Buddhist hardliners reject federal solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issues

buddhist-monks-protest-in-colombo_11COLOMBO, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — An organization of Buddhist hardliners in Sri Lanka has rejected a federal solution to the country’s long running ethnic problems, insisting it is ” unsuitable,” an official said Tuesday.

The Bodu Bala Sena or Buddhist Task Force dismissed the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution that India along with the Tamil minority in the county believe is the starting point of devolving power to minorities.

The 13th Amendment was introduced by India in 1989 but has never been fully implemented in the north and east parts of the country where the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) waged a brutal three decade war to carve out a separate homeland for Tamils.

The LTTE was militarily defeated by the Sri Lankan government in May 2009 but attempts to resolve minority issues have been largely unsuccessful.

Last week the BBS joined Venerable Ashin Wirathu, the leader of the controversial 969 Movement in Myanmar, to protect South Asian Buddhists. “There is only one country. No one can have their own zones, federalism is good for a country like India but not for a small country such as Sri Lanka. As an organization we support devolving of power but not the Indian model. We will support any devolution of power where the power will be devolved to people. So we need to strengthen democratic institutions,” BBS CEO Dilanthe Withanage told reporters.

Withanage also expressed hope that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a “different approach” to resolving ethnic issues in Sri Lanka.

The organization also released a 12-point agenda for the government, which includes a demand to remove minority representation in the national flag. The BBS has also regularly threatened to change the government if it did not heed the organization’s demands.

However, Sri Lanka’s government has noted it does not back the BBS and has attempted to distance itself from the organization.

Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella last week insisted the government did not endorse the views of the BBS.

“If anyone feels threatened by the BBS there is enough space within the legal framework to address these issues,” he emphasized.