ECONOMYNEXT – A section of Sri Lanka’s powerful Buddhist clergy is opposing a Constitutional Amendment proposed by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa which would have given him sweeping powers over Parliament and the Judiciary.
Two leading prelates representing two orders (Chapters) of monks told reporters that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution would “deal a death blow” to democracy in Sri Lanka.
Ven Prof Pallekande Rathanasara Thero Chief Registrar of the Amarapura Sect and Ven Aththangane Sasana Rathana Thero Chief Registrar of the Ramanna order told reporters in Colombo this afternoon that the proposed amendment will not have a balance of power between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
The statement did not include the most powerful and influential of the Chapters of Monks, the Siam Nikaya. However, Rathanasara Thero said that their intention was to get all three traditions of Monks on board
“All power will be concentrated in the Executive setting us on the path to dictatorship,” the Monks warned.
Sasana Rathana Thero said that the 19th Amendment enacted by the last Parliament brought some “balance of power between the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. This proposal gives all the power to the Executive. Approving this will be like cutting our own necks in democratic terms,” he said.
“It is the view of the various chapters of Monks who met and discussed this proposal last week that this proposal is being brought as part of someone’s personal agenda,” he added.
“We feel that as Buddhist Monks we need to safeguard democracy in this country and maintain the sovereignty of the people and the Rule of Law,” Rathanasara Thero said.
Permitting persons holding Dual Citizenship to hold political office will also destroy the independence of the country, he added.
These proposed changes, he warned will allow those in power to “pillage the wealth of the people and will legalize the misuse of state property.”
He said the people had wanted a change in the Constitution but “they did not vote for this.”
At a time we are struck by a pandemic, we should first do our best to save our people and get over this disease and thereafter all the parties can come together and draft a new Constitution, he said.
(Colombo, October 12, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana