For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By Dharisha Bastians
Signalling an about-face on a key issue on its agenda, the hard-line Bodu Bala Sena group yesterday declared victory in its battle against the Halal certification and slammed the English-language press, even singling out the Daily FT for being traitors to the Sinhala Buddhist cause.
Addressing a massive rally in Kandy town last afternoon, Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero said the Defence Secretary had provided an assurance that the Halal logo would be withdrawn in the country and a special Police unit would be set up to carry out inspections in shops around the country that might be still carrying Halal products. According to the Thero, the Cabinet subcommittee headed by former Premier Ratnasiri Wickremanayake had also ruled that all Halal certifications issued following September 2004 were illegal. “So today we have come to the historic city of Kandy to tell the Dalada Hamuduruwo about our victory over Halal and to invoke blessings for our future struggle to win the rights of the Sinhalese,” Gnanasara Thero told large crowds gathered at the rally.
According to the hard-line monk, not a single stone was cast to win the Halal battle. Gnanasara Thero slammed what he called were “sinful forces” that referred to the Bodu Bala Sena as extremists and charged that the English press had betrayed their cause.
“With the exception of a few, the English media is still working on foreign agendas in the country. The Gulf News, the Asian Tribune and the Financial Times have repeatedly referred to the Bodu Bala Sena as the ‘leading terror group’ in the country,” he said.
Referring to these publications as “kalu suddho,” the Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary said that the English language press had always worked against the interests of Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka. He said the English media had repeatedly maintained that the Halal certification was a positive thing for the country. The monk said that when their advertisements about Halal were blacked out on mainstream electronic media channels, the group’s youth task forces had taken to social media and email to spread the anti-Halal message far and wide.
The Bodu Bala Sena representatives met with the Mahanayake Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and also paid homage to the Temple of the Tooth before holding the rally.