A legal luminary with a vision and dedication

A reproduction of Tribute paid to Kandiah Neelakandan by his friend Nihal Jayamanne PC as appeared in the Sunday Observer, March 17, 2019:

Kandiah NeelakandanA legal luminary with a vision and dedication

Kandiah Neelakandan

I first came to know Kandiah Neelakandan in 1967 when he and I were law students at law college. I was reading to pass out as an advocate and he as a proctor. When I saw him for the first time, he had three stripes of viboodhi on his forehead and a yellow Sandanam and a red Kunkumam between his eyebrows in addition to one jasmine flower tucked in his right ear.

Many people did not approve of this display of his religion, but I in my heart admired and respected him for it.

‘Neela’ as I call him, never ever came to Law College or thereafter to courts in the mornings without making this statement that he was a Hindu.

At Law College, I was not a friend of Neela’s and hardly knew him except when I contested for the Presidency of the Law Students’ Union. He along with many of my Tamil friends voted for me. However, later as lawyers, I became acquainted with him as he and I worked in several committees of the Bar Association. He always worked with a purpose and dedication in whichever committee and in whichever capacity he served in them. In 2003 or 2004, I was the Chairman of the Law Committee of the Bar Association and he was a member. It was then that we got to know each other at a personal level. His devotion to Hinduism and my fascination and respect for Hinduism resulted in a special bond between us.

A bond of friendship blossomed between us through the years and it lasted till he left us forever. I had during a SAARC law conference in Rajasthan bought an exquisite statue of Nataraja made out of Panchaloha – gold, silver, copper, iron and zinc, the traditional five metal alloys of sacred significance. I had placed this statue in a special alcove in my meda midula. For me, it was a work of art which represented the cosmic rhythm of creation, evolution, destruction and the rebirth of the cosmos and the manifestation of the myriad aspects of energy, spirituality and form.

In 2011, I underwent double lung transplant surgery. When I was recuperating at home, Neela phoned my wife Rohini one evening and wanted to speak to me. Although I was not taking any calls during this time, I did take this one. He told me that he had seen the Nataraja statue in my garden and that he too had one in his home and that several of his friends, including the Chief Priest of the Captain Gardens Temple had advised him not to keep it at home and to donate it to a temple. He asked me whether I too would like to donate my statute to a temple, and my answer of course was “no”. Subsequently, Neela had requested my wife to persuade me to do so and that he would make arrangements to have the statue installed at a temple. One day he phoned and told us that he would send a priest with his son Saravanan at five in the morning to take my statute away along with his statute to Jaffna in a van. They came one morning while it was still dark and the priest did a brief pooja and took my Nataraja statue and installed it at the Sivapoomi Madam in Keerimallai where it stands venerated to date.

I am happy that it happened in this way, and my gratitude to Neela will always remain unchanged.

Neela and I were engaged in many activities of the Bar Association, especially, with regard to legal reform. I was the Chairperson of the Registration of Title Committee tasked with reviewing and suggesting amendments to the Registration of Title Act. The Committee consisted of J. M. Swaminathan, late Nihal Peiris, Elmo Perera, K. Neelakandan and several other eminent lawyers. We sat for months and came up with a comprehensive Amended Act; the provisions of which have received favourable acceptance. When I was the Chairman of the Law Commission, Neela was one of the Commissioners. During the first month of his being appointed a Commissioner, he submitted amendments to the Mortgage Act which after scrutiny of the commission was accepted with a few amendments by the commission and sent to the Ministry of Justice to have it passed in to law. That was 11 years ago.

Neelakandan with his usual enthusiasm and dedication, represented former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake during her impeachment proceedings. I was during this period away from Hulftsdorp and confined to my home as I was recuperating after my surgery. One day, Neela came home and asked me if I would act as a mediator to sort matters out between the parties. I told him that I would certainly do so if the request comes from the other party as well.

The request did come and I tried my best to bring about some accord so as to prevent impeachment proceedings. However, it failed as both parties could not agree on two or three matters which I thought were not that important when weighed against the consequences of proceedings with the impeachment in Parliament.

This was the extent of the depth of our bond and friendship. I am happy that Neelakandan’s two sons, Saravanan and Pranavan, are friends of my son Tilanka. I hope that their friendship will also grow and be of mutual benefit to them.

I don’t know where Neela’s spirit is, but I am certain that it will find its abode in a pleasant spiritual dimension. Death is never the end. It is just the beginning of an existence in another dimension.

Nihal Jayamanne PC

Kandiah Neelakandan –