is currently serving a six year term for contempt of court.
There was an expectation that Ven.Gnanasara Thero would be released along with hundreds of others on Vesak day. But his name was not on the list.
However, after the President met the monk, when he went to the prison to preside over the Vesak prisoner release ceremony, there is renewed speculation that he may be pardoned.
“The matter is likely to be raised in the cabinet meeting this week,” the ministerial source said.
As regards the fate of the No Confidence Motion (MCM) against Minister of Commerce Rishad Bathiyudeen, who it is alleged, had links with Islamic extremists, the source said that government will try to pre-empt the motion by requesting Bathiyudeen to resign just as Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was asked to quit ahead of an NCM against him.
“There is a danger of government MPs supporting the motion or abstaining from the vote. If that happens, the motion might be carried. But no government will want that. The way out would be to ask Bathiyudeen to resign,” the source said.
“Sinhala-Buddhist and Christian ministers and members of parliament feel that Muslim leaders including Ministers, have not done enough or have not shown willingness to do anything to curb the Lankan Muslims’ tendency to become culturally exclusive, and to weaken links with other communities. It is believed that such tendencies had prepared the ground for the growth of radicalism and terrorism,” the source said.
Non-Muslims charge that the Muslims leaders have not done precious little to assuage the deeply hurt feelings among Christians who had borne the brunt of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, the source added.
Bathiyudeen from Mannar district in North Sri Lanka is alleged to have supported radicalization among the Muslims and had allegedly tried to intercede with Army Commander Lt.Gen.Mahesh Senanayake to release a suspect in the suicide bombing case.
Bathiyudeen refuted the charge made by Gen.Senanayake and said that he only wanted to know if the man in question was in army custody.