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Sunday June 16th, 2024

Sri Lanka president extends tenure of controversial One Country One Law task force

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday (01) once again extended the tenure of the ‘One Country One Law’ presidential task force headed by a controversial Buddhist monk, days after police informed a magistrate court that the Attorney General wanted charges filed against the monk.

The tenure of the task force was extended by three weeks as of May 27 to “complete the task assigned” to it, according to a gazette issued on Wednesday.

The task force is headed by General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero, who according to media reports is currently in Saudi Arabia to discuss religious extremism. Sri Lanka’s privately owned Daily Mirror reported that the monk was in Saudia Arabia upon official invitation by the Saudi government.

Meanwhile, the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) of the police informed Colombo Fort Chief Magistrate Thilina Gamage on Tuesday (31) that the Attorney General had instructed the CCD to file charges against Gnanasara Thero for using language deemed hurtful to religious sentiments.

The charges are to be filed under Sections 291A of the Penal Code, which reads: “Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished.”

President Rajapaksa gazetted the One Country One Law task force in late October 2021 to come up with proposals for “one law” for all Sri Lankans abolishing all other personal laws including the Muslim marriage law and some other regional laws that go back centuries. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) in particular has been the focus of much debate, with many women’s rights activists within the Muslim community calling for reform and an end to child marriage.

The BBS chief’s appointment as the head of the task force was widely panned by some opposition lawmakers, civil society groups and others including those within the government’s own ranks.

The firebrand monk has been accused of promoting Islamophobia in Sri Lanka.

In 2012, Gnanasara Thero was allegedly at the forefront of an anti-Muslim campaign which called on the majority Sinhalese to boycott Muslim-owned businesses.

The United States in 2014 cancelled a visa issued to the monk while social media platform Facebook blocked his account after the BBS’s alleged involvement in violence against Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims in the Western coastal town of Aluthgama.

He was arrested for contempt of court in 2018 during the previous administration but was later pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisnena.

Critics have said Gnanasara Thero has been used to create a rift between the Sinhala majority and Muslim minority for political reasons. But the monk has denied the allegation and has said Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority has issues that have been ignored by politicians, issues that he had tried to address.

Since the 2019 Easter bombings, the monk has maintained that his cause is not against ordinary Muslims who have coexisted with the Sinhalese for centuries but with extremist, Wahabist elements in Muslim society.

Speaking to reporters in November last year, Gnanasara Thero said recommendations by the BBS, widely seen as an ultranationalist outfit, will make it to the proposals of the presidential task force he leads.

Related: BBS proposals will make it to ‘one country, one law’ task force: Sri Lanka hardline monk

The monk said the BBS had spoken about unethical conversions, destruction of archaeological monuments and cultural invasion.

The task force was also criticised for not having any Tamil representation initially, prompting President Rajapaksa to appoint three new members, purportedly representing women and the minority Tamil community. Former Justice Minister Ali Sabry was also reported to have expressed his surprise at the task force and the appointment of Gnanasara Thero as its chair without his consultation.

Opposition MP and leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Anura Kumara Dissanayake has said the task force may be a step towards further division between communities rather than a means to bring them closer.

“This is serious. Some communities have expressed opposition to this committee and have shared their concerns. We must govern not in a direction that sees conflict intensify but in a direction that sees conflict resolved, not in a direction that sees communities grow apart but come closer,” Dissanayake told parliament,” Dissanayake told parliament on November 10, 2021. (Colombo/Jun02/2022)

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Sri Lanka car import relaxing roadmap given to IMF: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has submitted a roadmap on relaxing vehicle imports to the International Monetary Fund, State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siymabalapitiya said as the country recovers from the worst currency crises in the history of its central bank.

The import relaxation will allow vehicles for public transport, goods transport, then motor cycles and cars use by private individuals and after that, luxury cars, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

Luxury cars however attract the highest taxes for each dollar spent on imports.

Economic analysts have characterized vehicle import controls as a ‘cascading policy error’ that follows inflationary rate cuts, which then deprive taxes to the state and triggers more money printing and more forex shortages, requiring even higher corrective interest rates and a contraction of economic activities to save the rupee.

According to the latest IMF report car import controls may have led to revenue losses of 0.7 to 0.9 percent of GDP.

Sri Lanka started controlling imports few years after a central bank was set up in 1950 and also tightened exchange controls progressively, so that macroeconomists using post-1920 spurious monetary doctrines taught at Anglophone universities could print money through various mechanisms to suppress rates.

Sri Lanka is working with the IMF as a guide on many issues and the roadmap was submitted to the agency on June 14, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

The IMF in an economic report released last week the plan was expected to be submitted by June 15.

Whatever the IMF’s faults, which some wags have called ‘progressive Saltwaterism’, the agency does not advocate import controls as solution to balance of payments problems, despite a Mercantilist fixation with the current account deficit in countries with reserve collecting central banks, analysts say.

Import controls have the same effect as import substation on the balance of payments, which is none, classical economists have pointed out and is now mainly a problem associated with macro economists and economic bureaucrats of so-called basket case countries.

Any pressure on the currency or missed reserves targets in the IMF program has come in the past only if the central bank printed money to suppress rates as credit growth picked up from car imports.

Sri Lanka had 3,000 items under import controls when rates were suppressed with printed money from 2020 to 2022 but eventually ended up with the worst currency crisis triggered by macro economists in the history of the country and eventual external default.

A committee made up of the Department of Trade and Fiscal Policy of the Finance Ministry, the Department of Registration of Motor Vehicles, the Central Bank and two associations representing vehicle imports were appointed to come up with the roadmap, he said. (Colombo/June15/2024)

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Chitrasiri Committee presents draft constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket

ECONOMYNEXT – A draft constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket, the governing body for cricket in the island, prepared by a committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge K T Chitrasiri, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe today (15).

The Sri Lanka team were ignominiously knocked out of the Men’s T20 World Cup tournament this week, sparking renewed criticism of the team and the governing body.

Last November, a cabinet sub-committee was appointed to address challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide recommendations after consecutive losses became a hot topic in parliament.

After parliament decided to remove the administrators of the sport, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board suspended Sri Lanka Cricket’s membership.

Based on the sub-committee’s recommendations in its report, the Cabinet then appointed an expert committee to draft a new constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket.

The committee headed by judge K T Chitrasiri includes President’s Counsel Harsha Amarasekara, Attorney-at-Law Dr Aritha Wickramanayake and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce Duminda Hulangamuwa.

Deputy Solicitor General Manohara Jayasinghe, and Shamila Krishanthi, Assistant Draftsman representing the Legal Draftsman’s Department, and Loshini Peiris, Additional Secretary to the President were also on the committee. (Colombo/Jun14/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Cable Solutions in Rs605mn IPO

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cable Solutions Limited will make an initial public offering of ordinary voting shares on the Diri Savi Board of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE).

The CSE had approved, in-principle, an application submitted by the company, for the listing of its ordinary voting shares by way of an offer for subscription and an offer for sale.

For subscription, 14,666,600 shares would be offered at 7.50 rupees a share.

For sale, 66,120,000 shares would be offered at 7.50 rupees a share.

The opening of subscription list is July 23. Copies of the prospectus would be made available to trading participants on July 9. (Colombo/Jun15/2024)

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