Srimega Wijeratne, affectionately known as Srimega Aiya to close family members, passed away after braving a brief illness recently. After his early education at Dharmaraja College, Kandy, Srimega entered the University of Peradeniya where he completed his BA and LL. Degrees and passed out as an Advocate in 1967.
Thereafter, he was engaged in active legal practice in the criminal and labour fields. In the post 1970 period he functioned as a lecturer at the Sri Lanka Law College, where, among his students were the present Executive President of Sri Lanka, the present Chief Justice and Attorney General. He was the first lecturer to publish a book in Sinhala on Criminal Law and conduct lectures in the Sinhala medium. During this period he also held the prestigious posts of chairman – Press Council and chairman/director – Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation. Having being actively involved in SLFP party politics at that time he functioned as the Legal Secretary of the SLFP in the post 1977 period.
Thereafter, he joined the UNHCR in the late ‘70s and functioned in the UN system as a Senior Legal Advisor for almost 25 years, which took him to many countries, such as, USA, Switzerland, Philippines, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he was stationed from time to time. On his return to Sri Lanka he pioneered the establishment of the Legal Aid Commission with aid from foreign agencies and held the post of chairman – Legal Aid Commission, until his death. He also held the post of Secretary General of the ICLP Arbitration Centre. He also served as a
member of the first Constitutional Council established in 2001 representing the small parties.
Apart from Srimega's remarkable academic and professional achievements, he was an ideal colleague in our family circle. Married to our first cousin Rukmini Herat Gunaratne, he blended with all Herat Gunaratne uncles, aunts and cousins in the most warm and cordial manner. He was very keen that the extended family should meet on some occasion at least once in three months, be it a family dinner, alms giving, Munneshwaram Perahera or even a family trip. He personally coordinated all these activities and was a live wire on all occasions. He was so versatile and well read that it was a pleasure to talk to him since you could always learn something new.
His knowledge of international relations was remarkable as much as his wide knowledge of law and human rights. He also had a great sense of humour and wit and even in the last stages of his illness when he knew that he was steadily going down, he remained cheerful and jovial. While the legal profession has lost another of its most eminent professionals our family has lost one of its most loyal and sincere members.
May he attain Nibbana.