BY Buddhika Samaraweera
Claiming that Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya Leader Sajith Premadasa has mixed the “Buddha dharma” (Buddhist doctrine) and the “sangha” (Buddhist clergy/monks), President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the Buddha doctrine and the Buddhist clergy should be separated, and that certain acts of monks should subjected to some control.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday (29), he said: “There is the Buddha, the dhamma, and the sangha. Premadasa has mixed Buddhism with Buddhist monks. We need to separate them. Every layperson and monk should follow Buddhism. Sometimes, there are laypersons as well as monks who do not follow Buddhism. That is why there are many issues in the ‘Buddha sasana’. Therefore, we expect all laypersons and monks to act according to Buddhist principles.”
As has happened since the time of the Buddha, Wickremesinghe said, many issues arise when monks do not act in line with Buddhist principles. He said that the Government therefore hopes to act on the matter, and that the responsibility for taking disciplinary measures against monks who do not act upon Buddhism will be handed over to senior Buddhist monks. He said that some monks were even sentenced to death during the reign of King Parakramabahu, but that the present-day governments do not have the said power, and will not do so even if they have such power.
“We saw one monk scolding the Chief Prelates (Mahanayakas) of the Malwathu and Asgiri Chapters of the Siam Sect. How can one do that? Who are they? No one is entitled to special protection just because they are wearing a robe. Also, there are many Buddhist monks who enter university as monks, but end up as laypersons when they are done with the relevant degrees. This is also something that should be paid attention to. If someone enters university as a monk, they should remain a monk even after university education,” claimed Wickremesinghe.
Speaking in Parliament on 24 November, President Wickremesinghe said: “It is the duty of the Army to protect the Constitution. The Army cannot stand by and watch the Government of this country being toppled. When monks in our temples are threatened by youngsters clad in robes (“siwuru andagaththa batto”), we will not stand by and watch. The Army has the right, according to Article 9 of the Constitution, to stop that.”
Condemning his comment regarding young monks, Premadasa, speaking in Parliament on Monday (28), remarked that addressing Buddhist monks in such manner was inappropriate and disrespectful, while Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga assured that the Government did not approve of addressing any Buddhist monk who behaves in a way that protects their virtue in such manner.