One Country One Law
By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
Last week the writer approached a local studio to get some photographs to get his passport renewed. During the conversation with the photographer, he advised the writer about the legal requirements of the Immigration office, which require both ears to be visible in the photograph to renew his passport. He also informed the writer that Muslim women, need not bother about exposing their ears in the photograph because Muslim women are allowed to wear the Hijab covering their head and chest, including their ears.
The friendly conversation suddenly touched on a serious note. The disgruntled photographer advised the writer about a mixture of laws in Sri Lanka, and how it applies to each section of the community. He said because of the Election promises, the Government is getting into an awkward situation due to failure of adhering to such promises. He observed that the legal framework of Sri Lanka is complex and a mixture of laws ranging from Roman, English, Dutch, South Indian, and Old Ceylon Law.
Momentarily the writer became thoroughly confused with such a lot of laws in Sri Lanka. To get it clarified, the writer communicated with his friend in London, Douglas Wickramaratne, who is well versed in Sri Lankan politics. Douglas Wickramaratne dealt with a lot of problems when Sri Lanka experienced a gruelling time with a separatist war for thirty years against the LTTE. Douglas acted on behalf of the Sri Lanka High Commission in London to counter all adverse exposures by the LTTE. Such false propaganda spread internationally instantaneously.
The Sri Lanka Mission had to obtain permission from the Foreign Ministry before commenting on any sudden situation, such as a bomb explosion. When a response reached the Sri Lanka High Commission from the Foreign Ministry in Colombo, the stable door was closed, and the horse had already bolted. Douglas Wickramaratne was a patriot and represented the Sinhala Association in the U.K. He bravely faced the LTTE supporters on all T.V. and radio debates.
Douglas Wickramaratne replied, attaching an email in Sinhala. The following is a translation done by the writer, to the best of his ability.
"The President of Sri Lanka appointed a commission to investigate and report on the concept of One Nation and One Country. The Professor believes it is essential to appoint Venerable Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara thera as Chairman of the Presidential Commission. He cannot remember whether he has had any conversation with the thera, but he has heard about his speeches. However, the Professor may not agree with the Venerable’s ideology altogether and disagrees with the Venerable's associations with some personnel. However, ‘The Professor believes that a Buddhist monk is the best solution for the Presidential Commission. In this respect Ven. Gnanasara thera is the most suitable official” he states.
Some people may object to the monk's appointment as Chairman of the Presidential Commission on a delicate topic stating that “the monk was penalised by Court". The Professor cannot recollect the incident properly, and thinks it was due to the monk's appalling behaviour inside the Courthouse. The Professor too has some experience in dealing with Courts in Sri Lanka, from the Labour Courts up to the Magistrate's Courts. He is not aware how the Sri Lankan Courts operate. However, the Professor believes that everyone must pay respect inside Courts. The Sri Lankan Courts follow vital decisions made in accordance with the Constitution that affects the Nation. To negate the Courts' decisions is highly thorny.
The professor Nalin de Silva believes, ‘if his memory serves right, venerable Gnanasara thera expressed certain statements to Ekneligoda's wife inside the courts complex that was not acceptable to the Court.’ It should be questioned from Ekneligoda's wife whether she became popular only after the disappearance of Ekneligoda? The Professor admits that he cannot comment on the number of issues made by Sri Lankan Courts. He will not expand on that issue further because he too will likely become a victim by criticising Court procedures!
Sri Lanka follows a mixture of British, Roman, and Dutch laws, Professor states. That is not favourable to Sri Lanka. It is also not to say the existing laws are partisan. It comes to his memory also about the ancient Ekneligoda Nilame, who fought against the Sinhala Motion (Panatha). The Professor can remember only one other Committee member, named Sumeda Weerawardene. Although he was not a lawyer, he was knowledgeable about the legal profession. 'Romans did not invent Roman law, he states. Even before the Dutch conquered our land, Ceylon had a profession called Sirith Lena. Currently, it is equivalent to the legal profession. The basis of any law is dependent on the culture and tradition of a nation," declares the Professor.
The Dutch when in Ceylon amended many laws, in addition to the Roman and Dutch law. They introduced tobacco to Ceylon and brought the Tamil Vellala community to cultivate tobacco. After the harvest, the Vellala community returned to their homeland in India. The Dutch did not prevent them from returning. At that time, there existed a Muslim (Thesawalimi) law in Jaffna. The Muslim Thesawalimi law incorporates Kovils too. The Vellas established the Thesawalimi law.
Subsequently, the British introduced the Thesawalimi law again and incorporated Roman and Dutch law into British law. In addition, there exists a separate Muslim law in the country. There is also a law called the Upcountry (Kandy - Udarata) law. The British called the Upcountry (Udarata) law as the Sinhala law. During that time, the Kings ruled the hill country. The British, naming it as the upcountry law, made a muddle out of it. Nevertheless, we need to bear in mind the Sinhala law includes various sections from the Nanayakkara kings.
The Professor believes eminent scientists in the West believe in the explosion theory, but it is only a belief. Any law depends on the country's culture and tradition, but Sri Lanka goes by British law, Roman and Dutch law. “There is no such law in existence without a national, religious, and cultural basis. The world does not have any adverse laws—British science wraps around Greek Christian philosophy, which is a blatant lie.”
‘One country one law’ means not to execute a mixture of English, Roman and Dutch law on everything and everywhere. In England, there is no law about the Chinese population. English culture encases British law. In Sri Lanka, what is required is a law commensurate with different cultures. Insincere socialists will cry out, saying an individual law applies to various sets of people. The Professor challenges anyone to go to France and try to implement the Muslim law.
At this juncture, there is an important feature we need to remind ourselves about. The Agreement entered in 1815 promised the British and Dutch to rule the country according to the Sinhala Law. Though it was agreed with the Christian rulers everyone failed to adhere to this agreement. Though Sri Lanka achieved its Independence seventy-three years ago, no one has yet concentrated on the 1815 Agreement. One cannot expect this from either the Senanayake's, J.R. Jayawardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa or Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The President appointed a knowledgeable Buddhist monk as Chairman of the Presidential Committee to investigate and report to him on all aspects that affect the society in implementing the concept of ‘One Law, One Country’.