One Country, One Law… One People?

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The Presidential Task Force for ‘One Country, One Law’ sought the views of university academics recently. During this meeting, professors and lecturers appreciated the State’s efforts to lay the foundations for a common law in the country based on a concept that has not been implemented in any other country before.

Head of the Task Force, Rajakeeya Panditha Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera said, the Task Force was moving ahead with a new approach into identifying and resolving issues at the grassroots level. He also said regardless of the defeat of terrorism, Sri Lanka still has a responsibility to defeat the idea of separatism. He emphasised that his team is ready to work hard with scholars and intellectuals in this regard.

Back in November last year, The ‘One Country, One Law’ Task Force started its work by inviting public opinion and launched its islandwide consultation tour in Jaffna, where dialogue was extremely cordial with  local lawyers, professionals, religious leaders, students and civil society members explaining that various aspects of existing laws haven’t been applied equally.

Opposition to the Task Force started even before it embarked on its countrywide programme and was (and is still) met with apprehension due to various socio-political factors. Opponents of ‘One Country, One Law’ claim that its end goal is the forcible assimilation of minorities sans their personal laws while its proponents claim that it will create more cohesion among Sri Lanka’s hodgepodge of creeds and ethnic identities. 

Problems between majority and minorities persist all around the world where each party has always looked at the other in apprehension; the former afraid of minorities ‘rising up’, ‘multiplying’ and ‘overthrowing’ their regime and way of life while the latter has been always afraid of majorities ‘crushing’ their identities and aspirations through their leverage in numbers. However, if history has proven anything, it justifies the fears of the minorities and the examples are numerous: Nazi Germany accused the Jews and other minorities of conspiring against “pure Aryans” and marched them off to concentration camps. Post-independence Rwanda, with its Hutu majority in power, saw its Tutsi minority, who were once favoured by the colonialists, as a threat and initiated genocide in 1994. 

The list goes on and we don’t have to look too far back into the timeline how mere differences in language, culture and colour had led to tragic loss of human life. Sri Lanka’s 30-year war is a great example of this fact and has its roots in the great ‘divide and rule’ tactic used quite affectively by the colonial powers. The colonists, ignorant of Sri Lanka’s diverse makeup, started categorising the island’s inhabitants into religions and ethnicities when taking census and also stoked tensions strategically to gain important ground. 

But we cannot always blame the circumstances for our misery. Our democratic country of more than seven decades should be mature enough to accept its pluralistic makeup by now and it’s also so much more than just race, caste, creed and ethnicity and even includes lifestyles and gender identities. Being protectionist and racist in a globalised world is not just unacceptable, it is downright ignorant. Most of us own smartphones that have batteries made from Cobalt and Lithium mined in Africa and South America, with its microchips made in Taiwan and assembled in the Chinese mainland, its programming could have been done by software developers in Bengaluru in India, marketed by a South Korean company, transported on a Greek freighter, unloaded in Colombo Port by a Tamil forklift operator, cleared by a Sinhalese Customs official and finally sold by a Muslim merchant at a leading shopping mall; yes, our global supply chains are colour blind and the fact that a simple commodity such as smartphone can unite so many people is truly remarkable. 

So, the true intention of a One Country, One Law should be to create One People; united for the common goal of making the country beautiful and prosperous with our uniqueness playing a part in realising this dream.