Launch of Dr. Nandasiri Jasentuliyana’s Memoirs ‘Same Sky, Different Nights’ - address by Judge C. G. Weeramantry recently.
History is the accumulation of the story of individual lives. Pre-eminent lives are an important part of history. What we are celebrating today is the record of the life story of one of those pre-eminent individuals who has helped in making a better future for humanity not only for ourselves but for several generations to come.
I say this confidently because there are people who helped to mould history and Nandi is one of them. Why? In the long history of humanity we have sought to regulate affairs on planet earth. Humanity has sought to do this since its evolution perhaps 50,000 years ago and of course we have not done this well at all. What is happening now is that we are looking outwards from earth into outer space and just as affairs on earth need regulation so also do affairs in outer space. Here is a book recording the life story of one of the master moulders of the law of outer space. What you and I do in our lives may have an impact for some years to come. But what Nandasiri has done will have its impact for generations.
After numerous centuries of philosophy about peace on earth, we have been unable to achieve this. Now that we are venturing into outer space we need to ensure that outer space is kept peaceful and that has been Nandi’s lifetime effort.
Left without regulation outer space will be polluted by us and abused in various ways; e.g. for the deployment of arms and for the domination of vast terrestrial areas. The new era of communications which it has opened up will, in Arthur Clarke’s words, be “the nervous system of mankind” linking all humanity together for better or worse.
With our prior record on planet earth we are sure to bungle all of this as well. But it is people like Nandi who have been working to prevent this. All this is little known in Sri Lanka but if outer space has been kept peaceful it is due to people like our author who have been mainly instrumental in doing this. He has been a leading figure in the world of space law, President of the International Institute of Space Law, a leader regulating operations on the moon and in shaping the telecommunication law of the future.
" I have followed his career with much interest as he has carved a niche for himself in space history and brought Sri Lanka into high prominence at the highest levels in the world "
He has also been a leader in space law education and has organized space law moots for law students in various parts of the world such as Oslo, Amsterdam, Beijing and Melbourne.
It will give you some idea of his international eminence if I tell you that when I was on the International Court one of my colleagues, the Russian judge was an expert on space law. As you entered his chambers there was a large certificate very prominently displayed from the institute of space law testifying to his eminence in that field. When I went up to the certificate and examined it more closely it gave me much pride and pleasure to see that it was signed by a Sri Lankan – non other than our author of today.
Speaking of my contact with the distinguished author, he was not among my students at the Sri Lanka Law College as I had stopped lecturing the year he joined but I was the Chairman of the Board of Examiners for his final examination and Nandi was one of those who achieved first class honours and even more he was top of his batch.
From that initial contact I have met him over the years at various centres where space law events took place including the Manfred Lachs Space Moot which he inaugurated and at which I was often a judge. In fact on one occasion when the moot was held in Australia I was able to take him with me to Monash University where I was very proud to introduce him to the Faculty. I have followed his career with much interest as he has carved a niche for himself in space history and brought Sri Lanka into high prominence at the highest levels in the world.
His writings on space law are voluminous and going through my library the other day I came across his volume on ‘Maintaining Outer Space for Peaceful Uses.’
I turn now to one last point namely the value of autobiographies. In the first place an autobiography of a person like the author will be a source of inspiration to young people for generations to come. Secondly it shows how numerous difficulties have been overcome in the course of achieving the author’s objectives and this itself is a source of guidance. Thirdly it will place on record a number of facts which would otherwise be unknown and would not be capable of being recorded even by the closest researcher. In the case of one who is dealing with important matters concerning the human future it also constitutes a valuable historical record.
In conclusion this is an occasion which all Sri Lankans should celebrate and take notice of. It shows what eminence dedicated individuals like Nandi, the author whose work we are celebrating today, can reach and what great prominence this brings to our motherland.
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