COLOMBO: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has assured Sri Lankan's Buddhist monks that the government will not change the foremost place accorded to Buddhism in the proposed new Constitution amid concerns that it is being done to appease the Tamil minority.
Speaking in the northeastern region of Mannar yesterday, he said, no finality has been reached on the form of the new Constitution and he will discuss the draft with the monks.
"We have received a mandate for the new Constitution. The work will go ahead. I will go and present it to the leading Buddhist monks when the draft is ready," Wickremesinghe said yesterday in the backdrop of opposition by the powerful Buddhist leaders to oppose the process of constitutional reform.
"This is only at the proposals stage right now. The process is open for proposals from anyone."
The Asgiriya chapter of the Buddhist order took a firm stand earlier against the new Constitution. This was later endorsed by the leaders of other chapters this week. Their position was that although electoral reforms are necessary, a new Constitution was not needed.
Sri Lankan parliament had formed a Constitutional Assembly to draft the new Constitution following a pledge by the current ruling coalition in the elections held in 2015.
The powerful Buddhist clergy, however had expressed opposition to the move based mainly on the concerns that the foremost place accorded to Buddhism in previous constitutions may be diluted to please the Tamil minority demands.
"We have all agreed that the place reserved for Buddhism will not be changed," Wickremesinghe said.
The concerned monks had recently met President Maithrpala Sirisena who assured them that no finality had been reached and the monks would be duly consulted when the final draft document is formulated.