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Sri Lankan president vows to conduct ‘all government duties’ on advice of Buddhist monks

Sri Lanka’s president told a group of senior Buddhist monks that his government would ensure “all duties” are carried out in accordance with their advice, as he marked Vesak this weekend.

Speaking at Buddhist ceremony, Maithripala Sirisena said that “all the duties will be conducted as a government in accordance with the advices of the Maha Sangha”.

The president’s media division also reported Mr Sirisena as having “assured the Maha Sangha that the government will dedicate towards the progress of Buddhist order and of Maha Sangha in the future too”.

“Whatsoever the criticisms may occur, every positive step will be taken on behalf of the people and the country,” he was quoted as stating.

He also announced the issuing of a stamp to mark the Buddhist Vesak festival.

Mr Sirisena has made several overtures to Sinhala Buddhists, with his government announcing that it will ban the sale of all meat, alongside the liquor and gambling, for Vesak. He had also declared that International Workers’ Day, commonly marked as May Day, will now be shifted from May 1st to May 7th due to the festival, after pressure from various Buddhist lobby groups, reportedly the first time in Sri Lanka’s history that May Day festivities had been moved.

Meanwhile a minister in Mr Sirisena’s government met with the head of Bodu Bala Sena, a Sinhala nationalist extremist group notorious for hate speech and inciting racial violence last week. The meeting came after the government confirmed that the monk also took part in a meeting with the Sri Lankan president in Tokyo last month.

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