(Text of peech delivered by senior counsel Romesh de Silva PC at the felicitation of President Ranil Wickremesinghe on completion of 50 years at the Bar)
Today we are felicitating our president and deservedly so. The stated purpose is his completion of 50 years at the Bar. As everyone knows, you left us early for “greener” pastures.
However it is hardly known that you were responsible for the leading case of Alphonsu Appuhamy where you got the Supreme Court to lay down the principle that the Lawyers have uberrimae fides to court and have a duty to make a full and truthful disclosure of all material facts.
This obligation you left us but did not get the court to state that there is an obligation of the MPs, ministers, Prime Minister or President to make a full and truthful disclosure of all material facts to the public of the country.
There are several similarities and dissimilarities between you and me. The most fundamental dissimilarity is that you went to a school by the race course where horses run whereas I went to the best of them all.
The second is that whilst we both cut our teeth at the chambers of H.W. Jayewardene PC, you spent the last 50 years being totally political, whereas I spent it being totally Apolitical and thus was able to appear for several people in parliament like you, Sajith, Anura Kumara, Tiran Alles and others while outside parliament I could appear on the one hand for Gotabaya Rajapaksa and on the other for Kumar Gunaratnam and several in between.
Thirdly, your father and my father were good friends and your father was the king maker of the day though he could scarcely have imagined that his son would one day be king.
Your father controlled the Associated Newspapers of Sri Lanka and managed the Ceylon Daily News, whilst his son made and ‘makes’ the Daily News.
Another similarity is that you and I are both accused of not knowing how to smile and socialize. In my profession perhaps it does not count for much, but in yours?
A further similarity was perhaps that we both grew up in an English speaking background. However I notice that in the last few months you were assiduously cultivating being ‘Sinhala’ and from the death of her Majesty the Queen refused to be called ‘Ranil Wickremesinghe’ but preferred the Sinhala ‘Wickremesinghe Ranil’ so that after the accession, when his majesty signed Charles R (short for Charles Rex}, our man signed Wickremesinghe R.
When you took over the country we had fuel queues when people queued sometimes for 48 hours to get fuel. There was no gas in the country and several households including mine considered alternative sources such as the “දර ලිප”, there was no medicines, no milk powder and so on.
However in two years you assumed power, oh wait, it was just as recent as the third week of July. Now there is no fuel queue, gas is freely available, medicines are more or less available, milk powder is available and there is no increase in power cuts. We congratulate you.
We also felicitate you for several reasons some of which are the following.
First, that you have never worked for self-promotion but worked for the benefit of the party, the strengthening of Parliament and its supremacy, God knows why, and for the country.
Second, you are well read and a man of vision. Whilst we do not necessarily agree with your vision, it is essential to have a visionary as a leader.
Thirdly, to put it in Sri Lankan parlance, you are simple. You have not forgotten the knack of opening a car door, or a room door or the ability to carry a file, whereas several of your state ministers and Ministers now do not know how to open a car door or to carry a pen, which they expect a minion to do.
Finally, and most perhaps importantly you have remained totally honest personally and there has not been an allegation of personal corruption.
However unfortunately you have not been able to control the members of your cabinet past and present and we would have paid the increase in taxes with some grumble if you were solely in charge, but now we fear that our hard earned money will line the coffers of some ministers or will be absorbed into wasteful expenditure.
Thus we are happy that you did not depart, but remained and learnt of books and men and learnt to play the game.
‘Ad multos annos’ Mr. President and in the words of your late uncle Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, who was one of the best Christian Bishops this country produced, may the Good Lord bless and keep you.
May God bless you.