Legal / Events

Disabled lawyer sues Qatar Airways

A Case has been filed in the District Court of Colombo (Case No 52805/MR) against Qatar Airways by Mr Senarath Attanayake, a fully wheelchair bound Attorney-at-Law. Mr Attanayke who is also an Ex-Minister of the Uva Provincial Council and Ex-Acting Chief Minister is presently a member of the Uva Provincial Council. He is the first and only wheelchair bound Attorney-at-Law and the only wheelchair bound politician in Sri Lanka. He has been disabled since he was one year old due to polio infection.
Mr Attanayake appearing by his Counsel Mr Chandaka Jayasundare Attorney-at-Law instructed by M/S Kularatne Associates has claimed damages amounting to Rs 10 million and other costs.
He claims that in January 2006 he travelled to Frankfurt, Germany by Qatar Airways to take part in an international exhibition. He states that he was treated in a very unprofessional and discourteous manner by the staff of the airline both on board and at the Doha Airport where the transit was. When he arrived at Frankfurt he was informed that the two wheelchairs belonging to him; one of which is a specially designed motorized wheelchair, has been misplaced by the airline. The wheelchairs had been returned to him only two days later in a heavily damaged condition. The airline has totally disregarded Mr Attanayake’s discomfort due to his inability to move without his wheelchairs. Thereafter when he returned to Sri Lanka the airline has again misplaced his manual wheelchair which was the only mode of movement left to him with the motorized wheelchair being heavily damaged and unusable. It had taken the airline two more days to return the wheelchairs to Mr Attanayake and some missing parts of the motorized wheelchair had been returned to him only another 7 days later.
Mr Attanayake states that the airline has not taken any action regarding the loss caused to him and the discomfort.
He states that he has travelled abroad many times before through other airlines and has never come across such a bad experience. He states that as a precaution he always books himself to business class to ensure he travels in comfort. But Qatar Airways did not even consider the fact that he was a business class passenger.
Mr Attanayake says his main intention is to bring the rights of the disabled to the forefront. The country is rarely aware of the legal remedies available to people living with disabilities. He says that the disabled community themselves need to be aware of their rights and has to be geared for the struggle against discrimination and severe prejudices. In this instance he states that it is the duty of an airline to pay special attention to a disabled individual and to treat such a person with due respect and care. Mr Attanayake also states that he intends to use the damages from the case towards the benefit of the disabled. He says his main intention is to contribute towards the building of proper access to the disabled in all public places and buildings and also towards initiating a programme for disability counselling in Sri Lanka.