January 29, 2018 signifies the 30th death anniversary of the late Mr.Tivanka Wickremasinghe, PC.



Mr.Tivanka Wickremasinghe PC

Mr. Wickremasinghe hailed from a distinguished family and took to the law after his grandfather and the great grandfather both of whom were members of the legal profession.

He had his early education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. After finishing his London Matriculation examination, Mr. Wickremasinghe proceeded to England to further his education in the field of law. He was called to the Bar in England in 1964 from the Lincoln’s Inn and was enrolled as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon in February 1966. He was appointed as Crown Counsel in 1969 and served as a member of the Attorney General’s Department till 1977. He resigned from the Attorney General’s Department and reverted to the Unofficial Bar and soon acquired eminence as a much sought after Defence Counsel.

The 1980’s was a transitional period in the legal profession of Sri Lanka. Consequent to the United National Party victory in 1977, a new Constitution had been promulgated and in view of the open economy policy of the then Government, many new laws were introduced by the Parliament during this decade. Mr. Wickremasinghe until his death, was a student of the law and did not waste much time in studying the new legislation and adapting his practice as Counsel to suit the challenges introduced by such laws.

The Bar in Sri Lanka was fortunate to have many legal luminaries. His contemporaries like the late Messrs. A.C. (Bunty) de Zoysa, Daya Perera, Eardly Perera, M.L.M. Ameen, Nimal Senanayake, S. Sivarasa, H.L. de Silva, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, D.S. Wijesinghe, and Ranjith Abeysuriya are a few of those that come to mind.

Mr. Wickremasinghe was an extremely intelligent Counsel who always put in the maximum effort into studying a brief. He was an avid reader and could articulate a legal point with eloquence and in a simple manner.

Having passed my finals at the Law College, I served my apprenticeship in the Chambers of Mr. Eardly Perera, PC. By that time I had made it known to Mr. Perera my intentions of joining the Attorney General’s Department to pursue my career in law. It was Mr. Perera and Honourable Priyantha Fernando, current High Court Judge of Gampaha who introduced me to the Chambers of the late Mr. Tivanka Wickremasinghe, PC, in 1985.

Mr.Wickremasinghe was a brilliant Senior to work with and was a great human being to know. Unlike many in the legal profession, his Chambers was open to many young law students learning their work. His criterion for selecting an apprentice was not based on ethnicity, race, religion, the school he hailed from or the economic condition of the apprentice. He never bothered to ask us what school we came from or who our parents were. This humane quality in Mr. Wickremasinghe resulted in many young legal apprentices seeking his guidance in the early part of the 1980’s.

As an apprentice in Mr.Wickremasinghe’s Chambers, we were not only taught about law but also about living one’s life. He was never selfish and shared his knowledge with all of us and I am sure that all those who devilled in his Chambers would agree that he was a father figure to all of us. We were taught to be methodical, how to conduct a research, how to analyze a point and the art of advocacy among many other things.

Helping the lesser privileged members of the profession was a passion that Mr. Wickremasinghe had throughout his life. I recall many instances where he would take photocopies of unreported Judgments, New Law Reports, Sri Lankan Law Reports, Statutes and other legal texts and distribute them among lawyers practicing out of Colombo whenever he had the opportunity of visiting outstation Courts. I also observed that whenever he would appear in a Court outside Colombo, he used to retain the most Junior Attorney at that Court and pay him his fees. He treated all of us as children of his own and did not discriminate anyone.

In 1987 I joined the Attorney General’s Department and somewhere towards the latter part of the year, I received a phone call from him conveying the news that His Excellency The President had decided to appoint him as President’s Counsel. He was jubilant for many reasons. Some of his contemporaries who had studied law with him in England had been appointed as Silks by the Queen by that time and he was extremely happy on receiving this news.

I still recall the large numbers of the members of the legal profession who flocked to Hultsdorf to see Mr. Wickremasinghe taking oaths as President’s Counsel. I am personally aware that in most outstation Courts the lawyers had spoken with the Judges and obtained permission to proceed to Colombo without attending the sittings of that day.

Mr. Wickremasinghe’s happiness was demonstrated through his expressions on that day where he took several photographs with the senior and young members of the Bar in the then lawyer’s lounge.

We were all gathered in the then Supreme Court which is now High Court Number 1, for the ceremony. When the Registrar of the Supreme Court read out his name, he walked up to the podium, repeated the oath, signed the papers as PC, collapsed and passed away in the well of the Ceremonial Court as President’s Counsel.

When I go through history, there is only one instance where such a tragedy had taken place. In 1604, Sir Francis Bacon took his oath as the first King’s Counsel of the English Bar, collapsed and died before taking his seat at the Inner Bar.

As juniors of the late Mr.Tivanka Wickremasinghe, we were dreaming of a fruitful future for this wonderful human being but destiny had different plans for him.

The respect that he commanded in the legal profession will be remembered by all his contemporaries and his students like me. However, the respect and the esteem that the late Mr. Wickremasinghe commanded from the Bench and the Bar could best be explained by the words of the then Chief Justice, S. Sharvananda at the Ceremonial sitting held on February 5, 1988, as a reference to the late Mr. Wickremasinghe.

"It was only last Friday that all of us were assembled here to witness five Attorneys-at-Law taking their oath as President’s Counsel. Of the five late Tivanka Wickremasinghe was the third to be sworn in.

I recall a vivid picture of him beaming with smiles and joy taking his oath and signing his papers looking forward to a new chapter of glory and success open for him as President’s Counsel. But Alas! Destiny had different plans for him. It snatched him away from our midst without any warning.

Nobody who had a glimpse of him that morning could have even remotely had any premonition that the cherubic face would cease its smile forever that morning itself and that no more would Tivanka Wickremasinghe be fighting doughty legal battles in the cause of his clients.

The sudden death of Wickremasinghe has removed from our midst a gentleman who always fought a clean battle and who added luster to the Profession."

Thirty years have passed from the demise of this late human being. However, the memories of this gentleman would continue to linger in our minds for many more years to come. His contribution to the legal profession, his warmth and hospitality, his simple unassuming ways would always be in our minds.

Thank you, Sir, for making us what we are today. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.



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