The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

18th May 1997



When Sooty Banda went to courts

Sooty Banda, a columnist of the Sunday Observer, had received
a special dispensation from Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake which
allowed him towrite his Beachcomber-like prose and verse for the Press
while being a memberof the public service. Obviously Mr. Senanayake was "big" enough to acknowledge that literary talent should not be choked by
administrative regulations or politicians. Those who misguided the destinies
of Ceylon in theperiod of transition had different views. And the ravings of
those Cabinet Ministers who earned comment from Sooty Banda were symptomatic of another and characteristic of the period we lived
through a total lack of a sense of humour.
By Tarzie Vittachi

The case in which one Wijeyananda Dahanayake was suing Chevalier Sooty Banda, alias Lion of Hantane alias Terror of Boovalikada, alias Lord Protector of Menikes, alias Bard of Lanka came up for hearing last week. Sapin J. presiding.

Rodda, Q.C.: instructed by Pingaddi Perera, Proctor S.C. appeared for the plaintiff.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: instructed by Galtik Fernando, Proctor S.C appeared for the respondent.

Rodda, Q.C.: M’Lud we submit that our client Wijeyananda Dahanayake has been grossly, maliciously unconscionably, violently unreasonably in fact, badly insulted defamed and humiliated by the respondent and we demand the maximum compensation by way of damage to our client’s fame, name and reputation.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: Reputation for what?

Rodda, Q.C.: M’Lud I object to the interruption by my learned friend. I submit that it is irrelevant, immaterial and incompetent.

Sapin J.: Objection over-ruled continue.

Roddha, Q.C.: I call Wijeyananda Dahanayake to the witness box. Now Mr. Dahanayake what is your complaint?

Witness.: I have been insulted and humiliated. My putties have been broken.

Rodda, Q.C.: What do you do for a living?

Witness: I am a Cabinet Minister.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: In other words the public has to work for his living.

Roddha Q.C.: Objected to as irrelevant, immaterial and incompetent.

Sapin J: Objection over-ruled. What is the specific complaint this man is making?

Rodda, Q.C.: That the respondent Sooty Banda did wittingly maliciously and deliberately insult, humiliate and pulfy Wijeyananda Dahanayake by calling him a native of Galle, who writes lousy parodies.

Sapin J: Those are not matters of opinion, but matters of ascertainable fact. This case should be easy. Let us see. Well? What has Counsel for the defence got to say?

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: As you so rightly say M’Lud these are matters of ascertainable fact. Now Mr. Dahanayake, are you a native of Galle or are you not?

Witness: Well.....

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: I put to you that you are a native of Galle.

Witness: Yes I was born in Galle.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: Ah! That’s that. So you are a native of Galle. Are you a writer of parodies?

Witness: I have written some parodies.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: I put it to you that you have never written anything but parodies.

Witness: I admit that I have a predilection for parodies.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: Ah! That disposes of that. You have now confessed that you are a native of Galle who writes parodies. Yes or no?

Witness: Yes.

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: We now have to determine the quality of these parodies. I put it to you that they are lousy. Recite what you consider your masterpiece.

Witness: (Rolling his eyes in practised ecstasy)

Twinkle twinkle little Bandaranaike,

How I wonder what you are,

Up above the M.E.P.

Like a hero of South-East Asia.

Laughter in Court . Sapin J. gets an attack of hysteria and is thumped in the back by the Interpreter Mudaliar.

Sapin J: Order! Order

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: Is that a lousy parody or is it?

Sapin J: The Court would like to hear another of Mr. Dahanayake’s masterpieces before pronouncing a verdict. Have you any more choice parodies like that?

Witness: Yes my Lord. I have one which won the Gok-kola media (with palms) at the Sravasti Major Poets Congress.

Hickory dickory Gluck

The mouse ran up the clock

The clock struck one

The mouse ran down

Hickory dickory Gluck!

Sapin J: But it doesn’t rhyme?

Witness: Of couse it does. That’s the beauty of it. Americans pronounce "clock" like "cluck". And, anyway, if Mr. Anon who wrote the original Hickory Dickory Dock, could rhyme "one" with "down" and get away with it for centuries, why can’t the poet Laureate of Galle rhyme Gluck and Clock?

Sapin J.: You have a point there. Any other parodies?


I do not love thee Maxwell Gluck

In fact, I do not give a damn.

Sapin J.: Enough, quite enough. Let’s get on with the case. What has Counsel for the defence got to say?

Seethala Zoysa, Q.C.: I submit M’Lud that plaintiff has by his own mouth, proved the truth of our assertion that he is "a native of Galle who writes lousy parodies".

Sapin J.: Put the defendant in the box.

Chevalier Banda alias Lion of Hantane, alias Terror of Boovalikada alias Lord Protector of Menikes, alias Bard of Lanka take the stand.

Rodda Q.C.: Chevalier Banda why are you in disguise?

S. Banda: I’m not in disguise. That is my beard. Even illiterate hacks like Queen’s Counsel must have heard the immortal phrase "Bearded like the Bard"? That’s me.

Rodda Q.C.: You have referred to my client’s verses as "lousy parodies". Can you substaintiate your charge?

Sapin J.: Better still, can you compose a better parody than those the plaintiff has recited here in Court?

S. Banda: It was not for nothing that PEN Club has elected Chevalier Banda Honorary Patron. It was not for nothing that Dame Edith Sitwell and Dame Mable Rastiadu are collaborating on an anthology of masterpieces of poetry of the East and the West. It was not for nothing.....

Sapin J: Can you compose a parody about the plaintiff? I mean an impromptu parody?

S. Banda: Why not? Now what was the plaintiff been up to recently? What new horrors has he perpetrated against the system of education in Ceylon?

Rodda, Q.C.: He has issued a new order about how students should be caned.

S. Banda: I see. How about this for a parody?

The boy stood on the burning deck

His back was to the mast.

He swore he wouldn’t leave that place

Till Dahanayake went past.

But Daha was a wily lad -

He threw the boy a plum,

And when he stooped to pick it up -

He gave the boy some corporal punishment.

Sapin J.: Case dismissed.

Courtesy:- Essays in transition

World Bar proud of Supreme Court judgement

The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute in conjunction with the Bar Council of England and Wales which sent a representative as an observer for the recent Supreme Court hearing of the Broadcasting Authority Bill has hailed the judgement as a demonstration of the independence of the judiciary. The statement says:

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has upheld a challenge against a controversial Bill which many fear will curb the freedom of the press if enacted.

The Broadcasting Authority Bill, which requires all print and broadcast media outlets in Sri Lanka to obtain an annual renewable licence from a Government-appointed board, was the subject of a pre-enactment review after it was challenged by a number of interested groups and individuals, including the Free Media Movement, the Editors’ Guild, and Sri Lanka’s main political Opposition party, the United National Party.

The challengers claim the Bill, if introduced into the country’s legislation, would directly affect the constitutional rights of Sri Lankan citizens.

In a 34-page opinion the Court has returned a unanimous verdict which holds that the Bill, in its entirety, is inconsistent with the Sri Lankan Constitution. To be passed, it will now need a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval in a referendum of the electorate.

The IBA Human Rights Institute (HRI), in conjunction with the Bar Council of England and Wales, sent Robert Seabrook QC, a former Chairman of the Bar Council, to act as an observer at the hearing.

"The IBA welcomed the opportunity to work with the Bar Council of England and Wales in deploying an observer of the calibre of Robert Seabrook QC,’’ said the Chairman of the HRI Interventions and Observations Committee, Jonathan Lux.

‘’The hearing in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka reaffirmed our belief in the ability of the Sri Lankan judiciary to act independently, and we support them wholeheartedly in their judgement.’’

Mr Seabrook, who was present in court on April 28 and 29, said the standard of advocacy seen throughout the hearing was ‘’extremely high’’.

"A powerful and eloquent case was mounted against the Bill and its potential misuse and abuse of constitutional rights,’’ said Mr Seabrook.

‘’Following a hearing notable for its high standard of professionalism, Chief Justice de Silva and his fellow Supreme Court Judges have delivered a decision which will be respected and greatly welcomed around the world’’.

The Chairman of the Bar Council, Robert Owen QC, said the Bar was delighted to collaborate with the IBA in the despatch of Mr Seabrook to Sri Lanka.

‘’This initiative is a good example of the high regard the Bar is held abroad, and the breadth of its contribution to promoting justice and the rule of law,’’ said Mr Owen.

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