KANDY: Sri Lanka’s most powerful Buddhist nationalist group rallied its hardline base on Sunday, saying they must aim to take democratic control of parliament to “protect the community”.
The influential chief of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, addressing hundreds of monks and followers in Kandy, called on Sri Lanka’s 10,000 Buddhist temples to help win votes for candidates from the Sinhala Buddhist majority.
“We the clergies should aim to create a Sinhala government. We will create a parliament that will be accountable for the country, a parliament that will protect Sinhalese,” said Gnanasara.
He also said the politicians should leave the fight against Islamist extremism to the monks.
“We can talk to them face to face in villages and create the Muslim culture as we want without going for extremism. It’s our responsibility because this is a Sinhalese country. We are the historical owners of this country,” he said.
Sri Lanka has had a history of ethnic and religious violence and was torn for decades by a civil war between separatists from the mostly Hindu Tamil minority and the Sinhala Buddhist-dominated government. The war ended in 2009.
In recent years, Buddhist hardliners led by BBS have stoked hostility against Muslims.
Muslims, who make up 10 percent of a largely Buddhist country, have become fearful of a backlash, especially in recent weeks. There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, after April bombings that killed more than 250 people.