The Women’s Action Network (WAN), a collective of eight women’s groups, condemned the brutal physical assault on the Puttalam Quazi Dr Mohamed Rahmathulla Mohamed on March 26.

The WAN has demanded an impartial investigation into this crime and that the perpetrators of the violence on a judicial officer must be held accountable.

This is the third time a Quazi had been assaulted in Puttalam alone, WAN said.

In a press release on Wednesday, WAN said that Dr Rahmathulla was appointed Quazi by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recently and had commenced his work in Puttalam. But some were not happy about his appointment. There is a letter, that is being circulated, sent by the Puttalam Grand Mosque to MP Ali Sabry Raheem, expressing disapproval of his appointment, that their nominee had not been appointed, and asking him to intervene and review the appointment.

Interestingly, the letter also adverts to ‘regionalism’ to mention that the Quazi is not from Puttalam.

On the day of the attack, the Quazi had, upon being invited, visited the MP’s house in Puttalam Town. We learn from several sources that there have been arguments. Subsequently, the Quazi was beaten up by the MP and a relative, WAN said.

   “Quazis are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission. Should there be any concerns or complaints about the manner a Quazi is functioning or his conduct, they should be taken up with the JSC. No one is entitled to take the law into his hand. However, there have been instances where Quazis have encountered threats and intimidation in the community when they did not abide by the instructions of religious institutions and politicians,” WAN said.

MMDA Needs Reform

The WAN has also demanded reform of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).

“We want to highlight the recent protest organized by the Puttalam mosque on January 13, against the proposed reforms to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) and most specifically targeting women who are working on MMDA reform.  We are well aware of how in the past mosques and the pulpit have been used to attack legal and religious scholars, activists and victims whenever they raise the need to reform the MMDA,” WAN said.

“This latest assault of the Quazi vindicates the call that has been made for well over four decades. We reiterate the urgent need to reform the MMDA to be fully on par with the fundamental rights chapter of the Sri Lankan constitution.”

“The Women’s Action Network also wishes to stress the urgent need to reform the Quazi System and make it part of the country’s regular administration of the Justice system ensuring the independence of Quazis in all parts of the country within the mainstream justice system.”

“All judicial institutions should be protected against intimidation from powerful or influential persons or bodies including mosque administrations.”

“The Judicial Service Commission which is vested with appointment and disciplinary authority over Quazis and the Ministry of Justice should treat this as an urgent matter and provide protection to all Quazis,” WAN said.


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