Mr. U. R. De Silva PC
First of all, I would like to wish all the Judicial Officers, President’s Counsels and Senior and junior members of the Bar a successful, meaningful and effective New Year 2019. I fervently wish the Judiciary and the Bar in collaboration will be able to achieve many milestones during this New Year.
The BASL which is playing a key role in promoting and advancing the rule of law, members welfare and the Human Rights has progressed a long way from its inception and the past and present office bearers have unquestionably rendered a yeoman service to see the BASL where it is as of today. I first joined BASL as a key office bearer in 2000 as a member of Executive Committee and the Chairman of Social welfare Committee and in 2001 elevated as its treasurer then progressed to function as the secretary during the years of 2008-2010 before being elected to the office of president in 2017. When I take hindsight of the way I have trodden during past two decades, I am very humbled at the service and the guidance I could render for the upliftment of the BASL.
The BASL is now confronting the mammoth challenges in the face of fast growing memberships which has by today exceeded 20,000, out of which significant segment is composed of junior members of Bar. While the BASL is seriously pondering on the ways and means of regulating the inflow to the profession, it is just as committed to deliver a quality output by ensuring uninterrupted course of continuous legal education. On that subject, I am humbly proud to have been the pioneer in decentralizing the National Law Conferences to provincial levels which has thus far witnessed 08 Provincial Law Conferences as per the promise I made in my Induction Speech in March 2017
During my Induction Speech as the president of the BASL last year, I acknowledged the importance of performing our task with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude, which can only be imparted by giving a proper training to our Law Students and Apprentices. To this end, the BASL offered various certificate courses such as Criminal Defence, Effective Instructing Attorney, Advanced Training on ICT, legal English and short program on Anti Money Laundering measures in Sri Lanka. The fruition of the BASL in acting as the pioneer of post Law Collage legal education is demonstrated keen interest evinced by the membership, regardless of seniority in participating and assimilating the invaluable knowledge distributed through the highly qualified panel of lecturers at unimaginable affordable prices.
Conference of Presidents of Law Associations in Asia (POLA) was a Belle of the Ball in the past year. It is indeed a privilege to be able to chair the conference during my tenure and almost all the delegates’ highly appreciated the level of organization of the event and the hospitality demonstrated towards them. The President of the Law Association in Asia got together and focused on their attention on various issues which were ploughing the profession in general. We extended our hand of friendship which they warmly welcomed hence they arrived in as guests but departed the country as our friends.
The National Law Conference and Junior National Law Conference, two inevitable annual events in the BASL calendar reached their zenith in the previous year when it magnificently and grandurely unfolded which vividly showcased the strength of the membership. The two top events attracted the participants in numbers who made it a point to both enhance their legal knowledge and reinforce the connections with their colleagues in the profession.
I was able to command the confidence of the Executive Committee and whole Bar Council in introducing the much awaited amendments to the Constitution of BASL in shaping it to suit modern day context. Accordingly plenty of key amendments were unanimously passed which were designed in such a way to filter the commitment and dedication to uplift the standard of Bar.
I further continued the practice of publishing latest Unreported Judgment in view of the delay it takes to release official version of Sri Lanka Law Reports. Accordingly the General Publication Committee compiled Appellate Court Judgments in 2017 and 2018 (unreported) for Criminal Law in two volumes and Supreme Court Judgments (unreported) in Civil Law. We also offered the whole set of Sri Lanka Law Reports at an affordable price which we had allowed to settle in easy monthly installments.
Last BASL Directory had been published 07 years ago when I held the post of secretary in BASL and remained unupdated ever since. Hence I personally intervened in updating the BASL directory, for which data was collected from the membership and after a toilsome work, born BASL directory 2017 which carried the information of BASL membership which had reached almost 20,000 by 2017. I perceive it as a very effective trait in connecting the members who practice across the island.
I vehemently spoke of improvements to the infrastructure facilities of the Court houses. I turned my rhetoric into action when I was the first President to participate in the Infrastructure Trust Fund Committee. By my intervention I was able to provide almost all equipments needed by Anuradhapura Zone. Moreover Library Facilities were provided to Ratnapura Bar, Batticaloa Bar, Marawilla Ba.
I who always indulged in aesthetic entertainments was very proud to present 25th edition of ‘Neeti Ranga’ which unfolded colorfully in Kularathne hall of Ananda Collage in Maradana. I was very excited in organizing the Neethi Rnaga Gala that I dedicated days and nights in preparing talented members so as to give maximum entertainment to the spectators. Our valiant effort was rewarded by the presence of number of Judges, senior lawyers and the members of the Bar who rejoiced over the aesthetic skills of their colleagues. I was also able to resurrect “Neethi Kekulu”, which had remained submerged for a long time. My invitation for the parent to motivate their children to showcase their talents was warmly welcome that 30 entertaining segments including singing, dancing was performed. It was regarded as an endeavor to pass the values of current generation to the future generation.
BASL as a responsible professional body intervened in issues which assumed the national importance. Accordingly it raised its concern over the duplicity of proposed Constitution, the threat to independency and integrity of the judiciary and legal profession and made representation in assisting the apex Court in interpreting the Constitution and determining the constitutionality of the Bills. .
The BASL did not shy away when Lady Lawyers requested change in their attire which while preserving the dignity of the profession would promotes their convenience and comfort. Hence in consultation with the Women Lawyers’ Association and with the blessing of His Lordship the Chief Justice and Justice Eva Wanasundera, PC an alternative attire for the lady lawyers which would suit the very busy professional and life style was introduced by amending the Supreme Court Rules (Attire of Judges and Attorney-at-Law) 1978
‘Appreciation Night’ which was held on on 5th March 2018, where 17 senior lawyers who had completed 50 years in active service were felicitated while and 52 members who had contributed in various dimensions to live the BASL up to the expectations of the membership were recognized by awarding them very fascinating ‘Token of Appreciation’
I take this opportunity to extend my sincere and profound gratitude to key office bearers, members of executive body, all delegate members of the Bar Council, all the members at large and the permanent carder of BASL for the unreserved and unconditional support and service rendered towards the achievement of the goals of which the entire membership is reaping harvest at this moment.