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First Sri Lankan Queen’s Counsel in Australia

Prasanna Nimal Wikramanayake took his oaths as a Senior Counsel in Melbourne on December 18, 2002. The Parliament of Victoria recently abolished the rank of Queens Counsel and replaced it with the equivalent rank of Senior Counsel. Nimal is the first Sri Lankan barrister to take silk in Australia, although Sri Lankans have been admitted to practice in Australia as barristers and solicitors for over 50 years.

Nimal is the son of the late E.G. Wikramanayake Q.C. and the nephew of the late E. B. Wikramanayake Q.C. and the late N. E. Weerasooria Q.C. A number of his grand uncles were proctors of the Supreme Court and he can trace his legal ancestry back to the Crown Proctor in Galle in 1848.

He took a second class honours in the Law Tripos Part II at Cambridge in 1958 and was called to the Bar in England by the Inner Temple on February 10, 1958. He was the first victim of the now infamous Basnayake ruling which resulted in his English barrister’s qualifications not being recognised in Ceylon when he returned early in the year 1959. He had to sit for four papers, two in Civil Procedure and two in Property Law in August 1959. As a result of the Basnayake ruling the

Ceylon law qualifications are no longer recognised throughout the English speaking world and Sri Lankan lawyers now have to sit for various subjects in all Commonwealth countries if they wish to practise there.

Nimal had a large and wide ranging practice in the District Court of Colombo where he practised from 1959 to 1971. He had several apprentices Ajit Amerasinghe, D. P. S. Gunesekera, now Mr. Justice Gunesekera of the Court of Appeal; L. M. de Silva and Suneetha Gunesekera. Political changes in 1970 made him decide to leave his mother country and "chance his arm" in Australia. To this day he wonders why he ever made the change.

He arrived in Melbourne in 1971 and commenced working as a solicitor. The first 10 years were extremely difficult and traumatic. His career as a solicitor was shortlived as his principal was a martinet and advised him that he had no future in the law as he bad no brains. Fortunately, for him his wife Anna Maria insisted that he tries his hand at the Bar. She went out and obtained a job so that he could go to the Bar. Despite Nimal’s protestations that white solicitors would not brief him, she persuaded him to join the Victorian Bar. As he anticipated, the early years at the Bar were extremely difficult as Australian solicitors were not prepared to take a chance with a brown-skinned man. The few who took the chance were soon adequately rewarded and his practice steadily increased.

He was befriended by the late Louis Voumard, Q.C. who persuaded him to help him with his celebrated treatise on the Sale of Land. When Voumard died, his secretary wrote to the Law Book Company and informed them that a young man was helping Voumard with his work at the time of his death. Fortuitously for Nimal the Law Book Company accepted her statement and asked him to continue on with Voumard’s work and the rest is now history.

Nimal now has an extremely large and lucrative practice in Melbourne and he specialises in property and commercial work.

Nimal Wikramanayake lives at 154, Burke Road, Glen Iris, Victoria. 3146, Australia.

Friends said he would be delighted to appear in the Appeal Court in Sri Lanka.


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