Douglas Wickremeratne – An outstanding hero
Posted on December 6th, 2021

Senaka Weeraratna

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Douglas Wickremeratne in London on December 01, 2021. He was in touch with me regularly by forwarding posts until the last and I used to reciprocate. 

He has a huge claim for the gratitude of Sri Lanka and its patriotic people for the stand he took soon after the civil unrest in July 1983, when he alone stood up to fight the disinformation campaign of the country’s detractors in London. His brave stand triggered others, primarily Sinhalese in many parts of the world, to come out in support of national unity, territorial integrity, and an undivided Sri Lanka. He gave leadership to this cause in an unblemished manner.  

Douglas acted as a de facto representative on behalf of the Sri Lanka High Commission in London to combat increasing false allegations against the country, the Army, and the Sinhala people engineered by the LTTE and their supporters. The latter had planned these campaigns for a long time early and the Govt. machinery including the Sri Lankan Embassies was caught off guard.  

Furthermore, the Sri Lanka High Commission in London as a matter of protocol was required to obtain prior permission from the Foreign Ministry in Colombo before responding to any sudden development, for example, a bomb explosion. Its hands were tied. When permission was granted for the Sri Lanka High Commission by the Foreign Ministry in Colombo to issue a written statement authorized by the latter it was too late. The delay had resulted in the stable door getting closed, and the horse bolting away.

Overseas Sri Lankans’ Organization for National Unity (OSLONU) 

Around the same time, Sri Lankan expatriates in Melbourne formed the Overseas Sri Lankans’ Organization for National Unity (OSLONU) at a public meeting held at the University of Melbourne in September 1983 under the leadership of Professor C.G. Weeramantry who was elected as the first President of OSLONU. He delivered a brilliant oration on this occasion entitled ‘A Plea for National Unity and an Undivided Sri Lanka’. 

Dr. Ranjith Hettiarachi and H.L.D. Mahindapala was elected as the Joint Secretaries. Senaka Weeraratna served as Assistant Secretary jointly with Astrid Edrisinha. Dr. Olga Mendis (Hony. Treasurer), and Soma Perera, Tony Edrisinha, Chris Lawton, Eddie Gray, and Hanif Badurdeen, were elected as Committee members. All of them were founder members.  

It grew into a sizable body to counter anti – Sri Lanka propaganda worldwide. Sri Lanka newspapers carried statements of OSLONU regularly. Even Australian academics at the University of Melbourne who attended the inaugural sessions of OSLONU later commented that they have now realized that there was another valid and highly tenable point of view contrary to what the LTTE detractors were saying. OSLONU used to liaise constantly with Douglas Wickremeratne.

Douglas is an old Anandian. At Ananda College in 1953, he was a classmate of Indrajith Malalasekera (son of Dr. G.P. Malalasekera), D.B. Nihalsinghe (filmmaker), Ananda K. Wijetunga, Ranjith Rathnayake, Palitha Premasiri (Cricket Captain 1957), Neville Gajaweera, and Dr. Ranjith Hettiarachi.

Sinhala Association in the UK

Douglas was the founder of the Sinhala Sangamaya in London thereby ensuring that Sinhala expatriates were able to maintain close cultural links with their motherland. They organized cultural shows by bringing famed Musicians to London on an annual basis including W.D. Amaradeva, Sinhala film shows, Vesak festivities, Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations, and they funded the dispatch of provisions to help villages in heavy rain-affected areas in Sri Lanka and financed repairs to Ancient Water Tanks in the hinterland. The Sinhala Sangamaya also invited Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Nayake Thera, Elle Gunawansa Thera, Professor (Dr.) Nalin de Silva, and Minister Cyril Matthew, among others to address gatherings in London.

Douglas represented the Sinhala Association in the U.K. He bravely faced the country’s detractors in the west including LTTE supporters on all T.V. and radio debates, and in turn, won the hearts of the well-wishers of Sri Lanka in Britain and elsewhere.

World Federation of Sri Lankans

Douglas was a founder member of the World Federation of Sri Lankans and a distinguished speaker at the inaugural sessions of the World Federation held in Toronto in 1984. Dr. Jeeva Ganepola ( New Jersey, USA) was elected as its First President. The Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada under the leadership of its President Tilak Wickremasinghe hosted this event.

The Sinhala Sangamaya hosted the Second Convention in London in 1986 where Douglas was duly elected as the second President of the World Federation. Several distinguished speakers from Sri Lanka including Minister Lalith Athulathmudali, Anura Bandaranaike (Leader of the Opposition), Earnst Corea, Dr. Jeeva Ganepola (USA), H.L.D. Mahindapala (Australia),  Dr. Walter Jayasinghe (USA), and  Walter Jayawardana (Los Angeles, USA)  spoke at this International Conference.     

Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada published the first ‘Overseas Sri Lankan’ Journal which was distributed at the London Convention in 1986.

Even the Govt. of Sri Lanka gave him high recognition and VIP treatment when he visited Sri Lanka as the President of the World Federation at that time. The interviews that Douglas gave to British TV Channels won him star status and a huge following of admirers both within and outside Sri Lanka. He was the pride of the nation as he was performing better than any of our diplomats stationed overseas. In almost every conversation on the subject of civil riots in Sri Lanka in the mid-eighties Douglas name invariably came up in admiration.

Prime Minister R. Premadasa hosted a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister in Colombo in 1985 to gauge the views of the overseas-based Sri Lankans. Douglas Wickremeratne, Dr. Ranjith Hettiarachi, Senaka Weeraratna, Dr. Jeeva Ganepola, Jayantha Dhanapala were among those who attended this discussion.  

The Rupavahini conducted a TV Program in 1985 focused on the contributions that the Overseas Sri Lankans were making to the cause of combating anti – Sri Lanka propaganda. It had Douglas Wickremeratne, Dr. Ranjith Hettiarachi, and Senaka Weeraratna as the participants. M.J. Perera, Civil Servant, was the Chairman of the Rupavahini at that time.

In January 1987 a meeting was held at the residence of Senaka Weeraratna in Colombo and attended by visiting Sri Lankans to review the progress being made in protecting the fair name of Sri Lanka internationally. Professor C.G. Weeramantry, Douglas Wickremeratne, Mahinda Gunasekera, Hema Jinadasa, Senaka Weeraratna, and a couple of others were present.  

Douglas is a real hero by any definition. He is an old Anandian with a firm commitment to the ‘ Rata, Jathiya, Agama’ idea. The adage ‘ Come the hour, Come the man’ was strikingly illustrated in the manner that Douglas Wickremeratne stepped forward to defend Sri Lanka in the hallowed portals of elite British institutions, Universities, and mainstream T.V. Channels. He scored debating points convincingly in front of British TV audiences.   

May Sri Lanka find the strength to show remembrance and gratitude at a national level to this great Patriot. A man with such a backbone and spine is a vital need for the country more so today

He deserves a commemorative postage stamp issued in his honour.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Senaka Weeraratna

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On Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 19:57 TISSA MADAWELA <tmadawela@hotmail.com> wrote:

2021 දෙසැම්බර් 1 වෙනිදා රාත්‍රියේ අප අතරින් වෙන්වූ ඩග්ලස් වික්‍රමරත්න මහතා පිහිටවූ එක්සත් රාජධානියේ සිංහල සංගමය මඟින් ක්‍රියාත්මක කල කටයුතු පිලිබඳ කෙටි වාර්තාවක් සහ එතුමා රුපවාහිනි වැඩසටහන් වල පෙනී සිටි අවස්ථා කිහිපයක්.

SJNHALA SANGAMAYA A brief history of work www.youtube.com
Various Interviews dating from 1983 by Douglas Wickramaratne Douglas Wickramaratne’s interviews dating back from the 1980s. www.youtube.com

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