Colombo, Oct 27 (EFE).- Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed a hardline Buddhist monk accused of inciting violence against minority Muslims as the head of a government panel to study the concept of one country-one law.
The controversial appointment Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, who was previously imprisoned for contempt of court and is known for his outspoken nationalist views, Wednesday sparked a cry from rights defenders.
Gnanasara was serving a jail term for contempt of court when the then-president Maithripala Sirisena pardoned him in May 2019.
The 13-member task force will study ‘one country-one law’ and draft a bill to promote its concept in the island nation, ostensibly to ensure all citizens get equal treatment regardless of their ethnicity, religion, and caste.
However, human rights activists are unconvinced that Gnanasara is the right person to head the group.
The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist group led by Gnanasara, was named in several incidents that targeted Muslims on the island for years.
“This is an insult to people who can think. To the people who are lawful in this country,” Sandya Ekneligoda, wife of missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda, told EFE.
Gnanasara had verbally abused and threatened Sandya inside the court premises during the hearing of her missing husband’s case in 2016.
The court later convicted him for criminally intimidating her.
“I wonder how the Muslim members in the task force sit together with this man. How can they forget everything he did to the Muslim Community,” she said.
Last month an opposition lawmaker, Mujibur Rahuman, complained to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) over an islamophobia comment Gnanasara made during a TV talk show.
The case is pending.
Human Rights activist Shreen Saroor said the appointment “is really problematic.”
“Gnanasara is a criminal. He is known for instigating violence against the Muslim community. Ideally, he should be behind bars.”
She said the new task force would further divide the country than unite it.