Justice D.Q.M. Sirimane:
Displayed the epitome of judicial independence
“If you can…. walk with kings nor lose the common touch…if you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it and which is more, you’ll be a man my son.” (Rudyard Kipling – If)
Donald Quintus Mervyn Sirimane was born on June 20, 1814. His father was Albert G. Sirimane, Crown Proctor, Balapitiya and his mother was Charlotte Sirimane (nee Perera). He was the fifth of nine children in a family whose roots are in Bentara-Elpitiya. He married Winnie Ameresinghe and had four children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
He received his primary and secondary education at Royal College, Colombo. Thereafter, he joined Law College where he came first in the first and final examinations and qualified with honours in 1936. He was enrolled as a Proctor of the Supreme Court of the island on March 25, 1939. He practiced at Balapitiya and served as Crown Proctor there as did his father and granduncle Adrian Sirimane before him. His brother was the late Justice A.L.S. Sirimane who was a Supreme Court Judge as well as one of the first members of the Court of Appeal, the highest appellate court in the island at the time.
In 1956 he joined the Judiciary and served as Magistrate, Chief Magistrate and District Judge in various parts of the island. He was promoted to the Special Grade of the Judiciary in 1968. Thereafter he was elevated as a Commissioner of Assize and on January 5, 1973 was appointed a Puisne Justice. The Attorney General at the time, later Chief Justice Victor Tennekoon welcoming him to the bench stated that ‘it was a landmark in the history of the Supreme Court and Proctors profession’ since he was the first proctor to have risen to that high position and predicted that he would make a notable contribution on the bench.
He was appointed a member of the Criminal Justice Commission (Exchange Frauds), and former Attorney General Sunil Silva PC serving as State Counsel leading evidence before the Commission had this to say: “Mr. Sirimane displayed the epitome of judicial independence. He never questioned the competence of the Legislature to formulate laws and procedures….at the same time he yielded to none not even the mightiest in the land, a right to trespass into his province of determining the persons against whom the law should be activated….” When he retired from the Supreme Court the state availed itself of his legal expertise as a Consultant Director of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.
Donald as he was known to many, was a man for all seasons. He joined as a volunteer counsellor at Sri Lanka Sumithrayo in 1977 and was Chairman of the council and later Joint Director of the Organisation. In the words of Joan de Mel, “…he never held himself aloof from people and always had time for everyone, however unimportant they may be considered in the worldly sense….”. As a husband and father he was loving and diligently dutiful, providing moral strength and material comforts to the entire family including support to his unmarried sisters throughout their lives. Holidays out of Colombo during court vacation were a regular feature. His hospitality was amazing. Birthdays and Christmas lunch were times for a lavish spread given with a glad and generous heart. Whenever he visited his grandchildren he would always bring chocolates or some Dinky toy that would make them happy. He was by far their favourite grandparent.
He believed in a daily morning walk and liked to drink a glass of king coconut water in the evening. He liked to play the piano and would read Agatha Christy, James Hadley Chase and P.G. Wodehouse books in his leisure time. As a Buddhist, he was always in search of peace of mind and tranquility. He achieved this by his interest in and study of the Abidhamma which was reflected in the aura surrounding him. He died on January 27, 1989 after a brief illness.
At a ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court on February 6, 1989 the then Chief Justice Parinda Ranasinghe said:
“The late Justice D.Q.M. Sirimane will be long remembered by the Bench and Bar as a ‘model judge’ blessed with an ideal judicial temperament. There was in him a rare combination of three of the most outstanding characteristics which mark out an eminent and outstanding judge – a thorough grasp of the principles relating to the many and varied branches of the law, an unfailing fountain of courtesy to all those who appeared before him and the undoubted ability to act fearlessly and dispense even handed justice… Always impeccably and immaculately dressed, he was a man of unruffled and serene disposition……He was indeed one of the finest gentlemen who ever graced the Bench of this island.”
H.L. De Silva PC the then President of the Bar Association said: “as a Judge of this court he functioned with great acceptance and displayed to a high degree a sound appreciation of legal principles and a certain sureness of touch when dealing with complex issues of fact, a skill which he had undoubtedly acquired by reason of his long experience as a trial judge and a practitioner in the trial courts.”
In conclusion let me say that in the 25 years past, not a day goes by without a thought of him. His words of wisdom on the transient nature of this life and to practice tolerance are firmly implanted in us. To have a father such as he has been the greatest blessing we have ever received. May he Rest in Peace!
Productive Kandyan citizen
It is with profound sorrow that I pen these lines as an appreciation to Simpson Alexander of Mulgampola, Peradeniya Road, Kandy, who was more popularly known as Alex, particularly in the Kandy Municipal Council, to which institution he rendered a life long memorable service in its office administration as one of its most efficient English stenographers at a time when there was a severe dearth of English stenographers in this country, specially in Kandy.
I knew him intimately throughout my life from the time we were close neighbours on Peradeniya Road right opposite Kingswood College. When my brother and I were young schoolboys we looked up to him as an elder brother specially during the time when he regularly visited our home, the vibrant nursery of many a prospective student, to be tutored by my late father, Solomon Scott, a greatly revered teacher of Kandy at that time, who tutored and guided him in the rudiments of English stenography and the deeper nuances of English language and literature which help, he remembered faithfully till the end of his life recently.
The people of Kandy had a great respect and regard to Simpson Alexander whom they looked up to as an individual with rare gentlemanly qualities. For a great part of his working life he was attached to the Kandy Municipal Council administrative staff and his name became legendary with the KMC whose Mayors and senior officers appreciated his administrative prowess particularly during the turbulent times of the administration of the Kandy Municipal Council. His clerical and stenographic skills impressed all senior officers and successive Mayors who had the unique privilege of coming in contact with him.
He belonged to a hardworking and active family of brothers and sisters who lived their formative years in Mulgampola on the Kandy Peradeniya road at a time when this area was not as densely populated as it is today and neither was it so commercialized and the residents, in spite of being so close to the Kandy Colombo road were quite privileged to lead a leisured and comfortable life with rather limited needs and this was the unique case with many towns throughout the country about six decades ago.
He was a very productive citizen of Kandy who was a great asset to Kandy and the society in which he lived. In his quiet and indomitable way he showed his fellow beings how to face life honestly and bravely surmounting all human weaknesses. He was a quiet and affable individual with a golden heart who revelled in the success and achievements of his friends and was unruffled at all times. These were prominent features in his life which contributed substantially to his success in life and made him a much loved and respected human being whose life was exemplary.
His recent demise is a great loss to all those who knew him particularly in Kandy. For several years he was a live wire in the Kandy Municipal Council office staff in which he served with utmost dedication as an English stenographer. He belonged to a group of talented and dedicated officers of the previous generation who took an equal interest in many activities outside his immediate profession and until his death he rendered a long distinguished service to Kandy and his fellow human beings.
Quite early in life he chose the career for which his gifts and temperament suited him best – stenography in which he excelled. Even during the evening of his life which he spent in the salubrious Kundasale area he had the friendliest relations with his associates. A notable feature in his life was that he had a wide knowledge about men and matters which he had acquired through the years. His death is admittedly an irreparable loss to everyone who knew him and the very long fellowship we had with him carries many nostalgic memories.
All those who came in contact with him owes a deep debt of gratitude for his long and exemplary service and his memory will be ever green for many more years. He was a great human being whom it was a pleasure to associate. We extend our deepest sympathies to his devoted wife, beloved children and all other family members.
Rozario Vincent De Paul Fernando:
He practised what he preached
The morally disciplined life of the famous founder of the Ceylon Plantation Workers’ Union (Red Flag) of the Tea, Rubber and Coconut plantations came to an end on March 29, 2014 at the ripe age of 85 in Colombo. He along with N. Shanmugathasan founded this trade union for the rights of the plantation workers when other unions were not doing much.
The British planters would shiver at the mention of Rozario Fernando’s name as he was a very straight forward person whose goal was to uplift the life of the workers on plantations. He was a great orator, fluent in all three languages.
His knowledge in world affairs was par excellence and he was one who fought for the equal rights of workers. He was an edit of human rights and one who was held in high esteem both by the employers and workers.
Many talented children of workers were groomed for white-collar jobs and they hold high positions in life, their children becoming Doctors and Engineers. In some estates where there was abuse, he established his union and restored the rights of the workers. My brother-in-law Rozario Fernando, was born in 1929 into the illustrious erstwhile family of Ignatius Fernando of the business community. He was the eldest amongst four other siblings – three sisters and one brother. He was brought up in a well disciplined Christian atmosphere and was well educated.
He had his own thinking about religion, and his philosophy was all humans are equal and command every human right in this human life. He was a great sportsman and his specialty was wrestling and athletics. He scored many laurels in this field.
When in Colombo, he met my sister Mariana and had a full contended and successful married life for 60 years. They had five children who were given the best of education, are married and well placed in life in various parts of the world.
He addressed his children as ‘Darling’ and treasured them as gems. He always respected the elders and we in-laws had a high respect for him while he bestowed his affection on us all and was a hero to many of us. He was one of the most affectionate and had a lot of concern for his kith and kin. I must confess here that I did learn a lot from him and his knowledge of world affairs was beyond any body’s imagination. He had many friends and his friends came first amongst the many acquaintances and boldly say that he walked with kings and never lost the common touch.
He was in India on a short stint and returned to Sri Lanka. His children told the parents that they had done their duty by them and that now they should be given an opportunity to do their duty by them. By now he was in retirement and settled down to a peaceful life in Colombo in an apartment gifted by his children.
With old age creeping in he settled down to a disciplined quiet life though some illness was telling on his day-to-day life. He had no regrets at all in life. My sister Marina and Niece Anita looked after him both day in and day out. As per the Bible, man’s life on earth spans for three scores and ten (70) years and my B.I.L’s extra 15 years is God’s blessings and I boldly say that my sister Marina and Niece Anita were instrumental for this.
The other children too did their best to keep him happy. There was not a day that he did not contact his close associates and in-laws. The massive crowd at his funeral speaks of this great personality’s prowess. He was a great legend, leaving a rich legacy behind holding on to high traditions and rich heritage of his family.
His loss is a great blow to his friends, in-laws and the society at large. I can only pray that God console his near and dear ones and I will be missing my favourite B.I.L. for a very, very long time which is an irreparable loss to many, and pray that the turf lies soft on him. May he Rest in Peace and the light perpetual shine on him.