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Speaker to head Parliament Committee on building national unity, co-existence

A special Parliament Committee headed by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is to be appointed to come up with a series of proposals to build national unity.

Speaker Jayasuriya, addressing the media at the end of a conference on National and Religious Reconciliation attended by multi-religious representatives at the Parliament complex yesterday, said the Committee would take the opinions of the religious leaders, intellectuals and the public and present a realistic and practical set of proposals to improve ethnic and religious co-existence in the country.

He said the proposal to set up an all-party Parliamentary Committee for the purpose would be discussed at the next Party Leaders’ Meeting. The Committee will have the power to make recommendations on any matter related to reconciliation and to review their implementation.

The Speaker, recalling the recent ethnic and religious violence unleashed in Kandy and Ampara, said those incidents were a black mark that brought disrepute to the country. Highlighting that many among those who acted violently in Kandy were youth between 18 and 21 years, Jayasuriya pointed out the urgent need to reform our education system to embed values of ethnic and religious co-existence since very early age.

The religious leaders who took part in the conference emphasised that political parties framed on ethnic and religious lines are a bane for national unity. Vidyodaya Pirivena Pirivenadhipathi Ven. Balangoda Sobitha Nayaka thera called on the political authorities not to allow such parties to mushroom and take measures to prevent such parties from creating frictions among communities seeking political mileage. Bishop Winston Fernando said such political parties divided on ethnic and religious lines would only contribute to the failure of the country.

Bishop Fernando and Kandy Chief Moulavi Fazlur Rehman also highlighted that Police needs to be more vigilant and act instantly to prevent isolated incidents from becoming racial or ethnic clashes, adding that a lapse on the part of Police was apparent in Kandy during the recent communal tensions.

IGP Pujith Jayasundara had briefed the gathering on measures taken to protect peace and harmony in the country, also giving an undertaking to implement the law without fear or favour against any offender who breach the country’s laws.

Parliament Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary General Neil Iddawala spoke.