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Gotabaya controversially appoints Ali Sabry as Minister of Justice

CONTROVERSIAL APPOINTMENT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hands over letter to Attorney Mohamed Ali Sabry appointing him Minister of Justice/PMD

ECONOMYNEXT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to appoint his attorney Mohamed Ali Sabry as Minister of Justice today is controversial as hardline Sinhala Buddhist organisations have raised objections to the appointment.

At least two extremist groups, the Sinhala Ravaya and the Sinha-Le organisation have been objecting to the discussion around Sabry being appointed to the Cabinet of Ministers and particularly to the Justice Ministry.

Magalkande Sudaththa Thero of the Sinhala Ravaya criticized Sabry for comments the leading lawyer had made to the Al Jazeera International TV service with regard to the cremation of Muslim victims of COVID 19 in Sri Lanka.

Sabry told Al Jazeera – and local media as well – he could accept the decision to cremate Muslims which goes against their religious beliefs if there was a “scientific and community-based reason for doing so.”

Sudaththa and the like-minded Madille Pannaloka Thero of the Sinha-Le organisation have warned that Sabry is “an extremist and he will release all the terrorists from jail,” referring to Islamic extremism.

They also objected to Sabry entering Parliament through the National List, challenging him to contest and win a seat.

After Sabry was appointed Pannaloka Thero said that President Rajapaksa had “deceived the Sinhala Buddhists by taking oaths at a place sacred to Buddhists.”

“For the President, the Muslim Ali Sabry is more important than the Buddhists,” he said.

Former United National Party Minister Mangala Samaraweera congratulated Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sabry’s appointment.

“Well done, PM for appointing Ali Sabry as Justice minister despite opposition by ‘the voice cut sadhus’” Samaraweera tweeted.

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Sabry also has powerful support from Media Mogul Dilith Jayaweera one of the co-owners of the Derana Media group.

Jayaweera posted on Facebook that Ali Sabry is “one of my closest friends and I have unlimited faith in him.”

He claimed credit for introducing the lawyer to President Rajapaksa, for him, he says Sabry has appeared pro bono.

Jayaweera said that “many national organisations including myself worked to bring him to the National List.”

Jayaweera pointed out that Sabry was losing money by becoming a minister as he cannot practice law. He added that Sabry would “bring the Muslims into the Nationalist movement and create an inclusive Nationalism.”

Sabry is also the only Muslim in the 25-member cabinet of ministers which comprises mostly of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Members of Parliament.

Some Sinhala Right-wing organisations campaigned on behalf of Dr Wijayadasa Rajapaksha for him to become the Minister of Justice.

Rajapaksha was Justice Minister for some time in the 2015 Yahapalanaya government. He, however, crossed over to support Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in October 2018.

Several Muslim organisations said they would be felicitating the new Justice Minister.

(Colombo, August 12, 2020)