‘ Establishment of a Ministry of Christian Affairs – Unconstitutional’ Presidential Commission on the Buddha Sāsana (2002)
Posted on August 31st, 2015

 

by Senaka Weeraratna

A Commission on Unethical Conversions was established by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) in 2006 to investigate the incidence of conversion of Buddhists into other religions by illicit and unethical means. A comprehensive Report containing the findings of this Commission was released in 2009 under the title ‘Report of the Commission Appointed to Inquire and Report on the conversion of Buddhists in Sri Lanka to other Religions by immoral and fraudulent means’. An English Translation of this Report was published in 2012. Here is the web link to this Report:

http://www.acbc.lk/images/stories/pdf/chapter%202.pdf

Here are some extracts from this Report:

” On 18th July 2001 for the second time, a Buddha Sāsana Commission was appointed by Her Excellency the President. The Chairman of this Commission was Venerable Bellana Ñāṅavimala Mahā Nāyaka Thera. The members were drawn from among Buddhist monks and the laity: Venerable Varakave Dhammāloka Thera, Venerable Kotugoda Dhammāvāsa, Anu Nāyaka Thera, Mr. Olcott Gunasekera, Dr. Anula Wijesundera, Professor Mendis Rohanadheera, Mr. Nehru Gunathilaka President’s Counsel and retired Ministry Secretary P.A. Senaratne. Mr. Somaratne Kariyavasam, A retired commissioner of Buddhist Affairs was appointed Secretary to the Commission.

Page 25

  1. The core of the proposals put forward by the Buddhist Commission of 1959 appointed by the State was to bring to an end the prevailing aggression against Buddhism as well as aggression that prevailed during the British period and to nurture Buddhism back to its pristine status. A study of the mandate of the Commission of 2001 appointed to report on the same matters, makes it abundantly clear that even after the submission of such important proposals, no consideration whatsoever had been given to

them. It is a matter of regret that the Buddhist community has been treated with such disdain. This amply reflects the invisible hand of local and foreign religious fundamentalists.

  1. A synopsis of the conclusions and recommendations of the Buddha
    Sāsana Presidential Commission– 2002, was presented under the following Chapters:

Chapter 1 Buddha Sāsana

Chapter 2 Buddha Sāsana and the Sri Lanka State (Church and State in Sri Lanka)

Chapter 3 Prevailing Status of the Buddha Sāsana

Chapter 4 The Bhikku

Chapter 5 Sacred Places of Buddhist Worship and Properties Belonging (donated) to the Sasana

Chapter 6 Buddhist Sacred Objects and Antiquities

Chapter 7 Dasa Sil Mātā

Chapter 8 Leading the Lay Buddhist Community to the Righteous Path

Chapter 9 Conversion of Buddhists to Other Religions

  1. A National Advisory Conference was convened by the State to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of 2002, on the Buddha Sāsana.

This Conference was held from 13th to 19th December 2004 at the Sri

Lanka Foundation Institute. Seven sessions were conducted barring the

Introductory and the Concluding Sessions. During the first session, Section 9 of the Constitution was subject to scrutiny. The second session was on the Community of Bhikkus, third on Unethical Conversions (or the spread of religions by methods lacking approbation), fourth on Vihāragam

and Devālagam (Buddhist Temporalities), fifth on the Preservation of Buddhist Monuments, sixth on disciplining the Media seventh on Social Reform and eighth on Dasa Sil Mātā

Each session was chaired in serial order by Mr. Douglas Premaratne, President’s Counsel, Venerable Dr. Yatagama Dhammapala Nāyaka Thera, Most Venerable Bellana Gnāñavimala Thera,

Page 27
” It is the constitutional responsibility of the State and the Executive to give Buddhism the foremost place and to protect and foster the Buddha Sāsana, while treating all other religions as equal.

A constitutional responsibility to do so has not been assigned to the State.

Therefore, establishing Ministries for other Religions is a case of vicariously violating in the breach, the assignment of the foremost place to Buddhism and thus placing Buddhism on an equal level with other Religions. What is stated in the Constitution is that Buddhism shall be given the foremost place and that the State shall protect and foster the Buddha Sāsana. It was with the intention of taking administrative and constitutional courses of action, that the Buddha Sāsana Ministry was established. This should be in accordance with the Constitution. But let alone giving the foremost place, it is our opinion that the establishment of a Ministry of Religious Affairs; thus placing Buddhism on an equal level with other Religions is an unconstitutional act.

  1. With the assassination of His Excellency R. Premadasa, President, of Sri Lanka in 1992, the enthusiasm regarding the Buddha Sāsana Act also faded away. Later, the Ministry of Buddha Sāsana was abolished and as stated earlier, only a Ministry of Religious Affairs for all Religions was established”.

Pages 24 – 25 of the Buddha Sasana Commission Report

” The extent to which Buddhists have been rendered a laughing stock becomes evident when a study is made of the first of the objectives declared to be the principal ones when the Ministry of Religious Affairs was established in 2005.
It is as follows:

In as much as the Constitution provides for the protection and fostering of the Buddha Sasana and for the development of an economy based on Buddhist values so shall all religions be treated with equality and a society be built where all religious and ethnic groups could live safely.”

  1. The declaration of the Ministry of Religious Affairs that its mandate is to treat all religions with equality sets aside the foremost place assigned to Buddhism as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

    Such declaration constitutes an outright breach of the Constitution. Although all Religions shall be guaranteed their constitutional freedom and rights, such guarantee shall be subject to the responsibility of the State to ensure the foremost place to Buddhism.

All religionists shall obtain a clear understanding of this legal and

constitutional position. The opinion of our Commission too, is that the singular aspiration of all Buddhists as well, is the existence of a society where all religious and ethnic groups could live together in harmony. However, this Commission stands together in its conclusion that Buddhists at large shall converge in an organized and non-violent manner, in order to take concrete steps to rise against the invasive chain of action currently adopted by fundamentalist converters, resolute upon achieving a malicious and vicious objective.

  1. Recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of 1959 imply that there was no serious problem of Conversions at the time the Commission was appointed. What was included therein was that a full examination of the powers and activities of religious and charitable

institutions shall be made immediately and that a recommendation to the effect that the state shall forthwith promulgate new laws pertaining to such institutions.

The results and effects of the fact that successive governments treated this recommendation with utter contempt, is best reflected in the inclusion of the conversion of Buddhists among the terms of reference of the

Buddhist Commission of 2002

  1. The Report of this Commission makes it clear that there was a movement at that time to convert traditional Buddhists to various religions, especially to Christianity. That too, mainly to lure them into fundamentalist groups. With the open economy in place from 1978, various international aid groups which arrived in Sri Lanka in the guise of non-governmental aid organizations, exerted various influences detrimental to the country in the religious, cultural and national spheres. This is a fact that Buddhists as well as Non-Buddhists accept unreservedly. A host of projects with an influx of capital in an open economy were implemented. These projects created a convenient channel for the influx of  a mass of wealth into the country.

    Drawing well upon their experiences in other countries, these International religious groups took action to establish branches of their organizations in Sri Lanka. There was no concern at all to ascertain the source of income of such local organizations. Although from 1959, influential groups of laymen and Buddhist religious organizations led by the Buddhist Commission warned against such investments by Christian religious institutions, neither the majority of the Buddhist community nor the Government paid any attention. Such warnings got submerged during a period

of time when the Buddhist community was divided or disunited both

organizationally and politically. International as well as local religious

organizations made maximum capital out of this situation, by investing money copiously within the country. The Report of the Presidential Commission of 2002 has made it clear that these organizations by providing financial assistance to them took steps to convert the Buddhist community that was falling day by day into economic decline.

They approached the rural areas with caution. It was not all at once that they made their inroads into such areas. Initially they engaged themselves in bringing the basic community services in our society under their grip and thereafter subjected them to their total control. Priority was given to training servile followers in the field with the mass media. With the take-over of schools in 1961, the Christian religious leaders sensing a possible

upcoming challenge to them, successfully inveigled themselves into this field which could exert influence over the general public. A successful attempt was made to bring up a generation of media persons that would support their assertions and aversions, by putting them through various training courses. Its success was such that by 1977 they were able, to achieve success in their endeavors. Their prime aim was to regain the social sovereignty that they had lost owing to a multi-faceted socialist economy.

By such manipulation of the mass media, a process was launched to conceal the proud history of the Buddhist and to wean them away from their cultural heritage and values to a great extent. They ensured that much of the newsworthy Buddhist information was not reported while Buddhist news unworthy of reporting were distorted.

These media persons thereafter adopted numerous lines of action to destroy or dilute the historical bondage between the Nation and the Buddhists (between State and Church). International institutions which manipulated them provided large scale financial aid and support to

this exercise. Thereafter, these international organizations took steps to

create a dependent society, to sustain by such aid and support. It is seen that to formulate their actions in this country these international organizations made maximum use of their experiences in

other countries.

Their next step was to penetrate into the village with the patronage and blessings of the State, which they had gained by shrewd stratagem. It is because the Government had no funding facilities to perform development and welfare functions, which legitimately are the responsibility of

the State, that all Governments extended their co-operation in such a

shortsighted manner. It is not that the periodic state leadership was blind to the shrewd designs of these non-governmental organizations. By this time such leadership had been fully baited by the lure of filthy lucre. The political as well as the Buddhist leadership of Sri Lanka was silenced by the provision of various perquisites, trips abroad and gifts of

properties in foreign lands. A malicious movement calculated to silence certain Buddhist leaders who rose against this was launched by media persons and subjugated by such non-Buddhist, non- governmental organizations. They were able to prevent keeping the general

public informed, of such views and opinions of powerful Buddhists when

expressed. At the bottom of all this were religious organizations, Christian or of Christian origin. Even though many Buddhists were in the midst of various economic difficulties and could barely make ends meet, they did have some understanding of this situation; but they were in a helpless position unable to say or do anything. This situation turned acute after a Government, which gave every encouragement to these international organizations to carry out their agenda, came into power in 2002.

Hitherto, what all Governments had done was to establish a Ministry of Buddha Sāsana. This was in order to fulfill the legal responsibility cast upon the State by the Constitution, to give to Buddhism the foremost place” and to protect and foster the Buddha Sāsana …”.

Until then there were only Departments of Hindu/ Christian / Muslim Affairs. What happened in 2002 with regard to religious affairs was the appointment of a Minister each for the Christian, Muslim and Hindu religions. The Minister in charge of Christian Affairs was concurrently appointed to the post of Minister in charge of internal Security. By this a catholic politician was appointed as head of internal security of the nation.

This was a stroke of shrewd strategy. From then, through the exercise of the associate powers of the Ministry of Internal Security, the civil Police force was subjected to various pressures with regard to issues related to Buddhists. Certain protests made by Buddhists were suppressed

on the pretext of resorting to regulations purported to violating the civil laws. The purpose to suppress such protests was to plant Christian Churches and Prayer Centres conducted by Christians in areas with a majority of Buddhists or with a 100% Buddhist population. On

certain occasions even the land upon which such Churches were built had been provided by the Government. On other occasions such provision was made by deceitful means. On perceiving the efforts to build Churches on these lands some agitation was caused by Buddhists. The Minister in charge of Internal Security ordered the suppression of these agitation treating it as his responsibility to do so on the pretext of maintaining law and order and basing himself upon the wrong premise that the

Constitution provides for all religions to enjoy equal rights. And this despite the special provision in the constitution with regard to Buddhism.

There are records of instances, both written and verbal, where such instructions were issued. In addition, this Minister ensured that Christmas of 2002 was celebrated on a very grand scale by issuing instructions at

ministerial level to various business persons that they should illuminate their business premises and the surrounding area, irrespective of their religion. There is evidence to show that some officers of the Police Department, with the intention of securing their own personal ends, carried out in toto the instructions given in the name of the Minister by his henchmen.

Accordingly, Buddhists were reduced to living a life of psychological insecurity. These undue pressures justifiably sparked off feelings

of helplessness among Buddhists. What especially caused this was the fact that the Mahā Sangha and Buddhist organizations who should take action on behalf of the Buddhists continued to remain silent. Although a few Buddhist monks and a few Buddhist organizations tried to give leadership to the Buddhist agitations, they failed to whip up a strong collective force.

These non-Buddhist organizations made a scapegoat of the ethnic issue prevailing in the land, to reap maximum benefit and were sufficiently vicious as to brand the Buddhist leadership that was bold enough to speak up on behalf of the rights of Buddhism, as racists and religionists.”

Pages 30 – 33 of the Buddha Sasana Commission Report

For More

Please visit the following web link

http://www.acbc.lk/images/stories/pdf/chapter%202.pdf

 

Senaka Weeraratna

2 Responses to “‘ Establishment of a Ministry of Christian Affairs – Unconstitutional’ Presidential Commission on the Buddha Sāsana (2002)”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    My dear Senaka Weeraratna,

    If an act is constitutional or unconstitutional is decided by the SUPREME COURT.
    NOT by a presidential commission appointed by CBK.

    The SUPREME COURT has NOT decided that establishment of a Ministry of Christian Affairs is unconstitutional. Therefore it is constitutional.

    Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was the minister of christian affairs in the MR govt. until LTTE killed him in 2008.

    We also need ministries of Hindu, Islamic and other religious affairs. Ministry of Buddha Sasana generally rests with the president.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Facebook LORENZO the TREACHEROUS HYPOCRITE screams that 13A should be REPEALED while he UNDERMINED and HELPED to OUST the one man ….. President Mahinda Rajapaksa …. who led the Patriotic Forces that could DO IT!

    Such is the DEVIOUS NATURE of this EELAMIST AGITATOR!

    LORENZO KNOWS VERY WELL that REPEALING the 13A is now BEYOND REACH, now that the Yamapalanaya GoSL led by the man Somarama Sirisena that he helped to ride into the Presidency!

    So, LORENZO WRAPS himself in the Lion Flag YELLING “REPEAL the 13th Amendment” and “I am the ONLY ONE who DEMANDS it”, knowing VERY WELL WHAT the rest of us PATRIOTS have long ago realized: that although we Patriots too want the 13A to be REPEALED, that is achievable only with a PATRIOTIC PRESIDENT and a PATRIOTIC POLITICAL PARTY in POWER, which this TREACHEROUS EELAMIST Facebook Lorenzo HELPED TO OUST in his QUEST for his EELAM!

    WHO AMONG the Patriots STILL FAILS TO REALIZE this MACHIAVELLIAN STRATEGY of this REPROBATE Facebook LORENZO desperately seeking to stitch together his tattered “Patritic” sheepskin under which he hopes to engage in more MISCHIEF? Hello …. Any Gullible Lorenzo Fans STILL out there among the Patriots?? Helloooo …….??

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2018 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress