Service to the powerless , the power of truth and the cause of justice

English translation of Editorial of the Sinhala Daily, Aththa, Colombo, 11 February 1984

“He has told us that what gives him strength amid the encircling gloom of our society is the inner flame burning within him. The consciousness of a union with the absolute and of the presence of a bright spark of the divine within him and in all others motivates him, animates him and sustains him. His religiosity is both internal to him and expresses itself in service to others and the community.”

Mr.Nadesan who turned 80 on 11 February 1984 is one of the most remarkable and admirable sons of the 20th century in Sri Lanka. He was born at the dawn of the century and now lives to see it coming to its end. He has witnessed and has been a participant in all the major events that have transformed our country.


Senator S Nadesan Q.C.

I will touch on only a few aspects of his personality. He is a person of great simplicity, personal charm and intense dedication to truth and the cause of justice. He lives a very simple life in the heart of Colombo. He gets up early in the morning. By 5 a.m., he is on the roads – often in a pair of shorts and shirt and walks four to six miles. He does so almost daily. He has no car. The roads of Colombo are his path for this morning exercise that is both physical and spiritual. His food is simple, vegetarian. He goes to Courts before 10 a.m. During an important case – like in the defence of Aththa or the Saturday Review, he is on his feet from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. addressing the Judges. All he takes for lunch are two bananas (anamalu) which he carries in his brief case. He believes in nature cure and a balanced diet. His advice is readily available to those who wish to consult him concerning simple living.

A second characteristic of his simplicity is his single minded devotion to truth and justice. He feels strongly when injustice is done, specially to the poor and the weak. He does not like the all powerful to get away with injustice. The law is his weapon for justice. He therefore takes the causes of the oppressed, specially in matters of human rights. He does not charge a fee when takes up a case for human rights. In a long career he has won many celebrated cases and championed many more – even when the odds were against him. More recent cases were the Pavidi Handa caseduring the referendum, the Kalawana Bye Election and the Constitutional Amendment.

He studies an issue very deeply. He is not only one of the most knowledgeable of our lawyers, but also one of the most hard working. He thinks out his case in depth. When he walks about on the road, he is thinking of the defence of the rights of the citizen in a difficult situation. He reflects deeply on the Constitution and the law on human rights and freedom. Brilliant insights concerning the law and justice come to him due to such single minded attention to his cause. He works long hours to prepare his material for presentation. For him Judges are like his students. He feels he has to instruct them. He has had to defend the rights of the Supreme Court even when the Judges themselves did not take the initiative – as last year, concerning their oaths under the 6th Amendment to the Constitution.

He is courageous, fearless and unmindful of the consequences to his person. When a pistol was placed in front of his chest during the Referendum, on polling day, all he said was ‘shoot’. This made the younger men withdraw with the pistol. He is cool and determined in the struggle for justice, when many others feel it is safer to keep silent. His courage is infectious. He is a livewire of the Civil Rights Movement, which has defended human rights courageously during the past 17 years.

He has told us that what gives him strength amid the encircling gloom of our society is the inner flame burning within him. The consciousness of a union with the absolute and of the presence of a bright spark of the divine within him and in all others motivates him, animates him and sustains him. His religiosity is both internal to him and expresses itself in service to others and the community.

Mr.Nadesan is one of the greatest Sri Lankans of modern times. We are grateful to him for his life and work and to God for him and for being an inspiration for such devotion to human liberation. His contribution and message is of a deeper nature than that of those who are in power for some period of time – for his is a service to the powerless and for the power of truth and the cause of justice.

May he be long with us to render much further service to our people and to our country.

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