The principle of one law, one country is upheld by the constitution of the country, which however makes an exception for personal laws. The government has announced its intention to amend the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act. This has given rise to the perception that the recently appointed Presidential Task Force and its mandate for one country one law is in pursuit of reform of personal laws and is actually a targeting of the minorities. However, the concept of one country one law is more profound and means that the country’s laws are applicable to each and every individual with equal force regardless of rank or position, ethnicity or religion.
In this context, the appointment of the PTF on one country one law is deeply concerning due both to the composition and mandate. Even today no one is above the law if the law is implemented, which calls for strengthening of institutions as was attempted by the 17th and 19th Amendments and effectively dismantled by the 18th and 20th Amendments. The PTF is headed by a person who has been convicted by the courts for contempt, imprisoned and given a presidential pardon. The 13 member PTF does not include a single woman, Tamil or Christian and therefore does not represent the plurality of Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and plural society.
The government will need to take these shortcomings into consideration or else it can erode confidence in the government and further marginalize minority communities, and women who are a majority in Sri Lanka when decisions are made regarding laws that affect them without their participation. In addition, in implementing the concept of one country, one law there needs to be provision for plural laws under the 13th Amendment by provincial council which have been provided with devolved powers which they might use differently owing to the different circumstances that prevail in each of the provinces.
We note that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the UN General Assembly in New York and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva pledged to energise the national reconciliation process by following principles of accountability and restorative justice, among others, and to work in cooperation with the UN and international community to these ends. The National Peace Council is of the view that the composition of the committee and the mandate given to it is not right for this purpose. Justice must also be seen to be done and thus consultations with all parties would be the best choice at the moment for acceptance by the larger community as a whole.
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.
Disclaimer: More Dialogue Needed About One Country, One Law - National Peace Council of Sri Lanka - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view