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Racist Buddhist monk 'apologises if he had caused distress’

The General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagodaaththe Gnanasara apologised “‘if he had caused distress,” according to a report in Ceylon Today, as the extremist monk was dragged to court over remarks he made in 8 years ago.

Gnanasara reportedly informed the Colombo High Court Judge Adithya Patabendige from the dock of his apology, ahead of a verdict that is to be delivered on March 28. The case was filed by the Attorney General against the BBS General Secretary over charges of causing religious and racial disunity in the country owing to his remarks.

During the 2016 press briefing, he announced that the next aim of BBS following victory after the Hala issue was to "free" Kurugala from Muslims. “Muslims should leave “Kurugala” (Jailani) before 31st April and that this year the Vesak festival will be celebrated in Kurugala.”

The Sinhala chauvinist has a history of racist rhetoric against Muslims and Tamils. In 2014, before the anti-Muslim riots, he told a cheering Sinhala nationalist crowd in Aluthgama that “if one marakkalaya ( Muslim) lays a hand on a Sinhalese that will be the end of all of them”. The resulting violence killed four people and left 80 injured, with hundreds left homeless. Amongst the sites attacked were mosques, Muslim homes, businesses, and even a nursery.

Gnanasara has vehemently opposed Tamil’s rights to self-determination, threatening in 2020 of a “river of blood”. “We will not allow the Tamils to find a solution through devolution," he said. "If they demand a separate state again, a river of blood will flow in the North and East.”

His anti-muslim rhetoric further took root after Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the extremist monk, to head a Presidential Task Force focused on achieving “One Country One Law”.

This is not the first time that the extremist monk has appeared before courts for his anti-muslim sentiments. In 2022, Colombo’s Chief Magistrate Court issued an arrest warrant for the former convict and extremist monk after he ignored a court summon over charges of hate speech he directed towards Muslims. Gnanasara’s defense council was unable to present a valid reason for his absence. Gnanasara was previously found guilty on two counts and sentenced to 6 months in prison for threatening the wife of Prageeth Eknaligoda; a critic of the then government in 2010.

He has not apologised for any of his other racist remarks.

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