PM assures religious freedom

The government today assured it will protect religious freedom in the country after a demand by Buddhists monks to remove a mosque in central Sri Lanka had created controversy.

Prime Minister D.M Jayaratna said that while the Sri Lankan constitution calls for the promotion and protection of Buddhism, it does not encourage one to harm the rights of other religions.

“Doing such a thing is not right. As Buddhists we cannot do that. If there is a problem it should be discussed and resolved instead of creating rifts between religions,” the Prime Minister’s media unit quoted him as saying at an event in Kandy.

Monks and protestors had last week converged on a mosque in Dambulla and demanded that it be demolished on the basis that it has been constructed near a Buddhist Temple.

The monks forced the police to seal the premises on Friday and issued a deadline for the authorities remove the mosque saying if it is not removed by Monday then they will remove it themselves.

In a move seen aimed at defusing the tensions Prime Minister Jayaratna on Sunday ordered that the mosque be relocated to another suitable location.

However the decision drew flak from some government Muslim Ministers who insisted that the mosque had every right to operate at the previous location.

The monks who protested against the mosque said that it was an illegal construction however the Premier admitted today that it was not and the mosque was at that location for some 10 years.

Jayaratna warned that if rifts and clashes occur between various religions in the country that will force the government to react and in turn it will also give the international community a chance to raise allegations against the government similar to the allegations raised after the war with the LTTE. (Colombo Gazette)