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Sri Lanka Politics – Will OCOL See Light of the day?

An Extraordinary Gazette Notification has been issued with amendments to the Presidential Task Force on ‘One Country, One Law’ appointed by the President.

Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera has issued the new gazette on President’s command on November 06.

According to the new Gazette issued, the President has appointed three new members to the Task Force “taking into consideration the representations made by various parties with regard to the composition of the membership and Terms of Reference of the said Task Force and, focusing on the need for the pluralistic character and gender equity of the Sri Lankan Society to be reflected in the composition of the membership of this Task Force, as per the terms of reference of the Task Force.”

Professor Dayananda Banda and Lecturer Mohomad Inthikab, members of the Presidential Task Force, have relinquished their memberships of the Task Force, Ramalingam Chakrawarthy Karunakaran, Yogeswari Patgunarajah and Iyyampillai Dayanandaraja have been appointed as new members of the Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law.

The President has amended the terms of reference of the said Task Force as follows. “1. Presenting proposals for formulating a conceptual framework ideally suited for Sri Lanka after making a study of the said concept taking into account the views and opinions held by various parties with regard to the implementation of the concept: “One Country, One Law.” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed a 13-member Presidential Task Force to study the implementation of the concept "One Country, One Law" and to prepare a draft Act.

Likely Challenges

While OCOL sustains the majoritarian credentials of President Rajapaksa, there are challenges endemic in evolving a consensus in the multi ethnic and multi religious society where harmony is expected to be impacted. Moreover the Task Force head Gnanasara Thero is the Secretary General of Bodu Bala Sena, a Sinhalese Buddhist organisation. Bodu Bala Sena, is a right wing nationalist organisation which opposes pluralism.

Noted Sri Lanka Expert Colonel R Hariharan commenting on the OCOL issue in Sri Lanka Perspectives October 2021 writes, “President Rajapaksa’s appointment of a 13-member Presidential Task Force (PTF) headed by the controversial Buddhist cleric Galagodaathhe Gnanasara to implement the concept of “One Country, One Law” (OCOCL) has drawn a lot of flak from opposition parties and civil society on many counts”.

Hariharan notes that “The appointment of Gnanasara Thera to head the PTF, surprised many. Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harin Fernando pointed out the PTF is headed by someone who is blamed by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry which probed the Easter Sundays attacks of April 21, 2019 and whom the Commission has also called to be prosecuted”.

The Colombo daily Island aptly editorialised he says “It defies comprehension why the President has handpicked as the head of the PTF as person who was granted a presidential pardon while serving a sentence for contempt of court, which in other words means causing an affront to the dignity of the judiciary”. Its question “How come the President thinks a person sentenced to jail for violating the law is fit to carry out his one country one law project” though relevant will continue to remain unanswered”.

While President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is known to push through his policies relentlessly disregarding opposition, many of these have come to a naught including implementatoin of organic fertilizers programme.

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