E. W. Perera: a reflection on SL politics, then and now
Posted on December 5th, 2013

Rita Perera



At present, not a day seems to go by when an increasing number of wrongs, even crimes, committed not by criminals but by some of our politicos are highlighted. Thankfully, it was not always so! Hence, it is refreshing to look back on an era, still within our living memory, of people who were willing to risk even their lives, in the interests of others in their country. Maybe it is wishful thinking that all is not lost and true values, such as, selflessness and true patriotism are not quite dead yet.

 I am personally heartened by the fact that my biography of the late Mr E. W. Perera, whose life exemplified such characteristics has been sold out, necessitating this reprint. This is especially pertinent in our country, at the present time and it is my earnest hope that at least some of the qualities of E.W.P and many other past contemporaries of his ilk will be emulated by those in our current political scene.

 Briefly, E.W.P. should be especially remembered for at least two significant facts. His abiding interest and painstaking research in heraldry, evidenced in his monumental book (‘Sinhalese Banners and Standards’ by E. W. Perera) led him to discover three Sinhalese banners at the Chelsea Hospital in 1908, one of which was that of the last king of Kandy, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe, when he surrendered to the British. It was this lion flag, with a few modifications (ie to denote the minorities etc) that was later unfurled on our first Independence day.

 The other important mission he was entrusted with was, during the dark days of Martial Law in 1915, when prominent Buddhist leaders, including F.R. and D.S. Senanayake, were arbitrarily imprisoned, with the threat of being arbitrarily shot. He was chosen to represent their cause in Britain. He hid the incriminating document in the sole of one of his shoes, as he undertook the hazardous journey, in seas beset by German torpedoes, to present their plight to the British colonial authorities. They were thankfully released, but he stayed on, joined by others to continue the agitation against the increasingly dictatorial Governor and his cohorts in Ceylon.

 However, gratitude apparently does not have a high rating among politicians and he was marginalised in the ensuing prelude to independence, by even those he risked the best years of his life for. Characteristically, the epitaph he chose for his grave, sums up his life –‘He served his own generation and fell asleep …’

 (My special thanks to Godage International Publishers and their dedicated staff for making this reprint possible).

 Rita Perera

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