by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
United National Party(UNP) Parliamentarian& & Bar Association (BASL) president Wijedasa Rajapakshe wants priests debarred from becoming MP’s.
He has with the consent of Opposition & UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe submitted a private members bill seeking a Constitutional amendment.
The proposed amendment will debar any political party or group from nominating a priest of any religion to contest Parliamentary elections.
The proposed bill wants Article 91 of the Constitution to be amended by adding clause Article 91 (H) referring to “Priest of any religion”.
The private members bill also seeks to prevent any priest from any religion being appointed to Parliament as a Member on the national list
Wijedasa Rajapakshe says” this amendment is for the purpose of maintaining and preserving religious dignity and holiness of all religions.”
Rajapakshe has emphasized that the practice of accommodating priests of any religion in parliament was detrimental to national unity.
Wijedasa Rajapakshe says the clergy playing politics with national issues is a major impediment to national reconciliation.
While the bill refers to priests from any religion from becoming MP’s in the past only Buddhist Priests have been or are Parliamentarians.
The first Buddhist priest to enter Parliament was Ven Baddegama Samitha Thero from Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) who was elected in 2001
Later the “Sinhala Buddhist party” Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) has had many Buddhist priests elected &appointed to Parliament in 2004 & in 2010
The JHU national organizer is opposed to any move to deny the party the right to field Buddhist monks at future elections at any level.
Wijedasa Rajapakshe says Buddhist monks as MP’s, hadn’t prevented deterioration of parliamentary standards or changed the political culture.
Buddhist priest MP’s had been treated shabbily both in & outside parliament with some being attacked in the House itself, Rajapakshe points out
Political parties were not likely to decide against fielding priests at elections on their own volition says UNP MP Wijedasa Rajapakshe
Therefore he says it is the responsibility of parliament to bring in required Constitutional amendments&keep the clergy out of parliament.
Wijedasa Rajapakshe wants a healthy debate on the issue of priests entering Parliament & hopes his bill will be supported by all parties
(This is a bundle of tweets posted on Twitter by DBS Jeyaraj)