One of Lanka’s academically distinguished judges

Tribute to Dr. L. M. JAYARATNE

Dr. L. M. Jayaratne is a lawyer, judge, scholar, writer and governor, who has made a name for himself both at home and outside the country. It may not be incorrect to state that he is one of Sri Lanka’s most academically distinguished judges.

Dr. Jayaratne was born in the southern village of Ahangama. He had his early education at the village school, Dharmarama, with the Mahavihara Temple providing him a religious upbringing. His secondary education was at Mahinda College, Galle and at St. Peter’s College, Colombo.

He entered the Ceylon Law College in the late 1950s and passed out as a proctor, thus beginning his eminent legal career.

One of the great moments in Dr. Jayaratne’s legal career was when he appeared as counsel with E. F. N. Gratiaen and George Rajapakse in a complicated murder case at the Galle Assize Court.After practising in Matara for close on six years, the young Jayaratne sailed to England with his newly wedded wife, Yvonne Linda Rohini Gooneratne, to pursue higher studies.

He graduated from the University of London with an LLB degree and then joined the Inns of Court, Inner Temple London. He passed out as a barrister and was called to the English Bar in 1969.

Having enrolled in the Roll of Barristers maintained in the Queen’s Bench Division, Jayaratne was entitled to practise in England, Wales and the Privy Council. The Jayaratnes returned to Sri Lanka in 1969. The same year the young Jayaratne was called to the Sri Lanka Bar as an advocate.

He practised for a while before being absorbed into the Sri Lanka judiciary as a magistrate in 1971. Being in the judiciary did not deter him from engaging in academic pursuits. He obtained his Master of Laws from the University of Colombo in the late 1970s. Thereafter, he commenced research for his Doctor of Philosophy degree, under the guidance of Professor G. L. Peiris, then Professor of Law at the University of Colombo.

After 18 years in the judiciary, and while presiding as a High Court judge in Colombo, he was invited by the Chief Justice of Fiji to take up an appointment as a Supreme Court Judge (Puisne Judge) in that country.

During his time in Fiji, Judge Jayaratne presided at a sensational and volatile case filed by the Army against Fiji-born Indians accused of treason. The charges of treason were not proved and the accused were not subjected to any major conviction sentences. This infuriated the Army, and the Jayaratnes were then exposed to great personal danger. Fiji was under military rule at the time. Judge Jayaratne’s car was badly damaged but no one was charged.

While in Fiji, Dr. and Mrs. Jayaratne found time for doctoral studies – he in law and his wife in business administration. He obtained a PhD from the Western Pacific University of California. His thesis, “A Judicial Review of Commissions of Inquiry", was the basis for his book, “Judicial Review of Commissions of Inquiry – Comparative Study”.

The book was praised by legal experts around the world, including Lord Sidney William Templeman and Dr. J. A. L. Cooray, former member of the Constitutional Court.

Dr. Jayaratne’s enduring interest in judicial work saw him attending the trial of Slobadan Milosevich in the International Court of Justice and the International Court of Jurists (Peace Palace) in The Hague.
On his return from Fiji, Dr. Jayaratne was invited by Sri Lanka President D. B. Wijetunga to be the Governor of the Southern Province.

Dr. Jayaratne, who in his seventies, is actively involved in social work, and writes to the newspapers on matters of current interest.

Indeed, Dr. Jayaratne has been a blessed son to this island, and he has done his Motherland proud.

N. Selvakkumaran, Senior Lecturer and Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo