Legal Aid Commission
Legal Aid, a Constitutional Right
President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a young lawyer in Tangalle pioneered a
Legal Aid Centre in the 1970s.This was at a time before the enactment of
Legal Aid Law in 1978. Legal Aid to the poor and the Legal Legacy has
come a long way from modest beginnings.
By 2012, the Legal Aid Commission has opened 70 Court based Legal Aid
Centres provided free legal advice and Litigation Support to over 50,000
deserving cases annually.
The Legal Aid Commission annual trip was held at Padukka.
Here, LAC lawyers pose for a group photo
President Rjapaksa when opening the Legal Aid Centre in Hambantota in
2004 promised that the right of Equal Access to Justice or Legal Aid
will be made a Constitutional Right. Despite the 18th Amendment to the
Constitution, Equal Access to Justice is yet to be recognized as a
Constitutional Right, such as Fundamental Constitutional Provision
ensuring fundamental Freedom of the people will, this must probably get
root support of all parties in Parliament. Does law equitably work for
everyone including the poor and vulnerable? The answer is a resounding
NO. The vast majority of Sri Lankans feel justice is beyond their
incomes. Their earnings are just sufficient to use a cliche to eek out
an existence. The formal justice systems are costly and not affordable.
Lawyering in this country is fees based and the portals of justice could
be opened only by lawyers. Judiciary is still independent and justice
But judges cannot roam the streets or villages seeking acts of
injustice to be rectified. They will adjudicate only on cases brought
before them. The lawyers are the pricy intermediaries between injustice
In ancient Sri Lanka, justice was reached by Mediation and
Arbitration which are alternative to the formal court system and were
conduits of justice. The colonial rulers found the tradition (Niyaya)
based systems inconvenient and non profitable. They enacted laws and
procedures and devised the court system to implement the laws and
created the legal profession.
The Right of legal representation was originally a noble profession.
The lawyers were pleaders who pleaded the cause of the weak as a
service. But all this is now nostalgic history.
Legal Aid is only a major component of the broader principle of legal
empowerment of the poor. Legal empowerment includes equality of
opportunity in education, employment, business opportunity and general
Injustice linked to vulnerable groups has to be removed by social
justice laws and programmes. Sri Lanka has done well in respect of
Social Justice programmes with regard to health, education and poverty
These programmes have yielded results In narrowing gender gap. We are
only second in Asia and sixteenth in the world. Developed countries like
U.S.A., Japan and Italy are way behind us in the World Economic Forums
annual gender parity index. For a country with per Capita income of just
over US $ 2000, our life expectancy level of over 75 years and literacy
level of over 92 percent are commendable. However, if there was access
to justice index we would reach only the minimal level.
The state allocates billions of rupees to Health, Education and
Samurdhi programs. We have no grouse about that. However, legal aid gets
only a minuscule of Rs. 50 million a year.
This is an improvement from 2005 when legal aid received only Rs. 9
million. Access to justice is still not regarded a important factor in
this country. The annual allocation of Rs. 50 million works out for just
over Rs. 2 per year for a citizen in this country. This is shameful.
Laws work more for the rich in many countries. Lawyering for Business
is far more lucrative than attending to the legal empowerment needs of
The pricy lawyers are recognized better by both the State and the
Courts. Legal Aid lawyers are poor man’s lawyers and treated as such by
persons wielding power.
However the judiciary is consistently sympathetic to the mission of
Legal Aid as Legal Aid is an integral part of the justice system. The
courts could rectify wrongs only if the issues are brought before them
by effective legal aid lawyers and judgments are respected. There are
lapses in this respect.
Sri Lanka’s 1978 constitution unlike the Indian constitution is not
an ode to Social Justice. The right to receive legal aid is not
recognized in our constitution.
This has to be amended as promised. If we fail in this respect, the
majority of Sri Lankans will continue to be legally impoverished.
Lecture on Investment Arbitration
Institute for the Development of Commercial Law and Practice has
organized a lecture on Investment Arbitration to be held on June 18 from
3.30 pm to 6.30 pm at the ICLP Arbitration Centre.
The lecture will be held under the theme of ‘Legal Consequences of
Breach of Government Undertakings to Investors: Impediments to Physical
For all countries, attracting foreign and private sector investment
is a key strategy in nation building and sustainable development. As far
as developing countries are concerned, there is high competition to
attract investors. In order to encourage investors to choose their
jurisdictions as investment destinations, developing country governments
provide various investment protection undertakings.
Legal consequences of breaching such undertakings can be severe,
especially when disputes relating to such breaches are submitted for
resolution by international arbitration.
It is well established in international investment law that States
should not breach promises made to investors concerning the stability of
investments. Sometimes developing country governments take decisions
that adversely affect the interests of the investors.
Such decisions are often taken without due consideration of the legal
In this second part of the seminar, the aim is to have a brief look
at the usual investment protection undertakings given by state entities
and how international tribunals and domestic courts of law have dealt
with disputes relating to breach of such undertakings.
The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Asanga Gunawansa, who is a legal
practitioner specialized in arbitration of international investment
disputes and construction disputes.
He is also currently attached to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public
Policy and the School of Design and Environment of the National
University of Singapore (NUS) as an Adjunct Professor.
The lecture is open to Attorneys-at-Law, Professionals from the
Construction Industry, Senior Management of State bodies and Development
Projects and students from the relevant field. Contact Shaheema on
2346163 / 0775375998 for further details.
ICLP Diploma in Commercial Arbitration Examination - 2011/2012
The results of the eighth batch of the ICLP Diploma in Commercial
Arbitration was released on June 7 by the Board of Examiners K.Kanag
Isvaran PC (Chairman of the Members of the Faculty), Justice L.K.
Wimalachandra, Dr Harsha Cabral PC, Uditha Egalahewa, Dr. Ananda
Ranasinghe, Arjuna Obeyesekere, Chandaka Jayasundara at the ICLP
Vidura Mendis, Quantity Surveyor, topped the Batch securing a Merit
Pass. Parakrama Devasiri (Engineer), Viraj Hatarasinghe (Quantity
Surveyor), Ms. Nadeeka Galhena (Attorney-at-Law) and Lasantha Bandara
(Quantity Surveyor) passed the examination securing Merits. Viraj
Hatarasinghe (Quantity Surveyor) has qualified for the Walter
Laduwahwetty prize for the best Arbitral Award.
Ms. Yoshitha Wanasinghe (Attorney-at-Law), Piyasoma Wijamunige
(Quantity Surveyor), Hirantha De Zoysa (Quantity Surveyor), Jayantha
Ranatunga (Engineer), Aruna Somadasa(Engineer), Ranga Senanayake
(Engineer), K. K. Sandun (Quantity Surveyor), Ms. Padmini Keerawella
(Engineer), Anthony Fernando (Engineer), Ajith Rodrigo (Engineer),
Dissanayeke Idampitiyagedara (Quantity Surveyor), Udayaratne Dharmapala
(Engineer), Dusyantha Rupasinha (HR Professional), Ms. Shamila Dawood
Lebbe (Attorney-at-Law), Ms. Nivarthana Weragala (Quantity Surveyor),
Ms. Ornella Silva (Attorney-at-Law), Ms. Niwanka Edirisooriya (Quantity
Surveyor), Ms. Nilisha Kathurusinghe (Attorney-at-Law), J.
Sivaramasarma(Attorney-at-Law), Ms. Madeeha Mawoon (Attorney-at-Law),
Ms. Thyaga De Silva(Attorney-at-Law), Ms. Panchalidevi Vitharana
(Apprentice), Kasun Wishwa Wijesuriya (Attorney-at-Law), Ms. Swasthika
Arulingam (Attorney-at-Law), Major Nishsanka Wasalabandara (Engineer)
obtained passes. Contact person: Ms Shaheema Fazly, Programme Officer,
[ Questions and Answers]
Holdings of the Archives
Question: Please let me know what kind of historical records
can be obtained to the public from the Department of National Archives?
Answer : Copies of records of the Portuguese period; Records
of the Dutch period 1640-1796: Land Tombo, Head Tombo and School Tombo
Council Minutes and practically all records of the Dutch administration
in the Island; Records of the British Period 1796-1947; copies of Crown
Grants, Grain Tax Registers, Nila Pangu and Praveni Pangu Registers.
Records after independence 1948; Government, Semi Government and of
Donated or Purchased Papers 1. Manuscripts and Books from
Institutions and Individuals 2. Horagolla library – Bandaranaike family
records 3. Times Collection Collected /Deposited Material1.
Historical Manuscripts from temples and other private individuals. 2.
Collection of Election Literature. 1. Maps of the Portuguese, Dutch and
British periods (1505-1947)2. Maps of Sri Lanka since Independence
(Surveyor General’s Maps) Government Publications1. Ordinances 1796-1947
2. Government Gazettes 1802 3. Blue Books 1821-1937 4. Sessional Papers
1860 onwards 5. Administration Reports 1867 onwards, 6.Hansards 1870
onwards, 7 Other publications (1885 onwards).
Question: Please let me know what kind of services can be
obtained by the Department of National Archives?
Answer : The following services can be obtained from the
Department of National Archives.
Provide historical and administrative information.
Provide facilities as a research centre to administrators and the
Reprographic facilities, such as microfilming, digital scanning and
reader –printer copies.
Advise to public offices on Records and Archives Management.
Assist private sector on records and archives management.
Advise to J.R.Jayawardena Research Centre on professional activities.
Advise to public offices on microfilming of records.
Technical and Scientific advice on conservation and restoration of
Organize exhibitions on record and affiliated activities.
Produce documents in Courts and giving evidence on request.
Research on Sri Lanka history.
Conduct lectures on archives and records management and conservation.
Question: I am a Sri Lankan citizen and my fiance is a Dutch
citizen. We want to get married in Sri Lanka. Could you please let us
know what documents my fiance need in order to marry in Sri Lanka?
Answer: Marriage can be registered after four days of arrival
to Sri Lanka. Please contact the Additional District Registrar in the
relevant Divisional Secretariat Office or the Marriage Registrar within
the area you are temporary residing in Sri Lanka. Your fiancé may bring
the following documents. (i) Passport(ii) If she has married earlier
either the divorce certificate or decree absolute issued by the court of
law(iii) If she has married earlier and if her spouse is dead, the death
certificate of her spouse.
Department of National Archives
Question: Please let me know the contact detail of the
Department of National Archives?
Answer: Head Office - Department of National Archives P.O. Box
1414No. 7, Philip Gunawardena Mawatha (Reid Avenue)Colombo 7 Sri
Lanka.Tel : +94 11 2694523, +94 11 2696917Fax : +94 11 2694419, +94 11
2688756 Telegram: National Archives E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kandy Branch - Department of National Archives (Kandy Branch)Hemamali
Mawatha, Kandy, Sri Lanka.Tel: +94 81 2223729 Fax: +94 81 2223729
Director - Dr. Saroja Wettasinghe Tel : +94 11 2671042, Fax : +94 11
Registration of Books and Newspapers - Miss.Wasanthi Egodawatte
(Supervision) Assistant Archivist Tel: +94 11 2696917/+94 11 2696608
Exhibitions and School Archives - Mrs. Sumana Amarasinghe,
Assistant Archivist -Tel: +94 11 2696917/+94 11 2694523
Accessions - Miss. Dilini Liyanage, Assistant Archivist Tel: +94 11
2696917/+94 11 2694523
Public Relations- Mrs. Surangi Hewawarakatiya
Archival Research Assistant - Bimal Sampath Abeysekara - Tel: +94 11
2696917/+94 11 2694523
Search Room - Mrs. Shirani Patabandi, Record Indexing Officer-Tel: +94
11 2696917/+94 11 2694523
Library - .P. Pieris, Archival Assistant - Tel: +94 11 2696917/+94 11
Question : I wish to get a copy of my marriage certificate. We
were married on 22.08.66 at Kurunegala.
Answer: Contact the Additional District Registrar at the
Divisional Secretariat Office at KurunegalaFee for certified copy of a
marriage certificate is,(i) If the registered number and the date of
registration is known - 25 SL rupees per each copy(ii) If the registered
number is not known and the date of registration is known, search of
registry for three month entry - 50 SL rupees per each copy(iii) If you
know only the year of marriage, search of registers only for a period
not exceeding two years entry - 100 SL rupees per each copy
Question : My mother ’s Death Certificate has been misplaced.
How can I obtain a copy of the same?
Answer: You can obtain a certified copy of the death
certificate from the Additional District Registrar at the Divisional
Secretariat Office relevant to the place of death occurred. Fee for
obtaining certified copies of death certificates are,(i) If the
registered number and the date of death is known - 25 Rupees(ii) If do
not know the registered number, but the date of birth is known, for 3
month search of registry - 50 Rupees(iii) If you know only the year of
death, for 2 year search of registry - 100 Rupees
Question: We like to visit the Parliament. Please let me know
the procedure to be followed?
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 day. 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
details: Full Names and addresses of the visitors, National Identity
Card (NIC) numbers of the visitors, date and time of visit, purpose of
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
Only those who possess a pass issued by the Serjean t-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.
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
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
schoolchildren are not seated in the first row of the Gallery.
Visitors who are not properly dressed will not be allowed to enter
the Galleries. Therefore, visitors to the Public Galleries should be
Since the entry of vehicles to the Parliament premises is restricted
on security grounds, your vehicle should not be driven into the
Parliament premises. As facilities have been provided to park the
vehicles of visitors to Parliament in the parking area where the
restaurant is situated opposite Parliament premises, please park your
After parking your vehicle in the said parking area, you are required
to cross the main road with your group and call at the Security Check
Point at Jayanthipura.
On showing the pass to the Police on duty at the Security Check Point
of Jayanthipura, you are required to proceed to the Security Officers’
Room and inform them of your arrival. Once the necessary entries are
made in their Registers to that effect, a Parliament bus will be called
by the Security Officers to transport your group to the Parliament
building from the Security Check Point at Jayanthipura.
All visitors to Parliament will be subjected to a security check.
Therefore you are required to allow the police to check you physically
at the Security Check Point at Jayanthipura.
Your vehicle will be allowed to be brought in up to the Security
Check Point at Jayanthipura only on rainy days and on such occasions the
vehicle should be parked in the premises of the restaurant referred to
above after the visitors are dropped at the Check Point.
You may proceed up to the Public Entrance of the Parliament building
in the Parliament bus allocated for you after being subjected to the
body check. Refrain from walking and make sure that you reach the
aforesaid entrance only in the bus provided to you.
You have to get down from the bus at the Public Entrance and the
Police Officers who are on duty at the Public Entrance will lead you to
the entrance to the building.
You will be subjected once again to a security check at the said
entrance and therefore forming two queues with men in the right queue
and women in the left queue will make the security check easy. The
leader of your group should produce his National Identity Card and the
pass issued to you by the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Police Officers who
are on duty in that particular point.
You can enter Parliament building through the Public Entrance and
proceed up to the Public Gallery by using the stairs on to the West. The
officers of the Parliament Police and the officers of the Parliament
will direct you to the Gallery and make sure that you don't walk into
areas beyond it. Please make sure that school children and other
children whom you accompany walk up the stairs carefully and in an
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 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 Members of Parliament, sleeping, taking down notes, and reading
books and papers are strictly prohibited while you are in the Public
Jumping over the security fences and occupying seats in the newspaper
gallery should not be done while you are in the Public Gallery and you
should take seats as directed by the Parliament Officer or the Police
Officer who is on duty at the Public Gallery. Police Officers will
remove persons who are in the Public Gallery if there is a commotion
inside the Chamber, and you should obey the orders given by them in such
Information from the National Archives
Question: I am an Art Facuilty student. I am doing reaserch.
Can I get information from the National Archives to do my reaserch?
Answer: You can obtain records from the Search Room of the
National Archives Department. Search room provides research facilities
to the public. It consists of finding aide such as indices list and
précis of records groups. There was chronological and alphabetical for
newspapers. Opening Hours - 8.45 p.m. to 4.00 p.m
Retrieval of information from records. Public records deposited in
the National Archives are open for the public. Some records are
classified and closed for access by the public. Classified records could
be accessed only after the scheduled period with the written
authorization of the head of the records creation institution and with
the consent of the Director National Archives.
Facilities for research /in search room
Researches should carry out their own research. Advice will be given
by the staff of the Archives on research methods, availability of
records and in the use of finding aids.