02/18/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Religious and business leaders together for a ‘road map’ out of the crisis

by Melani Manel Perera
Sri Lanka’s Congress of Religions, business organisations and professional associations present a proposal to both government and opposition on how to end the civil war, implement electoral reform and protect press freedom.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Religious leaders, business people and professional associations have joined forces in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis that is currently gripping the country. The Congress of Religions, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the Organisation of Professional Associations and the Law and Society Trust have agreed that next Saturday a committee would meet to draw up a proposal to end the war, implement electoral reform and guarantee freedom of the press. Once finalised it would be presented to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The task however remains difficult. The Venerable Ittepane Dhammalankara, a Buddhist monk who chairs the Congress of Religions, has acknowledged that fact. For him the greatest obstacle is limiting the powers of the presidency as part of a wider process of decentralisation of power in favour of the country’s eastern and northern regions claimed by Tamil rebels.

Mgr Oswald Gomis, Catholic archbishop of Colombo and founder of the Congress of Religions, said that it would be impossible to deal with the country’s great problems without a bipartisan approach involving the two major political alliances, the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the opposition United National Front headed by United National Party.

For his part Colombo’s Anglican bishop, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera, said he hoped that the parties could agree to a ‘road map’ that would put the country back on the right track.

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