Edwin Wijeyeratne

Sir Edwin Aloysius Perera Wijeyeratne KBE (Sinhala: ශ්‍රිමත් එඩ්වින් ඇලෝසියස් පෙරේරා විජයරත්න) (8 January 1889 – 19 October 1968), known as Edwin Wijeyeratne, was a Sri Lankan lawyer, politician, diplomat,[6][7] and one of the founding members of the Ceylon National Congress and the United National Party. He was a Senator and Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development in the cabinet of D. S. Senanayake. He thereafter he served as Ceylonese High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ceylonese High Commissioner to India[8][9]

Hon. Sir
Edwin Wijeyeratne
Sir E.A.P Wijeyeratne.jpg
Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development[1][2]
In office
22 July 1948 – 28 February 1951[3]
Prime MinisterD. S. Senanayake
Preceded byOliver Ernest Goonetilleke[4]
Succeeded byOliver Ernest Goonetilleke[5]
Member of State Council of Ceylon for Kegalle
In office
20 June 1931 – 7 December 1935
Member of the Senate of Ceylon
In office
High Commissioner for Ceylon to the United Kingdom
In office
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime Minister
Preceded byOliver Goonetilleke
Succeeded byClaude Corea
High Commissioner for Ceylon to India
In office
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterSir John Kotelawala,
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
Preceded byC. Coomaraswamy
Succeeded byRichard Aluwihare
Personal details
Edwin Aloysius Perera Wijeyeratne

(1889-01-08)8 January 1889
Died19 October 1968(1968-10-19) (aged 79)
Political partyUnited National Party
SpouseLeela née Pethiyagoda
Occupationlawyer, politician, diplomat

Early life and educationEdit

Born on 8 January 1889 in Rambukkana, Sri Lanka to a family claimed its roots to the Kotte Kingdom who had fled in face of the Portuguese. His father was Gabrial Perera Wijeyeratne, a notary public and his mother was Catherina Wickremasinghe Jayasekera née Tennekoon, daughter of Jayasekera Tennekoon, a notary from the Four Korales in Kegalle. The eldest in the family, he grew up in the Buddenipola Walauwa in Kegalle.[10][11][12]

Wijeyeratne received his primary education at the village school in Rambukkana. When nine years old, he transferred to Handessa Village School in Gampola, where he stayed at the home of his future wife, Leela Pethiyagoda. He was subsequently educated at St Mary's College, Kegalle, before completing his secondary education at St Joseph's College, Colombo where he passed the Cambridge Senior exam with Honours. He won 15 prizes at his last school prize giving.[13]

Early careerEdit

After completing school, he taught at Lorenz Tutory whilst pursuing an early career in journalism, where he worked under Armand de Souza.

Legal careerEdit

While working as a journalist, Wijeyeratne studied law at the Ceylon Law College and qualified as an Advocate in 1929 at the age of 30. He then established his legal practice in the unofficial bar in his home town Kegalle, specializing in Civil law and Kandyan law, and in Buddhist ecclesiastical law till 1949.[13] He was an expert in Civil and Kandyan Law, and in Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law.[13]

Political careerEdit

1915 riotsEdit

During his early days in journalism, Wijeyeratne became political secretary to Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and was one of the co-founders of a political group, the Young Lanka League. He was arrested by the British colonial authorities during the 1915 riots, accused of subversive writings and activities due to his agitation for self-rule[14][15] Others who faced imprisonment without charges included F. R. Senanayake, D. C. Senanayake, D. S. Senanayake, Baron Jayatilaka, Dr C. A. Hewavitarne, W. A. de Silva, Arthur V Dias, John Silva, Piyadasa Sirisena and A. E. Goonesinha who went on to play a prominent part in the independence movement.

Ceylon National Congress and the State CouncilEdit

Wijeyeratne was a founding member of the Ceylon National Congress was founded by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Sir James Peiris in 1919. He was elected to the State Council of Ceylon in 1931 from Kegalle, where he served until 7 December 1935. He did not stand for re-election at the State Council in 1936 and return to his legal practice. On 21 December 1940, Wijeyeratne was appointed President of the Ceylon National Congress. His Joint Secretaries were Dudley Senanayake and JR Jayawardene. During this period he was chosen to lead the Ceylon National Congress delegation to London. A famous story at the time was in 1944 when the Soulbury Commission was on their way to Kandy, D. S. Senanayake had stationed Wijeyeratne bare-bodied, in a paddy field in Kegalle. There, he was introduced to the commissioners as a typical Sinhala farmer and who spoke in English to the commissioners and impressed on them the need for Ceylon to obtain self-government.[13][16] A special invitation was thereby sent to Ceylon by Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Congress to visit India for a discussion regarding the independence of Ceylon. Wijeyeratne, D. S Senanayake, George E. De Silva, J. R. Jayawardene, Sir Claude Corea and H. W. Amarasuriya were among the delegates.

United National Party and the Minister of Home Affairs & Rural DevelopmentEdit

In 1947, Wijeyeratne became a founding member of the United National Party and was appointed to the Senate of Ceylon which was a non-elected upper house of parliament. There he served as acting Leader of the Senate. He subsequently succeeded Sir Oliver Goonetilleke as Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development in D. S. Senanayake's cabinet in July 1948. He was a member of the Commission on the Death Penalty which first recommended the abolishing the death penalty from Ceylon in 1948. While Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development, Wijeyeratne served as the Chairman of the select committee to select the National Anthem for Sri Lanka. Namo, Namo, Matha was subsequently selected as the country's national anthem.[17][18][19][20] He resigned as Minister and Senator in February 1951 paving the way for Sir Oliver Goonetilleke to succeed him and return to his former post on his return from London.[21]

Diplomatic roleEdit

In 1952, Wijeyeratne was appointed Ceylonese High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, succeeding Sir Oliver Goonetilleke in turn and was knighted the year after in the 1953 New Year Honours as a Knight Commander (Civil Division) of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.[22] As the Ceylonese High Commissioner, Wijeyeratne was involved in strengthening diplomatic relations between Britain and Sri Lanka. Wijeyeratne and his wife were visited at their residence in London on three occasions by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. In 1954, Wijeyeratne was recalled home and Sir Claude Corea succeeded him as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. In 1955, he was appointed Ceylonese High Commissioner to India, where he served till 1957 and was succeeded by Sir Richard Aluvihare.[23]

Later lifeEdit

Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne died on 19 October 1968 in Kegalle.[24]

Family lifeEdit

Tissa, Nissanka and Cuda

Wijeyeratne married Leela Pethiyagoda from the Meewaladeniya Walauwa in Gampola and had three sons and a daughter. The eldest, Tissa Wijeyeratne was a Barrister at Law and served as the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs and Defence, as Sri Lankan Ambassador to France and to Switzerland, and as Senior Advisor (Foreign Affairs) to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike.[25] His second son, Dr Nissanka Wijeyeratne, was former Minister of Education, Higher Education and Justice, Diyawadana Nilame (Chief lay Custodian) of Temple of the Tooth, and later the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Russian Federation and former member of the governing body of UNESCO. The youngest son, Dr Cuda Wijeyeratne is a consultant psychiatrist.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Page 103 of Ferguson's Ceylon Directory 1949. Ferguson's Ceylon Directory 1949.
  2. ^ Page 88 of Ferguson's Ceylon Directory 1950. Ferguson's Ceylon Directory 1950.
  3. ^ Former Ministers, Ministry of Home Affairs. Official Website, Ministry of Home Affairs (Sri Lanka), Retrieved on 2 October 2018.
  4. ^ Page 166 of Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka by C. A. Gunawardena.
  5. ^ Page 166 of Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka by C. A. Gunawardena.
  6. ^ Page 391 Historical Dictionary of Sri Lanka. Historical Dictionary of Sri Lanka by Patrick Peebles ISBN 1442255854, 9781442255852.
  7. ^ Page 153 - Of a Certain Age: Twenty Life Sketches. Of a Certain Age: Twenty Life Sketches By Gopal Gandhi.
  8. ^ Page 96 - J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka - a political biography / Vol.1, 1906-1956. J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka - a political biography / Vol.1, 1906-1956 by K. M. De Silva, William Howard Wriggins ISBN 0824811836 9780824811839
  9. ^ VOTE OF CONDOLENCE Dr. NISSANKA WIJEYERATNE: Sri Lanka Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) on Friday, 10th June, 2011
  10. ^ Page 205 & 206 of Peace At Last In Paradise. Peace At Last In Paradise By Dr. Ananda Guruge.
  11. ^ Sorting Diplomats from The Officers. Daily News (Sri Lanka), Retrieved on 30 May 2013.
  12. ^ Kegalu Balika Vidyalaya celebrates 78 years. Daily News (Sri Lanka), Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d An illustrious son of Sabaragamuwa
  14. ^ Tissa Wijeyeratne A Remarkable Personality by Professor.Wiswa Warnapala. The Island (Sri Lanka). Retrieved 5 September 2002.
  15. ^ "Sri Lanka: The Untold Story". Archived from the original on 7 August 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  16. ^ Tissa Wijeyeratne, an illustrious son of Lanka by Ajith Samaranayake. Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka), Retrieved on 14 July 2002.
  17. ^ National symbols - The identity of Mother Lanka. Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka), Retrieved on 29 January 2012.
  18. ^ Independence of 1948 resurrected and revived. Sunday Observer, Retrieved on 2 February 2014.
  19. ^ National flag unites all communities. Sunday Observer, Retrieved on 4 February 2015.
  20. ^ History of Sri Lanka’s National Anthem mired in controversy. Daily Mirror, Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Former Ministers". moha.gov.lk. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  22. ^ "FIFTH SUPPLEMENT TO The London Gazette OF TUESDAY, 3oth DECEMBER, 1952" (PDF). thegazette.co.uk. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  23. ^ Former Sri Lankan Envoys to India Official Website, High Commission of Sri Lanka in India
  24. ^ "Life Abroad - Part 29: SORTING DIPLOMATS FROM THE OFFICERS". dailynews. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  25. ^ Wikileaks. Wikileaks, Retrieved on 12 March 1974.

Further readingEdit

  • De Silva, K. M.; Wriggins, W. H. (1988). J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka - a political biography / Vol.1, 1906-1956. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824811836.
  • Wilson, Alfred Jeyaratnam (1988). The Break-up of Sri Lanka: the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict. ISBN 1-85065-033-0.

External linksEdit