PTF meets at monk’s temple, Prez defends his decision
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, yesterday (7) said that he had offered to give up his portfolio over the appointment of Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera as the head of Presidential Task Force (PTF) to study the “One Country, One Law’ concept.
Minister Sabry said so when The Island asked him whether he had informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of his decision to quit the ministerial position over the controversial appointment. The SLPP National List lawmaker met President Rajapaksa last Friday (6), the day after his return from Glasgow, Scotland.
Responding to another query, Minister Sabry said that President Rajapaksa had declined to accept his resignation. The Minister said that the President had explained the circumstances under which the PTF had been appointed to advise him and not meant to formulate laws. “The matter is in sort of limbo,” Sabry said.
Acknowledging the President’s right to constitute the PTF on ‘One Country, One Law,’ in terms of the Article 33 of the Constitution, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) stated the relevant body didn’t represent several ethnic and religious groups. Pointing out the absence of female representation, the BASL raised serious doubts over 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 relevant gazette. BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC, said that the PTF would assume the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including Parliament and the Ministry of Justice.
Minister Sabry said that like so many people he, too, was really concerned about the PTF, especially the appointment of its head as well as the work undertaken by his ministry. Quite important work done since the last general election in August 2020 could be in jeopardy, MP Sabry said.
President Rajapaksa issued the relevant gazette on Oct 26, 2021 on the appointment of the 13-member PTF. The PTF had its first meeting on Oct 31 Sunday at Ven. Gnanasara’s Sri Saddhamma Rajika temple on the Nawala-Rajagiriya main road. Sources said that the PTF would issue a statement once a month regarding the work undertaken by the group.
Addressing a public gathering at the Mandaduwa Public Stadium in Weeraketiya on Saturday (6) President Rajapaksa said that he asked Ven. Gnanasara to head the PTF as the monk was propagating ‘One Country, One Law’ concept for five years. President Rajapaksa said that once Ven, Gnanasara completed the assignment as scheduled it would be presented to the Justice Minister to rectify shortcomings, if any and then submitted to the Parliament.
The President questioned the rationale in objecting his decision to ask for Ven. Ganasara’s advice as he was continuously speaking on ‘One Country, One Law’ concept.