Buddhist extremists hold first meeting after Easter attacks in Sri Lanka

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero (R), head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force", speaks at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic before the Buddhist monks convention in Kandy, Sri Lanka July 7. 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 July 2019

Buddhist extremists hold first meeting after Easter attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Many shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Kandy said they planned to close their establishments on Sunday for fear of violence

KANDY: Police lined the streets of the Sri Lankan highland town of Kandy on Sunday and the army was on standby as hard-line Buddhist monks gathered for their first big assembly since Easter attacks by Islamist extremists on churches and luxury hotels.
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the influential head of the Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), had called for as many as 10,000 clergymen from across the country to attend the meet.
The group said the gathering discussed who to back in the presidential elections later this year in the Indian Ocean island nation where Buddhists make up about 70 percent of the population. The rest include ethnic Tamils, who are mostly Hindus, and Muslims.
Dressed in orange, Gnanasara visited one of Buddhism’s most sacred temples in Kandy on Sunday where a relic believed to be the Buddha’s tooth is kept. Later, the hard-liner, who has faced allegations of inciting violence against Muslims, addressed the gathering.
After visiting the temple, he told reporters they would take a “historical decision” to give leadership for the development and security of the Sinhalese.
“Today, the Sinhala ethnicity, which has developed this country historically, has become very weak ... There is no leader who holds responsibility for Sinhalese,” he said adding some people were trying to sabotage the convention by spreading fears of possible riots.

FASTFACT

• There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country in recent weeks, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, in apparent reprisal for the April bombings claimed by Daesh that killed more than 250 people.

• Muslims have become fearful of a backlash, especially from hard-line groups such as the BBS that are leading the campaign against extremism.

“The army is assisting the police on security under the emergency law,” military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said, adding soldiers were on alert should trouble erupt.
There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country in recent weeks, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, in apparent reprisal for the April bombings claimed by Daesh that killed more than 250 people.
Muslims have become fearful of a backlash, especially from hard-line groups such as the BBS that are leading the campaign against extremism.
Many shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Kandy said they planned to close their establishments on Sunday for fear of violence.


Poll: Jacinda Ardern on course for New Zealand election victory

Updated 27 September 2020

Poll: Jacinda Ardern on course for New Zealand election victory

  • Support for Jacainda Ardern’s Labour Party is at to 50.1 percent
  • Should the poll findings materialize, Ardern would govern without relying on any coalition partners

SYDNEY: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to retain power at next month’s election, a widely watched poll showed on Sunday, although it said a recent COVID-19 outbreak has dented her support slightly.
A Newshub-Reid Research Poll released on Sunday showed support for Ardern’s Labour Party at to 50.1 percent, though this is down from the record 60.9 percent recorded earlier this year when New Zealand was widely lauded as a world leader in battling COVID-19.
Support for the main opposition National Party was at 29.6 percent, up 4.5 percentage points.
Should the poll findings materialize, Ardern would govern without relying on any coalition partners.
New Zealand was COVID-free for 102 days until a second wave hit Auckland last month.
Ardern became the country’s youngest leader in more than 150 years in 2017 after the kingmaker nationalist New Zealand First Party agreed to form a government with her Labour Party, ending the National Party’s decade in power.
Ardern, 40, also holds huge global appeal due to her response to last year’s attack by a white supremacist on two mosques, a fatal volcanic eruption and her success with the COVID-19 outbreak.