President Maithripala Sirisena has advised his Cabinet Ministers to seek written consent from the Chief Prelates of all Buddhist monastic orders before the Government presents draft legislation to govern the conduct of Buddhist monks to Parliament.
Cabinet Spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the President had advised the Cabinet to obtain written consent from the Mahanayakes since there are many statements being made to create controversies about the proposed bill.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, Minister Sarath Amunugama also said that the bill had first been drafted under the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on the request of the Mahanayake Theros.
Joint opposition member and former Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris told a press briefing yesterday that the bill was aimed at “silencing the Sangha” and making Buddhist monks submit to the Government’s will.
Challenge to Bhikku Kathikawath bill filed in Supreme Court
A petition has been filed in Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the proposed Theravadi Bhikshu Kathikawath bill.
Attorney-at-Law Nuwan Bellanthudawa filed the petition in the country’s highest court yesterday.
The petition states that the bill has been included in order book of Parliament on 12 January. The petitioner states that the bill seeks to coerce changes in religious activities and cultural rituals practiced by Buddhist monks for thousands of years.
The petitioner states that the bill also seeks to create a division between Buddhist monks and the Buddhist people. The petitioner states that the Government cannot intervene to make rules to govern religion except in the case of the religious rights of others being violated by certain rituals practiced by one religious group.
The petitioner therefore argues that the Sections 2-16 of the proposed Bhikku bill violates Articles 3,4,9,10,11,12(1), 12 (2), 14( 1) 6 , 14 (1) ස(c) , 14 (1) (e), 20, 28 of the Sri Lankan Constitution and seeks a court ruling as such. The petition argues that in order to pass, the proposed legislation to govern the conduct of Bhikkus requires two-thirds majority in Parliament and a referendum.