Letters to the Editor

24th June 2001

It's a high price for justice

The prevailing system of justice, notably law's delays and exorbitant rates charged by lawyers need to be changed.

The majority of those involved in litigation are the poor and ignorant. A person meets the lawyer with full confidence that the lawyer will do everything possible to see that justice is done, expeditiously. But after many postponements, the litigant realizes that the lawyer is interested in making as much money as possible. The lawyer hastily goes through the case only on the morning of trial, after many postponements. 

However, the lawyer has to be paid on every calling date as well. Most litigants have to sell or pawn their property by the time the case is disposed of, in order to meet the high fees charged.

The procedures and tense atmosphere in the courts are ideally suited to beneift lawyers. Most litigants do not understand what takes place. That is the reason why very many people do not wish to come forward even as a witness in a case.

The President of the Judicial Service Association, Eric Basnayake speaking at the Association's Annual Conference had said, "We should also be frank to admit that lack of dedication to work by some has contributed to law's delay. We should feel that we have a job to perform, which should be performed conscientiously. Litigants have pawned their personal belongings including jewellery, mortgaged their properties to meet the cost of litigation and with all this if the litigant's cause is delayed or justice denied, how would such a litigant feel about the entire judiciary?"

Similar views were experessed by former Chief Justice G.P.S. Silva at the convocation of the Bar Association in '96. 

I wish to appeal to the Minister of Justice to consider implementing the following proposals to relieve the difficulties people have to face in seeking justice.

The present method of calling a large number of cases and postponing them should cease. After the first calling date, parties should be summoned only on a date when the court can start hearing and continue until conclusion of the case.

It should be made compulsory for lawyers to issue receipts for the fees charged.

Litigants should be encouraged to speak without the assistance of lawyers, if they wish to do so. Now, even a person who wants to plead guilty retains a lawyer and a lawyer charges about Rs. 500/- for merely stating, "My client pleads guilty, Sir."

Members of the public who attend courts should be addressed courteously.

The intake of students to the Law College should be increased. More lawyers passing out will help to bring down the fees as there will be competition among lawyers to win clients. 

Disgusted Litigant

Sad tale of a vanishing hermitage

The Polgasduwa Island Hermitage situated in the Rathgama lagoon is a Theravada Buddhist monastery. The hermitage consists of three islands: Polgasduwa, Metiduwa and Parappuduwa. 

It was founded in 1911 by Venerable Nyanatiloka Thero, the first Theravada Buddhist monk of German origin. Since then, it has been a place of quiet meditation, study and meeting for Buddhists and people interested in Buddhism. The beauty of the untouched Rathgama lagoon is unparalleled.

But recent projects are changing all this. The largest fisheries harbour in the country, estimated to cost around Rs. 20 million, is being built in Dodanduwa. 

This is good for fishermen and some small industries. But there is an environmental problem connected with this. Before the fisheries harbour was built the sea washed the sand towards the river-mouth. This lagoon was only supplied by rain water. When the outflow of the lagoon was small - due to meagre rainfall, the sand washed ashore was sufficient to close the river-mouth. Then the next rainfall diluted the salty water and the mixed salt-and-fresh-water helped the mangroves and other plants to grow along the shores of the Rathgama lagoon and on the three islands within this lagoon. Also many kinds of fish had hiding places in the roots of these plants.

Now - with the completion of the fisheries harbour - the sea sand does not close the river-mouth anymore. This means, that the salt concentration of the lagoon is increasing every day. The fish which used to live in the "ganga" will die out. On the other hand the fish from the sea will not come in because the lagoon is too shallow. 

We were told that certain types of fish which were living in this "mixed" water, are no more. 

All the greenery around the Rathgama lagoon and on the three islands will soon vanish. Polgasduwa, Metiduwa, Parappuduwa's "green belt" will become rocky sandy and brown.

Rain and waves will wash out everything. Farmers too will be affected as they will not have the high level of water needed for their paddy and vegetable fields. The whole outlook of this paradise will change.

There is one solution: a sluice (flood gate) such as is found at the lagoon of Ambalangoda. This is worthwhile. But it must be done very soon. It would save a huge number of plants, animals, people, last not least a very holy place: the Polgasduwa Island Hermitage. 

As I write this letter, some wells along the lagoon have no water, because they were fed by soil-filtered lagoon-water. The water-level of the lagoon is now too low. It will not rise anymore.

I hope relevant institutions will take some action. This is a matter of high urgency. Please do not delay. 

Nyanasanta Bhikku Administrator,
Polgasduwa Island Hermitage
and Upali Salgado, Dayakaya 

Crumbling monument

The bridge at the 70th km post on the Hatton-Ginigathena main road is a monumental landmark of British road construction work. One and a half centuries old, the bridge built of beautifully cut granite of different shapes and sizes, is now sadly partially damaged.

The damage could have been caused by the long vehicles that transport logs over it frequently. But, the all important question is: "Where are the stones from the damaged part of the bridge"? Definitely, they should have fallen into the stream below, but there are none. There should have been at least 50-60 stones from the damaged part of the bridge in the water. The question here is whether vandals are deliberately damaging the bridge and removing the stones for some private construction work.

Isn't there a way for the R.D.A. Norwood to find out the actual cause of the damage and prevent further vandalism?

V.R. Nambirajan Rozelle 

Right time for National Govt.

The concept of a National Government is again in the news. The system was advocated by political leaders of Sri Lanka like J.R. Jayewardene and Sirimavo Bandaranaike though it did not materialise.

In the present context especially in view of resolving the ethnic conflict it would be fruitful to introduce it.

In a National Government system, all political parties - whether large or small- would be equal partners in the administration of affairs of national importance. There would be no rivalry among the political parties and the different political parties would direct all their energies towards the attainment of national objectives. 

A.P. Gunasekera Nattandiya


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