Monks wreak havoc, obtain apology from Prime Minister

By Dasun Edirisinghe

Flower Road in Colombo 7 was closed temporarily yesterday due to a protest organised by the ‘Sihala Ravaya’ organisation demanding the resignation of Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne and a public apology from him over accusing a respected member of the Maha Sangha as ‘Cheewaradariya’ at a public meeting in Gampola recently.

A tense situation arose near the Prime Minister’s office in the Flower Road when Buddhist monks and lay supporters of the organisation tried to enter the office premises forcibly.

Buddhist monks demanded that Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne who is also the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, resign over the issuing of a letter to have demurrage charges waived on a container that was later found to contain heroin.

Sihala Ravaya’s protest march started from the Viharamahadevi Park and ended near Prime Minister’s office.

Protesters demanded a meeting with the Prime Minister.

When PM’s office informed them that the Prime Minister was not in office at the time, they sat on the road opposite the office until his arrival.

A monk was injured during scuffles with the police in trying to enter the Prime Minister’s office complex. A massive traffic jam was created on surrounding roads due to the closure of the Flower Road.

President of the Sihala Ravaya Organisation Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana Thera said that PM Jayaratne could not accuse Maha Sangha while issuing letters to heroin dealers. "We came here demanding his resignation, but they did not even give us a hearing," he said, adding that they would not give up the protest until the PM apologised to the Maha Sangha in public.

When contacted for comment, Prime Minister’s Secretary Sirisena Amarasekera said that though a letter had been issued tendering the apology, the Buddhist monks had not dispersed. "We presented them a letter of apology, but then they wanted to announce it at a media conference," Amarasekera said.

He said the protesters threw stones and other objects into the Prime Minister’s office but no one was injured.

The protesters finally dispersed around 4.30 pm when an amended letter of apology was issued by the PM’s office. They had refused to accept the earlier apology, claiming that it had not been properly worded. Soon after they dispersed the Flower Road was reopened for traffic.

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