A controversial Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, who is accused of hate speech targeting Muslims, has been appointed head of a panel on legal reforms.
According to a gazette notification issued on Tuesday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has set up a 13-member ‘Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law’, chaired by Galagodaatte Gnanasara of the Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force).
Apart from being accused of provoking anti-Muslim violence in the past, the monk made news in 2018 when he was convicted — on four charges — for contempt of court. He was given a six-year jail term, of which he served only nine months until former President Maithripala Sirisena pardoned him in a move widely criticised.
The appointment of the Presidential task force comes months after a Cabinet decision to amend the country’s Muslim personal laws. Sri Lanka also has the Kandyan Law and Thesawalamai Law, pertaining respectively to the Sinhalese and Tamil community.
The panel does not have representatives from the Tamil minority or women. It includes four Muslims.
Commenting on the task force Ambika Satkunanathan, an activist and former Commissioner at Sri Lanka’s the Human Rights Commission, called it, in a tweet, a “farce masquerading as governance/government”
Opposition parliamentarian Shanakiyan Rasamanickam from the Tamil National Alliance said: “This committee itself is the definition of irony. What is the purpose of establishing a committee if the existing law can’t be implemented correctly? The appointment of a criminal to lead this committee is almost a joke in itself.”
The task force, according to the gazette, is to “make a study of the implementation of the concept; One Country, One Law” within Sri Lanka and prepare a draft Act for the purpose and submit a report by February 28, 2022.