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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION
Last updated
09/11/07

10th Death Anniversary - 1996
(1) Nadesan & the Judges -  Suriya Wickremasinghe, Attorney at Law, January 1997  
(2) 
'He was my teacher 70 years ago..' - A.S.de Silva, December 1996

When Nadesan Argued the Cause of Media Freedom...including Report by International Commission of Jurists -  1978, 1997
Nadesan charged for Breach of Privilege - Judgment of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka - 1980
Sri Lanka Supreme Court Reference, January 1987
Other Tributes - 1986
This Man Nadesan: a Biographical Sketch - Donovan Moldrich, 1988
80th Birthday Felicitations
"Among those of his own age group, Colvin paused to pay tribute to what he described as the clear, logical and astute mind of S.Nadesan Q.C.; a gifted mind, a large hearted man, who would grace any assembly of talent anywhere on earth." George Mason in 'Dr. Colvin R. de Silva on his Contemporaries', Sri Lanka Sunday Observer, 28 May 1989
On the Constitutionality of a Parliamentary Select Committee to inquire into the conduct of the Chief Justice, 1984
Nadesan's Last Case - Paul Nallanayagam Trial, 1986
Request for Dedication of Book - James Manor, February 1984
Sri Lanka Supreme Court Judgment in 'Saturday Review' Case, 1983
Pavidi Handa Case, 1983 
Some Comments on 1971 Sri Lanka Constituent Assembly  &  Draft Basic Resolutions
On Sri Lankan Army's Attack on Peaceful Satyagrahis, 2 May 1961
On Sri Lankan Army's Attack on Peaceful Satyagrahis, 9 May 1961

1958 State of Emergency - speech delivered during the course of the debate on the State of Emergency in the Second Senate on June 4th, 1958

Senate Speech on Ceylon Parliamentary Elections Bill, 1949
Senate Speech on Ceylon Citizenship Bill, 1948
Regional Autonomy in a Multi National State, 1957
"Among Somasunderam Nadesan's  most valuable writings are his dissenting report as a member of the National Flag Committee (1950), his still extremely relevant article on Regional Autonomy, originally published in the Sunday Observer in 1957, and, in his post-Senatorial days, his book on the principles of constitution making and the 1972 Constitution, and his report on the 1980 Strike and its Aftermath, written for the Civil Rights Movement. A number of Nadesan's cases in the superior courts are extremely important social and political documents, as they place in the public domain important evidence and issues which are otherwise inaccessible. His life is a chronicle of the age, as much as the values for which he stood were such that he has been called the conscience of our time". (from a Tribute by Manel Fonseka, Sri Lanka Civil Rights Movement, December 1986)
"I am an Independent Senator "- First Speech in the Senate, 1947
On the National Flag, 1948

Somasunderam Nadesan Q.C.
"To action you have a right, but not to the fruits thereof"

1904 - 1986

"...His life is a chronicle of the age, as much as the values for which he stood were such that he has been called the conscience of our time".- a Tribute by Manel Fonseka, Sri Lanka Civil Rights Movement, December 1986

"...a gifted mind, a large hearted man, who would grace any assembly of talent anywhere on earth." 'Dr. Colvin R. de Silva on his Contemporaries', Sri Lanka Sunday Observer, 28 May 1989

Somasunderam Nadesan Q.C. - painting in oils by Jayalakshmi Satyendra
from an original painting in oils by Jayalakshmi Satyendra

Life is work and work is worship - "God gives us opportunities to be of service to humanity, to our country, to ourselves. You must be ready and equipped to make use of those opportunities ...More than 2500 years ago a great Tamil poet wrote "Every country is my country, every human being is my kinsman". The brotherhood of man and universal love are themes central to practically all religions of the world. From this followed human rights such as the right to life, right to freedom of thought and speech and right to equality between man and man....

.... According to the Upanishads life is work and work is worship. So in the evening of my life I have fought many a battle as a member of the Civil Rights Movement...  I have won a few and lost many. I console myself with the thought that what matters is the fight for the cause and not the results. What is important is the fight and the struggle for justice and not the victory nor the defeat.

The saying in Bhagavad Gita 'To action you have a right but not to the fruits thereof' has been a source of great comfort to me in my life as it has enabled me to cultivate a sense of detachment which is necessary for happiness and peace of mind." - from Somasunderam Nadesan's response at the Peter Pillai Award Presentation, 1984

bullet Presentation of Peter Pillai Award - Mr.Victor Tennekoon Q.C, 19 October 1984
bullet Response by S.Nadesan Q.C. to Peter Pillai Award Presentation, 19 October 1984
bullet Establishment of the Nadesan Centre for Human Rights Through The Law, 7 October 1987


Presentation of Peter Pillai Award to S.Nadesan Q.C.
- Mr.Victor Tennekoon Q.C
19 October 1984

The man we honour today is S. Nadesan, Queens Counsel now for about 30 years.

As a young man growing up in Jaffna in the early part of this century he was without ambition. Nadesan was in fact born in the same year as Father Peter Pillai though he preceded the latter by six month's. The first time he heard of the Rev. father was the year he sat for the Senior Cambridge. The results when published astounded everybody for Father Peter Pillai had passed with, distinctions in every subject - 8 in all. Nadesan passed more modestly with only one distinction - Modern European History. After a short spell at Royal College he joined the University College.

Fr.Peter Pillai joined the university in the same year - the latter to follow a course in Maths Honours and Mr. Nadesan a General Degree course in Science. Nadesan resided at Union Hostel while the religious minded Father Peter Pillai was at the Catholic Hostel and it was during this period that they became acquainted with each other. Nadesan sat for his degree exam but failed because of his poor performance in Physics Practical. After an year or two of idleness, being somewhat rudderless after his plan to become a teacher had been wrecked, he joined the Law College.

After passing out he went into practice with hardly any acquaintances at the bar. He began in the Court of Requests, but once a week on Fridays he would attend what was called the D.C - Trial Roll Court. Here he was quite accidentally picked by a litigious Chettiar to appear in a small matter. The Chettiar was overjoyed by the result and his new found lawyer. He was then retained in most of the Chettiar's cases. Thereafter he had a large practice among the chettiar community and from this he branched off into the other fields.

I have given Mr. Nadesan's early years in some detail because when I interviewed him a couple days ago he insisted that while he was grateful for the honour done him by the Foundation, he did not see any special merit virtue, or talent in himself. One saying of his I noted:

"God gives us opportunities to be of service to humanity, to our country, to ourselves. You must be ready and equipped to make use of those opportunities"

Mr Nadesan found his opportunity to serve his country in, the legislature when under the Soulbury Constitution a second chamber known as the Senate was set up. He remained a member until its abolition immediately prior to the First Republican Constitution. During this period the Senators and the public were much enlightened on constitutional principles and constitutional rights by a series of brilliant instructive and analytical speeches in the House by Nadesan. When fundamental rights were written into the constitution for the first time in 1972 - but I must say unsatisfactorily written in, for provisions for giving effect to then were weak and placed in the hands of' a Constitutional Court which each government that came into power would constitute. Mr Nadesan challenged many laws as unconstitutional but without much success.

This kind of travelling constitutional court was abandoned in the 1978 constitution, where constitutional questions raised by Mr. Nadesan, Colvin R. de Silva and others have had much success.

We have heard often of judge made law, particularly in countries where English common law prevails. But I like to think the law is made by the bar even more than by the bench. Mr Nadesan has made an outstanding contribution to public life in the field of human rights and constitutional rights; but his talents were always unconfined. At one time he was thought  to be the expert in election petition cases.

In 1954 he was in London appearing with Sir Hartley Shawcross for Emil Savundaranayagam fighting en extradition order. I recall Mr. Nadesan showing me Sir Hartley's letter when he had to suddenly leave in the middle of Emil Savundaranayagam's case. After thanking Nadesan for his assistance in the extradition case Sir Hartley added: "I very rarely have the help of anyone with such an acute and analytical mind as you possess and I am sorry that you will not be there when the case is resumed. I hope you will be back in England soon - but not against me in the Privy Council!".

The reference to the Privy Council was to the case of T B Illangaratne vs. E L Senanayake in which the Privy Council held that its jurisdiction did not extend to the hearing of election petitions. This is a leading case on the subject and no election petition has gone to the Privy Council since then. Mr Nadesan was for Ilangaratne and Shawcross for E L Senanayake.

There are many stories one could relate of a man whose life is so crowded with innumerable events. He makes friends easily and even now though past eighty his friendships are legion. His many acts of charity none but he knows. He is a vegetarian, he believes in nature cure and a balanced diet.

I should like in conclusion to congratulate Mr. Nadesan on being chosen for the award this year. It will help at least to mark the tremendous debt that society owes to him. At. the same time I would like to wish him many years of life, living it in the way he enjoys it most, fighting for the rights of others whether those rights be human rights or rights of a lesser order.


Response by S.Nadesan Q.C.
at Peter Pillai Award Presentation
19 October 1984

More than 2500 years ago a great Tamil poet wrote "Every country is my country, every human being is my kinsman". The brotherhood of man and universal love are themes central to practically all religions of the world. From this followed human rights such as the right to life, right to freedom of thought and speech and right to equality between man and man. Though these were the principles embodied in the scriptures of all religions they were not followed in practice over the years.

We saw man's inhumanity to man over wide regions of the earth. Man became the worst enemy of man. There were revolutions in countries like the U.S.A and France and very much later in the Soviet Union. Human rights found an important place in the Bill of Rights and in the French Declaration on the Rights of Man.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in December 1948 gave concrete shape to the views of thinking mankind on the rights of man which included social justice.

In Sri Lanka Father Peter Pillai was the foremost apostle of social justice. What he stood for is embodied in Articles 22 to 25 of the Universal Declaration.

In 1937 Father Peter Pillai inaugurated the movement for the Restoration of Social Order and founded the Social Justice Review.

At the inaugural conference of Social Workers Father Peter Pillai said:

"We shall now consider the necessity for Social Services. What are the mainsprings of its action ? It may be that some are impelled to join the ranks of the Social Service Workers from an aesthetic need. Poverty spoils the beauty of the Universe, and this eye sore must he removed at all costs. A few others may throw themselves into the movement in order to gain the applause of men, while still others may swear allegiance to the standard of Social Service, purely from a desire to act for activity's sake. Needless to say that such recruits to the army of Social Service do more harm than good. There are however reasons which make Social Services an imperative duty. With the exception of a few savages and of those for whom hate signified by a clenched fist, is part of the social programme, I do not think there is anyone who will reject the doctrine of the Universal Brotherhood of Man

To those of us for whom the Fatherhood of God is one of the cornerstones of our religious outlook, the doctrine of the universal Brotherhood of Man cannot but shine forth with splendour and illumine our entire life with its powerful dynamism and make of it an inextinguishable source of beneficent activity.

But even to those few who do not go so far and so deep, the Brotherhood of Man is almost axiomatic. How then can anyone stand by indifferent when his brother is in distress and even in misery. Is it possible for us to enjoy the good things of life when we know that our brother is in dire want? I know that certain extreme nationalist theories run counter to this elementary sense of humanity. But such hypotheses are aberrations of the intellect which cannot stand the test of time.

Social Service then as an evident corollary of the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, preached most strongly by Christianity it is true, but accepted by both Buddhists and Hindus."

To Father Peter Pillai, service of God is the Service of Man. He was a humanist. He believed in true democracy. He was greatly concerned with the inequalities of wealth and poverty in our country. His social vision and, his passionate concern for the welfare of human beings have been a source of inspiration to all of us who were privileged to know him. I accept this award therefore with great humility and with complete consciousness that my contribution in the field of human rights is very little.

I have been interested in human rights and social justice since about 1923. After I became a lawyer in 1931, during my professional work, I had to appear particularly during the war years in a number of cases involving civil liberties and workers rights. I had also to appear before arbitrators and courts in respect of industrial disputes.

From 1947 till 1972 except for a period of 2 years I was a member of the Senate and contributed both in my speeches in the Senate and in my writings, my views with regard to many problems of human rights and social justice.

From 1974 I gradually reduced my professional work with the view to retiring from practice when I reached the age of 75. But this was not to be, as my involvement with human rights and in particular the Civil Rights Movement made it impossible for me to do so.

According to the Upanishads life is work and work is worship. So in the evening of my life I have fought many a battle as a member of the C.R.M. and otherwise in the cause of the people. I have won a few and lost many. I console myself with the thought that what matters is the fight for the cause and not the results. What is important is the fight and struggle for justice and not the victory nor the defeat. The saying in Bhagavad Gita "To action you have a right but not to the fruits thereof" has been a source of great comfort to me in my life as it has enabled me to cultivate a sense of detachment which is necessary for happiness and peace of mind.

In the course of these fights for the fundamental rights of the people I have been compelled to reflect on several matters including the Rule of Law.

Nowadays the Rule of Law has to be maintained more rigorously that ever before, In a civilised society it is the laws that contribute to the civilised character of society. It is not the men but the laws, this is the principle of Dharma. It must be regarded as superior to all men and all other things. Dharma (Law) say the Unpanishads is the of King of Kings far more powerful and rigid than they. There is nothing higher than Dharma. By its prowess the weak prevail over the strong and justice triumphs. it is the concept of Dharma from which all principles of morality and ethics flow.

The goddess of Justice is depicted as blindfolded, holding in one hand the sword and in the other the scales of Justice, thereby affirming that Justice will be meted out irrespective of persons, without affection or goodwill. What has to be carried out is justice pure and simple. If Justice is to be maintained in the country those who occupy positions of responsibility must be persons of integrity, of detachment, of objectivity. They must not swerve from their path on account of political or other extraneous considerations but deal out Justice. If Dharma is violated by who ever it may be, under that very law divine retribution is inevitable.

The Rule of Law is the foundation of democracy. Democracy is a moral concept. It is something which is pledged to the defence of truth and justice. If we compromise with evil, with injustice, with untruth, we may gain a temporary advantage but permanent danger will result.

What is necessary is an integration of human nature giving to it peace of mind. This requires education and health. Health is a prime necessity. People who are lacking in health are enslaved by diseases and other consequent factors.

We suffer from ignorance and education is the means to remove it. It should be of the right type. The educated person should be not merely a better informed or a more skilled person; he must be a better person and be an example of self control and disciplined behaviour. We cannot attain an integrated personality by wealth or earning. We suffer from mental unrest and anxiety. We want stimulants and sedatives. Malnutrition, under nutrition and over nutrition, apart from the hectic pace of life with its stresses and strains, is responsible for the diseases of civilisation .

Life has become soft. Health is not a commodity to be prescribed by a doctor and purchased over the counter at a dispensary. It can only be attained if we live in harmony with nature. We need a well ordered life: without inward peace we cannot be happy. I do not want to say more on this matter lest I be accused of riding my hobby horse on an occasion such as this.

I thank you Mr. Chairman, the Trustees of the Institute, and all of you Ladies and Gentlemen and friends who are gathered here. You have humbled me with this award. But you have honoured the noble spirit of Father Peter Pillai and of the Civil Rights Movement of this country to which I am proud to belong.


Establishment of the Nadesan Centre for Human Rights Through The Law

The Editor

Dear Sir,

October 7th this year will be the fifty-sixth anniversary of the day on which Somasunderam Nadesan was enrolled as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. As you know he soon established himself as one of the country's leading civil and criminal lawyers. He became a Queen's Counsel in 1954 and was elected President of the Bar Council of Sri Lanka in 1970. He was the only Sri Lankan to sit in the Senate almost continuously from its inception in 1947 until its abolition in 1972. He was a passionate advocate of human rights and the civil liberties of the individual and espoused these causes unceasingly and tirelessly up to the day of his death on December 21st last year. Although he played a leading role in national affairs he always shunned any form of personal publicity. Simplicity and humility were the hallmarks of his genius.

In order to perpetuate the memory of this great man and the ideals to which he devoted ids entire lie, it has been decided to establish THE NADESAN CENTRE HUMAN RIGHTS THROUGH LAW. I am enclosing a short note on the aims and objectives of THE NADESAN CENTRE and will be most grateful if you could publish/broadcast it on October 7. If, for any reason this is nut possible then we will appreciate publication as close as possible to that date.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,
The Rev. Celestine Fernando Chairman
26 Charles Place Colombo 3.
2 October 1987


EMBARGOED FOR MEDIA RELEASE
UNTIL 7 OCTOBER 1987

Establishment of  the Nadesan Centre - Short Note

Mr. S. Nadesan QC who was enrolled as an advocate of the Supreme Court on 7 October 1931 and who died on 21 December last year was a fearless and dedicated champion of human rights and civil liberties throughout his long and distinguished legal career. He was elected President of the Bar Council in 1970. Mr. Nadesan campaigned ceaselessly for the legal riots of individuals and groups in the Senate of which he was a member almost continuously from its inception in 1947 until its abolition in 1972.

He was a founder member of the Civil Rights Movement in 1971 and remained its driving force until the day of his death at the age of 83. THE NADESAN CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS THROUGH LAW has been set up to perpetuate his memory. It will be primarily a legal service organisation fur non-governmental organisations and individuals active in human rights work. The constitution of THE NADESAN CENTRE specifically provides that it will "seek to complement rather than duplicate the efforts of others

active in the field of human rights, and to this end shall place emphasis on providing a service for lawyers and organisations engaged in the pursuit of legal remedies for human rights violations with a view to making their work more effective."

The initial projects of the Nadesan Centre will be the establishment of a human rights law library and the provision of a consultative and advisory service for lawyers engaged in human rights cases.

There have been remarkable developments in international human rights law, and the creation of a body of jurisprudence in this field. Lawyers engaged in such work in Sri Lanka have experienced difficulties in gaining access to this body of law in respect of the decisions of international bodies, regional tribunals and decisions of national courts in other countries. The library will meet this need. In providing a consultative and advisory service to lawyers working in the field of human rights the Centre will aim at strengthening their work and making it more effective by minimising duplication and dilution of effort.

THE NADESAN CENTRE, an independent and non political institution, also aims to provide a forum for scholarly discussion, to engage in research and bring out publications on selected topics, to examine violations of human rights and provide legal representation in selected cases, to liaise with similar organisations elsewhere and to promote public education in human rights.

THE NADESAN CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS THROUGH LAW. No.26, Charles. Place, Colombo 3. Chairman: The Rev. Celestine Fernando. Jt. Secretaries: Radhika Coomaraswamy and Suriya Wickremasinghe. Treasurer: Sithie Tiruchelvam.

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