ECONOMYNEXT – Athureliye Rathana Thero’s rocky journey to claim the sole National seat the Our People’s Power Party (OPPP) won at the Parliamentary General Elections this year has ended giving the Monk a fourth term in the House.
Two days ago the newly Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Elections Commission at its first meeting considered letters submitted by the OPPP General Secretary and Chairman nominating Rathana Thero and approved his appointment.
The decision to nominate Rathana Thero came after he and OPPP Chairman Saman Perera met the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero last week.
Both Gnanasara and Rathana Theros have claimed the seat and according to BBS sources, Rathana was nominated after he promised to resign after an unspecified number of months and hand it over to his rival.
“It is a verbal agreement, there’s nothing in writing,” these sources said.
The OPPP fielded a slate of Buddhist Monks for the elections after the Mahanayakes of the major Chapters of the faith in Sri Lanka appealed to the political parties in the run-up to the elections to desist from nominating them as candidates.
The OPPP was hastily put together under the leadership of Rathana Thero and the hard-line demagogic Gnanasara Thero. Neither won a seat as Gnanasara Thero was disqualified and Rathana Thero was defeated.
The only seat the OPPP won at the hustings was the National Seat and from the outset, there was a tussle between three Monks for the seat.
Gnanasara and Rathana both wanted it but the OPPP General Secretary Vedinigama Wimalatissa Thero wrote to the Elections Commission on August 7 nominating himself to the National List seat.
In the letter, Wimalatissa Thero had said that the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Gnanasara Thero and Rathana Thero were both claiming the seat and he was going to occupy the position until the dispute was settled.
Wimalatissa Thero then went into hiding as supporters of Rathana Thero and Gnanasara Thero looked for him as he had not received their consent to nominate himself.
Another Monk, Arambepola Ratanasara Thero, an associate of Wimalatissa, later complained to police that Gnanasara’s supporters had abducted and assaulted him seeking information about the missing General Secretary.
Later the Chairman of the OPPP Saman Perera wrote a letter to the Elections Commission saying that he had sacked Wimalatissa and appointed another General Secretary and that the party had chosen him, Perera, to be the MP.
At the time the Elections Commission sought the Attorney General’s advice on the matter and asked the disputants to settle the issue in court.
At the time Media Spokesman for the BBS Eranda Navaratne told EconomyNext that Perera was being appointed “on the understanding that he would resign and appoint Gnanasara Thero to the seat.”
Many OPPP activists campaigned during elections asking for voters to choose their party so that the BBS leader could get a seat in Parliament.
(Colombo, December 19, 2020)