Towards One World
- Some words on a new book
By Capt. Elmo Jayawardena
There is very little merit in my making any attempt to review the magnificent Towards One World by Justice Christy Weeramantry. I certainly do not have sufficient knowledge of the subjects that he is effectively addressing nor in any way can I match the ‘word play’ of the excellent English that fills the pages.
Towards One World is in a class by itself, an autobiographical philosophy stemming from the highest possible realm of intelligent thought. If not for any other plausible reason this book should be a must in every home, simply for a reader to find time and blindly turn a page and pour-over a paragraph or two, just to enjoy the pure perfection of the unmatchable words of wisdom with which it has been written.
The 500-plus pages are a treasure trove of information expressed expertly by the thinking of a unique man. He skillfully looks at life and its day to day predicaments with simple practical medications. On the same token the honourable Justice addresses and suggests solutions for the major issues that plague the world, the highest in the international realms that hold the keys to the future survival of the human race or the possible annihilation of this planet and its occupants.
“Attitudes of insularity and cross cultural blindness are the highroads to the destruction of any civilisation.” It is just one line, concise and precise that says it all.
The book to begin with is humble, exactly in the same mould as the author himself and gives the reader a clear picture of effortless brilliance. The young days of the Judge are delightfully described and his words of reverence for his parents and uncles and aunts and his elder brothers give us a glimpse of a young Weeramantry who grew up in an average home of the era with of course an erudite foundation within its walls. “A world of idealism and dazzling intellectual achievement, which we were taught to respect, thus coexisted with a world of narrow self-interest, which we were taught to resent.”
This is the story of a Sri Lankan (no different from you and me), who with an ordinary beginning achieved extraordinary heights in almost ‘fairy tale’ fashion by absolute ability giving ample evidence of a close proximity to sheer genius. And that too, needs to be measured in the most meaningful manner as the man himself was nothing more than soft tones and softer steps when he walked with a razor sharp brain on his long journey from Reid Avenue Royal College to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Forget the book for a moment and just look at the cover. The face that smiles at you is sincerity at its zenith and the eyes that shine and sparkle have absolute diffidence, difficult to define but so easy to recognise. If the cover be that, one can imagine what the contents are like.
Back to the book and my pygmy attempt to do justice to the colossus; I have to bring in the Maitre’d – Rosemary, the demure Rosie of OLV College from Uswatte. It is all there, the young Christie and Rosie days from the ‘love at first sight’ at a party, to the Justice’s drive to Moratuwa three four times a week to be greeted (as he says) by the gracious smile. The role Rosemary played as the perfect partner, the girl from Uyana Road who walked with the elite and heard the violins and kept her feet firmly on the ground, definitely adds so much of the Weeramantry family. They raised five children and became grandparents to 11. He talks of Rosy and how she lit up his entire life, a simple man sans his all- powerful judicial robe and wig and the case-ending gavel, expressing his humble gratitude. That’s CGW for you, a rare gem of a man who not only for us to know, but for anyone to look up to ‘role-modelise’ and emulate.
“As with our children, so with our grand children, they have all given us much satisfaction in the way they have permitted us to become parts of their lives and them to become part of ours.” The patriot in Justice Weeramantry is highlighted when the reader reaches a chapter covering his interests in Sri Lankan heritage. His ultra-broad knowledge, not superficial but thorough in-depth analysis and profound appreciations spring out of the pages giving distinct admirations to the ancient marvels such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. “Our neglected treasuries of traditional and religious wisdom are urgently required to fertilise the global approaches to the problems of our time,” says the Justice in his address in Missouri speaking to the World Congress on Equality and Freedom. The book undoubtedly places him as an ideal Sri Lankan icon with faultless demeanour, well recognised in the internationally judiciary. The Judge is highly respected everywhere and clearly stands tall and luminous amidst the pumped up pseudo-heroes who strut currently on our country’s stage. He certainly is an epitome of integrity and intelligence, certainly a man for all seasons and definitely for all possible reasons.
Space does not permit me to do justice to my appreciation of Towards One World and I need to pick and choose and restrict my praise. I only hope that you who read me will realise my words are simply a thread in this wonderfully woven tapestry which I think is a “must possess book” for anyone who has an inkling of literature love in them.
The Judge talks too, of his role as an author, not much (that’s normal for him) but enough for anyone to know his prominence in legal writings. I have not read him in law but have read his Lord’s Prayer which is one of my much priced possessions. I have no doubt his place as an author among ‘legal-eagles’ is supreme. From that undeniable pedestal he encourages lawyers to pen their thoughts on judicial matters on varying subjects, prominent being the development of the law and the popularisation of the legal knowledge. His advice is more so for ‘lawyer’ luminaries, the greats of one-time who need to be remembered for who they have in the decades to come.
“Despite their temporary dazzle, the achievements of generations of brilliant court performers lie smouldering among the ashes of history. To later generations they are only names, if they are remembered at all. Not one printed word, except their brief resumes of their arguments remains to enable later generations to catch a glimpse of their genius.”
Reading this chapter would enable any would be “lawyer author” to come out of slumber. Those with thoughts of writing would probably re-awaken and adjust their timetables to go back to where they stopped and be ‘born again’ to complete what they started. A ‘must write’ thought and a ‘could be a book’ idea will have a better chance of reaching the stands as Towards One Word by Weeramantry would surely influence to convert their lifeless passions to unquenchable obsessions and evolving realities.
I leave the law part out as I would be treading on very thin ice trying to write about things I do not know. Let me take you to a very different and significant escapade, Weeramantry’s personal experience in the 1971 revolution. I’ve heard it from the Justice himself and I read the same in the book too. The Judge and Rosemary had been in Jaffna on a judicial matter when a mini battle took place inside the Fort where they were staying. It was the failed attempt by the JVP cadres to rescue their leader Wijeweera who was imprisoned within the ramparts. What caught my absolute attention and admiration is the manner in which Justice Weeramantry addresses the reasons for the conflict that to many were simply ‘red’ nonsense. “Whatever the causes, the young people who comprised the forces of insurgency in April ‘71 were dedicated to a commitment so powerful as to shut out all thoughts of personal safety, all whisperings of fear and all desire for reward. They believed that no suffering whether on their part or on that of their fellows, should be permitted to interfere with their desired result – which was no more and no less than the establishment of a new political regime.”
I wonder whether Fanon could have matched this, or Che’ or any other Bolshevik cloaked comrade. Judge Weeramantry the ‘non-violent’ ‘gentle’ man, the erudite lawyer and the practising almost perfect Christian wrote this of people who were trained to terrify others. It simply shows the depth of understanding of the writer on issues that get condemned by most for the sake of condemning.
When I read all the prominent names mentioned in the book in humble reference, people who sought the presence of Judge Weeramantry in places where the learned gathered, I am simply awed at the greatness of this man. Then I picture him, sitting in his study surrounded by his ‘eager beaver’ law student assistants giving instructions to them in soft tones, as to matters concerning his Peace Education Center in Bambalapitiya.
That is the real man, and the entire book does not have one boastful word or a single line of condemnation for anyone. This is a book that people must read, especially people in high places so that they could learn (if such is possible) the strength of humility and the powers of understanding Judge Weeramantry has portrayed throughout his life. It is a lesson for the ambitious, the ‘peak climbers’ to know how steps should be measured with decency, lest they reach summits with tattered dignity. It would be a great read for school children too, first the English language alone; to learn how beautifully the Judge writes, stringing words and sentences optimising their articulation. In addition this book gives the young the inspiration to reach for the stars while learning perfect lessons in humility on how they could grow to be exceptionally wonderful human beings.
Justice Weeramantry, I salute you Sir for writing Towards One World. None who knows you would have expected anything less, but even at that high bench-mark, you have soared far above anyone’s expectations.
Yes, Sir, the jury unanimously will find you guilty on all counts for unchallengeable perfection.