Late Mr. K.C. Kamalasabayson, P.C., Former Attorney-General

Mr. K.C. Kamalasabayon, P.C., who assumed duties as the Attorney-General on 15.10.1999 retired on 7th April 7, 2007. Mr. Kandapper Chinniah Kamalasabayson, an old boy of Hindu Primary School (Hindu College, Colombo [Bambalapitiya] as it was then known) and St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, was born on 8th April 1949 and hailed from Trincomalee.

I have had the privilege of knowing ‘Sabayson’ personally since late 60’s when both of us were at Sri Lanka Law College which was then known as Ceylon Law College. At Sri Lanka Law College Mr. Kamalasabayson excelled in studies and oratory.

He passed his final examination for Advocates in November 1971 with honours and won the gold medal for oratory. He was enrolled as an Advocate on 23.6.1972. He devilled in the Chambers of the late Mr. G. F. Sethukavaler, P.C., and his brother the late Mr. K.C. Kamalanathan.

I had been meeting ‘Sabayson’ in the Chambers of Mr. G. F. Sethukavlaer very often from 1972 to 1974. Both Mr. Sethukavaler and Mr. Kamalasabayson had high regard and respect for each other. Seniors and Judges respected "Sabayson’ for his forthrightness and reposed confidence and trust in him. I have heard that in a number of cases in which he appeared in the Superior Courts he had conceded what is correct even if that was not going to be in favour of his cases. Therefore the Judges and others held ‘Sabayson’ in high esteem as one of the most honourable members of the Bar this country has had.

Mr. A. Gnanathasan, Deputy Solicitor General had this to say when the Attorney-General’s Department bid farewell to the retiring Attorney-General in April 2007.

"I have had the privilege of knowing Hon. Mr. K.C. Kamalasabayson, P.C., for the last three decades. I ardently admire you sir, for your nobility, commitment, justice, tireless energy, dynamism and perseverance to pursue and accomplish whatever course you undertook."

Those words sum up the opinion ‘Sabayson’s’ friends and colleagues had of him.

Since he became the Solicitor-General he has been a member of the Council of Legal Education till his retirement as the Attorney-General. I had the pleasure of working with him closely in the Council of Legal Education for the last 3 years. Even at the meetings of the Council he was forthright. ‘Sabayson’ and I had to work very closely in a sub-committee when the issue of admission of Tamil Students arose. He was not reluctant to take decisions to do justice by those students. Time will prove his foresightedness with which I had the pleasure to associate. I also had the opportunity of interviewing him as the Chief Legal Officer of the State in relation to various project maters and whenever he felt that whatever the others say is correct he was not reluctant to accept that. Even if he disagreed, he would first give a good hearing and politely explain his reluctance. Another important quality I observed in him was that he never took decisions as the Head of the Department without consulting his Junior Officers who have been assisting him on that subject. He always respected and treated them as his learned friends and equals and therefore all the officers in his department treated him as a true ‘guru’.

Reflecting the views of his colleagues in the department, Mr. Gnanathasan referred to the noble qualities of ‘Sabayson’ and added as follows:-

"From these qualities I learned a lesson that you have to command respect by deed and your action. You can’t demand respect.

"He always approaches the issues with a human face, full of love, sympathy and concern for social good. I saw him not only as an able administrator, but also as a humanist using his official position to serve the common people.

"You can rest assured Sir, that the officers of the department will ensure the continuity of those ideals that you required of us, by upholding them and passing them on as you have.

"Honoured Sir, although today you ‘retire’ from this Department as its head, one such as you will continue to ‘inspire’ the lawyers for many years to come. We have no doubt that as you revert to the unofficial bar after 33 years of loyal, dedicated and fruitful service to this institution, you will remain (as you have been) a role-model for those who make ‘advocacy’ their calling.

"Sir, you have a mind that cuts its way as vertically and as easily to the very core of any problem as a knife through butter. No problem is ever too big for your capacity or too small for your attention. This amorphous intelligence of yours’ gets amplified and highlighted by your transparent sincerity and unswerving regard for truth. ‘Sir, you are a man who Sri Lanka adores and the world admires’."

While he was in the Attorney-General’s Department he obtained two Masters Degrees – one from the University of Colombo in Public Law and other from King’s College, University of London in International Business Law. In addition, he has successfully completed the Government Legal Advisor’s Course at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London, a course in International Contract Negotiation, from the International Law Institute in Washington, USA and a course in Construction Contracts at the International Development Law Institute in Rome, Italy.

Having joined the Attorney-General’s Department in August 1974 he rose to be a Senior State Counsel in 1983 and a Deputy Solicitor-General in 1992. He became an Additional Solicitor-General in 1996 and took Silk in the same year. On the 1st December 1998 he assumed duties as the Solicitor-General. Mr. Kamalasabayson, who mainly practised in Appellate and District Courts in civil and administrative law cases, had been the leading counsel for the Government in almost all the important cases involving constitutional issues and in international arbitrations. He had also appeared for the State in the leading extradition case ‘Ruberu’.

After his retirement, Mr. Kamalasabayson was appointed to another prestigious office – that was as a member of the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka. That was in fact a recognition given to his independence, integrity, knowledge and experience.

Since 2000 he had been chairing the Annual Convocations of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and also the first meetings of the Bar Council. The decorum with which he conducted those won for him the admiration of everyone. Even on certain occasions when there were differences of opinion among the members of the Council, all unanimously agreed to accept what the ‘A.G.’ said.

In fact instead of saying that he was honoured by being appointed the ‘A.G.’ it may be appropriate to say that he brought honour to that office. He held that office with great acceptance by everyone.

He has been a Visiting Lecturer and Examiner of the Sri Lanka Law College and the Law Faculty of the University of Colombo and also the Open University.

Although he held the high office of the Attorney-General he remained a simple loving personality – despite his advancing age he continued to appear as the same old tall ‘Sabayson’ coming smilingly on a scooter during his youthful years – and I still remember the touching treatment he gave me when I went to interview him on an official matter after my heart ailment and after the meeting he escorted me to the lift and said "Neel, why did you trouble yourself to come all the way after your illness and I could have solved your problem on the telephone". That is his unique quality.

In conclusion I might mention that ‘Sabayson’ lived as a true Hindu and I have no doubt he would have attained "Moksha". The loss of our true and sincere friend Kamalasabayson is a loss not only to Hulftsdorp but to the entire Nation as well, and all I can tell his beloved wife and dear daughter is that we share their sorrow as ours.

Kandiah Neelakandan


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