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Deshamanya James Peter Obeyesekere III (14 July 1915 – 23 October 2007) was a Sri Lankan politician and aviator. A Senator, he was also a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Finance.[1][2]

James Peter Obeyesekere III
J. P. Obeyesekere III.png
Obeyesekere, left
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Finance
Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
for Attanagalla
In office
19 March 1960 – 22 March 1965
Preceded byS.W.R.D. Bandaranaike
Succeeded bySirimavo Bandaranaike
Senator of Ceylon
Personal details
Born14 July 1915
Died23 October 2007 (aged 92)
NationalitySri Lankan
Political partySri Lanka Freedom Party
Spouse(s)Siva Obeyesekere
ResidenceObeyesekere Walawa
Alma materRoyal College, Colombo,
Trinity College, Cambridge
Military service
UnitRoyal Observer Corps


Early life and educationEdit

Born to Sir James Peter Obeyesekere II, a barrister who was an advocate of the colonial era Supreme Court of Ceylon and served as the last Maha Mudaliyar (the chief native interpreter and adviser to the British Governor of Ceylon). His grandfather was Sir James Peter Obeyesekere I.

The young James Peter Obeyesekere was educated at the Royal College, Colombo.
Obeyesekere attended Trinity College, Cambridge, he was an active member of the Cambridge Union.

Educated at the Royal College, Colombo, Obeyesekere went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge gaining a MA. There he was a member of the Cambridge Union Society and of the Debating Team of Trinity College. An accomplished sportsman, he was awarded a half blue in athletics at Cambridge, later becoming a certified athletics coach and excellent horseman and equestrian. He went on to become a barrister.


Obeyesekere created aviation history in South Asia when he became the first Sri Lankan to undertake what is erroneously described as a "solo flight" from England to Sri Lanka in November 1946, in close company with another pilot in an identical Taylorcraft Auster aircraft.

With the outbreak of World War II he joined the Cambridge University Air Squadron becoming a qualified pilot, he was invited to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot, however he turn down the offer and instead joined the Royal Observer Corps. In November 1946, he flew his single-engined Taylorcraft Auster home to Ceylon from England, becoming the first Ceylonese to make such a flight. Throughout the epic journey, Obeyesekere was closely shadowed by Sqdn. Ldr. R.A.F. (Robert) Farquharson in an identical Auster - as described in contemporary newspaper reports and early articles by Obeyesekere himself - belying claims that Obeyesekere was a "solo flyer".[citation needed]

His aviation interests were also strong as he was the Chairman of the Colombo Flying Club until its takeover by the government. He gave his Taylorcraft Auster to the Ceylon Air Academy for civilian pilot training. The aircraft was destroyed in a fatal accident on March 11, 1971, but nearly 40 years later it was rebuilt for static display at the Sri Lanka Air Force Museum, Ratmalana in memory of his flight from England to Ceylon.


A racing enthusiast he competed in many racing events in Sri Lanka, India and England. He won the Grand Prix de Lanka. He was the vice patron of the Classic Car Club of Ceylon and was the only Asian to be elected an Honorary Life Member of the prestigious Bentley Drivers’ Club. He was also members of the British Automobile Racing Club and of the Cambridge University Automobile Club. Obeyesekere was very active in the scout movement and was a former president of the Sri Lanka Scout Association.

Political careerEdit

James Obeyesekere and his wife Siva, supported their kinsmen, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike when he left the United National Party and formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951, becoming founding members. He contested the parliamentary seat of Mirigama in the 1952 general election, but lost. After S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was assassinated in 1959, he contested from his constituency the Attanagalla electorate in the 1960 July general election and entering parliament. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike who became prime minister appointed appointed Obeyesekere as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and thereafter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. He did not contest the 1965 general election, stepping down in-favor of Sirimavo Bandaranaike to take over her late husband's constituency, in return Obeyesekere was appointed a Senator serving until the Senate was abolished in 1971. His wife entered politics in 1965 contesting from the Mirigama electorate, which was her home town. In 2006, he was conferred the national honour of Deshamanya by President Mahinda Rajapakse.[3]


He married Sivagami Dassanaike, they had two children, James Peter IV and Chantal.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Obeyesekere family, Sri Lankan Sinhalese Family Genealogy
  2. ^ Deshamanya J.P. Obeyesekere Archived 2008-05-14 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Corea, Sangabo. "The lady with the Midas Touch". Island. Retrieved 8 August 2019.

External linksEdit