BY Buddhika Samaraweera
The Government has decided not to go ahead with the recommendations mentioned in the final report of the ‘One Country, One Law” Presidential Task Force (PTF) headed by Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, as many important issues that need to be addressed urgently have arisen in the current situation, and taking into account the objections of several parties, The Morning learnt.
Speaking to The Morning, well-placed sources stated that in the current situation, a number of other important issues have arisen that require more attention than the concept of “One Country, One Law”, adding that the recommendations mentioned in the final report of the PTF would therefore not be implemented.
“In view of the crisis that has arisen in the country, the formation of an all-party Government is extremely important in obtaining the support of international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Against this backdrop, many parties that the Government and President Ranil Wickremesinghe expect to join the all-party Government have expressed their displeasure with the committees appointed by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, including the PTF in question,” the sources added.
Meanwhile, when queried by The Morning earlier as to whether the Government has reached a decision regarding the implementation of the final report of the PTF in question, Minister of Justice, Prisons Affairs, and Constitutional Reforms Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC said that the report has not yet reached his Ministry.
The Morning also contacted the President’s Media Division (PMD) to inquire into the matter when an official of the PMD said on Monday (15) that they had not been informed by the President, or the Presidential Secretariat, as to what to divulge to the media with regard to the final report of the PTF.
Furthermore, several political parties including the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) have expressed negative views regarding the said PTF on “One Country, One Law” chaired by Gnanasara Thera, and its final report, with the SLMC calling for the said report to be scrapped.
Speaking to The Morning, SLFP Senior Vice President Prof. Rohana Luxman Piyadasa said that while there is a need to implement the concept of “One Country, One Law” in the country, the first step taken by former President Rajapaksa to implement it, which was the appointment of Gnanasara Thera as the PTF Chairman, was critical.
“We all accept that there cannot be different legal systems for each race or ethnicity in a country. The country should be subject to one common law. Therefore, we do not rule out the concept of ‘One Country, One Law’.
However, our opinion is that it is not possible to implement that concept based on the report of the PTF chaired by Gnanasara Thera. Given that he is a person who is disliked by many, and is accused of holding extremist views, many parties will not approve of the implementation of a report prepared under his chairmanship,” he said.
Therefore, Prof. Piyadasa said that the report prepared by the PTF in question should be reviewed again. After that, he said that it is best to appoint a committee or another appropriate structure made up of experts in the field of law to implement the concept of “One Country, One Law”, based on the progressive facts, if any, included in the report of the PTF.
Meanwhile, speaking to The Morning, TMTK MP C.V. Wigneswaran said that the appointment of the PTF on “One Country, One Law” itself was a wrong idea of the previous Government headed by former President Rajapaksa. Noting that the country has five legal systems – the English Law, the Roman Dutch Law, the Thesawalamai Law, the Muslim Law, and the Kandyan Law – he said that it is not appropriate to remove them just because of the Sinhala Buddhist majority ideology.
“There are five legal systems in Sri Lanka. How can one say that all these should be removed just because the Sinhala Buddhist majority would like to have it for themselves? This is not a Sinhala Buddhist country; it has two nations. The Tamil people have been in the North and East for more than 3,000 years. So, it is improper to talk in terms of ‘One Country, One Law’.”
When queried as to whether the TMTK would make a request to the Government to scrap the said PTF’s report, he said: “We have other important issues such as the release of Tamil political prisoners. We are more interested in getting them fulfilled. This has no meaning to us, as the North and East are anyway not part of this ‘one country’.”
Moreover, the SLMC has set several conditions for its support for the proposed national all-party Government. Among the SLMC’s demands are the immediate lifting of the emergency regulations, the discontinuation of the ongoing wave of arrests, and the scrapping of the reports commissioned by ex-President Rajapaksa, including that of the PTF Chaired by Gnanasara Thera.
“In keeping with your (reference to President Ranil Wickremesinghe) statement of Government Policy made to Parliament during the ceremonial sitting in order to achieve the objective of a liberal, tolerant, and secular nation, it is important that you make a clear commitment to jettison the reports commissioned by the former President under the theme ‘One Country, One Law’ headed by a radical cleric, known for his bigotry and prejudice. The minority communities have been disproportionately targeted by suggestions made for reform in their practices, belief systems, and personal laws, resulting in much consternation among the Muslims in particular,” the letter from the SLMC to President Wickremesinghe read.
The final report of the PTF on “One Country, One Law” was handed over to then-President Rajapaksa by Ven. Gnanasara Thera on 29 June 2022. The PMD stated at the time that the report is composed of eight chapters with 43 recommendations and two appendices, covering more than 1,200 witnesses from all parts of the island, including professionals, non-Governmental organisations, religious groups, various communities, university students, and legal professionals.
Courtesy; The Morning