One of the most senior Buddhist monks in Britain has been jailed for 7 years for a series of sexual assaults on young girls in the 1970’s.
Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana, 65, was the prelate of the Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy in Britain and founder of Croydon’s Thames Buddhist Vihara: one of the most popular community centres for the Sri Lankan Diaspora.
Somaratana was convicted earlier this month of four counts of indecent assault on a 9-year-old girl at a temple in Chiswick in 1978.
The conviction came despite the defence calling 24 character witnesses in support of the monk, who is also a close friend of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse.
Sentencing him at Isleworth Crown Court, Judge Matthews said his crimes amounted to “a betrayal of Buddhism”.
The case has caused a stir in Sri Lanka, bringing to the surface the issue of child abuse in religious establishments that many in the country acknowledge is widespread.
The country’s Children’s Affairs Minister Tissa Karaliyadda told the BBC that he is shocked and ashamed over the extent of the problem.
Somaratana however is one of the few monks to have been found guilty of abuse inside or outside Sri Lanka.
Research by the BBC Sinhala Service has revealed that more than 100 Sri Lankan Buddhist monks have been charged for sexual or physical assaults on minors in the last ten years.
Many of these cases were barely reported by the Island’s media and have seldom resulted in convictions.
– Viji Alles