Controversial Buddhist monk surrenders to court in Sri Lanka

Colombo - Controversial Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thero, wanted for hate remarks against the minority Muslim community, today surrendered to a local court here.

The monk, also the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena, was granted bail by the Colombo Fort magistrate court.

The court had issued an arrest warrant on June 15 against Gnanasara for failing to appear before it.

Gnanasara was wanted in connection with the hate attacks on Muslims and for contempt of court charges.

His surrender came as one of the powerful Buddhist sects, the Asgiriya chapter, yesterday issued an unprecedented statement attacking the government on its move to arrest Gnanasara.

The supreme council said although Gnanasara's action cannot be accepted the points he raises about threats to the majority religion in the country cannot be ignored. The government must take corrective action, the statement urged.

It said if Gananasara is to be arrested, others from religious minorities who make similar racist statements must also be arrested.

Commenting on the Asgiriya statement, the Cabinet spokesman and minister Rajitha Senaratne said the government was studying it and a response would be issued shortly.

"All are equal before the law. The police has arrested Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils for racial hate," Senaratne said.

There was diplomatic pressure on the government to arrest Gnanasara by equally applying the law.

A police spokesman, Priyantha Jayakodi, admitted that police failed to arrest Gnanasara despite a manhunt.

"It is not the same when trying to arrest a member of the clergy like when an arrest of a layman is done," he said.