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Regardless of Sabry’s concerns, govt. going ahead with ‘One Country, One Law’ project

By Ifham Nizam and Shamindra Ferdinando

No sooner had Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, indicated his intention to quit his Cabinet portfolio over the appointment of BBS General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara as Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to spearhead ‘One Country, One Law’ initiative than the controversial monk said that their responsibility was to ensure that the country had one law.

Minister Sabry is expected to make an announcement this week.

Ven. Gnanasara, yesterday, addressed the media from the Presidential Media Division (PMD) and fielded questions online. He said he would meet representatives of all political parties represented in Parliament and outside as well as civil society groups.

Presidential Spokesperson Kingsley Ratnayake said at the commencement of the press briefing that Minister Sabry had met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa before the latter left for Scotland on 30 Oct. Ratnayake said so when the media asked whether the Justice Minister would meet the President to discuss the issue at hand on his return.

Therefore, President Rajapaksa was aware of Justice Minister’s reaction, Ratnayake told The Island, adding that the PTF would go ahead with its work.

Ven. Gnanasara, who contested the last general election from the Kurunegala District on the ‘Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya‘ ticket unsuccessfully, declared that once his PTF completed its task in four months everybody would be pleased with the outcome. According to the relevant gazette issued last week, the PTF has been entrusted with the following tasks: (i) To make a study of the implementation of the concept; One Country, One Law within Sri Lanka and prepare a draft Act for the said purpose, and

(ii)To study the draft Acts and amendments that have already been prepared by the Ministry of Justice in relation to this subject and their appropriateness and if there are suitable amendments to submit proposal for the purpose and include them in such relevant draft as is deemed appropriate.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested the PTF to submit a report to him once a month and the final report should be submitted on or before 28 Feb., next year.

Mrs. Jeewanthi Senanayake, Senior Assistant Secretary to the President has been appointed the PTF’s Secretary.

The other members of the Task Force are: Professor Dayananda Banda, Professor Shanthinandana Wijesinghe, Professor Sumedha Siriwardana, N.G. Sujeewa Panditharathna, Attorney-at-Law Iresh Senevirathne, Attorney-at-Law Sanjaya Marambe, Eranda Navarathna, Pani Wewala, Moulavi Mohomad Ulama Council, Galle, Mohomad Inthikab, Lecturer, Kaleel Rahuman, and Azeez Nizardeen.

Responding to another query, Ven. Gnanasara pointed out that even in parliament only a handful didn’t have court or prison records. “The Country’s law is above everyone, if there is an offence then it should be legally dealt with,” the BBS leader said.

Commenting on the role of the PTF, the Thera said: “We are not tasked to draft laws. We are to ascertain whether the public needs had been addressed through the prevailing legal system by looking at them in a different and practical angle. We are not expected to look at things the way how legal experts do.”

The Thera said no citizen should be subjected discrimination before the law on the basis of his or her race, religion, caste or any other factor.

Ven. Gnanasara emphasised that if the citizens could place the country above all, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, the PTF was ready to listen to all opinions regarding the legal framework and other related matters.

The youth of this country were the worst affected by racial, religious and provincial divisions and therefore they have a special place in this process”, the Thera said, adding that all young people representing universities, higher education institutions and various organisations would invited to submit their ideas and suggestions to the Task Force.

The Thera also said that he hoped to discuss the matter with all political parties, religious and civil society organisations and groups in the coming days and added that the discussion was open to all who came without any hidden agendas.

After consulting all those sections, the views and recommendations of the Task Force would be submitted to the President within the given time-frame, he said.

Prof. Sumedha Siriwardana, Member of the Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law, said that the Task Force had been mandated to make recommendations for the implementation of “One Country, One Law” principle in Sri Lanka after conducting a study. He said the Presidential Task Force did not have the power to make laws and that it would be done by the legislature.

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