23September2017

Sri Lanka's Buddhist hierarchy to serve edict on president against reforms

In an unprecedented move the topmost Buddhist leadership in Sri Lanka joined forces to vehemently oppose reforms aimed at delivering concession for the island's numerical minorities.

Leading monks representing the country's three main Buddhist sects* meeting in the central city of Kandy unanimously resolved to issue an edict on the president demanding  a halt to constitution reforms and the setting up of an office to find the country's missing thousands.

"It is unique that hitherto divided three main sects came together to serve the Sinhala, Buddhists," deputy leader of the Asgiriya chapter Anamaduwe Dhammadassi Thero proclaimed.

Power sharing

Following an islandwide consultation process the parliament is set to debate proposals for a new constitution expected to devolve power to the provinces and curtail the executive powers of the president.

The Tamil majority northern provincial council had been consistently urging the centre to devolve more power.

High priests of the Siam, Amarapura and Ramanna sects convening on Tuesday (4) who opposed further power sharing urged the government to scrap a bill to establish the Office for Missing Persons (OMP).

Communally charged

Their call was charged with communal overtones.

"Listen to the voice of majoritarian Sinhalese and Buddhists," demanded the Asgiriya Chapter leader Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero who convened the meeting.

The monks demand was unanimously adopted the day before the government was to present the bill in parliament.

The convention echoed claims made on the same day by Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the OMP was a ruse to "haul war heroes to an international war crimes court".

Chief prelate of the Amarapura sect warned the government that "none of them would keep silent," if the government goes ahead as planned.

Following the monks announcement the government shelved the OMP bill citing "technical issues".

International treatment

The government has been criticised by local and international activists for going soft on Sinhala Buddhist violence against minorities and dragging its feet on promised reforms.

However, the UN granted more time to fulfil the governments international commitments and the EU lifted a trade embargo imposed on Sri Lanka which was in place for 7 years citing government's 'failure to address human rights violations'.

The Buddhist monks have planned a march in Colombo on 6 July to deliver their edict in person to President Maithripala Sirisena.

* Sect or 'Nikāya', refers to the monastic divisions of Theravāda Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Three main divisions and numerous sub divisions were formed on the basis of caste differences.

© JDS

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