by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando reporting from Colombo

The Honourable Chief Magistrate of the Colombo Magistrate’s Court, Mrs. Sarojini Kusala Weerawardhana accompanied by several other members of the legal fraternity along with the President, the Executive Committee and members of the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Lawyers’ Association, assembled at the Hulftsdorf Courts, on 14 February 2007 and made a point of reference to one of their distinguished past Presidents of the Association and a sincere friend, the late Mr. Lakshman Ranasinghe who passed away suddenly three months ago, leaving behind an immeasurable void in the legal industry in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Lakshman Devakumar Ranasinghe who hailed from Hulftsdorf was educated at the Royal College. As a bright student he not only exhibited his potential in his studies but also shone in many other extra curricular activities. At a time when students from Colombo’s cream of the elite suffered from a superiority complex with their inherited lineage and the command of the English language showed a condescension towards those who did not have the aptitude to share their thoughts and communicate effectively in English and considered those as somewhat ‘inferior’ to them, Lakshman joined a rebel group of students to retaliate against such discrimination. It was a period when the whole country was waking up with a patriotic revolutionary spirit by those students who were educated in Sinhala medium and the mighty Pancha Maha Balawegaya was gathering momentum.

At this juncture, Lakshman Ranasinghe joined and led the Sinhala Debating Team at Royal College exhibiting his oratory skills in Sinhala as second to none and became involved in the Sinhala Students’ Union activities. As a sportsman he excelled as a champion in boxing and brought the covered Stubbs Shield to Royal College as a member of the college team.

While he was a law student, Lakshman Ranasinghe joined the Sinhala Tharuna Sanvidhanaya (Sinhala Youth Organisation), a formidable group which worked for the benefit of a Sinhala cause and Sinhala students’ rights, of which the former Prime Minister, the late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was the Patron, Dr. Sivali Ratwatte, President, Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake, Vice President and Ven Elle Gunawansa Thero, Organiser, Religious Group.

When he commenced practising as a lawyer in the Magistrates’ Courts, there were only a handful of Royalists who practised law from the Colombo Magistrate’s Court. As an effective criminal lawyer he soon built up a lucrative career and successfully fought many a hard battle, some times even with his own colleagues, on a point of law exhibiting a noble quality of exploring all possibilities to bring the warring parties together and settle matters in Court, thus avoiding protracted trials. As his colleague and current President of the Colombo Magistrates’ Court Lawyers Association, Mr. Hemantha Warnakulasuriya (President’s Counsel) pointed out in his speech at the ceremony, Lakshman’s motto had always been ‘ to consider any settlement proposed by his opponents even if such a settlement would be disadvantageous to his clients by convincing them with all sincerity that ultimately it would be the litigants who become losers’!

Lakshman Ranasinghe had a substantial clientele ranging from powerful politicians to prominent personalities in the country. He continuously burnt midnight oil and strategically prepared to defend his clients with painstaking efforts. He was a kind man underneath a legal cloak who had a magnanimous heart. He was ever willing to stretch a kind hand over the parameters of generosity where some used this noble quality of his as his weakness and used to their own advantage.

After a decade in active legal practice and his contribution to the legal profession in Sri Lanka he was recognized by the State and appointed as a Justice of the Peace and an Unofficial Magistrate. Finally he was elected as the President of the Colombo Magistrate’s Court Lawyers’ Association.

Some of the juniors in the legal profession who did learn the art of advocacy from Lakshaman Ranasinghe have today become prominent lawyers and are holding eminent positions in the judiciary as well established themselves in lucrative legal practice in all parts of the country.

During his career Lakshman Ranasinghe undertook various diversified responsibilities outside the legal profession by discharging duties as Chairman of several Corporations such as the Trade Pharmaceutical Corporation, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation, Land Reformation Commission, Ceylon Institute of Scientific & Industrial Research, OPA (Organisation of Professional Association), the utmost body of all professional Organisations and as the Assistant Secretary of Sri Lanka Olympic Council. During the time of his sudden demise Lakshman Ranasinghe’s name had been nominated for the post of President of the OPA to which he could have walked over uncontested, out of his popularity among members of the OPA

Being a devout Buddhist he became involved quite frequently in sacrosanct activities by becoming the main Dayaka in many Buddhist temples as well as the organiser of many institutions, which helped the poor, and the needy.

Among the distinguished guests who assembled at the point of Reference in Colombo Magistrate’s Courts on Wednesday with Lakshman’s wife, Mrs. Bandumathie Ranasinghe, their two daughters Nilmini and Eranga, members of the Ranasinghe family, Mrs. Karuna Bodhinayake, was the Hon. Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, a dear friend of the Ranasinghe family.

Subsequent to the formal recommendation on 14th February 2007, with a commendable observation from the Chief Magistrate, Honourable Sarojini Kusala Weerawardhana, a portrait of the late Mr. Lakshman Ranasinghe, the brilliant criminal lawyer and the last President will adorn the walls of the Colombo Magistrate’s Courts soon, along with an array of past Presidents of the Colombo Lawyers Association who have given their service to the country and the people.