Controversial Bodu Bala Sena chief Galagoda-Aththe Gnanasara Thera was appointed this week as the head of a Presidential Task Force to revise the nation’s statute books and usher in an enlightened era of a multicultural, multiethnic society governed by the dictum: One country, one law.’ His appointment was made by an extraordinary gazette issued on [...]


Bodu Bala Boss set to overlord nation’s one law for all concept


BODU BALA SENA: Controversial Gnanasara Thera chosen to spearhead implementation of One-Country-One-Law concept with draft Act

Controversial Bodu Bala Sena chief Galagoda-Aththe Gnanasara Thera was appointed this week as the head of a Presidential Task Force to revise the nation’s statute books and usher in an enlightened era of a multicultural, multiethnic society governed by the dictum: One country, one law.’

His appointment was made by an extraordinary gazette issued on Tuesday night by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa establishing a Presidential Task Force for ‘One Country, One Law’ concept, and naming 13 men as its members, for, as the gazette stated, the President ‘reposed great trust and confidence’ in their ‘prudence, ability and fidelity.’

The 13 members appointed were Ven. Gnanasara Thera, Prof. Dayananda Banda, Prof. Shanthinandana Wijesinghe, Prof. Sumedha Siriwardana, N.G. Sujeewa Panditharathna, Iresh Senevirathne, Attorney at Law Sanjaya Marambe, Attorney at Law Eranda Navarathna, Pani Wewala, Moulavi Mohomad of Ulama Council, Galle, Mohomad Inthikab Lecturer, Kaleel Rahuman and Azeez Nizardeen.

Their entrusted mission: To end the ingrained system whereby ‘special treatment is given on the grounds of nationality, religion, caste or any other ground’ and, by weeding out the offending laws, to submit a draft Act towards the implementation of the ‘one law for all’ concept so that all citizens of Lanka are treated equally before the law.

As the October 26th gazette proclaims: The task before the members of the Presidential Task Force for ‘One Country, One law’ concept is ‘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 proposals for the purpose and include them in such relevant draft as is deemed appropriate.’

Phew! Quite a tall order that would challenge even the best legal brains gloved in velvet to willow the legal grain and sift the minority chaff from the majority wheat.

At present, various sets of laws originating from age-old traditions and customs pervade the Lankan legal system, a quaint motley of tailor-made costumes, sitting on marked ethnic, religious or regional racks, fit only for those born to wear it or to slip into after marriage or religious conversion.

It can appear to some as strait jackets to which birth has condemned or as convenient chic casuals to others to whom fashions change when a convenient change of faith seem expedient. But apart from such rare aberrations from conventional behaviour, customary laws have been the canopy under which the lives of these communities have been enacted upon their respective ethnic, religious or regional stage

The different codes for different folks are in the main found in the personal laws that govern minority communities and identified groupings and deal primarily with marriage, inheritance and property.  The long held customary laws of the Muslims have been given legal force, notably, by the Marriages and Divorce (Muslim) Act of 1951 and the Muslim Intestate Succession Ordinance of 1931and the Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trusts of 1956.

The Thesavalamai laws that apply to the Tamils who are considered inhabitants of the Northern Province, codified by the Dutch and given full legal force in 1806, focuses on property, marriage, inheritance and bequests.

The Kandyan law is regarded as applicable to the Sinhalese who can prove descent from forefathers who had lived in the Kandyan Kingdom before 1815, the year the Kandyan Convention was signed by the Sinhala Chieftains of the Kingdom and the British Governor upon the final surrender.

One clause in the Convention declares that, ‘all civil and criminal justice over Kandyans will be administered according to the established norms and customs of the area, with the government reserving to itself the rights of interposition when and where necessary,’ while the next clause holds that all other non Kandyans will be governed according to British law.

The personal laws of the Kandyan which deal with property and its transfers, marriage, adoption, inheritance of both immovable and movable property have been codified and declared in the Kandyan Law Ordinance of 1939.

To wade through the diverse personal laws which the Muslims, the northern Tamils and the Kandyan have lived and died by for centuries and banish from the legal firmament those laws thought contrary to the general law governing the majority of citizens, will require not only great legal expertise but also an exquisite degree of sensitivity and understanding.

Else it will plunge the country into racial and religious turmoil as happened when SWRD’s nationalistic government implemented its ‘One country, One language’ concept and overnight made Sinhala the only official tongue. The disadvantages it created to the predominant Tamil minority bred a festering sense of injustice which, perhaps, burst full blown nearly 30 years later into a bloody 30-year terrorist war, leaving thousands of youth to atone for the sins of their chauvinistic forebears with their own flesh and blood.

Today four Sri Lankan citizens – a low country Sinhalese, a northern Tamil, a Sinhalese with roots in the Kandyan hills and a Muslim – can meet in one room and discover that four different sets of laws govern their personal affairs, even as it had governed their forefathers. They will also find that the fundamental right to equality before the law enshrined in the Constitution really means that each of them will be equal before their own respective laws.

While the establishment of a Presidential Task Force, empowered to produce a draft Act to turn the ‘one country, one law’ concept to a reality is commendable, the composition of the Task Force leaves much to be desired.

Firstly, what stands out glaringly, like Avurudhu without kavun, is that out of the 13 members appointed to this Task Force, there is not one single woman, even though according to the latest 2020 figures, women form 52.1 percent of the population of Lanka.

Secondly, in this squad of 13 men, there is one Sinhala Buddhist monk, one Muslim clergyman, three Muslim laymen and eight Sinhala laymen. Conspicuous by absence, not one single Tamil is aboard, even though they form the largest minority community with 12.6 percent of the population, not to mention that their personal law of Thesavalamai will be up for discussion and possible elimination from the laws of the land.

Does the monk fit the bill to lead the mission to realise the President’s commendable vision of a ‘one country, one law’ concept?

Or condemned by the nation’s apex courts for his contempt toward both law and its institutions, castigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee and a Presidential Commission for instigating racial violence, crucified by his own conduct, will his presence at the helm of a Presidential Task Force taint beyond removal the presidential vista of one law for all?

Will he remain ever shadowed by suspicion and distrust, and, whatever the fruit his primordial seed will bear, be held in derision and decried as One Sinhala Buddhist Law for One Sinhala Buddhist Country?

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