COLOMBO: The reported bid by a leading Sri Lankan Buddhist monk to invite the Dalai Lama to the island nation, has received flak from official as well as non-official quarters here.
“It will stir up a hornet’s nest, as it goes against Sri Lanka’s time honored ‘One China’ policy. Lankans are acutely aware of the fact that China does not like any country inviting the Dalai Lama,” said a senior official of the Lankan Foreign Ministry, requesting anonymity.
Ven.Banagala Upatissa Thero, President of the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka, had expressed his wish to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader to his country at a conference organized by the International Buddhist Confederation in New Delhi this week.
“The timing of the monk’s announcement is most inappropriate as the Lankan President is to visit China on March 26. We wonder if someone is fishing in troubled waters,” the official said.
According to another official, the move reflects India’s bid to establish “civilizational links’ with Buddhist countries to counter China’s World Fellowship of Buddhists.
The majority Sinhalese community in Lanka views China as a firm and consistent friend, always coming to the island nation’s help in times of distress. When there was a severe rice shortage in Lanka in the 1950s, China agreed to barter its rice for Lankan rubber. Later, when Western nations and India refused to sell arms to Lanka to fight the LTTE, China sold weapons. China has pumped in billions of dollars into post-war infrastructure development projects. And all this, without making any political demands or raising human rights issues, Lankans point out.
In return, Lanka has refrained from inviting the Dalai Lama. Attempts by Buddhist monks to invite him in 1999 and 2006, were shot down by governments of the day.
“The Bodu Bala Sena wanted to invite him last year but the Chinese told the Rajapaksa government that it should not allow it,” said BBS CEO, Dr.Dilanthe Withanage.
However, former Ambassador Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka said that given the pronounced pro-West leanings of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, government might allow the Lama’s visit. At any rate, the government has already alienated China by stopping its projects.