Posted on January 9th, 2014

Dr.Tilak Fernando

I should thank advocate Sepala Munasinghe who has advised me whenever I went off beam on certain past incidents that had taken place in London. Last week too, he was very prompt in emailing a feed back to me after reading episode 60 titled ‘Not forgetting the old country’.

Being a senior Sri Lankan, who had lived in England from 1958, he qualifies as an authoritative source of information on certain matters surrounding the Sri Lankan community in England going back to a few decades. His feedback this time was to elucidate the performances of The Ceylon Patriots Society that had existed prior to 1978, where he had had been acting as its President for some time.

Sepala Munasinghe with a scarf, the other tall person next to him is Gamini Wanigasekera and HC Gunasena de Soyza in the background looking glum after a dressing down by Mrs. B.


The Ceylon Patriots Society had been a conglomeration of Sri Lankan students, mainly Sinhala, who had felt the need to establish an association as a ‘Sinhala speaking body’ amongst its community to rival the Ceylon Students Association that had functioned from the Ceylon Students Centre with the blessings of the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) High Commission.

At the helm of the membership of the Patriotic Society had been “Vijaya and Atchcha Lanerolle, Danu Ratnayake (presently known as Ratnasiri Wickremanayake), Upali Wickramaratne, Abeysinghe (who was fondly known as Nehru), Manouri de Silva et al”.

According to Sepala Munasinghe, the former three members of the Patriotic Society had been sponsored by the Communist Party of Great Britain as students, whilst Manouri de Silva and the rest had been funded by their parents.

Those students who were subsidised by the Communist Party had supported the ‘language issue’, the parity status adopted by the LSSP (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) at the time, whilst the rest of the membership had espoused the government policy of Sinhala only. However, due to some incomprehensible rationale, the Ceylon High Commission had been antagonistic towards the latter labeling the membership as ‘xenophobic’.


‘At the Ceylon Students Association’s annual elections, Danu Ratnayake and his supporters had brought Malaysian and South Indian students with Tamil names to vote for them to remain in power. However, when Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first woman Prime Minister and arrived in the UK to participate in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference, ‘the ‘Sinhala only’ group had corresponded with the Prime Minister’s office in Colombo to accord her a reception at the Heathrow Airport when she arrived in London.

Sepala Munasinghe

During such a pandemonium ‘the Sinhala only group’ had become aware of Tamil students’ preparation to stage a massive demonstration against Mrs. Bandaranaike the very moment she landed at the London airport.

The High Commissioner in London, Gunasena de Soyza, had been reigning silence about the Prime Minister’s arrival on security grounds, yet, despite such precautions by the High Commissioner, his deputy, Kanagasunderam, had left the cat out of the bag to the Tamil Sangham which finally helped the Tamil students to set off a massive demonstration against Mrs. Bandaranaike on her arrival at the airport. Despite being outplayed by the machinations of the Sri Ceylon High Commission in London ‘the Sinhala only group’ had gone to the Savoy Hotel on the following morning to see the Prime Minister, but had been prevented by the early presence of the High Commissioner at the Savoy Hotel ensuing a scramble at the bottom of a staircase in the Savoy Hotel.

Fair play

Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike having sensed the perplexed situation at the ground floor of the Savoy hotel had told the High Commissioner Gunasena de Soyza thus:

“Yesterday, at the London Airport I saw one lot of students, now I want to see my boys, please allow them to come and see me.”

The President of the Patriots Society Sepala Munasinghe and Secretary Gamini Wanigasekera had subsequently seen the Prime Minister on that morning and informed her about the manoeuvrings of the Ceylon High Commission in London about her visit, and in contrast the way Tamil Sangham had been favoured by the deputy High Commissioner Kanagasunderam.

This incident had been highlighted in the British Press at the time by P.A Reuters (code reference pertaining to news item – S 8628 -76).

Mrs. Bandaranaike had further ordered the High Commissioner Gunasena de Soyza to permit the ‘Sinhala only group’ to make use of the hall in the High Commission to conduct their intended meeting on behalf of all Sri Lankans which had been done effectively with a speech delivered by its President Sepala Munasinghe welcoming the Prime Minister. However, High Commissioner Gunasena de Soyza’s nonchalant attitude had been exposed by his marked absence with an excuse that he was otherwise committed to attend an important diplomatic appointment that had been arranged in advance!

Apartheid issue

Long before the Sri Lankan terrorist tribulation became intensified and too complex, the Patriots Society had been very much involved with the Apartheid issue in South Africa towards the early part of sixties.

As a member of the UK National Union of students and holding an official membership card, Sepala Munasinghe had been very active on the quandary by organising the first ever campaign of boycotting all South African goods which he had executed with the help of Father Trevor Huddlestone, Rev. Michael Scott, Ronal Segal and Donald Soper ( presently Lord Soper).

The first of such campaign taken to all the diplomatic missions in London had commensed with the Ceylon Mission when P.R. Gunasekera was the High Commissioner. This campaign against apartheid in South Africa had also been highlighted in the London Times at the time with all the names with Sepala Munasinghe as the President of the Patriots Society.

Sepala Munasinghe, who arrived in the UK in 1958, qualifies as one of the stalwarts of relating the past history on affairs especially connected with Sri Lankans of a bygone era. While he was in London he qualified as a legal luminary, returned yet to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to practice law in Hultsdorf as an Advocate.

I am eagerly awaiting to hear from him what sounds to be quite an interesting narrative how Sir John Kotelawala invited Sepala Munasinghe with his wife and the two children to Sir John’s Brougeswood Estate in Kent where Sir John spent his last week- end as the owner of Brougeswood. More so, what intrigues me is to find out how they were introduced by Sir John to a French lady at Brougeswood and later how she came to Ceylon looking for Sir John to marry him(Sir John)!

In fairness to all the Sri Lankan Associations such as the Sinhala Association, Sinhala Bala Mandalaya and many others that operated from England emulating the Patriotic Society, it needs to be stressed that many Sinhala groups dedicatedly committed themselves to work for one cause from London, i.e. to safeguard the integrity of their motherland, counter false propaganda, help the needy at home, across a wider spectrum commencing from security forces that had to fight under arduous situations and conditiions, victims of the terrorists and their families and in many other forms.

Even solid foundations at times are bound to have hairline cracks. In such a backdrop, it is fair to say that on the odd occasion tiny fragmentations too have occurred along the line within some of the Sri Lankan associations, from time to time, due to individual disagreements and specific resolutions, but maintaining their resolute premise being to serve the motherland.

As someone seriously put in a philosophical phrase, ‘does it really matter whether one adorns a chain, ring, necklace or a bracelet, as long as one is mindful of the fact that the core of the item one titivates is gold’?

– See more at:

There has been an inadvertent error in the ‘ Life Abroad’  Part 61 which read as follows:
‘At the helm of the membership of the Patriotic Society had been “Vijaya and Atchcha Lanerolle, Danu Ratnayake (presently known as Ratnasiri Wickremanayake), Upali Wickramaratne, Abeysinghe (who was fondly known as Nehru), Manouri de Silva et al”.
In fact it should have read as follows:

 Danu and co were not members of the Patriots Society but were members of the Ceylon Students Association


Tilak”‹”‹ S. Fernand0

Tilak S. Fernando

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