Dr. H.W. Jayewardene

Twenty-eight years ago on the 19th April 1990 Dr. H.W. Jayewardene, QC a colossus in the legal profession, passed away whilst on a visit to India. It was the end of an innings of a great legal luminary Sri Lanka had produced. It was a loss not only to his wife Claribel, son, daughters, in laws & grandchildren but to the legal fraternity at large.

Dr. H.W. Jayewardene was an advocate par excellence, and at the time of his death, had completed 49 successful years at the bar. Born to a family of lawyers, Dr. Jayewardene was conferred silk at an early age. Fame and success came to him within a short period with hard work. The civil law was his forte and the later years of his practice was dedicated to the appellate courts where he excelled in every case he appeared. The law reports of Sri Lanka and England bear ample testimony to his brilliance.

The legal fraternity of Sri Lanka owes a deep gratitude to Dr. Jayewardene for his contribution to the legal profession in many ways. When the Bar Association of Sri Lanka came into being in 1975, he was its first President. When there was a move by the then government to shift the courts from Hulftsdorp to Bambalapitiya, it was Dr. Jayewardene an energetic lawyer who steered the opposition with success. He was instrumental in getting the Government of China to construct the Superior Courts Complex in Hulftsdorp which to-date house the several appellate courts, the Supreme Courts, including the ceremonial Supreme Court, the judges chambers, the Ministry of Justice etc. Even the trees that stand in the said superior courts complex were planted under the strict stewardship of Dr. Jayewardene. Many others in his position would have wished to get their names inscribed in a prominent place in the Court Complex for posterity, but not he. Dr. H.W. Jayewardene QC was a true leader of the Bar.

Dr. Jayewardene was a keen student of the law and a great teacher who was always willing to share his knowledge with fellow members of the profession. The large number of lawyers who learnt the intricacies of the law in the chambers of Dr.H.W.Jayewardene QC include judges, politicians, senior practitioners, President’s Counsel and several others. The high calibre advocacy, meticulous chamber work and academic approach to any legal issue are some of the valuable lessons Dr. Jayewardene imparted to juniors under his wing. As a lawyer who started my career at his chambers we were well aware of the hard work put in by Dr. Jayewardene to his clients cause and in several cases without any payment, pro-deo. Dr. Jayewardene enjoyed working with his juniors in chambers and in courts and ensured that they were well equipped to be exemplary in the profession. I am happy to note that Dr. Jayewardene’s grand-daughter Shahila Wijewardena, a law graduate from England who completed her Attorneys in Sri Lanka and apprenticed in my chambers is now a busy practitioner in the chambers of Mr.Harsha Amarasekara PC following her grand-father’s footsteps. Coincidentally Mr.Harsha Amarasekara PC and I were the last two juniors of Dr.H.W. Jayewardene QC Chambers.

The other contributions made by Dr. Jayewardene to the country were not limited to the legal field. He held several important posts in the public and private sector including Chairman of the Sri Lanka Foundation. He also led the team that participated in Thimpu talks in order to reconcile the burning issue of terrorism at that time. He was a perfectionist and his achievements are far too many to mention in an appreciation. A few years back the Bar Association of Sri Lanka named its main Auditorium in Hulftsdorp as the ‘Dr. H.W. Jayewardene QC Auditorium’, a fitting tribute for his services to the legal profession.

He was a true Buddhist who followed the precepts of the Buddha in his own quiet way. Dr. Jayewardene was a devoted husband and a wonderful father.

It is said that writers leave behind their books and teachers leave behind their students. It is a fact that Dr.H.W. Jayewardene QC has been a large hearted man and a great guru to several in the legal profession.

May he attain Nirvana.


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