This section will assess the issues arising out
of the disappearance of several members of the Buddhist clergy in
the three Provinces.
1 The Commission is
of the opinion that the impact of the disappearance of Buddhist
monks merit special discussion for two reasons: that of placing
the Buddhist clergy within the situation which arose during the
period under the scrutiny of the Commission and to assess the
impact of the disappearance of members of this clergy on society.
Where do they belong?
Persons ordered as Buddhist monks are
placed in a special situation in the community. By the
ordination, they leave their community of family and friends
and join the community of Buddhist monks. Thus, at one level
they no longer belong to their family.
This Commission concludes from the evidence
before it that in practice, many monks belonged to both the
community of monks and their original community of friends
and colleagues. The traditional training of the clergy which
was restricted to special institutions has changed and the
clergy now access education and employment in multi cultural
institution. Not only did this create a different awareness
within the clergy but also this was the opportunity for
interaction between the clergy and the community at a
completely different level from the historic role played by
What do they do?
A monk has to do so much
He was killed while going to perform his duty
He blessed someone who was about to start his election
He chanted Pirith one hundred thousand times for peace
He was politically active and participated in the
demonstrations against the Indo-Lanka Accord.
Traditionally and by vocation the clergy were
expected to perform the dual function of religious leadership and
service to the general community. The clergy has also been
increasingly involved in political activity. Rev. Walpola Rahula,
in his treatise in Sinhala on "The Heritage of the
Bhikku" (Bhikshuwagey Urumaya) states:
We believe that every activity of benefit
to mankind today belongs to politics. Everyone accepts that
it is the duty of a Bhikku to develop the religion. The
development of religion in a country depends on the
development of its citizens...Thus, it is suitable that a
bhikku engages in activity geared towards the advancement of
the citizens without taking into consideration that the
activity is political or not, provided that such activity
does not contradict the way of life of a Bhukku.
However the increasing politicisation of
violence in the period under review, had reduced the space
available for non-violent means of engaging in democratic
political activity, thus giving rise to several new means of
resistance to the dominant political culture of this period.
Manawa Hithawadee Bhikku Peramuna and
The Vinivida Magazine
Monks who were of the opinion that the clergy
needed to respond as an organisational collective to the threat
posed, had organised themselves into the Manawa Hithawaadee
Bhikku Peramuna to raise the voice of the monks on these issues.
Though this organisation like many others was influenced by the
prevalent anti-government sentiments and may have had a leaning
towards the JVP there is no evidence to show that it was involved
as an organisation in activity. The Manawa Hithawadee Bhikku
Peramuna published for a short period a magazine named Vinividha.
The founding Secretary Rev. Pitawela Dharmakirthi, 46 years old
and a teacher by profession, had been arrested on 20.08.89. and
has since disappeared.
Profile of the Disappeared Monks
98 disappearances or killings of monks were
established before the Commission.
less than 25 years
between 29 & 35
The Commission draws attention to the relative
high proportion of monks who had received at least secondary
48% of the incidents reported to the Commission
were solely by the families of the monks who had disappeared. In
some incidents, the temples that the disappeared person belonged
to were reluctant to provide any information whatsoever about the
In 27% of the incidents, both the temple
concerned and the families of the disappeared persons
participated at various levels to ascertain the whereabouts of
the disappeared persons, to report the disappearance to the
authorities concerned and to follow it up to the time of giving
evidence before the Commission.
In 25% of the incidents, only the temples
followed up the incident. In some cases the families of
disappeared persons were unable to provide much information to
the Commission. Some members of the families had died since the
incident and in other the families did not seem interested in
following up the cases at all.
In almost 50% of the incidents, witnesses
included lay persons including friends, colleagues and
These statistics are an indication to the
Commission of the relationships maintained by the clergy with the
various communities to which they belonged.
How did these Incidents Take Place
4.98% of the incidents were at subversive hands. In over 50%
the perpetrators were agents of the state. In the remaining 45%
the Commission was not able to identify the category of
perpetrators involved on the evidence available. However, there
were no allegations against personal enemies in cases of
disappearance of members of the clergy.
The reason for my son's disappearance was
his apparent opposition to the Peace Accord. Is this fair? My
son was only 17 at the time that the Accord was signed.
I did not complain to the police - I have a
son at home.
Law had turned to unlaw at that time.
The Commission notes that the pattern of the establishment of
the climate of impunity as described in Chapter Six was apparent
in the evidence of the petitioners in these cases as well. The
evidence before the Commission shows that the arrival of
arresting authorities in vehicles without number plates at any
time of the day and night, the breaking down of doors and
forcible entry, intimidation and assault in public or in the
temple or even on the highway, were common occurrences in respect
of monks as well.
3. Political Opposition to the governing
There is evidence that some monks were arrested because of
their political opposition to the governing party at that time.
As a witness stated in connection with the abduction of a monk
from Abhinawaramaya, Papiliyawela. "His SLFP membership was
the cause of his abduction".
Abductions during curfew hours were clearly
with official authority. Vehicles without registration numbers
were used in some incidents. The abduction from Jayasumnaramaya
of Mount Lavinia is one such instance. An instance where Bhikkus
and attendants of Sri Jinaraja Viharaya, Veyangoda in Gampaha
District were shot and their bodies left at the foot of the Bo
Tree by armed persons who came in heavy vehicles in the curfew
hours is another.
Evidence was given to the Commission of
instances of lay-people as well as Bhikkus who had implicated
other Bhikkus in order to obtain the custodianship of the temple
4. Activities of the JVP
There is evidence of monks who were opposed to the JVP and
held other political views being assassinated. Ven.
Pohoddaramulla Pemaloka, Chief Adviser of the Sri Lanka Mahajana
Party, and Ven. Kotikawatte Suddhatissa are two examples. Reports
were received that in some areas of the South monks were shot in
the mouth for preaching Bana at the traditional memorial ceremony
for those killed by the JVP.
Impact of the Disappearance
This Commission has already made a detailed analysis of the
impact of disappearances on the community in Chapter Twelve and
shall only outline some special issues related to the clergy at
1. Disjunction between Communities
No one connected with the temple took any
interest regarding this abduction.
I spent 14 years, the best part of my life,
in the temple, why do they not care any more?
We don't even know where his family is any
more, he was with us since he was ten years old.
The Commission notes that it was only in
respect of 27% of the incidents that the clergy and the laity
acted together in respect of following up the disappearances. In
all the other ceses, only one group was interested in following
up the incidents although the Commission took steps to notify all
parties of the complaints made to it.
2. The failure of the traditional
organisational structures of Buddhist monks to respond to the
Many witnesses reported to the Commission that the
traditional organisational structure of Buddhist monks - Nikayas,
Sanga Sabha etc. did not have structures for the entertainment of
complaints or for interventions in incidents of abduction and
disappearance of member-monks. The teacher-pupil relationship
arising between the abducted monk and the senior monk who
inducted him in to the order had mainly failed to respond to this
new crisis situation.
3. The Clergy at Risk
So many young priests gave up robes because
of the situation during this period.
Several of the lay witnesses who gave evidence
before the Commission were monks who had disrobed since the
incident described by them. The evidence before the Commission of
some Viharadhipathi's perception was that they were an
increasingly vulnerable groups of person. Their dress and manner
set them apart, easy to identify, but at the same time, the
identification was often very skewed by their robes.
The destruction of a clever priest like
this with a brilliant future is a loss to the country and to
This temple was built at the request of the villagers,
despite immense obstacles. He is the one who was always
working. No there is no one to ensure its continuance after
Almost all the priests whose
disappearance/killing was reported to the Commission were persons
who were outstanding in the temple and/or the area they came
from. Many had been involved in political activity at various
levels and were often identified as dynamic personalities on whom
many persons and ideologies depended.
He was ten years old when he came to me. I
am constantly pained by his loss. By looking for him, I now
am ill - physically and mentally - his mother is also ill.
This Commission notes that both members of the
clergy as well as the family are deeply grieved by these
Loss of Support
All my other children are unemployed - only
this son could help.
Please find him - if he is not there, find suitable
employment for my other children
The temple is not the same without him - he did so much.
The Commission notes that many of the
disappeared monks whilst being within the temple, continued to
support their families as well.
His mother is 75, Please help her - someone
will help us.
This Commission recommends that the
compensation payable in respect of a disappearance of a monk
should be payable to the family.
The Persons reported to have disappeared were all members of the
This monk was killed on his way to an almsgiving for a supporter
of the United National Party who had been himself killed,
allegedly by subversives.
Letter to the family from a monk who was in detention at the time
that the letter was written and has subsequently disappeared.
Posted on 1999-01-01