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Seven distinguished legal luminaries remembered

The Bench and Bar paid tribute to seven distinguished members of the Inner Bar at a reference at a special ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court yesterday morning.

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC addressing the senior and junior members of the Official Bar, Unofficial Bar and the family members of the late distinguished members of the Inner Bar said, ďOn behalf of the Bench I wish to associate myself with the respectful reference made to the memory of seven distinguished members of the Inner Bar whose demise we record today with gratitude and sadness.

They have all, in their respective ways, contributed much to the activity of the Bar and have served the profession with distinction and dedication.

The other Supreme Court Judges who associated with the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC, were Justice Dr. Shirani Banadaranayake, Justice Nihal Jayasinghe, Justice Shiranee Tillekewardena, Justice Nimal Gamini Amaratunga, Justice Andrew Somawansa and Justice Jagath Balpatabendi.

President of the Court of Appeal, other Judges of the Court of Appeal, High Court Judges, Colombo District Judge, the Additional District Judges and Colombo Chief Magistrate and Additional Magistrate were also present at ceremonial sittings.

Supreme Court Registrar Bandula Atapattu officiated.

The late seven legal luminaries remembered were former Attorney General K.C. Kamalasabeyson PC, Queenís Counsel Vernon Wijetunga, Presidentís Counsel T.B. Dissanayake, Presidentís Counsel Paul Perera, Presidentís Counsel Upawansa Yapa, Presidentís Counsel Anil Obeysekere and Presidentís Counsel Stanley Tillekeratne.

The Chief Justice said the former Attorney General K.C. Kamalasabeyson PC whose untimely demise shocked and saddened us, served the Attorney Generalís Department with commitment and dedication for over three decades.

Kamalasabeyson held positions at all levels starting as a State Counsel in 1974 and became the Attorney General in 1999. He had laid down the reigns of office a few months prior to his untimely demise this year.

He hailed from a respectable Hindu family from Trincomalee and he moved with all communities, being able to speak fluently all three languages. His brother Kamalanathan was also an eminent Advocate,Ē

I am personally indebted to Kamalasabayson for having represented me in court when persons purporting to act in the public interest sought to implead my official actions and appointment.

The reported judgments in those cases display Kamalasabaysonís skill and dedication which brought to an end a vicious and malicious trend which I hope would never resurface in this country.

We have to especially condole with his wife and his only daughter, in whose welfare and progress Kamalasabayson was deeply concerned since he was basically a good family man.

Vernon Wijetunga, QC born in 1920 belonged to a different era and class of persons. He was flamboyant, erudite and brilliant in advocacy. His much respected family included several distinguished lawyers in Matara. His domain was the District Courts but he was at ease in presenting cases in the Superior Courts.

He was an active member of the Ceylon Natural History Association, the Ceylon Geographical Society, the Royal Asiatic Society, Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, the Classical Association and so on.

T.B. Dissanayake was a person of different orientation. He had quiet a disposition and he specialized in the study of Kandyan Law and Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law, on which subjects he authored several books.

He was through in the preparation of his cases and presented his clientsí cause with quiet persuasive dignity. He served a period as a Commissioner of Assize and I personally recall prosecuting before him.

Paul Perera, was unique. A vibrant and dynamic man of many parts. He was a public servant, lawyer, corporation boss, politician and above all a genial and effervescent gentleman.

He joined the Bar in 1967 graduated from the University of Colombo with a Honours Degree in History. He enjoyed an extensive civil practice in the original Courts, worked with the late H.W. Jayawardena, QC, and Neville Samarakoon QC, who later became Chief Justice. He gained fame as a politician having been closely associated with the then President J.R. Jayewardene.

He entered Parliament in 1983 and served as a District Minister. He was elected as a Member of Parliament from the Gampaha District and served as the Minister of Justice and later as Minister of Science and Technology. The was an active Parliamentarian much respected by both sides. He functioned as Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) with acceptance and devoid of unnecessary controversy.

His wife Kulaseeli Perera has also been involved in the public affairs of this country and his son Ronald Perera, is our friend as a prominent member of the Bar. Upawansa Yapa was a member of the Attorney Generalís Department who became the Solicitor General Yapa was from Bandarawela and led a simple life true to his rustic beginnings.

He handled mainly criminal matters in the Attorney Generalís Department and I recall the high regard Counsel of the calibre of the late Dr. Colvin R. de Silva had for Yapa. Anil Obeysekera was also from a family of legal luminaries.

He and his brother Rajitha, have been contemporaneous members of the Inner Bar. Obeysekera had an extensive practice doing work of different types in all courts.

He made each case look quite simple by his easy way but was nevertheless deeply involved in serving his client well. Obeysekera had firm political loyalties and served the party of his choice without let or remiss.

He held several important public offices including that of being the Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the Associated Newspapers of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Telecom.

Stanley Tilakaratne, was another lawyer cum politician. He made his entry to politics from the Communist Party but was by conduct an urbane gentleman. He could emerge smilingly from being a red or blue shirted protester in the street to being a well clad and articulate Counsel. He excelled as a criminal lawyer.

He had an extensive practice in the original criminal courts that took him to most part of the country. He served with distinction as Speaker of the Parliament, including in the difficult days when the Constitution of 1972 was promulgated.

ďI would direct that a minute of these proceedings be sent by Registrar of the Court to the members of the families of late K.C. Kamalasabayson, Vernon Wijetunga, T.B. Dissanayake, Paul Perera, Upawansa Yapa, Anil Obeysekera and Stanley Tillekeratne.

 

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