Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas caught up in controversy over 20A Catholic Bishops say dump 20A and  present a new testament for Lanka  The 20th Amendment maybe the newest kid in town but apart from its fond parents and closest kith and kin raving nuts over the cherubic cheeks and rosy glow of the bonny offspring [...]


20A: Has the Govt. bitten off more than it can chew?


  • Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas caught up in controversy over 20A
  • Catholic Bishops say dump 20A and  present a new testament for Lanka

 The 20th Amendment maybe the newest kid in town but apart from its fond parents and closest kith and kin raving nuts over the cherubic cheeks and rosy glow of the bonny offspring destined to dawn a prosperous era on the ruling house of Lanka, no one else seems to be over the moon quite as much at what the September stork brought unbidden to the nation’s doorstep.

In fact, the growing tide of mass opinion seems to suggest the people would rather the little monster was strangled ere birth than see it deftly bounce off its bassinet and  cast its sinister evening shadow on democracy’s hallowed articles of faith in  human freedoms.

The latest convert to join the growing band of 20A protesters, which include a number of civic organisations in the country, the State Auditors Association and the Bar Association, are the Catholic Bishops who this week demanded the Government to abort the ill-conceived 20th Amendment and, in its stead, present a distilled new testament as the bible of Lanka’s governing legal charter.

The Catholic Bishops Conference, which comprise all the Bishops in the island and represent Lanka’s Catholics, issued a statement this Tuesday calling upon the Government to dump the proposed 20A.  It said: “We need to emphasise that concentration of power in an individual without checks and balances does not augur well for a Democratic Socialist Republic. A two-thirds majority of the members in parliament based on political parties does not necessarily manifest the true conscience of the people.”

Calling for a new constitution based solely on protecting the people’s sovereignty, the statement said: “Therefore, let the entire membership of parliament appoint an independent Constitutional Council comprising a majority of men and women of proven integrity from the society who will take care of drafting a new Constitution which ensures transparent democracy, the rule of law and the equality of all citizens. Thus the 20th Amendment should not be proceeded with, in its entirety, and instead a new Constitution needs to be the national priority at this moment.”

The controversial amendment bill also sparked a row within the Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas with the Mahanayakes of both sects distancing themselves from a joint media briefing held on Monday by the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Ramanna Sect, the Ven. Aththangane Sasana Rathana, and the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Council, the Ven. Professor Pallekande Rathanasara Thera, where they demanded the scrapping of 20A in toto “as it rejects the core of democracy, which is one of the progressive elements of humanity.”

In a joint statement, they said: ‘The Government in support of the 20th Amendment emphasises that their effort to bring in the 20th Amendment is to reverse some of the obstacles introduced by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. However, we wish to mention that the justification needs deeper scrutiny as the 19th Amendment clearly made some legislation that strengthens the sovereignty. The 19th Amendment is not a regressive reform.

“The 20th Amendment will only bring regressive reforms and undemocratic features to the present Constitution. Some regressive elements proposed by the 20th Amendment are that it proposes to remove the offices of the President and the Prime Minister from the purview of the Auditor-General.”

The statement further said: “The proposed 20th Amendment seems to subject the public service under direct political authority, remove the independent mechanism for elections, challenge the independent existence of the Judiciary, abolish the right of the people to plead justice from Judiciary and open the space for embezzlement, fraud, and corruption.”

The two chief prelates of the two Nikayas, however, refused to give their General Secretaries’ joint statement  their seal of approval with the Amarapura Chief Thera Ven. Ganthune Assaji

Stating, “our Sangha Council or Executive Council has not held any discussion on that matter. We are also not aware of the Court’s decision on the petitions challenging the 20th Amendment. One has to take them also in to account when expressing an opinion. My personal opinion is that the President must be given more powers than he has now. It is also my view that the constitutional makers should listen to constructive criticism.”

The Ramanna Chief Thera Ven. Napana Pemasiri stated, “Ramanna Kathikawatha explicitly states that it is inappropriate for Buddhist monks to participate in political activities. The Lekakadhikari monks and others should know that it is inappropriate to make statements without the knowledge of the Mahanayaka Thera.”

But the Government cannot rest contented with the non-committal stance taken by the ageing leadership of the two Nikayas when its zestful rank and file are brimming with opposition to 20A which they hold ‘rejects the core of democracy,’ and thus insist must not be merely amended but shredded out of existence.

Ven. Aththangane Sasana Rathana Thera, Chief Lekakadhikari of the Ramanna Chapter minced no words when he said. “To lead a country, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary have to be equal in order to protect the democratic rights of the people. Just because the President is the head of state he cannot be a dictator. The present government promised to bring in a new Constitution, and in that light they are trying to introduce the 20A which is wrong. This is not what we expected.”

THE FINAL HURDLE: After having weathered the storms of protest, the 20th Amendment faces its final test in Parliament this week

Chief Incumbent of the Abhayarama Temple – which Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was accused of using as his political office during the Yahapalana Government – Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera said the government should introduce a Constitution that suits the country. “There’s no point bringing in Amendments of sorts. The government had forgotten those who supported them to come to power.”

What must also have added to the Government’s consternation is the expressed intention of the general secretaries of these two Nikayas to hold discussions with their counterparts in the third and most powerful Nikaya in the country, the Siam Nikaya, the custodian of the sacred Sri Dalada in Kandy, and form a united sangha force to stop the Government in its 20A tracks.

It is widely acknowledged that the landslide victories of both President and the SLPP Government were mainly due to the active support extended by Buddhist monks without stint. And leading Buddhist monks who were the Government’s strongest supporters only but yesterday, are now its most virulent critics; and make no secret of how they brought the president and this Government to power and proudly claim whosoever they crowned they can also uncrown, that whosoever they brought to the fore they can also send home.

As if to drive home the point, six prominent monks who had been staunch supporters of the SLPP regime hitherto warned on Friday, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution will lead to the creation of a President who would be able to use the Executive in a dictatorial manner and bring the Judiciary and the Legislature under his control and also weaken the cabinet.

In a letter to the President, Venerable Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera, Venerable Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera, Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thera and others held the 20th Amendment to the Constitution could pave the way for the creation of an unstable governance mechanism that would have no rule of law. They also noted their disappointment that the national forces that made the president’s election triumph possible and the people’s aspirations have been completely disregarded; and strongly urged the President to think again before proceeding with the implementation of the 20th Amendment.

Thus for the Government to toss aside their collective opinion will be at the Government’s own peril for their grip on the collective conscience of the nation’s grassroots in this Sinhala Buddhist country is tenacious and must not be underestimated – quite unlike the considered views of the professionals in the Viyath Maga which can be dismissed out of hand without fretting whether its ripples will turn to a gigantic wave and swallow the triumphs.

Lanka is inexorably drawn to an unknown future, to a frightening fate. The only question to be asked now is how will the 225-members in the House fare? Their vote, if used wisely, will be the only bulwark left remaining to prevent the nation’s loss of Eden.

The Lankan people have never fought for their independence, never fought for their democratic rights, never known the anguish and pain the struggle to win the intrinsic rights of man inevitably brings, but always had it served on a platter and proffered for their delectation. Having never fought for their rights, they know not how to defend the priceless rights and freedoms freely bequeathed, the intangible treasure trove of civil liberties the leaders hold on trust for the people’s benefit. And ‘like the base Indian threw a pearl away, richer than all his tribe’ will surrender it to the first who asks; and will only realise its true value when it’s lost and too late.

How are the fallen risen: Karuna rides high again

In the small town of Navadinveli, Ampara, in the Eastern Province where he once rode roughshod blazoning his Tiger stripes and brandishing his gun, 54-year-old former LTTE terrorist Karuna Amman gloated at a voters gathering six weeks before August’s general elections, how he had massacred over two thousand Sinhala soldiers at Elephant Pass in one night’s carnage and many more at Kilinochchi at the height of the Eelam War.

This is also the man with a long record of butchery after his name, including the cold blooded slaughter of over 600 policemen in Batticaloa who had laid down their weapons and surrendered to his cadres on President Premadasa’s direct order in June 1990.  In fact, not all the milk of human forgiveness can wash away the stains of his inhumane deeds.


Furthermore Karuna and LTTE colleague Pillaiyan, known as Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, now the Hon. Member of Parliament, are also named in a fundamental right application filed this July in the Supreme Court by Venerable Aandhaulpatha Buddhasara Thera, a monk who survived the Aranthalawa massacre by Tigers in 1987 where 31 Buddhist monks were killed. The monk, who suffered serious injuries, claims Rs. 20 million as damages.

In his petition, the monk claims that several top-level LTTE leaders who were involved in the massacre had put down arms and entered politics and among them are Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias ‘Karuna Amman’ and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias ‘Pillayan’; and avers allowing individuals connected to massacres to roam free, violates his fundamental rights.  The case is to be taken up for consideration two weeks hence on November 2.

After the 30-year terrorist war had ended on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on May 18, 2009, ex-Tiger terrorist turned government snitch Karuna was appointed to Parliament through the SLFP-led alliance UPFA’s National List. During the second tenure of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Karuna was appointed as a government Minister and a Vice President of the SLFP to boot.

But after Karuna’s sickening boast this June of how he had massacred Lanka’s Golden Heroes in one night, had shocked the nation, the ruling SLPP distanced itself from Karuna and refused to touch him with a barge pole.

In fact, referring to Karuna’s bragging over killing Sinhala soldiers, SLPP Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam held a news conference on June 21, and said, “He is neither a member of the SLPP nor a member of our affiliated groups. We would like to categorically mention that Karuna Amman is not maintaining any links with our party for the upcoming general election and reiterate that we highly condemn the statement.”

But perhaps, you can’t keep a determined man down.

This Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa received Karuna Amman alias Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan at Temple Trees and appointed him as the District Coordinator of the Prime Minister for Ampara and Batticaloa districts in the East paid for by the public purse.

After finishing his hatchet job in the East by splitting the Tamil vote and denying the TNA eastern representation — never mind his own flop — perhaps, it was time for him to return to the fold to collect not his scalps of one night’s battle but his spoils of inglorious defeat.



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