July 12, 2022

Laws that govern Funeral Endowment Societies in Sri Lanka

The designation of the Divisional Secretary was earlier known as District Revenue Officer. It was a position that carried somewhat greater authority and powers than that of a Divisional Secretary. This rank in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service was eliminated after the 70s. It was converted to Assistant Government Agent, and later it became “Divisional Secretary.”

As denoted by the position title- DRO (District Revenue Officer), had authority over matters related to finances. Accordingly, Funeral Endowment Societies are also subject to the jurisdiction of those officers as the Divisional Secretaries of the relevant divisions regulate the Funeral Endowment Societies. There is a reason for this. All Funeral Endowment Societies collect money. Since these Societies engage in fundraising, and since they are public bodies by their nature, they come under the direct supervision of the Divisional Secretary.

Therefore, all Funeral Endowment Societies in the Division must be registered at the Divisional Secretariat.

Due to the financial policy that is prevalent in Sri Lanka, any institution other than banks or reputed financial institutions are subject to direct regulation by the government if they are engaged in fundraising activities. Therefore, over 25,000 Funeral Endowment Societies that operate in Sri Lanka must be registered at their respective Divisional Secretariats.

In order to register, the Funeral Endowment Societies must collect an application form from the Divisional Secretary, and submit the filled application form along with the constitution of the Society and a certificate from the Grama Niladhari to the Divisional Secretary.

All Funeral Endowment Societies:

  1. are governed by a constitution;
  2. have office bearers; and
  3. must submit their accounts and reports under the supervision of the Divisional Secretariat.

All other matters of the Society are governed by the constitution. The constitution of the Society should be appropriate, as it will have to be registered at an important government office. Such an association which is registered with the government, cannot violate the Constitution of the country.  Such Funeral Endowment Societies are not public or private. Therefore, there should not be any clause that supersedes or violates the law of the country, or violates the Constitution of the country. The Divisional Secretary must ensure that it is so. In particular, there cannot be Funeral Endowment Societies that are exclusive to one ethnic group, religion or language. A Grama Niladhari Division can have more than one Funeral Endowment Societies but the constitutions of these societies cannot have any clause that violates the Constitution of the country.

I am aware of instances in which certain Funeral Endowment Societies had to be tamed by filing cases to terminate them because they were limiting membership to a single religion or they were excluding others from membership. If you are aware of any Funeral Endowment Society in your area that is not registered with the Divisional Secretary, you can petition to the Divisional Secretariat. Then, the DS will have to conduct an investigation into the matter. The Grama Niladhari too will have to look into it.

Furthermore, secretaries, presidents and especially treasurers cannot be allowed to continue bearing offices for extended time periods. If you are aware of such instances, you must inform the Divisional Secretary. 

Conduct that is unsuitable to the law of the country as well as democracy, should not be condoned within Funeral Endowment Societies. If this happens, you can file a case against it. By allowing such things to happen, you could be fostering thieves in your village.

If you were dismissed from a Funeral Endowment Society for some reason that is unfair, you can complain regarding the matter to the Divisional Secretary immediately. If the constitution of the Funeral Endowment Society is unlawful or violates democracy, you can lodge a complaint or file a case. In some Societies, illegal activities are carried out if this happens, you can lodge a complaint with the Police. 

Funeral Endowment Societies in Sri Lanka are in possession of extensive funds. These should be properly regulated. If not, it could lead to the creation of thieves.

Did you look in to the Funeral Endowment Society in your village?

By: Lakshan Dias, Attorney at Law

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