Sri Lanka: focus on CEJ
The Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) was formed in January 2004 and became a member of the Friends of the Earth federation in late 2008. CEJ strives to promote environmental good governance and environmental justice within the country. As the leading environmental law group in Sri Lanka, CEJ works as a public interest environmental organization to engage in environmental campaigning and legal advocacy nation-wide.
CEJ also uses its "Mihithalaya" Radio programme to "promote [the] rule of law" and "educat[e] people on the new environmental laws and how they can benefit from the laws and the court system." CEJ's lawyers and scientists respond to people's questions on the live program supported by the World Justice Project.
Hemantha hopes that its new membership status within the FoE network will "strengthen [its] positions" and help it "assist local communities and protect their rights in Sri Lanka."
CEJ's overall vision is "justice for all." It strives to "protect
the equal environmental rights of the people and promote ecological
sustainability by supporting ecologically sound community activities."
Some of its major objectives are:
- To sharpen the public debate on environmental justice and good governance
- To promote ecologically sustainable development and environmentally responsible communities
- To safeguard nature and people from environmentally & socially irresponsible activities and human rights violations
- To promote community participation in decision making on natural resource
- To promote Environmental Justice and equity through legal and other means
Since its founding, CEJ has filed many cases promoting the public's interest:
- The Genetically Modified Food Regulations Case forced the investigation of the availability of Genetically Modified/Engineered Food in the market
- The Coastal Conservation Case fought for the right of the public to have access to and to use and enjoy the country's coastal zones
- The Bundala Case pushed for a national policy and regulations to protect the country's wetlands
- The Sand Dunes Case sought to prevent the activities taking place in violation of the Provisions of Mines and Minerals Act taking place in the region of the Kalpitiya Peninsula
- The Deduru Oya Case fought for the end of unlawful sand mining
in the areas of Deduru Oya in the North Western Province which were
causing significant harm to the environment as well as to the local
- The Elephants' Policy Case pushed for the formulation of a National Policy for the Conservation of Wild Elephants in Sri Lanka
CEJ continues to fight for environmental justice and currently has several pending cases. They are currently working on GM food labeling, climate governance, fighting against water privatization and number of other issues.
Hemantha says that the biggest obstacle is the lack of environmental law enforcement within Sri Lanka. He hopes that in the future they are able to see "that all people equally share the environmental resources as well as burdens." He also hopes that in the next 20 years "everybody will understand the unequal distribution of environmental impacts and fight for justice."
Before founding CEJ, Hemantha was part of the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), a non-profit public interest law group whose mission is to promote conservation within Sri Lanka. While at EFL, he served as the environmental officer, senior environmental scientist and the executive director of the organization.
Currently, he is a member of the Environmental Law Alliance-Worldwide (ELAW), a network of public interest attorneys, scientists, and other advocates around the world.