Parliamentary Committee calls for suspension for ethnic, religion-based parties

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 02:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security in report looks at 15 areas that need changes
  • Calls for freeze on political parties which violate FR of people by discrimination on grounds of race, religion, language, caste 
  • Says media should be duly regulated to safeguard peace and security
  • Moots establishment of Ministry of Religious Affairs that combines all religions

By Chandani Kirinde

The Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security has recommended the suspension of registration of political parties on ethnic and religious basis and proposed amendments to the Penal Code to make incitement to violence, hate speech and propagating harmful and false information as criminal offences.

Committee Chairman MP Malith Jayathilake who presented the report to the House last week said the Committee looked at measures to strengthen national security in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attacks and formulated proposals which include amending existing laws and changes to Government policies so as to eliminate threats from new forms of terrorism/extremism while strengthening relations between people of different ethnicities and religions.

The Committee called for a freeze to the registration of ethnic/religion-based parties and the transformation of political parties, the constitution of which contain any goal or objective, that may cause racial or religious conflict, divide people and hinder recognition. 

Those parties of this nature that are already registered should be given a definite time period of two to three years to transform into national political parties, the Committee said.

It also recommended that the Parliamentary Elections Act No. 1 of 1981 be amended and the Election Commission take responsibility for ensuring that the constitution of no political party violates the fundamental rights guaranteed by Article  12 (2) of the Constitution.

The Committee also looked at the role of print, electronic and social media in bring about national reconciliation and recommended an independent commission to regulate the mass media with the view to safeguarding  peace and security of the country as well as the right to information and the dignity of the people.

The Commission should be vested with power to duly regulate the media along with power to promote media literacy among the public, it said.

In the 300-page Report, the Committee, which comprised representatives of all political parties, dealt with 15 different areas on which the Government would need to concentrate to bring about the desired changes.

These include education, banning of face coverings that hinders identification, National Defense Policy,  amending the Immigration and Emigration law, role of the media, amending of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce law, empowering Muslim civil society, empowering and legalising the NGO secretariat,  amendment to the Wakf Act, suspension of registration of political parties based on ethnic and religious basis, issuing birth certificates with Sri Lankan Identity Number (SLIN), establishment of a Ministry of Religious Affairs that combines all religions, building and maintaining Dhamma schools and religious centres so as to ensure inter-religious cohabitation and streamlining the Halal certification process.

Committee Chairman Jayatilleka said if Sri Lanka is to merge as a modern developed state in this century, “it should be grounded on ensuring first the national security of the country, in manner that fulfils the aspirations of all citizens and work towards creating a Sri Lankan identity”.