MSAS Seminar: Limitations on fundamental freedoms in Sri Lanka: majoritarian influence of constitutional practice - Gehan Gunatilleke (Oxford)

Chair: Thiruni Kelegama

Speaker: Gehan Gunatilleke (Oxford)

Sri Lanka’s Constitution authorises the government to limit fundamental freedoms on the grounds of various public interests. In this seminar, we will examine how this limitation regime in Sri Lanka has become vulnerable to majoritarian influence. We will discuss a number of case studies that offer insights into Sri Lanka’s constitutional practice with respect to limitations on fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of religion or belief and the freedom of expression. We will also compare these cases with similar context in other parts of South Asia to critically reflect on how notions of ‘public interest’ can often be equated with a majority community’s conceptions of ‘security’, ‘order’, ‘health’ and ‘morals’. The seminar explores the question of whether legal regimes designed to guarantee fundamental freedoms are capable of offering protection to minorities when the underlying politics driving the application of law is majoritarian.

Dr. Gehan Gunatilleke is a Junior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford and an Early Career Fellow at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford. He is also a commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, and a founding partner of LexAG, a law firm based in Colombo. Gehan specialises in international human rights law and constitutional law with a focus on the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression. His current post-doctoral research is on majoritarian constitutionalism and limitations on rights in South Asia.