| by Kingsley Karunaratne

( July 20, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A rare occurrence took place recently at Abhayaramaya in Narahenpita, Colombo last Friday. The political party leaders were urged by multi-religious dignitaries of the Congress of Religion, to look into the burning problems and solve them.
The meeting of the Congress of Religion was presided over by the Acting Mahanayaka; Ven. Iththapane Dharmalankara Nayaka Thero. He urged the political leaders to come out with solutions to current problems of nation, such as the powers of Executive Presidency and current political and economic situation in the country.

Apart from Ven. Iththapane Dhammalankara Nayaka Thero, His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Ven.Maduluwawe Sobhitha Nayaka Thero, Sanghanayake of Japan, Chief of Mahabodhi Society, Ven. Banagala Upatissa Nayaka Thero, Retied Archbishop Oswald Gomis and Ebenezer Joseph (General Secretary-National Christian Council) Kurukkal,Kuhanathan Sharma were present from the Congress of Religion.

The political leaders, Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe(Leader of Opposition ), Karu Jayasuriya M.P.,Senior Minister, Professor Thissa Witharana, Senior Minister Dew Gunasekara, R.Sambandan M.P.(Leader of the Tamil National Alliance), representatives from Democratic Alliance and Hela Urumaya participated in this meeting. 

His Eminence, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said that “The North, East problem needs immediate attention. There is no accountability in governance. Among constitutional matters, the power centered round a single person, in an Executive President is not suitable for the country. In this country the system of governance is in a mess. There should be a political solution for the North & East. All that is requested cannot be given, but give what is required for all communities of Sri Lanka to live peacefully with dignity”.

He further said that “We must insist for Inclusive Democracy. The breakdown of rule of law needs urgent attention. Unfortunate war is over but there is no solution as yet. The country cannot move forward like this”. 

Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka Thero addressing the political leaders said that “High cost of living is a severe problem. As a nation,we do not have priorities, what the Rajarata people want is water for cultivation and not anything else. Though it is said that the country is developed, poverty among the majority of people is real. The politicization of the system of administration is also a big headache. Police force did not act swiftly in the Aluthgama incident, and they were just silent bystanders. The Police should be depoliticized, as quickly as possible. The election system should be conducted in a fair manner. As a nation, we must resolve the issues that crop up through discussion”.

Retired Archbishop, Oswald Gomes said that “According to history of Sri Lanka on the invasion of Portuguese and British’s, some Sinhala leaders betrayed the nation. Almost every country in the world today follows the democratic system of governance. We too should do the same”. 

“We must be united otherwise it is impossible to reach our target. If you ask anyone whether he/she likes the presidential system, always the reply is negative. There is a unanimous opinion now that the Executive Presidency should be abolished. All citizens should have equal rights. We must treat everybody alike irrespective of cast, creed, language or ethnicity. Election system with preferential voting has to be abolished as this leads to all sorts of fighting even among the same party candidates” he further said.

Thereafter political leaders commented on the matters pointed out by the Congress of Religion. Senior Minister, Dew Gunasekera commenting on the national question, said that, “After a lapse of 66 years since independence, and still we are struggling to find a solution. If we have a genuine interest for bringing a political solution, the two main parties, the United National Party & Sri Lanka Freedom Party should come to a consensus with the government. Otherwise nobody can solve it. Otherwise the extremists would come and create chaos. We missed the golden opportunity to win the hearts & minds of Tamil people after May 9th, 2009.There are 50,000 widows in Northeast as a result of the war. He requested the TNA to come forward for the select committee of the Parliament and come to a consensus with the government”. 

He further said that “Though there is a an economic set back, it is not confined only to Sri Lanka but everywhere in the world. Violence against women and children, sexual violence, rape and robberies are increasing. The cause is open economy. What Dr. N.M. Perera wrote in his “Critical Analysis” booklet, on 1978 constitution has now come true. We were all lied five times starting from 1994 and ending from 2005”.

Senior Minister, Professor Thissa Witharana said, “What the multi-religious dignitaries said is correct. We should be united as one Sri Lankan nation without cast, creed, religion, language or ethnicity problems. Then only we can reach our target. The devolution of power is done to the district level in 13th amendment, but we need that to be devolved into the village level. Through this only the national unity could come. We should abolish the 1978 constitution in totality and need a constitution where the Prime minister is heading the government through a cabinet of ministers. The collapse of Sri Lankan society and the void between the rulers and people has increased immensely. The people, who have money, can be elected as people’s representatives but after they get elected, they are trying to earn the spent money through unfair means. The election system should be changed.

He further stated, that “the multi-religious dignitaries are having a binding duty towards the country and suggested that a roundtable conference be called soon with the participation of senior political leaders to reach a consensus”. 

Leader of Opposition, Ranil Wickramasinghe stated that, “The select committee proposed by the government will not do anything. This is only a time passing strategy. The government should decide in accordance with their own LLRC proposals. Not to be delayed furthermore. After making the government proposal, they can reach the TNA and other parties. As the President himself has agreed to abolish the executive presidency, he should do that promptly. The excessive powers of the President should be removed. UNP is ready for both these options. The 17TH Amendment should be immediately introduced. Religious tolerance should be achieved at any cost”.

The TNA leader, R.Sambandan M.P. said that “the Government M.P.’s get more money for development projects but the opposition Members do not. We do not have an independent Judiciary, Election Commission, Bribery commission or Public Service commission. I wonder whether there is democracy in the country? North Provincial Council finds it difficult to function due to lack of funds. Chief Justice was impeached and removed from office after conclusion of the inquiry within 24 hours. That is the position of our democracy. If we are going forward we must correct it. We oppose the 18th amendment to the constitution? Why they altogether removed the 17th amendment and introduced the 18th amendment. The country should think twice regarding these grave matters. In the North & East no proper program me to achieve permanent peace”.

“We are for a undivided Sri Lanka. A political solution should be given for the Tamils. We want to live in a peaceful Sri Lanka with dignity and equal rights for the citizens. But we cannot be lied forever”.

He further said that, “The 13th amendment to the constitution-some said we are giving 13+.There was a report from Mangala Munasinghe Committee to improve 13th amendment. The proposed constitution of Chandrika Bandaranayke in 1994-1995 also intended to give something. Even the All Party Conference made a majority report of thousand pages through Prof. Thissa Witharana but this report is still not published by the government. Then the LLRC Presidential Commission came and the report and the proposals published. Now it is the government’s turn to make them legalized”.