‘Doha Development Agenda’ launched
Issues arising from the Doha agenda
have been repeatedly delayed because of disagreements between developed
and developing countries. Developed countries are demanding that
developing countries further open up their markets for free trade, while
developing countries want to protect important sectors such as
agriculture and also for developed countries to give more access to
exports from poorer countries.
The international trade law conference ‘The Doha Development Agenda and
the Future of the Multilateral Trading System’ organised by the Sri
Lanka Law College, scheduled to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from July
30 to August 1, 2007, was launched at the Sri Lanka Law College
auditorium last Tuesday amidst a distinguished gathering.
Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC was the chief guest at the launch.
Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, the principal and
staff of the Sri Lanka Law College and senior members of the Bar.
In his address the Chief Justice, while underlining the importance of
holding a conference of this nature, called upon the business community
to take an active interest in the implications of the deliberations and
decisions taken at conferences of the World Trade Organisation, as these
would eventually impact upon the economy of Sri Lanka and the country’s
business community. He said that Sri Lanka must study the trade law and
know how it operates to take advantage of international trade.
This conference will seek to address some of the critical issues
referred to in the Doha Development Agenda as well as the future
challenges for the multilateral trading system. Several renowned experts
from the United States, European Union, India and Sri Lanka consisting
of policymakers, academics and professionals of outstanding calibre are
due to present papers on areas such as trade in agricultural products,
non-agricultural products, services with focus on telecommunication,
banking and financial services, trade and development, WTO and
regionalism, dispute settlement, trade, the environment and sustainable
The 2001 declaration of the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha,
Qatar, provides for negotiations on a range of subjects such as
agriculture, subsidies, textiles and clothing, technical barriers to
trade, trade-related investment measures and rules of origin.
The conference is expected to be of immense interest and benefit to a
diverse group including the business community, policymakers, government
officials, economists, legal practitioners, academics, non-governmental
organisations, diplomats, students, consumer groups and the media.
The multilateral trading system has seen significant changes over the
last five decades. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) as
it is commonly referred to, sought to raise the standard of living,
develop the full use of the resources of the world and expand the
production and exchange of goods. These objectives were sought to be
achieved by entering into reciprocal and mutually advantageous
arrangements directed to the substantial reduction of tariffs and other
barriers to trade and discriminatory treatment in international
commerce. The tariff negotiations held within the framework of GATT
resulted in significant tariff cuts coupled with tariff bindings leading
to a substantial rise in security in the world trading system. However,
there were several outstanding issues that needed to be addressed in the
agriculture, textile and clothing sectors. In this context the Uruguay
Round of Negotiations was an important landmark for the multilateral
trading system. It resulted in a new international legal body, the World
Trade Organization or WTO as it is commonly referred to, coming into
existence. Several new disciplines such as Trade-Related Intellectual
Property Rights, Trade in Services, Trade-Related Investment Measures
were brought within the framework of the WTO. Reforms were made in the
agriculture, textile and clothing sectors. A more functional dispute
settlement procedure was established.
It is imperative that the WTO addressed the needs of the developing
countries in a tangible and dynamic manner. Having failed to do so in
Seattle, the WTO in 2001 adopted the Doha Declaration, which having
acknowledged that the majority of its members were from the developing
world, sought to place their needs and interests at the heart of the
work programme adopted in the Declaration. In agriculture, the members
committed to comprehensive negotiations in three important areas, namely
market access, domestic subsidies and export subsidies. In
non-agricultural products, members are aiming to reduce or as
appropriate eliminate tariffs as well as non-tariff barriers, in
particular on products of export interest to developing countries.
However, the negotiations have stalled over several critical issues,
mainly on agriculture. This certainly does not augur well for developing
countries as well as the multilateral trading system as a whole. Even if
there is a successful conclusion of the round, some studies suggest that
the overall gains may not be as productive as projected by some experts.
In Winners and Losers: Impact of the Doha Round on Developing Countries
published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, it is said
that while there are both net winners and net losers under different
scenarios, the poorest countries are among the net losers under all
likely Doha scenarios.
There will be eight plenary sessions, four each day, on July 31 and
August 1, 2007. Each session will have three or four experts drawn from
local and foreign resource personnel presenting papers. The conference
US Supreme Court rules on global
United States Supreme Court in a
landmark decision last week on a 5-4 majority on global warming called
upon the US government to take measures to prevent potentially
calamitous consequences. The case, Massachusetts vs. the Environment
Protection Agency (EPA) concerned pollution caused by motor vehicles.
Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion emphasising the US
contribution to climate change and the potentially grave consequences.
“A reduction in domestic emissions would slow the pace of global
emissions increases, no matter what happens elsewhere,” Justice Stevens
To date, Justice Stevens said, the Environmental Protection Agency has
offered a ‘laundry list’ of reasons not to regulate those emissions. The
Court stopped short of ordering the Agency to intervene, and clearly
indicated that it found the Bush administration’s efforts to minimise
global warming, inadequate.
Justice Stevens’s opinion was disputed by Chief Justice John Roberts and
three conservative colleagues. However, the decision is expected to
expedite action by Congress on climate change.
The US Supreme Court last year agreed to hear its first case on global
warming with increased lobbying for action to be taken by the
government, although the administration has preferred voluntary action
rather than new regulation.
The US Supreme Court’s decision is also likely to have an impact on
automobile manufacturers as stricter emission limits are likely to be
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the principal heat-trapping
‘greenhouse’ gas that could lead to significant warming of the earth,
rising sea levels and other ecological changes.
Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas
are burned. One way to reduce those emissions is to have more
C.R. De Silva new AG
General C.R. De Silva, President’s Counsel, was appointed Attorney
General this week. He was first appointed Solicitor General with effect
from October 15, 1999. He received his secondary education at Royal
College, Colombo, where he excelled in both studies and sports. Mr. De
Silva Captained Royal College Rugby Football team in 1968 and they were
adjudged school champions. In the same year, he captained the Ceylon
Schools Rugby Football team.
After leaving school, Mr. De Silva joined Sri Lanka Law College and he
was called to the Bar in 1974. He devilled in the chambers of Mr. A.C.
De Zoysa, PC and later worked in the chambers of Mr. Daya Perera, PC.
Having joined the Attorney General’s Department in September 1975 as
State Counsel, he was promoted as Senior State Counsel in 1983.
Subsequently in 1992, he was appointed as a Deputy Solicitor General. On
December 24, 1996 he was appointed as Additional Solicitor General and
subsequently on March 27, 1997, he was called to the Inner Bar as a
Mr. De Silva successfully completed a course in Criminal Justice at the
University of Illiouis in USA in 1990. He has also been a member of
several Sri Lankan delegations to various international bodies including
the Afro-Asian Legal Consultative Committee Meeting held in Islamabad in
1993, UN Human Rights Council, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Convention
Against Torture Committee, UN Committee for the Convention on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination. He also served as Lecturer and
Examiner at the Sri Lanka Defence Academy, Kandawala. He also functioned
as an Examiner at the Sri Lanka Law College.
During the last decade, Mr. De Silva has appeared in some of the most
sensational cases, which had generated public interest and concern. Some
of the important cases he prosecuted are as follows;
a. Where the Deputy Commissioner of Examinations was convicted for the
falsification of GCE Examination results
b. The appeal in respect of the murder of Senior Customs Officer
Amarapala, where the conviction was affirmed
c. The appeal in respect of the murder of Tony Martin, where the
conviction was affirmed
d. The appeal in respect of the beauty queen of the Kobaiganne, where
the conviction was affirmed
e. The Trial at Bar in respect of the rape and murder of an Indian
national Rita John Manoharan, where all the accused were convicted
f. The abduction and extortion Rs. 20 million from G.C. Wickramasinghe,
where 13 accused were convicted and sentenced to periods of imprisonment
ranging from 60-80 years
g. Trial at Bar in respect of the murder of Justice Sarath Ambepitiya,
where all accused were convicted and sentenced to death
h. Appeal in respect of the murder of Justice Ambepitiya, where the
conviction and sentences were affirmed by the Supreme Court
i. Where the order of the Deputy Commissioner of Elections rejecting the
list of candidates of the UNP at the Colombo Municipal Council Elections
2006 was challenged. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the
Commissioner of Elections. The judgment of the Court of Appeal was
affirmed by the Supreme Court
He was also associated with the Fr. Mathew Peiris’ case both in the
original Court as well as the Appellate Courts.
Mr. De Silva had been a member of the Child Protection Authority. He was
also member of Drug Control Board. In addition, Mr. De Silva was a
member of the Committee of Inquiry appointed by Her Excellency the
President to examine causes relating to the accidents and loss of
aircraft of the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Mr. De Silva hails from an illustrious legal background - his father
Justice K. D. De Silva was a Judge of Supreme Court and his two elder
brothers are active practitioners in the civil courts of this country.
New lease of life for legal aid
By Dharmapala Senaratne
The welfare state of Sri Lanka has made education, health care, etc.
available to all citizens free of charge, unlike most of the western
countries, for the reason that the vast majority in the country are
unable to afford these on their own.
Justice is yet another area which ought to be made available to all,
even though sufficient attention to it has not been paid until recently.
The contribution by the state towards legal aid for the needy has always
been minimal in comparison with most of the European countries and
Thus, Justice Bhagwati, later to be the Chief Justice of India, observed
as follows in 1982 in the celebrated case of Peoples’ Union of
Democratic Rights vs. Union of India:
“The Rule of Law does not mean that the protection of the law must be
available to only a fortunate few or that the law should be allowed to
be prostituted by the vested interests for protecting and upholding the
status quo under the guise of enforcing their civil and political
rights. The poor, too, have civil and political rights, and the Rule of
Law is meant for them also, though today it exists only on paper and not
It goes without saying that these observations are equally valid in the
Sri Lankan context as well. For, access to justice is indeed, and has
always remained a costly affair in this country as well.
Legal aid, which is a sine qua non for equality of all before the law in
a true democracy, is “not a matter of charity or of favour or grace” in
the words of an eminent American Judge. “It is a bounden duty of the
state towards its citizens. It is a device whereby access to justice is
provided to all sections of the people,” he has said.
It is noteworthy, however, that we have had a legal aid scheme for
nearly three decades since the enactment of the Legal Aid Law No. 27 of
1978. Yet, successive governments paid little attention for providing
sufficient funds for the legal aid scheme until recently.
Nevertheless, lately, the scheme in Sri Lanka has taken a new lease of
life under the able chairmanship of the Legal Aid Commission by Mr. S.S.
Wijeratne, Attorney-at-Law, and provision of aid by foreign donors such
as ADB, UNDP and USAIA.
The LAC is constituted as a body corporate in terms of the provisions of
the Law mentioned above. It consists of nine members with three of them
appointed by the justice minister and six, nominated by the Bar Council
of Sri Lanka.
A Legal Aid Advisory Council has also been established under these
provisions with the Chief Justice as its Chairman and 30 other members.
Not only are all members of the LAC included in the Council but further
the BASL is required to nominate three out of that 30. It would thus
seem that the Bar Council and the BASL have a significant role to play
in this scheme.
As of now, the LAC is very much vibrant and active with a substantial
fund at its disposal. Though the contribution by the government is
meager, the foreign aid component of the fund is significant.
The LAC had 27 aid centres round the country by the end of 2005. With
eight more centres established in the following year alone, the number
has now been increased to 35.
Any person in need of legal aid can now rest assured that he or she can
benefit from the LAC by contacting the nearest centre. Creation of an
awareness of such availability among the people seems to be a felt need.
The LAC has, however, stipulated in terms of powers vested in it under
the law that only those with an income of Rs. 6000 or less per month are
eligible for such assistance.
Legal aid is thus provided basically in matters of maintenance, divorce,
claim of damages in motor traffic accidents, fundamental rights
violations, etc. but not in testamentary or partition matters. The
latter have been excluded on considerations relating to length of time
Giving these details of information, Ms. Kalani Medagoda,
Attorney-at-Law, in charge of the Disabled Persons’ Desk at the LAC Head
Office, proudly claims that they have now embarked on some 14 other
hopeful projects than merely offering legal aid in litigation alone.
For, under the law, the objects and functions of the LAC spread over a
spectrum of areas.
The writer is an attorney-at-law
Mechanism needed to deal with errant
Recently a friend went before the Bar
Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) with a complaint against an
attorney-at-law. He complained that a lawyer had forged a deed with
which he had defrauded a Muslim organisation. The lawyer is the
president of the same organisation.
The complainant had provided documentation to reveal the vast
differences in the four signatures the respondent lawyer had forged on
documents he had provided to the institution he defrauded to the tune of
However, since there was a case pending in the Mt. Lavinia District
Court and the CID was inquiring into the complaint of fraud and forgery
against the lawyer, the panel decided to take up the case after these
matters were concluded. While this is understandable, the question that
arises is, shouldn’t the BASL have a mechanism to deal with a lawyer
when the CID deems it fit to investigate complaints of fraud and forgery
In the good old days people would step down from posts they held in
public institutions or organisations until they were cleared of
allegations made against them. Such acts are unheard of in the present
day. During the brief proceedings the complainant pointed out to the
panel that the lawyer had acted improperly and contrary to law, when he
attested two deeds of transfer of properties the organisation had
purchased. Usually a violation of law takes a serious turn if a lawyer
stakes a claim to a section of a fraudulently acquired land.
Interestingly, this was the case with this attorney-at-law.
A retired Supreme Court Judge who had conducted a non-judicial inquiry
into the charges said in his report he was ‘horrified that an
attorney-at-law should act for both sides while having a vested interest
in the transaction’.
The attorney-at-law concerned admits violating these rules and
regulations governing the conduct of lawyers, but excused his conduct by
claiming he attested the deeds to save on notary fees.
Shouldn’t the BASL act on the admissions of this attorney-at-law? Should
the BASL permit errant lawyers to get away when they violate the rules
laid down by the Supreme Court and Notaries Ordinance? Or are these
violations too trivial to merit any action by the BASL?
The public would like to know from the BASL president if the panel can
decide to lay aside such gross violations pending the conclusion of
other inquiries. Isn’t the Bar Association answerable to the public? Or
is it above the law? Or does it function to protect corrupt lawyers?
BASL president Mr. Nihal Jayamanne must look into this matter if he is
sincere in his public pronouncements to cleanse the judiciary of corrupt
lawyers. In an interview in the Morning Leader in March 2006 he had said
lawyers must not do anything to damage the name of the association. He
had added, “We must understand and honour the litigant. It is the duty
of the Bar and the Bench to see to it that the litigant does not lose
confidence in the judicial system.”
Well, here is an opportunity for him to show he means what he says. We
must remember it is not only the corrupt lawyer who is on trial, but
also the Bar and by extension, the judicial system itself. It’s not only
corrupt lawyers or judges who give the judiciary a bad name. The good
lawyers and judges who form an overwhelming majority are also guilty
because they refuse to speak out against their corrupt colleagues. They
too must be held responsible.
Concerned citizen, Makola
K.C. Kamalasabayson, PC retires
President’s Counsel, K.C.
Kamalasabayson, who served as Sri Lanka’s Attorney General for more than
seven years, retired last week.
He served the Attorney General’s Department for the past 33 years.
The former Attorney General enrolled as an Advocate of the Supreme Court
of Sri Lanka in 1972. He joined the AG’s Department in 1974. While in
the AG’s Department he obtained an LL.M from the prestigious King’s
College, London. He was appointed the Attorney General in 1999.
K.C. Kamalasabayson took Silk in 1996.
He has appeared for the state in several high profile constitutional,
public law and commercial cases. He has represented Sri Lanka in a
number of international arbitrations and also skillfully negotiated
several international commercial contracts and extradition treaties.
He also saw through a turbulent time in Sri Lankan politics during his
tenure as the Attorney General, which included a sensitive period when
the executive President and the Prime Minister were from different
political parties. A former Thomian, K.C. Kamalasabayson will be
remembered for the high professional standards he maintained in the AG’s
Department, his integrity and warmth quite apart from his skills as an
The former Attorney General’s birthday falls today.
See interview on page 4