Fake video and lies: The strange case of Dambulla’s Inamaluwe Sumangala thero

The Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, one of the key figures in the on-going tensions in Dambulla over the presence of a mosque and kovil near his Temple, perhaps in response to the public outcry against the violence instigated by him, has told the BBC that TV footage that showed monks engaged in violence – including one monk disrobing and exposing himself to the mosque – were fake.

The Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero told BBC Sandeshaya that he only led a ‘peaceful and democratic protest against illegal constructions’.

He maintained that no violence was used.

“Videos that portrayed the protest as violent were technically manipulated,” said the Mahanayaka thero who also heads a media outlet.

Let us for the sake of argument not disbelieve or dismiss what Inamaluwe Sumangala thero says. Musāvāda veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi, or refraining from incorrect or false speech, is after all one of the five Noble Precepts. Let us believe that TV broadcasts of the violent mob were doctored.

There is however, a slight problem. Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero is the Director General of the private radio station Rangiri Radio.

Rangiri Radio also has a Facebook fan page. As it notes, “Rangiri Sri Lanka is a radio channel that has been inaugurated with the intention of promoting the Buddhist cultural values and development of personality including aeasthetics values.”

On both the homepage of the Rangiri Radio website, and prominently, at the time of writing, on the Facebook page of Rangiri Radio, the following video appears. The well crafted introduction and end credits suggest that this is a professional production, featured on Rangiri Radio with the awareness if not also the blessings of Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, who also appears in it.

If one glosses over the racist chants, the video footage fully supports Inamaluwe Sumangala thero’s submissions that he only led a peaceful and democratic protest. Up until, that is, around a minute and twenty seconds into the video. 1.27 to around 2.20 showcase the most violent moments of the mob, where you don’t need to understand the derogatory, racist expressions in Sinhala to observe just how far the monks and the mob are from being peaceful, democratic or indeed, Buddhist in expression and behaviour.

In light of the divide between Inamaluwe Sumangala thero’s submission to the BBC and what really was said and done, we wonder if there is a more righteous sangha in Sri Lanka or abroad who can urgently remind the monks in Dambulla about the first and fourth Noble Precepts in particular?

  • Bongsy

    I feel we should remember these “monks” from back then who are only monks based on what they wear, and not forget that if this is how it used to be, what it can be like today. This is not an attack on Buddhism, I am a Buddhist and practice to my best ability. I just don’t like to see Buddhism tarnished by “monks” like these.

    Mapitigama Buddharakkitha (1921?1967) was the chief conspirator of the assassination of fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka), S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.[1] He served as the chief incumbent (chief priest) of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka from 1947 to 1959.

    Buddharakkitha played an important role in bringing S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike to power in 1956 parliamentay elections. He was the driving force behind the Eksath Bhikku Peramuna or the United Bhikku Front. He has been described as a virtual kingmaker at that time.[3] Later, he attributed Bandaranaike’s failure to aggressively pursue the nationalist reforms as the sole motive to assassinate him. But it was revealed that the real motive for the assassination came as a result of the Prime Minister’s refusal to award business deals, in particular, a government contract for the construction of a sugar factory and government concessions for a shipping company he planned to set up.[4] Talduwe Somarama, another Buddhist monk killed Bandaranaike on September 25, 1959, under the direction of Buddharakkitha.

    Buddharakkitha’s various notorious acts only surfaced after he was convicted. He was described as a rich businessman who was involved in various high profile businesses. Buddharakkitha routinely consumed whisky, which was an offense for a buddhist monk. He allegedly had a sexual relationship with Wimala Wijewardene MP, Minister of Health and the only woman member of the Bandaranaike’s Cabinet in 1959.[1] Wimala Wijewardene was the sister of D. R. Wijewardena and the widow of Don Charles Wijewardene, author of The Revolt in the Temple. She was also an aunt of Ranil Wickremasinghe, the current Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament.

  • veedhur

    GV,

    I think it is useful to understand Sumangala Thera’s past too.

    You would be surprised to know that Asgiriya Nikaya did not want to recognize the Dambulla sect lead by Inamaluwe Sumangala for some time. Even now they only do it grudgingly, if I am to believe what one of my learned friend in the robes says.

    The tussle between Sumangala Thera (who wanted to break from the tradition of ordination based on caste and was successful) and Asgiriya hierarchy (who wanted to maintain that) was a time when ‘Ape Hamuduruwo’ was hailed as a trail blazing buddhist monk. I think what he has achieved in that regard is significant and progressive (whatever the motives were).

    Sumangala Thero was for some time the darling of the civil society (at least sections of them) during the early nineties when he led the campaign against Aitken Spences Kandalama Hotel. One of the mosque people has stated that he even invited them to the grand satyagraha he held in protest way back in 1992.

    How times have changed! It is worth studying the phenomena in detail.

  • Ethnichybrid

    These monks need some meditation in their life! They are obviously not buddhist monks at all. I do not believe a genuine buddhist monk will act in this manner. I think there should be a committee that disrobes Buddhist monks that act in a manner disrespectful to the philosophy of Buddhism. If that were to happen, we would only have a fraction of Buddhist monks left. It is sad to see Sri Lanka which has benefitted from a multi religious, multi ethnic population for centuries be well on its way to becoming an intolerant society. It is up to us Sri Lankans to stop the rot. Let us speak out against this kind of behaviour and outrage before it is too late.

  • Siri Perera

    It is time for the people to act & respond wisely. Why do we patronise these goons ? On what basis do we consider that we can aquire merit by feeding these thugs in yellow robe. What have they got to give us?? After a person’s death we give dane to these thugs !! can these fellows change the destination of the dead?? It is time for the so called educated and the wise men of this country to realise that the general public is taken for a ride by these yellow robed monks(ies !).
    What we need is the propogation of the dhamma and not buildings.Protecting the sasane does not means feeding these fellows. If we preach and practice the noble truth the Dhamma , the sasane will be automatically protected.
    Think twice before you bow your head or your knees to these guys. If you say you’re worshiping the robe and not the man, then lets keep a robe on a chair and worship the robe. Think a moment.

  • Rohan

    The silence of Ven Mahanayakes is deafening!!!

    • Not-A-Rajapaksa

      Rohan:
      How true.

      However, be patient because my bet is that they are awaiting specific direction from those who are expert in claiming that video evidence of atrocities is faked and they can probably recommend a couple of “experts” from Singapore and Australia to “prove” their claim. However, these “experts” and their academically-inclined pals (like Dr. Michael Roberts) might require compensation that goes beyond the ‘atapirikara!’
      In any event, there will be never ending denial culpability (Remember Richard Nixon and his admonition to all his pals: “Deny, deny, deny.”

      Welcome to the Pearl of the Orient1

  • Anurasiri

    It’s a shame what Buddhist are doing in my country. As we all know how kind is the Lord Al Mighty ( pbuh ) the followers of him ( PBUH ) either Alla or Jesus’s (pbuh ) father The Lord Al Mighty ( pbuh ) should be supported the same way our government is spending our tax money on schools, hospitals or roads. The most important our religious leaders should be given a pension when they retire from the holy religious work. It’s our obligation to show the correct path to our children and the other who are following wrong paths due to misunderstanding and convert them to our religion which is the only way to heaven and gain eternal salvation . It’s not blind leading the blind. I’m deeply worry how God (pbuh) see this from heaven and think about us. We as a small nation could unite and leave our differences and pray to him three times in three different places. For a example morning we can pray at the mosque. And after lunch we can pray for him in the Kovil and night we can pray to him at a temple. How nice. What you guys think?

  • Richard

    Why the president is silent? Is it because he too a Buddhist?

  • Keynes!

    As this comments goes to post, I find it disappointing to note the dearth of secular analysis to make sense of this Theravada Terror.

    Even Groundviews has fallen into the Theravada Trap and is deceiving itself by calling for supra-rational powers to make a divine intervention. The first and fourth Noble Precepts were created by the Sangha, the very same people who are in action in Dambulla. What GV is doing is akin to Riza Yehiya’s attempt to curry favour with the Rajapakse Regime by insinuating that an external hidden hand is behind this. GV’s action may be well-meaning, but it also serves to brush things under the carpet.

    It may be better to try to understand the actions of the Sangha through ethics and secular discourse than through recourse to the Dhamma, which after all is the sayings of the Sangha and not the Buddha.

    Religious fundamentalism is not the problem. It is religion that is the problem.

    I wish GV and everyone well in their attempts to solve this problem. I also hope that my words do not denigrate anyone but that it will act to empower them.

    I will leave you with some words from Michael J Perry in Religion in Politics: Constitutional and Moral Perspectives.

    “So long as there is no persuasive secular argument, that supports the conclusion about the requirements of human well-being reached by a religious argument of the kind in question, the religious argument is problematic…

    any religious argument about the requirements of human well-being should be a highly suspect basis of political choice if no persuasive secular argument reaches the same conclusion about the requirements of human well-being as the religious argument”

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      Think you’re tripping on your own words. We have called on the sangha to respond to the monks comment, not any pantheon of gods. The Chief Prelate, by virtue of being a Buddhist monk, has to live by the five Noble Precepts. We know of not a single monk who denounces them, or ever has. We have thus flagged a significant disconnect and indeed, hypocrisy, within the Chief Prelate’s own value system.

      Further, rather than brush things under the carpet, some of the most interesting content around Dambulla are on this site.

      • Keynes!

        “some of the most interesting content around Dambulla are on this site.”

        Agreed.

  • seatog

    Racist indian opposit Party BJP was in lanka recently.why do our guys invite such a party leaders to our motherland !

  • Hasantha Gunaweera

    ARE THESE MONKS BUDDHIST??

    • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

      @Hasantha Gunaweera

      During Buddhism’s 2,500 year history, several thriving sects have emerged. They are Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism,Zen Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhism. The monks/punks who vandalised the mosque in Dambulla are no doubt Sinhala Buddhists. :)

  • Unknown Citizen

    reading the comments on this issue on the different websites that cover it, it’s interesting to see the grievances against muslims that people are raising. at least we’re being honest about what we feel. we could perhaps use this to start a conversation with the community, which will help us understand and respect them better, instead of just letting it fester and turn into hatred.

    • Not-A-Rajapaksa

      Unknown Citizen:
      While your suggestion is, perhaps, laudable, I think one should be aware of the dangers inherent in this kind of response: that it gives credibility to all kinds of racist stereotyping of a minority, something that has already begun judging by the abuse from the “demonstrators” on the soundtrack of the video.

      This is simply a case of xenophobia and racism gone wild, with the encouragement of those in authority. Simply put, that is the reality and it should be dealt with in terms of criminal law.

      The tragedy, though, is that it won’t happen because those handling the levers of absolute power are the ones who created this situation and will create more as the days go by as a smokescreen and diversion for their robbery of the national treasury.

  • http://www.lentilasanything.com Fernando Anthony

    Dear ethnichybrid
    Why should the monks be disrobed, when it is clear that they are perfectly capable of disrobing themselves!!

    • Reggae Rat

      Maybe the president can take a leaf from the venerable monk’s dossier and go to the geneva convention and raise his sarong? [Edited out – Hilarious, but too risqué for this forum!]

  • tuan burpy

    I commend the efforts of the armed forces who did an excellent job (“police included”) by stopping the goons from bringing the mosque down. Kudos!

  • Rohini

    Lumpen fascist thugs are still lumpen fascist thugs, even when they wear the robes of Buddhist monks. This trend should be resisted not only because it is an assault on minorities, but also because it is an assault on democracy.

    • Not-A-Rajapaksa

      Rohini and Presidunce Bean:
      You are so right!

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    A week ago, a violent a mob of about 2,000 Sinhalese, including a group of Buddhist monks led by the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, stormed and vandalised a mosque in Dambulla. The mosque was declared an illegal structure, but it is unclear how this far this is accurate.

    The shameful behaviour and expression employed by the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, along with the monks he led and the crowd of thugs is not remotely associated with or reflective of the philosophy of the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha, or the way in which a Buddhist monk is supposed to behave and speak. Many online have already expressed their dismay and deep concern over the actions of a few, placing Sri Lanka in the media spotlight again for all the wrong reasons.

    We have a choice, but time is running out. Speak up. Put your name in a comment below and say that this violence was not in your name, and that more calls to violence are futile. Renounce a fringe lunacy and resist extremism. By putting your name below, you are opposing mob violence and bigotry as ways to resolve disputes.

    If we have to fight, let’s fight to keep Sri Lanka free of extremists who threaten not only what they seek to destroy, but also who and what they claim to represent. Add your name below, and please pass the message on.

    Read and sign up today – http://notinournamesl.wordpress.com/

  • Amal Perera

    You will see this monk is destroying Buddhism. I have no respect for these monks any more. He should know how to talk to people first. This is not a way for this billionaire thug monk to talk to anyone. Especially for a female. I think we all Sri Lankans should stand up for this monks behavior. Most Buddhist are brain wash in Sri Lanka by these billionaire monks. This is an insult for Buddhism and for Lord Buddha.
    Maligawa tusker “RAJA” carrying the golden casket bearing the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha at the world famous Esala Peraherawas donated by a Muslim named Umma Lebbe Pannikkar in 1925. He was a prominent Muslim devotee from Erreur, Baticlore District in Sri Lanka. As of his services to the Maligawa and Buddhist people the Government of Sri Lanka put his picture on the 1000 rupee green currency note issued by the Sri Lanka centrel Bank with the tusker Raja. Mohideed Beg hajier was one of the first people to sing “Budu Guna” songs in Sri Lanka. Even at the last pooya I was told that the most temples in Sri Lanka (Dambulla temple too) was playing Mohideen Beg’s “Buddan Saranam Gachchami” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z08DMBF5R4 Song itself give a idea of real Buddhism.
    Gangaramaya Seemamalakaya was renovated in late 70 s by Musajees family by spending millions of rupees. When you go to Katharagama, You will see Kovil, Mosque and Buddhist temple in the same premises within 300 meters. We had a 30 year war with LTTE and now we are trying to stand as one nation and what kind of stupid thing is this Dambulla monks are doing. Buddhism originated from India. (Ancient Dambadiva) Last year I went with some of my Nepalese and Indian friends to worship Dalada Maligawa and Dambulla temple. They were very fair and look like Italians and they were holding American Passports. Therefore at the entrance to Dambulla temple, Indian and Nepalese nationals were charged on tourist rates US $.15.00 each and Dalada Maligawa was US 10.00. each (These charges are excluded of the cultural Triangle charges) Indian friend said that they asked me why should they pay as they are from India and Lord Buddha is originally from India and he was born in present Nepal. (Former Dambadiva)
    I still remember when I went on a tourist visit to Vatican in 2006, I met pope and also chat with 2 cardinals but I was never charged anything. Does a Muslim temple charge any entrance fee? “NO” Lord Buddha has taught, people should respect others and there believings. This was the same thing with our ancient kings. When they had Indian brides, the Kings allowed them to bring there religions (Hindu Kovil) and worship places with them. That’s how all temples have Kovila inside the temples. Unfortunately we didn’t had any King who got marry to a Muslim or Catholic bride. Otherwise we would have a church and a mosque also inside the temples.
    As a very religious real Buddhist I condemn of this brutal harassment and destroying of this mosque by this monk and his brain washed radicals. This mosque had been there for more than 50 years. If they wanted to remove this mosque, they should have done it in a sensible way or judicial manner. I have also heard that some protest participants were drunk by a very trustworthy government official from Dambulla. This priest should apologize to the world for doing such wrong doings and insulting the lord Buddha. Always remember: During lord Buddha’s time there was a monk name Ajasattha who was trying to destroy the real Buddhism. Now a days there are so many Ajasattha’s in Sri Lanka.

  • Jamal

    Some time back there was a joke in an Indian magazine. One man asking another,

    “What? this much of atrocities on the land of Buddha? what happened to Buddha?”
    Reply from the other,

    “Long ago Buddha left Lanka as a refugee”