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Justice P. Ramanathan



Much has been said and written about Justice Ramanathan that I would find it difficult to write anything new except to repeat what has already been written. However, when his dear wife reached out to me, I readily agreed to pen a few words. Repetition is not necessarily a good thing in the normal course of events, but in the case of my dear departed friend, Rama, it brings back happy memories of a great man and a true friend.

My first encounter with Rama was in the portals of London House, a home from home in the big city for young post-graduates and aspiring professionals. Sri Lanka, or Ceylon at the time, had a significant contingent of such persons at London House, many of whom were sons of distinguished personalities back home. Of course, I had not met him before, but like all Ceylonese entering London House at the time, I had been advised that Rama was the man to meet, to help us acclimatise ourselves to the colonial surroundings of that establishment. I did so with much trepidation. I was very soon disarmed by Rama’s genial personality, and of course, his hallmark of being a friend and mentor to so many. His commanding personality and absolute simplicity made a lasting impression on me.

Rama advised me very firmly that I was embarking on a most difficult course by the study of Accountancy. Many had fallen by the wayside, but he was persistent that I should persevere to the bitter end rather than settle for a pen pusher’s job in London, as many had done due to failure at exams. I recall the day when I had finally passed out as a Chartered Accountant and the first person I broke the happy news was, of course, to Rama.

I returned to Sri Lanka, and I was happy that I was at the Colombo Harbour to welcome Rama himself, who came back home shortly thereafter. I continued my friendship with Rama and of course his beloved Mano, who was able to convince him that eternal bachelorhood was not for him. Many of his friends were delighted when they celebrated their nuptials, and one could not have imagined a better-matched couple.

Rama had his early education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and continued his schooling at Montford Boys’ High School in India. There, Rama excelled in studies and sports, and was the captain of the school’s cricket team. Thereafter, he graduated from St. David’s College, Lampeter, of the University of Wales. Rama was subsequently called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in London, before returning home.

Rama spent a short time working in the Chambers of Lakshman Kadirgamar. On a personal note, I recall the day when Rama invited a few of us to lunch at the Orient Club, an occasion recorded in Dr. Brendon Gooneratne’s book. Present at this luncheon was Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was debating with himself at the time whether he should take the plunge of entering the local political arena. Almost all of us tried to dissuade him, in his own best interest. The rest is history.

Soon after, Rama joined the Attorney General’s Department, and sometime later was appointed a High Court Judge. He served in this position with distinction in many parts of the country, from 1978 to 1985. He was then appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeal, and ended up as the President of that Court. In 1989, Rama reached the pinnacle of his judicial career with his appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court.

Amongst his many other appointments and achievements were as Governor of the Western Province, Chancellor of the Uva Wellassa University and Chairman of the Human Rights Commission. Rama took in his stride all these accomplishments and achievements which fell on his broad shoulders.

Being the scion of a distinguished family, such accomplishments came easily to him. He was the great grandson of Sir Ponnamabalam Ramanathan, the first elected member of the Ceylon Legislative Council, who previously served as the Solicitor General, and was one of the first Ceylonese to take silk. Rama was the Trustee of the Sir Ponnambalam Vaneeswara Temple situated at Kochchikade, Kotahena, popularly known as the “Sivan” Temple, which is possibly the largest Hindu temple in Colombo. Rama’s great grand uncle was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the founder of the Ceylon National Congress. A relative of an earlier era was Sir Mutu Coomaraswamy, the first Hindu Barrister and a well-known personality in London society at the time. The great scholar, Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy was the son of Sir Mutu Coomaraswamy.

Rama, most deservedly was honoured with the title of Deshamanya, conferred upon him by then President, Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge.

Much later, I was deeply saddened when a mutual friend telephoned me to say that Rama had passed away. His last wish to his wife was that Frank Sinatra’s music, “My Way” be played at his funeral. Tears came to my eyes on that occasion, as I felt that this delightful piece of music personified Rama’s life all the way.

May the turf rest lightly on this great son of Sri Lanka, and, more importantly, on my true and sincere friend.

Ajit Jayaratne

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Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement



Protesters demanding local goverment elections

by Jehan Perera

The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.

The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.

The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.


The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.

So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.

On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.


The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.

There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.

It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.

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Sing-along… Down Memory Lane



Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!

I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.

It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.

Melantha Perera: President of Moratuwa Arts Forum

I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),

The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.

Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.

During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.

Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.

Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.

The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.

Down Memory Lane


Fun time for the audience Down Memory Lane

Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.

The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,

Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.

President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”

Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).

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‘Ranpota’ hitmaker



Nimal Jayamanne

CATCH 22 for

‘Ranpota’ hitmaker Nimal Jayamanne has got a new outfit going, made up of veteran musicians.

The band is called CATCH 22 and they, officially, started performing at The Warehouse (TWH), on 2nd March 2023.

The members are Nimal Jayamanne, R. Sumith Jayaratne, Duminda Sellappruma, Keerthi Samarasekara and Sajith Mutucumarana.

Says Nimal: “I took this name (CATCH 22) as a mark of respect to the late and great Hassan Musafer, who was the drummer of the original Catch 22.

You could catch Nimal in action, on Thursday evenings, at TWH, from 7 pm onwards.

Till recently, Nimal, who underwent a cataract operation, on his left eye, last week, was with Warehouse Legends, and has this to say about them:

“Thank you Warehouse Legends for letting me be an active member of your team, during the past year and 14 days. I wish you all the best.”

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