30 May, 2023


‘Social Justice To All’ – Far From Reality; Elusive To The Majority

By Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

“The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right he claims for himself” ~Robert G. Ingersoll

The World Day of Social Justice, which falls on February 20th, annually reminds a rapidly polarizing world that society must be based on social justice, a respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms—and on the right to social protection for all. Social Justice is at the core of the global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the ILO of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization was just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work. The failure to actively pursue social justice is not without consequences. From the comprehensive global perspective shaped by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, neglect of the pursuit of social justice in all its dimensions translates into de facto acceptance of a future marred by violence, repression and chaos.

It is relevant to quote what Leonardo Boff, Brazilian Theologian & Human Rights Activist (1938) said, which aptly sums up the state of the world today. ‘Today social justice represents one of the most serious challenges to the conscience of the world. The abyss between those who are within the world ‘order’ and those who are excluded is widening day by day. The use of leading-edge technologies has made it possible to accumulate wealth in a way that is fantastic but perverse because it is unjustly distributed. Twenty-percent of humankind control eighty percent of all means of life. That fact creates a dangerous imbalance in the movement of history’.

Social justice is based on notions of equality and equal opportunity in society. It focuses on the full and equal participation of all citizens in economic, social and political aspects of the nation. Social justice can also refer to advantages and disadvantages distributed in a society. It derives its authority from the codes of morality in each culture and differs from culture to culture. United Nation’s objectives of social justice policies include social, economic and cultural rights, including right to an adequate standard of living; right to work and equal pay for equal work; right to education; and right of minorities to enjoy their own religion, language and culture. Social justice is required, desired, and talked about for human dignity, peace, and progress, but at the same time it is so widely missing in the management of societies in the present world. The likely reasons for the absence of this social justice is the formation of social structures, cultures, and life styles based on wrong founding elements.

In today’s context, human rights has been engraved in people’s minds to such an extent, that there is a common misconception that human dignity can only be achieved through human rights alone. This is however not true as there are other conduits as well especially in the contexts of other non-Western cultures. Two scholars Naim and Deng states, ‘Concepts of human dignity can be expressed by many terms: social justice, dharma, human rights. The particular form in which the international community, under Western influence, has chosen to express human dignity, however, is the concept of human rights’. Social Justice is thus referred to in the present context as ‘the Neglected Offspring of the Modern Human Rights Movement’. Social Justice is also one of the conduits through which human dignity can be achieved. What must however be borne in mind is that these conduits are not mutually exclusive, but complement each other in achieving the ultimate goal: to bring the dignity to the people.

In the modern context, those concerned with social justice see the general increase in income inequality as unjust, deplorable and alarming. It is argued that poverty reduction and overall improvements in the standard of living are attainable goals that would bring the world closer to social justice. However, there is little indication of any real ongoing commitment to address existing inequalities. In today’s world, the enormous gap in the distribution of wealth, income and public benefits is growing ever wider, reflecting a general trend that is morally unfair, politically unwise and economically unsound. Injustices at the international level have produced a parallel increase in inequality between affluent and poor countries.

Indivisibility of Rights and Social Justice in UDHR ! Real or Fictional?

UDHR adopted by UN included civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in an integrated account of human dignity. Then the two foundation Covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) translated UDHR principles into binding international law, almost 20 years later. The two Covenants were a clear manifestation of the ideological debates of the time with the Western countries insisting on freedom, and civil rights while the eastern countries insisted on economic and social rights. They were however adopted simultaneously thanks to a consensus between all the United Nations Member States, which recognised both approaches. Since 1948 and despite proclamations to the contrary, the two sets of rights have been essentially separated ,with the result that civil and political rights have taken Centre stage in the program of human rights globalization. Civil and political rights are still frequently referred to-and in a hierarchical sense, are believed to be-“first generation” rights. Economic, social and cultural rights are considered to be “second generation” rights.

At the domestic level too, the great majority of legal provisions protecting human rights (whether constitutional, legislative or judge-made) address civil and political rights rather than economic, social and cultural rights. This preponderance is most marked regarding Western human rights charters and laws in both civil code and common law jurisdictions. Thus, since the courts of the West have produced the bulk of the case-law on domestic human rights protection, the dominance of civil and political rights is further entrenched.

However, since the Vienna Declaration in 1993 ,which unequivocally affirmed the indivisibility and equal importance of all human rights, there can be little credible basis for asserting that civil and political freedoms are the deserving “core” of the human rights agenda. Since Vienna, outdated arguments regarding the non-justiciability of economic and social rights, their vague or exclusively programmatic nature, and the impossibility of measuring progress have all been significantly eroded through practice. In other words, it makes no sense to provide radically different enforcement regimes for the right to freedom from torture and the right to education. Without respect and remedy for one, the other cannot be protected. The freedom of expression would offer very little meaning where the right to be free from hunger is not subjected to judicial enforcement. 

Developments at the international level including the adoption of the Human Development Index (HDI) and the adoption of the Sustainable Millennium Development Goals (SDGs 2015) further establishes the idea that addressing economic and social rights of people is a core obligation of the state. Providing judicial remedies for these rights is an effective method of giving expression to this obligation.  The newer international human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) include civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. These treaties reflect the reality that both sets of rights require protection if human dignity is to be respected.

Sri Lankan Scenario

The Constitution of Sri Lanka has attempted to attune the apparently conflicting claims of socio-economic justice and of individual liberty and fundamental rights by putting some relevant provisions. Most written constitutions of that time however reflected this ‘division’ of human rights as in the case of Sri Lanka (1978) and India (1949). Provisions were made for judicial enforcement of civil and political rights while economic, social and cultural rights were described as Directive Principles of State Policy in both constitutions and thereby the later was relegated to the realm of ‘aspirations’

In Sri Lanka too, a shift is evident over recent times ,in erasing the ‘traditional division of human rights. Economic and social rights were described as justiciable in the Draft Constitution of 2000 and had the support of both the People’s Alliance and the United National Party. The Draft Bill of Rights that was subsequently proposed under President Rajapaksa in 2009 too included the judicial enforcement of economic and social rights. The Sub-Committee report on Fundamental Rights that was submitted to the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly(19 November 2016) provides for, among other things, judicial enforcement of economic and social rights in the proposed constitution. Human Rights Commission of SL proposals to the New Constitution, also emphasized the need to, among other things, recognize the promotion of social justice as a fundamental constitutional principle. It reiterated the importance of incorporating a strong system of checks and balances, including judicial review of legislation to ensure the effective protection of people’s rights

Sri Lanka has been a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) since 1980, when it was ratified by the state. But as stated by the monitoring UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its concluding observations of 2010, “the Covenant has not been given full effect in the domestic legal order and although some of its provisions are justiciable before the Supreme Court, they are rarely invoked.” This is directly relevant for the majority of people in Sri Lanka, as they are confronted with a deficient legal basis and their access to justice is significantly hindered. It also reinforces the necessity of bringing the ICESCR standards into the new constitution.

Of course, there are arguments to the contrary too, as put forth by academics like Razeen Sally. However, it is imperative at look at the ultimate outcome- the distributive justice, as another legal academic Dinesha Samararatne in a recent FT article says. ‘The debate on justiciability of economic and social rights must ultimately deal with the question of distributive justice. Under a self-proclaimed ‘democratic and socialist’ society it is desirable and mandatory that the judiciary must ensure that the state is accountable for the way in which it respects economic and social rights. While being limited in scope, judicial enforcement will have a normative impact on the Executive and Legislative branches of the state and provide more opportunities for citizens to be heard and to participate in processes of resource allocation. Such a constitutional arrangement can qualitatively improve democracy and justice in our society’.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 1

    Social Justice & Equality to All.. Cool words..Aren’t they..

    Where can you find these?.. Not in my mother Lanka for sure.

    A JO member on one of the Constitution Drafting Committees says Srilanka will be the next Lebanon after the Batalanda Constitution kicks in..

    Do the the Lebanese have those Equality & Social Justice?,

    Looks like Mr Hareese’s own even won’t join CM Wigbeswaran to form Eluga Thamiz to receive E & SJ from the ex LTTE Diaspora DIF.

    So the Batti Muslims will be with the rest of the great majority..

    And watching the Elite. Anglicans and the Vellalas in Colombo enjoying E & SJ alongside CM Vigneswaran and his Thamizas in Jaffna, while sending their Fast Food kids to SAITM if they don’t make the cut to be in the real thing.

    Wonder whether Suren will direct some of those Billions to them too.

    Because the Yahapalana Economy must have USD 3,8 Billion to pay the Foreigners in 2019.

    While the rest are running away with their SBs, like the Christian captives in Mosul.

    Or my motherland will be like Greece before it becomes Lebanon.

    • 3

      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      What are you on about?


      Social Justice

      – justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

      • 4

        Luman Harees is muslim. So, of course, Social rights for him is all about Islam and muslim society. He is talking about how will muslim become the prominent society and how will Islam proliferate in Sinhale, and becomes the prominent religion.

        How about Sinhala buddhist people. Even the JHU is for all the Hela people and not only for buddhists. But muslim parties are ONLY for muslims and Tamil parties are ONLY for Tamils. BBS etc., can not talk about buddhists, it is extremism.

        Muslims don’t have a history more than 1450 years even all over the world. Yet, in Sri lanka, muslims have already destroyed the Sinhala buddhist culture by taking over ancient temple sites, building mosques adjacent to temples in prominently buddhist cities (that is intrusion). They have done the same thing in India too.

        Another thing I observe every time is, when muslims talk they quote from christian values. They don’t talk from their own religion or quran. So, my conclusion is they don’t know any thing about living and letting others live too. therefore, when it goes to their society, they start expanding by erasing the other.

        How do you talk about rights, when you are not ready to “live and let live” and only when you need prominence ?

        • 2

          Muslims don’t have a history more than 1450. So let all BBS terrorists go and burn all Muslim shops. Is 1450 is the cut off time to kill others ?

          • 2

            Muslims buy a piece of garment for 200 Rupees from innocent Sinhalese and sell it in their stores for 2000 Rupees to Sinhalese. Also Muslims are big time TAX dodgers.

            BBS’s primary duty is to make sure that unruly Muslims behave well. In 1915 Muslims started riots by throwing stones at the parade and again in 2014 Muslims started riots by assaulting a Buddhist monk.

            • 4


              I can’t quite get if you’re praising Muslims or Sinhalese in this comment.

              While you’re faking an incident that just happened a few years ago in 2014, how can I trust your words on incidents that happened even before my mother was born?

            • 0

              It’s not only Muslims that mark up goods like that, John. If, indeed, they do. There’s no difference in marketing along ethnic lines. Last year I bought a dress from a popular clothes shop for just over 800/- and was surprised to see the very same line in dresses – style, cloth design and colour, marked at 3,200/- in Odels.

        • 3

          You two Ninnyhammers or Donald Trumps (Jim softy & John),

          Don’t you realize that you both are in fact praising Islam and Muslims? Or trying to get some reader sympathy. Check below:

          “Muslims don’t have a history more than 1450 years”
          Yet, 2nd largest and growing in the US, EU and other places.

          “Yet, in Sri lanka, muslims have already destroyed the Sinhala buddhist culture by taking over ancient temple sites”

          How many? Buddhists being the majority, with extremist elements operating officially, how did this happen?

          Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic religions and founded in the Middle East, both believe in one God and his prophet, so in certain cases we share the same views. And that doesn’t mean I would agree with you since you seem to have very little knowledge about Islam and Muslims with lots of hatred, it is quite possible you’re messing up the facts

          • 0


            If you know how islam soread inthe world, that becomes another story. If you under how islam spread in the western world that is another story.

            In the west, christianity could not fulfill certain needs of people. So, Islam is one religion filling it.

            • 1

              jim softy dimwit

              “In the west, christianity could not fulfill certain needs of people. So, Islam is one religion filling it.”

              Of course is it because Islam allows men to marry seven different child brides all at the same times.

              Why haven’t you converted to Islam?

            • 2

              “fulfill certain needs of people”, Well said Jim Softy, that is one of the good reasons why ‘prominent’ religions grow much faster in the developed world among developed mindsets probably?

              Can’t wait to see SL a developed country.

            • 0

              When people with at least a little bit of common sense and intelligence to read and understand the truth, or to reason, analyze and judge what has been stated in the Holy Quran, they become thoroughly convinced that it must be the word of God. That is the most often quoted as the main reason and motivation, the driving factor to accepting Islam as their religion of choice. It is virtually impossible to convince anyone to convert in any other way, unless it is in their own personal interest and choice. Not by lure of economic benefits nor by threats of annihilation or by forced acceptance against their will. (If that is hat you are trying to imply).

              On the question of Islam fulfilling a basic human need, which the Christian faith has failed to address, I can only presume you are referring to multiple marriages being made permissible for men. Well, what solution does any other religion have for surplus women and if they were married with kids, the welfare of their abandoned children as well. Men can usually survive on their own without a partner, but women cannot. They need to be fed, housed, clothed and protected from the sex hungry wolves around stalking them to satiate their sexual appetites. For this reason, permission has been granted for Muslim men to take a additional wife legally from one of those war widows and to give them a life. There is nothing harmful or wrong in that, except when it is viewed from an angle of vulgarity, jealousy or as sexual misconduct. It is true that this law has also been applied in many other ways too, like when blinded by extra marital love. But this law makes such marriages legal and binding on all parties involved, to accept it, adjust and live with it. When promiscuity and such misconduct happens outside of marriage, it is only then that it becomes obscene, sinful and will be held accountable to both parties in that act. So when it is legalized, why do something illegal. Islam has the solution for all the problems of the world.

      • 0

        Dear Native,

        So S J is all that..You are brilliant..

        No wonder your Diaspora mate Singapore forked out LKR 6,6 Mil for just one suit to deliver T Bonds to Yahapalana suckers.

        And your other mate Galleon is distributing even more now, to other Diasporians

        Not cash though, but more valuable Mahavmsa Land which is appreciating at a great rate of knots under Yahapalanaya.

        Asking price for a 3 Bedder in Nancy Towers is LKR 27 mil.

        Privileged must be galore in Wellala gardens,

        Or is it the migrants from the ex LTTE Diaspora..

        • 1

          KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

          “Asking price for a 3 Bedder in Nancy Towers is LKR 27 mil.”

          Who wants to live in the concrete jungle unless of course crooks want to entertain fellow crooks in expensive enclosure of just walls?

  • 0

    The merger of the North and East is considered important by the Eastern Tamils because it helps them face the Muslims who tend to dominate them economically and politically. If the East were to be merged with the North, the Tamils will be in an overwhelming majority and can run the province as per their wish, and also bargain with Colombo more effectively for more powers.

  • 0

    Dear JS.I thought that you have already dead and your burial took place long time ago in Colombo Kanatha burial ground with all hate speach about Muslims of SL…you are really Donald Trump of SL…your hate of Muslim community is not a new one. Since CT started in you have been taking about ilsma and Muslim with your ignorance..
    What did Islam to do you to speak about about it …you hails from family of hatred ..it is in your gens to hate and spread hated …once you are dead you will feel tand see what mistake you have done..of course you do not belive in next life as Muslim and Christian do…but you think that you will be dust in matter of days and your soul will turn into animals..of course with hatred you may incarnate into some form of animals…

  • 0

    Well under this government some people get social justice,


    The new lot seem to be enjoying tax payers money just like the old lot?

    “it is said that Mrs. Fonseka has purchased a Mitsubishi Montero luxury jeep with a monthly leasing instalment of Rs.255,784, which is a clear violation of the rule.”

    “Mrs Fonseka visited America for some work involving the Senehasa children’s home. For that she has claimed 1.6 Million rupees from the Ranaviru Seva Authority.”

    Should we not file a freedom of information application to find out what Anoma did with 1.6M in US?

    When some people faced with misfortunes get humbled by their experiences and correct their ways. Truly that does not seem to be the case with her!

    Why on earth poor soldiers money wasted like this? There are plenty retired army personnel who would do this for free!

    People will think twice when they donate to these funds and knowing where they end up!

    • 1


      “Well under this government some people get social justice,”

      You mean free rice from moon?

      Or did you mean Mahinda hosting journalists to lavish five star breakfast?

      Or his generosity towards his MP’s more than 100 ministers with all perk and absolute power.

      Or bus loads of paid rent a mob attending rallies.

  • 0

    Recently Mrs. Fonseka visited America for some work involving the Senehasa children’s home. For that she has claimed 1.6 Million rupees from the Ranaviru Seva Authority. This is a clear example of misusing state funds. The affairs of the military are decided by a committee headed by the President as the Defence Minister.

    Above is corruption. Using charity funds to visit daughters saying it is for children. that is cheap.

    Anoma Fonseka has been accused of violating a circular issued by the Finance Ministry which had prohibited the chairpersons of all government institutions from exceeding the monthly lease amount of Rs.119,500 when purchasing a vehicle for their use under leasing contracts. However, it is said that Mrs. Fonseka has purchased a Mitsubishi Montero luxury jeep with a monthly leasing instalment of Rs.255,784, which is a clear violation of the rule.

    This is also corruption. IT uis like saying if I don’t have a super luxury car, I can spread democracy – Rajitha Senarathen.

    It is working like RATS.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.