The Birth Centenary of P. Navaratnarajah (Q.C.) fell on Tuesday December 16, 2008:
Sri Lanka was blessed during the latter part of 19th and 20th centuries with brilliant men with a vision, mission and foresight who have by their sublime thoughts, power packed words and dazzling deeds attained immortality. To this select group belongs late P. Navaratnarajah (Q.C.)
Paramanathan Navaratnarajah was born in the year 1908, in Puloly at Point Pedro and he received his education at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, Colombo 13. There, he laid the foundation of his uniquely illustrious Academic career and entered the University College of Ceylon, as it was then known. He read for the Degree in Mathematics and secured First Class Honours.
He was then selected to read for the Cambridge Tripos in Mathematics and during his sojourn in the United Kingdom, he was called to the Bar from the Middle Temple in 1934. He took silk as Queen’s Counsel in 1965 and in 1984 he completed 50 years as a member of the Bar.
In fact on account of Late H. A. P. Sandrasagara’s (a brilliant Criminal Lawyer) intellectual acumen and oratorical brilliance at the Azzize courts in Colombo, Navaratnarajah wanted to become a Lawyer. As an advocate, he was considered a colossus in the legal profession in this country. He was one of the most polished persuasive and hard working advocates of our times.
His methodical and meticulous preparation of the work entrusted to him, was an exercise in unbounded patience, total dedication and utmost endeavour, not only to give forth of the best of his clients, but also to be to the maximum assistance to the Bench.
When he walked into the court, he knew his brief like the back of his hand and what he did not know, was not worth knowing. His court craft was admirable and unmatched. He retained the confidence of the Bench, the esteem of his colleagues and the gratitude of his clients right upto his passing away.
Navaratnarajah will go down in history as one of the all times great of Hulftsdorp. Many are the civil cases in which, by his clarity of thought, mastery analysis, mellifluous language assisted the Bench in clarifying and setting the principles of law relating to complicated civil Law.
Beginning slowly, but steadily Navaratnarajah built a huge practice at the original courts of Hulftsdorp.
He was a specialist in contract Law, Defamation and Election petition cases and Company Law.
There are many other qualities and attributes of late Navaratnarajah which are singularly refreshing and endearing. One such quality was his sense of Compassion and kindness. He always had time for people in particular for his juniors who remembered him with great affection.
Further, Navaratnarajah played a crucial role in the public affairs of this country. He was Director of the S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike National Foundation, Hindu Cultural Foundation, Hindu Citizens’ Committee and Trustee of the Times of Ceylon which was bought by a distinguished Tamil Entrepreneur Sangarapillai of Karainagar from the British owners.
Navaratnarajah played a key role in the S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike - S. J. V. Chelvanayagam pact to bring about good relations and cordiality between the two major communities of Sri Lanka. Navaratnarajah was one of the greatest prophets of national unity and solidarity.
Barrister Navaratnarajah got married to “Sundaranayaki”, the only daughter of Dr. C. Sabapathi of privy council fame and an illustrious member of the Medical profession. Further, he has left behind three daughters namely Navaranee Shanmugaratnam, Lalitha Pararajasingam and Dr. Manohari Shanmuganathan. Jamuna Ganeshalingam who is the President of the Colombo Young Women’s Hindu Association and former President of the Vada Hindu Girls’ College, Point Pedro (Colombo Branch) is Navaratnarajah’s youngest brother late Dr. Sri Pathmanathan’s daughter.
Blessed with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, infectious enthusiasm and inspiring leadership combined with his imagination, encompassing sweep of his thought he left an indelible impression what he did with rare dynamism and exemplary zeal Indeed, he rose above sectariasm, communalism, regionalism and racism.
Furthermore, in the hectic transitional age in the progress of Sri Lanka from a British crown Colony through a period of Semi-Self-rule to a free and independent nation, a few names stand out as leaders of undisputed versatility. They made lasting contributions and offered leadership in a variety of fields at one and the same time through their multiple talents.
One such colourful personality was Barrister P. Navaratnarajah (Q.C.) who was an intellectual giant on his own right. In fact, there was no aspect of a subject on which he had no clear cut views or an innovative approach and these had been developed through reflection, critical examination and open minded consultation.