JOINT STATEMENT REGARDING THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE FOR “ONE COUNTRY, ONE LAW”

 The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a multi – ethnic, multi – religious, multi – cultural nation where her citizens’ diversity and pluralism are unique charactoristics, which have contributed towards the country development for centuries. 01 November 2021 We, as a nation, have seen various policy decisions being taken on sensitive matters related to this diverse composition from time to time by various governments in power since independence. Nevertheless, none have ever wanted nor succeeded in making decisions assuming all Sri Lankans must adhere to one specific set of ethnic, religious or cultural norms despite their own diverse identities which has lasted for thousands of years in our motherland. Thus, our Constitution guarantees specific rights and privileges for every citizen in Sri Lanka respecting their ethno – religious and cultural practices and beliefs; while every citizen follows one law of the land on general matters concerning all.

We express our deep dismay at the recent Gazette establishing a Presidential Task Force for “One Country, One law”. It is considered an affront to the norms of good governance and accepted democratic practices to usurp the functions, duties and authority of the Ministry of Justice in this manner that too when the Minister of Justice has already appointed several committees to look into and draft necessary legislation for the purpose of bringing about necessary amendments to the existing laws and the legal systems. In addition, there is no justification warranting the delegation of the functions as spelt out in the above Gazette and we vehemently condemn this Gazette. In any event, the President, government and the forces already have the power to ensure the implementation of the concept of “One Country, One law” and as such there is no need for the appointment of a Presidential Task Force for the purpose. The composition of the task force has also been a subject of serious concern to the general public and an embarrassment to the legal professionals as it does not include any legal luminaries of repute.

The appointment of many individuals with questionable personal biases to be part of the said Task Force, including the designated head of the Task Force who is currently facing multiple charges in courts across the country for hate – speech and also happens to convince a person numerous offenses and for contempt of court, though enjoying a Presidential Pardon, is in itself is an affront to the dignity and self – respect of all law – abiding and peace – loving citizens of Sri Lanka. We observe that the establishment of this Task Force has drawn widespread condemnation both locally and internationally and raised serious concerns having been observed as a move to marginalize the minorities in the country. This could tarnish the image of our country in the eyes of the international community and may negatively impact our industries that depend on international patronage. We also urge all Religious Dignitaries, Members of Parliament, Civil Society Organizations, and concerned citizens to come forward and urge the Government to protect the rights and privileges which are assured by the Constitution to all citizens and to strengthen progressive efforts to rebuild our Motherland as one unitary Nation.

We hope and pray that all concerned, would put their shoulders to the wheel to protect and maintain the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka which is the need of the hour.

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