The polls were called early by President Chandrika Kumaratunga to end a power struggle with the rival prime minister over peace talks with the Tamil Tigers, but observers noted they have merely served to usher in an assembly filled with extremists. rn
rnrnFor the first time, Sri Lankas parliament will have an all-clergy party taking nine seats in the 225-member assembly.
The saffron-robed Buddhist monks are already challenging the etiquette in an assembly based on Westminster traditions. rn
rnrn”For starters, we are looking at a new way to have our seats,” said monk legislator-elect Athuraliya Ratana. “We dont have to be in the opposition or in the government side. We may ask for a separate seating arrangement for us.” rn
rnrnBut while the monks — who represent the majority, mainly Buddhist Sinhalese community — say they want to establish a “righteous state” and oppose the use of violence, they are also preaching a radical brand of Sinhalese nationalism and say they will oppose any concessions t