Legal aid commission
Compiled by Kalani A. Medagoda, A.A.L.
Legal protection of IDPS
Influx of over 115,000 Internally Displaced Persons to the Vavuniya
district should receive the most urgent attention of the authorities and
the concerned humanitarian agencies.
From the media reports it is evident that ordinary citizens have
rallied to collect material assistance to help the temporarily displaced
fellow citizens who are languishing in temporary shelters with their
children and elders. According to UN estimates, the majority of
vulnerable displaced persons whether due to natural or man made
disasters are women, elders and children.
The Sri Lankan situation is no exception whether people were
involuntarily ousted from their former places of living due to the
Tsunami or armed conflicts. Since 1983 Sri Lanka witnessed waves of
displaced persons in the north and east and in other coastal areas
affected by the Tsunami disaster.
Unlike in the case of refugees who seek asylum in other countries who
are protected by the international law and the refugee Agency, United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), IDPs are the full
responsibility of the national governments. Sri Lankan State is fully
responsible for her citizens irrespective of the fact whether they are
temporarily displaced or not.
The national laws from the fundamental rights chapter of the
Constitution to all other laws which protect the rights of ordinary
citizens equally protect the rights of the displaced as well.
The displaced Sri Lankans cannot be discriminated merely because they
have lost protection of their homes and are living in transit
The Legal Aid Commission has a separate IDP Desk, which will initiate
legal action to protect the legal rights of IDPs like any other
destitute Sri Lankan.
Sri Lanka does not have a separate law protecting Internally
Displaced persons. After the tsunami, a special law was enacted to
protect and restore the rights of the tsunami affected persons, children
Tsunami related disputes were taken out of protracted court system
and placed before Special Mediation Boards for amicable and quick
resolution. Of the 12 or so countries devastated by the 2004 tsunami,
Sri Lanka was the only country which enacted special legislation to
protect tsunami victims.
The authorities need to examine the feasibility of enacting special
legislation to provide legal guidelines to deal with the myriad of
issues relating to human security of the displaced, mostly elders, women
and children as in an emergency situation.
Return of the displaced in safety to their original homes at the
earliest possible time should be the focus of such special legislation.
Eventhough, the IDP situation is a national emergency with
responsibility solely vested with the Sri Lankan government, the sheer
magnitude of the situation calls for international cooperation from
those who have genuine and transparent humanitarian programs.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on IDPs provide for such
international cooperation to assist the national government. During the
Tsunami the world rallied round to help Sri Lanka and we coped with the
disaster more effectively than similar disasters in developed countries.
The lessons learnt could be replicated.
International assistance should not be a Trojan horse to re-ignite
political terrorism in the island. Sri Lankans have sacrificed the full
30 years due to the fratricidal conflict initiated by a terrorist group
who have been proscribed by most of the civilized countries in the
From the reports emanating from Canada, United Kingdom, Australia,
France, Southern India and the Scandinavian countries, nearly a million
Tamil Sri Lankan asylum seekers are bringing pressure on the local
politicians in the host countries to give a second chance to a conflict
Humanitarian aid should not be the vehicle to re-introduce conflict
and prevent a peaceful solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic issues.
S. S. Wijeratne
Emergency Legal Aid to IDPs
The Vavuniya Legal Aid Centre headed by Director S.Sittampalam,
Senior Attorney-at-Law will lead a team of Legal Aid lawyers who will
launch a special access to justice programs for IDPs. Head of LAC IDP
Desk, Kirija Nimalatheva, AAL who has been internationally trained in
IDP related to legal issues will coordinate the program and legal aid
staff attorney in Vavunia, Mr.Sudharsan, AAL, Jaffna Legal Aid Director,
Senior Attorney K.Kesavan and and Legal Aid Coordinator Mannar will
assist the IDPs in legal matters in their respective areas.
Head of the Elders Desk Attorney-at-Law Piumi Kumari
addressing the gathering at the Elders Program in Beruwala
Legal assistance to IDPs in the North, North Central and Eastern
Provinces was originally launched in 2002 by the Bar Association of Sri
Lanka with the support from UNHCR but due to funding constraints and the
increased resettlements of IDPs, the special legal aid program was
discontinued few years later. However, LAC Centers continued to provide
legal assistance to all deserving persons who sought assistance in the
courts. The mobile legal aid program in which the lawyers visited the
IDP Welfare Centers periodically as the destitute persons could not even
afford to travel to the courts was discontinued due to financial
The new emergency program of the LAC would be supported by the Access
to Justice Program of the UNDP administrated by the Ministry of
Constitutional Affairs and the Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster
Management. The guiding legal framework for legal aid to IDPs would be
the UN Guiding Principles on IDP popularly known as the Deng Principles.
These guidelines have been adopted by the Sri Lankan IDP authorities in
the returnee and rehabilitation work of the IDPs during the past few
With the enactment of the ICCPR Act No. 56 of 2007, the High Courts
are vested with authority to give just and equitable orders to rectify
anomalies in the administration including IDP benefits and provide all
persons including IDPs with documentation such as identity cards, birth
and marriage certificates which establish them as citizens of this
country. Additionally, for the first time in Sri Lanka, ordinary persons
would receive legal assistance when charged with offences or detained.
LAC centres in the Northern and Eastern Provinces would provide legal
assistance in settling land and housing disputes when the IDPs
eventually return to their original places of residence to resume their
[ Questions and Answers]
Consumer Affairs Authority
Question: Please let me know how the Consumer Affairs
Authority entertains customer complaints and how do they inquire into
the said complaints. I await your kind reply.
Answer: The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) receives complaints on a
wide range of products and services. The objective of providing this
service is to assist the aggrieved consumers to settle their problems in
purchasing goods or obtaining services in the market place. The CAA can
inquire into complaints on goods as well as services.
CAA is empowered to inquire into complaints regarding the production,
manufacture, supply, storage, transportation or sale of any goods and to
the supply of any services which does not conform to the standards and
specifications determined by the Authority.
More over Authority can inquire into complaints regarding the
manufacture or sale of any goods which does not confirm the warranty or
guarantee given by implication. Consumer Affairs Authority carries out
investigations based either upon its own motion or on any
complaint/requests made by any consumer or organization of consumers.
Individual consumer or any organization of consumers can make complaints
or can provide information on erroneous trade practices. Many of the
matters under dispute have been settled either through direct written
communication or through discussion and verbal negotiation with the
relevant parties to the dispute.
Any complaint to this effect may be sent to:
Consumer Affairs Authority,
No. 27, Vauxhall Street,
Change of father's name in child's Birth Certificate
Question: I had an affair with a university student and
subsequently gave birth to a child. After the child's birth he went away
and was not living with me. However, my child's Birth Certificate
indicates his surname as father. We did not have any legal marriage.
Later I married another person who cares this child like his father. My
husband now wants to include his name as child's father. Is this
possible? Please advice.
Answer: Yes. Your husband can include his name as the child's
father. However, to do this, you have to file an adoption case in the
District Court. You need to explain the current situation and can
include your husband's name as the child's father. Thereafter your child
will be issued a new Birth Certificate indicating the name required.
Insertion of name in Birth Certificate
Question: In case a name has not been inserted in the Birth
Certificate, can that person include his name in the Birth Certificate.
Answer: The owner of the Birth Certificate himself/herself or
his / her parents may alter the name in the Birth Certificate, if
necessary. In case a name has not been specified in the Birth
Certificate, one may be inserted. One of the following persons should
produce a declaration to the Divisional Secretariat to which, the place
where the birth has been registered belongs, for that purpose.
a. If the certificate of birth relates to a person under the age 21
yrs, a parent or the guardian of that person.
b. If it relates to a person who is over twenty on years of age, that
person himself / herself
A certified copy of the certificate of birth of the person concerned
should be essentially attached to the declaration and the application
should be supported with the following documents as could as possible.
1. Certificate of Baptism (If any) 2. A certified copy of the school
admission register or the school leaving certificate.
3. A list of children born to the parents of the person related to
the certificate of birth.
4. Declarations made in state affairs, if any.
5. Newspaper notices.
6. Pass books of Savings Accounts.
7. Identity card, passport, driving license.
8. Other important documents containing the name and date of birth of
the person concerned and names of his/her parents.
Declaration Forms in which the application should be made :-
Insertion of a name:
Below 21 years of age - Registration B7
Over 21 years of age - Registration B8
Alteration of a name:
Below 21 years of age - Registration B9
Over 21 yeas of age - Registration B 10
Stamps for declarations:
Within two years from the registration of the birth - Rs. 1.00.
After lapse of over two years from the registration of the birth - Rs.
If you need any assistance, you can visit the Legal Aid Commission
Head Office at No. 129, Hulftsdorp Street, High Court Complex, Colombo
Question: I got married 15 years ago and have three children.
My husband is now harassing and beating me very often. Since I could not
bear all such harassment and assaults from him, I left home and lodged a
complaint with the police. Thereafter, he harassed and beat me again
when I stayed at my sister's place. Wherever I go he takes steps to
harass me. My children are still with him. I am unable to live with him
any longer at his home or at any other place. I am in a desperate
position now. Please help me.
Answer: Under the Domestic Violence Act No 34 of 2005, you can
get a protection order or an interim order against your husband.
Under this Act, your children can also get a protection order.
According to Section 11 of the Prevention of the Domestic Violence Act
No. 34 of 2005, you can get a protection order preventing all such
harassment from your husband while you are living in a temporary place.
Under the Section 11 (1), the court can order the following.
The Court may, by means of an Interim Order or Protection Order
prohibit the respondent from:
(a) entering a residence or any specified part thereof shared by the
aggrieved person and the respondent;
(b) entering the aggrieved person's -
(ii) place of employment;
(c) entering any shelter in which the aggrieved person may be
(d) Preventing the aggrieved person who ordinarily lives or has lived
in a shared residence from entering remaining in the shared residence or
a specified part of the shared residence;
(e) Occupying the shared residence;
(f) Having contact with any child of the aggrieved person or having
contact with such child other than on the satisfaction of such
conditions as it may consider appropriate, where the Court is satisfied
that it is in the best interest of such child;
(g) Preventing the aggrieved person from using or having access to
(h) Contacting or attempting to establish contact with the aggrieved
person in any manner whatsoever;
(i) Committing acts of violence against any other person, whether it
be a relative, friend, social worker or medical officer, who may be
assisting the aggrieved person;
(j) Following the aggrieved person around as to cause a nuisance;
(k) Engaging in such other conduct as in the opinion of the Court
will be detrimental to the safety, health or well-being of the aggrieved
person or other person who may require protection from the respondent as
the Court may specify in the Protection Order;
(l) Selling, transferring, alienating or encumbering the matrimonial
home so as to place the aggrieved person in a destitute position.
If you need to get the custody of the child you have to file a
custody case at the District Court. If you need any help you can visit
any one of our Legal Aid Centers of your residence near by.
Question: We had a case in the Primary Court under the 66
Application regarding a dispute relating to our boundary line. Under the
Primary Courts Procedure can the Judge inspect the place? Please
M. Silva, Battaramulla.
Answer: There are no specific provisions in the Primary Courts
Procedure Act, as regards to local inspections. But it often happens
that when there is a dispute regarding a right other than possession,
for instance a boundary dispute or a right in the nature of a servitude,
the parties to the dispute invite court to visit the scene of the
dispute and given an order/determination on the matter in such a
situation the court is required to enter the terms of settlement, and
the parties to sign the record to abide by the said settlement. A
settlement of this nature will bind the parties and an order given under
such a situation will be considered as a consent order. Section 428 of
the Civil Procedure Code provides for a local inspection where
applicable. Section 428 enacts that "in any action or proceeding in
which the court deems a local investigation to be requisite or proper
for the purpose of elucidating any matter in dispute... a court may
issue a commission..."