Sri Lankan Sinhalese Family Genealogy

OBEYESEKERE, Mudaliyar Johannes Petrus - Family #3051

The Obeysekere ancestor, Don Owen Ferdinandus, an officer in the Dutch Military Fort in Galle, on being appointed to high office in the Talpe pattu in the middle of the 18th Century, added the name Obeyesekere and the family lived in Kataluwa.

1  Mudaliyar Johannes Ferdinandus Wijeratne Obeyesekere, b:circa 1800, Mudaliyar Talpepattu)+daughter of Goonathilake Siriwardhana Mohandiram.

 

    Don Bastian Ferdinandus Wijesiri Guneratne Obeyesekere, Mudaliyar Talpepattu Sourthern Province + Cornelia Susanna Dias Bandaranaike (1001)

        3   Sir Solomon Christoffel Obeyesekere b:12 Feb 1848 - d:13 Oct 1927), MLC, STC Mt. Lavinia, Sinhalese representative in the Legislative Council +  Lady Ezline Maria de Alwis

            4  Daisy Ezline Obeyesekere, m:1898 + Sir Don Solomon Dias Abeywickrema Jayatilleke Senewiratna Rajakumaruna Kadukeralu Bandaranaike (Maha Mudaliyar) b:22-May-1862, d:31-Jul-1946, Kt. Commander of the most distinguished order of St. Michael and St. George, Horogolla Walauwwa, St Thomas' College, Mohandiram 1882. Mudliyar Siyane Korale, After returning from UK, Governor Arthur Havelock awarded Maha Mudaliyar title and All Island JP. In 1897 went to UK as official representative for diamond jubilee celebration and received medal. In 1902 revisited UK. Received Coronation Medal and KCMG, m:Apr-1898  (1001)

                5  Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike b:8-Jan 1899, d:26-Sep-1959, (Prime Minister of Sri Lanka 1956-59, Assassinated by a Buddhist Monk on September 25, 1959), St Thomas' College, educated as a lawyer in UK, University of Oxford. Became Secretary of Oxford Union in 1923, called to the bar in 1925, Member of the State Council in 1931, Formed the Sinhala Maha Sabha in 1937, Active in the UNP 1945-51 and established the SLFP after 1951, Prime Minister 1956-59, To solve the ethnic issue he signed the Bandaranaike-Chelvanaygam pact, which was repudiated due to a campaign led by the Buddhist Clergy. Made Sinhala the official Language + Sirimavo Ratwatta, b:17/4/1916, d:10/10/2000, m:2-Oct-1940 (First woman Prime Minister in the World, Prime Minister, 1960-65, 1970-77, 1994-2000) (3060) Wikipedia Account of Sirimavo

                    6  Sunethra Dias Bandaranaike, b:1943 + Kumar Rupasinghe (div)

                    6  2nd spouse of Sunethra Dias Bandaranaike + Udaya Nanayakkara (div)

                    6  Chandrika Dias Bandaranaike, b:29/6/1945, Early education at St Bridgets Convent, Colombo, and graduated in Political Science at Sorbonne University in Paris, Formed the Peoples Alliance (PA) Party, President of Sri Lanka 1994-2005 + Vijaya Kumaratunga, Film Actor, Assasinated 1988

                        7  Yasodhara Kumaratunga

                        7  Vimukthi Kumaratunga 

                    6  Anura Dias Bandaranaike b: Feb-15-1949, Educated at Royal College, Member of Parliament  1977 to 2007, Minister Higher Education 1993, Foreign Minister 2005, Leader of the opposition, Speaker of the House, Minister of Tourism/Heritage 2007

 

               5  Alexandra Camelia Bandaranaike, lived at "Samudragiri" Walauwa in Mount Lavinia + Leo G. De Alwis

                    6  Shirlene De Alwis

                    6  Lankasa De Alwis (tenor singer) + Joy Dassenaike (cousins)

                        7  Ranjith de Alwis

                    6  Rukmanie De Alwis + Percy Eheliyagoda

               5  Anna Florentina Bandaranaike + Abraham de Livera

                    6  Christopher de Livera + Nimal Pieris

                        7  Shanaka de Livera

                        7  Priyan de Livera

                    6  May de Livera

               5  2nd spouse of Anna Florentina Bandaranaike + (2nd bed) Obeyesekere

 

          4  Ethel Mildred Obeyesekere + Dr William Christoffel Pieris Siriwardene b1867- d1945, m:195

          4  Forester Augustus Obeyesekere, (State Council), b:7-Aug-1880, d:26-Dec-1961 (State Councillor) + Anna Isabella Sykes

               5  Boykin Obeyesekere

               5  [4] Ezlynne Obeyesekere + [3] Ralph St. L P Deraniyagala (1005)

                   6  Ralph Deraniyagala + Indrani Nugera

                       7  Arubind Deraniyagala

 

          4  Lillian Obeyesekere + William Illangakoon

 

     3  Sir James Peter Obeyesekere I Barrister at Law + Corneliya Henrietta Dias Bandaranaike (Missie) (1001)

          4  Lady Hilda Obeyesekere + Sir Paul Edward Pieris, (Civil Servent, Historian),  b:1853, educated at STC Mt Lavinia, Writer of Sinhala books and Historian, (He wrote the book Sinhalese families which was published in 1911), m:1905 (1001,1005)

                5  Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala (Paulie) 1900-1976 Director Museum, (Scientist,Zoologist) + Prini Molamure (3117), m:28-Jun-1934

                   6  Paulus Arjun Mayadun Deraniyagala

                   6  Ranil Yudisthira Deraniyaga

                   6  Siran Upendra Deraniyagala, Direcor General Dept of Archaeology

                   6  Isanth Deraniyagala

 

               5  Justin Pieris Deraniyagala

 

               5  Ralph Deraniyagala (Bando)

                   6  [3] Ralph St. L P Deraniyagala + [4] Ezlynne Obeyesekere

                       7  Ralph Deraniyagala + Indrani Nugara

                           8  Arubind Deraniyagala

 

               5  Miriam Pieris Deraniyagala 1908-1999 + F Robert de Saram (s/o F R de Saram) (3126)

                   6  Rohan de Saram + Rosmary de Saram

                       7  Sophia de Saram

                       7  Suren de Saram

                   6  Skanda de Saram + Sharadha Manorama Muthu Krishna (7010)

                       7  Tesalia de Saram

                       7  Sergei Ishviyan de Saram

                   6  Druvi de Saram + Sharmini Fonseka

                       7  Mandhira de Saram

                       7  Radhika de Saram

                   6  Niloo de Saram + Desmond Fernando

                       7  Jeevani

                   6  2nd spouse of Niloo de Saram + Jehan Edwards

 

          4  ***Sir James Peter Obeyesekere II, Kt, M.A, Maha Mudaliyar & Chief Interpreter to his Excellency the Governor of Ceylon. Barrister at-Law, Advocate of the Supreme Court, Justice of Peace, District Commissioner. 1879-1968, Educated at STC Mt Lavina + Amy Estelle Dias Bandaranaike (1001)

               5  James Peter Obeyesekere III 1915-2007 (Late MP Attanagalla, Deputy Minister of Health and Finance and Senator 1960-65, Royal College, Cambridge. Qualified as a pilot, Batadola Walauwwe Nittambuwa, Royal College, Colombo 7, d:23 Oct 2007 + Sivagami Dassanaike (Siva Obeyesekere-Minister of Health 1970) Founder of Laksala 

OBEYESEKERE - DESHAMANYA JAMES PETER (Late MP Attanagalla, Deputy Minister of Health and Finance and Senator), Only son of late Sir James Peter Obeyesekere Maha Mudaliyar and Lady Amy Estelle Obeyesekere, dearly loved husband of Siva, father of Peter and Chantal, father-in-law of Dijen de Saram, grandfather of Dhevan and Chiara. Remains will lie at Batadola Walauwe, Nittambuwa from 12.00 noon on Wednesday 24th to 12.00 noon on Thursday 25th October and in Colombo from 2.00 p.m. on Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th October. Cortege leaves "Maligawa", 19, Rajakeeya Mawatha, Colombo 07 at 1.00 p.m. Saturday 27th. Cremation at General Cemetery Kanatte at 2.00 p.m. DN Wed Oct 24 2007

                   6  James Peter Obeyesekere IV Jr.

                       7  C H Obeyesekere b:9 May 2005

                   6  Chantal Obeyesekere + Dijen de Saram (3126)

                       7  Devan de Saram

                       7  Chiara de Saram

 

          4  Donald Obeyesekere, b:1880 STC/ROYAL (State Council) + Johanna Ethel Perera

               5  Danton Obeyesekere (Boxing) + Ruby Dias Bandaranaike (1001)

                   6  Arjuna Obeyesekere, State Counsel

                   6  Shireen Obeyesekere + Priya Amarasinghe

                   6  Indra Obeyesekere + Anoma Illangakoon (3139)

                   6  Ajith Obeyesekere

               5  Corneliya Obeyesekere + Henry Ashmore Pieris

                   6  Sita Pieris

                   6  Wimala Pieris

                   6  Hemal Pieris

                   6  H S Mevan Pieris (Cricketer STC Mt Lavinia) + Dr Nirmala Pieris

                       7  Dilani Pieris married Hiran Yatawara

                           8  Amithra Yatawara

                           8  Kiyana Yatawara.

                       7  Nilanka Pieris (Cricket Captain STC Mt Lavinia) + Dilushi

               5  Asoka Obeyesekere + Eliza Dias Bandaranaike d:May 2011 (1001)
OBEYSEKERE - ELIZA HILDA - Wife of the late Asoka, mother of Stanley, mother-in-law of Nelun, grandmother of Hasha, Asoka and Anouk, sister of Sam (SD) Bandaranayake and the late Peter, Hector, Ann and Edwin Dias Bandaranayake, expired. Cortege leaves residence11/5, Rajakeeya Mawatha, Colombo 7 at 4.15 p.m. on Tuesday 31st May, Cremation at General Cemetery, Kanatte at 5.00 p.m. DN May 30 2011

                   6  Stanley Obeyesekere + Nelun Dassenaike

                       7  C Harshini Obeyesekere

                       7  S C Asoka Obeyesekere

                       7  S Anouk Obeyesekere

               5  Fredrick Obeyesekere

               5  Amelia Obeyesekere, 1915-2004, Ladies College, Tennis Player + Louis Pieris Deraniyagala, STC Mt Lavinia, Tennis Player, nephew of Sir Paul Pieris

                   6  Surani Pieris Deraniyagala + Chittranjan T Elangasekera

                       7  Shehara Elangasekera

                       7  Shanuka Elangasekera

                       7  Shalini Elangasekera

                   6  Ravindra Pieris Deraniyagala

                   6  Chrisanthi Pieris Deraniyagala

                   6  Rajini Pieris Deraniyagala + Neil Dias Bandaranaike

                       7  Ayendra Dias Bandaranaike

                   6  Savithri Pieris Deraniyagala

               5  Alexander Obeyesekere (Boxing) + Mrs Marrs

 

          4  Stanley Obeyesekere + Brenda de Saram (3126)

              5  Nedra Obeyesekere + Colonel F C de Saram (Derrick) (3126)

                  6  Tara de Saram (National Swimmer) + Ralph Bolling

                      7  Julian Bolling (National Swimmer)

                      7  David Bolling (National Swimmer)

                      7  Jeremy Bolling (National Swimmer)

                  6  Oosha de Saram (Swimming, Tennis) + Dunkirk Neilendran Chanmugam, Board of The Maharajah Organization, s/o Edgar Jeyomanie Chanmugam b:29 Jul 1894, d: 25 May 1963 & Constance Letitia Mant (alias "Pansy", Principal & Founder of Tiny Tots Pre School, d/o Henry Mant d:7 Dec 1980 & Lily Gracelyn d:11 Apr 1949)

                      7  Anouk Chanmugam (Golf) + George Ajit Zal Chitty (SL Rifle Shooting Team at Olympics)

                          8  Aaron Zavareh Chitty

                          8  Ayla Sharik Chitty

                      7  Dipika Rukshana Chanmugam (Swimmer) + William Appleton Jnr.

                      7  Devin Nijanthan Chanmugam (Swimmer)

              5  Yolande Obeyesekere + Oopatissa Illangakoon

 

    2  Muhamdiram John F Obeyesekere, b circa 1830

        Dionysius C.F. Obeysekere, Crown Proctor of Galle, was educated at Colombo Academy later known as Royal College, died in 1917 (Crown Proctor Galle 1908) (b approx 1870)

            4  J E M Obeyesekere, b:April 25, 1899, Richmond/STC, Advocate 1922, Crown Counsel 1924, Barrister at Law-Greys Inn, Deputy Solicitor General, Died at 46 years. J.E.M. took to teaching at All Saints College, Galle and later became lecturer in Mathematics at the Government Training College, Colombo, succeeding E.W. Kannangara who passed into the Ceylon Civil Service in 1919. It was at the Training College that he met his future wife.

                5  Ralph Obeyesekere

                5  Anil Jayantha Obeyesekere, b:18/5/1938, d:26/2/2007, STC Mt Lavinia, Presidents Counsel, Chairman Petroleum Corp 1994-2001, Chairman SL Telecom 2004-2006,Chairman Lake House)

          Married Irangani Eheliyagoda (brother of Percy Eheliyagoda)

                    6  Eromi Obeyesekere

                    6  Prasanna Obeyesekere

                5  Mahen Obeyesekere

                5  Valeri Obeyesekere

                5  Rajitha I Obeyesekere (Presidents Counsel)

                5  Sriyani Obeyesekere

    2  William Obeysekere, Mudaliyar of Morawaka Korale in 1867.

Also noted: F Obeyesekere (old Thomian) drowned in the Mediterranian in the 1st World War.

 

References-Relative Merits 

Internet

 

Prepared by:

 

Manjula de Livera

Email manjulafamily@yahoo.com.au

20 Dec 2010

 


Obeyesekere Family Pics:

***Sir James Peter Obeyesekere, Kt, M.A, Maha Mudaliyar & Chief Interpreter to his Excellency the Governor of Ceylon. Barrister at-Law, Advocate of the Supreme Court, Justice of Peace, District Commissioner. 1879-1968, Educated at STC Mt Lavina. Nephew of Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike. Son of Corneliya Henrietta Dias Bandaranaike. Brother of Donald Obeyesekere. Married Estelle Dias Bandaranaike


 

* Siva Obeyesekere : Founder of Laksala honoured by Crafts Council of India

by LAKMAL WELABADA SO July 6 2003



Siva being awarded Kamala Sammaan award by Governor of Karnataka T.N. Chaturvedi at the birth ceremony celebrations of Kamaladevi at Chitra Kala Parishat in Bangalore in April of this year.

Sivagamie Verina Obeysekara, well known as Siva Obeysekara, founder of Laksala was garlanded with Kamala Sammaan award by the Crafts Council of India in April this year for her research work and dedicated contribution to the field of art and crafts.

The award was given to five artisans including Siva in memory of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, reviver of Indian traditional crafts and a freedom fighter. The other four award winners were from India. Siva was the only foreigner among these honoured at the occasion. She received the award from Governor of Karnataka T. N. Chaturvedi at the birth cenetary celebrations of Kamaladevi at Chitra Kala Parishat in Bangalore.

Still active highly in her community work day and night, Siva spoke of her good old days for the Sunday Observer readers.

"Social service has been something in my blood veins since I was a school girl at Ladies College," she said adding "After getting married to J. P. Obeysekara in 1948 I got wider horizons to serve people". J. P. Obeysekara became the Deputy Minister of Health, and then the Deputy Minister of Finance.

After her husband's retirement from politics, she launched in to politics. She contested twice. Breaking several records, she won the Meerigama seat from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1965 from the opposition and in 1970 from the government. She held the posts of Deputy Minister and then the Minister of Health making her name in history.

"I saw the poverty of people as well as their talent and skill which can be used to overcome it if recognised and guided properly. Since I wanted to get a clear picture of what I was going to do, I went to India and met Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay who was in the process of reviving Indian crafts at that time," said Siva.

Following in Kamaladevi's footsteps Siva worked hard continuously to revive the crafts and handlooms of Sri Lanka. Equivalent to Indian Cottage Industries Emporium originated by Kamaladevi, Siva set up Laksala in 1964 in Sri Lanka.

While being its founder Chairperson, Siva promoted branches of Laksala throughout the country, which not only opened the doors for a craft revival, but assisted in preserving the craft traditions of Sri Lanka and boosted the income of the poor craftsmen and their families in the villages.Siva was the Chairperson of the National Crafts Council for several years. She organised the Sri Lanka Craftsmen's Association (SLCA) in 1964 and was its President for many years.

Lakpahana was the craft outlet she established to promote quality handicrafts of the members. "It was the golden era for the handloom industry of Sri Lanka," she recollected. "The looms are still inside the sealed buildings all over the country. It's a 'shame and sad' situation that nobody is thinking of re-starting the dead industry. It's a heritage of this country which would provide many job opportunities at village level," she lamented.

Siva was the first person from a developing country to be the President of World Crafts Council from 1992 to 1996. She was also President of World Crafts Council Asia Pacific Region from 1996 to 2000. She was also the first woman to be awarded the National Honour of 'Deshamanya' by late President R. Premadasa.

Siva Obeysekara had a full life that an Asian woman would rarely get. Aging has never been a problem to her. Still active and energetic she holds many posts in several educational and service organisations. Siva is at present a member of the National Advisory Council for the Ministry of Health.

"My next dream is to open a museum of traditional handicrafts and handloom textiles which I have been collecting as samples for years and years. They will definitely be the part of the history of Sri Lanka," she said.

    


Alex Obeyesekere and the golden era of boxing

 

 

Nooks and Corners by Geoff Wijesinghe

 

Another of our boxing greats, Alex Obeyesekere, who represented this country at the first post World War Two Olympics at Wembley in London, passed on last week.

 

He was one of those who reigned during the golden era of boxing in this country, along with Albert Perera, Leslie Handunge, Eddie Gray, F. C. de Niese, D. V. Bodaragama, H. P. Jayasuriya, K. Edwin, Barney Henricus, O. M. D. V. Perera, the Raymond brothers Gene and Derick - one of whom fought in India with the Rangers Boxing Club, who paid frequent visits to Colombo - A. C. Dassanaike, M. Welvitigoda and several others whose names do not now come to mind through the mists of time.

 

Alex Obeyesekere was the welterweight champion in the mid and late 1940s. An aggressive boxer with a knockout punch, he thoroughly enjoyed a good scrap. Often, when he received a good punch from his opponent, Alex would acknowledge it immediately with a nod of his head.

I was fortunate to be a spectator at a number of the national boxing meets.

 

One of the most keenly contested of them was for the Clifford Cup, a team event, at which the famous Rangers Boxing Club regularly participated.

 

Alex Obeyesekere fought for Royal College and the YMCA and hailed from a family of boxers. His brothers Danton and F.W. were also champions. Danton coached Royal College for a number of years and produced some first class boxers.

 

I had the privileges of knowing Alex quite closely as he was one of the best friends of my father. In later years, after he had retired from boxing, I used to meet him at the Fort YMCA restaurant and chat with him over a cup of tea.

 

He had a heart of gold and stood by his friends through thick and thin.

My father who was a keen boxing fan, took me to witness most of those meets during the golden era of boxing.

 

Most of them were held at the Colombo Town Hall and some at Zahira College, Maradana.

By far, according to my view, the best boxer Sri Lanka has ever produced was Albert Perera. A bantamweight, at his peak, he had no peer, nationally or internationally.

 

Blessed with a beautiful style, deft footwork and a pair of strong arms, which worked like pistons, Albert would bob and weave his way through his opponent's defences and then land flurries of punches with machine gun rapidity. His infighting was of world class and his forte.

Fortunately, we were able to see the best of him as he had some very good opposition in K. Edwin, Leslie Handunge, D. V. Boderagama and H. P. Jayasuriya.

 

The bouts between them were all science, the science of good, clean boxing, no slugging or wild punches, but the epitome of what boxing was really meant to be.

 

Another very clean boxer was Eddie Gray who, if my memory serves me right, was a light heavyweight. His fights with F. C. de Neise were very clean and equally scientific, with Gray always being the superior in every respect.

 

After his retirement, Eddie Gray, who migrated to Australia, continues to pay regular visits to Sri Lanka and has done a great service for boxing here.

 

However, due largely to internal squabbles amongst officials, the sport has suffered and is now in the doldrums.

 

The new President of the Amateur Boxing Association, M. Thangavelu, a senior police officer and a former Thomian boxer, has vowed to revive the sport and lift the standard of boxing to what it was in the past.

 

Albert Perera, Alex Obeyesekere and Leslie Handunge represented Ceylon at the Wembley Olympics in 1948 with Albert losing in the semi-final over a very doubtful decision by the referee.

As a 10-year-old, I had the privilege of accompanying my father to wish 'bon voyage' to that Olympic team at the Colombo Harbour on board the 'SS Herefordshire'.

 

It was led by Duncan White, who won a silver medal in the 400 yards hurdles, losing to the American Steve Cochran.

 

Duncan White would have secured the gold but for his having knocked down a hurdle at a very crucial stage of the race, when he was in a winning way. An interesting incident involving Alex Obeyesekere who was the Thomian boxing coach in 1952 and I, is worth relating.

 

I had won my weight at the annual House Meet by a knockout and stood a good chance of representing the college at the forthcoming Stubbs Shield meet. My big problem was how to divide my time between cricket and boxing.

 

However, I managed to get half an hour off from cricket for boxing practices. One afternoon, I was particularly tired what with a gruelling fielding and batting practice session, when I arrived at the college hall for boxing practice. I was asked to spar with a fellow boarder with whom I had successfully fought a few months earlier on the green outside the cistern baths.

 

Unfortunately for my opponent, he not only got the worst of the exchanges, but to add to his humiliation, the towel which was wrapped around his waist fell to the ground, much to the merriment of our fellow boarders, who had gathered round to witness the fight.

 

Just before we started sparring that afternoon during boxing practice, I told my opponent, "Machang, go easy as I am tired." But, this request apparently served as an encouragement for the chap to seek revenge for his earlier defeat on the green. From the word go, he launched a furious assault.

 

As I stated earlier I was very tired and in no mood to engage in a grudge fight. As he came at me again, I opened my right glove and let him have a thundering whack on his ear, which began to bleed.

 

My opponent then stopped fighting and complained to coach Alex Obeyesekere that I had landed a foul blow, which caused his ear to bleed.

 

After listening to the complaint, Alex did not even call for my defence, but immediately ordered me get out and stay out. That was the end of my very brief boxing carrier. Of course, the coach was right and whether I was tired or not I had no right to engage in street fighting.

 

I last spoke to Alex Obeyesekere when I telephoned him to get some information for an article on boxing I was writing a little over three years ago.

 

After I had identified myself, I sought the information I wanted, to which he replied, "I can't remember anything.

 

My mind is a blank after taking the punches you chaps gave me."


obit: Feb 26 2007 Daily News

OBEYESEKERE - ANIL JAYANTHA (President's Counsel). Beloved husband of Iranganie, precious father of Prasanna and Eromi, son of the late Mr and Mrs J.E.M. Obeyesekere, brother of the late Ralph and Mahen and of Valerie, Rajitha (R.I.) and Sriyani, brother-in-law of the late Percy Eheliyagoda, Donald Karunaratne and of Nobel, Varini, Frank Pimanda and Rukmani Eheliyagoda, expired. Cortege leaves residence at 5.15 p.m. on Wednesday 28th February 2007 for Cremation at 6 p.m. at the General Cemetery, Kanatte. 135 1/6, Old Nawala Road, off Senanayake Avenue, Nawala.  Daily News

Anil Obeyesekere. Thomian. Presidents Counsel. Held responsible posts, viz; Lake House Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman. Married Irangani Eheliyagoda.
Had 2 children.Prasanna and Iromi. Irangani Eheliyagoda is the brother of Percy Eheliyagoda who married Rukie de Alwis (daughter of Alex Bandaranaike-SWRD's sister)

Anil Obeyesekere

'Tribute to the memory of Anil Obeyesekere President's Counsel'

Daily News, Tue Mar 6 2007:

CONDOLENCE: The death of Anil Obeyesekere P.C. after a brief illness, sent waves of shock and bitter sorrow not only among his close family members but among the large circle of his friends, associates in politics and of Lake House where he was the Chairman at the time of his demise; his wide circle of friends and associates naturally was larger with those of two huge corporate bodies. Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation and Sri Lanka Telecom where he was the Chairman.

The numerous floral tributes and banners of the various corporations and institutions including that of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, that glittered at Anil's home and precinct where his remains lay, mutely but eloquently expressed the feelings of deep sorrow in appropriate words of those who loved and respected him.

It was my privilege and pleasure to have known Anil for more than three decades. He was not only my learned friend in the true sense of the term in our profession but also my dear and sincere personal friend till his passing away. To me Anil certainly was the friend that the famous English poet Shakespeare had in mind: "Those friends thou hast and their adoption tried/Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel."

"Life! We've been together/through pleasant and through cloudy weather: T's hard to part when friends are dear/Perhaps 't will cost a sigh, a tear;/Then steal away give little warning;/Choose tine own time;/Say not Good night!; but in some brighter clime:/Bid me 'Good morning'.

Anil proved himself not only a good friend but also a gentleman par excellence. In the Eighteenth Century Edmund Burke wrote "that a king may make a nobleman but he cannot make a gentleman." How true it is even today.

I emphasize without fear of contradiction that Anil was both a noble man and a gentleman. He hailed from a noble and respected family in the country: His professional talent and success was recognized and honoured by the Head of State having been appointed President's Counsel. His ability as an administrator was recognized having been appointed Trade Commissioner of Czechoslovakia and later the Chairman of three massive corporate bodies aforementioned.

I remember with affection and deep gratitude Anil's last great act of humanitarian service rendered a few days before he fell ill and was hospitalised for heart surgery. On a mere telephone call by me on a Friday afternoon to help my niece, a journalist at Lake House, to enter Apollo hospital, Colombo, to undergo immediate heart surgery, even before she could fax the necessary formal documents, by Saturday noon his secretary informed me to collect the necessary letter of admission to the hospital and that saved the life of this patient.

It was chronic irony of fate that by the time this patient was discharged after successful surgery, Anil was hospitalised and passed away in the early hours of 26th February 2007 to our bitter grief. I noted to Lake House his loss was irreparable.

That was Anil the good and sincere friend and gentleman. The usual jargon of officious administrators sincere to red tape than a friend, "I'll see. I'll consider, I'll look into the matter when I receive the papers etc," was certainly not in the vocabulary of Anil. He acted and acted fast like the gentleman and trusting friend that he certainly was.

This gracious quality of Anil was confirmed to me by a class mate of his, Bhatiya Jayaratne at S' Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia where Anil had his education and this no doubt speaks volumes for his Alma Mater too.

At his funeral at Kanatte, Borella, speaker after speaker spoke in high praise of Anil's achievements as a lawyer and administrator and his contribution to the SLFP and to the community and society and the country at large.

It was in the fitness of things that since President Mahinda Rajapaksa was out of the Island His Excellency's message of condolence to the bereaved wife Iranganie, daughter Eromi and son Prasanna was read by Hon. Minister W. D. J. Seneviratne.

Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary of the SLFP emphasised that unlike others Anil served the SLFP during times when the party was not in power and that he displayed a great love and loyalty for his party. In fact I had noted myself personally the truth of this assertion of Anil's great love of the SLFP.

In or about 1974 Anil prevailed upon me to enroll myself as a member of the SLFP although I told him that I had quit politics since 1960 as I was called upon to perform acting judicial functions often during that time.

Anil's death certainly is a great loss not only to his bereaved wife and family and close friends but also to his motherland which he served as a true patriot.

"Now racks a noble heart/Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Anil's body was cremated and turned to ashes but undoubtedly his soul has risen and soared into heaven or nirvana. May his soul rest in peace.

Vernon Botejue J. P. U. M., Nugegoda


J.P Obeyesekere dies


Former senator and Attanagalla MP J.P Obeyesekere, passed away yesterday. Husband of a former Health Minister and MP for Mirigama, Siva Obeyesekere, Mr. Obeyesekere successfully contested the Attanagalla seat at the July 1960 Parliamentary general election and functioned as the Deputy Minister of Health and Finance till 1965. His remains now lying at the Batadola Walauwa in Nittambuwa will be moved to his residence at No. 19, Rajakeeya Mawatha, Colombo 7 at 2 p.m. today and will remain there till 1 p.m on October 27 (Saturday). The funeral will take place at Kanatte, Borella at 2 p.m on Saturday. Daily Mirror Thu Oct 25 2007


References-Relative Merits

 

Prepared by:

Manjula de Livera

 

Email manjulafamily@yahoo.com.au

 

21 Jun 2007


 Royal College Prefects 1934 - J P Obeyesekere is seated in front row second from right


A life decorated with flying colours

James P. Obeyesekere - Sunday Times Dec 9 2007

My friend JPO passed away at the age of 92. James was my dear friend from the age of five. We joined prep school together, rode the first bicycles, fitted with solid tyres and no brakes. To stop you had to peddle backwards. At Royal College, James was an athlete, a talented tennis player, and a rifle shot. He won the Herman Loos Rifle Cup in 1933. James was annoyed when reference was sometimes made to his parents, when asked to stand on the form with the words "Arise Sir James".

James left school in 1933. Of our 60 class mates, only James and Clive De Mel managed to get admission to Cambridge and Oxford. When James arrived at his College in Cambridge, he saw a bearded pot-bellied man whom he thought was the hall porter. He asked him to help him carry his luggage to his room. James was horrified the next day, when he met his tutor. He was the same pot-bellied man he had met the previous day and true to British tradition he said nothing.

At Cambridge, James organized sports car racing for the undergraduates, and converted an abandoned air field into a race track. He qualified as a pilot at the University Flying Club. When war broke out, the Royal Air Force invited him to join as a pilot, but he declined and served as an observer of enemy planes in the Air Force.

When the war was over he sold his collection of sports cars and purchased a single engine airplane to fly back to Ceylon. His father was worried he would crash and wrote to James "Be careful when you fly over the Alps”.

His epic flight route was, however, down south through Arabia and India. I was delighted to receive him at home the day after he landed in Ceylon, and recounted our old days together. James flew his plane over Colombo. When he repeatedly flew over Ladies College, his girl friend, pointed up to the aeroplane, and told her class mates, "That's my boy".

In Ceylon he was a keen supporter of motor sports. He built his own Cooper Special racing car at home. James installed the first Intensive Care Unit within the operating theatre complex in this country. Of our 60 schoolmates, only five are still around today. We used to meet every year the day before the Royal Thomian match. Sadly, our dear friend James has left us. May his soul rest in peace.


Senator Deshamanya James Peter Obeyesekere

Daily News Mon Feb 5 2008:

James Peter Obeyesekere had many sides to him. He was conscious that he belonged to an aristocratic family but he still had the common touch and was able to move with the poor just as his cousin, the late Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike did.

It was in form V at Ladies College that I first came to know of James. My class mates some of whom were his relations were full of admiration for a young man who had just graduated from Cambridge University and ventured on a solo flight from London to Ceylon in the mid 40’s. There was much speculation amongst the senior girls, especially his relatives as to which of them would win his heart. Of course it had to be Sivagami Dassanaike good sports woman, ballroom dancer, excellent organizer of many social events at Ladies College, and above all an attractive girl (who was later to become the Minister of Health) who swept the board.

Quoting from James appreciation of Felix on page 142 in the volume F D B "it all happened after the demise of Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, and Mrs. Bandaranaike was in deep mourning. Very soon afterwards when a general election was announced for 1960, it was found that a delimitation of electorates had taken place. What was until then the Attanagalle electorate was divided into two, for the first time, namely Attanagalle and Dompe. Understandably Mrs. Bandaranaike did not wish to enter the political field at this juncture, and so it was that she requested me to contest the Attanagalle seat, to which I agreed. The question then arose as to a suitable candidate for Dompe. She was inundated with a flood of requests from Mr. Bandaranaike’s staunch supporters of the area, the large majority of whom did not match up to the required standards as far as voter-acceptance was concerned. It was a precarious situation which lasted for quite some time, until suddenly one night a thought came to me that there was a young man (Felix Dias Bandaranaike) who might be the answer to our problem. I suggested it to Mrs. Bandaranaike who was quite taken up with the idea and requested me to sound him on such a proposal."

James came over to our home in Colpetty with Barnes Ratwatte and had a discussion with Felix about the proposal. Felix asked as to why James was continuing in politics "It was then that I told him I personally felt that people like ourselves owe it to the Country to come forward and serve the people to the best of our abilities and as I was already in politics in a small way as a Village Committee Member, I found it to be a very rewarding service to the nation. It was a sacrifice I was prepared to make. This I believe struck a chord in his mind."

There was A. P. Jayasuriya a stalwart of the SLFP who gave great support to Mrs. Bandaranaike and I recollect quite well that James and Felix worked hard on a new party policy manifesto in December 1959 but unfortunately one of the party supporters spirited away a copy of it and it appeared in the next day in the newspapers. Felix and James immediately got down to drafting a new policy programme which had to be produced in a day or two. Thereafter, James and Siva worked as a team through out the two elections in March and July 1960.

Now to come to some humorous incidents. It was reported that James who contested the Mirigama seat for the SLFP in 1956 election of S W R D Bandaranaike was asked by the party high command not to address a particular community by its name. We are told that he tacked on "Nonawaruni Mahathwaruni" to their name and created quite a stir (My apologies if this is only a family joke).

In the 1960 July election James and Felix decided to canvass together in the Nikavaratiya electorate. Both of them with their feudal heritage had to arrange to take their cheese and butter in a food flask and also to take their mosquito nets. Since the toilets were far away from the mudalalis’ house where they stayed, they did not think twice to go in their cars to the desired spot. I of course termed their trips as a Laurel and Hardy show. James, although from the aristocracy had a kind heart and as a Veyangoda Village Council Member he knew how to move with the poor and understand their problems. With Siva they kept up the traditions of the Obeyesekere family and donated huge tracts of lands in the Siyane Korale for schools and hospitals. Up to date the Obeyesekeres have taken a great interest in the supervision and administration of these places, including the Wathupitiwala hospital in Veyangoda.

When James used to race in the Mahagastota hills, he once took Felix as a navigator, and if you ask me Felix was a drag on him. Nevertheless James won some of the events he took part in. James was fond of children and I recollect that in one race Gwen Herath’s daughter was his co-companion. I remember him having long discussions with my nephew Hiran about racing cars and aeroplanes.

Stanley Obeyesekere in his appreciation of James at the memorial service at Ladies College told the congregation that James was a fun loving and kind uncle. Tara Bolling his niece also told us what a committed Christian he was and his great commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ until the very end of his life.

James virtually forced Felix to get his baby Austin car of a very old vintage which Felix had purchased from N. E. Weerasuriya, Q.C, repaired. James had a large collection of vintage cars of which he was proud of. I am sure that if he lived a little longer he would have encouraged his grand children, Chiara and Dhivan to be clever racing drivers.

The Broadacres at Batadola, Veyangoda which his father owned were distributed to the villagers around and James was left with a mere fifty acres under the Land Reform Act of 1972. He was a good agriculturist and took a great interest in his fertilizer programme and was keen to compare notes with other land owners left with -the same 50 acres.

James had gone. That era is no more. God rest his soul and may James be remembered as a feudal aristocrat who was incorruptible, fair and honest in his judgment of people and who never lost the common touch.

At the memorial service of 12th January 2008 at Ladies College Chapel the first page of the hymn sheet stated:

"DEATH IS NOTHING AT ALL."

I have only slipped away in to the next room,

I AM I, YOU ARE YOU

WHATEVER WE WERE TO EACH OTHER THAT WE STILL ARE."

Anon.

Lakshmi Dias Bandaranaike


The appellation of ‘Gentleman’ has unfortunately been overused in recent years and has tended to lose its value. However everybody who has had even the briefest contact with Deshamanya J.P. Obeyesekere will agree that here indeed was a gentleman in the highest possible sense.

Although born into and raised in a life of wealth and privilege, JPO was a man with the common touch. He moved freely with his tenant farmers to whom, he like his predecessors, donated his lands with the introduction of land reform. It was so even with his workforce as he did indeed with the people of Attanagalla, who twice elected him as their MP with a massive majority.

He was appointed junior minister of health and junior minister of finance and threw himself into his job with great dedication and vigour. But, people who knew him soon realised that this was not his métier which prompted him to give up politics.

In consideration of the great service performed by him, JPO was later appointed to the Senate. His idea of politics was entirely one sided — asking nothing for himself except to be of service to the people and his country.

He put all his weight behind his charming wife Siva, who is herself a Deshamanya, and served as possibly the best minister of health that this country has ever had. She was instrumental in introducing positive concepts of maternal and child health, reduction in under nutrition and its effects on both mothers and babies. She was also instrumental in setting up an excellent family planning service which together with the above put our country at the top in indices of health in the whole of Asia.

As a student James used to walk across the road to Royal where he had his primary and secondary education before going up to Trinity College in Cambridge. A little known fact was that the Rev. W. S. Senior, ‘poet laureate’ of Sri Lanka and later vice principal of Trinity College, lived with the Obeyesekeras at ‘Maligawa’ and was James’ personal tutor while teaching at the Colombo University.

James’ stay in Cambridge was interrupted by World War II but he soon joined the Cambridge University Air Squadron and went on to fly for the Royal Observer Corps delivering new and repaired aircraft to their operational bases. This did not prevent him from gaining an M.A. (Cantab), election to the Cambridge Union and a half blue in athletics.

He owned several cars of which his favourite was a chain driven Fraser-Nash and a 4.5 litre blower Bentley and a 3 litre Bentley. In severely rationed Britain, petrol for running these came from the allowance he received as a pilot in the RAF.

He joined the Bentley Drivers’ Club and the British Automobile Racing Club and was keenly active in their affairs until his last days. He was the only Asian to be elected an Honorary Life Member of the prestigious Bentley Drivers’ Club of England.

On learning that many brand new aircraft were up for sale cheap, JPO bought a single engined Taylorcraft fluster and flew it solo from Cambridge to Ratmalana. The account of this epic journey was published some years ago, and will be still available in bookshops.

He was chairman of the Colombo Flying Club until its takeover by the government. He gifted his Fluster to the Air Academy to train young pilots. His plane was unfortunately wrecked in an accident, and the restored engine of that plane is currently available with the Sri Lanka Air Force as a permanent exhibit at the Sri Lanka Air Force Museum in Ratmalana to commemorate his historic solo flight.

After his marriage to Sivagamie Dassenaike, a union of Royal and Ladies’ Colleges and of two leading families in Siyane Korale, he settled down to raise a family and care for his estates. His motor sporting interests centered on the various hill climbs of which Mahagastota was paramount. It was however in the Monsoon Reliability Trials that James was able to show his real skills and style as a driver.

James was a classic example of a sportsman. He competed because it gave him pleasure and never to be proud of having won at an event.

Dr. Michael Abeyratne

Colombo


SO Mar 6 2007

'Tribute to the memory of Anil Obeyesekere President's Counsel'

CONDOLENCE: The death of Anil Obeyesekere P.C. after a brief illness, sent waves of shock and bitter sorrow not only among his close family members but among the large circle of his friends, associates in politics and of Lake House where he was the Chairman at the time of his demise; his wide circle of friends and associates naturally was larger with those of two huge corporate bodies. Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation and Sri Lanka Telecom where he was the Chairman.

The numerous floral tributes and banners of the various corporations and institutions including that of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, that glittered at Anil's home and precinct where his remains lay, mutely but eloquently expressed the feelings of deep sorrow in appropriate words of those who loved and respected him.

It was my privilege and pleasure to have known Anil for more than three decades. He was not only my learned friend in the true sense of the term in our profession but also my dear and sincere personal friend till his passing away. To me Anil certainly was the friend that the famous English poet Shakespeare had in mind: "Those friends thou hast and their adoption tried/Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel."

"Life! We've been together/through pleasant and through cloudy weather: T's hard to part when friends are dear/Perhaps 't will cost a sigh, a tear;/Then steal away give little warning;/Choose tine own time;/Say not Good night!; but in some brighter clime:/Bid me 'Good morning'.

Anil proved himself not only a good friend but also a gentleman par excellence. In the Eighteenth Century Edmund Burke wrote "that a king may make a nobleman but he cannot make a gentleman." How true it is even today.

I emphasize without fear of contradiction that Anil was both a noble man and a gentleman. He hailed from a noble and respected family in the country: His professional talent and success was recognized and honoured by the Head of State having been appointed President's Counsel. His ability as an administrator was recognized having been appointed Trade Commissioner of Czechoslovakia and later the Chairman of three massive corporate bodies aforementioned.

I remember with affection and deep gratitude Anil's last great act of humanitarian service rendered a few days before he fell ill and was hospitalised for heart surgery. On a mere telephone call by me on a Friday afternoon to help my niece, a journalist at Lake House, to enter Apollo hospital, Colombo, to undergo immediate heart surgery, even before she could fax the necessary formal documents, by Saturday noon his secretary informed me to collect the necessary letter of admission to the hospital and that saved the life of this patient.

It was chronic irony of fate that by the time this patient was discharged after successful surgery, Anil was hospitalised and passed away in the early hours of 26th February 2007 to our bitter grief. I noted to Lake House his loss was irreparable.

That was Anil the good and sincere friend and gentleman. The usual jargon of officious administrators sincere to red tape than a friend, "I'll see. I'll consider, I'll look into the matter when I receive the papers etc," was certainly not in the vocabulary of Anil. He acted and acted fast like the gentleman and trusting friend that he certainly was.

This gracious quality of Anil was confirmed to me by a class mate of his, Bhatiya Jayaratne at S' Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia where Anil had his education and this no doubt speaks volumes for his Alma Mater too.

At his funeral at Kanatte, Borella, speaker after speaker spoke in high praise of Anil's achievements as a lawyer and administrator and his contribution to the SLFP and to the community and society and the country at large.

It was in the fitness of things that since President Mahinda Rajapaksa was out of the Island His Excellency's message of condolence to the bereaved wife Iranganie, daughter Eromi and son Prasanna was read by Hon. Minister W. D. J. Seneviratne.

Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary of the SLFP emphasised that unlike others Anil served the SLFP during times when the party was not in power and that he displayed a great love and loyalty for his party. In fact I had noted myself personally the truth of this assertion of Anil's great love of the SLFP.

In or about 1974 Anil prevailed upon me to enroll myself as a member of the SLFP although I told him that I had quit politics since 1960 as I was called upon to perform acting judicial functions often during that time.

Anil's death certainly is a great loss not only to his bereaved wife and family and close friends but also to his motherland which he served as a true patriot.

"Now racks a noble heart/Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Anil's body was cremated and turned to ashes but undoubtedly his soul has risen and soared into heaven or nirvana. May his soul rest in peace.

Vernon Botejue J. P. U. M., Nugegoda


DN Sat Apr 25, 2009

 

110th Birth Anniversary:

Some reflections on the life and times of J.E.M. Obeysekere

Sam WIJESINGHA

Recently we have heard well deserved praise of the Police Department for some swift detections. Time was when the Police took pride in solving crimes and duly bringing criminals to justice. That was an era when officers received recognition of their merits and politicians seized no opportunities to interfere with investigations. Then the underworld had no inroads to power, politics or the police.

One of the most difficult cases that was dependant entirely on circumstantial evidence came up in Ceylon in 1933. A native of the United Kingdom, Alexander Kennedy, who had lived in Colombo since 1909 traded in footwear and skins in the Times Building. He was accused of causing mischief by fire in respect of the building which contained his shop and of the property therein to improve his embarrassed financial position so that moneys could be claimed from the Insurance Company.

The case involved evidence relating to complicated financial transactions and to technical scientific matters regarding the cause of the fire. A decision had to be made whether the fire was due to an electrical short-circuit which ignited the coal gas or was the result of the accused owner deliberately setting fire to his stock, over which petrol had been poured.

The evidence

The collation of the evidence was by the Police, with the professional assistance of J.E.M. Obeyesekere, acting Deputy Solicitor General. The trial lasted 34 days before Justice Allan Drieberg. The accused was unanimously convicted on October 20, 1934. The appeal to the Privy Council was dismissed. Their Lordships mentioned that the summing-up to the Jury was unexceptionable. This was the first case in Ceylon in which it had been proved that a fire was deliberately caused to defraud an insurance company.

On April 11, 1934 a European planter whilst engaged in transporting a large sum of money was shot dead. That was the Talgaswala Murder Case in which the investigation presented considerable difficulty and the evidence was entirely circumstantial which J.E.M. helped the Police to gather. The courage and enthusiasm with which he devoted him self to this complicated trial revealed a keen sense of duty. The trial started in November 1934, soon after the Kennedy case. His masterly opening of the case for the Crown, and the skill with which he handled the circumstantial evidence on which the case solely depended, revealed the thorough manner in which he had studied the progress of the investigation from the very slender clues which led to the arrest of the accused.

Some may remember a similar case in the late 1940s - the White House case - where a planter was shot on the way to Ratnapura. Here, the planter's wife who was driving the car, had the sense to drive away with her dead husband by her side. Justice A.C. Alles (now in retirement) was the young prosecuting Crown Counsel who brought the case to a sensationally successful conclusion.

J.E.M. was educated at Richmond College, and at S. Thomas' College. His colleagues at S. Thomas' were S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, A.G. Ranasinghe, L.J. de S. Seneviratne, K. Somasuntharam and S.P. Wickramasinghe (the latter four became Civil Servants), S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, E.B. Wikremanayake, L.W. de Silva, Col. S. Saravanamuttu and R.S.S. Goonewardena (all of them became Advocates and the last a member of the State Council and Ambassador to the U.S.A.) F.J.T. Foenander and A.S. Rajasingham (who became doctors), H.A.J. Hulugalle (who became Editor of the Ceylon Daily News), D.T. Wijeratne, the Government Scholar who was principal of Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda, I.H. Wijesinghe who also selected the teaching profession, was Classics Master at Royal College and retired as Charity Commissioner of Colombo and of course, Canon R.S. de Saram, who became Warden of S. Thomas' College.

J.E.M's father, Dionysius C.F. Obeysekere, Crown Proctor of Galle, who was educated at Colombo Academy later known as Royal College, died in 1917, J.E.M. took to teaching at All Saints College, Galle and later became lecturer in Mathematics at the Government Training College, Colombo, succeeding E.W. Kannangara who passed into the Ceylon Civil Service in 1919. It was at the Training College that he met his future wife.

Ceylon Civil Service Examination

In 1920 he had ideas of sitting the Ceylon Civil Service Examination and was recommended to the Colonial Secretary by Warden W.A. Stone of S. Thomas' as a student who showed exceptional ability. He had got a First Class in the Cambridge Senior and passed the London Intermediate Examination in 1917, qualifying for the Government Scholarship. Warden Stone mentioned that "he came from a good Galle family which, from both sides, had Mudaliyars serving the Government".

J.E.M.'s grandfather was Muhandiram John F. Obeyesekere and the Muhandiram's brother, William, was the Mudaliyar of Morawak Korale in 1867. Their ancestor, Don Owen Ferdinandus, an officer in the Dutch Military Fort in Galle, on being appointed to high office in the Talpe pattu in the middle of the 18th Century, added the name Obeyesekere and the family lived in Kataluwa.

J.E.M. who was born on April 25, 1899 was under-age to take up the Civil Service examination in spite of Warden Stone's recommendation. Having completed his Law studies, he was enrolled as an Advocate in 1922, taking his oaths along with J. Mervyn Fonseka of Royal College and Walter Olegasegeram of Trinity College. After about two years at the unofficial Bar, he was selected by Sir Henry Gollan, the Attorney-General, to act as Crown Counsel in 1924 and although he was less than 28 years of age, was confirmed in 1926, probably the youngest to be so confirmed. At the time J.E.M. was confirmed. Crown Counsel, L.H. Elphinstone, K.C. was the Attorney-General with M.T. Akbar as Solicitor-General and Stanley Obeysekere as Deputy Solicitor-General. The Crown Counsel he joined were W.E. Barber, Vernon Grenier, R.F. Dias, C.C.A. Britor-Muttunayagam, J.W.R. Illangakoon and M.W.H. de Silva.

J.E.M. developed as a reliable prosecutor who could maintain an unemotional atmosphere in Court whatever the degree of sensation the case may have caused. He filled the prosecutor's role with that courtesy, impartiality and high sense of duty that inspire confidence in the administration of justice. While he was fair to an accused, he could at times be extremely effective in replying to the defence with brilliant flashes that showed he had closely studied the facts of the case. These proved his cogent and logical reasoning which helped the judge to sum up with scarcely any misdirection and the Jury to arrive at a fair and just verdict. These were the traditions set by outstanding Crown Counsel like C.M. Fernando, Stanley Obeysekere, and later on by E.H.T. Gunasekera and H.W.R. Weerasooriya.

However, at times J.E.M. had the characteristic to have no patience to embroider his words with silk trimmings. He said what he said with such candour that at times it disconcerted the listener and even caused irritation. This made him misunderstood by many but the misunderstanding was short-lived. His actions and words were well intentioned and free from malice. In 1930, his fellow Crown Counsel R. F. Dias wrote to him:

Attorney-General's Chambers,
Colombo.
22nd Jan. 1930.
"Dear J.E.M.

I hope you will not be offended at my pointing out to you that the tone of some of your drafts are such that I have not been able to sign them without amending them when submitted to me when you were out on circuit. I too commenced my career by writing rather freely and this brought for me a rebuke from the Attorney-General himself and I have reason to believe that the impression caused in high circles has been prejudicial to my advancement in service. As a well-wisher of yours, I hope you will benefit by my experience".

Yours sincerely
Sgd/R.F. Dias"

With the inauguration of the Donoughmore Constitution the office of Legal Secretary was created. In the early years, Sir Edward Jackson, the Attorney-General himself, functioned in both posts. Meanwhile the new post of Assistant to the Attorney-General had been created in October 1926 to which the initial appointee was L.M.D. de Silva (later of the Privy Council), followed by M.W.H. de Silva, J.E.M. first acted in the post of Assistant to the Attorney-General in 1932.

He had also acted for short periods as Magistrate, Colombo and District Judge, Chilaw and since 1934, as Deputy Solicitor-General. Of the seven Crown Counsel in 1926 mentioned above, only three remained after the retirement of Vernon Grenier in 1933, namely, J.E.M. the Senior Crown Counsel, M.W.H. de Silva, Assistant to the Attorney-General and J.W.R. Illangakoon, acting Solicitor-General and later Attorney-General.

Murder case

Another sensational "murder" case that exploded in 1933, "a case of particular importance in view of the social status of the accused", had been investigated by the Police with instructions from J.E.M. who himself appeared at the non-summary inquiry. But, for some reason, he did not prosecute at that trial. In June 1934, the then Acting Deputy Solicitor-General M.W.H. de Silva, assisted by H.L. Wendt, Crown Counsel, conducted the prosecution in what was commonly known as the Duff House case before Justice M.T. Akbar and an English speaking Jury. After a trial lasting 21 days, by a verdict of 5-2 the accused was found guilty of murder. At that time there was no Court of Criminal Appeal.

The only remedy to an aggrieved accused was by way of appeal to the Privy Council in London. Two years after the conviction, on July 29th 1936, whilst M.W.H. was still acting in his 13th month as Solicitor-General and J.W.R. Illangakoon, the Solicitor-General, had begun to act as Attorney-General, Privy Council held that at this trial:

1) hearsay evidence had been admitted,

2) the directions under Section 106 of the Evidence Ordinance were open to very serious objection, and

3) undue pressure appeared to have been exercised in the jury.

In view of these findings, "the proceedings before Justice Akbar were deemed irregular and tending to divert the due and orderly administration of the law into a new course which may be drawn into an evil precedent in the future". They held, inter alia, that "it is not the law of Ceylon that the burden is cast upon an accused person of proving that no crime has been committed." The Privy Council further declared that whilst they did not desire to lay down any rules to fetter discretion or to discourage candour and fairness on the part of those conducting prosecution, they could not approve of the prosecution calling witnesses irrespective of considerations of number and of reliability, or of the prosecution discharging the functions both of prosecution and defence. If it does so, confusion is apt to result when the prosecution calls witnesses and then proceeds to discredit them by cross examination. The Privy Council advised that the appeal of the accused should be allowed and the conviction and sentence quashed.

At this time it was rumoured that the post of Deputy Solicitor-General in which J.E.M was acting, was shortly to be suppressed and that M.W.H. de Silva, who was acting in the post of Solicitor General, may be transferred to the Judicial Service to enable E.A.K. Wijeyewardene, the Public Trustee, to the post of Solicitor-General. Submissions were made to the Attorney-General that if it was the intention of the Government to appoint M.W.H. de Silva to the post of Solicitor-General, considerations of loyalty to a brother officer who was J.E.M's senior, did not permit him to urge his claims against M.W.H. However, if for any reason it was proposed not to appoint him, J.E.M's claims were urged to that post.

From 1915, since the appointment of T.F. Garvin at the age of 34, the post of Solicitor-General had always been filled by a member of the Attorney-General's Department, viz. M.T. Akbar, Stanley Obeyesekere, L.M.D. de Silva and J.W.R. Illangakoon, respectively. Prior to 1915 there were a few instances where leading members of the Bar, invariably King's Counsel, were appoint as Solicitor-General. There was not a single precedent for the appointment of a person who was not a member of the practising Bar, whether in its official or unofficial side.

When Paul E. Peiris of the Ceylon Civil Service was District Judge, he was deeply impressed by the clarity of thought, the order and method behind the advocacy of E.A.L. Wijeyewardene (a one-time Government Scholar to Cambridge University) who was then leading Counsel in the District Courts. When Paul E. Pieris was appointed to the newly created post of Public Trustee, he persuaded E.A.L. Wijewardene to leave the Bar and join him as his Deputy in 1932. Having himself succeeded Paul E. Pieris as Public Trustee, he fulfilled his obligations to the New Department, reaching fresh horizons and establishing it on a sound footing. E.A.L. Wijeyewardene (from outside the bar) looked afresh for new field in the Law.

Solicitor-General

With the situation in the Attorney-General's Department as it was in October, 1936 E.A.L. Wijeyewardene found no difficulty in making a return to Hulftsdorp to the substantive post of Solicitor-General. M.W.H. who might have been confirmed as Solicitor-General and given Silk, who might have been the first Buddhist Puisne Judge, was out of the Attorney-General's Department and went as acting Additional District Judge, Colombo. Moreover, Justice Akbar who might have been the first Ceylonese Chief Justice, retired prematurely at the age of 56. J.E.M. who was the Crown Counsel in the Duff House case who had assisted the Police in the investigation and led evidence at the non-summary inquiry was appointed acting Public Trustee from October, 1936. Incidentally, he was succeeded as Public Trustee by his old Thomian classmate, A.G. Ranasinha of the Ceylon Civil Service. J.E.M. reverted to his new place of Senior Crown Counsel in November 1936 but resigned in 1938 and reverted to the unofficial Bar.

After the departure of the acting Solicitor-General, four outsiders went through the Attorney-General's Department, (as Law Officers of the Crown) two of them to the Supreme Court. Of these, E.A.L. Wijeyawardene who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1938, became one of the outstanding judges of this country.

The other was E.G.P. Jayatilake, who went to the Supreme Court and succeeded E.A.L. Wijeyewardene in 1948 as Chief Justice. M.T. de Amarasekera, K.C., after a brief spell in the Attorney-General's, reverted to the unofficial Bar. J. Mervyn Fonseka, who came from the Legal Draftsman's Department, died in office. J.W.R. Illangakoon appeared to feel or was made to believe that being the Attorney-General and also having been the only person to have acted both in the 1931 and 1936 State Councils as Legal Secretary, his rightful place was Chief Justice of Ceylon and not that of a Puisne Judge. His predecessors Sir Charles Peter Layard, Sir Alfred George Lascelles and Sir Anton Bertram rose to the post of Chief Justice from the post of Attorney-General. However, in December 1939 with the departure of Chief Justice Sir Sydney Abrahams, the post was offered to J.C. Howard, Chief Justice of the Gold Coast, who had come to Ceylon in October 1936 to fill the newly created post of Legal Secretary. Before that the Attorney-General functioned as the Officer of State, i.e., Legal Secretary under the Donoughmore Constitution. From 1931 to 1936, Stanley Obeyesekere, L.M.D. de Silva and J.W.R. Illangakoon functioned as Officers of State whenever each to them acted in the absence of the permanent Attorney-General, Sir Edward Jackson. Within a short time of the elevation of Sir John C. Howard to the post of Chief Justice, unfortunately Attorney-General J.W.R. Illangakoon died.

It was only in May 1941, almost 6 years after he was first appointed to act as Solicitor-General, that M.W.H. as Attorney-General, got back to his position as a Law Officer of the Crown, but that too, via the tardy and devious route through the District Court of Chilaw and Kandy. He was made a King's Counsel in January 1942.

Reasonable doubt

When he was Attorney-General, the burden of proof under Section 106 of the Evidence Ordinance arose in another form in the case of King Vs. James Chandrasekera where a question stated by Justice Mosely, S.P.J. was heard by a Bench of seven Judges whether any general or special exception in the Penal Code when pleaded by an accused person, the accused is entitled to be acquitted if a reasonable doubt is created in the minds of the Jury as to whether he is entitled to the benefit of the exception so pleaded. This Section arose in the Duff House case. H.V. Perera, K.C., and J.E.M. Obeysekere - who as stated before reverted to the unofficial Bar in 1938 - for Chandrasekera and M.W.H. de Silva, K.C., as Attorney-General, substantively agreed on this decision.

Meanwhile, with these vast changes at Hulftsdorp in the late 1930s when only J.W.R. Illangakoon was the sole sentinel left in the Attorney-General's Department out of those members mentioned above in 1926, J.E.M.'s return to the unofficial Bar in 1938 met with immediate success. His precision and lucidity of expression and his mastery of the English Language, made it easy for him to submit his cause expeditiously for ready understanding by any judge. He had a remarkably wide practice the moment he resigned from the Attorney-General's Department. That was the time when the Court of Criminal Appeal had been inaugurated and he, along with H.V. Perera, K.C., set the standards for the Court of Criminal Appeal. He was an all-rounder in that he could handle criminal and civil cases, writ matters and election petitions. But he died in 1945, so cutting short a brilliant career and depriving to the legal profession and the country a remarkable man of exceptional ability. Although the Law had been his profession, J.E.M. never allowed it to dominate his life to the exclusion of everything else. He had a sound commonsense, a studied knowledge of human nature and an uncanny instinct in sizing up a witness. Without descending to blustering tactics, he was able to expose falsehood. He had a keen legal mind, an analytical mind and a wide knowledge of the different systems of law administered in this country. He was one of those who believed that if the facts are right the law will come of itself.

He made a thorough study of his briefs before the Courts and of his files in the Attorney-General's Department. J.E.M. was a fast worker and he seemed to have the necessary information at his fingertips, whether it was substantive law, precedent or Departmental Regulations. He was often able to express a definite opinion without the usual investigation by a subordinate officer of the Attorney-General's Department. It was a treat to read his files, elegant language conveying precise thinking in the most beautiful handwriting seen by us juniors in the Record Room of the Attorney-General's Department. He was often able in a masterly fashion to whittle down or explain away at first sight what appeared an insurmountable difficulty in a case. He had also proved himself to be an outstanding teacher of Mathematics and the Law earlier in his life. He left a young family of six children, of whom two sons Ralph and Mahen died young. Of the living, two sons R.I. Obeysekere and Anil Obeysekere, are well-known President's Counsel. Anil is also Chairman of the Petroleum Corporation. His daughter, Mrs. Sriyani H.O. Pimanda, a lawyer herself, is Secretary to the Hatton National Bank and Director (Legal) of the Browns Group of Companies. His elder daughter, Valerie, worked in the Commonwealth Relations Office in London and is now living in retirement.

(The writer was Crown Counsel, 1948-1963, Secretary General of Parliament, 1963-1981 and Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) 1981-1991).