| by Sri Lankan Patriot News Line
( January 15, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Justice T.W.Rajaratnam is remembered today as an outstanding Patriot of Sri Lanka. He was a former Judge of the Supreme Court and a Member of Parliament on the National list from the SLFP.
He was the second son of the Late T.C.Rajaratnam O.B.E., C.B.E., Lawyer, Chairman of the C.W.E., Chairman of the Ceylon American Mission, Chairman of the Malayan Ceylon Tobacco Company.
Gone are the days when the SLFP considered educated intellectual personalities to be appointed on the National List. That too when only one slot is given to a Tamil. After Rajaratnam, it was Lakshman Kadirgamar.
But now a well known criminal who has not been charges for his crimes against humanity and for murdering Buddhist Priests and Policemen has been nominated to warm the seat in Parliament and to take over the post held by Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle in the SLFP.
The 20th death anniversary of former Supreme Court Judge and SLFP Member of Parliament late Justice T W Rajaratnam will be commemorated today on January 15, 2014.
A retired Chief Justice of India once said that “there is a common chord which binds all of us, Lawyers, Judges and Jurists together, wherever, in which ever part of South Asia they may be living, whichever the Forum where they are practising and which ever be the Court in which they are dispensing Justice and that common chord that we are all moved, animated and inspired by, is the great and noble ideal namely the pursuit of Justice.”
Further, “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.” The secret of Rajaratnam’s success as a very good judge was that he always believed in humanism and love for human lives. He believed in kindness and as far as possible not to be hurtful to anyone. He was always of the opinion there is no other God than truth and the oneness of the spirit.
As a Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Rajaratnam always preserved the dignity of the Courts and the image of Justice. Besides, he possessed in full measure, the learning, ability, the quickness of thought and the capacity for hard work which enabled him to attain eminence as a criminal lawyer and later Supreme Court Judge.
Justice Rajaratnam’s legal career was a continuation of the traditions of a family of leading Jaffna and Colombo lawyers. After completing his secondary education at Trinity College, Kandy, he obtained a degree in Western Classics and Law from the University of London. He was called to the Bar in August 1948. He rapidly built a nation-wide Criminal and Labour Law practice in Sri Lanka. His forte and favoured aspect of the Law was Criminal Law. One of his primary concerns was the need for the law to be simple and accessible to the ordinary citizen.
He was appointed as Commissioner of Assize in 1970 and Judge of the Supreme Court in 1972. He continued in that capacity until 1978. His judicial career was characterised by incisive legal judgements and an independent and uncompromising spirit. Further, his career was unceremonially interrupted by the re-constitution of the Supreme Court in 1978. Justice Rajaratnam was a man of luminous intelligence and mighty intellect with an amazing capacity to pierce through a problem to its core. He was a skillful debater, a sound political analyst, a relentless critic of the abuse of power and corruption and was ruthless in the exposure of hypocrisy.
He had a powerful memory and was a matchless orator, a spell binder par excellence. His speeches in Parliament as an SLFP Member were thoughtful. From his lips flowed the English language without a break or a drop, each syllable in its exact place and order, each sentence following a cadence of its own, so inevitably that one could follow its rise and its fall like the movement of foaming billow on a calm sea.
When the Founder Leader of the MEP, late Philip Gunawardena, on the floor of the House once blasted Hulftsdorp as the last bastian and citadel of all vested interests, he perhaps didn’t image that Hulftsdorp would mould an indomitable character of the calibre of the late T W Rajaratnam.
He was a man who not only championed the cause of human justice and fought for human rights, but above all stood for the Rule of Law. His socialist outlook, being a rationalist and a Theosophist had an immense influence not only in Sri Lanka but also abroad. He was a much sought after speaker on Human Rights at local and international seminars.
His eloquence, wit, satire and humour were laurels for him and kept his audience spell-bound, not only on account of his oratory, but also because of the philosophic and theosophic substance of what he spoke.
It was this versatility that made the Government of Pakistan invite him to an international seminar of legal luminaries on the subject of the legality of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s case. He was one of the few international jurors who had made an in-depth study of the trial.
His research blossomed into a publication (288 pages) entitled:- A Judiciary in Crisis (The Trial of Bhutto).
Justice Rajaratnam was an extrovert and his motives always remained altruistic – be it on national or international issues, in the political arena, economics or justice. Though born a Christian, he could quote off-hand, the Hindu Vedas, the Tripitaka and the Koran. He believed in the Buddhist and Hindu philosophy of cause and effect, ‘Karma’.
Justice Rajaratnam was conferred with the Civil Award ‘Hilal-Iz-Quaid Azam’ for his meritorious services to Pakistan as well as his invaluable contributions in championing the rights of individuals in Third World Countries. This is a High Civil Award in Pakistan and conferred only upon eminent persons who have distinguished themselves by rendering exceptional services in their respective fields.
Legal and political history
Dinesh Gunawardena once said that late Justice Rajaratnam was an intellectual who had a sharp legal brain and the contribution he made to the Labour Tribunal was invaluable.
Former Minister Kingsley T Wickremaratne said that Justice Rajaratnam always believed in neutrality and followed the precepts of Mahatma Gandhi. He further said that there was poetry in his language and he spoke from his heart.
He always believed in a global village where all people would live in peace and harmony, where race, caste and creed would be immaterial.
Former State Minister of Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs P P Devaraj once said that late Justice Rajaratnam was a Champion of the causes of the under-privileged. As a Supreme Court Judge, he was regarded as an unconventional judge. He changed the balance of power in favour of the under-privileged.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said Justice Rajaratnam was a widely read man with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He always stood for unity among all communities. Indeed late Justice Rajaratnam’s polished manner and sartorial elegance, intellectual refinement and boldness of thought will assure him of a permanent place in the legal and political history of Sri Lanka. 'Reclaiming a Paradise'
Aitzaz Ahsan:(Aitzaz Ahsan is a Pakistani lawyer, politician and political activist) This article is reproduced from http://blog.srilankacampaign.org/2010/05/campaign-advisor-aitzaz-ahsan.html)
On the first anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka's civil war, Pakistani lawyer, politician and human rights activist Aitzaz Ahsan writes on why the ongoing abuses in Sri Lanka should concern Pakistanis and all South Asians.
Although it is clichéd to begin with that proverbial view from an aeroplane, landing at the airport, that indeed was my first view of Sri Lanka: lush green forests and long white beaches gently sloping into the dark blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
I was going to Colombo to observe a trial on behalf of the Law Asia Foundation. Certain officers of the Sri Lankan police were to be tried for atrocities against the Tamil population in the Batticaloa region. The trial was a sombre proceeding, conducted with the highest judicial propriety.
That was the year 1987.
There was more that engaged me besides the trial during the week I was in Sri Lanka. As my wife and I walked the streets and the beaches, ate at restaurants and deliberately lost our way in the back allies of Colombo, we realised the true beauty of the capital – its plurality.
Bells of Hindu and Buddhist temples chimed, while across the street, mosque minarets and church spires competed with each other to touch the clouds. There was a sublime serenity to it. An atmosphere of tolerance and peaceful co-existence pervaded all around. Everyone was friendly, helpful and outgoing.
It was indeed a paradise on earth. It was a nation at peace with itself and with the world. The Tamil Tiger insurgency was then a distant occurrence confined mostly to the northern Jaffna region.
Yet the most valuable interaction I had was that with a former judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Sri Lanka, Justice TW Rajaratnam. He had retired from the Supreme Court and was writing a book on the trial and execution of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Short, stocky, bald, Hindu by persuasion and well into his 70s, the judge was passionately interested in a tragedy enacted in a far and distant land, Pakistan. We had long discussions at his home and in restaurants. His book, Judiciary in Crisis? The Trial of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, became the most authentic analysis of the evidence and the mistrial.
Why should a retired Sri Lankan judge be interested in a Pakistani tragedy, I wondered. My own commitment to justice and human rights had taught me that these values were universal. The Sri Lankan judge only reinforced my belief.
And that is the precise reason why the state of human rights in Sri Lanka today should be of interest to every Pakistani, indeed every South Asian. These values are indeed universal and of common concern to all humanity.
Pakistan was itself created in the image of its founder, barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah was a pluralist who believed in non-violence and constitutionalism. He prescribed for his state and its people peaceful co-existence and equality of all citizens.
On the eve of Pakistan’s birth in August 1947, Jinnah said: “Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, this has nothing to do with the business of the State …. Now I think that we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find in course of time, Hindu would cease to be Hindu and Muslim would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense, as citizens of the State.”
By the time I visited Sri Lanka again, the war had come to Colombo. In fact my second visit was a consequence of this; President Ranasinghe Premadasa had been killed by a suicide bomb in May 1993. I, as a Federal Minister, accompanied the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the late President’s last rites.
That war, having lasted more than 25 years, was declared over with the Sri Lankan government’s victory in May 2009. But the pain and tragedy of the conflict has not ended. A report submitted to the United Nations recounts the violations of citizens’ basic human rights by the Sri Lankan government and its agencies. These include enforced and involuntary disappearance, impunity for abduction and secret detention, as well as the imprisonment of more than 10,000 people on suspicion of having been involved with the Tamil Tigers in what can best be described as concentration camps.
The UN experts are not the only ones who have observed human rights violations. Human Rights Watch says it has documented several cases in which individuals were taken into custody without regard to the protections provided under Sri Lankan law. In many cases, the authorities have not informed family members about the whereabouts of the detained, leaving them in secret, incommunicado detention or possible enforced disappearance. Other reports indicate orders to summarily execute surrendering Tamil Tigers leaders.
Meantime wide-ranging and discriminatory emergency regulations that gave the military and intelligence vast powers of arrest, entry and confiscation of property remain in force. Sri Lanka’s government is also delaying the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution, which would entail the devolution of powers to the provincial tiers. Colombo fears that this would empower the Tamil grassroots. The implementation process has thus slowed.
Sri Lanka is again a veritable paradise in the making. But to fulfil this, it has to celebrate and derive strength from its plurality. It has to reach out to its minorities and give them equal opportunities and freedoms without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race or religion. That, alone, can ensure it lasting peace.
When I was there in 1987, before the conflict had embraced all of Sri Lanka, it was a paradise, where Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and people of all ethnicities could co-exist without discrimination or fear. That paradise was lost in war. And that paradise needs to be regained in peace. That is a lesson for all multiethnic and plural states in the region.
Aitzaz Ahsan is one of Pakistan's leading attorneys, having represented Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry during his career. He is a human rights activist and a founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and also serves on the advisory council of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice. He is a member of the Pakistan People's Party.