By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles

Eyewitnesses in Colombo said the Sri Lanka government used heavily armed police and security forces and road blocks to stop a peaceful protest march of Buddhist monks who wanted to hand over a memorandum to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe against the recently concluded MOU between him and the Tamil terrorists.

The National Bhikku Front was stopped on their way to the official residence of the Prime Minister , The Temple Trees, and the plain clothes policemen of the CID snatched from the hands of Buddhist monks the memorandum meant to be handed over to Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and the copies of the memorandum to be distributed among journalists, in the most disrespectful manner said Premakumara Rajapaksa, news editor of the Lakmina, a Sinhala daily printed in Colombo.

He said nearly thousand Buddhist monks wanted to march to his residence in protest of the recently signed MOU and against the government proposals to lift the proscription and hand over the Eastern and Northern provinces of the island nation to an un-elected interim council appointed by the terrorist group. Rajapaksa said one of his photographers, Rukmal Gamage was threatened of physical violence , insulted in obscene language and prevented from taking photographs by the heavily armed Special Task Force police officers who disrupted what he described as a very peaceful march. "Since it was stopped close to its starting point near the Pettah Bo tree by the police the latter part of the march could not proceed forward", Rajapaksa said.
Pix by Deeptha Leelratne-Sri Lanka Express Buddhist monks perform Sathyagraha by squatting on the road when heavily armed police stopped them from marching to the Prime Minister's residence to hand over a memorandum (picture by Deeptha leelaratne-Sri Lanka Express)


Rajapaksa said few dozens of police trucks used to transport troops were parked across the streets to prevent the Buddhist monks from marching forward. "The Police informed them that they would not be allowed to see the Prime Minister or reach his official residence. They were ordered to disperse, Rajapaksa said.

When the Buddhist monks were stopped from their demonstration and handing over their memorandum the demonstrators sat on the road and demonstrated a sathyagraha, Rajapaksa said. The sit down protest was performed for about two hours creating a serious traffic jam in the usually busy Pettah commercial district of the city of Colombo. The Hindu newspaper said the traffic was disrupted for a couple of hours . The monks dispersed peacefully thereafter.

A spokesman for a joint opposition rally to protest against the proposed lifting of the proscription of the terrorist group the LTTE, the handing over of the Northern and Eastern provinces and the MOU reached between the Prime Minister and the terrorist group scheduled today said before the rally a bigger protest demonstration is organized at the Lipton Circle, a popular place for Sri Lanka’s political demonstrations. A news broadcast by the BBC’s Sandeshaya, the Sinhala language program said journalist who tried to cover the protest march to the Prime minister’s residence were threatened and prevented of taking photographs of the event by members of the Special Task Force. "Stop taking photographs or face the consequences" STF members were quoted as saying by Buddhika Weerasinghe , a senior photo journalist. He told BBC’s Sandeshaya, " We reminded them that the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration came to power with a pledge to terminate" similar undemocratic practices of the former government.

This is the second time the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration publicly took steps to prevent the publication of news related to protests against his government’s dealings with the terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Two days ago the Prime Minister’s office brought heavy pressure on the owners of the newspapers not to publish a statement of all leading Buddhist prelates of the country protesting against the MOU signed between him and the Tamil terrorists.

Reporting from Colombo Deeptha Leelaratne of the Sri Lanka Express said, "Olcott Mawatha, near the Bo tree in Pettah became a sea of yellow as the Buddhist monks sat silently in the sweltering mid afternoon sun listening to speakers blast Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe for what some called the ‘greatest betrayal.’

"Ven. Kalawelgala Chandaloka Thero, the Secretary of the National Bhikku Front told the crowd that Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has brought Sri Lanka to the brink of destruction with the signing of the MOU with LTTE leader Prabhakaran. He urged the monks and all patriots to resist the attempts by the UNF government and the Norwegians to break up the island into several pieces. "We must protest this great betrayal" he said."
The Ranil Wickremesinghe administration used an unusually large number of heavily armed STF troops to quell a peaceful protest march of the Buddhist monks against the MOU. Seen behind is a police truck used to block the road to the Prime Minister's residence (picture by Deeptha Leelarathna-Sri Lanka Express)
Buddhist monks protest against the government's MOU picture by Deeptha Leelaratne -Sri lanka Express



Copyright © 1997-2001www.lankaweb.Com Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Reproduction In Whole Or In Part Without Express Permission is Prohibited.