The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has made a budgetary allocation to facilitate legal research and to establish a unit for such research in its Budget proposals for 2016. In acting in accordance with this decision, the Ministry has expressed interest in partnering with the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo. Accordingly, initial meeting between Ministry of Justice and the University of Colombo was held on 11/02/2016 at the Ministry.
It was proposed to establish a new unit for the said purpose in partnership with the law teaching state funded institutions in Sri Lanka with the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo being the lead partner. State funded universities are established under the Universities Act of Sri Lanka on the basis of academic freedom and autonomy.
The objectives of the independent unit, housed in the University, would include:
- Engaging in multi-disciplinary and cutting edge research regarding the law that will strengthen the law reform initiatives of the State;
- Providing a platform for collaboration nationally among the different state funded law teaching institutions and also between government agencies and state universities;
- Facilitating regional and international initiatives that can strengthen legal research, advocacy and law reform; and
- Providing independent and evidence based consultancy services for state agencies in relation to law and policy.
- Law reform is an urgent need in Sri Lanka. For instance, legislation enacted during the Colonial era requires revision; several laws require revision in light of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law; and legislation is required to regulate new areas and to give effect to new policies.
- State commitment to funding independent academic research is widely recognized as essential for the progress of society. The availability of funds from non-state actors for academic research, particularly in the field of law, in Sri Lanka is primarily determined according to agendas identified by donor agencies. State funding is therefore essential to support independent research in autonomous academic institutions.
- Relevant expertise for such legal research and multi-disciplinary research is available in the State funded universities in Sri Lanka. Law academics with expertise in different aspects of the law are well positioned to carry out multi-disciplinary studies with experts from other fields such as Economics, Sociology, Information Technology and Medicine. Such academics are expected to make a contribution to national initiatives such as the current initiative under consideration. Therefore the proposed unit will provide opportunities for them to make such contributions.
- At present there no mechanisms through which Government agencies can access legal research carried out at the university level. The institutionalization of a partnership between universities and Government agencies will facilitate the sharing of research work being carried out in general at state universities. It will also create new opportunities to link academic learning and research with practice due to the institutionalized engagement with government agencies.
Colombo University as Partner
- State universities that provide legal education specialize in legal research. Therefore these institutions are extremely well placed to facilitate the objective of developing legal research particularly towards law reform. Universities are expected in general to produce new knowledge and disseminate knowledge for social progress in society.
- Universities are currently under resourced due to lack of access to funds. State-state partnership with guaranteed funding for legal research is an urgent need for the meaningful functioning of these institutions.
- The Faculty of Law has the capacity to carry out research and disseminate finding in all three languages since the law is taught in all three languages in the faculty.
- Other state funded law teaching universities will be invited to partner in this proposed initiative. Those institutions are: the Department of Law of the University of Peradeniya, Department of Law of the University of Jaffna, The Open University of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Law College.
- The nature of the partnership will be determined through consultation with representatives of the academic institutions.
- Each of these institutions will be able to make a unique contribution to this initiative. For instance the University of Jaffna and the University of Peradeniya are located in the Northern and Central Provinces respectively and will therefore be able to readily facilitate field work, consultation etc. outside of Colombo.
Actions taken to-date:
MOU between the University of Colombo and the Ministry of Justice was signed on 06/10/2016.
02 February 2017