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Religious leaders & civil society back Ven. Sobhitha’s reforms : Abolition of executive presidency, 17th Amendment priorities

Ven. Sobhitha: emerging force

Religious leaders including the Mahanayaka’s of all the Nikayas and other Mahanayakas, the Cardinal and other religious dignitaries who had been consulted have unanimously agreed that the present Constitution which is detrimental to the country should be repealed.

This was said in a statement issued by the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) seeking a righteous country, rule of law and a just society formed with the participation of Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero whose outspoken views on national, religious and social issues have found wide resonance.

The statement issued last week by the general secretary of the movement, Dr. Ranjith Cabral, said that the rule of law was declining daily and it was evident from the reactions of those who are in touch with NMSJ that the movement was developing into a powerful force of the people.The movement includes Buddhist priests, other religious leaders, politicians, trade unions, professionals and civil activists, the statement said.

It described that NMSJ as apolitical entity embracing national issues. However, it needed political leadership and the fact that the movement was entering the political mainstream more and more was a good sign, the statement said.

NMSJ has organized islandwide seminars to discuss economic and social matters, the decline of law and order and issues relating to the Executive Presidential System introduced by the 1978 Constitution in an effort to rally people around the movement and educate the masses.

NMSJ’s main task was to immediately abolish the executive presidency, replacing it with a Westminster form of government transferring power to parliament, the statwement said.

NMSJ also said it stood for the immediate reintroduction of the 17th Amendment, the abolition of the preferential voting system which was harmful to the country and the reduction of the Cabinet to 25 ministers. It sought a new Constitution, strengthening democratic features and economic structures beneficial to the country.

Accordingly a series of seminars was recently conducted in Colombo, Anuradhapura, Kuliyapitiya, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Udawalawe, Tanamalwila, Gampaha, Eppawala, Kegalle, Kandy and Galle.

They had been attended by prominent professionals and jurists and the deterioration of law and order in the country had been a focus at these discussions.

“People who participate at these seminars are happy that when these issues that affect them are discussed and solutions offered. Their unhappiness at the prevailing state of affairs is clear during the course of the discussions,” the statement said.

“Seminars are attended by the Buddhist priests, other religious dignitaries, civic activists and political representatives.”

NMSJ said that the seminars were well attended by Buddhist priests including several Mahanayakas in areas like Anuradhapura and Kuliyapitiya.

Some of the issues that emerged at the seminars included the ill-effects of executive presidential system, impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke, incidents of intolerable behaviour by elected representatives (a teacher being made to kneel before a member of a Provincial Council), the killing of a worker in Katunayake and the Weliweriya shootings, issues of press freedom including setting the Udayan printing press on fire and misdeeds of provincial and local authority members. The acts of thuggery by a DIG had also been highlighted at these discussions.

The statement said that seminars had been held during weekends at Naga Vihare Kotte attended by trade unions, civil activists, retired police officers and others.

On August 27 US Ambassador Michelle Sisson visited the Vihare with a group of embassy officials for discussions. She had expressed the view that re-introduction of the 17th Amendment would support, protect and strengthen democracy in Sri Lanka.

Several other diplomats, prominent ministers and government MPs had meet Ven. Sobhitha and given their blessings for the program of work that has been undertaken.

Cabral said that more seminars had been planned for the near future with the participation of Ven. Sobhitha Thero, politicians and jurists with the first to be held at Eppawala on September 11.
September 7, 2013,


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