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“Withdraw the bill to control the conduct of bhikkus” Buddhist Organizations in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan government has presented a bill titled “Theravadi Bhikku Kathikawath (Registration)” seeking the approval of Parliament to bring laws and regulations to control the conduct of bhikkhus and to punish those who fail to comply the new laws. It has been presented by Chief Government Whip and Parliament Reforms and Mass Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka.

Media reported, “the bill seeks to provide for the formulation and registration of Kathikawath in relation to Nikaya or Chapters of Theravadi Bhikkhus in Sri Lanka to provide for every bhikkhu to act in compliance with the provisions of the Registered Kathikawath of the Nikaya or Chapter which relates to such bhikku, to impose punishment on bhikkus who act in violation of the provisions of any Registered Kathikawath and for the matters connected therewith or incidental hitherto. Bhikku who fails or refuses to comply with such decision shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and shall on conviction after summary trial by a magistrate be liable to a fine not less than Rs 50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both such fine and imprisonment.” (The Island 13/01/2016)

However, leading bhikku organizations and Buddhist civil society activists of Sri Lanka have started to raise their voice against the bill. They mention that this would lead to a greater schism within the Shasana (the order of Bhikku organization), and unrighteous politicians cannot impose laws against Buddhist monks who are abided by the world oldest and strongest code of discipline, introduced by Shakyamuni Thathagatha Gauthama Buddha . According to the statements released by leading Buddhist organizations, they do not deny the necessity of controlling the conduct of bhikkus, but clearly point out that this is not the way to address the issue. “The government should first enact the Sanghadhikarana Act (the Act that will institute a separate judiciary for the monks) and the Act that prevents illegal and unethical religious conversion” they state. According to them, the bill is an oblique attempt by the government to restrain the bhikkus from mediating in political discrimination against Buddhists in the country.