Archive for September 2009
The death toll from a massive South Pacific earthquake and tsunami has risen to 63, officials say. Samoan police have confirmed the new toll and expect it will rise further. Meanwhile, Samoan authorities have issued a fresh tsunami warning to residents, eyewitnesses say.
“The sirens have gone off and police are warning us to go uphill, away from water, as there’s a new tsunami alert,” local resident Cherelle Jackson told AFP.
“Its starting all over again.”
Despite the local warning in the nervous Samoan capital of Apia, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre did not issue a fresh alert and the US Geological Survey did not record any new major earthquake in the area.
The tsunami has devastated parts of American Samoa and Samoa, including popular resort areas, and has wiped out villages.
The victims include an Australian and a New Zealander. (Brisbane Times)
Former Mayor Omar Kamil
The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is struggling to finance itself as 450 000 people within the Colombo city limits fail to pay their taxes according to Former Mayor Omar Kamil.
Speaking at a media conference to launch a Colombo city beautifying project in the next 100 days CMC Chief City Administrator Omar Kamil pointed out that out of the total of 650,000 residents living in Colombo, 450,000 do not pay tax to the CMC which makes it harder for the development of the city. He also noted that there is Rs.3 billion of outstanding tax which is “owed by the government, semi government sectors as well as by the private sector for a period of a decade,”
He emphasised that with the garbage problem being literally cleaned up, following his taking of office the next task on the agenda was to look at turning Colombo into one of the most beautiful cities in South Asia.
“I took over duties at the CMC on July 15 where just after 50 days there was a huge change in the city of Colombo. At present we have made arrangements to remove garbage in the city between 7.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m. each day,” he said adding that they are looking forward to making a new culture in keeping Colombo city clean. “There are 400,000 people who are living in less developed areas in the Colombo city and 250,000 more residing in developed areas,” said Kamil calling on all of them to involve themselves in the city beautifying project.
The Chief City Administrator stated that they are hoping to deliver printed leaflets to every household by the middle of next month where if anyone seeks any kind of assistance by the CMC they could directly contact the necessary body who is in charge of it.
The new renewing programme includes a new synchronised traffic control system for the first time in the city. “We have already started this system at the Ayurvedic junction in Rajagiriya and we are looking forward to expanding it to the D.S. Senanayake junction, the drive way from Kynsey Road to Horton Place, Wijerama Mawatha to Horton Place, along with many others.”
By Sarashi Samarasinghe
The legal consequences- Concerns and Recommendations
By M.H.M. Salman
The process of expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province commenced as early as 1985. Muslims from Mullativu were the first victims. In the latter part of year 1990 a full scale expulsion of Muslims took place. According to a survey conducted by Dr. S.H. Hisbullah Muslim families were expelled from about 70 villages.
According to the national census conducted in 1981 a total of 54,205 Muslims lived in the North. In the absence of official population statistics it is assumed that on the basis of calculation of 2% annual growth of population (from 1982 to 1990) there would have been around 63,000 Muslims in the North at the time of expulsion.
The expulsion was successful in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu, and Kilinochchi Districts. In the Mannar District it was a partial success. About 6,000 Muslims braved threats and intimidation and continued to live there. Records show in Mannar the Muslim population dropped (From 26.81% to 5.14%) drastically to less than 6,000 after the expulsion. In the Vavuniya District the entire Muslim population remained intact. (Statistically)
According to available statistics a total of 20,583 Muslims currently live in the North. The Secretariat for the Northern Muslims estimates that there are 19,314 displaced families living outside the North at present. Another category of the displaced Muslims live outside Sri Lanka. Accurate figures and where they currently live are not available.
According to a survey carried out by the Muslim Rights Organisation an extent in excess of 30,000 acres of land belonging to 11,058 Muslim individuals have been abandoned in the North. Abandoned land is either occupied by third parties or remains unoccupied.
Even after the lapse of nineteen long years and the defeat of the LTTE displaced Muslims are not in a position to take a full stock of the status of their property. Reasons are, inaccessibility due to security, hostile environment and the presence of mines etc. Those who had managed with difficulty to visit and inspect the properties had witnessed that in certain cases third parties are in possession. Abandoned lands have undergone considerable physical changes. Land is either overgrown or the surface has undergone changes rendering identification difficult.
According to surveys 12% houses in the Jaffna district are subject to secondary occupation. Secondary occupation of property is very much prevalent in the other districts in the North too though accurate details are not available. The true extent of the secondary occupation of property will only be known when normalcy is restored and the displaced individuals are permitted to visit the areas without restriction.
Several studies have been conducted to assess the impact of secondary occupation in Sri Lanka by a number of international organisations and policy institutes. However the State policy or the law reforms have not been very responsive to the outcomes or to the actual needs that have been identified. The studies have found that secondary occupation of land and houses raises the following social issues-
Potential to create fresh disputes
Competing claims and protracted legal/administrative procedures
Hindrance to orderly re-settlement of the displaced
The subject of secondary occupation of property has been subjected to extensive discussion and research in other parts of the world. Countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and Guatemala have successfully implemented restitution plans.
According to laws of Sri Lanka encroachment or forcible occupation of land and houses are per se unlawful. An aggrieved individual can seek redress through courts of law to have the trespasser or the illegal occupant ejected from the property and gain possession through legal remedies such as possessory action or under section 66 of the Primary Courts Procedure Act.
As much as laws enable individuals to acquire property and assert ownership the laws also provide for the legal basis for loss of ownership to property. The law is found in the Prescription Ordinance which the British enacted more than 100 years ago. Prescription Ordinance governs both acquisitive and extinctive prescription. In layman’s language a person can acquire or lose ownership to property by operation of the law of Prescription.
The basis of extinctive prescription is founded on the principle of negligence on the part of the owner of property. In terms of the law an owner of property is under a legal obligation to assert the legal right of ownership within a stipulated period of time to re-possess property. Should the owner fail or neglect to institute legal action within the stipulated time the secondary occupant acquires ownership provided certain conditions are fulfilled.
Courts of law apply provisions of prescription law in terms of procedures laid down in Statutes. In ordinary circumstances where parties are equally placed application of the law is reasonable and justified. However in conflict environments the parties to a dispute may at times not be equally placed in many respects.
For instance in a lawsuit where a displaced Muslim from the North is challenging a secondary occupant of property in the North, he is at a definite disadvantage vis-a- vis the secondary occupier. a) Northern Muslim lives elseware b) properties are inaccessible c) the environment is hostile d) inability to have access to documents or witnesses etc. on the other hand the secondary occupant is placed in an advantageous position by virtue of his possession and the unrestricted access to witnesses, documents and the friendly environment.
One of the incidental issues arising out of secondary occupation of property is the impact of restitution will have on the secondary occupant. Although the occupation of property belonging to others is an unlawful act, there are other circumstances necessitating a more flexible approach to the resolution of this complex issue.
If a secondary occupant is ejected from the property, more often than not it will give rise to fresh problems. That is because in the North most of the secondary occupants are poor landless and belongs to the Tamil community. In such circumstances the ejectment of a secondary occupier will also lead to more tension in the society.
Successful military operations have paved the way for re-settlement of Muslims of the North. The Government has also taken several positive steps in this regard. However no attention is paid to resolve the issues arising out of secondary occupation of private property in the North. In order to complement the efforts of the government the following broader issues are identified in respect of issues relating to secondary occupation in conflict areas-
-Total inadequacy of laws and policies deal with secondary occupation
-Absence of cost effective and enforceable alternative dispute resolution mechanisms
-Inability of the authorities and the non-state actors to resolve these issues in a just and peaceful manner;
-Potential for future tension between individuals and communities
-Sensitivities and genuine concerns of secondary occupants
Instead of strategies, successive governments were keen to set up multitude of ministries, departments institutions and ad hoc mechanisms creating fresh problems. Issues of co-ordination, overlapping of functions and responsibilities have often created delays, confusion if not conflict among the institutions themselves to the detriment of the displaced people.
In order to address issues arising out of abandonment of property and secondary occupation all parties must think innovatively and also act fast. Following are some thoughts for policy and law reform. For purpose of clarity the envisaged policy and law reforms are set out in three stages, but all stages are interconnected.
1.Initiation of a dialogue involving all parties
The government must initiate a dialogue with all stakeholders.
2. Vesting of abandoned land and properties of displaced (Northern) in the State
Enactment of a new legislation or regulations to grant legal protection to abandoned private property in the North and East. Such law or regulation should have the effect of vesting the properties of the displaced automatically (by operation of law) in the State without any encumbrances.
Laws can be enacted through an act of Parliament or under regulations under Public Security Ordinance. Soon after July 1983 riots REPIA was created through regulation and all affected properties were vested in the State by operation of law. Land and properties vested as such were divested to legal owners after inquiry.
3. Preservation of documents of title to property
Immediate action must be taken by the authorities to preserve and protect documents of title to property such as deeds, permits issued by government and also survey plans, agreements, licences and other document relating to approvals issued by local authorities or government institutions. Issue of copies of documents destroyed or lost too should be expedited.
4. Conducting of land survey and photographing of property
Due to abandonment of property for long periods of time all identity marks and other evidence have been lost or destroyed. The original owners will not be able to identify their properties due to lack or non existence of surface marks or signs. Therefore the Government must facilitate displaced persons to obtain ruling on boundaries of their property under relevant law or practice.
A comprehensive report of property of the northern Muslims is available using new and advanced technologies. A survey too should be carried out to obtain details of land ownership of individuals.
5. Creation of awareness among the displaced population
Lack of awareness and ignorance has affected most of the displaced persons. They are not very much aware of their legal rights and entitlements. Most of them have hopes of returning to their homes in unsafe neighbourhoods. Most of them are also unaware of legal consequences arising out of abandonment of property
Law and policy reform
1)Enactment of new laws and amendment to existing legislation
A serious danger is likely that the legal owners losing ownership due to the operations prescription. If a displaced person loses title to property in such circumstance it will be a travesty of justice and will also reflect poorly on all stakeholders.
Therefore the Government must seriously consider introducing necessary amendments to the Prescription Ordinance and other relevant law without further delay.
2. Setting up of special tribunals/courts to inquire in to property claims
The Government should give serious consideration to set up special courts or tribunals to hear and determine applications in areas where the displaced live, on matters relating to land disputes. These courts or tribunals could be set up under special law. The special courts or tribunals must have jurisdiction to hear applications on a wider range of subjects and should also have powers to expeditiously settle disputes relating to property.
Such courts or tribunals must be given jurisdiction to inquire into testamentary cases and disputes relating to land between persons (displaced persons or one party is a displaced person) that were pending at the time of displacement. Similarly pending cases with regard to tenancy rights, servitudes or any right or obligation arising out of land too should be transferred to these special courts or tribunals for determination.
3. Laws to nullify land transfers under questionable circumstances
Several instances have been reported that Muslims of the North had been compelled under coercion or force to dispose land and property at a far lower price than the prevailing market value.
The Government should appoint a committee to investigate such instances and to recommend necessary law and policy changes to grant relief to affected individuals.
Policy reform and executive & administrative action
Let me first declare my interests. I am a Colombo Tamil with nothing to do with LTTE. My parents and grandparents made Colombo their home long ago during the time of the British.
I am an old boy of St. Thomas’, a prestigious school in Colombo. I always supported the SL cricket team. I now live in South Harrow. I am here on holiday to see my parents who live in Colombo. I shall post this letter on my way to the airport so that I shall be safely in the plane in case you publish the verifiable contents of this letter.
As you may know the Sri Lanka cricket team consists of majority Buddhists, a Hindu, a couple of Muslims and a couple of Christians. In short it is a multi-religious and a multi-racial team and on that score alone it should be admired. Over the last few years the ugly head of religious discrimination has started to emerge from the woodworks of the HQ of the SL Cricket Board. It first appeared positively when Chaminda Vaas, a Catholic, was about to be appointed as Captain of the team. He declined the post due to malicious criticism by some fellow cricketers and a virulent religious press.
Before the above incident the SL Cricket Board has introduced a wholly irrelevant Buddhist religious ceremony before the departure of the team for any international match. If you look at the SL’s national TV footage of 15 Sept.09 you will find a Buddhist monk conducting a Buddhist ceremony for the team, where the non-Buddhists team-mates were forced to partake. According to the Constitution and the President all are supposed to be equal and no minority exists. Yet this blatant disregard to respect the religious beliefs of non- Buddhists in the team is sheer arrogance and chauvinism on the part of the SL Cricket Board and the Minister in Charge.
I have previously written to the authorities concerned. Therefore they cannot pretend ignorance. This is religious discrimination requiring as much publicity as other atrocities you have given current publicity. You know how Britain treated the South African cricket team in the days of apartheid. Sri Lanka by its own arrogance is now a strong candidate for boycott by the ICC and the English Cricket Board.
I hope you will realize the gravity of the situation after having seen the SL state TV (Rupavahini and ITN). At a minimum the ICC and ECB should let the SL Cricket Board know that they are aware of the religious discrimination and the future consequences of such a course of action if persisted by Sri Lanka.
Buddhism has nothing to do with the British invented game of cricket. Further Buddhism has no God or gods to plead for divine intervention in their favour. The Gods in Buddhism are all from the Hindhu pantheon and therefore a Hindhu priest should conduct this ceremony and not a Buddhist monk.
I am for secular cricket with no trappings of any religion. On the other hand if one wants to have religion then they can have it on their own the day previous to their departure in their own temples, kovils, mosques and churches. If religious ceremony is a necessity then all religions should be allowed to conduct their short ceremony in public NOT just one religion (Buddhism) at the deliberate neglect of other religions.
I hope you will give publicity to this matter as just now cricket is still a force that unites the people in this country. If Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists and fanatics are allowed their way, soon there will only be Buddhists in the SL team and division in the country on religious lines. I hope you will kindly consider this earnest request. My home address in South Harrow will be revealed to you once I get home.
The International Human rights Organization is preparing to arrest former President Chandrika Bandaranaike in a foreign country on international war crime charges, according to reports received by ‘Lanka-e-news’.
The main reason for this is the obstacle militating against the arrest of the President in power for international war crime charges, and the absence of such immunity protecting an Ex President.
‘Lanka-e-news’ is informed that this Human rights Organization has prepared an affidavit comprising 231 charges based on the war crimes and violations committed during the period of the former President Chandrika which can be taken before the International law.
Upon inquiries made by the ‘Lanka-e-news’ from an International law expert Attorney at law Asanga Welikala on the actions available for war crime charges under the International law against a an Ex leader or the current leader of a country, he stated, the chances are slim against the leader in power. But, Such actions are possible only when based on the UN security Council decisions
He cited as an example the arrest of the leader of Liberia for war crimes committed during his period based on the decision of the UN human rights security Council., adding that under the laws of some countries these actions can only be taken against leaders remaining in those countries. Actions by Belgium against leaders of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Sierra Leone were unsuccessful. However, the leader of Spain who was outside was arrested.
He also stated that no such action can be taken against the Leaders who have arrived in America to attend the UN assembly. The authority of the US does not extend to the UN Organization.
In any case, Sri Lanka has not been signatories to agreements on International war crime charges, and therefore if the arrests are to be made of the Ex President or the present President on these war crime charges, they must be a result of the admixture of international politics and laws, he pointed out.
In a ground breaking move the Ministry of Education has removed the barriers that existed for teacher transfers making it possible for even a teacher serving in a provincial school to get a transfer to a national school in future, the Ceylon Teachers Union said yesterday.
Previously, teachers who received their appointments after December 12, 1989 had been prohibited from getting a transfer from a provincial school to a national school. The Ministry informed governors, provincial education secretaries and the Public Service Commission of the decision in writing on August 21, 2009.
There are 9662 schools in the country and only 330 are National Schools. Ceylon Teachers Union Secretary Joseph Stalin explained that there were 212,683 teachers in the country and 31,741 of them serve in National Schools. “National Schools are considered the elite schools and therefore teachers who served in those schools are considered the privileged ones. So, the remaining 180,836 teachers may now all try to get transfers to these schools. It can lead to an administrative nightmare if this happens. We urge the education authorities to work out a proper transfer policy under these circumstances,” he said.
He also cautioned that there could be increased pressure put on the education authorities by politicians as a result of this to get teachers in their electorates transferred to these schools, creating an even bigger problem.
By Sandun A. Jayasekera
Constitutional Affairs and National Integration Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara lamented yesterday that there was a shortage of 300,000 officers in the public service with proficiency in a second language to implement the official language policy.
In the public service – excluding the armed forces – the percentage proficient in a second language in the Central Government is on average 6 and the level of Provincial Councils and Local Government is on average 16% which is a serious drawback to implement the official language policy enshrined in the statute book. Secondly it is of utmost importance to be proficient in a second language to create understanding and communal harmony among the communities, Minister Gunasekara said yesterday.
“A series of steps have been taken for the speedy and effective implementation of the Official Language Policy in the public service by my Ministry by way of lump sum payments and salary increments, making the second language compulsory for new recruits; classes at every state institution to teach a second language and the establishment of a National Institute of Language Education and Training at Agalawatte are some of them,” he told the Daily Mirror.
“We have also taken a decision to appoint ‘Official Languages Implementation Officers’ (OLIO) at each and every public institution to ensure the full implementation of the official language policy. The OLIO is responsible for the proper implementation of the official language policy at Public, Provincial Councils and Local Government institutions,” Minister Gunasekara stressed.