Daily Mirror - Print Edition

Govt. to get tough on those speaking against religions

30 May 2023 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • Govt. to bring in stronger laws against criticizing religions
  • Are attempts afoot to sweep Jerome Fernando’s case under carpet?
  • Existing laws not adequate to protect religious harmony

By Darshana Sanjeewa Balasuriya and Sheain Fernandopulle  

In the wake of the recent derogatory and inflammatory statements made by certain individuals against Buddhism and other religions, the Government is mulling enacting stronger laws to ensure that religious harmony is properly safeguarded and upheld in the country.  

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs Minister said, “The existing laws in Sri Lanka are not adequate to prevent damage against religious harmony, and thus, new laws need to be enacted.”  
 “We as the Government must ensure that religious harmony and peace prevails in the country. In addition, we should also prevent any statement being made leading to communal conflicts or violence,” the Minister said.  
He proceeded to say that despite the Constitution stipulating on the freedom of expression and adhering to any religion, no one can downgrade or insult any religion or religious leader.   

He also stated that certain fractions had been insinuating to break harmony even prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, which is an easy way to disturb the peace and order of the country.  

In that context, he emphasized that they have zero tolerance against individuals who disturb religious harmony and thus should take precautions to annihilate them in order to promote religious coexistence and maintaining peace.  

During the last couple of months, there have been incidents where several individuals were arrested over making hate statements against religions. Starting from Sepal Amarasinghe who had insulted the Sacred Tooth Relic at Dalada Maligawa, was arrested.  

Then, Pastor Jerome Fernando, in a video insulted the Lord Buddha following which President Ranil Wickremesinghe had informed the CID Director to commence an immediate investigation against him. He is now facing a CID investigation over his hate comments against Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism.  
However, in the case of Jerome, serious questions have been raised as to how the Pastor was allowed to leave the country and why the CID acted late in obtaining a travel ban on him from court. By the time the CID had obtained the ban, Jerome, who is said to have strong political connections had already left the country and to this day remains overseas with no mentioned date of his return.   

After a few weeks, activist Natasha Edirisooriya, a stand-up comedian was arrested and remanded for making certain disrespectful remarks on Buddhism. On the heels of the incident, Venerable Rajangane Saddharathana Thero was also remanded for having made statements that could disrupt religious harmony.   

Meanwhile, Police Spokesman SSP Thalduwa said there are certain laws and acts under the Penal Code and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to deal with such incidents.  

“As such, the police will not tolerate such incidents and hence, will not hesitate to take strict action against them according to the existing laws,” he said.  

The Police Spokesman also stated that certain remarks would have led to clashes and violence between religious groups resulting in chaos in the country.  

Therefore, the police has requested people not to misuse the freedom of expression by making such disrespectful remarks on any religion. 



Creating religious disharmony

 Leading monks criticize Ven. Saddharathana thero’s behaviour on social media

  • Many people have been raising concerns as to whether his behaviour on social media is acceptable

By Kamanthi Wickramasinghe  

Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera, who lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) against Ven. Rajanganaye Saddharathana Thero alleged that there could be unseen forces pulling the strings from behind the scenes.  

 The complaint alleged that the latter had been promoting hate speech via his social media channels in an attempt to create religious disharmony among the public.  

Speaking at a media briefing, Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera said that many individuals have been insulting religions as of late. “Amongst them are several monks who are insulting the sāsana. One of them is Rajanganaye Saddharathana Thero. He has been promoting hate speech via his social media channels with obscene language. This Thero had been making hateful comments on senior monks, Mahanayaka Theros and even women and children. He uses terms like killing and refers to sinful acts as means of instigating violence in society. He had been endorsing the Sharia law in attempts to bring about religious disharmony. There have been instances when he passed hateful comments on other religions and ethnic minorities to create tensions among these groups.”  

He further said that many people have been raising concerns as to whether his behaviour on social media is acceptable. “But even though we warned the hierarchy of the chapter he belongs to and criticized his behaviour on social media, he never attempted to rectify his behaviour. Therefore we feel that there are unseen forces pulling the strings from behind the scenes. It has also been alleged that there have been various financial transactions to his account. None of the stakeholders have taken action against him so far. Since this has to be stopped somewhere, I lodged a complaint at the CID and provided them with a CD that includes all his videos. We urge the CID to investigate as to whether he has any psychological issues and we also plan to discuss about his priesthood with chief lekakadikaris and senior monks in his chapter.”  

I’m not afraid to die for speaking the truth” – Ven. Saddharathana Thero

Ven. Saddharathana Thero has been a prominent figure on social media channels and has become infamous for using obscene language in public. Speaking to the media, the Ven. Thero said that he has been arrested for blaming Natasha and Jerome. “We love this country and there are no racial or religious differences. I’m not afraid to die for speaking the truth.”