Bureaucratic inefficiency or negligence on the part of the Justice Ministry or the Economic Development Ministry had resulted in Sri Lanka losing a US grant equivalent to Rs.450 million.
It was to be given for the purpose of upgrading the country’s judicial system by bringing it on par with modern technology and prevent legal delays.
The US grant has been withdrawn because an agreement could not be reached with government officials.
A US Embassy spokesman confirmed the withdrawal of the grant.
“The grant had to be suspended as we could not reach an agreement with the Sri Lankan government authorities. The grant is aimed at promoting the effectiveness of the judiciary,” he said.
The US grant was meant to develop a number of key projects planned to promote effectiveness of the judicial system, which included judicial and non-judicial training, the promotion of efficiency of the judicial process, introduce the latest technology on note taking and stenography so that the judicial procedure could be accelerated.
Among the proposed programmes to be conducted using the grant were judicial training where judges are trained on writing judgments and introduce distant learning programmes using video conference facilities for judges. Three centres were to be established in Jaffna, Galle and Kandy so that judges in those areas would not need to travel to Colombo.
Another major project that was planned was to upgrade the Government Analyst Department and introduce facilities for DNA analysis and research. A large number of criminal cases and trials are delayed due to the lack of facilities in the GA’s Department. An exchange programme where Sri Lankan judges could go to the United States and get experience was another aim of the project.
When inquired by the Daily Mirror, Justice Ministry Secretary Kamalini de Silva said the US grant would be reformulated although it had been withdrawn.
“The grant was to be given under access to justice programme and it was to be used for judicial and non-judicial training among other programmes,” she explained.
However Ms. Silva said even though the Justice Ministry was the beneficiary, the Economic Development Ministry as the line ministry was handling the discussion with regard to the grant.
Meanwhile the US Embassy reconfirmed that the grant had been withdrawn and ruled out any possibility of reformulation.
“We can’t speculate on a future grant,” the embassy spokesman said. (Susitha R. Fernando)