President Maithripala Sirisena after meeting with the Buddhist clergy last Thursday (6) had agreed to the Mahanayakes’ proposal that Articles 2, 9 and those provisions regarding Police and land powers under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution should remain intact.
The President had met with the clergy of the three Nikayas on July 6 with regard to the stance of the Mahanayakes and the Buddhist clergy on proposed constitutional reforms and the ongoing process in this regard.
While Article 2 attests to the unitary nature and status of the nation, Article 9 grants Buddhism the foremost place among religions and beliefs in the country and makes the State duty bound to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana.
No draft of a New Constitution has been prepared yet. However, the Constitutional Assembly has appointed various committees in this regard and various reports have been obtained on aspects pertaining to constitutional reforms. President Sirisena had further added that the monks would be kept abreast of any move to bring a New Constitution.
Chief Secretary of the Asgiriya Chapter, Dr. Medagama Dhammananda Thera said that while they were not opposed to constitutional amendments which did not require a referendum such as electoral reforms, for which Sirisena had received a mandate from the people, they however also had issues with matters regarding the devolution of power, the concurrent list, and the further pruning of Executive Presidential powers.
It had also been decided at the said meeting that a seven member special Presidential commission of inquiry composed of a judge and six others from the various ethnicities and religions represented in the country (criteria for appointment being – independence, eminence, social standing and acceptance) will be appointed to investigate into allegations of attacks on Muslims and Christians including on their places of worship, allegations against Buddhists, deforestation in Wilpattu, sterilization of Sinhalese Buddhists, and the destruction of archaeological artifacts and sites. The commission which will be operative for a specific period will seek public representations and is scheduled to be set up during the course of July and August.
“In relation to the constitutional reforms process, when summarizing that which has been presented including the statements and comments of a stubborn nature made by various politicians, officials and members of committees, and the content of certain such aforementioned reports, we feel there is no certainty and clarity and that there is also a lack of transparency,” he said.