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Harmful legislation may impact pluralism in Sri Lanka

Existing and proposed legislation have the potential to disproportionately target and impact ethno-religious minorities.

Andrea González

The Global Pluralism Monitor: Sri Lanka report discusses in detail how laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) or the ICCPR law are used to disproportionately target ethno-religious minorities. Both acts have been used to regulate and target those politically opposed to the government and while the ICCPR Act, for example, outlaws hate speech, the government has turned a blind eye to hate speech from Sinhalese Buddhists. The uneven implementation of these laws has significantly brought to harm to ethno-religious minorities in the aftermath of the 26 years long civil war.

Additionally, the proposal of the One Country, One Law legislation has the potential to detrimentally impact pluralism. This legislation, as outlined in the report, seeks to abolish all forms of personal/customary law that are currently granted to multiple ethno-religious groups, including Sri Lankan Muslims.

The recently passed Bureau Rehabilitation Bill raises concerns about how it might be used to exploit ethno-religious minorities. The Bill gives the army, navy and air force the authority to run rehabilitation centres. These centres are meant to target ‘drug dependent persons and other persons as provided for by the law.’ However, critics are concerned that this vague language will give the government the ability to place political opponents in military-operated detention camps.

Based on the current implementation of the PTA and ICCPR law, this bill could also be used to target ethno-religious minorities, particularly those that may not be as supportive of the government.

To read more about how policies and legislation are impacting pluralism in Sri Lanka, read the Global Pluralism Monitor: Sri Lanka report.