Never too old Colombo Law Faculty vintage photograph unveiled | Daily News

Never too old Colombo Law Faculty vintage photograph unveiled

Colombo University Vice-Chancellor Professor Chandrika N Wijeyaratne unveiled a vintage photograph showing staff and students of the Colombo Law Faculty (1972), in the Board room of the current Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, in the presence of the members of the Faculty of Law, and several guests from the 1969 batch of the Colombo Law Faculty.

Professor Chandrika N Wijeyaratne, Law Faculty Dean Dr. Sampath Punchiheva, Head of Department Dr Wasantha Seneviratne, Professor Srilal Perera Senaka and Attorney at Law Chandana Jayaweera Bandara were in attendance.

Excerpts from the speech made by Attorney at Law Senaka Weeraratna.

This photograph has archival value. It has a story to tell and will outlive all those who are seen in the photo, both teachers and students. It is the first-ever group photograph taken of the students and staff together. In that sense, it is a rare first.

Let me go back in time. The Dept of Law was established in 1947 under the Faculty of Arts. The Faculty of Law was established in 1967, with Professor T. Nadaraja as the foundation Dean. My batch the '1969' batch was the third batch after the Faculty was formed. The numbers were small compared to today, fifty students were the size of my batch. Today the number of new entrants is over six times that size.

The walls of the faculty building when we entered in 1969 were more or less empty. There were no pictures of any kind, group or individual, giving an insight into the institutional history. Any info on the history of the Law Faculty or Law Dept came only by word of mouth. Mostly inaccurate. We had a Newsletter called ‘Jura’, a brainchild of our batch which filled a long-felt need to stay connected through an exchange of news and views. The first Editor was A.P. Niles and the person who succeeded Niles as Editor was Sri Lal Perera, who is here with us today. He did a splendid job, in bringing out several editions of ‘Jura’.

Commemorative dinner

It is only when 1972 dawned that we came to know via Dr. Mark Cooray that it was the year of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Dept. of Law. Mark Cooray was a doer, with a sense of direction and knowledge of the past. He organized on behalf of the Faculty staff a commemorative dinner at the Akase Kade, Ceylinco Bldg. Fort in January 1972. I attended that dinner with Ifthikar Hassim, a batchmate. The then Minister of Justice Felix R. Dias Bandaranaike was the Chief Guest. K. Shinya, a distinguished alumnus delivered a memorable speech. I was thrilled to meet both old and young lawyers (former students) then holding notable appointments in several sectors of employment.

We the students decided to do something different as our contribution to the commemoration activities. The Law Faculty Students’ Union decided to mark the event with a photograph of the entire Faculty. Something that has not been done before. We retained John & Co. an old photography studio in Kollupitiya for that purpose. Nihal Amaradasa of that firm, a former Cricket Captain of Nalanda College (in the mid-nineteen fifties) took the photograph in Sept. 1972. The location was the outdoor premises of the Colombo Campus. A handsome big sized photo with only the seated ones named in the picture was displayed prominently in the Faculty Staffroom. One day the picture disappeared from the staff room. It had walked out, so it appeared. It was missing. I was then in Australia.

I returned to Sri Lanka in 2000. I realized the value of the photograph and the need for someone to take the initiative to get a replacement. Fortunately, I had with me in my possession a smaller version of this photograph which I had purchased from John & Co. in 1972. I approached Mrs. Mendis, the proprietor of Plate Studios in Kollupitiya, and asked her whether she could have it re-photographed and enlarged to replace the one that was missing. She agreed. Thereafter copies of the photo became available at Plate Studios for anyone interested in keeping a copy framed in their homes. A number of my 1969 group batchmates proceeded to do exactly just that.

Years passed by but there was no sign of movement in this matter. Furthermore, there was a missing factor. Only the names of the ones seated in the front row were set out and not the ones standing in the back rows, which constituted the bulk of the students. In the interest of completeness and to enable everyone in the photo to be identified by name we set about doing what was initially seen and decried as an impossible task. Finding names to fit the image. Many of them were scattered all around the globe. No one had their addresses or contact details.

Distinguished alumnus

True to the Proverb ‘Where there's a will there's a way’ with great determination we set about gathering the names. We had to call people overseas and little by little the names started trickling in. Several offered help to track down others. Many months were taken until the work was completed. The framing took place thereafter.

Before I conclude I will give you a small hint of what more is in store. This photograph shows a section of the students who passed through the portals of the Faculty at a given period. Likewise, another medium in the form of a book of essays in honour of a distinguished alumnus is in print and expected to hit the shelves of bookshops sometime in March. It has seminal articles on the Law Faculty, its history, its achievements, its teachers, and the students. It is a book that should be in the possession of every law faculty-student, past, and present.

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