Sri Lankan minorities fear backlash over new constitution

Buddhist hard-liners react angrily to president's attempt to limit ethnic tensions

Sri Lanka
January 29, 2016
Sri Lanka's minority religious groups are concerned after Buddhist hard-liners reacted angrily to the president's proposed new constitution.

President Maithripala Sirisena's new constitution, proposed on Jan. 9, would decentralize power in a bid to prevent ethnic tensions in the country, but Buddhist hard-liners say it contains provisions that regulate the power of the Buddhist clergy, the Christian Post reported.

Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister Wijeyasayadasa Rajapashe denied this claim, saying they are intended only to enable the government to discipline monks who break the law.

Others who oppose the change say that it is an attempt by the government to be more "likeable" to Western nations.

Buddhism currently enjoys "the foremost place" in the Sri Lankan constitution. Article 9 decrees that "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 [message]."

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