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Thursday February 29th, 2024

Mahinda raises controversial Anti-Conversion Bill issue

Mahinda Rajapaksa on the campaign trail

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is driving the governing party’s Parliamentary Election campaign and at the outset has taken a hard right turn.

He has also revived the discussion over the controversial anti-conversion Bill.

In the week preceding the dissolution of Parliament which happened at mid-night Monday, Rajapaksa has been seen with dozens of leading Buddhist Monks, offering them gifts and alms and on occasion appointments and honors.

Rajapaksa has been and is the undisputed political leader for the Right-wing Sinhala Buddhist community in the island and this opening period of the campaign is being spent shoring up that base.

One of the most important speeches that he made in the week that preceded the declaration of the elections was at the Annual Convention of the All Ceylon Buddhist Councils (සමස්ත ලංකා ශාසනාරක්ෂක මණ්ඩල සමුළුව).

It is a network of 324 Councils around the country responsible for running Buddhist Dhamma schools and disbursing funds for various charities and were set up during British Colonial times in 1895.

They were run on volunteer contributions until 1956 when they were granted state funds.

In his speech the Prime Minister identified the “threats facing the Sinhala Buddhist Nation,” reinforcing the notion that he is the protector.

The major threats he said was the introduction of narcotic drugs to school children and the other, the conversion of “traditional Buddhist families to other religions.”

He said he attended a wedding of a friend recently where the family which had been Buddhists for generations had converted to another religion which he did not name.

In a video widely circulated on Social Media of that speech, he also refers to “a Bill that was brought to Parliament that you have been talking about.”

It was a hint at the controversial Anti-Conversion Bill which was proposed in 2006 and has been struck down by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa told the audience that if that Bill is revived it must “have the support of all quarters. There are many that oppose it and that is why we don’t want to touch it. If you want it you must bring it forward unanimously otherwise it will be my neck on the line.” (සියළු දෙනාගේම කැමැත්ත ඇතුව ඉදිරපත් කරන්න …… නැත්තම් මගේ බෙල්ල තමයි  අහුවෙන්නේ)

This particular remark was not included in the official text version of the speech released to media, but was reported by Swarnavahini news. A clip of that apparently off-the-cuff remark is being shared widely on social media. The particular newscast that of February 26 is no longer available on the Swarnavahini.lk website.

Tatyana Rajapaksa walking into St Mary’s Bambalapitiya on the arm of her father Jerome Jayaratne for her wedding/Facebook.com

Rajapaksa’s own family is multi-religious. His wife Shiranthi is a practising Roman Catholic and one of his sons, Rohitha, is married to a Christian, Tatyana Lee Jayaratne. The couple went through several wedding ceremonies including a full Mass at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Bambalapitiya.  

Comments (3)

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  1. Hariharan says:

    You are living in a glass house, be careful what you throw from inside!!

    1. vijaya fernando says:

      Mr Galgamuwa you are perfectly correct. To describe a country as Singhalese Buddhist is attributing a religion to someone depending on where and to whom that person is born. If that is correct, that means at any one time,for example in this decade 19 million humans have the peculiar responsibility of preserving a religion for 7.5 billion people. How ridiculous!
      I could have been born to a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian a Jain in the UK , Italy India or Sri Lanka.

  2. Dinesh Galgamuwa says:

    Religion or belief is someone’s own preference or freedom. Do not touch it. If someone is imposing another belief by force, then it’s wrong and action must be taken. If not its up to the individual to choose.. Also if PM is bringing this Bill by being unfair to someone’s faith or religion, and it’s also for personal /political gain , of course the Wrath of the God and lamentations of the believers would be upon him or whoever that supports it. So please be very careful with these sensitive issues. Even the innocents would have to pay for these…

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hariharan says:

    You are living in a glass house, be careful what you throw from inside!!

    1. vijaya fernando says:

      Mr Galgamuwa you are perfectly correct. To describe a country as Singhalese Buddhist is attributing a religion to someone depending on where and to whom that person is born. If that is correct, that means at any one time,for example in this decade 19 million humans have the peculiar responsibility of preserving a religion for 7.5 billion people. How ridiculous!
      I could have been born to a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian a Jain in the UK , Italy India or Sri Lanka.

  2. Dinesh Galgamuwa says:

    Religion or belief is someone’s own preference or freedom. Do not touch it. If someone is imposing another belief by force, then it’s wrong and action must be taken. If not its up to the individual to choose.. Also if PM is bringing this Bill by being unfair to someone’s faith or religion, and it’s also for personal /political gain , of course the Wrath of the God and lamentations of the believers would be upon him or whoever that supports it. So please be very careful with these sensitive issues. Even the innocents would have to pay for these…

Sri Lanka’s RAMIS online tax collection system “not operatable”: IT Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s online tax collection system RAMIS is “not operatable”, and the Ministry of Information Technology is ready to do for an independent audit to find the shortcomings, State IT Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) was introduced to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when the island nation signed for its 16th International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016.

However, trade unions at the IRD protested the move, claiming that the system was malfunctioning despite billions being spent for it amid allegations that the new system was reducing the direct contacts between taxpayers and the IRD to reduce corruption.

The RAMIS had to be stopped after taxpayers faced massive penalties because of blunders made by heads of the IT division, computer operators and system errors at the IRD, government officials have said.

“The whole of Sri Lanka admits RAMIS is a failure. The annual fee is very high for that. This should be told in public,” Herath told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Thursday (29)

“In future, we want all the ministries to get the guidelines from our ministry when they go for ERP (Enterprise resource planning).”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government said the RAMIS system will be operational from December last year.

However, the failure has delayed some tax collection which could have been paid via online.

“It is not under our ministry. It is under the finance ministry. We have no involvement with it, but still, it is not operatable,” Herath said.

“So, there are so many issues going on and I have no idea what the technical part of it. We can carry out an independent audit to find out the shortcomings of the software.”

Finance Ministry officials say IRD employees and trade unions had been resisting the RAMIS because it prevents direct interactions with taxpayers and possible bribes for defaulting or under paying taxes.

The crisis-hit island nation is struggling to boost its revenue in line with the target it has committed to the IMF in return for a 3 billion-dollar extended fund facility. (Colombo/Feb 29/2024) 

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Sri Lanka aims to boost SME with Sancharaka Udawa tourism expo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is hosting Sancharaka Udawa, a tourism industry exhibition which will bring together businesses ranging from hotels to travel agents and airlines, and will allow the small and medium sector build links with the rest of the industry, officials said.

There will be over 250 exhibitors, with the annual event held for the 11th time expected to draw around 10,000 visitors, the organizers said.

“SMEs play a big role, from homestays to under three-star categories,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu told reporters.

“It is very important that we develop those markets as well.”

The Sancharaka Udawa fair comes as the Indian Ocean island is experiencing a tourism revival.

Sri Lanka had welcomed 191,000 tourists up to February 25, compared to 107,639 in February 2023.

“We have been hitting back-to-back double centuries,” Gajabahu said. “January was over 200,000.”

The exhibition to be held on May 17-18, is organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators.

It aims to establish a networking platform for small and medium sized service providers within the industry including the smallest sector.

“Homestays have been increasingly popular in areas such as Ella, Down South, Knuckles and Kandy,” SLAITO President, Nishad Wijethunga, said.

In the northern Jaffna peninsula, both domestic and international tourism was helping hotels.

A representative of the Northern Province Tourism Sector said that the Northern Province has 170 hotels, all of which have 60-70 percent occupancy.

Further, domestic airlines from Colombo to Palali and the inter-city train have been popular with local and international visitors, especially Indian tourists. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 309.50/70 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 309.50/70 to the US dollar Thursday, from 310.00/15 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were slightly higher.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.50/70 percent down from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.10 percent from 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.30/45 percent up from 12.20/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.35/50 percent up from 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.55/13.00 percent up from 12.50/90 percent. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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