By Shamindra Ferdinando
The government has amended a controversial Gazette dated Oct 26, 2021on the appointment of Presidential Task Force (PTF) headed by Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara to examine the implementation of ‘One Country, One Law’ principle and prepare a draft Act following strong objections by Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC.
SLPP National List lawmaker Sabry declared that he couldn’t remain the justice minister unless the authority given to the PTF over the justice ministry was done away with. The PTF consisted of 13 persons.
In addition to being tasked with formulating a draft Act, Ven. Gnanasara’s PTF, in terms of the Oct 26,2021 gazette has been asked to study the draft Acts and amendments that have already been prepared by the Ministry of Justice in this regard and propose suitable amendments depending on the requirement.
The President’s Office has issued instructions to amend the relevant gazette following the Justice Minister discussing the grave issue with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Nov 05.
Subsequently, a new gazette dated Nov 06 wholly removed the terms of references as in the previous gazette and tasked the PTF to submit proposals for ‘formulating a conceptual framework ideally suited for Sri Lanka after making a study of the said concept taking into account the views and opinions held by various parties with regard to the implementation of the concept “One Country, One Law” principle.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has established the PTF in terms of Article 33 of the Constitution. The first meeting of the PTF took place at Ven. Gnanasara’s temple on the Rajagiriya-Nawala road.
According to the second gazette, two members of the original PTF namely Prof. Dayananda Banda and lecturer Mohomad Inthikab have quit the outfit and Ramalingam Chakrawarthy Karunakaran, Ms. Yogeswari Patgunarajah and Iyyampillai Dayanandaraja have since been included.
The original PTF didn’t include Tamils or at least a single woman. The new PTF comprises 14 including one woman.
Sources said that Minister Sabry, who had an opportunity to discuss the matter before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country on Oct 30 to attend a UN event in Glasgow, Scotland made further representations on Nov 05, the day the President returned to the country.
Sources said that the issue could have been easily avoided if matters pertaining to the justice portfolio were at least discussed with the ministry.
President Rajapaksa told a public gathering at Weeraketiya last Saturday (6) why he invited Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Gnanasara to head that particular PTF as he was pushing for ‘One Country, One Law’ concept during the past four years.
Sources said that the issuance of the second gazette had effectively prevented the PTF interference in matters coming under the Justice Ministry. At the onset Minister Sabry offered to quit the portfolio if Ven. Gnanasara remained in the PTF. Compromise formula was for the President’s Counsel to remain and to dilute the gazette, they said.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) taking into consideration the appointment of a convicted person for contempt of court as Chairperson of the PTF, strongly criticized the move.
The BASL alleged that the PTF would usurp the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution, including Parliament as well as the Ministry of Justice.