Colombo 2001

The CLEA conference took place at the Ceylon Continental Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka between 18-20 December 2001. The conference, which attracted wide media coverage, was opened by the Hon. Sarath N Silva, Chief Justice of Sri Lanka. The number of participants exceeded expectations and it was very encouraging to have a mixture of “grey beards” (I’m not sure of the female equivalent) and younger academics. The conference was superbly organised by a team from the Sri Lanka College headed by Joe Silva.

The keynote address entitled “Much More than Law: The Law Curriculum for the 21st Century” was given by Neil Gold of the University of Windsor, Canada. Neil is a former CLEA Executive Committee member and it was a great pleasure to welcome him back. Eight plenary session were held with papers being presented on the following topics: Human Rights; Clinical Legal Education; Ethics and Professionalism; Information Technology; Criminal Law; Intellectual Property; Environmental Law; Banking Law. The edited papers will be published later in the year. A General Meeting of the Association took place during the conference. The Minutes are provided below for information.


  • Invite Canada to host the next CLEA conference in 2003
  • Maintain the Commonwealth Law Students Mooting Competition as an integral part of the activities of the Association
  • Establish a Commonwealth-wide group on Environmental Justice tasked with developing an appropriate model curriculum for the Commonwealth and relevant materials.
  • Establish a Commonwealth-wide group on Industrial Law/Labour Law tasked with developing a model curriculum for the Commonwealth and relevant materials.
  • Establish a Roman-Dutch law group
  • Establish a Sri Lanka branch of the CLEA
  • Hold a legal education seminar in Pakistan towards the end of 2002
  • Hold a training session for the South Asia region on the transnational crime curriculum in Sri Lanka during the second half of 2002 or early 2003
  • Establish a medico-legal research project based at the University of Natal


The session on curriculum development raised some key issues as to the way forward for the Association and Commonwealth law schools. Three issues in particular were highlighted:

(1)   The need for the Association to encourage law schools to develop curricula for the 21st century. In addition to those areas already being addressed, i.e. transnational crime/anti terrorism law; human rights; and environmental justice, it was suggested that consideration should be given to developing work in the following areas: (i) Law and Poverty; (ii) Labour Law; (iii) Law and Health; and (iv) Rights of Women.

(2)   The need to accommodate new areas in the law curriculum without “impossibly overloading” students. It was suggested that there is a need to examine core subjects and consider what really are the basic areas that are fundamental to the subject and which might be dropped (or at least given less emphasis) to make room for the new areas.

(3)   Pedagogy: It is just as important to consider the methods of teaching as to re-consider the formal curriculum.


The Commonwealth Law Lecture delivered during the conference was by Judge C.G. Weeramantry, former Vice-President and present Judge Ad Hoc of the International Court of Justice. His topic was “Legal Education without Frontiers”.  The lecture, which was chaired by the CLEA “roving representative” Laksman Marasinghe, attracted a very large audience, many of whom went on to enjoy the 30th Anniversary Dinner of the Association.


Volume 1 of the new journal of the Association was launched at the conference.


The Colloquium on Roman-Dutch Law was attended by members of the Sri Lanka judiciary, legal practitioners, law teachers from the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo, teachers from the Sri Lanka Law College, members of the Sri Lanka British Law Graduates Association, South African law teachers and law teachers from other parts of the Commonwealth.

The meeting agreed to an open agenda and began with a short introduction by George Devenish (University of Natal, South Africa) on the important contribution that Roman-Dutch law has made to the development of international law.  The Deputy-Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, the Honourable Mr Justice Amerasinghe mentioned that Roman-Dutch law was alive and well in Sri Lanka and that he had recently decided an Appeal Court succession case solely on the basis of Roman-Dutch law principles.  David McQuoid-Mason then gave a brief overview of some of the more recent developments under the Roman-Dutch law actio injuriarum and how South Africa’s new Constitution was impacting on the Roman-Dutch law principles. The law teachers from Sri Lanka said that it was unfortunate that although the Sri Lankan courts often referred to South African judgments on aspects of Roman-Dutch law the converse was not true.  Discussion followed on how the South African legal practitioners and courts could be made aware of the rich field of Sri Lankan Roman-Dutch jurisprudence that existed. A number of suggestions were made including the introduction of exchange programmes between Sri Lanka and South African academics and exchanges of law reports, law journals and books between the countries.

A number of other practical issues were raised at the Colloquium including the difficulty of ordering books from South African publishers; the need for law teachers in cognate Roman-Dutch law courses in Sri Lanka and South Africa to interact with each other; the possibility of teaching exchange programmes between law teachers in Sri Lanka and South Africa; the use of law teachers in Sri Lanka and South Africa as external examiners for post-graduate theses in the two countries; the extension of invitations to Sri Lankan law teachers to attend the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa congresses; the mounting of appropriate LLM programmes for students and staff from Roman-Dutch law jurisdictions in Sri Lanka and South Africa (e.g. advanced comparative courses in delict, contract, property, family law and succession); the possibility of  holding Roman-Dutch colloquia every two years alternatively in South Africa and Sri Lanka; the feasibility of engaging in joint research projects (e.g. a Restatement of the Law of Delict in Roman-Dutch Law); the possibility of South African law schools donating their recently discarded editions of Roman-Dutch law text books to the law faculties and law schools in Sri Lanka; and the possibility of making the South African law reports available on line using a system similar to AUSLII.

Professor McQuoid-Mason undertook to contact the South African publishers and to ask them to liaise directly with the Faculty of Law at Colombo University and the Sri Lankan Law College. He also undertook to investigate whether the South African Department of Foreign Affairs could assist with the shipping of second-hand law books donated to law schools and faculties in Sri Lanka. Some of the other issues could be taken up by the Sri Lankan branch of CLEA (which was due to be formed after the Conference) and the Southern African Chapter of CLEA.

Comments are closed.