Members of the powerful Buddhist clergy on Saturday sought to defuse the ongoing political turmoil in Sri Lanka and urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to release arrested former army chief Sarath Fonseka.
Fonseka was arrested on February 8 on charges of conspiring, and sharing sensitive information with people apparently working against the government.
Senior monks from across the country wrote a joint letter to Rajapaksa, saying that Fonseka – and his arrested supporters -- should be freed, given adequate security and treated leniently.
They said the conflict between Fonseka and the Rajapaksas – including defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa -- was ``becoming an obstacle to the forward march our nation.’’
Commenting that they could not overlook Fonseka’s arrest, the religious leaders said the retired general had played a ``major role in the defeat of terrorism’’ in Sri Lanka.
They monks said that if the government could provide security and facilities to former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres like V Muralitharan or Karuna, it should do the same for Fonseka who had fought for the country.
Referring to former LTTE cadres Karuna, now a government minister, and S Chandrakanthan, a provincial chief minister, the monks said: ``They have been responsible for the massacre of our bhikkus, maiming and killing of military personnel and civilians and the attacks on the Sri Dalada Maligawa and the Sri Maha Bodhiya.’’
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country and under the country’s Constitution, it is mandatory to give Buddhism precedence over all other religions.
The clergy is politically active and there is even the Jaathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) a party led by Buddhist monks which fought the 2004 general elections. It is an ally of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance.
Support for Fonseka’s release is growing. Sporadic skirmishes between his supporters and police are being reported since the middle of this week. Over the next two days, women’s groups are expected to take part in meetings and vigils demanding the retired general’s release.