COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government today vowed to go ahead with the process of drafting the new Constitution to give its Tamil minority greater autonomy after the country's influential Buddhist community demanded that the plan be abandoned.
Government spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the parliament will not reverse the process begun in April last year to draft the Constitution.
"The government got 6.2 million votes to change the constitution," Senaratne said. "The monks can have their views, but the people's mandate at two elections in 2015 was to change the Constitution. We will not work against the people's will just because Buddhist monks want us to do so," he said.
Nearly 70 per cent of the island's population follow Buddhism.
Monks based in the central town of Kandy yesterday asked President Maithripala Sirisena to stop the political reform process which according to monk Anamaduwe Dhammadassi would "only create unnecessary problems". Dhammadassi said all major branches of Buddhism in the country were against the reforms.
The latest move by the Buddhist community is a new challenge to the government of President Sirisena who himself is a Buddhist and is committed to ethnic unity.
Tamils, who live predominantly in the north and east of Sri Lanka, form the largest minority group in the country constituting for 11.1 per cent of the population. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ran a nearly three-decade separatist campaign leading to a bloody war with the Sri Lankan security forces.
According to the UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by the security forces during former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime that brought an end to the brutal conflict with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009.