Colombo Law Faculty Re-union of the 1969 Batch – Welcome address
Posted on January 16th, 2018

Senaka Weeraratna

UNIVERSITY OF CEYLON FACULTY OF LAW

 2018 Re-union of the 1969 Batch

 13th January, 2018

Imperial Room

Mount Lavinia Hotel

 Welcome address by Senaka Weeraratna

 Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that we welcome you all to this venue. Our efforts are to ensure that you revive a spirit of camaraderie by going down memory lane and reminiscing with your former colleagues and batch mates of the good old days we spent at the Colombo Law Faculty in the late 1960s and early 1970’s.

There are those of our batch mates who are unable to be present here tonight but they have already written to us expressing their regrets but nevertheless conveying their strongest support and goodwill for the success of the event. Despite their absence, we consider their presence here in spirit. I have already circulated by email their warm words of praise and good wishes. In that circular I have not forgotten to mention by name seven batch mates who are no longer among the living.

We also welcome several distinguished guests though not in our batch. We are privileged to have with us today Justices Saleem Marsoof, K.T. Chitrasiri (of Bond Commission Fame), Justice Asoka de Silva (former Chief Justice), and Justice R. Sureshchandra (now retired). Also Dr. Palitha Kohona (former Ambassador to the UN), Mr. Laksiri Mendis (former Ambassador and UN expert), and Mr. Anura Tennekoon (former Captain of the Sri Lanka Cricket Team and St. Thomas College in 1966).

We have an interesting programme for you tonight.

It contains:

  • A moment of silence and eulogies for our dead colleagues
  • Tributes to our Teachers
  • Video presentation of Photos taken during our time by Clement Fernando who has done us a great favour by preserving these photos and helping us to revive our memories.
  • Business session – to make arrangements for the Golden Jubilee reunion in 2019
  • Dinner
  • After Dinner speeches
  • Two DJ sessions – Music and fellowship

This event will conclude at 12.30 midnight.

It’s an honor to be able to take you down Memory Lane for a few moments. Our batch mates were born in the 1940s and 1950s. We began our time in the Law Faculty in 1969. We call ourselves as the 1969 batch. It has made some distinctive contributions. It produced at the final year exam held in December 1972 – 9 Classes i.e. 5 upper seconds and four lower seconds. Some of the recipients are here with us tonight.

JURA – Law Faculty News – letter

We published a news – letter called ‘ Jura ‘ which began to be distributed in 1970 under the editorship of A.P. Niles ( now deceased) and followed by Lal Perera. Both being our batch mates. ‘JURA’  – News Letter of the Law Faculty Students’ Union captured the news and views of Law Students on Colombo campus. In hindsight it has historic value as some of the contributors in the inside pages have stormed hallowed portals including the Judiciary, United Nations, World Bank, and the like in later life. A researcher hunting for snippets may find a treasure trove of info to spice a piece of writing.  The Editions of JURA stand out as an indisputable reminder of the intellectual inclinations of law students to venture forth with commentaries on life on campus and the political underside, without fear or favour. A gallant attempt that won the admiration of all those who were privileged to read this sheet.

The war in Vietnam dominated the news headlines during our time. The JURA in its special (Freshers) edition dated May 22, 1972 carried an article condemning the manner in which the war was being waged by foreign powers in blatant violation of the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and cardinal rules of International Law. It called on all undergrads to express their deepest moral concern and quoting Bertrand Russel ‘to salute the people of Vietnam’ for their heroic struggle to re-unify North and South Vietnam, liberate their country from foreign aggression, and seek justice.

Incidentally, May 22, 1972 was the day that the pre-existing name of the country ‘Ceylon’ was changed to ‘Sri Lanka’ and declared a Republic. The following day (May 23) all the new comers (freshers) were assembled in the main Lecture room and a Welcoming ceremony was held with three speakers, namely Dr.Osmund Jayaratne (President of the Colombo Campus), Mrs. Savitri Goonesekera (Senior Lecturer in law) and Mr. Senaka Weeraratna (President of the Law Faculty Students’ Union) addressing the gathering.  Copies of the new Edition of ‘JURA’ were distributed widely all over the campus on that day.

We need to collate all the issues of JURA and re-distribute copies of the various editions of re-printed versions of this news – letter in time for the golden jubilee anniversary in 2019.

Progressive Front
Another first was the victory of the Progressive Front at several Law Faculty Students’ Union (LFSU) elections and Student Council elections in 1970, 1971 and 1972.  Progressive Front (PF) representatives dominated the LFSU and were outspoken on matters relating to the interests and welfare of the students.  The Progressive Front was the brain child of the law students during our era.

It must be mentioned here that two members of the Progressive Front with Estate Indian Tamil backgrounds were taken into custody by the Police after the outbreak of the JVP led youth insurrection commencing on April 5, 1971. That was the time that any young man on campus was suspected of being associated with the insurrection. Many young men simply disappeared after being taken custody. The Security Forces were gunning for insurgents. Student Leaders were specially targeted. I was then the Secretary of the LFSU and member of the Students’ Council of the Colombo Campus. One member of the Students Council was killed by the Police in Pindeniya in open combat. Two of his brothers also died around the same time. He was from the Faculty of Social Sciences. He attended the last meeting of the Students Council held before April 5, 1971. The Army came and searched my house for any hidden weapons. I was really worried for the safety of these two Law Faculty colleagues. Risking any threat to my life for making representations on behalf of insurgent suspects, I personally went and met Mr. Nihal Jayawickrema ( then Secretary, Ministry of Justice), and Mr. D.G. Jayalath ( then Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Justice) and got the investigations into the suspected involvement of these two law students expedited. Next to no time they were released and they returned to the Law Faculty safe and sound, and to our great relief. They continued thereafter to be staunch supporters of the Progressive Front.

1960s Era

The 1960s were far different to the scene we have today. There were no computers, no internet, no Face Book, no YouTube, no mobile or smart phones, no photo copying machines, no television, no fax machines. With little gadgetry in our hands, we had more free time.  Nevertheless, we had to spend a good part of our time in the law library. It was rote learning at best. Closed Book exams. Not open book exams as we find today. Current students forget the info no sooner they leave the hall after sitting for the open book exam. We had to read a lot. Study hard. Some would call it cramming. We persevered. We digested a lot from our reading and instruction we received from our teachers. We used our spare time for chatting at tuck shops and canteens. We had time for conversation and make friendships that have lasted to this day. Some had time for romance.  They were the lucky ones.  Today’s students are dependent on machines and external aids to help them. We relied on our memory and our wits to get ahead.

It was the era of Jim Reeves (He’ll Have To Go), Cliff Richards (Bachelor Boy), Beatles (Hey Jude), Shadows (Apache), Harry Belafonte (Jamaica Farewell), Tom Jones (Green Green Grass of Home), Engelbert Humperdinck (Wonderland by Night), Hank Locklin(It’s a Little More Like Heaven), Connie Francis (Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On) among others.

 

The songs of C.T. Fernando (Pinsidu Wanne, Ma Bala Kale, Bada Gini Wela), Clarence Wijewardene (Kimada Nawe),Maxwell Mendis (ratak watinawa mage maupiyo dedena and mama bohoma bayavuna), H.R. Jothipala  (Pem kekula pipi and Pruthugesi Karaya), Indrani Wijebandara (Sudu Sande Eliya), Sunil Shantha(Olu  Pipila) and PLA and Chitra Somapala (Udarata Kadukara Siriya, Yamuna Yamuna Sobhana Ganga, Dambulugale, Isurumuniye, Lalitha Kala) dominated the air waves in the 1960s.

 

India’s Mohammed Rafi (Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan), Hemant Kumar (Hai Apna Dil To Awara Na Jane Kis Pe Aye Ga), Kishore Kumar(Dil Dil Se Mila Kar Dekho),and Lata Mangeshkar (Yaad Kiya Dil Ne Kahan Ho Tum) won the hearts of many and inspired composers and musicians to copy and imitate Hindi film music.

 

Tamil Films and songs also had a sizeable following in Sri Lanka. Popular songs included Masila Unmai Kathale, Salam babu and Dingiri Dingale meenakshi Dingiri dinkale. The latter was a hit among all communities and invariably sung at baila sessions. M. G. Ramachandran, Shivaji Ganeshan and Gemini Ganeshan were the main stars of the Tamil film scene.

We hope to be listening to the music of the 1950s and 1960s during the DJ sessions tonight to re-activate dormant memories of the joys and spirit of that era.

 

Our Teachers

We had outstanding teachers. Professor T. Nadaraja, Dean of the Law Faculty for many long years. He is no more. So is Dr. Mark Cooray. They have passed on. Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe is another distinguished teacher who has passed on. Justice Dr. H.W. Tambiah also began teaching in 1972. He is no more. We all hold them in high regard.

 

It was during our time in 1972 that the Law Faculty celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its founding as a Department in the University of Ceylon under the stewardship of Justice Soertsz, Q.C. We took a group photograph in September 1972. Most of our batch mates are in it. That photograph is worthy of being displayed at the Colombo Law Faculty building. It is the oldest photograph of the Staff and Students of the Colombo Law Faculty.

 

I am making use of this opportunity to make an appeal to the current Dean of the Law Faculty to make every effort to display this invaluable group photograph in the corridors of the Law Faculty in time for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 batch which falls in 2019. Copies of this group photograph can be obtained from Plate Studios in Galle Road, Kollupitiye, Colombo 03.

 

Law Faculty Students’ Union (LFSU)

It must be noted that the Department of Law was converted into a Law Faculty in 1968. It was in the same year that the Law Faculty Students’ Union (LFSU) was established. Charitha Ratwatte was the first President of the LFSU and R. Sureshchandra, first Secretary (LFSU). In 1969, Ranil Wickremasinghe was elected as the President of the LFSU and Graham Hatch as Secretary. In 1970, J.B.L. de Silva was elected as President and Senaka Weeraratna as Secretary (LFSU).In 1971, Senaka Weeraratna was elected as President and Anton Cooray as Secretary (LFSU). It was in 1972 that these two elected officials along with Anil Vitarana (Vice – President) and R.J. de Silva (Treasurer) were able to carry out their duties. In the same year Senaka Weeraratna was elected as the Vice – President of the Students Council of the Colombo Campus and Anil Vitarana as the Treasurer. Both were representatives of the Progressive Front established in the Law Faculty.

 

I must say resolutely that we are what we are. Many of us have had great success in the fields they have chosen. In the UN System, Mega Shipping companies, legal profession both within and outside Sri Lanka, Judiciary, Academia, in both public and private sectors, they have reached the pinnacle. In addition, we have among us public commentators and activists engaged in the noble form of pro bono advocacy pleading the cause of both the disadvantaged and victimized humans as well as non – human sentient beings who cannot articulate their pain and suffering.  They campaign for both Human Rights and Animal Rights in step with our cultural traditions.  We are all proud of them. Our former batch – mates have graced high places and enjoy high profile status in public life. This is true not only of our 1969 batch but also of all other batches of the Colombo Law Faculty. A law graduate of the Colombo Law Faculty today can walk with his or her head held high in any part of the world.

Re – Union Committee

We need to remember with appreciation that this idea of a batch re-union was born over a cup of high tea when Chandana Jayaweera Bandara (nee Rajapakse) and Maithri Panagoda met each other in Colombo in July last year. Soon afterwards they began to network and contact Anil, Lal, Senaka, Jezima and few others who all embraced this idea. Again on November 7 last year Chandana, Maithri and Senaka had lunch together on the invitation of Chandana and after further discussion we decided to plan for a re- union within two months when those of our batch mates living overseas were most likely to be in Sri Lanka during their annual vacations. Clement joined us with gusto and Anil joined the group in January 2018 on his visit to Sri Lanka.

We have received support from Lal, Ikram, Jezima, Desmond Jordan, Dushyanathie, Tiru vallal, Vasi, Indra, Dhammika, Shirani Kanagaratnam, Paul, Ifthikar Hassim, Damayanthie, Shirin, Nelun, Sharrada and Padmaraji, among others to go ahead. If I have left out any names by an inadvertence I tender my apologies.

Everyone on the Re-Union Committee pitched in to make this event a memorable one and great success. We should give them all a big “thank you”.

Lastly but not least, today is also a very special day for someone who has come all the way down from England to join us tonight. It is the birthday anniversary of Ramya Samaranayake (nee Chandrasekhar).    We will be celebrating Ramya’s birthday in a fitting way this evening.  May you have a healthy, happy and enjoyable birthday today, and may you have many, many more.

Finally, I thank you all for your kind presence here tonight and trust you will make best use of this opportunity to engage in fellowship after a long lapse of time and have an enjoyable time this evening.

Senaka Weeraratna

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