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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2521

E.D. Wikramanayake- Appreciation

By Gomin Dayasri

President Chandrika Kumaranatunga, at the pinnacle of power, invited a small group of distinguished lawyers for dinner before she presented the disastrous "package" to the nation. Among them was naturally "ED", who had appeared so caringly for her mother when she was out of power. Yet when the dreaded package was introduced and we were looking for a personality to chair a public meeting at the YMBA to protest against it, ED willingly accepted the honors as he knew the harm that will befell the country. He was a patriot who did not care for posts or positions.

Many who sat for dinner at the President’s table accepted benefits under the Kumaranatunga government and blamed her after her departure from politics. ED never uttered a foul word. He was gentleman with finesse grace and elegance. He was a true patriot and a proper gentleman, which excellence came first is hard to guess.

He was tall and erect, in every sense. In the Attorney General’s Department he pioneered the Corporation sector work and those who worked with him formed a club that hero worshipped him. In the Private Bar we remember him as a fearless fighter who did not give a damn except for the cause he fought; fought it crisp and clean.

He handled a prosecution file in the AG’s office where the name of Lalith Athulathmudali was featured. As soon as the government changed the UNP administration decided to frame charges against ED for doing the assignment entrusted to him. He resigned from the Department rather than be trampled by political head hunters. Like his father, once a UNP Justice Minister and an eminent Queens Counsel, he feared not to enter where others dared not.

In the glory days of J.R. Jayewardane it was sheer fun to take the President on in court in the company of H.L de Silva and E.D Wikramanayake with V.W Kuleratne as the instructing attorney. Those were days when thugs stoned Supreme Court judge’s houses and the President padlocked their offices. Many Supreme Court judges were sacked with the change of the Constitution. We formed a quad and most of the battles were launched before Chief Justice Neville Samarakoone who was J.R.Jayewardane’s counting agent at his election campaign. The great Chief Justice stepped to the Bench from politics but never carried politics to the Bench and fearlessly gave orders against the government that appointed him from the Private Bar. In living memory, he is the only Chief Justice given a dinner by the Bar when he gracefully stepped down from the Bench probably because he treated the Bar with respect.

HL, ED and I knew even if we fought the President we will get justice and a proper hearing before such a judge. The Chief Justice told him remembering his late father “We must have back to back silks”; but ED would never accept the title of President’s Counsel though his extensive practice and tax return warranted it.

The same quad undertook to appear for Mrs. Bandaranaike when the J.R Jayewardane government filed a case depriving Mrs. Bandaranaike of her civic rights. To our surprise we found our client had brought Queens Counsel Nadesan to lead the team, who made one request that ED must be dropped from the team for him to appear. It transpired that ED had made mincemeat of Nadesan when he opposed him in the Criminal Justice Commission in cases of Foreign Exchange violations. Given the choice, Mrs. Bandaranaike, ably assisted by V.W.Kuleratne showed Nadesan QC the door to leave.

The only certificate that I have seen him display was a signed declaration by his children commending him to be the Best Father. He looked forward to the family lunch on Sunday where the grandchildren enhanced his spirits. He transferred his enthusiasm for creativity and raising his hand for nature to his offspring.

ED was an outdoor man-outstanding with gun and rod. He piloted an aircraft and rafted down the Kelani Valley. His beach cabin in Ambalantota and trawling off the coast was his kind of nirvana. It was cruel to see him crippled in a wheel chair due to medical misadventure. Yet he joined us for a holiday driving a modified vehicle carrying physical pain through the hair pin bends to Poonagalle, on estate roads to the Fishing Hut in Maskeliya and through rugged countryside to Bogawantalawa with his wife Sunethra as the co driver. To listen to him reminisce in the evenings of his adventures was as exciting as his tales of Hultsdorf studded with wit and wisdom but precise and concise like his cross examination and written submissions.

He had no airs about him, he had no pretences. He loved the country and the earth-he lived and died a simple man but those who knew him, knew his worth.

- Asian Tribune -

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