Plus - Appreciations

Staunch Christian and upright lawyer who made a lasting contribution to the legal profession

Emil Joseph Ajantha Coorey

The 10th death anniversary of Emil Joseph Ajantha Coorey, Senior Attorney-at-Law, falls on November 29, 2011. That very morning, 10 years ago, on November 29, 2001, he came to Hulftsdorp, and after appearing in a case, he went home. That afternoon, he passed away, calmly and serenely. His sudden death caused shock and sorrow to his family and to all who knew him.

Emil Joseph Ajantha Coorey hailed from a distinguished family of legal professionals. He was a son of the late Austin Coorey, Senior Attorney-at-Law, and Mrs. Muriel Coorey. His only brother, Dr. Sunil Coorey, is also a respected Senior Attorney-at-Law.

Mr. Coorey was a distinguished student of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He pursued his studies in law while serving in the Commercial Bank of Ceylon. After obtaining his Bachelors in Law degree as an external student, he joined the Sri Lanka Law College and passed out as an Attorney-at-Law in 1977. He was privileged to serve in the Chambers of the late G. F. Sethukavalar, President’s Counsel.

Mr. Coorey gradually built up his practice, and at the time of his demise he was enjoying an extensive practice in the original and appellate Courts. He was much sought after for his expertise in Banking and Commercial Law. He counted several reputed banks and companies among his clients.

Mr. Coorey’s services to the legal profession and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka were outstanding. For several years, he served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Bar Association, and later as an Assistant Secretary, and finally as its Secretary. He was chairman of the organising committee of the Law Asia Conference that was held in Sri Lanka in 1993. He was a member of the Council of Legal Education, and at the time of his demise he was Secretary of the Colombo Law Library.

In addition, Mr. Coorey was the author of the Consolidated Digest of New Law Reports. He was instrumental in getting published the amended versions of the Civil Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Partition Act, which immensely benefited members of the legal profession, the judiciary and law students.

He wrote a number of articles on Banking Law for prestigious journals. Mr. Coorey was a devoted Roman Catholic. In fact, his deeply rooted Christianity was the strength and vigour of his life, and permeated every aspect of his life – professional, domestic and social.

Mr. Coorey was a man of absolute honesty and integrity. He shied away from personal glory and publicity. His dedication and uncompromising loyalty to his profession was never in doubt. By nature, he was outspoken and did not hesitate to make his views known in matters relating to the legal profession and the Bar Association, how unpopular such issues were.

This he did without giving a thought to possible adverse effects of such strong views on his professional career. I am personally aware of one such incident that did have an adverse effect on his professional career. At the same time, he was open to persuasion. But once he had reached a decision, he remained very firm about it.

He was meticulous and thorough in everything he did. This was one quality that underlined his success. He left no stone unturned in his efforts to do all he could in his client’s interests. The time he spent on a case was never relevant to the payment he received for his services.

Mr. Coorey never lost his temper. He won his battles through gentle argument and firm conviction. His compassion and kindness knew no bounds. Members of the profession and the judiciary had the highest respect and regard for him.

It is said that greatness is not measured by birth, wealth or fame, nor by the worth of one’s material possessions, but those in whose hearts you live. Mr. Coorey’s greatness will be measured by the love and respect of those who knew him.

Apart from his religion, the other driving force in his life was his family. He was a loving husband to his wife Bernie and a devoted father to his children, Shivan and Shalinee. Notwithstanding his busy practice and other work, he always had time for his family.

The great sacrifices he made for his family have been amply rewarded. His son Shivan passed his Bachelor of Laws degree in the UK , and has taken to law as “a duck takes to water”; his daughter Shalinee has a doctorate in architecture and is a Senior Lecturer of the Faculty of Architecture, at the University of Moratuwa. To the great joy of the parents, both are doing extremely well in their chosen professions.

Over the years, many young lawyers had the benefit of working in the Chambers of Emil Joseph Ajantha Coorey. All his juniors were enriched by their association with him.

I had the rare privilege of serving in his Chambers for more than eight years, up to the time of his demise. He was my “guru”. The training and experience I received under him has immensely benefited my career as a lawyer. I am ever grateful for the knowledge, experience and training I received while working under him.

Deep in our hearts, Mr. Coorey is loved and remembered. May his gentle soul rest in the Peace of the Lord whom he served so faithfully.

Varuna Senadhira

Larger-than-life Dharme will live on in the hearts of the people of Kohuwala

Dharmasena ("Antique Dharme”) Gomes

A well-known personality in Kohuwala, Dharmasena Gomes departed this life at the young old age of 67. He was a man of unique qualities and a dominating personality. He was famous for his valuable antiques collection, which attracted locals and tourists. Foreigners and film producers were regular visitors to his antiques gallery.

Dharme was a natural leader, with an amazing gift for success: whatever he was involved in became a success story, however great the odds. Dharme did things his way, with interesting and colourful results. At his wedding, his bride was taken to his house in a decorated bullock cart.

Dharma once initiated an almsgiving (“dhaane”) that continued for one whole year, spread over 12 consecutive full moon days. It was an open almsgiving in memory of his mother, and the clergy of all religions and the people of the area were invited. News spread and hundreds gathered every month for the famous lunch.

Dharma’s great loves were his antiques and the environment. He protected and cherished both like rare treasures. He had a magnetic personality. People would automatically gravitate to wherever Dharme was to be found. He was also a very hospitable person. Visitors to his home always received a warm welcome, whatever the time of day.

A first-time visitor to Sirigal Mawatha, Kohuwala, will be impressed by two huge majestic gates and a block of land filled with trees and foliage, something you do not often see in or around Colombo city limits. This was Dharme’s way of showing his love for the environment.

Dharme’s demise is most sorrowfully felt by his ever-loving wife Samanmali, who dedicated her life to him and nursed him so lovingly during his prolonged illness; his loved ones Ravindra, Nadeesha, and Linara, his little grand-daughter who cried so much that she nearly broke the hearts of those who came to pay their last respects; relatives, neighbours and friends.

Dharme, may you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Athula Chandrasiri

You were a charming prince to all of us

Chaminda Sanjeewa Senaratne

I remember that day
31st January 2010
The news that changed our lives
Something sank in our hearts
You, the youngest of our clan
Met with a nasty crash.

The struggle to make you survive
Was immense from all sides
We held on to our faith
Hoping against hope
The long days and dark nights
For nearly two years you fought

You were the young tender sun
That peeped, shone and in a minute was gone
Your mischievous grin and sweet smile
Lightened our moods
You had many names
Chami, Chum, Pati, and what not
Yes, you were a charming prince, no doubt

You are too good, too sweet, too gentle
Fun you would never shun
Carefree to the utmost
Fond memories of rapturous laugh
Echo in our eager hearts
You were not just the lovely cousin
A brother to all of us, dear indeed!

So goodbye Sweet Chami!
May we meet somewhere in another life!
May you be blessed with long life!
May this end all your suffering
And finally have the supreme bliss
Of Nirvana we all crave

Savithri Jayasinghe Cooray

An officer and gentleman, loved and respected by his Customs colleagues

P. Yoganathan

On this 31st day of remembrance (Anthiyeddi) of Mr. P. Yoganathan, whose sudden demise remains a shock for those who know him, I thought to write a few words about this great personality with whom I associated for more than two decades.

Mr. Yoganathan worked with the Customs Department for well over 35 years. He joined in 1976 and rose to be Director of Customs. His colleagues fondly called him “Yoga”, while high-ranking officers called him “Boss”, and the rank and file called him “Sir”. He also had a nickname, “Gig! Gig! Yoga”, which he earned because of the way he entertained his colleagues and fellow officers with jolly stories to fit any situation, regardless of whether the occasion was official or unofficial.

I am one of the fortunate persons in the Customs Department who had the opportunity to move with him and learn the ropes under his able guidance. To work in the Customs you need not only practical knowledge but also guidance from seniors at various levels.

I first met Mr. Yoganathan in 1990, when I was doing overtime at the Boat Note Passing office, inside the port of Colombo. As a fresher in Customs, I had a challenging time processing documents for export shipments. The huge pile of paperwork you have to get through includes shipping agent documents, Ports Authority documents, and Customs documents.

It was here that I observed Mr. Yoganathan at work, and noted his wealth of knowledge, experience, courage and enthusiasm. He was a great support to me, helping me get through those difficult initial months. He was a good trainer’s trainer.

I later worked with him again, from 1995 to 1998, at the Bandaranaike International Airport passenger terminal, where he was a supervising officer. Unlike import/export cargo handling duties inside the port, working in the airport passenger terminal requires extra special skills, as you are dealing with passengers. No two days are the same at the airport; different situations demand different solutions. Mr. Yoganathan’s ability to handle difficult situations was amazing. I realised how good and able he was in dealing with unforeseen and challenging situations.

His social skills were also outstanding. He was a man of many talents. He could direct theatre shows, organize Karnatic music concerts, and participate in debates. He had a collection of awards from a variety of organisations. He was president of the Customs Hindu Officers Association, working tirelessly for its betterment.Management gurus say that good leaders are good situation handlers, grievance listeners, decision-makers, and so on. Mr. Yoganathan was a natural leader who carried out his duties effectively and efficiently.

He was a teetotaler all his life, and never allowed any weakness to get the better of him. His remarkable qualities and simple lifestyle were discussed by mourners gathered for his funeral.
Mr. Yoganathan should be held up as an example to our young officers. I have no doubt that many will make Mr. Yoganathan their role model for life.

May your soul attain Shanthi.

Godfrey Anton

The silence of the midnight hour

Elmo Benedict

The silence of the midnight hour
Unchains the spirit in me
And the power of reasoning
Takes flight beyond
The limits of my sight.
It may deceive me
Yet it attracts the soul
In search of my beloved;
Memories are priceless possessions
That time can never destroy –
The heart finds its greatest joy
Could you ask for a finer gift?

Lourdeslin Benedict

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