US report highlights threat to Maha Sangha on SF issue

The United States has said that although the government publicly endorses religious freedom, in practice there are problems in some areas.

The observation is made in the latest report of the Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labour. Titled the International Religious Freedom Report 2010, it was released on Wednesday.

Among other matters, the report makes a detailed reference to a protest planned by the Maha Sangha in February 2010 over the detention of former General Sarath Fonseka. The relevant part states:

“In February 2010 following the detention of presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, the Mahanayakes of Asgiriya and Malwatte summoned a Sangha Council, or Assembly of Monks. This was an extremely rare occurrence in the 2,500 history of Buddhism in the country, and in the past most often took place when the assembly decided to advise the king on good governance. Immediately after this announcement, a delegation of government ministers met with the Mahanayakes to discourage them from holding the assembly.

There were reports from a wide range of contacts that local temples across the country received anonymous threats that any buses carrying Buddhist monks to attend the assembly would be bombed, and the Mahanayakes called off the sessions indefinitely. Contacts reported that the Mahanayake of the Malwatte, who had organized the call for the assembly, was threatened with government action, which would split its chapter and significantly reduce its influence, if he attempted to speak out on political issues again.

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