Maha Sangha issues ultimatum to Prime Minister


Having issued an ultimatum on Saturday (30) at the Independence Square to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) members including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to quit the Cabinet forthwith or face the consequences, senior members of the Maha Sangha asked political parties to support their initiative.

The meeting took place at the Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) on the joint invitation of Most Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobitha Nayaka Thera and Rt. Rev. Dr. Anthony Jayakody, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Colombo.

Among those MPs present were Ranjith Madduma Bandara, General Secretary, main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya; Vasudeva Nanayakkara, of dissident SLPP group; Buddhika Pathitana (SJB); Eran Wickremaratne (SJB); Vijitha Herath (JVP); Rishrad Bathiudeen (ALMC/SJB); Patali Champika Ranawaka (SJB); and former MP Mrs. Ferial Ashraff.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was represented by its President Saliya Pieris, PC. The top spokesperson for the Catholic Church Rev. Father Cyril Gamini was also present.

Lacille de Silva, former director administration, Parliament who is involved in the initiative, told  that the Maha Sanga had issued an unprecedented ultimatum to the President and the entire Cabinet-of-Ministers on the basis of letters dated April 04 and 20th, addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, by the Mahanayaka Theras.

Pointing out that the letter, dated April 20, has also been addressed to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament, de Silva emphasised the urgent need to reach a consensus on a political settlement.

The economic-political-social crisis has to be dealt with without further delay, de Silva said, adding that the Mahanayakes first letter, dated 04 April, received President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s response only on April 25th, five days after the Mahanayakes issued their second letter.

Before Prof. Olaganwaththe Chandrasiri laid down the conditions for a political settlement, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha had warned that the ruination of the country couldn’t be allowed for the benefit of the Rajapaksa family. The former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) lawmaker declared that Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa should quit as he had failed in his duties and responsibilities.

Having gathered at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC), Baudhaloka Mawatha, the members of the Maha Sanga walked to Independence Square for a formal meeting, where the ultimatum was issued.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha warned that they expected the incumbent government to heed their warning and take tangible measures to address public grievances, without further delay.

Civil society grouping Purawasi Handa, working closely with the Catholic Church, backed Maha Sanga initiative, said that they expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and political parties, represented in Parliament, to reach a consensus on an agreement by 15 May.

Ven. Olaganwaththe Chandrasiri, on behalf of the Mahanayaka Theras and the Maha Sanga, declared the following:

(1) dissolve the Cabinet-of-Ministers

(2) an interim all-party administration pending general election

(3) an expert committee to advice the interim administration

(4) interim all-party administration to follow a national policy, developed on the basis of consensus reached in Parliament

(5) educating the public of the agreed proposals and

(6) the President should abide by decisions taken by the interim administration.

Asked whether in accordance with the proposed plan the President could remain during the interim administration, de Silva confirmed the continuation of the incumbent President for the time being. Of course, the President, under any circumstances, wouldn’t be able to exercise executive powers to the detriment of the interim administration, he said.

Purawasi Handa spokesperson de Silva emphasised that the Maha Sanga appreciated the high-profile protest undertaken by the public, at the Galle Face, demanding the resignation of both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as the rest of the Cabinet Ministers.

The former top House official said that the Maha Sanga expected the President and all political parties, represented in the Parliament, to abide by the Mahanayakes, proposals. Therefore, whatever the initiatives undertaken by the President and other political parties, especially the SJB, should be done away with, or amended, to pave the way for the Maha Sanga’s initiative, de Silva said.

At the onset of the meeting at Independence Square, Ven. Prof. Agalakada Sirisumana flayed the President and the Premier for having enacted the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to enable themselves to engage in waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement, which, he said, had led to the present economic fallout. The President, the Premier and their henchmen wanted an administration that was not subjected to state auditing process, hence the decision to introduce the 20th Amendment.

The 20th Amendment received on overwhelming 2/3 support in Parliament, in Oct 2020. The controversial Amendment did away with provisions in the 19th Amendment that ensured transparency and accountability. The yahapalana administration enacted the 19th Amendment in 2015.

Ven. Sirisumana alleged the current dispensation had given ministerial portfolios to those who couldn’t be entrusted with responsibilities and caused havoc by delegating responsibilities to retired military officers; 48 percent of state enterprises had been placed under the Rajapaksas, the Thera added.

The senior monk was referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa and Shashendra Rajapaksa receiving key ministerial portfolios.

Stressing severe economic difficulties experienced owing to the incumbent administration’s failure to meet the basic needs of the people and make available essential food items, and services, at affordable prices, Ven. Sirisumana said that the government had paved the way for an era of queues.

He lambasted the government for the ill-conceived ban on all agrochemicals, in late April 2021, thereby causing huge crop losses. That decision destroyed the farmer community, Ven. Sirisumana alleged, while declaring their support to the ongoing campaign to oust President Rajapaksa and his government.

For 20 days, the protesters had been asking both the President and the Prime Minister to leave but they have chosen to remain, regardless of growing public protests, Ven. Sirisumana said, alleging that the President and the Premier hadn’t felt the growing public anger and extreme difficulties they were experiencing due to the government’s failure. The Thera reiterated their intention to have an interim administration for a period of one year, under a new Prime Minister.

Ven. Sirisumana said that they called the gathering at Independence Square as the government disregarded the Mahanayakes’ letter, dated 04 April.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha asked PM Rajapaksa to acknowledge his failure and quit office. The monk said that unless the Rajapaksas did as advised by the Maha Sanga, they would be dealt with harshly.

Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera vowed that they wouldn’t allow the current dispensation to continue. One family or one political party shouldn’t be placed in charge of the country, Ven. Ananda Sagara Thera declared, underscoring the significance of the ongoing Galle Face protest campaign. The senior monk said that the vast majority of those demanding the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister were Sinhala Buddhists. Declaring the public demanded the immediate restoration of normalcy, he warned all political parties to shed their differences and work in line with the proposals put forward by the Maha Sanga.

Ven Ananda Sagara urged SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa to cooperate with the plan and help achieve the stated objectives or face the consequences.  The Thera said that the Maha Sangha expected all political parties, including those who had declared they would operate independently to back the Maha Sanga’s proposals.