28th October 2021, Colombo, Sri Lanka:
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is deeply shocked and disturbed by the appointment of the latest Presidential Task Force mandated to implement the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept, including the drafting of a law to give effect to it, headed by Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero. The appointment of the Task Force at a time of unprecedented economic hardships and unravelling of government policies raises a plethora of questions including the compounding of a culture of governance by task forces, the promotion of divisive Buddhist clergy linked to incitement of violence and attacks against religious minorities; all of which entrench impunity.
CPA further notes that the phrase ‘One Country, One Law’ – widely deployed in the run up to and during the 2019 Presidential election, has a very specific majoritarian connotation, and is by no means an expression of a desire for equality or the equal protection under the law. Rather, the advocates of the phrase deliberately distort Sri Lanka’s legal history and legal system, and promote a false narrative of a legal system which benefits minorities and hark to a mythical time where Sri Lanka was governed by “one legal system”.
CPA notes that there are many aspects of the Sri Lankan legal system including aspects of personal laws, which do not meet the human rights standards guaranteed in Sri Lanka’s constitution or Sri Lanka’s international obligations. A serious attempt to bring these laws in line with these human rights obligations would require a genuinely representative and consultative process led by persons with the integrity and capacity to do so. This task force is the antithesis of such a genuine and inclusive approach and CPA calls on the government to immediately rescind the relevant Gazette notification.
CPA has previously raised concerns over the government’s reliance on multiple ad hoc structures, established since 2020, that supersede existing institutions and mechanisms. The vaguely termed mandate of this Task Force compounds fears regarding transparency and accountability, and raises further worrying questions about its implications for the ongoing legal reform processes in Sri Lanka.