Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday denounced Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s response to Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and asked whether the response was the government’s opinion.
He expressed these views to media after a group of Catholic MPs and Provincial Councillors met him to express their displeasure over Minister Samaraweera’s response.
“We want to know whether this is the opinion of the government or its policy. We condemn Minister Samaraweera’s statement. Even many Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Catholics spoke to me and said they are against this. The Cardinal has simply made a statement inside a church during a service. Criticizing it in this manner is wrong,” he said.
Mr Rajapaksa said the Prime Minister should make a statement over the issue.“We see this as a bad precedent. If statements of religious leaders were continued to be defamed like this, there will be no end to it,” he said.
In response to Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s remarks that human rights had become the religion among the Western nations, Finance Minister Samaraweera said the Cardinal seems to got things wrong in trying to be a populist.
In a tweet, the Minister said, “The need for Human Rights was an outcome of the marauding religious zealots of the Inquisition and the Crusades, where non-believers were massacred "En-Bloc". Pity, the Cardinal always seems to get things wrong in trying to be a populist,”
Meanwhile, the Cardinal sent a clarification and said, "What I basically intended to say on this matter was that if religion is truly practised it could take us to achieve levels of justice, going even beyond the expectations of human rights and thus need not be such an issue for our Catholic community and so encouraged the flock gathered at that particular religious ceremony to, therefore, practice their faith truthfully avoiding turning religious values into something that is ephemeral. But I do accept that with regard to the essentially non-religious nature of the State, human rights as a common platform has its own role to play. Replacing religion with human rights is not what is to be done but human rights should be further strengthened through the good practice of faith,' (Lahiru Pothmulla)