Sri Lanka President reaffirms constitutional priority of Buddhism

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe at "Gurudev Suwa Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre" in Kiriwaththuduwa, Homagama

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the constitutional mandate to prioritize Buddhism, highlighting that this responsibility lies with the executive, legislature, and judiciary.

He made it clear that this principle is non-negotiable and must be upheld by all branches of government. If anyone wishes to change this, they must amend the constitution.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks at the inauguration ceremony of the “Gurudev Suwa Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre” in Kiriwaththuduwa, Homagama, on June 1. He stressed that failure to support the prioritization of Buddhism constitutes a constitutional violation, obliging all Members of Parliament to protect it.

The President noted that the constitution enshrines three core principles: the sovereignty of the people, the prioritization of Buddhism, and the preservation of territorial integrity. Opposing these principles breaches the constitution, and he emphasized the need for continuous progress while safeguarding these tenets.

The President also shared an update on a critically ill patient he is overseeing, who is now showing signs of recovery. He expressed deep gratitude for the support and guidance of the Maha Sangha in this effort.

The “Gurudev Suwa Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre” was established on the recommendation of the late Chief Registrar of Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, Venerable Mapalagama Siri Somissara Nayaka Thero, and the current Chief incumbent, Venerable Pitigala Sonuttara Nayaka Thero. The center includes a five-story building and a three-story building, with facilities to treat fifty monks simultaneously. It features 20 rooms, a ward yard, an alms hall, medicine stores, emergency treatment units, office rooms, and accommodations for doctors, providing comprehensive care and support.

The center’s construction was supported by the Sri Lanka Army and local and international donors. Notable contributors include Venerable Bhikkuni Neunghaeng from South Korea and Bhikkuni Kaushon from Taiwan, who provided medical equipment. These contributions followed an invitation by Venerable Katuwana Vijithawansa from South Korea.

After unveiling the plaque and inaugurating the center, President Wickremesinghe toured the facility. He paid homage to Venerable Pitigala Sonuttara Nayaka Thero for his national and religious service, acknowledging his dedication to establishing the center. The President also presented a commemorative gift to Venerable Neunghaeng and to Mrs. Sandhya Kantilatha, who donated the land for the center.

In his speech, the President highlighted the significance of the new hospital, the first in Sri Lanka dedicated solely to monks. He expressed gratitude to all contributors, particularly Bhikkuni Neunghaeng, and assured ongoing support from the Ministry of Health’s Indigenous Medicine section. He also emphasized the importance of protecting the natural environment surrounding the facility.

Addressing a call for the separation of government and Buddhism, the President stated that while citizens have the right to practice any religion or none, the constitution mandates prioritizing Buddhism. This responsibility extends to all three branches of government, and failure to support this principle is a constitutional violation. He reminded Members of Parliament of their oath to uphold the constitution and noted that this issue had never been previously contested or discussed.

The President concluded by reiterating the need for all branches of government to prioritize Buddhist doctrine. He acknowledged potential debates on implementation but affirmed the principle’s indisputability. Any changes to this principle, he emphasized, must be made through constitutional amendments.