Legal Aid Commission
Steps towards legal recovery -Part II
Continued from last week
It is not easy to bring about normalcy within a short period of time
to the lives of people who have suffered and endured the horrors of
civil war and breakdown of public order for a number of years. The task
ahead of the government of Sri Lanka in bringing back normalcy in the
country and facilitating and promoting goodwill, harmony, mutual
coexistence and peace amongst the communities is a heavy and onerous
one, though it has to be undertaken with a high degree of sensitivity
and understanding striking a balance between varying competing
Achieving a durable peace amongst the people of the country is the
prime objective of a post conflict government, while protecting its
territorial integrity, national security and people’s sovereignty and
promoting the rule of law and human rights in the country. These warrant
speedy actions in many fronts: legal, administrative, political,
One of the urgent needs is to facilitate and permit the Internally
Displaced Persons to get back to their own homes if their homes are in a
habitable state or make effective arrangements to settle them in
suitable alternate dwellings. There have been many impediments in the
displaced persons getting back to their own homes, such as that the
homes are in areas where land mines have been heavily buried, or that
the homes are in high security zones and access to them is prevented, or
that they are being occupied by other displaced people or that the homes
are in ruins.
To deal with this enormous challenge, the Government of Sri Lanka
decided to enact a special law to establish a Resettlement Authority in
the country to formulate national policy and to plan, implement, monitor
and co-ordinate the resettlement of the internally displaced persons and
refugees and to deal with issues connected to internal displacement in
The Resettlement Authority Act 1 enacted in 2007 paved the way for
the establishment of the Resettlement Authority in April 2007, the major
functions of which are as follows -
* Formulate Resettlement Policy.
* Co-ordinate efforts of government and donors in order to end
displacement of persons.
* Formulate and implement specific programmes and projects for
resettlement and relocation of the internally displaced and refugees in
a safe and dignified manner.
* To assist IDPs and refugees to obtain lost documents from
* To assist in providing infrastructure facilities, education and
* To implement resettlement programmes including housing schemes.
* To assist in the mobilization of both local and foreign financial
resources to implement the planned programmes.
* To facilitate in solving problems relating to ownership and
possession rights of movable and immovable assets.
* To forge better understanding between the internally displaced and
* To facilitate the restoration of basic human rights including
cultural rights of the internally displaced.
* To receive representations on the needs of the internally
displaced, to make representations to mandated agencies and find
* To mobilize the internally displaced to initiate and implement
partnerships for recovery and development in accordance with the
individual or community needs.
* To promote livelihood activities.
* To provide reasonable access to information relating to their
* To ensure conducive environment for resettlement by clearing land
mines and debris and repairing damaged infrastructure.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Resettlement has been quoted as
saying that all the war-driven Internally Displaced Persons would be
resettled or returned by the end of 2011 and that the delay in
resettling has been due to the delay in demining of the proposed areas
of return. According to him the biggest camp, viz., Menik Farm, housing
the largest number of internally displaced, could be closed down by the
end of 2011. However, some have questioned the nature of return and
durability of resettlement of these internally displaced.
Although the functions and powers of the Resettlement Authority as
laid down in the Act are wide enough in scope for helping in rebuilding
and reconstructing the Northern and Eastern Provinces which have been
very badly affected by the prolonged violent conflict, as well as
providing the much needed assistance to those affected, displaced and
rendered homeless to enable them to recommence their lives with dignity,
the activities of Authority do not live upto its expectations.
Bureaucratic bottlenecks and financial constraints must be sorted out to
enable this body to function in an effective and speedy manner so that
the affected people could get over their travails and tribulations.
The government of Sri Lanka commenced a programme called ‘Eastern
Revival’ after the liberation of the Eastern Province from the control
of the LTTE in July 2007. Similarly another programme called ‘Northern
Spring’ targeting the Northern Province has been commenced by the
government in 2009 after the defeat of the LTTE. These programmes are
designed to develop those areas in all critical sectors including
resettlement of internally displaced. These programmes are fast-tracked
to ensure that the end of war brings peace and prosperity to the
affected people in the North and East.
Apart from the issue of resettlement, reconstruction and
rehabilitation, there are many other issues which seriously affect the
people who were caught in the vicious war. Many of them have lost their
valuable documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates,
educational and professional certificates, insurance certificates, share
certificates & debentures, bank deposit certificates, pass-books, cheque
books, credit & debit cards, passports, driving licences, title deeds,
survey plans, land permits, agreements, death certificates of their
loved ones, other notarial instruments etc. Statutory provisions or
administrative procedures must be devised to facilitate the obtaining of
these instruments with ease and speed. The process of obtaining
alternative instruments or certified copies of these instruments must be
simplified so that the affected people will not face further hardships
due to lack of these documentation.
Colombo University Law Faculty Dean K. Selvakkumaran
addressing the audience of the colloquium on ‘Post-Conflict
Legal Recovery and Equal Access to Justice’ organized
recently by the Legal Aid Commission (LAC) at the Hector
Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute
conference hall. LAC Commissioner Manohara de Silva PC and
LAC Secretary Lilanthi de Silva were also present. Picture
by W. Chandradasa
In this respect there is no doubt that one has to be cautious, that
the mechanisms devised should not be a vehicle for unscrupulous elements
to abuse them for their benefit at the expense of true owners of these
instruments. At the same time the devices should not be so stringent to
make them not serve the purposes for which they have been set up.
What is needed is to strike a balance between these two competing
concerns and come up with some mechanisms which will serve the affected
people well while safeguarding the rights and interests of true owners.
One other area where people look for legal solutions relates to the
loss or purported loss of ownership of their immovable property due to
the prevailing law relating to prescription. There are many people who
had to leave their land and premises due to threats and violence leveled
against their staying in their own properties.
They were compelled to keep away from their own properties for well
over ten years, which is the period of prescription for one to stake
ownership to an immovable property by prescription.
These people could not do anything but hope that the government would
take suitable legislative and/or administrative steps to ensure that
their ownership of land will not be lost due to factors which were
exceptional and over which not only they but also the law enforcement
authorities could not exercise any control. There is an urgent need to
address this issue. Because the law relating to prescription may be
reasonable in normal circumstances; but to apply this to a situation
which is abnormal and arising out of emergency will be unreasonable and
Similarly, there are bound to be claims and counter-claims about
ownership of immovable properties, about boundaries of lands and about
interests in land and immovable properties. The courts of law have not
been functioning in a regular manner and duly in the past during the
troubled times. It is also a fact that it takes an unreasonably long
time to get court proceedings completed in original courts and if these
issues are to be brought before the ordinary courts of law and given the
adversarial nature of proceedings adopted by these courts, it will take
very long years to sort out these issues which might have arisen
sometimes back but been dormant for a long period of time.
What is needed is to set up mediation processes to help find amicable
solutions or settlements to these issues without much expense and delay.
In this respect it is desirable that the government takes steps to
invoke the provisions of the Mediation (Special Categories of Disputes)
Act4 of 2003 and make it possible for people to refer these issues to
Special Mediation Boards in order to sort out and settle their disputes.
If necessary, the government can bring in some amendments to the Act to
make it more suitable to emerging issues.
Yet another issue which flaws from the conclusion of civil war in May
2009 relates to the handling of those combatants who surrendered or were
captured at the end of the fighting. The government has to deal with
them legally and in accordance with the established principles of
international humanitarian law. The government has either to bring them
before courts of law and require them to face the full force of the law
or rehabilitate them so that they could be re-integrated into society.
In the latter case, they have to be given livelihood training in
addition to reformative and rehabilitative training.
Seeds of conflict get planted or do arise in the minds of people and
it is the minds which should get changed to promote peace. Legal or
constitutional provisions will not themselves create peace in the minds
of people. It is the human relations and trust and confidence which will
light up the hearts to promote peace. One of the modalities to overcome
heavy hearts and hurt feelings is to promote sincere discussion and
truth telling without any fear of prosecution or persecution by the
parties to the conflict or by those who have suffered in the course of
The government of Sri Lanka has set up a Commission of Inquiry,
namely Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, to promote the
above exercise. It will give an opportunity for people to unburden their
sufferings and feelings and seek the truth. In addition it provides the
much needed opportunity to learn lessons from the past so that they
could serve the government and people of this country from committing
the same mistakes again.
To be continued`
ICLP awards ceremony
The 15th anniversary of the ICLP arbitration centre and the ICLP
awards ceremony 2011 was held on July 26, 2011 at the BCIS Auditorium.
The Chief Guest was K.Kanag Isvaran P.C and the Guests of Honour were
Justices Saleem Marsoof PC and Justice P.A. Ratnayake.
The Diplomas and Certificates were awarded to the students of the
Diploma in Commercial Arbitration and ICLP-CCC Certificate Course on
Shipping Law and Practice.
President Counsel K.Kang Isvaran, an eminent commercial lawyer and
the draftsman of the Sri Lankan Arbitration Act made the keynote address
at this fifteenth anniversary celebrations.
The best students of both programmes received the awards and
certificates from the Chief Guest K.Kanag Isvaran P.C.
Attorney-at-Law Nirmaleen Balaratchchi, the Kamalasabeysan
scholarship holder who topped the Batch of the Diploma Course in
Commercial Arbitration was awarded the S S Wijeratne prize and G.K.P.
Gunaratne (Quantity Surveyor) and H.L. Vindya Kalpani (Quantity
Surveyor) were presented Merit Awards. S.D.K. Tissera (Attorney-at-Law)
and G.K.P Gunaratne (Quantity Surveyor) shared the Walter Ladduwahetty
prize for the Best Award.
Lakmali Jayaweera, who topped the Batch of Shipping Law & Practice
Course together with Nirusha Ranjitkumar (Attorney-at-Law - Nithya
Partners), Shayanga Fernando (Attorney-at-Law - Nithya Partners),
Sachintha Kahandage, Wishwa Wijesuriya, Wasana Silva, Hasitha
Abeysundara, Rehan Almeida (Attorney at Law) were presented with Merit
Thirty five diploma students were awarded the diploma in commercial
Arbitration and Twenty three students were presented with the ICLP - CCC
Certificate in Shipping Law & Practice.
The ICLP took this opportunity to honour outgoing Chairman of the
Diploma in Commercial Arbitration Justice Saleem Marsoof PC who chaired
the Board for seven successful years and the Chairman of the Board of
ICLP Arbitration Centre Desamanya C.P. de Silva who chaired the Board of
ICLP arbitration centre for six years.
[Questions and answers]
Question: We like to visit parliament. Can you explain the
normal procedure to be followed when visiting Parliament?
Answer: General details
Any member of the public may visit the public galleries of Parliament
either as a group or individually on any sitting or non-sitting day.
Visits are arranged for 30 minutes duration between 9.30 a.m. to 3.30
p.m. on non-sitting days and till the end of the sessions on any sitting
Time of sittings
Unless Parliament otherwise decides, Parliament shall meet in two
alternate weeks in each month commencing after the first Sunday of each
month and shall sit on the Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
of the first and third of such weeks.
Parliament does not ordinarily sit on Saturdays and Sundays and other
holidays and the sittings of Parliament are usually held from 1.00 p.m.
to 7.30 p.m. On some days the sittings might be extended beyond 7.30
p.m. During the budget period, generally, the allotted hours of sittings
shall be 9.30 a.m to 12.30 p.m and 1.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. and may
subject to change from time to time.
Permission to visit Galleries
In order to visit the Public Galleries, permission needs to be
obtained from the Serjeant-at-Arms. Such a request may be made by
contacting the Parliament directly or by completing and forwarding an
Inquiry Form. In your inquiry you would have to furnish the following
1. Full names and addresses of the visitors
2. National Identity Card (NIC) numbers of the visitors
3. Date and time of visit
4. Purpose of visit
5. Your contact details
Once your details have been processed the Serjeant-at-Arms would
contact you to confirm your request and in turn would issue the pass to
enter the Parliamentary Complex.
Instructions for visitors to Parliament
1. Only those who possess a pass issued by the Serjeant-at-Arms,
valid for the date of visit, will be allowed to visit the Parliamentary
Complex. Therefore, the permission card issued to you by the Serjeant-at-Arms
for that purpose should be brought by you without fail and kept safely
with you until you leave the Parliament building.
2. On account of the security arrangements in force at present in
Parliament, items such as parcels, hand bags, brief cases, travelling
bags, books, newspapers, documents, pens, pencils, rain coats,
umbrellas, cameras, cellular phones, electric or electronic items or
accessories, cigarettes, tobacco, chews of betel, smoking pipes, food
items, hats etc. are not allowed to be brought into the Public Gallery.
Therefore, refrain from bringing in such items. If you have any of
the above mentioned things with you, leave them in your vehicle. Apart
from the above mentioned items, any other items which may be deemed as
those not to be allowed inside the Gallery, too will not be allowed to
be brought in.
3. Since infants and small children are not allowed to be brought
into the Gallery at times when Parliament is in session, they should not
be taken into the Gallery. You must ensure that babies and small school
children are not seated in the first row of the Gallery.
4. Visitors who are not properly dressed will not be allowed to enter
the Galleries. Therefore, visitors to the Public Galleries should be
5. The members of your group must maintain complete silence while
they are in the Public Gallery or in any other area of the building. You
should make sure that they maintain silence so that the functioning of
the institution is not disturbed and that they behave properly and also
that they will not damage audio visual and other equipment in the Public
Gallery and the Institution.
Smoking, talking, clapping, merry-making, making various sounds,
cracking jokes, walking about and keep standing, making fun, making
signals using facial expressions, peeping into the chamber, pointing
fingers, hands, legs etc. towards the Chamber, throwing various objects
into the Chamber, waving or making signals to the Hon. Members of
Parliament, sleeping, taking down notes, and reading books and papers
are strictly prohibited while you are in the Public Gallery .
Going abroad through an agent
Question: I have decided to go abroad for employment through a
local agent. Is it valid to go abroad through an Agent? I need your kind
Answer: If you have found employment through a local agent, it
is highly imperative that you check on the following:
* Is your agent licensed under the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign
* Is the licence valid till the time of recruitment?
* Has the agent obtained the necessary approvals from the SLBFE?
* Is the First Approval valid till the time of recruitment?
If the above conditions are fulfilled, you can handover the passport
and necessary documents as specified by the agent. The passport should
be valid for a period of at least two years from the intended date of
registration. Thereafter, you must pay the registration fee specified by
the SLBFE. This however, does not include the administration cost of
If you are migrating to a Middle Eastern country:
You must only pay the registration fee specified by the Sri Lanka
Bureau of Foreign Employment
* You may be required to obtain training if necessary
* You must complete and possess a copy of the job agreement
* You must undergo a medical examination and obtain necessary medical
* Your agent must obtain the necessary approvals from the SLBFE and hand
over the following documents to you The passport endorsed with the Sri
Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment registration stamp
- Valid visa
- Air ticket
- Job agreement
- Customer copy of the bank slip
- Insurance certificate
If you need Further information you can contact SriLanka Bureau of
* Head office:
* 94 112 864101 - 105
* 94 112880500
Changing name in Birth Certificate
Question: I was born in Chilaw. In the Birth Certificate, my
name appears as ‘Sandi De Silva’.
I am now a French citizen. In all my documents, including the
passport and citizenship certificate, my name is given as Sandra De
I intend to apply for Sri Lankan Citizenship and eventually come back
home. Having a different name in my Birth Certificate will create
problems for me.
Can I change my name in the Birth Certificate to Sandra De Silva? If
no, please advise to the steps to be taken.
Sandra De Silva, France - Sent by email
Answer: Under the Birth & Deaths Ordinance, you can change the
name in your Birth Certificate at any time. You have to visit the
Divisional Secretary’s Office and get the Application Form. Thereafter
fill the same and hand it over to the Divisional Secretary’s Office
where you were born. In that procedure you have to submit an affidavit
with three documents to prove that you are using the proposed name for
the last one year.
Otherwise you have to put a paper advertisement regarding the
proposed name and use it for one year. Thereafter you can change the
name. In that case, your Birth Certificate can be amended according to
the proposed name. In Cage 13 of your Birth Certificate, your new name
will be seen.If you need any help you can contact LAC Head office at
Jurisdiction of a Provincial High Court
Question: Please let me know how the High Court exercises its
jurisdiction. Your kind reply would be greatly appreciated.
Answer: The Provincial High Courts were established under
Article 154 P of the Constitution. A perusal of the provisions of this
Article would disclose that a High Court established under the said
Article has original criminal jurisdiction as well as appellate and
The Provincial High Court exercises the following jurisdiction:
(a) Original criminal jurisdiction in respect of offences committed
within the Province.
(b) Appellate and revisionary jurisdiction in respect of orders and
judgments of the Magistrates courts and Primary courts within the
(c) Issue of Writ of Habeas Corpus in respect of persons illegally
detained within the Province.
(d)Issue of Writs of certiorari, prohibition, procedendo, mandamus
and quo warranto against any person exercising within the province any
power under any law or Provincial Council statute, in respect of any
matter set out in the Provincial Council list of subjects in the 13th
(e) Appellate and revisionary jurisdiction in respect of orders made
by Labour Tribunals within the Province.
(f) Appellate and revisionary jurisdiction in respect of orders made
under sections 5 and 9 of the Agrarian Services Act No.58 of 1979 in
respect of any land situated within the Province.
(g) Appellate jurisdiction in respect of judgments if small claims
courts within the Province; and (h) Any other jurisdiction conferred by
Parliament. (See Act No.10 of 1996)
Can FR case be filed in SC after one month?
Question: As far as poor people are concerned, it is difficult
to file a Fundamental Rights (FR) application within one month. Is there
a remedy in this regard? Please advise me.
Answer: Article 17 read with Article 126 of the Constitution
clearly states that the time limit is one month from the date of
violation. Therefore such an action cannot be sustained in the Supreme
Court if filed after one month.
However, if one is prevented or incapacitated from invoking the
fundamental rights jurisdiction- e.g. incarcerated or hospitalized, then
one month will not begin to run until such is removed. If you are in a
difficulty to file papers within one month, it is advisable to write a
letter stating the facts of your case to the Chief Justice. The letter
should be sent by registered post.The address as follows:
Honourble Chief Justice, Supreme Court Complex,Colombo 12.
The Human Rights Bureau of the Legal Aid Commissin is established to
help poor litigants to file a Fundamental Rights cases in this regard.
Tel No - 0113070255.