22 March 2018

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02/02/2007 SRI LANKA

Theoretician of ‘Sinhalese supremacy’ becomes minister

Patali Champika Ranawaka belongs to the ultra-nationalist monk’s party, which is opposed to the peace process with the rebels and has sponsored a dangerous anti-conversion law.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious minorities have little to celebrate after the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, the Sinhalese ultra nationalist all monks party, had its cabinet Omalpe Sobitha Thera, who resigned a few days ago, replaced with prominent militant leader of the National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT), Patali Champika Ranawaka. Mr Ranawaka, who is the JHU’s main theoretician, was sworn yesterday as the country’s new environment and natural resources minister.

Thanks to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s recent cabinet reshuffle, the JHU has joined the ruling coalition; its nine MPs will give the government an absolute majority in parliament.

With Ranawaka in power the government is dashing any hopes left for a peaceful solution to the Tamil Tiger insurgency.

As an ultra-nationalist Sinhalese party, the JHU has always refused power-sharing with Tamil Tiger rebels and has steadfastly opposed Norway’s mediation.

In the past, Ranawaka has also expressed anti-Semitic statements comparing Tamils to the Jews and ahs been advocate of ‘Aryan Sinhalese supremacy’.

In 2005 the party strenuously opposed sharing any tsunami aid with the rebels.

These changes bode ill for religious minorities as well. The JHU is the main sponsor of the so-called ‘Bill on Prohibition of Forcible Conversion’, a dangerous piece of legislation still under consideration by parliament.

Even Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern over the draft bill because if it becomes law it would require anyone planning to change religion to inform local authorities within a given time period. Furthermore, it states that “no one can convert or try to convert others from one religion by force or fraudulent means.”

Breaking the law would entail seven years in jail and a fine of up to US$ 5,000.

See also

21/02/2007 SRI LANKA
Extremist minister in favour of extra-judicial means to “restore order”
Civil society groups slams the newly-appointed environment and natural resources minister, who suggested the possible use of illegal means against those who bring chaos to the country, namely Tamil rebels, journalists, peace and human rights activists.

11/04/2006 SRI LANKA
Anti-conversion bill to become law soon
Members of committee tasked with reviewing bill are appointed. If they approve, the bill will only require third and final reading. Christians are concerned and warn: If the vote is not secret, it will be hard for anyone to vote against the bill.

29/07/2005 SRI LANKA
Archbishop of Colombo tells government to respect religious freedom
Archbishop Gomis makes his appeal as two "dangerous" anti-conversion bills make their way through parliament. The recent attack against a local Catholic church was the work of outside fundamentalists who act without reason but to destroy. "The Catholic community is not afraid; fundamentalists are a minority".

30/01/2009 SRI LANKA
Anti-conversion bill: minorities fear restrictions on religious freedom
Tabled in January by a party led by Buddhist monks, the draft law could be adopted before the end of next month. Its purpose is to stop people from changing religion under pressure or in exchange of economic advantages. A similar bill had been presented in 2004 but failed after the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. Protestant Churches have already mobilised against the bill; Catholics are concerned about it and waiting for their bishops to take a stand.

16/05/2006 SRI LANKA
Three churches attacked in less than a month
Buddhist monks are leading the attacks. Sri Lanka's parliament is examining two dangerous anti-conversion bills.

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