By Kithsiri Senadeera, Sydney
Sunil de Silva was a remarkable character. Sunil is one of the most versatile and affable persons I have met. He was a leading lawyer, stage actor, film actor, writer, public speaker, lecturer, mentor, carpenter, cook, and the list goes on. I sometimes wonder how a person possesses such versatility.
I met Sunil for the first time at an AGM of the Sri Lanka Association of NSW (SLA), in 1993. We became friends quickly for we had a common thread on history, sociology, political science, community services, etc.
We all know Sunil is an authority on Constitutional Law, Criminal and Civil Law, including Jurisprudence. As a young lawyer, he received guidance and advice from his close relation, the late Lalith Athulathmudali, an illustrious product of Harvard (HLS) and Oxford. He said that for his first degree (B.A. London), he offered Pail, Sanskrit and Sinhala, and graduated in 1961with honours, and then, passed the LLB in just two years from the University of Ceylon. In my opinion, Sunil was also a social scientist; had a sound knowledge of ethnic groups, customs, social conduct of the social stratification and the caste system in Sri Lanka. When I wanted information on these arears, I usually call him, and he always had the answers.
Sunil was the first speaker of the North Parramatta Sinhala School public lecture program. I invited him to talk on a very relevant topic at that time – “The Constitutional Development of Sri Lanka”- on 22 Oct 1995- when Professor G.L. Peiris was introducing a new constitution under Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga. It was very well received by the audience with a healthy discussion. He was always willing to share his knowledge and experience with everyone without any reservation.
At one of the SLA “Winter Balls”, I remember Dr. Nicholas Cowdery, QC, OA, who was the Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW for 16 years, as the chief guest of the event, spoke of Sunil with a deep admiration for his contribution to the Australian judicial service.
Sunil joined the SLA just after his arrival in Australia and remained an active member of the Association. He became the President in 1998/99 and Vice President on several occasions. According to my recollection, Sunil initiated the SLA ‘Vesak Lanterns’ project at the Lankarama Temple during his time.
Sunil was very affable, would talk with anybody irrespective of race, religion or social stratum. What I appreciated most about Sunil was his humility and friendliness. He was ever willing to help anybody; his legal advice was free of charge. He had a marvellous sense of humour. For any question or remark, he had a quick and witty reply. Ability very few people possess.
I remember asking Sunil when he is going to retire. He said he will work to the ‘end’. It was unfortunate that he had to retire earlier than expected due to health reasons. If not, he would have created history by being the Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW.
I saw almost all the ‘Kolam Maduwa’ stage dramas, which were staged with Ernest McIntyre, mostly at the Lighthouse Theatre, and also in SLA, Sinhalese Cultural Forum, and other stage shows. Sunil’s hilarious acting on stage and cinema was enjoyed by young and old. If something goes wrong on the stage, Sunil will create his own act to suit the situation that makes the audience more enjoyable. This, I saw in a Cicil Fonseka’s stage drama when Sunil lost his make-up – moustache – on the stage and several other occasions.
His wife, Senanie’s organisational skills were a great asset to Sunil, and she stood by him all the time. His son – Sidat, was always there for his help and also took part in the stage with the father.
May your journey through Samsara be short and may you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.