22 July, 2024


Muslims Protest ‘One Country One Law’

By Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa through a Gazette (extraordinary) notification No 2251/30 dated 26-10-2021 and No 2252/56 dated 06/11/2021 established a ‘Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law (OCOL)’, by virtue of the powers vested in the President by Article 33 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. The 13 member One Country One Law task force is headed by Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero.

The President’s Senior Assistant Secretary, Jeevanthie Senanayake was appointed as the Secretary to the Presidential Task Force. The ‘Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law’, is tasked with the study of the implementation of the concept; ‘OCOL’ within Sri Lanka and prepare a draft Act for the said purpose.

Lead Muslim Civil Society organizations and Religious leadership wrote to the President expressing their deep concern and lack of confidence in the impartiality and competence of the Chairman of the Task Force to examine the issues involved and drafting relevant laws.

The findings of The Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into and report or take necessary action on the Bomb Attacks on 21st April 2019 clearly indicate, that his speeches “contained without any doubt, hate speech” and further was of the view that part of the speeches made, can form the basis for a prosecution in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007. Moreover, they went on to recommend that the Attorney General considers filing charges against him; In view of which, the Muslim community is unconvinced that the purpose of the One Country One Law Task Force can be achieved by such an individual chairing this Task Force.

Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. This diversity is reflected in its personal laws of minority groups and are protected under our Constitution. Whilst there is no question that there must be uniformity in the application of the general, civil and criminal law (Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, etc), personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession, are matters that properly fall within the purview of personal laws. The Muslim community has enjoyed the benefits of these personal laws (whether codified or not) since time immemorial; from the time of the Sri Lankan Kings to date, more than 1000 years in existence.

These personal laws have never infringed on the rights of other communities, whilst being protected by the Constitution of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The culmination of a One Country One Law, which seeks to abolish personal laws (Thesawalamai, Kandyan, and Muslim) of all communities, will merely be a cause for contention amongst communities and not a cause of harmony. Undoubtedly, there is an urgent need for reform of these laws but not a need for it to be abolished.

The Muslim community vehemently opposes any attempt to abolish its personal laws in the guise of implementation of “One Country One Law” concept, and are convinced that 98% of the Muslim Community will stand in solidarity, in emphatically opposing the elimination of all personal laws, especially the Muslim Personal Laws of Sri Lanka.

Regretfully, some Muslims had been coaxed in to submitting proposals to the task force to abolish the Muslim Personal Laws (MPL). Some of them have complained of personal experiences of injustice, corruption and prejudice of certain Quazis, hence the Muslim Personal Laws should be repealed. . MPL has been in existence since the Dutch period and was called the Mohammedan code that addresses the Muslim marriage, divorce’ inheritance etc.. These laws have religious and cultural foundations that conform to the Islamic faith.

The betrayal by certain Muslims with vested interests caused a huge uproar amongst the Muslim community. Muslim activists started a signature campaign to protest the possible repeal of the Muslim Personal laws. Upto now over 50,000 protesting signatures have been delivered to the Presidential Task Force Secretariat from across the country and is expected to increase to at least 75,000 within the next few days. Many Muslims have called upon the Task Force not to repeal but reform the Muslim Personal Laws that respects gender equality and justice conforming to international standards while preserving Quranic injunctions.

There may be individuals who are corrupt in the quazi system, but majority of them are honourable persons. They have acceptance by the community and are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission. As we all know, there has also been quite a few allegations against the judiciary and was a hotly debated subject with the recent imprisonment of Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake. No one has called for repeal of the Justice system because of various allegations. Corruption, Nepotism and Political bias has encompassed every level of Sri Lankan society. A few individuals not conforming to norms is no reason to repeal any law.

The Quazi system certainly needs reforms and the Muslim community has already submitted its proposals to the Hon. Minister of Justice that calls for the Quazi system to be upgraded, suitable persons recruited, appointment of female Quazi, a private place to conduct proceedings and various other constructive recommendations.

Quazi system is a judicial body with personnel appointed by the Judicial Services Commission. Appeals lie with the Board of Quazis and then to the Supreme Court. The primary role of a Quazi is to mediate and reconcile marriages in conflict based on the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence.

This legal system is a complex mixture of laws. Dutch colonial administrators codified the rules of inheritance, marriage and divorce in order to facilitate the application of Muslim family law. This Code was adapted by the British in 1799. The British later enacted the Registration of Muslim Marriages Ordinance in 1896 repealing parts of the Dutch Code. The other important piece of legislation relating to Islamic family law is the Muslim Intestate Succession Ordinance of 1931 which is still in force. The 1896 Ordinance was later abolished and the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) was enacted in 1951 , which essentially reinforces the principle that, in matters of personal status, the rights and duties of the parties involved are to be determined by the religious school of laws to which the parties belong.

The Muslim community has been intimidated in to silence since the fateful easter Sunday bombing of 21/4/2019 due to the involvement of a few Muslims by name. This tragedy branded the 2.1 million Muslims as terrorists. The community did not recognise the bombers as Muslims and were not even given an Islamic funeral. Pushing the entire community to the wall by vested interests may have far reaching consequences leading to despair and radicalisation of Muslim Youth. Many are losing faith in the Sri Lankan nation and are endeavouring to migrate.

Sri Lanka needs equitable justice through its judiciary while recognising the inalienable rights of minorities in a multi ethnic, multi religious, multi cultural and multi lingual communities that form the Sri Lankan Nation. These vibrant colours form the Sri Lankan nation that should flourish.

*The writer is a Social Activist and Vice President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka

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Latest comments

  • 24

    For example ? Are there many legal systems and different ideas in Saudi, Iran or Afghanistan ?

    Will you demand Islamic law in England or Australia ?

    Can a country move forward with different laws applying to different people ?

    What is the fundamental idea of our society? Freedom of belief as well as freedom not to believe. We all don’t want to be brain washed into the religion we are born into, which is a mere accident.

    Can we have child marriage or multiple wives like in the primitive times ?

    Can divorce be decided by lay courts which are pro men and subject to influence and bribery ?

    • 8

      Please do not cover up by saying that only few Muslims are involved in Easter bombings. There are several Muslim politicians, businessmen and professionals who had given financial and logistical support to terrorists and have not been apprehended because of corrupt Sinhala politicians of all divide and corrupt security officials. Puttalam coconut estate where ammunition were stocked and gun training given and Katankudy house where bombs were made, could not have existed without the knowledge of many Muslims. Azath Saleh would not have got two bombers released from custody who were remanded for damaging Buddha statue at Mawanella, if he did not know them. Rishard Badurdeen who was active along Mannar to Puttalam sea corridor where his wife was charged for human smuggling, cannot feign ignorance of what was happening in that estate. MLA Hisbulla who is from Katankudi cannot say that he is unaware of clandestine activity taking place in his home town of 2 kilometers by 1 kilometer in extent where two bombs exploded prior to Easter one. Cardinal Malcolm is fighting a lone battle to get justice for his flock. Why will not Muslims show gratitude to him by getting all Muslims who had involvement with bombers punished.

      • 1

        My friend, Sri Lanka is a multi cultural, Multi Religious and multi lingual democracy. It is not the domain of an aristocratic dictatorial monarchy. Muslims have lived in this country for over 1200. Muslim personal laws were enshrined in sri lanka by the dutch in 1600’s. For your information the Kandyan Sinhalese have their personal law, the Devala Gam panatha is also a personal law. The Tamils have Thesavalama and the christians too have their personal law. These laws do not infringe on any other ethnic group . Please do a bit of reading without being a key board hero

      • 2

        after 21 months, and many investigations including PCoI, there is not a single evidence of any Muslim other than mercenaries financed by …..

    • 1

      My friend, Sri Lanka is a multi cultural, Multi Religious and multi lingual democracy. It is not the domain of an aristocratic dictatorial monarchy. Muslims have lived in this country for over 1200. Muslim personal laws were enshrined in sri lanka by the dutch in 1600’s. For your information the Kandyan Sinhalese have their personal law, the Devala Gam panatha is also a personal law. The Tamils have Thesavalama and the christians too have their personal law. These laws do not infringe on any other ethnic group . Please do a bit of reading without being a key board hero

      • 7

        It is Thesavalami and not Thesvalam . As an ethnic Tamil Muslim please post properly. It is your mother tongue and if you can post Sinhalese names and terms properly, you can do the same in Tamil. Muslims were on this island 1200 years ago! Where did you get this from? Prove it. DNA has proved that very few Sri Lankan Muslims have Arab or any other ancestry but are overwhelmingly and predominantly of South Indian ancestry, which means Tamil. They only started to arrive on the island around the late 13Th century after the fall of the Madurai Delhi Sultanate. that ruled the Tamil country very briefly. After their fall the local Hindus rose up and did not want the Islamic converts there and many fled from South India on shallow wooden boats called Marrakalam in Tamil to the then Tamil North West Chilaw/Puttalam and Mannar coastal areas, that was all part of the Tamil Jaffna kingdom and settled here. Many of them later fled to the Tamil east, during the Portuguese era, as they were persecuted by them. However, the vast majority of the island’s Muslims only migrated to the island from South India, during the early British era.

  • 13

    I do not believe that the man put in charge of this “task force” is reliable or credible to head any national body, let alone a legal one, as he himself is a convicted criminal. Having said that, the overt descent into supremacist ideology will further destroy any fragile connection between the communities. What is required is a thorough overhaul of the MMDA (for example) and to bring its influence into the affected parties (ie girl children divorcing women) legal deliberations and for those to be more consistent with general law prevailing. The law enforcement, and justice procedures are severely lacking in any form of justice or fairness as they are presently implemented, and should be revamped where corruption and nepotism (for example) are eliminated. .

  • 5

    They can protest. Who cares.
    Camels who were allowed to put their heads into the tent of indigenous Sinhalayo cannot dictate how Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo should be governed.

    • 10

      Mahindapala, similarly Bengali camels who were allowed to put their heads into the tent of Kuveni’s people cannot dictate how land of Veddhas and Dravidians should be governed.

      • 1

        Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam,
        Before Bengali camels put their heads, Sinhala Lions lived in Sinhale. According to Bengali history, Vijaya landed in an island called ‘Seehol Deep’ not ‘Dravida Deep’.

  • 2

    “This tragedy branded the 2.1 million Muslims as terrorists.”

    Everybody knows that Srilankans Muslims do not have anything to do with the Easter bombings. The idiotic lunatic politically motivated imagination and fabrication of some to connect these bombings to Srilankan Muslims is out of pure wickedness and malice. Even the people who say this nonsense know clearly that Srilankan Muslims are not connected to these bombings. Everybody knows that Srilankan Muslims do not subscribe to the ISIS ideology, but yet this lie is repeated and innocent Muslims are left to answer for ISIS crimes!!!!! Its ridiculous. Its nothing but a horrendous hate crime played against the innocent Muslim population of Srilanka. Srilankan Muslims should stop bashing the Sinhalese, and get together and demand a public recognition from the government that Srilankan Muslims do not have anything to do with this horrendous crime. New laws should be brought in place to thoroughly punish spreading this lie and even insinuating that Srilankan Muslims did these bombings should be punishable by law.

  • 1

    “Many are losing faith in the Sri Lankan nation and are endeavouring to migrate.”


    • 4

      I bet not a single family will migrate to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan.


  • 4

    Protest all you want, but Gnanassara sadu will make sure he will execute the job he was assigned to do.

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