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December 15, 2017
ASSLUK - 13th TSUNAMI RECEPTION
held at Garden Court Chambers
By Daminda Goonetilake

Tsunami Appeal Committee of the Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers in the UK (ASLLUK) organised an impeccable evening for the distinguished guests who attended their 13th consecutive Tsunami Reception at Garden Court Chambers in Holborn, London on 24th November 2017 in remembrance of the 2004 Tsunami which was the worst catastrophe in living memory in Sri Lanka as over 40,000 lives were lost and unimaginable horror unleashed on hundreds of thousands of people.

'The Sri Lankan lawyers (UK) Tsunami appeal' is a registered charity in the UK (Charity No. 1108341) and this years' reception was held to raise funds to save the lives of children suffering from cancer in Sri Lanka in particular by diverting such funds to the National Cancer Hospital Maharagama and Cancer Unit of the Jaffna Hospital. The event was graced by Her Excellency the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom Ms. Amari Wijewardene and many eminent professionals. The President of ASLLUK, Harendra de Silva QC welcomed the High Commissioner and escorted the guests with a colorful display of Sri Lankan traditional dancing and drumming by Aruna Shantha and Lakeesha Lakmini. The General Secretary, Wasantha Tennakoon inaugurated the ceremony by lighting the traditional oil lamp. Guests were also treated with drinks and delicious Sri Lankan canapés reception.

Formal events of the evening then kicked off with the eminent barrister Lalith de Kauwe, the chairman of the Tsunami Committee leading the observance of a 2 minute silence for tsunami victims, followed by a brief talk on objectives of the Tsunami Appeal Charity and its accomplishments so far. While commemorating its 13th anniversary of the Tsunami, he emphasised not only the fact that ‘tsunami’ opened our eyes but also the best we have done each year since then to support the victims of tragedy in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their race or creed.

He further proclaimed a message that lighting of the oil lamp would not only be in memory of those who perished in disastrous events in our motherland but also symbolize hope for the future.

Turning then onto the Association's solidarity with the children of Sri Lanka, Lalith focussed on cancer which is a dreadful condition that is affecting many children there. However, he also highlighted the fact that it does not have to be life-threatening as, when diagnosed and treated early, the survival rate is good. He urged the participants to come to the aid of children in Sri Lanka who can be saved from the horror of cancer.

Finally, he thanked ASLLUK and all the present and past members of the Tsunami Committee in particular who volunteered to work so tirelessly behind the scenes over these years to produce this and previous faultless events and, most of all, many people who helped and supported us generously.

The keynote speech was delivered by Barrister, Fritz Kodagoda on 'The Need for Law Centres to Enable Access to Justice in Sri Lanka'. He focused on the provision of access to justice to all and stressed the point that it is a paramount duty of all civilised societies to extend such provision to the poor, illiterate, persons with disabilities and those who face inequality due to such characteristics as gender in particular. Legal Aid or provision of free legal advice and assistance is essential to ensure that justice is not denied to those who are with inequalities to enable the underprivileged and weaker sections of society to effectively exercise the rights given to them by law by giving them equal access to and obtaining relief and redress from the Courts and Tribunals.

Mr Kodagoda pointed out that the Constitution of Sri Lanka and its Fundamental Rights Chapter guarantees the right of every citizen to equal justice and secures to them social, economic and political rights and entitle them to redress and remedy by the Courts of Justice. While emphasising the fact that the constitutional rights would be meaningless if persons by reason of the lack of adequate means or having a disability cannot have their rights effectively enforced, he highlighted the provisions enshrined in Articles 12, 13(3), 14, 27 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka on equality, welfare and securing justice to the people.

He also mentioned that whereas the 'Legal Aid Act No.27 of 1978' has created the Legal Services Commission to provide free and competent legal services to the poor sections of society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability, sections 353, 195(g) and 260 of the Codes of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure also contain provisions in relation to free legal assistance. However, he said that, the existence of the most enlightened legal provisions would not bring effective redress or relief unless there is a commitment on the part of all involved in the justice system and most importantly, on the part of the lawyers, to actively involve themselves in the setting up and ensuring the efficient and effective working of Legal Aid Centres and delivery of Pro Bono work. Finally, he quoted an article by Amanda Finlay in the November Issue of Counsel, stating that Pro bono which is good for all, shines a light on some innovative examples from 'social prescribing' of legal advice to educational outreach, is an eye-opener and an idea which can bring immense benefits to the deprived and abandoned sections of society in Sri Lanka.

The pinnacle event of the evening then took place in the form of an auction of a beautiful 50 years' old oil painting by Bernanrd Kalubowila of Sri Lanka and another painting of a Sri Lankan scenery donated by Azize Chelliah and Selva Sathananthan respectively. Immense credit goes to Sumal Fernando, a solicitor who conducted the auction and kept the audience entertained for more than an hour until the sale of the paintings reached £2,400 .

The event ended after the guests enjoyed the great opportunity to networking and mingle with others while partaking the generous supply of a sumptuous Sri Lankan style dinner.

The organisers wish to thank Sunil Jayaweera, the authentic caterer, for supplying the delicious food and canapés and Wickrama for photography.
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