Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) says “One Country One Law(OCOL)Presidential Task Force would usurp the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including Parliament and the Ministry of Justice


Azzam Ameen

In a letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has pointed out that the preparation of draft legislation and the study of existing legislation which the One Country One Law Task Force has been directed to perform are tasks of a serious nature involving several institutions of the State, and added that no useful purpose would be served by the Task Force.

While stating that Legislative power is one of the aspects of the sovereignty of the people, the BASL states that the Constitution itself provides a framework for the legislative process which is supplemented by other laws and by the Standing Orders of Parliament.

The Sectoral Oversight Committees of Parliament as well as Standing Committees and Select Committees which can be constituted as per the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Law Commission which is an institution established by law are among these mechanisms. In addition, during the last year the Ministry of Justice has appointed several committees to propose reforms to various laws, according to the BASL.

Additionally, it was also detailed that the Attorney General and his Department also plays a key role in the law-making process and is recognized by the Constitution.

“Given that the Department of the Attorney General too plays a key role in this process, questions arise of the role the Task Force will play vis-a-vis the Attorney General and his officers,” the BASL notes.

In these circumstances, the Association states that the appointment of a Task Force to oversee the work of the Ministry of Justice is improper and outside the accepted framework for lawmaking.

“Any alienation of what are properly functions of the duly elected legislators and proper legally mandated executive functionaries by relocating their functions elsewhere involves erosion of the Sovereignty of the People,” it said.

The BASL further observes that the Task Force itself is not a representative body, given that it has no female representation nor representation from several ethnic groups and religious groups in the country. Serious doubts also exist as to the qualifications, expertise, and suitability of the Chairperson of the Task Force and of many of its members to engage in the functions described in the Gazette.

Whilst there is no doubt that the concepts of equality, fairness, non-discrimination, the protection of the law and nationally and internationally recognized humanitarian values are all laudable principles, the BASL says that it is doubtful if the process set out in the Gazette and the creation of the Task Force can make any meaningful contribution in upholding these values.

The letter also states that in the past few months, the BASL which is committed to the Rule of Law has drawn the attention of the President and to the Government on several instances where the Rule of Law and the Fundamental Rights of the people have been violated.

“However, the BASL notes with regret that no remedial measures have been taken in this regard. In the above circumstances the BASL is of the view that no useful purpose would be served by the creation and appointment of the aforesaid Task Force, which in view of the BASL would usurp the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including Parliament and the Ministry of Justice,” the letter concludes.

Courtesy:The Morning