legal mechanism implemented
to deal with tsunami
- Attorney General
In addition to the relief and other urgent measures
taken, it became necessary for the Government to initiate
and implement a special legal mechanism to deal with the
consequences of the tsunami. The existing laws were not
adequate to meet their situation.
In fact, the implementation of the existing laws would have
caused more hardships and inconvenience to the victims, said
Attorney General K. C. Kamalasabeyson PC, addressing the
Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium on Judicial and Jurist
Perspectives on Human Rights in Post Disaster Situations,
held at the Galle Face Hotel on Saturday.
Thus, on the June 13, 2005, the Parliament enacted the
Tsunami (Special Provisions) Act No. 16 of 2005 to ensure
that there is a legal mechanism in place to protect and
assist those affected by tsunami also to safeguard their
The Act consists of six parts. Whilst identifying the legal
obstacles and legal barriers that confronted the tsunami
victims, the law in these parts incorporated special
provisions to deal with the new situation, the Attorney
The Conference was organised by the Legal Aid Commission and
The Human Rights Commission sponsored by UNHCR and Aus AID.
Legal Aid Commission Chairman S.S. Wijerante presided at the
Former Supreme Court Judge of Pakistan Justice Nasir Aslam
Zahid, Former Australia Supreme Court Judge, Justice Marcus
Einfeld AO QC, former Indian Supreme Court Judge, Justice
D.P. Wadhwa, Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Dr.
Gregory French, Director of Public Prosecutions New South
Wales Australia Nick Cowdry AM
QC, UNHCR Protection Officer
Ms. Annika Sandlund and member of the Eminent Persons Group
on Refugee and Migratory Movement of South Asia Dr. Azam
Choudry were among the foreign speakers.
Attorney General Kamalasabeyson emphasised that the tsunami of
December 26, 2004 devastated several coastal areas in Asia including
the coasts of Sri Lanka, India Indonesia and Thailand. Millions of
Dollars worth of property and infrastructure were completely
Thousands of people lost their homes and livelihood. In Sri Lanka it
was estimated that at least 40,000 lost their lives. The entire
nation was shocked. The country was totally unprepared to handle
Attorney General Kamalasabeyson said:
"Provision is also made in the said Act to enable either the next of
kin or any other person to apply for and obtain a certificate of
death through the Registrar General.
The procedure for such Application involves investigations at
different levels and a final determination whereby the Registrar
General is vested with the power to direct the appropriate Registrar
to register the death and issue a death certificate.
On the other hand provision is also made for any person who becomes
aware, that the person whose death has been registered is alive, to
take steps for the cancellation of the death certificate. Here
again, the law provides for a procedure. This part also creates
offices where false statements are made or the certificate of death
is dishonestly or fraudulently used.
"Provision is also made for any person desiring to become a foster
parent of a child or young person to obtain a foster care order from
the Magistrate. An application for this purpose would involve the
evaluation by a foster care evaluation panel consisting of
Several provisions are contained in the said part relating to the
duties of a foster parent, monitoring officers, issuance of Birth
Certificates and the procedure for revocation of foster care order.
A significant provision is fetter on the jurisdiction of a Court to
make an adoption Order under the Adoption of Children Ordinance.
No adoption of a tsunami child is possible unless the child has been
first placed in foster care in terms of the Act. Furthermore, no
adoption order shall take effect until the expiration of one year
after the making of the foster care order. This is to ensure that
there is sufficient time for the child to recover from the trauma.
A tragedy of such large scale would naturally attract criminal
elements as well. Thus, it became necessary to enhance the
punishments specified in the Penel Code in respect of certain
categories of offences relating to property. This is incorporated in
Pat VI where the penal sanctions were doubled.
The above are briefly the provisions in the Tsunami (Special
Provisions) Act. This law was passed after the event. The Sri Lanka
Disaster Management Act which was in the Bill form in 2003 and
approved by the Supreme Court in that year subject to certain
alterations was not presented to Parliament and came up for
determination before the Supreme Court again in 2005.
It was finally passed in March, 2005. It is relevant to note that
had this law been in operation prior to tsunami of 2004 there would
have been in place National Disaster Management plan which would
have covered the tsunami as well. The Supreme Court in its
subsequent determination has specifically referred to this
unfortunate omission", the Attorney General said.