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Friday, August 08, 2014 - 7.00 GMT
No double standards in application of environmental justice - President Mahinda Rajapaksa

‘Sri Lanka ready to support judicial capacity building is SAARC region on Environmental Justice and Rule of Law’’

 

Environmental Justice, which includes environmental rule of law, is of fundamental importance to all countries and there must never be, double standards in the application and interpretation of laws by courts and international organizations. So said President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the Third South Asian Chief Justices Roundtable on Environmental Justice, jointly hosted by Sri Lanka and the Asian Development Bank, held at the Central Bank Auditorium this morning (August 8).

“It is a matter of grave concern and much regret that we are witnessing today 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. “This situation also 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.”

The President said there appears to be an urgent need to accelerate progress in strengthening judicial knowledge and competence in environmental rule of law, in the SAARC region. “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 and ADB and other competent organizations, to initiate and coordinate judicial capacity building activities within the SAARC region, in this subject area of Environmental Justice and Rule of Law. “

“Environmental Justice, which includes environmental rule of law, is the other aspect of your deliberations here. This is of fundamental importance to all countries. This notion comprises a complex, inter-linked bundle of fundamental ideas and principles including, equality before the law, access to legal process, accountability, transparency, equity, fairness and justice,” President Rajapaksa said.

The full text of the speech:

I am very pleased to welcome you all to Sri Lanka for the Third South Asian Chief Justices Roundtable on Environmental Justice, jointly hosted by Sri Lanka and the Asian Development Bank. I extend to the Asian Development Bank my sincere appreciation for taking the lead in facilitating judiciaries in South Asia to actively engage in promoting Environmental Justice and Sustainable Green Development in Asia, through the series of Judicial Roundtables that they are helping to organize in several Asian countries.

The theme of your Conference is Environmental Justice for Sustainable Green Development. The environment touches almost every aspect of life, of all people. It is an essential part of the heritage of mankind. The judiciary plays a decisive role in establishing a delicate balance between competing interests of the three dimensions of sustainable development, namely, environment, development and social progress.

Environmental Justice, which includes environmental rule of law, is the other aspect of your deliberations here. This is of fundamental importance to all countries. This notion comprises a complex, inter-linked bundle of fundamental ideas and principles including, equality before the law, access to legal process, accountability, transparency, equity, fairness and justice.
It also includes another very fundamental principle of equal importance. That is, that there must be consistency and evenness in the application of international and national laws. This means that there cannot be, and must never be, double standards in the application and interpretation of laws by Courts and international organizations. It is a matter of grave concern and much regret that we are witnessing today 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. This situation also 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.

The consequence of such unjust and unfair actions can only be the absolute negation of Justice and the Rule of Law , and complete loss of faith and trust in the international system of justice. This has to be avoided in the interest of international peace, security and friendly relations among states. Your Conference provides a timely opportunity to deliberate on these matters and set up a mechanism to establish generally acceptable rules to compel consistency and evenness in the application of international and national laws, and norms. Justice and the Rule of Law, demand no less, dear friends.

Protecting the environment for present and future generations is an obligation shared by all governments whether big or small, rich or poor. Of equal importance is the obligation of governments especially in developing countries like Sri Lanka to enhance the quality and standards of living of the vast majority of our people. This is crucial for securing the stability and sustainability of social and political institutions throughout the world. This is now universally recognized and enshrined in the legal principle, “Common but differentiated responsibility”.

It is self-evident that there cannot be sustainable development, without due regard to the environment. Equally true is that there will not be an environment to protect and preserve, for future generations, if there is no economic and social development, and people continue to suffer in poverty and misery.

Judges at national level too have to grapple with these complex and multi-faceted challenges of environmental rule of law on a daily basis in their respective courts. Yet, we know very well that very few of them, if any, have had Environmental Law as a part of their curriculum, in their formal legal education. As you know, a rapidly growing body of jurisprudence has been developed in the last two or three decades, around the area of environmental rule of law.

This has made it necessary, for judges and others engaged in the making and enforcement of laws, to be familiar with emerging legal concepts and principles, and the terminology concerning the environment, ecology and related scientific disciplines. In addition, they need to have a thorough understanding of the precise legal meanings that these terms have acquired through their use of multi-lateral environmental agreements, statutes, regulations and judicial decisions.

It is in this context that Judges throughout the world have acknowledged at global and regional judicial conferences, the urgent need for measures to strengthen the capacity of judicial officers on this relatively new body of environmental law, interpreted within the broader framework of sustainable development, and the rule of law.

There appears to be an urgent need to accelerate progress in strengthening judicial knowledge and competence in environmental rule of law, in the SAARC region. 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 and ADB and other competent organizations, to initiate and coordinate judicial capacity building activities within the SAARC region, in this subject area of Environmental Justice and Rule of Law.

I should also like to take this opportunity to remind you that your conference is being held in this excellent Conference Hall which itself is, to us, a sad reminder of the horrible agony and destruction of a war that engulfed our nation for some thirty years. This building and its state-of-the art conference facilities have come up from the ashes of the Central Bank Building which was destroyed by LTTE suicide bombers in January 1996, killing about 91 innocent civilians and seriously injuring over one thousand four hundred others.

You can see for yourself, how the country and its people of all faiths and ethnic origins live in peace and harmony today. The war against terrorism ended just five years ago. That is when the Sri Lankan armed forces, overcame the resistance of the terrorist leadership, while saving the lives of nearly Three Hundred Thousand innocent men, women and children, held as a human shield by the terrorists in a last-ditch stand to save themselves.

Since then, the country has marched forward with an economic and social development programme founded on the principles of sustainable development on a scale and spread, never seen in the history of our country in modern times. Highways, including the one that brought you to Colombo from the airport, roads, bridges, rail roads, an international airport at Mattala in the deep south and a new Port in Magampura in close proximity, to one of the busiest international shipping lanes of the world, have dramatically increased international and national mobility, which is essential to usher in a better future for all our people.

Those of you, who have visited Colombo before, will now see the new face of Colombo, signalling a wave of sustainable urban development across the country. I sincerely hope that all of you will have the opportunity to travel within and outside Colombo and see for yourself the nation’s economic, social and environmental progress achieved since the end of the war against terrorism, five years ago.

Dear friends, I wish you every success in your deliberations and a very pleasant stay in Sri Lanka.

Thank you.

 


 


 

 
 
   
   
     
   
   

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