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An academically and professionally qualified Judge

A renowned Sri Lankan Judge, Dr. L.M. Jayaratne has the rare distinction of being one amongst the very few who are academically and professionally qualified in the sphere of law. It is a pleasure penning a few lines of his career as a Lawyer, Judge, Scholar, Researcher, Author and Governor who has made name for himself within and outside the shores of this island. It may not be incorrect to state that he is the most academically and professionally qualified judge in Sri Lanka.

Dr. L.M. Jayaratne

Dr. Jayaratne was born in the deep Southern village of Ahangama. He had his early education at the village school, Dharmarama with Mahavihara temple providing him religious upbringing. His secondary education was provided at Mahinda College, Galle and St. Peter's College, Colombo which enabled him to join the Ceylon Law College. In the late 1950s he passed out as a Proctor commenced his professional career. One of the memorable moments of his practice was that he appeared as assigned Counsel with Mr. E.F.N. Gratien and Mr. George Rajapaksha in a complicated murder case at the Galle Assize Court. Having practised at Matara for nearly six years, the young Jayaratne sailed to England with his newly wedded wife, Yvonne Linda Rohini Gooneratne to pursue higher studies.

He joined the University of London and graduated with the LL.B Degree. He joined the Inns of Court - Inner Temple London, to read for the Barrister's Examination. He passed out as a Barrister and was called to the English Bar in 1969. Being enroled in the Roll of Barristers maintained in the Queens Bench Division, he became entitled to practise in England., Wales and the Privy Council. Both the Jayaratnes returned to Sri Lanka in 1969. The young Jayaratne was called to the Sri Lanka Bar as an Advocate in the same year. He practised the profession for a while before he was absorbed in the Sri Lanka judiciary as a Magistrate in 1971. Being in the Judiciary did not deter him from engaging in academic pursuits and he got through the Degree of Master of Laws from the University of Colombo in the late 1970s. He, thereafter, commenced sustained research for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy under the expert guidance of Professor G.L. Peiris, then Professor of Law in the University of Colombo.

After a span of eighteen years in the judiciary and while presiding as a High Court Judge in Colombo he was invited by the Chief Justice of Fiji to take up appointment as a Supreme Court Judge (Puisne Judge) in Fiji, perhaps due to his sound knowledge of English Law and Procedure. During the time in Fiji, he has the occasion of trying a rather volatile and sensational case filed by the Army against some of the Fiji born Indians on charges of treason. When the charges of treason were not proved and some diluted charges were preferred against the accused, the case did not end up in any major imprisonment or conviction of the accused. This infuriated the Army and the resultant position exposed the Jayaratnes to great personal and physical danger.

Fiji was under military rule during this time and his car was very badly damaged and no one was persecuted for these dastardly acts of violence.

While in Fiji, both Mr. and Mrs. Jayaratne managed to find time to engage in Doctoral studies - he in the area of law and his wife in the area of business administration and obtained the Ph.D Degree from the Western Pacific University of California. His thesis was on "Judicial Review of Commissions of Inquiry", which enabled him to author a book titled Judicial Review of Commissions of Inquiry - Comparative Study. This is a deep study of the functioning and purposes of Commissions of Inquiry in countries and its value is very much felt these days, given the role of Commissions of Inquiry established for various purposes in this country. This book has received very valuable and praiseworthy commendations from many renowned legal experts around the world including Lord Sidney William Templeman and Dr. J.A.L. Cooray, former Member of the Constitutional Court. In the words of Dr. Cooray, the book is timely and of great value and that Dr. Jayaratne makes an incisive analysis of Commissions of Inquiry with regard to their utility value, their relation to the rights of the individual and the extent of their amenability to judicial review.

His enduring interests in the judicial work took him to witness the trial of Slobadan Milosevich in the International Court of Justice and the International Court of Jurists (Peace Palace) in The Hague.

On his return from Fiji, Dr. Jayaratne was invited by the Former President D.B. Wijetunga to be the Governor of the Southern Province which position he occupied with dignity and acceptance.

This septuagenarian is active and full of life. He writes to newspapers on various matters of current interest.

Dr. Jayaratne has been a blessed son of this island who has done proud to his motherland.


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