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Tsunami reception – ASLLUK

Tsunami reception

ASLLUK holds its Tenth Anniversary Tsunami reception
at Garden Court Chambers on 28 November 2014

The cruel sea which wrought death, destruction and a sense of anger and hopelessness triggered a positive reaction among the members of the association of Sri Lankan lawyers in the uk (ASLLUK) and spearheaded by barrister Lalith de Kauwe and solicitor Upali Jayatilike and others, “The Sri Lankan lawyers (UK) Tsunami appeal” was set up as a registered charity number 1108341. Each year a fund raising reception was held at Garden Court Chambers at Lincolns Inn Fields and this year (on 28th November) we were fortunate to have as our guest speaker the eminent judge C.G Weeramantry who delivered a brilliant and inspired address on environmental law (environmental protection and religion/ morality).

Lalith de Kauwe, the chairman of the Tsunami committee inaugurated the event with a short but touching account of the objectives of the charity and what it has accomplished so far and what we seek to achieve and strive for. Quoting from the words of the Buddha, the Bible and the Koran he said “The Sri Lankan lawyers (UK) Tsunami Appeal” is a registered charity that was created in the aftermath of the 26th December 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka. The objects of our charity are the relief of suffering among victims of natural or other disasters, the alleviation of poverty and the advancement of education.

The cruel civil war in Sri Lanka that destroyed the lives of two generations of children was succeeded by the Tsunami that destroyed the lives of two more generations of children. Among the victims of the appalling tragedy were children with 20,000 killed and thousands seriously wounded and traumatised. This disaster created orphans on an unparalleled scale. The momentous events of the Tsunami opened our eyes to things that we had barely contemplated. We determined that we would respond to the call of that distant land.

From its inception we provided support to Tsunami affected children in the Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka, regardless of race, caste or religion. People who were living in desperate circumstances and complete uncertainty as to the future.

We believe that the most effective means of providing assistance is to channel aid through local organizations with local knowledge and experience. Thus through community based voluntary organisations, projects and orphanages, we have assisted the intended recipients from the poorest sections of society: –

  • St Mary’s, Matara – 11 Tsunami affected children until they completed their full time education;
  • The Prithipura Communities – an organisation dedicated to the care and assistance of children
    with disabilities that included children affected by the Tsunami;
  • Senthalir project a children’s home in Udayarkudda in the North East of Sri Lanka
    that was destroyed by the Tsunami when 111 children lost their lives.
  • Coir workers who were affected by the Tsunami;
  • Success Sri Lanka – a group of doctors committed in providing medical equipment to rural areas;
  • Back to life project, Ahangama to build a home for Tsunami victims.
  • Collecting and sending books and science lab equipment to Tsunami affected areas
    and law books and financial aid to Tsunami affected lawyers;
  • Flood disaster victims in Pakistan and Sri Lanka;
  • Metha Foundation doctors charity that provides artificial limbs, physiotherapy equipment
    and rehabilitation to victims of the war of the war in Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lanka Public Library Law Project to provide legal knowledge,
    to enable access to justice and to promote the rule of law.

We are now embarking on a project to promote access to justice and to strengthen legal knowledge and the rule of law. Our aim is to provide a Law Library to each Public Library in all of the 19 Judicial Zones in Sri Lanka and to assist the development of Legal Aid Centres in Sri Lanka. We do so because of our collective belief in equal rights and justice. We will seek and we will find. When you know yourselves, then you will be known.”

The event commenced with a delightful exhibition of Sri Lankan traditional dancing and drumming by Panduka Wickremaratne and Lakeeshe Lakmini and lighting of the traditional lamp. This was followed by observance of three minute silence honouring the victims of the Tsunami and included also Phil Hughes the young Australian Cricketer killed by a bumper. Giving the key note speech justice Christopher Weeramantry referred to the relevance and impact of the teachings of the Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Kautlyas Artha Sastra in the context of environmental protection and religion/morality. He reminded us that we should heed the attitudes that the aborigines of Australia, that of king Brakmra Bahu on the proper use of natural resources and what Arahat Mahinda said to King Devanampiyatissa, that he may be the king but he does not own the land. It is for generations to come, and the king is only the trustee of the land. Justice Weeramantry had referred to these in his judgments in the International Court of Justice. He went on to refer to prophetMohammad’s parable of the two decked boat and to the thirty years war in 1618 where countless lives were lost in the name of religion. He referred also to the thinking of Hugo Grotius that discipline should be dispensed free from religion and went on to emphasise that religion is a wonderful tool to fertilise and enrich international law and that protection of the environment is a prime concern of the law. We are on the verge of a nuclear war as knowledge necessary to make a nuclear bomb maybe available on the internet. He raised the stark reminder that we all have a responsibility to save the world and to protect the environment. That all the powers are aware of this but they shut their eyes. He stressed the importance of the use of the legal system to protect the universe.

Justice Weeramantry’s address was followed by a stimulating discussion and by an auction of yet another beautiful and poignant painting by Kirti de Kauwe who despite disability had visited Sri Lanka to produce a number of touching and inspiring pictures of the impact of the Tsunami. The auction was conducted by Solicitor Sumal Fernando who entertained the audience for more than half an hour raising £1200.00 for the painting.

This review will not be complete if I did not mention the laudable, timely and ground breaking pragmatic project initiated by Upali Jayatilake in an endeavour to educate and empower the people of their legal rights and responsibilities and the most fundamental right of access to justice. This kind of project should have been initiated centuries ago which would have ensured that the wishes and the feelings of the people would have to be listened to and respected by politicians and would alone provide a bulwark against authoritarian governments and administrators. This project aimed at equipping the public libraries with legal literature in Sinhala, Tamil and English and extending the mandate of the Tsunami charity to seek ways and means of educating the people, starting with schools and temples, churches and mosques and other organisations which could support this worth while project of creating a vibrant and socially aware society.

Fritz Kodagoda
Barrister Mediator
12 Old Square Lincolns Inn