Abandoning the Foremost place given to Buddhism
Posted on October 3rd, 2017

Courtesy Ceylon Today

The Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly of Sri Lanka submitted its interim report to the Constitutional Assembly on 21 September 2017. When the report was presented, the Prime Minister and the Members of Parliament representing the Government stated that their constitutional proposals have not deviated from the foremost place given to Buddhism.

This interim report however proposes two alternative provisions to the existing Article 9 of the Constitution. The proposed alternative provisions are reproduced below:

n Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Article 10 and 14(1)(e).

OR

n Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while treating all religions and beliefs with honour and dignity, and without discrimination, and guaranteeing to all persons the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Although the first alternative proposal looks very similar to the present Article 9, it may be noted that the words “Republic of Sri Lanka” in Article 9 is changed to “Sri Lanka”. It is obvious that this amendment has a sinister motive. The existing Article 9 states that it is the duty of the “Republic of Sri Lanka” to give foremost place to Buddhism to enable State patronage being given to Buddhism.

The removal of the word “Republic” will necessarily do away with the State’s responsibility to give Buddhism the foremost place.

Thus the meaning it will then convey is that although in Sri Lanka Buddhism has the foremost place, the Government of the Republic of Sri Lanka is not obliged to treat Buddhism as being given the foremost place.

The second alternative provision asserts that other religions should not be treated differently. It is impossible to give Buddhism the foremost place without treating other religions differently. It is obvious that this is an attempt to alter the meaning of Article 9 which gives Buddhism the foremost place.

Changing the unitary status to federal

There is no doubt that these proposals have the effect of changing the unitary character of Sri Lanka.The Constitution includes a clear provision to ensure the unitary character of the State since 1972. In 1978, the 2nd Republican Constitution was enacted without any alteration to this provision. For the past 45 years, these provisions have remained without change.

Under both the First and the Second Republican Constitutions, Sri Lanka’s Government structure is described in Article 2 as “”Q z¹Y£ cpycx AÄx y£c³x.””. In the English version of the Constitution it is described as «Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State.» The proposed alternatives seek to replace the word ‘Unitary State’ in the English version of the Constitution with the Sinhala and Tamil words ‘aekiya rajya/orumiththanadu’.

The provisions proposed to be included in the English version of the Constitution are as follows:

n Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a free, sovereign and independent Republic which is an aekiya rajya/orumiththanadu, consisting of the institutions of the Centre and of the provinces which shall exercise power as laid down in the Constitution.

In this Article aekiya rajya/orumiththanadu means a State which is undivided and indivisible, and in which the power to amend the Constitution, or to repeal and replace the Constitution, shall remain with the Parliament and the People of Sri Lanka as provided in this Constitution.

Proposed Provisions in the Sinhala version are reproduced below:

ශ්‍රී ලංකාව නිදහස්, ස්වෛරී සහ ස්වාධීන ජනරජයක් වනු ඇති අතර, ව්‍යවස්ථාවෙන් නියම කර ඇති බලතල ක්‍රියාත්මක කරන මධ්‍යම හා පළාත්බද ආයතනවලින් සමන්විත වන ඒකීය රාජ්‍යයක්/ඔරුමිත්තනාඩු වනු ඇත.
මෙම ව්‍යවස්ථාවෙහි ඒකීය රාජ්‍යය/ඔරුමිත්තනාඩු යන්නෙන් අදහස් වන්නේ නොබෙදූ සහ බෙදිය නොහැකි, ආණ්ඩුක්‍රම ව්‍යවස්ථාවේ ඕනෑම සංශෝධනයක් සඳහා හෝ එය පරිච්ඡින්න කොට ඒ වෙනුවට වෙනත් ආණ්ඩුක්‍රම ව්‍යවස්ථාවක් පැනවීම සඳහා වන බලය ආණ්ඩුක්‍රම ව්‍යවස්ථාවේ දක්වා ඇති ආකාරයට පාර්ලිමේන්තුව සහ (අදාළ වන තැන්හි) ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ජනතාව වෙත පවතිනු ඇති රාජ්‍යයක් වනු ඇත.

The Tamil version of the present constitution uses the term ‘Ottriachchi’ which gives the meaning ‘unitary’ to describe the ‘unitary’ nature of the State. The constitutional proposals of the government have used the word ‘orumiththanadu’ instead of the word ‘outriachchi’. The word ‘orumiththanadu’ means ‘united’ (federal), ‘otteriachchi’ means ‘unitary’. It is important to note that the Constitution does not provide, unlike in ordinary statutes, that the Sinhala version shall prevail over the Tamil version of the Constitution.

Further, the constitutional proposals of the Steering Committee have given a new interpretation to the word ‘Unitary State’ in the Sinhala text. Accordingly, a Unitary State is called an indivisible State. A federal State is not necessarily a divisible State. Merely because a State cannot be divided, it does not become a Unitary State. India cannot be divided but it is a federal State. Adding a new meaning to the term ‘unitary’, saying that it means an ‘indivisible State’ is simply an attempt to deviate from the accepted meaning of the English word ‘unitary.’

Sinhala text books written on Constitutional Law are few. Therefore, it is necessary to refer to English texts on Constitutional Law to understand the meaning of the term ‘Unitary State’. The term ‘unitary’ is well explained in books written in English. Even our own Supreme Court described the meaning of this term unitary in the English language in the 13th Amendment determination. The term ‘Unitary State’ has been removed from the English text for the purpose of giving a new meaning beyond the internationally recognized, definition of ‘Unitary State’.

The ultimate effect of these alterations would be that when interpreting the Constitution of Sri Lanka the structure of the State shall be interpreted to mean a united state (federal State). It seems that not only the alteration of the meanings of the Constitution is fraudulent it is also an attempt to mislead the Sinhala masses.

We regret to note that these fraudulent proposals have been made in contempt of the Sinhala people and is an insult to their intelligence. We must condemn the efforts made to conceal the true nature of these proposals made at the behest of various foreign forces. Therefore, we strongly urge thegovernment not to engage in such fraudulent machinations.

Amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces and other proposals made to alter the unitary character of Sri Lanka
Among the proposals put forward is the proposal to amalgamate the Northern and Eastern Provinces with the objective of legalizing the false and fraudulent demand for a historical Tamil homeland pursued by Tamil separatists.

The removal of the concurrent list, the deprivation of the right of the central government to enact legislation on national policy, the appointment of the Governor on the advice of the provincial board of ministers and vesting of State land and Police powers in the Provincial Councils is an apparent manifestation of the separatists’ agenda.

One would expect lawmakers to unite everyone in Sri Lanka under one banner. Proposal to create a “Praja Sabha” (Community Council) based on Ethnicity, Religion and Caste is certainly not a proposal to strengthen reconciliation. It is clear that these proposals have been made by separatists with a mindset to divide Sri Lanka.

The appointment of a TNA member, campaigning for a Federal State, as the chairman of the Centre-Periphery Relations Sub-committee and appointment of members with a federal mindset to the Steering Committee, and other committees, including experts affiliated to such sub-committee whilst ensuring that no patriots with a nationalist ideology are appointed shows that this whole exercise is a plan to pursue the needs of the separatists.

We express our deepest disappointment at the attempt to implement the 13th Amendment as presently constituted which provides for Police and land powers to be exercised by the Provincial Council and to provide for the amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. We would also like to point out that the advice given by the Maha Sangha on various occasions not to engage in such a distorted constitutional process has been ignored by the Government. We advise the Government and its leaders to dedicate themselves only to constitutional reform which would ensure the country’s development and that too to be implemented through a proper mechanism which sufficiently represents the majority of the people of the country, without opening the doors to secession.

One Response to “Abandoning the Foremost place given to Buddhism”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    It is a very simple question. What is the need for the change? If there is change is it for the better? Promises from Yahapalanaya isay they are for the betterment of the Buddha Sasana. Then how better it is going to be? Who is clamouring to make it any better than what it is now in the Constitution?

    Most likely is that the changes are not for the better of the Buddha Sasana – if one listens to what the Eelamists and the Jihadists want. Then what in the hell is this whole hullabaloo about trying to convince Buddhists that the changes are for the betterment of the Buddhists and Buddha Sasana ?

    The very attempts to fool the public by a play of words – Sinhala , English and Tamil show that it is another fraud not very different from the Bond Scam!

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