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 Religious harmony laws being drafted

Religious harmony laws being drafted

11 Jul 2023 | BY Sahan Tennekoon

  • Proposed law to prevent discrimination against religions

Following the recent statement made by the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, Vidura Wickramanayaka that new legislation will be enacted to deal with threats posed to religious unity, the Ministry has already directed the Legal Draftsman’s Department to draft the said religious harmony laws.

When contacted by The Daily Morning yesterday (10), the Secretary to the Ministry Somaratne Vidanapathirana said that the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was granted to continue the process of drafting the legislation, and that accordingly, the subject Minister along with the Ministry of Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms has directed the Legal Draftsman’s Department to work on the draft.

According to Vidanapathirana, this legislation would strengthen the prevailing laws against all forms of discrimination against any religion, wipe out the existing inequalities among various religions and also prevent any religion from being treated differently from one another.

However, he said that the draft of the new religious harmony laws would be made public once the Legal Draftsman’s Department completes the process. However, he said that only the preliminary steps of the process had been concluded and that the draft will be tabled to the Parliament once they receive the Cabinet approval to table it to the Parliament following the clearance of the Attorney General.

Vidanapathirana said that the Ministry hopes to conclude the process in the next few months to come, noting however that the exact timeframe would depend on the time taken by the Legal Draftsman’s Department to draft the legislation and the Parliament to pass it in the House. He also said that the content of the law will be unveiled once the process reaches a conclusion.

Speaking to the media recently, Minister Wickramanayaka said that no one has the right to offend any religion under the guise of the freedom of speech or religion. “Due to the prioritisation of money, some people are even tempted to condemn other religions under the pretense of religious freedom. No one has the right to oppress any religion or endanger religious harmony under the guise of religious freedom. We seek to implement a new legal structure that will allow us to take legal action in this regard,” he said. The Minister also said that there is a proposal to prepare the relevant legal framework and draft a new Bill in such a way that no religious faith is discriminated against. He also said that the Chief Prelates should deal with monks who indulge in undisciplined behaviour or act in a manner that insults the Buddha Sasana.

Several attempts made by The Daily Morning to contact the Supreme Sangha Council – Asgiri Maha Viharaya Secretary Ven. Dr. Medagama Dhammananda Thera on this matter proved futile.

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