On 7 March 2018, FORUM-ASIA talked with Sandun Thudugala, Head of Programmes of Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka, about the communal violence in Sri Lanka in the previous days and how the incidents were part of a bigger problem in the country.
(Colombo, 1 December 2017) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and its member, Law and Society Trust (LST) are pleased to share the first South Asia Judicial Barometer, which was launched on 27 November 2017 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Dhairya Maheshwari speaks to Executive Director of Law & Society Trust, Colombo, Dinushika Dissanayake, to make sense of the apprehensions that seem to have widened the rift between the Sinhala majority and minority Tamils in the island nation.
Dinushika Dissanayake, Executive Director, Law & Society Trust
“The overwhelming response from all parts of the Country to the Public Representations Committee for Constitutional Reform is in-itself a confirmation that the people of Sri Lanka demand a progressive, inclusive and living Constitution that protects and promotes their rights. In fact, the 1978 Constitution itself has caused rifts among ethnic and religious minorities due to its majoritarian bent and sparse bill of rights as well as its centralization of power in an executive President and a central executive. The subsequent amendments such as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in fact were responses to these overwhelming failures. Therefore when the Venerable Thera refers to a new Constitution ‘creating unnecessary rifts among our Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim brethren’, in fact the rifts began in the late 1940s with the disenfranchisement legislation. The need of the hour is clearly nothing more and nothing less than an inclusive Constitution, geared to protect the citizens, minorities and majority, from the tyranny of the state, and not necessarily only from each other.”
Please click here to read the full article http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Counter-Point-Opinion-and-fact-Fact-or-fiction--133927.html
The Law & Society Trust (LST) condoles the passing away of Justice Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India and a former Member of the Board of Directors of LST. Justice Bhagwati contributed with great distinction to human rights law and jurisprudence as a judge and jurist as well as through his work with the United Nations, including as Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and other international bodies.
“Dinushika Dissanayake, the Executive Director of the Law and Society Trust stressed that both the PRC report and the Subcommittee report showed how people across Sri Lanka –from the North, South, East and West – wanted economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed. “Guaranteeing ESC rights in the constitution is no longer an option. This is a false debate we are having. People want it. They very clearly ask for it,’ she said.
“The tragedy of Meethotamulla is that it is the outcome of planned development not its failure. And this is precisely also why just like no one was held accountable for the tragedies in Meeriyabedda or Aranayake, no one is likely to be held accountable for Meethotamulla either.”
The UNDEF-funded project will empower citizen forums at village level, with the objective of contributing to a culture of governance where citizens, state and non-state actors work together to achieve more inclusive and sustainable local development outcomes for citizens in Sri Lanka. The specific objective is to strengthen the participation of civil society in the development processes of local government policy and its implementation for promoting effective and participatory governance, transparency and accountability in Sri Lanka.
The Law & Society Trust (LST) voices its grave concern over the introduction of the draft amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code restricting the right to counsel of those arrested or detained as gazetted on the 12th August 2016. The amendment proposes to deprive those arrested and detained by the Police from accessing a lawyer until their statement is recorded. Further, it also provides that where such persons are unable to retain and consult a lawyer at their own expense, the Legal Aid Commission of Sri Lanka would be prevailed upon to provide legal counsel if it is in a position to provide such service. These amendments constitute a grave curtailment of rights and heighten the risk of torture, undermine the right to a fair trial,, and impede access to justice.
LST is gravely concerned over the events that occurred in Aluthgama and Beruwala this weekend. Following a Buddhist meeting held in Aluthgama on Sunday June 15th, incidents of violence against Muslims and Muslim owned homes and businesses occurred. It has been reported that at least 3 Muslims have died of gunshot wounds, while 78 others have been seriously injured in the violence 1. In addition at least nine shops and up to 40 houses have been gutted in Aluthgama, while three mosques were attacked. 2