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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06COLOMBO635 2006-04-19 12:01:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

PROPOSED ANTI-CONVERSION LEGISLATION UNLIKELY TO

Tags:   PGOV PHUM CE 
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VZCZCXRO7662
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHLM #0635 1091201
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191201Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3162
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 9113
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 6002
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 4038
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2948
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 9522
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA PRIORITY 0158
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 6553
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 4464
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L COLOMBO 000635 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM CE
SUBJECT: PROPOSED ANTI-CONVERSION LEGISLATION UNLIKELY TO
MOVE FORWARD

REF: A. COLOMBO 1889 2005

B. COLOMBO 383

Classified By: AMBASSADOR JEFFREY J. LUNSTEAD FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) and (
d)



1. (U) After more than eighteen months in legislative limbo,
the Buddhist monk-based Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU)
anti-conversion bill showed faint signs of life when the
Speaker of Parliament appointed Wijedasa Rajapakse, the
Minister of State for Banks, to head the parliamentary select
committee to review the bill, which makes "unethical
conversion" illegal. When the bill was initially introduced
in August 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that several clauses
violated Article 10 of the Sri Lankan Constitution, which
provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,
including the freedom to change one's religion by choice.



2. (SBU) Venerable Athureliye Ratana Thero, the JHU
parliamentary group leader and appointee to the new
parliamentary committee, told us on April 18 that the
committee will amend the bill in accord with the Supreme
Court's recommendations. The committee consists of two
Muslims, five Hindus, six Christians, and seven Buddhists
(including the chairperson). If the bill is amended in
committee, it could move to a second reading in parliament to
be followed by general debate and an eventual vote. The bill
will remain open to court challenges from parliamentarians or
members of the public during this process. However, the bill
may also remain stuck in Committee for an indefinite period.




3. (SBU) A second JHU bill-- a constitutional amendment to
make Buddhism the State religion-- proposed in September 2004
still has not had its day in parliament. Nevertheless, it
remains on the "Order Paper," the list from which all agenda
items are drawn. A bill's sponsor has to lobby to move a
bill from the Order Paper to the agenda, but Venerable Ratana
said the JHU will not attempt to do so. Similarly, an
anti-conversion bill approved by the cabinet of
then-President Kumaratunga in June 2005 has never been
presented or discussed in parliament. There has been no
discussion on that bill from any quarter since before the
November 2005 presidential election.



4. (C) Comment: The JHU bill has languished for over a year
and does not seem to enjoy broad popular support. President
Rajapaksa, in the lead-up to the November presidential polls,
made an election pact with the JHU that notably omitted
mention of the anti-conversion legislation. President
Rajapaksa has stated definitely to the Ambassador that he
will not allow such a bill to pass. By many accounts,
Committee chair Rajapakse (no relation to the President) is a
life-long party loyalist likely to follow the President's
lead. We assess it is unlikely that the bill will move past
the committee stage. The Ambassador will raise the issue
again with the President and other officials as needed. End
comment.
LUNSTEAD