Cablegate: Mission Recommends Alternate Organization For

Published: Mon 7 Jul 2003 11:05 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Mission recommends alternate organization for
implementing judicial reform grant
Refs: 02 Colombo 2110, and previous
1. This is an action request. Please see Para 6.
2. SUMMARY: The judicial reform project to
increase the capacity of courts in Sri Lanka's war-torn
north and east, as well as administer legal aid to those
affected communities, has been only partially
successful. The portion of the grant related to
equipment purchase for the courts has gone smoothly.
The organization designated to provide legal aid
services has caused Mission to doubt their ability to
fully undertake the task. Mission requests a
redirection of remaining funds to another organization
more capable of completing the required activities.
received a USD 250,000 grant from DRL to address
judicial reform and provide legal aid in the north and
east of Sri Lanka, where the court system has been
devastated due to three decades of ethnic conflict. The
grant had two discrete tasks: purchase and deliver
equipment to enable functioning of courts in the north
and east and setup and equip a Colombo-based office to
administer judicial reform projects, beginning with
legal assistance to vulnerable populations in conflict
affected areas. The Sri Lanka National Commission of
Jurists (SNCJ) was the local non-governmental
organization (NGO) awarded the grant for carrying out
the second goal of the grant -- providing legal aid. In
an effort to enable the SNCJ to demonstrate capacity,
the second part of the grant was divided into two parts
of office setup and program development.
4. CURRENT STATUS OF EFFORTS: The first goal of
the project is nearing completion. Court equipment has
been purchased and Mission is making final arrangements
to present the items to the Ministry of Justice.
Regarding the SNCJ's tenure, however, the organization
has demonstrated a lack of capacity in being unable to
carry out the first part of its grant. The SNCJ was
given ample time to establish and equip an office in
Colombo. During this time frame, Mission has observed
that the SNCJ has been unable to undertake basic
management tasks, make decisions in a timely fashion,
hire responsible staff, or prove fiscal management
competency. These actions have cast doubt on the SNCJ's
ability to effectively plan and budget for implementing
legal aid programs on behalf of the disaffected
communities in the north and east.
5. RECOMMENDED NEXT STEPS: In assessing the
situation, Mission has determined that redirecting the
remaining funds, for program planning, to another
organization will allow for more efficient utilization
of the funds as well as having the greatest impact in
delivering legal aid. After a careful review of capable
organizations, Mission recommends that the government-
funded Legal Aid Commission receive the funds to
complete the second task of providing legal aid. By
working with this public statutory body, Mission will be
able to have both a short- and long-term impact on rule
of law issues in Sri Lanka. Given the Legal Aid
Commission's current organization to be able to engage
lawyers in all court centers, the grant money will
immediately enhance their efforts. Over the long-term,
Mission will be able to develop a relationship with the
government, building within the GSL a positive focus on
human rights and rule of law issues. This relationship
will augment Mission's current USAID Democracy and
Governance programs.
6. ACTION REQUEST: Mission requests that remaining
funds be reprogrammed to the Legal Aid Commission to
complete the tasks set forth in the judicial reform
7. COMMENT: Given the desire to aid vulnerable
communities in the north and east and be consistent with
the spirit of the grant, Mission believes that endowing
a different organization with the funding to carry out
legal aid activities will have the most impact. With
many international donors providing significant funding
to local NGOs, Mission would like to use this
opportunity to build a sustainable relationship with the
government, supporting its efforts to address the needs
of its people. END COMMENT.
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