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The Diary of terror- 12 Report- 17th February 2010

The Sanga Convention Cancelled Due to threats

By Sri Lankan Human Rights Watch

(February 17, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The prelates in the three great Buddhist chapters in Sri Lanka, in issuing a statement on the 16th February,stated that due to the situation prevailing in Sri Lanka and considering the security of the Buddhist monks and the people who would gather for the Maha Maluwa on the 18th of the month and also the security of the Sri Dalada Maligawa (The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) they have called off the meeting of the three chapters indefinitely. Earlier the prelates of the three great chapters called for a gathering of all the monks in the country to discuss the chaotic situation that has arisen in the country due to the degeneration of democracy and good governance. They stated that it has been a perennial function of theBuddist monks to advice rulers and the people of the country on matters of social importance.. It was for the purpose of exercising this traditional function that the great gathering of the monks was called. In a separate letter addressed to the president the monks also called for the unconditional release of the common candidate of the joint opposition, Sarath Fonseka, from military custody. They published a copy of this letter.

On the 16th prior to the issue of this letter by the prelates of the three great chapters ,they had come under severe pressure from the government which sent ministers to ask the monks to cancel the meeting. By the afternoon pressure had been exercised from the highest positions which stated that the monks would not be allowed to continue with the meeting. Following this, a group of about 50 monks led by a senior monk associated with the government stormed into the headquarters of the prelates and threatened that they would hold a meeting at the same place and time thus disrupting the meeting called by the prelates. This would have led to violence amongst the monks and it is under these circumstances that the prelates stated in their letter that they are unable to hold this meeting because of the need to guarantee security for the monks and the people who would participate as well as provide protection for the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

The particular wording used by the monks has been interpreted by many to indicate that they have been under threat and that they are trying to avoid a situation of conflict and violence that might be perpetrated against this meeting.

A leading lawyer who has observed the situation closely stated that even the leading monks who are the chiefs of the three great chapters of the country are unable to hold a public gathering indicates the extent of the violence and disturbance existing in the country.

The theme of the meeting that was to be held on the 18th was the dangers faced by democracy and good governance with the aim to reestablish these great principles. That democracy and good governance cannot be discussed by the country’s leading Buddhist monks indicates, the extent of threats faced by others of the political opposition in the country to have these matters discussed with the people.

It was under such conditions that the presidential election was held and the parliamentary election is due to be conducted. Naturally this is not the environment that should be created by the government in situations where the people are to participate peacefully in the elections to select the persons of their choice to rule their country. Exposing people to violence that participate in an election in order to select their own rulers amounts to the deprivation of the basic rights of people to elect their own government. To hold an election to form a government and at the same time to deny people the right to engage in rational discussion on such important issues in a peaceful manner, violates all the norms that should be held as sacred in situation of such importance.

The monks are the most respected section of the Sinhala community. They are not of any radical bent on any matters and in recent years their politics have been very much in support of the existing government in order to resolve the conflicts that have existed with the LTTE in particular. Thus, even the loyalty of such groups is being doubted by the existing government when it comes to the elections.

This is an extremely dangerous situation, not only for the opposition but even for the monks who live in their temples and who conduct their affairs in a peaceful manner.

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