Monday, December 15, 2008

Justice P Ramanathan

His fame spread from Hulftsdorp Hill to The Hague and beyond

Justice P. Ramanathan

The day-to-day events in the country’s law courts attract almost as much public attention as the country’s political events, and consequently outstanding personalities on Hulftsdorp Hill become as famous as their peers in politics and Parliament. The late Deshmanya Justice P. Ramanathan, popularly known as “Rama” among his wide circle of friends, was one such outstanding person.
Rama came from a respected Hindu family – a family that has given Sri Lanka more than one leader in such fields as politics, administration and the law. But Rama did not sit back on his family laurels; he proceeded to make an individual mark for himself, and he achieved this in no small measure. His successes and the high offices he held were not for self-glorification but to serve his country and fellowmen.

Had he remained at the unofficial bar, his capabilities would have brought him success and financial gain. However, he opted from the very start to give of his services to the country. He joined the Attorney General’s Department, where he held offices of importance and where his ability and personable ways soon earned him wide recognition.

From there, he entered the vocation for which he was best suited – that of a judge. He possessed all the qualities of a good judge; he was just and upright. From the bench of the High Court he rose to the country’s apex Court, where he served with wide acceptance. No litigant – whether winner or loser – left the courtroom without the satisfaction of knowing he or she had received a fair and full hearing.

Rama’s talent was recognised overseas too. He was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, and he was a bencher of Gray’s Inn, where he qualified as a barrister.
He served as president of Rotary, the Medico-Legal Association, and the British Scholars’ Association. He had many interests, and dogs were one of his passions. He had some of the best dachshunds in Sri Lanka. His imported pooches were champions in the Kennel Club.

Retirement was no resting time for Rama. He continued to serve the country with his characteristic zeal. Official recognition came from his appointments and his consequential services as Governor of the Western Province, Chancellor of the University of Uva Wellassa, and Chairman of the Human Rights Commission.

Rama had winning ways. He was relaxed and unruffled, and enjoyed good-spirited repartee between opposing counsel in court. His repartee was always in good taste, and never left a wound on anyone. One was always at ease when he presided in court. Whenever I knew that one of my cases would be heard before Rama, I would enjoy a relaxed breakfast that day before leaving for Courts.

Rama enjoyed a good joke. He would throw his head backwards and laugh his distinctive laugh. He enjoyed a happy married life with his wife Mano.

His life was free of ostentation and replete with graceful words, deeds and service. His was a noble life worthy of emulation. His honoured memory will remain in the minds and hearts of those who knew and worked with him, as it does in mine.

“Green be the turf above thee, Friend of my better days!None knew thee but to love theeNor named thee but to praise.”

K. N. Choksy, PC, MP

Nation, Dec 7 2008
Justice P. Ramanathan
Endowed with abundance of goodwill

Justice P. Ramanathan passed away peacefully at his home on the 7th of December 2006. Two close friends and his dutiful wife Mano, who always looked after him with great care, were by his side. It was in the fitness of things that his death was as peaceful as was the way he lived all his life - in quiet dignity. He belonged to a well-known family. His great grandfather was Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Solicitor-General, King’s Counsel and a distinguished member of the Legislative Council. His great grand uncle was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the first Ceylonese to enter the Ceylon Civil Service and was Registrar-General for several years. Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy was also a relative from an earlier generation. The family was renowned for its philanthropy, munificence and service to the people. Much has already been said and written about his career as a prosecutor in the Department of the Attorney-General and the various judicial positions he held with honour; first, as a Judge of the High Court, thereafter as a Judge and President of the Court of Appeal and finally as a Judge of the Supreme Court. It is therefore unnecessary for me to advert to his career, except to say that he possessed in ample measure the essential attributes of a good Judge, namely, impartiality, integrity, and a strong sense of justice and fairness. On this occasion, I would like to refer briefly to his personal qualities which permeated and vitalised his entire being. These were the mainspring of his life. It is precisely these qualities which endeared him, in a special way, to a very wide circle of friends. His personal qualities and attributes were unique. He was blessed with a nature devoid of meanness, pettiness, malice, envy, ill-will and arrogance. On the contrary, he was richly endowed with positive qualities such as generosity, hospitality, magnanimity, moral integrity, compassion and an abundance of good-will to all, including the few who disliked him! He was never self­-righteous nor ‘moralistic’. He was unassuming to a fault. It is but rarely that one meets with a person so loyal in friendship, and so resolute and unswerving in principled conduct. He certainly measured up to the Roman ideal, ‘1 have lived honourably, I have never harmed anyone’. His journey came to an end two years ago. Ours may continue for a short while longer, but the fragrance of his memory will remain undimmed and undiminished in the hearts and minds of all those who had the good fortune to have known him. I consider it a privilege to have associated with him closely and to have worked with him. The oft quoted lines from “Hamlet” epitomise his life and work. “He was a man, take him for all in all.[We] shall not look upon his like again.”

G. P. S. de SilvaFormer Chief Justice


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