Problematic situation could arise if Article 16 repealed - Justice Minister

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC said that a problematic situation could arise if Article 16 of the Constitution is repealed without having a proper conversation.

The Justice Minister was responding to a statement by Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera in Parliament recently. The Minister said that Ven. Rathana Thera has proposed to remove Article 16 of the Constitution alleging that laws are not equally enforced for all Sri Lankans in terms of Article 12.1 of the Constitution.

“As suggested by Ven. Rathana Thera, if Article 16 of the Constitution is removed, all laws including the Buddhist Temporalities Act will be abolished. If this removal happens, we will have to face a number of issues, which have never been experienced in this society. This matter has to be thoroughly discussed,” the Justice Minister said.

The Justice Minister said that his statement that the Article 16 cannot be repealed has been misrepresented by various individuals.

There are certain laws that affect certain individuals, certain religions and certain social groups. For an example, the Buddhist Temporalities Act applies only to the properties belonging to temples and devalas. No one is asking to change this law. I believe we have to protect these laws,” he said.

There are laws governing the property of certain places of worship. The Muslims also have such a law called the Wakf Act. There is no necessity to remove this law as well. However, there are some laws that affect the women, children and marital age. These factors have affected other sections of society as well. I am of the view that these areas should be changed.

The Article 16 of the Constitution cannot be repealed in such a manner. If that happened, many of the things associated with it may be lost. It is useless slinging mud at me without understanding the reality, the Justice Minister added.

The Justice Minister also said that a social group with a private agenda has created false information against him to be circulated on the social media.

“We go all over the country to resolve the people’s problems. This false propaganda culture emerges when we discuss the issues faced by the people. We could understand the motives behind this campaign. This propaganda is aimed at the Government after using racism as a weapon rather than personally targeting me. They are of the view that they can easily disseminate their opinions to the public if these campaigns are carried out against me. An individual of a political party had said that I am going to establish 100 Kathi Courts. There are some individuals who spread such malicious and false information,” the Minister said.

“We have initiated a long term programme to upgrade the judicial system. There are a number of issues in the judiciary. Recently, I visited Thissamaharama, Hambantota and Tangalle. In those courts, both criminal and civil cases are being heard in a single court. A single judge has to hear more than 6,000 cases. In a developed country, the judge-population ratio is about 150 to 200 per one million. In our country, the judge-population ratio is 15 per one million. We have to provide a solution to this issue,” the Minister said.

The Justice Minister said that legal reforms will be replaced the outdated laws after appointing three committees to look into the issues. He said the Government will establish 100 new courtrooms islandwide in next three years.

The Justice Minister said that the President has instructed to draft a new Constitution. “An expert panel headed by President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva will finalise the preliminary draft in March,” he said.

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