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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Churches urge calm after videos of Monk attacking Christians go viral

Bishop Asiri Perera, head of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka is appealing for calm after videos of a Buddhist Monk attacking Christians in Batticaloa went viral in the past few days.

Perera, in a statement released to the public yesterday, Dec 29, exhorted Christians and “all peace-loving people” not to react “to these videos that are going viral which can cause religious tension and disharmony in our motherland, which is the last thing we want to see happening.”

The videos in question feature the controversial 50-year old Buddhist Monk, Ampitiye Sumanarathana Thero, chief incumbent of the Sri Mangalaramaya temple in Batticaloa, attacking what appear to be Christian evangelicals in the city.

Already a social media star for his vituperative, obscenity-laden verbal attacks against public servants and others, Sumanarathana has re-emerged around this Christmas. He has been condemned by some, but for others, he is a hero.

A previously viral video posted on the Neth FM website

In one video he is seen slapping a man who appears to be a Church worker and in the other verbally challenging evangelicals including a man wearing what looks like the Cassock usually worn by Roman Catholic priests.

Sumanarathana is seen castigating these evangelicals for distributing pamphlets in what he calls is a Buddhist majority region.

The first reaction from the official Church to this incident came from the Catholic Church with Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s spokesman Fr. Jude Krishantha saying that the Christian Priest subjected to attack in the videos is not from his church and also not from any recognized Christian denomination in Sri Lanka.

Fr. Jude Krishantha spokesman for Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith

Krishantha also said that Catholics do not attempt to convert non-Christians to their faith.

Methodist leader Perera identified the man under attack as Nalaka Fonseka, a former worker in his church, who was asked to leave due to “disciplinary reasons.” Perera added that Fonseka was never ordained as a priest “during the time he served my church.”

Former Methodist Church worker Nalaka Fonseka and Ampitiye Sumanarathana Thero in Batticoloa last week/WhatsApp image

The Methodist President also added that since leaving his church Fonseka “seems to have operated on his own as a freelance evangelist without being accountable to any Church body for his ministry work.”
WhatsApp video of Ampitiye Sumanarathana Thero challenging evangelists in Batticoloa that went viral/WhatsApp video

Perera also condemned Fonseka’s attitude in the video. “His body language and facial expressions do not reflect a spirit of humility. He should have got down from his bike when speaking to the monk. He is not wearing a helmet when he rides the Motor Bike as if he is not under the law of the country,” he said.

Perera also commented that Sumanarathana’s “particular behaviour in this video and a few other videos which are circulating do not in any way reflect the noble teachings of the Lord Buddha, I leave it for the Ven. Maha Nayakas and Maha Sangha councils to do the needful to put the house in order.”

He noted that the viral videos are “causing embarrassment to both Buddhism and Christianity, two religions that have coexisted in Sri Lanka even in the 6th century A.D. in Anuradhapura.”

He also pointed out that in recent times “police inaction has escalated to alarming heights. The Methodist Church like several other Christian Churches has experienced and suffered certain discrimination carried out by certain law enforcing authorities, about which we have lamented but not heard much. I am also displeased with religious dignitaries of one religion taking the law into their hands to do policing over another legitimate religion that has the right to function, practice and publicly proclaim its own faith in this land.”

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India extends under utilized $1 bln credit facility to Sri Lanka by one year 

ECONOMYNEXT – India has extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka by another year after the loan that was given to help the crisis-hit island nation to continue import of essentials was not fully utilized in the 12 month period originally agreed, officials said.

Sri Lanka faced with a looming sovereign default signed the credit facility in March 2022 for one year through March 2024. However, the full $1 billion had not been utilized yet.

The Facility has been used for urgent procurement of fuel, medicines, food items and industrial raw materials, as per the requirements and priorities of Sri Lanka.

“The initial agreement was signed in 2022 March and out of the 1000 million US dollars allocated materials were imported for $576.75 mil,” Shehan Semasinghe, State Finance Minister said in his official twitter platform.

“The agreement is extended for the remaining $423.25 mil. We will prioritize the import of essential medicines till March 2024.”

Indian High Commission in Colombo said the State Bank of India (SBI) has extended the tenure of the $1 billion Credit Facility provided to Sri Lanka in response to a request from the Government of Sri Lanka.  (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka President cleared to discuss cancelled LRT after soured Japan relations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe discuss resuming a Japan funded. Light Rail Transit (LRT) project cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to tighten grip on television with broadcast law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has formulated a broadcast authority law to regulate electronic media which will be made public soon, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

“The draft prepared by a cabinet subcommittee under Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa has discussed with various parties will be given to all media institutions and broadcast media,” Gunawardana said.

“We do not have to hide or force anyone. A legal framework that can be acceptable to all for all sectors.”

“In a week or two Minister Wijedasa will discuss with state and private stakeholders.”

At the moment Sri Lanka has issued frequencies without conforming to an “international procedures”, he said.

In Sri Lanka television frequencies are issued under a state television act.

Successive administrations in Sri Lanka has since around 1980 mis-used state television duopoly which including for conducting elections according to critics.

Private television as well a raio emerged around the 1990s and has since over shadowed state media.

There have been calls by ruling party politicians from time to time to control private media. There is now calls to control social media.

At a Committee on Public Accounts meeting of the Department of Government Information, ruling coalition legislators called for regulation of television content. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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