Justice Wanasundera; 'Daniel came to judgement'
Justice Raja Wanasundera who was an acting Attorney-General, Supreme
Court Judge and acting Chief Justice passed away recently at the age of
87 after a brief illness.
He was educated at Royal College and also is a graduate of the
University of London. Further, he did a postgraduate course in
International Law and Constitutional Law at Stanford University of
California. He spent a greater part of his career as a member of the
Attorney-General's Department. After a short period of practice at the
unofficial Bar in the Chambers of late N E Weerasooriya (Q.C.), he
joined the Attorney-General's Department in January 1952 as a Crown
Counsel. He gradually rose in the department holding successively the
offices of senior Crown Counsel, Deputy Solicitor-General and became
Solicitor-General in 1971 and acting Attorney-General in July 1973. He
was practically in charge of the civil work of the department ever since
the former Chief Justice late Victor Tennekoon left the department.
Among the notable cases in which he appeared was the case of 'Ranasinghe
vs The Bribery Commission'. This case later went up to the Privy Council
for decision and the judgement of the Privy Council has been regarded by
Jurists as constituting a significant contribution in the development of
constitutional law. He has also acted as Secretary to the Important
Industrial Disputes Commission. Further, he served as Secretary to the
Commission appointed to inquire into the leakage of the Cabinet
information headed by A R H Kanakaratne (QC). He also served as
Secretary to the Commission on Industrial Disputes headed by late H W
Brilliant cross examiner
In addition to all these, he had represented Sri Lanka in the
Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee and also assisted in the
discussion which resulted in the 'Srima-Shastri' pact in 1964. Mr
Wanasundera was a man of luminous intelligence and mighty intellect with
an amazing capacity to pierce through a problem to its core. As a senior
crown counsel, Deputy Solicitor-General, Solicitor-General and acting
Attorney-General, his methodical and meticulous preparation of cases
entrusted to him was an exercise in unbounded patience, total dedication
and utmost endeavour not only to give forth his clients, but also to be
of maximum assistance to the Bench.
His court craft was admirable and unmatched. When he walked into the
courts, he knew his brief like the back of his hand. He also possessed
in ample measure the tact and ingenuity of how to try and convince the
judge before whom he appeared. He sailed through most difficult and
intricate cases and made them simple and lucid in the eyes of the
In fact, he was a fountain of inspiration and unstinted assistance to
his juniors at the Attorney-General's Department. Further, he displayed
very forcibly the three qualities - courage, independence and courtesy.
He was in every sense of the term a Himalayan personality capable of
withstanding storms and blizzards with total and natural equanimity. He
had one of the legal brains who could think clearly, logically and
incisively. He was a brilliant cross examiner with great intellectual
attainments, personal charm, cultured, warm-hearted, sincere with full
of common sense.
Furthermore, as a Supreme Court Judge, he preserved the dignity of
the courts and the image of Justice. He always believed that judges
should discharge their duties without fear or favour, affection or
ill-will or bias.
While on the Bench, he lived up to the essence of the art of judging
namely an attentive and receptive ear, a mind opened to conviction, a
readiness to acknowledge error and will to do justice regardless of
personal motives as pre-judices.
In fact, the secret of his success as a good judge is that he was
deeply religious and genuinely believed that the seat of justice is a
place for the performance of a divine function.
He was of the opinion that a Judge has not only do justice between
man and man, but also he has to do justice between the citizen and the
state and the service rendered by a judge demands the highest qualities
of learning, training and character.
According to him a respected and an independent judiciary and a
vigilant and strong Bar are indispensable to the administration of
Justice and for vindication of law.
As a Supreme Court Judge, he maintained tremendous courage and a high
degree of judicial statesmanship. He steered the courts with great
dexterity through perils and floods and left it with its stature no less
high as when he was summed in this high office. Mr Wanasundera was the
symbol of virtues, impartiality, independence, courtesy, firmness and
above, a deep sense of justice. He achieved excellence as a judge of the
Supreme Court on account of his courtesy towards the counsel, firmness
in his rulings and full possession of facts and always master of his
It is very often said that "a great judge must be a man with a spark
of greatness to start with, his job is the applied practice of wisdom
and justice and these may not be borrowed from any of the calf bound
books, but must spring from the man himself," so said a former
Attorney-General and later Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
Justice Wanasundera was literally a comet who blazed momentarily
across our skies leaving in its trail a luminescence which the passing
of time can hardly erase and I wish to conclude with the following:-
"Good Night Sweet Prince, May the flights of angels sing thee to thy