President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, the only Muslim among the Cabinet ministers, is likely to quit the justice portfolio over the recent appointment of Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera as the head of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to make recommendations in respect of ‘One Country, One Law’ concept.
Well-informed sources say Sabry, who campaigned alongside civil society group ‘Viyathmaga’, at the 2019 presidential election, is quite disappointed at the unexpected development.
Sabry, who appeared for Gotabaya Rajapaksa in several high-profile cases, including the controversial acquisition of MiG-27 fighters, entered Parliament on the SLPP National List. Sabry is expected to make an announcement after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s return to the country from the UK.
Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa has discussed the issue with the Justice Minister and advised the latter against taking a hasty decision. The Justice Ministry was not consulted as regards Ven. Gnanasara Thera’s appointment as the head of the PTF, sources say.
The Ven. Thera is the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).
Justice Ministry sources said the announcement of Gnanasara Thera’s appointment had surprised them. “Initially, we thought it was a social media prank,” they said.
The PTF has been authorized to examine the work undertaken by the Justice Ministry.
SLMC leader and one-time Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem has questioned the rationale behind accommodating Gnanasara Thera, who received a presidential pardon during Maithripala Sirisena’s tenure while serving a jail term for contempt of court, in the PTF. The SLMC is a constituent of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), the main Opposition party in Parliament.
Lawmaker Hakeem has asked whether the new move was aimed at strengthening the hands of those trying to cause further mayhem amidst pressure on the government to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.
The former minister said that such short-sighted strategies would only tarnish Sri Lanka’s image at a time the global Muslim community as well as other countries interested in post-war reconciliation process here were closely following the situation here.
Controversy has erupted over Ven. Gnanasara’s appointment as PTF head amidst speculation the monk may receive the national List slot of the Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya (AJBP) at the expense of Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera
The AJBP on 16 Oct, informed the Secretary General of Parliament of its decision to expel Ven. Rathana from the Parliament. Election Commission Chairman Attorney-at-Law Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that Ven. Rathana would automatically lose his seat within one month unless the monk moved court against the party’s decision.
Pointing out that Tamils and Christians hadn’t been represented in the PTF, MP Hakeem said that Gnanasara Thera’s leadership to such a vital outfit wouldn’t be acceptable under any circumstances.
Yuthukama Chief Gevindu Cumaratunga, too, raised the issue at hand with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a recent meeting at Temple Trees.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador in Myanmar Prof. Nalin de Silva, in a statement, appreciated the appointment given to Ven. Gnanasara. Saying that he didn’t accept Ven. Gnanasara Thera’s views on some issues and the monk’s connections with certain persons, Prof Silva emphasized he was the most qualified to serve in that capacity.
Prof. de Silva said that the relevant the PTF should be headed by a Buddhist monk.