Legal aid plan for internally displaced

[TamilNet, Saturday, 13 July 2002, 20:53 GMT]
Over seven hundred thousand people are internally displaced in Sri Lanka as a result of the ethnic conflict and have been deprived of the rights and privileges enjoyed by other citizens, Mr. S. S. Wijeratne, Chairman of the Legal Aid Foundation of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) said in his key note address at the inaugural event of the Free Legal Aid clinic held Saturday morning in Trincomalee.

The event was held under the patronage of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide free legal assistance to the internally displaces persons.

wijeratne"The problems confronted by IDPs should be addressed promptly. We cannot wait until a political solution is found for the ethnic question to assist the IDPs in this regard," Mr. Wijeratne said

Mr. Wijeratne is one of the eleven members of the Constitutional Council that has been established under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the country.

The Free Legal Aid clinic was preceded by a rally from the Ehambaram playgrounds to the venue of the clinic, Trincomalee Social Service Centre.

Ms V. Mathiaparanam, Trincomalee regional coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka inaugurated the free legal aid clinic by lighting the traditional oil lamp.

"The internally displaced persons are confronted with legal problems relating their birth certificates, identity cards and other essential documents that are necessary for them to find a place in the present society," Mr. Wijeratne said.

"The IDPs should not be discriminated against in the enjoyment of any rights and freedoms on the ground that they are internally displaced. Hence the Legal Aid Foundation of the BASL under the patronage of UNHCR has established several Legal Aid Centres to provide free legal assistance to the internally displaced to obtain necessary documents that are urgently need to ensure their security and an honourable place in the society," said Mr. Wijeratne. The centres are in in Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna Mannar, Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Polonaruwa, he said.

Mr. Wijeratne added "we are closely working with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. Justice will prevail if we are able to protect sixty percent of human rights of a person.

"Human rights litigation in the country is not a simple and easy thing. Human rights violators should be punished. Our motto is 'Work for Justice, Peace will result'. The Legal Aid Foundation has been organizing the legal aid rallies and clinics to create awareness among the displaced persons about their legal rights and freedoms and how to obtain their individual rights."

According to a booklet issued by the Free Legal Aid Foundation of the BASL, an estimated seven hundred thousand people, mostly Tamils, are displaced internally and some of them have been living in welfare centres for over a decade.

The Deputy Representative of the UNHCR Mr. Jim Worrel and several others also spoke. Mr.K.Sivapalan, co-coordinator of the Legal Aid Foundation in Trincomalee made welcome remarks. Later in the afternoon legal aid clinic was conducted for the internally displaced persons by a team of Colombo lawyers, assisted by the members of the Trincomalee Bar.

Mr.S.S.Wijeratne, Chairman of the Legal Aid Foundation, Attorney K.Sivapalan, co-ordinator of the Legal Aid Foundation in Trincomalee and Attorney R.Thirukumaranathan, leading member of the Trincomalee Lawyers Association are seen leading the Public Legal Aid rally.
Photo: TamilNet


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