Justice P. Ramanathan

Justice P. Ramanathan passed away peacefully at his home on the 7th of December 2006. Two close friends and his dutiful wife Mano, who always looked after him with great care, were by his side. It was in the fitness of things that his death was as peaceful as was the way he lived all his life - in quiet dignity. "Sunt lacrimae rerum" (Virgil), "Mortal things are suffused with tears." - and so it had to be with Rama.

He belonged to a well-known family. His great grandfather was Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Solicitor-General, King’s Counsel and a distinguished member of the Legislative Council. His great grand uncle was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the first Ceylonese to enter the Ceylon Civil Service and was Registrar General for several years. Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy was also a relative from an earlier generation. The family was renowned for its philanthrophy, munificence and service to the people.

Much has already been said and written about his career as a prosecutor in the Department of the Attorney-General and the various judicial positions he held with honour; first, as a Judge of the High Court, thereafter as a Judge and President of the Court of Appeal and finally as a Judge of the Supreme Court. It is therefore unnecessary for me to advert to his career, except to say that he possessed in ample measure the essential attributes of a good Judge, namely, impartiality, integrity, and a strong sense of justice and fairness.

On this occasion, I would like to refer briefly to his personal qualities which permeated and vitalized his entire being. These were the mainspring of his life. It is precisely these qualities which endeared him, in a special way, to a very wide circle of friends.

It is a little known fact that he had an impish sense of humour, and a very rare capacity to laugh at himself! Many years ago, we went on a holiday to Anuradhapura. Rama was then the Judge of the High Court at Anuradhapura. We dropped in at the Court-house and our younger daughter, Swanthri, asked him "Uncle, where does the `rogue’ sit?" He unhesitatingly pointed to the Bench and said "As far as I know, the `rogue` sits there!." The spontaneous reply to a question asked by a child revealed a heart and mind as "big" as his physique. High office sat lightly on him.

His personal qualities and attributes were unique. He was blessed with a nature devoid of meanness, pettiness, malice, envy, ill-will and arrogance. On the contrary, he was richly endowed with positive qualities such as generosity, hospitality, magnanimity, moral integrity, compassion and an abundance of goodwill to all, including the few who disliked him! He was never self-righteous nor "moralistic". He was unassuming to a fault. It is but rarely that one meets with a person so loyal in friendship, and so resolute and unswerving in principled conduct. He certainly measured up to the Roman ideal, "Honeste vivere neminem laedere". (I have lived honourably, I have never harmed anyone).

His journey came to an end two years ago. Ours may continue for a short while longer, but the fragrance of his memory will remain undimmed and undiminished in the hearts and minds of all those who had the good fortune to have known him. I consider it a privilege to have associated with him closely and to have worked with him. The oft quoted lines from "Hamlet" epitomize his life and work.

"He was a man, take him for all in all.

[We] shall not look upon his like again."

G. P. S. de Silva.

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