ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

Free legal advice for public next week

By Himal Kotelawala

Lawyers islandwide will take time out of their busy schedules to give free legal advice to the public and educate them on their basic rights as citizens of the country throughout next week, President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President’s Counsel Nihal Jayamanna said.

“In a democracy the rule of law must apply. To fulfil this it is essential that ordinary citizens are aware of and are knowledgeable about basic laws which are applicable in their day-to-day lives,” he said.

Some of the basic rights enjoyed by a citizen of the country are:

1. Freedom to live in any part of the country.
2. Freedom of movement in any part of the country.
3. Right to be treated equally and not be subjected to torture and inhuman punishment.
4. Right to practice one’s own religion freely.
5. Right to property.
6. Right not to be forcibly thrown out of one’s house.
7. Right to have all the benefits one is entitled to without being discriminated on grounds of sex, race, language, caste or political opinion.

The concept of holding a ‘Law Week’ was introduced by Justice Christie Weeramantry, a professor attached to Monash University, Australia, before he became a member of the International Court of Justice.

When PC Jayamanna became the president of the BASL one of his first decisions was to hold a law week in Sri Lanka with the idea of lawyers taking time out to give advice to members of the public on legal matters, free of charge for a period of one week.

“This is very important in order to build a relationship between the public and the legal profession and is the best way to discharge social responsibilities of a lawyer,” Mr. Jayamanna said.

According to Mr. Jayamanna in 2006 during the first ever law week in Sri Lanka the BASL held programmes in over 100 villages in remote areas of the country including the deep South and even the North where ‘free legal aid clinics’ were held. Apart from disputes with regard to property, family, child abuse and human rights cases, 40% of problems on average were connected with people not having birth, marriage and death certificates and national identity cards. It was also found that many of them did not even realise their rights had been violated and that there were remedies for such violations, Mr. Jayamanna said.

This year’s Law Week will end with an exhibition held at the premises of the Colombo University Law Faculty on March 15 and 16. There will be many stalls manned by Ministry officials, Government institutions, departments and NGOs.

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