Lunchtime Seminar: Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne Institute for Constitutional Studies (Colombo)

16 October 2012

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A Political Solution to the Ethnic Conflict in Post-war Sri Lanka

While Tamil separatists have been militarily defeated, the search for a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka continues with no immediate prospects of an agreement, due to extremist pressure and lack of political will.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by the Government has stated that a political solution is imperative to address the causes of the conflict. It said that the Government must take the initiative to have a serious and structured dialogue with all political parties, and those representing the minorities in particular, based on a proposal containing the Government's own thinking on the form and content of the dialogue process envisaged. Any devolutionary or power sharing mechanism, the LLRC stated, should be realized within the broad framework of a sovereign and multi-ethnic Sri Lankan State. Maximum devolution of meaningful powers to the periphery is essential and there should also be power-sharing at the centre. There should also be inbuilt mechanisms that would effectively address and discourage secessionist tendencies and safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the State.

No serious proposals for the resolution of the conflict have emanated from the Government. Compounding the situation are serious issues of governance, a strong executive presidency without effective safeguards and waning respect for the rule of law. Today, the resolution of the ethnic crisis has become a part of a wider struggle for democratic governance.


Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne counts over 34 years as a legal practitioner in Sri Lanka and specializes in constitutional law, human rights, administrative law and criminal law. In 2001, he was appointed President's Counsel, equivalent to Queen's Counsel in England. He holds a Master's degree in Public Administration and was awarded the Ph. D. degree for his thesis titled "Fundamental Rights in Sri Lanka". The thesis was published in 1996 with a second edition in 2006. He served as Consultant, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and also as Senior Advisor, Ministry of Constitutional Affairs in Sri Lanka. Dr. Wickramaratne was a member of the Government's Constitution Drafting Team that drafted the Constitution Bill of 2000. He was also a member of the panel of experts appointed by the President to service the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and was a signatory to the "majority report" which proposed a strong power-sharing arrangement as a solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis. He chaired a committee appointed by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights to draft a new constitutional Bill of Rights.

Dr. Wickramaratne has done several assignments for UNDP, UNODC, EU and Sida in the Lao PDR relating to law reform, human rights, criminal justice, human trafficking, international law, capacity building etc. He is a Director of the Institute for Constitutional Studies, a non-governmental organization working on constitutional issues including constitutionalism, devolution, power-sharing and human rights.

Dr. Wickramaratne has written extensively on issues relating to power-sharing, human rights and other constitutional issues and presented numerous papers at international and local events.


Dr Sarah Williams is a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Sarah was the Dorset Fellow in Public International Law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (from 2008 - 2010), a Senior Legal Researcher at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (from 2006 - 2007) and a Lecturer at Durham Law School, University of Durham (from 2003 - 2008). Sarah has also practised as a commercial solicitor in London and Sydney.

Sarah has acted as a consultant to the European Commission, the British Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. Sarah is currently the co-editor of the PIL Current Developments section of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

Her main research areas include international law, in particular international criminal law, international humanitarian law and the law on the use of force. Sarah's book, on Internationalized Criminal Tribunals (Hart Publishing)was published in 2012.

This event is presented by the Sydney Centre for International Law.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this seminar is equal to 1 MCLE/CPD unit.

Time: 1-2pm

Location: Common Room, Level 4, Sydney Law School, Building F10, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Cost: Free, registration essential

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: 9351 0323

Email: 250f145c101a210f0e00175c1e3525563e180f0133650d1c