Date:  March 24, 2020

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa hinted that he is prepared to introduce an anti-conversion bill to “save this country” from falling into deep difficulties.

On 2 March, Rajapaksa, a leading member of the majority Sinhala Buddhist community and brother of the country’s president, spoke shortly before the announcement of a general election, due to take place on 25 April but now postponed because of the coronavirus.

Addressing the annual convention of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, a network of 324 councils responsible for running Buddhist Dhamma schools, Rajapaksa outlined the “threats facing the Sinhala Buddhist nation”. He identified the conversion of “traditional Buddhist families to other religions” as a major “threat”.

The Prime Minister said that he had recently attended a wedding of a friend where the family, which had been Buddhist for generations, had converted to another religion (which he did not name). Rajapaksa’s own wife, Shiranthi, is a practising Roman Catholic.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

Rajapaksa implied that an anti-conversion bill could be introduced after the parliamentary elections if the Sanga Sabawa (Monks’ Council) unanimously agreed. “There are many that oppose it and that is why we don’t want to touch it,” Rajapaksa told his audience. “If you want it you must bring it forward unanimously otherwise it will be my neck on the line,” he added.