Colombo, Nov 3 (AdaDerana) – The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) says no useful purpose would be served by the recently-appointed Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law.
In a letter directed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the BASL said this Task Force would usurp the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including the Parliament and the Ministry of Justice.
On October 27, a special gazette notification was published under the directives of the President, appointing a 13-member Task Force to study the implementation of the concept “One Country, One Law” and to prepare a draft Act. It is chaired by Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero.
It also consists of Prof. Dayananda Banda, Prof. Shanthinandana Wijesinghe, Prof. Sumedha Siriwardana, N.G. Sujeewa Panditharathna, Attorney-at-Law Iresh Senevirathne, Attorney-at-Law Sanjaya Marambe, Eranda Navarathna, Pani Wewala,, Moulavi Mohamed of Ulama Council in Galle, Lecturer Mohamed Inthikab, Kaleel Rahuman and Azeez Nizardeen.
The gazette stated that focusing on the fact that the administration of justice, its implementation and protection under the law should be fair by all as set out in the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
The panel is tasked with making a study of the implementation of the concept; One Country, One Law within Sri Lanka and prepare a draft Act for the said purpose, and also 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 proposal for the purpose and include them in such relevant draft as is deemed appropriate.
The association noted that the Constitution itself provides a framework for the legislative process which is supplemented by other laws and by the Standing Orders of Parliament.
There already exists within the framework of the Constitution, the law and Standing Orders and adequate mechanisms for this purpose, the BASL added. The Sectoral Oversight Committees of Parliament as well as Standing Committees and Select Committees which can be constituted as per the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Law Commission which is an institution established by law are among these mechanisms and in addition, the Ministry of Justice last year appointed several committees to propose reforms to various laws, the association explained.
Apart from these mechanisms, the Attorney General and his Department also plays a key role in the law-making process and is recognized by the Constitution, the BASL pointed out. “Given that the Department of the Attorney General too plays a key role in this process, questions arise of the role of the Task Force will plays vis-à-vis the Attorney General and his officers.”
In these circumstances, the appointment of a Task Force to oversee the work of the Justice Ministry is improper and outside the accepted framework for lawmaking, the BASL said further. “Any alienation of what are properly functions of the duly elected legislators and proper legally mandated executive functionaries by relocating their functions elsewhere involves erosion of the Sovereignty of the People.”
The BASL noted that the Task Force itself is not a representative body, given that it has no female representation nor representation from several groups and religious groups in the country. Serious doubts also exit as to 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 gazette notification, the BASL said further.
There is no doubt that the concepts of equality, fairness, non-discrimination, the protection of the law and nationality and internationally recognized humanitarian values are all laudable principles, the BASL said, raising doubts about the process set out in the Gazette and the creation of the Task Force can make any meaningful contribution in upholding these values.
“What is of utmost importance at present it that the State and the organs of the government including the Executive of which Your Excellency is the head, upholds the rule of law and moves to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of the people as described in Article 4(d) of the Constitution.”
In fact, the best way to ensure the objectives set out in the proclamation are by upholding the rule of law and respecting the fundamental rights of the people, the BASL pointed out.