The Sunday Leader

Government Has An Obligation To Protect Buddhism Gayantha Karunathilaka

by Camelia Nathaniel

Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Gayantha Karunathilaka said that the government will ensure that the process of drafting a new constitution will be done in a transparent manner and will not deprive any community or religion in any way. In an interview with The Sunday Leader he said that there are elements who are trying to disrepute the government’s genuine intentions by creating negative comments. However he said the public have the opportunity of getting involved within its establishment through this strategy, and that the process is fully transparent. It is not a Constitution for any political party or a minor section but a Constitution for the entire nation.

Following are excerpts of the interview:-

Q:  There are allegations that the government is trying to hide their failures and masking it with the issue of a new constitution. Do you agree?

A:  The need for a new constitution was felt by all over a considerable period of time and has been taken up during elections as well. This was mainly because the main emphasis has been on the changing of the electoral system. Therefore now we are now in the process of making this a reality and trying to get the consent and support of all parties and the general public in achieving this goal.

However some are trying to make a big issue of this whole process and trying to scuttle the process by bringing in various theories and inciting numerous tensions among the people. I therefore firmly state that this is not a constitution that will be formulated based on just our views, but all parties and the participation of the entire country will be a vital component in making this a reality. Hence we will initiate a broad discussion to seek the views of every segment of society and it is only then that we will commence the process of discussion on how we should go about the new constitution.


Q:  The JHU has stated that the   committee appointed to gather public opinion on the new Constitution is illegal as it had not received the approval of parliament. Is this so?

A: As far as I know this government does not engage in any process that is not legal. The time that things like that took place is now over and this government is very particular on doing things the right way. Earlier there were allegations that we were not seeking the opinions of the people, and that we were acting on the wants and instructions of the international community, but now we have commenced a broad based  mechanism to gather the views and opinions of all segments of society.

Both the president and the prime minister have assured that at no point will there be room for any international interference and even the foreign minister said that even the word ‘constitution’ or ‘constitutional reform’ has not even been mentioned in a foreign country. That being the real situation, some parties are trying hard to create all sorts of issues by interpreting things to suit their own agendas. We are trying our best to bring in a new constitution based on the opinions of the people and on a broad and accurate system.


Q:  How has the government proposed to address the issue of power devolution?

A: We have still only commenced the discussion on what reforms need to be made in the constitution and nothing concrete has been decided upon. Therefore it is premature to comment on the mechanism of power devolution and it will be discussed intensely and we will adopt the best mechanism for it at the right time.


Q:  There have been suggestions that we should follow the Austrian system. Will this be an option?

A:  There are numerous views being expressed and as I said before all are free to express their opinions and we will make note of all that and then discuss on how we should go about the process of the new constitution that will be fair to all the people of the country irrespective of race or religion.


Q:  Some call for a federal solution while others have expressed opposing views. Does the government have a preferred angle?

A:  The government is of the stance that we have always been. Let’s see what will happen after we have received the views and suggestions of all. Then we will decide. We will make a constitution that will suit all the people of this country, and that is our assurance to the people.


Q:  According to chapter 9 of the constitution and the prominence given to Buddhism, some feel that all religions should be given equal rights and prominence should not be given to just one religion. Does the government intend to keep this clause or change it?

A:  The government has an obligation to protect Buddhism and that right has been clearly stated in the constitution. However we will ensure that this will in no way hinder any other religion and all religions in this country will be given fair treatment and freedoms.


Q: Why can’t we formulate the new constitution based on national interests rather than giving prominence to any race?

A:  The one thing that I can say is that no race or religion will be deprived of their rights or privileges through the formulation of the new constitution. Moreover, this is still the initial stage of gathering the views of the various parties and societies and we will be able to see definite decisions once this process has progressed beyond the discussion stage.


Q:  The TNA is demanding that the 13th amendment be implemented fully and rights for the North and East. However a greater number of Tamils live outside of the North and East. Hence should these powers only be given to the North and East?

A:  Let’s see what happens and we will see what powers can be given and what cant. All this will have to be discussed among all parties amicably and we will come to an agreement and understanding as to what can be given so that national unity is not compromised. The main purpose of this constitutional reform is to ensure that no ethnic or racial group in the country, be it the majority or minority, will be discriminated or deprived of their rights. Therefore we will ensure that all decisions taken with regard to the constitution will be on that basis.

The power should be shared by all and no faction should gain greater or decreased preference. The Sinhala race should be preserved and the minority groups too should not be deprived of their rights and should be treated equally. Therefore all discussions and decisions will be based mainly on the preservation of the rights of all as one people of one united country irrespective of race or religion. This is the whole purpose of the entire exercise and we will ensure that everyone receives fair treatment.


Q: The formulation of the new constitution is based primarily on three factors, abolition of the executive presidency, power devolution and electoral reforms. However is it not possible to make these changes through an amendment without drafting a new constitution altogether?

A: Now is the right time to bring in a new constitution as we have come too far by patching up the old constitution. Now that for the first time, all parties are agreeable for the new constitution, we should make use of this opportunity and bring in a new constitution that suits the current need of the country and ensures lasting peace and equality to all.


1 Comment for “Government Has An Obligation To Protect Buddhism Gayantha Karunathilaka”

  1. Politics has ruined the Greatestest Philosophy in the world and we see an element of capitalism and decadent politics infecting this practice. Some monks have sold this to various people and sections of society, and these places of worship are no longer tranquil with alien practices, and have a high amount of luxury fittings not relating to a place of worship. A leading monk in a temple by the lake is known for his business connections and has even influenced decision makers who have amassed wealth in an illicit manner due to this. There are , erudite scholar monks who lead a very dedicated and exemplary life and are admired and respected by all communities, who will ensure that this philosophy will continue to be held with very great respect and esteem.

Comments are closed

Photo Gallery

Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes