Land & Religious Management in Sri Lanka

| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

( December 13, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Land management in Sri Lanka is a sensitive issue due to Native titles. It is here in Australia too – in relation to Aborigines. Land is also closely connected to Politics especially in Sri Lanka during current times.
This morning a very caring Senior Citizens group sent me an article by Namini Wijedasa under the title ‘Supreme Court determines land is a devolved subject coming under provincial councils’. The opening paragraph of this article states ‘The government last week withdrew an amendment to the Town and Country Planning Ordinance that if passed would have given the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs vast powers over any private property in the country.’
I focused more keenly after reading this due to our own Temple Property in Northern Sri Lanka. The report says ‘the latest amendment, by its interpretation, would have given the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs near absolute power over non-state lands. (The terms of the Town and Country Planning Ordinance only apply to private property).’
Whilst it is good to learn that the proposed amendment was withdrawn by the Government, one wonders as to the reliability of the Sri Lankan Public Administrative system. As per the report ‘The bill was taken off the order paper after the Supreme Court determined that land was a Provincial Council, and therefore devolved, subject. The determination was made subsequent to the Centre for Policy Alternatives and its director Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu challenging the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) before the Supreme Court. Sudharshana Gunawardena was intervenient petitioner………. Meanwhile, clause 7 of the new amendment takes ‘Sacred Areas’ even further. It states that any order made by the relevant minister under Section 6 of the principal enactment (that is, the Town and Country Planning Ordinance) before the coming into operation of the amendment “shall, with effect from the coming into operation of this Act, be deemed to be an Order declaring any defined area to be a ‘Sacred Area’.”
This kind of outcome would often happen when Government decisions are more political and less administrative. The Constitution of Sri Lanka includes priority status for Buddhism. The Government also actively promotes Buddhist practices during official ceremonies. To the extent majority in Government actually believe and stay within the boundaries of that belief whilst expressing themselves to other believers – they would always be ‘right’. In other words, the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs who believes in Buddha Sasaba, would always be right if s/he believes that an area is sacred for Buddhists. But until there is a Minister for Hindu Sasthiram another for Muslims and another for Christians – anything connected to religion would not lead to democratic practices at National level. Religion needs to be addressed through principles of ‘Diversity’ and ‘Specialization’.
In Sri Lanka, majority are monocultural. Unless a law is equally applicable to all citizens, it would not contribute to common administration and therefore to connect us at National level. Any reference to religion therefore, needs to be devolved to the Provinces where decisions need to be taken as per the consciousness of the laws of majority religion in that area. Otherwise there is likely to be conflict between belief and intellectual discrimination to be used in Administration.
When I used the legal system seeking Justice for the pain and loss I suffered at the workplace, I used the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. I established through objective evidence that I had suffered loss. I proved also that the reason for that loss was NOT merit based assessment. I submitted that as per my belief based assessment – the reason why it happened to me was race. None of the Judges accepted that. They indicated that I had to ‘prove’ that whatever happened was due to my race. I concluded that the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 was not fit for current Australia, because the belief of minority are not accepted even when there is no belief based reason given by those who acted to cause the loss/damage and there was no objective merit based assessment to prove that I deserved punishment. To my mind, if merit basis had been applied, the Respondents would have been defeated. Having learnt the Truth – I devolved myself to lower status groups. Identifying with Truth brings Peace to my mind and happiness in my heart.
In terms of Tamil areas – the relevant religious laws would be Hindu. Hence if Hindus find Buddhist statues and temples to be obstructive (as is the case at Kathirgamam Hill) they need to be facilitated to take necessary steps as per their Hindu Cultural Laws. That would help promote ethnic harmony.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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