Keerthi De Silva, founder President of the Sinhala Defense League dies in California USA
Posted on June 29th, 2011

By Walter Jayawardhana

Keerthi Gunoth Richard De Silva, the founder President of the Los Angeles based Sinhala Defense League that played the prominent role in the anti-separatist struggle of Sri Lanka in North America died in his West Covina home June 24, just eight days after his 81st birthday, his daughter Desika said.

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-My father was a good strong man who spoke his mindƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ the daughter said and added he was suffering from lung complications caused by exposure to asbestos at work for the city of Los Angeles where he worked as a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer.

Keerthi is the oldest brother of three siblings, brother Raja De Silva who passed away less than one month ago and Mrs. Padma Peiris (the mother in law of Defense Seretary Gotabhaya Rajapksa) They hailed from Galle, Sri Lanka.

His anti-separatist public role started when a group of youth clashed with a demonstration by a Trotskyite Marxist group who voiced pro-separatist views of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in downtown Los Angeles in 1983. Immediately after the clash, colleagues of Keerthi met at the Hollywood area apartment of this writer where the group selected him as the President and this writer as the Secretary of a vigilante political group called the Sinhala Defense League, the first one of its nature in the US . Its activities lasted more than two decades.

Keerthi , always a dare devil character migrated to the West in 1956 on a motor bike across the continents of Asia and Europe through the Khyber Pass then infested with highway robbers with a friend on the pillion. While he was studying his future trade in London he met his future wife Carmen Villa of La Coruna of Sothern Spain. After graduation both of them went to Sri Lanka and Keerthi worked as refrigeration engineer for the Milk Board. He kept the job for ten years.

Thereafter they migrated to the United States and Keerthi was hired by the City of Los Angeles.

While being an active member of the Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara he met with a freeway accident while trying to rescue a Vesak lantern which

flew away from his pick up truck. The accident broke both his legs

and in the hospital he suffered a heart attack and a stroke simultaneously. His daughter said her dad was a strong man with nine lives and survived all those hazards. He helped numerous other Buddhist temples in greater metropolitan area. He was extremely fond of cooking alms for the Buddhist monks and his favorite dish was sour apple curry.

Keerthi accompanied this writer to go to New York where I met the pro-LTTE spokesmen for a debate in front of television cameras. Only the late Professsor Reggie Rajapaksa of Pennsylvania University and I participated in the debate on the Sri Lanka side. While the debate was going on Keerthi felt something fishy and through the back door negotiated for a copy of the debate for a fee. It was later found out that the Indian owned television station has decided not to air the debate under pressure from the strong LTTE lobby in New York as the debate was a clear defeat for them. Keerthi was instrumental in making hundreds of copies of the debate and distribute it all over the United States. Keerthi had been the practical man in our movement. He was behind numerous demonstrations we organized in California.

He leaves behind his wife of fifty two years Carmen, his daughter Desika and her husband Charles Mc Daniel, and his grandson Brandon Mc Daniel.

His last days were spent in helping the disabled soldiers of Sri Lanka.May he attain Nibbana.

Funeral Arrangements

Forest Lawn Covina Hills

21300 Via Verde Drive

Covina, Ca 91724

Viewing will be on Friday July 1 from 5 p.m. till 9 p.m.

Funeral will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday July 2nd, 2011

The family has asked, that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ranaviru Organization, in his memory. Ranaviru takes care of soldiers who have been handicapped due to the war in Sri Lanka, and also toward scholarships for their children.

3 Responses to “Keerthi De Silva, founder President of the Sinhala Defense League dies in California USA”

  1. appuhamy1 Says:

    The late Keerthi de Silva and his colleagues like the writer of this obituary Walter Jayawardhana have been in the forefront of the anti-Eelam struglle in North America for about thrr decades. Their work greatly contributed to prevent the LTTE becoming a major force there like in Britain. Letus salute comrade Keerthi and say May he attain Nirvana!

  2. gamunu6 Says:

    I am so sorry to hear that such a valient Soldier who value Sri lanka paased away. I do not know him but coming originally from Matara, quite understand the tenacity of Southern ppl of Sri lanka.

    I too am a petroleum engineer and I was asked to work in Peterborough( suburb of Toronto) & had to decline the job offer as the company deals with asbestos.

    Have visited LA many times.. & have met many Sinhalese ppl there. Wishing you all & his daughter DESIKA & brothers who still alive.
    Plz let me know further information of Ranaviru organization. Regards & Blessings of triple gems~ Gamunu Alahakkone. M.I Mech E (Lon) UK, P.Eng ( Canada).

  3. charithsls Says:

    What yeoman service done for Sri Lanka! Hopefully his grandson will now take up the cudgel on his behalf for Sinhalese.May he attain Nibbana!

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