1 December, 2021

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MMDA Lamb In Gotabaya’s Abattoir

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The survival of the seventy years old Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) passed in 1951, which provided legal protection to certain cultural idiosyncrasies pertaining to Muslim conjugal life and are claimed by Islamic orthodoxy as part of the shariah, is fated to come to an end soon, all in the name of a secular political mantra, One Country One Law (OCOL). In other words, MMDA has become the lamb waiting to be slaughtered in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Task Force abattoir headed by a street fighter Buddhist monk Gnanasara. How did Muslim leaders themselves contribute to this slaughter is another side of the tragic story, which I will elaborate shortly. Before that a few words on the timing of this ritual are necessary. Why did GR choose this moment of time for the slaughter?

Rajapaksa regime’s record of achievements over the last two years is dotted with more failures than success. The failure is particularly colossal in the economic front. For the first time in the history of this country farmers are out on the streets demanding fertilizer. Even the limited success in controlling Covid pandemic is overshadowed by costly errors in administrative management and inexpert health advice. It was quite early in the year that GR realized that his popularity had taken a terrible hit and questioned his advisors, why? His own failures were compounded by those of his cabinet ministers and parliamentarians. The country’s foreign relations are in a mess and have their own impact on the economy. It finally dawned on the president that he should cry Mea Culpa vow to lead the country “vigorously” along the path of development. However, to win back the trust and confidence of his critical supporters he needed an issue or a new battle in which he could register a decisive victory, as he did in 2009. OCOL provided that battle ground and MMDA presented the new enemy. The extreme vulnerability of the Muslim community, especially after the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre provided the best opportunity to a desperate president who wanted to demonstrate his fighting mettle.

OCOL and MMDA are inter-related. There was no mention of OCOL in the political history of independent Sri Lanka until the dying days of yahapalana government when Muslim parliamentarians and the community’s so called apex religious organization, the men only All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), began to play politics with MMDA. This piece of legislation in spite of some cosmetic changes introduced from time to time in the name of reforms, still remained largely misogynic and a new generation of Muslim women activists began to agitate for gender balance in matrimonial matters. The Justice Saleem Marsoof Committee (JSMC) appointed in 2009, which included a couple of Muslim women as members, submitted after ten years of hard labour, a report with some progressive recommendations to the then woman Minister of Justice, Thalatha Atukorale. ACJU immediately picked up a fight against those recommendations and canvassed among Muslim politicians to reject at least parts of that report. The timing of ACJU’s protest was crucial. General Elections was around the corner. Ranil Wickremasinghe’s UNP, which historically was the political fortress for Muslim voters began to feel the pressure. Muslim politicians became jittery that they could lose their seats were ACJU started canvassing against them. The minister concerned shrewdly passed the onus of accepting the report to Muslim MPs and gladly washed her hands off. In the end, that report began dusting in parliament’s archive.

There was one hardline Buddhist monk in the legislature at that time, who watched this tug-of-war between the government and ACJU. He was Athuraliye Rathana Thero, the man who went on a televised fast unto death campaign in June 2019 and in front of the Maligawa demanding President Sirisena to remove from positions two ministers and a provincial governor, all Muslims. He also spoke to the media after ending his not-so-hungry fast, and asked the president to use his powers to bring the country under one law and urged Muslims to join Thero’s campaign. Thus, OCOL mantra was a monkish invention that later became a vote winning slogan in GR’s presidential race. Finally, having entered the parliament for a second term, the same monk introduced a private motion in the parliament to amend MMDA on 8 January 2020. The message was clear. All this may not have happened had the Muslim parliamentarians ignored ACJU’s protest and threat, threw their support behind JSM report and helped Minister Athukorale to prepare legislating those recommendations. It should be recorded with great disappointment that Muslim political leadership after Badi-ud-din Mahmud did not have the political foresight and intellectual sagacity to envisage the direction in which the country and society were heading and take measures accordingly to prevent any possible clash between the national trend and community parochialism. A missed opportunity in 2019 is now adding to the agony and sufferings of Muslims in the aftermath of Easter infamy.

After winning this presidential race, GR brought into the cabinet his closest Muslim friend and Attorney-at-Law, Ali Sabry, and made him the Minister of Justice amidst strong opposition from GR’s supremacist cabal. Sabry at once announced that he was a minister for every community and that he would undertake reforms in the legal structure and institutions of this country. Accordingly, GR expected his minister to reform MMDA quite radically and perhaps preferred its total abolition. The Muslim minister was in a dilemma. He proposed a few changes to MMDA, such as to redress gender imbalance, raising marriageable age to 18 and making brides consent legally obligatory, but would not go far enough to satisfy all the demands of the President and of his hardcore supremacists, who want OCOL to become a reality without exception. Had it been anyone else but Sabry, GR would have removed him from that ministry forthwith and replaced him with one from the supremacists. The current foreign minister Professor G. L. Peiris would have been an excellent choice. But GR did not want to lose his friend. Therefore, he found another way to solve the problem and appointed another Task Force, eleventh in the series, and found a new Pope Urban II in the fighting persona of monk Gnanasara, who not only wants OCOL but intends to go further and include one race to make the mantra OCOLOR, to carry on with GR’s crusade against MMDA. Strangely enough this task force which deals with law has only two lawyers among the thirteen but four Muslim comedians to provide Sufi entertainment.

Muslim community is not in a position to stop the demise of MMDA. The community is virtually leaderless. MMDA lamb in GR’s Task Force abattoir with slaughterer monk Gnanasara is the President’s new battle front for an encounter with that community. He is destined to win that battle, reinstate his fighting credentials and hopefully would win back supremacists support. But the future of this country is anybody’s guess.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    Muslims should be honest to its people and the country to challenge the One Country One Law for all. All should be means all. It Includes, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists. Similarly for Tamil speaking and Sinhala speaking people. Similarly Buddhist Monks, Christian priests, Hindu Priests and Islamist Priests. Similarly for Men and Women. Similarly for President, Prime Minister, Ministers, MPs, Military to Street sweeper.
    Muslims are represented by Minister Ali-Sabri in this government. He is the Justice Minister. So, Muslim should not allow justice Minister to bring MMDA reform unless they make the law equal to every one remove all the special status given to Buddhism in the Constitution or Executive Power given to President when it comes to one law.

    • 1
      1

      Ajith,
      “…remove all the special status given to Buddhism in the Constitution…”
      —-
      Buddhism had a special status in Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo for thousands of years because Buddhists were the majority (99%) in this country. Simply because indigenous Sinhalayo accommodated Muslim refugees and Hindu coolies from Hindusthan and Christian missionaries convert Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils to Christianity, Sinhala Buddhists do not have to change the special status given to Buddhism.

      If Muslim majority countries can make Islam the official religion (e.g. Malaysia), why Sinhala Buddhists cannot give special status to Buddhism?

  • 7
    2

    Ameer Ali, if Muslims really want to make a change, then it’s time they elect a lady to the parliament and get rid of most of these spineless, voiceless men who are holding their seat at any cost. Most of these men lack dignity, honor and are not trusted by their own community leave alone by the rest. People still haven’t got over of them supporting en masse, the 20th amendment. ACJU tried playing dirty politics when they were supposed to take a stand and soon under Ganasara’s law there will not be an outfit called ACJU anymore. Rodent Rat thero is a similar character from the other side who “Loot a house while on fire “. My take is even without such clowns Rajapaksas would have gone with the same because they have no options left.

    • 4
      2

      I hear Minister Kommanapillay alleged / proudly claimed the present government is the most corrupt ever in Lankan history. A proud moment for those 7 million retards. “Vistas of corruption, failures , lawlessness, debts and bankruptcy”. Congrats on Sir. Fail’s achievement within two years.

  • 3
    1

    Yes….four Muslim comedians to provide Sufi entertainment…..
    Add the eight who gave the final thrust (not sexual) to the passage of 20A.
    So much rift in the Community.

  • 4
    2

    The concept of “One Country, One Law” would only make sense in a country that has a Secular Constitution, where Politics and Religion are kept separate. It will not work in a country where a particular religion is exalted and given the “foremost place.”
    If there is going to be only one law for all let us have “Thesavalamai Law” for land matters throughout the island and for Marriage Law let men of all religions be legally entitled to have four wives.
    It would not be fair at all if the majority Sinhala-Buddhists draft laws in conformity with their own customs, traditions, values and convictions and then force it down the throats of Catholics, Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. There is not a single Tamil person in that shitty task force!

    • 0
      0

      ‘The concept of “One Country, One Law” would only make sense in a country that has a Secular Constitution, where Politics and Religion are kept separate. It will not work in a country where a particular religion is exalted and given the “foremost place.”’
      .
      It seems to work in Iran and Saudi Arabia! There is an assumption that we are to remain a corrupt democracy of sorts.

    • 1
      0

      Captain Morgan,
      “It would not be fair at all if the majority Sinhala-Buddhists draft laws in conformity with their own customs, traditions, values and convictions and then force it down the throats of Catholics, Christians, Hindus, and Muslims”
      —-
      By the same token Tamils and Muslims who came from Hindustan and brought their customary/religious laws should not try to force those laws down the throats of indigenous Sinhalayo.

    • 1
      0

      Captain Morgan,
      “There is not a single Tamil person in that shitty task force!”
      —-
      President Rajapakshe made a blunder by not appointing few Dalit Tamils to the Task Force.

  • 3
    2

    In my humble opinion, a democratic country should have one law for everybody, irrespective of ethnicity or religious beliefs. There should be freedom of speech & freedom to practice one’s faith but it is only in extremist countries that religious practices, usually, an interpretation of the doctrine, are considered as law & forced on its citizens. Certainly, a country can be influenced by religion In this context, SL being predominately Buddhist, could abolish the death penalty, as compassion is a fundamental aspect of Buddhism. However, a ban on cattle slaughter, another current topic, is not practical & difficult to enforce but, laws against animal cruelty would be a better alternative.

    I would expect the Ministry of Justice, the Minister himself, being a Muslim, is in a better position to consult the leaders of his community & advise the govt. with the parliament making the final decision. I am not an expert on these matters & I may be wrong but I can’t understand the logic of appointing a racist thug in robes with, obviously, having his own understanding of Buddhism & confusing Buddhism & the sinhala race, heading a commission that decides, eventually, a point of law.

    Cont.

    Cont.

    SL is currently in a state of economic catastrophe with a pandemic yet to be controlled, as well as, other pressing issues, such as, the fertiliser problem, demands of teachers, etc. but the govt. decideding to bring this potentially controversial subject at this time, only indicates the creation of communal & religious unrest

  • 4
    1

    Cont.

    SL is currently in a state of economic catastrophe with a pandemic yet to be controlled, as well as, other pressing issues, such as, the fertiliser problem, demands of teachers, etc. but the govt. deciding to bring this potentially controversial subject at this time, only indicates the objective of creating communal & religious unrest.

  • 1
    1

    No MMDA!

    MMDA was introduced in 1951 as an election trick.

    One law for everyone irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, caste, etc.

    Otherwise split the island into 3 nations. Let them have their own laws. Not in one nation.

  • 1
    2

    Generally, the criminal justice objectives of crime control and crime prevention are compromised by criminal lawyers in order to maintain their success rates of cases and to maintain the reputation of the counsel.

    Generally, the relationship with criminals and their lawyers is not that holly relationship, it’s all about mutual selfish and opportunistic relationships. Especially in an adversarial system where manipulating the facts and figures by the defense counsel or, at the least, denying the allegations wholesale until its being proved by the prosecution is the unholy job of the defense counsel.

    MMDA reform initiated by a counsel could be seen by his former client as losing of a diversion card permanently in his racist politics. And giving up a counsel in the ocean of counsels to a client, in this criminal context, is an easy fart without letting any smell out.

  • 3
    1

    So much talk, condemnations against a “Rogue”, a “Criminal” in “Saffron Clothes” who is appointed to “Head” a “Task Force” on “One country one Law”. There are 12 others appointed to the “Task Force”.

    My question ( a BIG one) is: Why are the other 12 Members keep “Silent” without “Withdrawing” from the “Task Force”? Even the Minister of Justice (the Subject Minister) is surprised and frustrated with that appointment of Ganasara. The “Civil Societies” are up in arms against that appointment and the selection of this “Criminal” to be the “Chairman” of the “Task Force”. The “Public Opinion” against this “Ganasara” is very widely expressed and keeps growing. Aren’t these “12” members “Deaf and Blind” to what is going on? Are they of the same “Class” as “Ganasara” and quite “Happy” and “Comfortable” to be “Directed” and “Led” by this “Criminal” in the day-to-day deliberations of the “Task Force”? These are questions that need to be answered by the “12” members and the answers would be a “Self Examination” and an “Assessment” of their own “Character”.

    In my opinion, those “12” members, if at all have anything remaining called “Self Respect” and “Character” must tender “RESIGNATION” (it is a Social Responsibility) from the “Task Force” as a show of “Apathy” towards the “IDIOCYNCRASY” that is “EMBLEMATIC” of this President. I don’t expect this “Criminal” Ganasara to step down, but it is left to the other “12” to “DO IT” and the Public and Civil Societies to “ASK” for it. The way to “WIN” is to stop the “Attack” on a “Proven Criminal”, but get the other “12” by creating a “Public Demand” for them to “RESIGN”.

  • 3
    2

    Is Gota Sane?

  • 2
    1

    Anything to distract a disenchanted nation, that foolishly thought a man who kept the streets clean, and was part of the outfit that ended terrorism up North ( also accused of killing thousands of civilians in the process, and not held accountable) can be a good leader. They knew but ignored the fact that there was going to be nepotism, racism, corruption, and the implementation of policies that are chipping away at our democracy.
    They should have been careful what they wished for. Now we all suffer the consequences.

  • 5
    3

    soman

    Where are you?

    Is Saffron Clad Thug Gnana qualified to be the RAJA GURU to the House of Medamulana Walawwa ?

  • 12
    1

    Under Muslim law divorce is hard for the woman.

    Some non-Muslims became Muslim to take a second or even third wife !

    Muslims are not a happy people anywhere, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi are good cases to study.

    Under Thesavalame property rights are very restricted, favouring a feudal system

    Under Kandyan law child marriage is possible even polygamy is OK.

    Are we to follow these so called laws for the next 1000 years ?

    Whether you are Sinhalese, Muslim or a Tamil is a matter of pure biological accident.

    Are we to be slaves to that accident our entire life?

  • 1
    2

    This is purely targeting theMuslim community,one man one wife….
    Buddhism is the foremost relegion in the constitution-one country
    Make everyone equal and should be all Sri lankan only.
    Are these lot volunteers or salary pension and perks, office,staffs, limousine, personal secretary…..

  • 5
    2

    soman

    I have a few questions for you.
    What do you eat at home?
    Are you still enjoying 3 rice based meals a day?
    Can you manage with Green Gram, Manioc, ….. ?
    What do they serve in the Parliament canteen?
    ….
    …..
    …..

    • 3
      2

      soman

      Do you know how to make rice or cake out of Kaupi, manioca, …. or ?

      • 1
        0

        Native, do not worry. Even if he doesn’t, will learn soon.

  • 1
    0

    “Thus, OCOL mantra was a monkish invention that later became a vote winning slogan in GR’s presidential race.”

    The vote winning slogan in GR’s Presidential race was ‘Security’, not OCOL. Muslims and ‘Yahapalana’ Government are responsible for giving that slogan to Gotabhaya.

  • 1
    0

    Not only MMDA lamb, Thesawalamei cow and Kandyan Law bull are also in Gotabhaya’s abattoir.

  • 2
    0

    All these are side shows to divert attention from real problems the country is facing. It reminds me of the abortion rights issue in the US. Could somebody explain to me what else the Muslims are risking to lose other than the right to marry a minor (men’s right) and marry more than one woman (again a men’s right). Both these rights are considered immoral by contemporary ‘civilized’ societies. The Tamils would lose Theshawalam, which also is an unjust law. The writer should be more concerned about the laws in Australia and forget the issues of his abandoned country of birth. Gota and MR clan are doing much worse things than this at the present. This appears to be a ‘Sacrificial Anode’. Where is the Muslim community demanding justice for ‘Thajudeen’?

  • 2
    0

    It beats my mind as to why the Muslim women are not demanding the MMDA be abolished as it is highly discriminatoys to them. May be that they have been subjugated for so long, they think that it is good for them?

  • 1
    0

    This is an excerpt from the Atlantic:
    Some of the most important architects of institutionalized Arab misogyny weren’t actually Arab. They were Turkish — or, as they called themselves at the time, Ottoman — British, and French. These foreigners ruled Arabs for centuries, twisting the cultures to accommodate their dominance. One of their favorite tricks was to buy the submission of men by offering them absolute power over women. The foreign overlords ruled the public sphere, local men ruled the private sphere, and women got nothing; academic Deniz Kandiyoti called this the “patriarchal bargain.” Colonial powers employed it in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia, promoting misogynist ideas and misogynist men who might have otherwise stayed on the margins, slowly but surely ingraining these ideas into the societies.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/the-real-roots-of-sexism-in-the-middle-east-its-not-islam-race-or-hate/256362/
    Whether Gota is good or bad or Gnanasara for that matter, Muslim women of SL should enjoy the same rights as their contemporaries in the island. I am confused about the so called ‘professors’ who are advocating misogyny disguising themselves as the guardians of Islam!

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