Caritas Sri Lanka –SEDEC organized an awareness programme to discuss and analyze the current political crisis in Sri Lanka on 15th November, 2018. Priests, religious, civil society leaders and staff of Caritas National Centre participated in the programme.
The forum under the theme, ‘Reflection on Current Political Situation’ was chaired by Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, Chairman, Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development and co-chaired by Rt. Rev. Diloraj Canagasabey, Bishop of Colombo, Anglican community, Rev. Asiri Perera, the Bishop of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka and Dr. Jehan Perera, Executive Director of National Peace Council of Sri Lanka at the invitation of Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke, National Director, Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC.
The forum was facilitated by SEDEC to create a deeper understanding among the participants of the current political crisis from a constitutional and moral perspective. The guest speakers of the programme were Prof. Camena Gunaratne, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Open University of Sri Lanka and Mr. J.C. Weliamuna, President’s Counsel, erudite, renowned human rights lawyer and the former Executive Director of the Sri Lankan branch of the anti-corruption organization, Transparency International.
Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke welcomed the eminent guests and thanked all who were present for gracing the occasion. To explain the purpose of the forum Fr. Mahendra quoted the chapter IV of Vatican II – ‘Gurdium et Spes’ (Church in the Modern World), ‘Men are repudiating political systems, still prevailing in some parts of the world, which hinder civil and rebellious liberty or victimize their citizens through avarice and political crimes, or distort the use of authority from being at the service of the common good to benefitting the convenience of political parties or of the governing classes.’
Prof. Camena Gunaratne’s speech was based on ‘Constitutional Governance and Parliamentary Democracy’. She explained in great detail from a theoretical viewpoint, what is meant by the terminologies. The professor outlined article 33 (1) and 70 (1) and reiterated that the articles should be interpreted in relation to articles 33, 70, 46 (2) and 48 (2). She illustrated that the constitution is the supreme law of the country and the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary are all answerable to the constitution. Only if this is understood in the correct perspective, the supreme sovereignty of the people will be safeguarded, she said.
In a well-versed speech, Mr. Weliamuna focused on the practical aspect of the present political situation. He emphasized that the present constitution crisis will lead to a constitutional deadlock. Unlocking the deadlock will have to be on the road and it might damage the reputation of the country. So he suggests that civil societies and religious leaders should take the initiative to play a key role in this regard.
At the forum, participants asked questions in relation to the present crisis from the experts, though even they had no clear idea as to where the crisis would lead to. Analyzing the situation, in the concluding remarks, Dr. Jehan Perera pointed out that the general public has started to talk about the constitution more following the recent political instability. He suggested that awareness programmes should be conducted at grass root level too for the public about the basics of the Sri Lankan constitution.
Meanwhile Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC organized a follow-up discussion at the auditorium of Ave Maria Convent in Negombo on 26th November, 2018. Rt. Rev. Dr. Julian Winston Sebastian Fernando SSS, Bishop of Badulla chaired the session while Rev. Asiri Perera, Bishop of the Methodist Church and Rev. Fr. Dilan Fernando SSS, President of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) of Sri Lanka co-chaired the event. A large number of both religious and lay persons took part in the discussion.