More than 280 Monks Campaign for Seats in Parliament

April 3, 2004

Source: The Telegraph

On April 3, 2004 The Telegraph reported, "Sri Lanka's Buddhist clergy broke with tradition yesterday as more than 280 monks stood for seats in parliament for their new National Heritage Party. They are expected to win only seven or eight of the parliament's 225 seats, but analysts say the monks may find themselves 'kingmakers' in a hung parliament. The election is the third in four years and the monks, like many Sri Lankan voters, say they have grown impatient with politicians. In their campaign literature they promise a "righteous state" based on the five precepts of Buddhism that will cleanse the country of 'thuggery, perverse deeds, corruption and mudslinging.' They said the politicians had stopped listening to the monks, who have exercised influence over politics for 2,500 years. Specifically, they have been angered by the failure of the previous government to pass legislation banning evangelical Christian groups from "unethical conversions" in rural areas...Outside a polling station in a suburb of Colombo, yesterday, the general feeling among many voters appears to echo that of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who has argued that religion and politics should not mix. 'The best place for a monk is in his temple,' said one. 'What Sri Lanka needs is stability, and I don't think the monks can bring that.'"