Clem Perera passed away on the 14th May after a sudden illness. I came to know Clem in 1984 when The Sinhala Forum was formed in London to counteract the false propaganda proliferated by the LTTE in Europe. Since those days he has always been an indefatigable promoter of an undivided Sri Lanka anchored on our ancient heritage and Human Rights.
In 1987 we spent twenty-four hours together outside Indian Passport Office in the Strand in London. I had come to know through a reliable Indian source that India was making preparations to invade Sri Lanka and war supplies were being rushed to the southern Indian ports. On this basis I got permission from the Superintendent of Bow Street Police station to stage a one-man twenty-four-hour vigil outside the Indian Passport Office. Later I persuaded the Police officer to allow me a helper; and that helper was Clem Perera. From that point onwards, he was the moving force and enthusiastic protester against Indian plans on Sri Lanka.
I had prepared two handouts for distribution in and around The Strand. He got them all printed and got a few young boys and girls to have them distributed among the many people who came there that day. He got all the posters and collages done. The one that pleased him most carried the message "India is giving even hypocrisy a bad name".
On the selected day 13th of July, (exactly a seek before the IPKF entered our shores), we were at our protest station by 4 am. By 6 am we had our posters all displayed and our fifty candles lit on the edge of the pavement. At 8 am when the Indian High Commission opened up, we had trouble. Their security men came up to us demanding that we got out of there as it was diplomatic premises. They were physically threatening us both and did not accept that we had permission from the police. We stood our ground and refused to move. As they were about to lay their hands on our display of posters, Clem shouted at the Indians to desist. This commotion brought the police officer posted at the Embassy door to the place where we were. He firmly told the Indians that we had permission to stage our protest and that we should be left unmolested. However, we had to remove a couple of posters Clem had left leaning against the Embassy wall. The Indians went away muttering dire warnings and took several photographs of us both and of the posters.
We had an eventful day. Clem was in his element trying to strike a conversation with anyone and everyone who came to the Indian passport Office that day as well as people passing by. Many Sri Lankans visited us with food and drinks. In his inimitable humorous style’ Clem urged those good people that they could continue their Samaritan work into the next day by sending food and drinks to his house, as he had a wife and kid to support!!
By midnight all was quiet, end no one was about, other than the police officers at the Embassy gates. We had a heart to heart chat about everything under the sun. It was then that he admitted that one day he would return to his beloved motherland as he earnestly wished to live out his last days there. His wish had been granted, though it is an irreparable loss to everyone else, and the many charitable organizations he unstintingly supported both in kind and service.
By 1 am he got into the back-seat of my car parked on the road for a snooze. I Settled down with a book down below the pavement with my candles and a gas lamp. A police officer from Bow Street visited us around 2 am. He had a coffee and listened to my explanations and went away. The purpose of the visit was to make sure we were OK. Soon after I had fallen asleep in my folding chair. It was Clem who woke me up at 5 am. He teased me for falling asleep on the job! I retorted that he was no better, having a nice snooze, nicely stretched out on the back-seat of the car. With a twinkle in his eyes he said " so that’s what you think. I was up all night keeping watch over you. 1 saw the police officer having coffee and a couple of men talking to you". It
was true. He was more awake than I was. That was Clem. That was his dedication to any cause he espoused. We shall all miss you badly. Good-bye my friend.