Aug 08, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today said that there must be consistency and evenness in the application of international and national laws and must never be double standards in the application and interpretation of laws by Courts and international organizations.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the Third South Asia Judicial Roundtable on Environmental Justice at the Central Bank Auditorium this morning, the President said it is a matter of grave concern witnessing far too many instances of the "deliberate - even arrogant - violation" of this fundamental principle of justice and the rule of law by some agencies within and outside the United Nations.
He said the situation can be seen to impact on matters relating to environment and sustainable development, especially in the areas of climate change and sustainable use of natural resources.
Pointing out that there is "an urgent need to accelerate progress in strengthening judicial knowledge and competence in environmental rule of law" in the region of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), President Rajapaksa offered Sri Lanka's assistance to set up a special unit to coordinate capacity building activities.
"As a contribution from Sri Lanka towards this noble endeavour, I shall be happy, if you so decide, to provide start-up institutional and financial support to establish a small but efficient entity in the Office of the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka to work with UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] and ADB [Asian Development Bank] and other competent organisations, to initiate and coordinate judicial capacity building activities within the SAARC region, in this subject area of Environmental Justice and Rule of Law," the President said.
The Roundtable, taking place in Colombo today and tomorrow (Aug. 9) under the theme
"Environmental Justice for Sustainable Green Development," is jointly organized by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and the ADB.
It brings together chief justices, judges and legal experts from throughout the SAARC region, experts from UNEP and the ADB, and other specialists in the field.
In his remarks, President Rajapaksa highlighted the role that the judiciary plays in upholding the balance between competing interests toward sustainable development and stressed the need to prevent double standards in the application of laws.
"There must be consistency and evenness in the application of international and national laws," the President said.
"This means that there cannot be, and must never be, double standards in the application and interpretation of laws by courts and international organizations," he said.
The first Roundtable took place in 2012 in Bhurban, Pakistan, and resulted in the Burbhan Declaration with pledges for an educated judiciary and specialized courts. The second Roundtable took place last year in Thimphu, Bhutan, and produced the Thimphu Declaration on Enhancing Environmental Justice in South Asia. This Conference is expected to produce the Colombo Declaration.
The full text of the speech
(Photos by Sudath Silva)