Dr. Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana in his recently published memoir says “It dawned on me how vast the length and the enormity of the journey was that I have traveled, from those early years when the sky had fascinated me to the present, when I have taken part in creating laws and regulations to tether the infinite plains of outer space.”
Young Jasentuliyana looked up at the sky and its myriad of stars mesmerizing him from the lap of his grandfather in Hirewatte, Ambalangoda. So many stars! It seemed as if he could rise up and be one with them. And as he looked at them, he had no idea that his fate was already being carved out in the universe. A little boy on a lonely planet in the Milky Way in such a vast universe, how could he know what the cosmos would have in store for him? For one day, he would not only be a proud son of Sri Lanka but a gift to the world of diplomacy and academia.
Nandasiri Jasentuliyana was the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and, Deputy Director General of the United Nations office in Vienna. His career at the United Nations spanned almost 40 years. Currently, he is the President Emeritus of the International institute of Space Law and Policy. He possesses advanced degrees in law, international relations and aerospace law from the University of Ceylon, University of London and McGill University in Canada. He is also an attorney at law.
Former Judge of the International Court of Justice and former Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and currently an Emeritus Professor at Monash University, speaking at the recent launch of his memoir said, “This is an occasion of great importance not only to Sri Lanka but to the world in general. It is in fact a small piece of history. History is mainly an accumulation of lives. Together they make history. Some outstanding people have been involved in history. The author of today is one of those distinguished people. Because history is shaped not only by current events but also by the thoughts and words of those who have planned. And here we are privileged to have in our midst, one of those who by the means of today has put in thought, effort and dedication to planning the future of humanity.
We have not created a just and peaceful world here on earth. As we ventured into outer space, we were entering a realm where no law prevails. We have to make the law to mold it and see that we put in the necessary mechanisms which will ensure that even though we have bungled the affairs on earth we will not bungle them in outer space. Some law and order is required to ensure outer space will not degenerate into an area of armed conflict involving nuclear and other forms of weapons of mass destruction. There must be architects of that law of the future. And here we have in our midst one of the prime architects of the future. Work that you and I do may have impacts on the following years but work by people of Jasentuliyana’s caliber do in regards to topics of that nature will have their impacts for hundreds if not thousands of years”, said Weeramantry.
His illustrious journey began as a village boy in Sri Lanka. It allowed him, he says, to absorb a great deal of history of the unique people and land of which he is a part; the land that he gratefully says prepared him to go abroad, to encounter the world to learn and do so many things most people are not privileged to be able to do.
He began his primary education in the village vernacular school and moved on to Richmond College, Galle, where his sports oriented youth led him to captain the cricket, soccer and athletic teams. As a Queens Scout (Eagle Scout), he was chosen as member of the Sri Lanka (Ceylon) contingent to the All India Jamboree at age 17. He also excelled as a member of both English and Sinhala debating teams.
Successes and stresses of his carefully directed education began when he entered the Ceylon Law College, culminating successfully in completing four final law exams of three institutions (Ceylon Law College, Ceylon University and the London University) in one and the same year in 1962. Winning a Commonwealth Scholarship he moved abroad for his graduate studies to London and Montreal, before entering a 40-year career with the United Nations in New York.
He has published a four volume “Manual on Space Law” outlining the treaty law that laid out the rules and regulations governing space activities that he helped create. He has also authored and edited five other academic books on International Law, Space Law and the United Nations. He has co-authored two academic books and published a number of chapters in other books. He served as a member of the Editorial Boards of the “Journal of Space Policy” published in the UK and the “Journal of Space Law” published in the United States. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the International Space University (ISU) and has lectured in more than twenty universities around the world. He was Member of the Board of Trustees of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and member of the Bureau of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).
His most recent publication “Same Sky, Different Nights”, a memoir, was written at the behest of his wife Shanthi Jasentuliyana. The autobiography spanning over seven decades, carries an introduction by Dr. Ananda Guruge, Ambassador to the United States, Senior Adviser to UNESCO, and Dean of Academics, University of the West, who encouraged the author to tell his remarkable story to the world. The memoir, initially set in the socio-cultural and educational history of Sri Lanka, is an exceptionally informative and entertaining work. He recounts the triumphs and tragedies of his adult life with humor, perceptiveness, and profundity rarely consolidated in any single work. The book uniquely interweaves a historical and cultural environment into a rapid moving and exciting career, which expands to the broadest dimensions of the universe through his role as Director of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. Every page of the memorable account rewards the reader with exploding impressions and colors in this kaleidoscope of the author’s journey through life.
Dr. Guruge, at the launch of the book in the United States said that though written in English for the international audience, it should be in the hands of every youth in Sri Lanka because it embodies many a lesson that our children can learn from this wonderful memoir, as he has proved by example that diligence, commitment and hard work can produce a lifetime of satisfying results. The author with an abiding desire to inspire as he puts it “even a single youth through his own story”, decided to have it translated as suggested by many who reviewed his publication. The Sinhala version “Ek Ahasak Ra Dhasak” translated by Hasitha Kekulawella, was released in July this year.
Having lived in New York and Vienna during his working life in his semi retirement he now resides in Los Angeles with his wife, continuing to read and write, as well as, enjoying and supporting the music, drama and multitude of other cultural and social activities of the vibrant Sri Lankan community in Southern California. He has close affinity and strong links to his motherland. He finds particular satisfaction in the education of the youth and lends his support to three organizations in Sri Lanka including the “Ambalangoda Deshappremi Sanvidanaya” that provides financial support and scholarships to needy talented students in the Galle District. Over the last 30 years he has supported the organization in a variety of ways. He also finds particular joy in his three adult sons and three grand children living in the East Coast.
For his pioneering work in the field of space law that helped prevent an arms race in space and ensuring that space exploration will benefit all countries, he has received many awards and honors including being chosen by the Washington based National Space Society to its list of “Hundred Stars of Space: Hundred Space People Who Have Had The Greatest Impact on Our Lives”. Among other awards he has won the “Distinguished Service Award” presented by NASA, the “Testimonial award of the International Astronautical Federation” awarded annually in recognition for important contribution to space law and policy, and the first Lifetime Achievement Award of the Sri Lanka Foundation in 2003.
Same Sky Different Nights: From Vijitha Yapa; From Amazon;
Ek Ahasak Ra Dhasak: එක අහසක්, රෑ දහසක්