FAMOUS FIRSTS OF THE PAST STUDENTS OF WESLEY COLLEGE AT COLOMBO, SRI LANKA.
WESLEY has gained quite a reputation for producing many “FIRSTS” in all walks of life.The Editors have compiled the following list and sincerely regret any omissions. Wesley is indeed very proud to have produced
(I) The first Ceylonese Governor General Sir OE Goonetilleke
(2) The first High Commissioner to U.K. Sir Oliver Goonetilleke
(3) The first Ceylonese Auditor General Sir OE Goonetilleke
(4) The first Leader of the Senate Sir OE Goonetilleke
(5) The first High -Commissioner to U.S.A. Sir Claude Corea Sir Claude Corea (right) with the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala and Viscount Soulbury
(6) The first High Commissioner to India Mr. M. W. H. de Silva. M.W.H. De Silva was a Kings Counsel and a leading lawyer in Colombo
(7) The first Ceylonese Leader of the State Council Sir Don Baron Jayatilaka
(8) The first President of the Senate Sir Gerard Wijekoon. Sir Gerard Wijekoon mentions in his book “Recollections” which was published in 1953 about his life, with references to St. Philip Neri’s Church, Pettah. These recollections are from Sir Gerard’s younger years that are in the early part of the century.
He says: “…..my parents and I attended St. Philip Neri’s, Pettah. It was then the most popular Roman Catholic Church in Colombo.” All races and creeds attended this Church”, and “also the Military. It was a very imposing sight to see the Military marching to Church with their band on Sundays. The first pew in the Church was occupied by the late Honourable James van Langenberg and his family.”
(9) The first Muslim Knight Sir Mohammed Macan Markar
Muhammad Marcan Marka
(10)The first Muslim ‘Speaker’ of the House of Representatives Mr. H. S. Ismail
H.S Ismail Al Haj – Member of Parliament for Puttalam and the 1st Speaker of Parliament of Independent Ceylon (Sri Lanka)-
Commemorative stamp in his honour
Al Haj HS Ismail – Distinguished Old Boy and Honoured Citizen of Ceylon
(11) The first Muslim Mayor of Colombo — Hon. M.H.MohamedThis article was first published in the OBU (UK) souvenir by Ananda Thevathasan.
A Distinguished Old Boy of Wesley College Hon Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed was born on 15 June 1921,at Dematagoda in Colombo his father N.M.M.Haniffa was one of the first muslims to attend Wesley under Rev Samuel R.Wilkin. Proctor Haniffa’s father was the uncrowned King of Colombo’s vegetable trade it is said that it was Proctor Haniffa father A.M.Nagoor Meera who was one of the those philanthropist who helped Rev Henry Highfield.When the latter went around the country on his bicycle.
Hon M.H.Mohamed joined Wesley in 1926 and spent the entirety of his student life at Wesley.When asked why Wesley? Mr Mohamed replied that at Wesley “their were no racial or religious lines drawn and the education was secular”.Hon Mohamed was at Wesley during the era of Rev A.Huchinson and Rev John Dalby.All his brother also went to Wesley students of Wesley will remember M.H.M.Munas the donor of the Botany/Bio Lab M.H.M.Munas is the elder brother of Hon M.H.Mohamed.Hon Mohamed’s five sons also went to Wesley college and are actively involved with the Union.
Hon M.H.Mohamed on leaving Wesley took up business established by his Grandfather and took a keen interest in politics he was elected to the Colombo municipal council in 1945 and went on to become the First Muslim Mayor of Colombo.During his tenure of office he got the Campbell park lease extended and when Hussain Mohamed his eldest son became Mayor Campball park was handed to Wesley. Hon M.H.Mohamed first contested for a Parliament seat in 1965. and was returned as the M.P for Borella the seat he still holds. Hon M.H.Mohamed was rewarded for his invaluable service to the community, by being appointed a minister for 4 successive cabinets of the United National Party and went on to become the Speaker of the Sri Lanka Parliament on 9 March 1989.
Hon M.H.Mohamed it must be remembered was one of those Wesleyites who were instrumental in saving Wesley College being taken over by the government in 1961, in the famous takeover crisis of private school.Hon M.H.Mohamed is the only distinguished old boy to be invited on 5 occasions to be the Chief Guest at the Wesley College Annual Prize Giving. Hon M.H.Mohamed has been a pillar of support to his old school, both financially and actively supporting various projects.This notable achievement was rewarded by the Union,by electing him the president of the OBU Colombo from 1987 to 1995.
It was during his Presidency that Wesley was provided with a fine play ground and turf wickets,extension of the playing area and the refurbishment of the sports pavilion which was renamed in his honour.Hon M.H.Mohamed’s services to Wesley was recognised when his photograph was unveiled in the College hall. Wesley College together with the other support groups of Wesley formally facilitated Hon M.H.Mohamed MP a distinguished old boy of Wesley for his invaluable and painstaking services rendered to the public and his old school for the past 50 years.
HON. M H MOHAMMED TURNS NINETY (Inserted 25th June 2011)
Distinguished old Wesleyite the Hon M H Mohammed, Speaker of Sri Lanka Parliament(’89 – ’94), Minister of Western Regional Development(’01 –’04), Minister of Parliamentary Affairs(’07 – ’10), Member of Parliament for Colombo District(’89 – ’10) and Mayor of Colombo(’60 – ’62) celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends in Colombo. The College is felicitating Hon Mr Mohammed’s 67 years of service to the Nation in the College Hall on the eve of his 90th birthday 14th June 2011. Mr Mohammed’s sons followed in their father’s footsteps from Kindergarten right through maintaining the strong link with Wesley College. They are still involved with the brotherhood of Wesleyites and demonstrates the once strong father-son links that underpinned the traditions of Wesley College which sadly has fallen away over recent years. Many would remember Mr Mohammed’s sons: M. Hussain Mohamed, Former Mayor of Colombo, Vice Patron OBU Colombo; Hassen Gazzali Mohamed; Ahamed Azahim Mohamed, active member of the OBU UK Branch; Haniffa Mohamed and Shaul Hameed Mohamed, Vice President OBU Colombo.
Mohamed, an exemplary politician loved and respected by all communities – Prof. G. L. Peiris
Sunday Leader, June 19, 2011
Prof. G.L. Peiris, the Minister of External Affairs said that Mr. M.H. Mohamed was an exemplary politician who is loved and respected by all communities in his political career for nearly 07 decades. Minister Peiris made this comment when he was addressing a meeting organized by the Past Pupils Association of Wesley College, Colombo on the occasion of the 90th birthday of Mohamed who has held the positions of Mayor, Speaker and a number of Ministerial posts.
This occasion was attended by a large number of professionals representing the political, religious, medical, engineering, law, management, and sports fields who were past pupils of Wesley College.
Prof. Peiris further stated “M.H. Mohamed can be described as a politician who brought various communities together”. He has rendered yeoman service to the country and all communities, while being Mayor, Minister of Transport, Labour, Urban Development and Muslim Affairs and holding the position of the Speaker in the Parliament. His services were not limited to the Muslim community. For a long time Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims together with all communities supported him to serve as the representative of the people in the Borella electorate. In this context a question arises whether there should be political parties confined to each community.
Muslim politicians in this country such as C.A.S. Marikkar, Badurdeen Mahamud, A.C.S. Hameed, Bakeer Markar and A.H.M. Fowzie received the support of all the communities in this country i.e. Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim. Hameed represented electorates such as Akurana and Harispattuwa for 35 years, while Bakeer Marker represented the Beruwala people. Entirety of communities in this country extended their support to these political leaders and these leaders too rendered their services to all the communities lavishly.
Mohamad is a political leader who brought the people together. Language skills in Sinhala, Tamil and English possessed by him were of immense use for him to build up this situation. Language ability is very important for communication among one another and it is a must in creating harmony among the communities. Similar ideas and opportunities to exchange ideas and thoughts among each other pave the way for peace and reconciliation among communities. Therefore, the government has given priority to the programme on providing language training for the members of the community and the public officers.
As the Holy Quran states, once a group of followers met with Holy Prophet Mohamed and said “when we face with some problem or trouble we come to you and have it settled by you. But how can we get such troubles settled when you are not among us.” Then the Holy Prophet Mohamed had said “In my absence you may settle your problems by discussing them openly without hiding anything in a peaceful manner. The decision you reach shall be treated as the decision I gave you”. Therefore, Mohamed also can be described as an exemplary politician who is devoted to his religion and tried to find solutions for the problems of the people by listening to their grievances, without limiting it to one community.
Minister Peiris expressed his gratitude to the Wesley College Old Boys Association which had organized the occasion to pay tribute to a political leader who has rendered an immense service to the country and wished long and healthy life for M.H. Mohamed who completes his 90th year.
The welcome speech was made by Lasantha Fernando President of the Old Boys Association, Wesley College and the Vote of Thanks was made by Hussein Mohamed.
Shanti Mclleland, the Principal, Rajah Sinnathurai, President of the Welfare Society, Azahim Mohamed, Rienzie Wijethilake, Chairman – HNB and Rev. Rohitha de Silva also spoke on the occasion.
Lasantha Fernando (OBU) and Jeremy Brohier(OWSC) presented plaques, in appreciation of the services rendered by Mohamed.
This occasion was attended by Alavi Moulana, Governor of the Western Province, Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Minister of Irrigation and MP Thilanga Sumathipala.
(12) The first Ceylonese Air Pilot — Mr. Zubay Caffoor, who in 1931 obtained the Air Pilots Certificate from the Air Ministry England . Thus he played a part in the genesis of the Air Mail Services in Ceylon – Researched by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera
On April 22, 1931, Lankan aviation reached an important milestone when an aeroplane flying in from another country landed on Ceylon soil for the first time. Arriving from Mandapam in South India, the de Havilland D.H.80 Puss Moth single-engine, high-wing monoplane was piloted by Nevill Vintcent. Of South African origin and an enthusiastic promoter of Indian civil aviation, Vintcent was a close friend and business associate of the legendary J.R.D. Tata, who founded the Tata Sons airline which later became Air India. Accompanying Vintcent in the Puss Moth, which landed on the Colombo Racecourse, was Zubair Caffoor, who had earlier laid claim to being the first Ceylonese to obtain a pilot’s licence.
Mr. Vintcent flew back to Bombay on the 6th May, 1931 carrying with him a special edition of the “Times of Ceylon” marked First Airmail Edition. Only 25 newspapers were thought to have been carried. He left Colombo at 6.00am, after refuelling and breakfast at Bangalore he reached Bombay at 5.00 pm a journey of eleven hours. This was an incredible feat as the usual sea mail route took 4 days to Bombay. The idea of an airmail service to Ceylon received a boost.
In April, 1932, Tata Airways commissioned a survey flight and this was carried out by Mr Vintcent. A few letters were carried on this flight and only 4 are known to collectors. The cover is endorsed “Preliminary Investigation Flight” in red and carries Mr. Vintcent’s signature and designation “Dy: Director Civil Aviation Government of India”. It is postmarked 8th April, 1932.
One major obstacle to the extension of the Karachi to Madras Service to Colombo was the lack of an aerodrome. Discussions took place over a suitable site and in 1934 the State Council passed a resolution to construct an aerodrome on the site at Ratmalana. This site consisted of two hundred and forty acres of land planted with rubber and coconut which was acquired, cleared and levelled.
In 1936 Tata arranged for a special flight from Madras to Colombo to carry the Christmas mail. Connection with the Imperial Airways flight to and from London enabled Christmas mail from the UK to reach Ceylon. Two special flights in each direction were made between Madras, Trichinopoly, and Colombo.
De Havilland Puss Moth – the type of plane used by Zubay Cafoor
Mails left the UK on December 16th via Imperial Airways to connect with the special flight leaving Madras on the 23rd December, 1936.A delay occurred in the transit of the English mail and the special flight left Madras carrying only the Indian mail. The return flight left Colombo at 8.00 am on the 24th December and by the time it reached Madras the UK mail had arrived. A second special flight took off landing in Colombo in the evening of 24th December. The second return flight to Madras carried no mail. The return mail reached England on the 2nd January.
(13) The first Ceylonese to win the “Athletics” Blue at Oxford University Mr. M. A. M. Sheriff
(14) The first Ceylonese to win the “Hockey” Blue in either University Mr. Lou Adhihetty (Cambridge) University Mr. Lou Adhihetty(Cambridge)
Dr Lou Adhihetty passed away in Switzerland on Wednesday (5 August). He served God and Wesley almost in equal measure.Lou was one of the finest cricketers produced by Wesley College which has had the distinction of producing M.K. Albert, the Gunasekeras, Mahadevan Sathasivam, Stanley Jayasekera, Bertram Henderling, Edmund Dissanayake, Abu Fuard and the Claessen brothers.
In a period when Wesley played only six inter-school cricket matches, the 50s were, certainly the best years but 1956 was when they struck the purple patch. 1955 and ’56 were considered by scribes the ‘Lou Adhihetty years’ even though the team he captained to be undefeated inter-school champions in 1956 had accomplished batsmen in brother Vincent Adhihetty, Patrick Schokman and Neil Gallagher; M. Samsudeen of the low trajectory as the opening bowler and a plethora of all-rounder’s in Lou, himself, Bryan Claessen and his brother Herman, Abu Fuad and his brother Ansar in the fore-front.
Lou scored three centuries in 1956 out of the six games the school engaged in and scribes reported they had never seen a better batsman than Lou in the Wesley team. 1956 was the year in which the country’s schools showcased the best batsmen – Ronnie Reid and Michael Tissera of STC; Lorensz Pereira and Brendon Gunaratne of Royal; Malsiri Kurukulauriya and Nimal Maralanda of Trinity and W.Premaratne with Ranjith Doranagama of St Anthony’s being those who are within my memory.
On leaving school, Lou entered Cambridge University and obtained his BA [Hons] and MA [Cantab] PhD. and returned to serve as Wesley’s Principal from 1985 to ’88. He also served as Director of the Asian Christian Service in Vietnam and as President of the Swiss Sri Lankan Association based in Switzerland.
The funeral is on Monday, 10th August, in Wegenhalde 1, 8162, Steinmuar, Switzerland.
Lou leaves behind his wife, Lisbeth, daughter Sakunthala and son Arjuna. By Sharm de Alwis
Dr. Louis Thomas Adhihetty – In Memoriam
(15) The first person in the World to Captain two Countries in Cricket M. Sathasivam, who captained Malaya and Ceylon.
In the academic field too, we have met with plenty of success.
Mahadevan Sathasivam Cricket Legend of Sri Lanka by Premasara Epasinghe Sept 2009
(16) Mr. E. Elmar Mack came First in the World in his Junior Cambridge examination obtaining 6 distinctions. He obtained •the same number of distinctions in his Cambridge Senior.
(17) Mr. H. J. V. Ekanayake (the first editor of the Double Blue—1898) gained a distinction in Drawing in his Cambridge Senior, being First in the World.
HJVI Ekanayake- Composer of the school song by H.S.A.T.Peiris
(18) Mention must also be made of Professor E.F.C. Ludowyk, who won the Ceylon Government Arts Scholarship in 1928. He had the distinction of coming First in the Latham Prize at Cambridge everytime he sat for it. He won it 3 times. He was placed 2nd in the Oldham Shakespeare prize in 1930.
Evelyn Frederick Charles Ludowyk (1906-1985) a Sri Lankan Burgher Shakespearean scholar, author, playwright and critic, was the first Professor of English of the University of Ceylon. A member of a prominent Dutch Burgher family, Ludowyk studied at Richmond College, Galle and Wesley College Colombo. He went up to Cambridg to complete his studies. He joined the staff of University College, Colombo in 1932, becoming professor in 1936. In 1940 he met and married Edith Gyömröi.When the University College was converted into the University of Ceylon, Ludowyk was appointed its first Professor of English in 1942. He was made the first Dean of Arts in the newly established University in Peradeniya in 1952. In 1956, because the island’s humid climate caused Edith health problems, the couple moved to London. Later they settled in Colchester. UK
Ludowyk died in Colchester UK in 1985. (From The Wikipedia)
Professor E.F.C. Ludowyk- by D.F.Abeysekera
(19) In 1988 Mohammed Iqbal was appointed as the first Muslim Tea Commissioner for Sri Lanka to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.and
(20) In 1985 Mohammed Iqbal was appointed as first Muslim Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka to New Zealand.
From Mohammed Iqbal — New Zealand
The Life and Times of Mohamed Iqbal.Iqbal was born in Colombo Sri Lanka on the 5th day of September 1935 to the parents Mohamed Zainudeen Mohamed Niyaz and Mahooma the eldest daughter of Proctor Nagoor Meera Mohamed Haniffa.He is the second of seven children (6 boys and 1 girl). When Iqbal was 5 years old family circumstances meant he gained his stepfather Mohamed Abdul Razak. While a young child, Iqbal had opportunities to meeting people of many different nationalities and religions, both within his homeland and overseas. Through the opportunities presented by his parents Iqbal encountered and therefore became appreciative of many cultures and thoughts including religions.
Iqbal’s schooling was at Wesley College (1940–1955). There was a sense of great brotherhood there and Iqbal has kept in contact with both his teachers and past classmates.
Iqbal also has a great love of family. Iqbal has a large extended family now bordering on two thousand in number. Within the family the members are quite diverse. Their socio economic status, religious thought – liberal/orthodox vary very much. The common thread of family though unites them all. Family bonding is strong even with the diversity, and so from a young age lessons of deeply respecting all people were drawn and extended to the human family. This makes Iqbal very approachable to others. Iqbal still continues to have close friends from various backgrounds to give total support to human rights and community issues.
Iqbal’s parent’s fervent desire was for him to study of Law and sent him to England to study to become a Barrister (1955- 1958) with the United Kingdom Council of Legal Education. In line with that he became a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln Inn in London. Iqbal married Jean Irene Stanton on the 26th April 1960 in London who was the only daughter of William and Irene Stanton of England. Their daughter Zanhuba [known as Zan] was born in London on the 3rd of September 1962.
Iqbal’s first employment was at Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations in London (1959 – 1965). Living in England also gave opportunities for Iqbal and his Dear wife Jean to learn of and work towards transcending numerous religious and racial barriers. In April 1965 Iqbal with his wife and their young daughter migrated to Sri Lanka. Iqbal and Jean’s son Razak [known as Zak] was born on the 8th of November 1965 in Colombo. Iqbal became the first Private Secretary to the Honorable Minister of Labour, Employment and Housing. (1965–1967). Later Iqbal became the Deputy Personnel Manager at Shaw Wallace & Lee Hedges Ltd (1967-1969) one of the large Tea Export Organization in Colombo.
In 1967 Iqbal completed a Diploma in Personnel Management.
In August 1968 the family migrated to Auckland, New Zealand with Iqbal joining them in May 1969. In a new country Iqbal his wife and two children started from humble beginnings and experienced the warmth and generosity of the New Zealanders. Iqbal worked as a Legal Officer for the New Zealand Government’s State Advances Corporation (1969-1970). In 1970 opportunity came for Iqbal to represent his Motherland Sri Lanka in New Zealand. Iqbal was employed by the Government of Sri Lanka Ceylon Tea Board as their Commissioner to New Zealand.
His position as Commissioner later extended to cover the whole of Australia and Fiji.. In April 1982 Iqbal became the First Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka to New Zealand. Upon retirement in 1990 Iqbal was appointed as the Honorary Tea Commissioner for Sri Lanka in New Zealand which position he resigned for personal reasons on the 30th June 2012. His work on Tea with the Sri Lanka Tea Board was for over 42 long years.
1972 – To date The Representative and Councillor in New Zealand for the World Muslim Congress. Iqbal in 2012 completed 41 years in representing the World Muslim Congress in New Zealand.
· Former member of both the Howick and Middlemore Lions Clubs.
· Former member of the Masonic Lodge of Pakuranga, the Howick Club Inc.
· Headed various services to the communities including the Sri Lankans in New Zealand.
· He has organized and assisted in the visits to New Zealand of Overseas Head of States, Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament and Member of Diplomatic Corps and all Religions Dignitaries.
· Iqbal also assisted the tours of Sri Lanka Cricket to both New Zealand and Australia.
· Currently member of various associations and institutions in New Zealand and in Sri Lanka and the World Conference of Religion & Peace [Auckland Chapter].
Recipient of Special Honours and Awards:On the 14th of October 2009, Iqbal was awarded a Special Honour and Life Membership by Auckland Indians for his outstanding help and services for over the past 20 years to the New Zealand Indian Community. This special ceremony was held at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre at Auckland.
On 26th of December 2009, Iqbal conferred the Very Special Honour for his outstanding contribution in promoting Integral Human Relationship and awarded the Gold Medal from the Dr. Manamabrata Foundation & Solidarity at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. This was a very special Honour and the Gold Medal awarded by the University of Dhaka in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Both Iqbal and Jean celebrated their “Golden Wedding” anniversary in Auckland on the 26th of April 2009.
He has represented and attended numerous International Conferences, Meetings and Religious Foundations in Europe, Middle East, South and East Asia and Oceania.
He completed 42 years of dedicated service on the 1st of August in 2011 for the Sri Lanka Tea Board in promoting their world finest “Ceylon Tea” in the Oceania region.
During the past four years, Iqbal attended various Conferences, Conventions and meetings including the Admiral Cheng-ho Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Mallaca, Kelantan, Penang in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China Beijing, Xining in the State of Quinghai and Hong Kong. He is also involved with the Muslims in China and the export development of Hal’al produce from New Zealand.
In June 2012 Iqbal for very personal reasons tendered his resignation as the Honorary Tea Commissioner which was duly accepted as at the 30th June 2012.
The extract of the relevant Board Minute is appended below:-
“RESIGNATION FROM POST OF HONORARY TEA COMMISSIONER FOR SRI LANKA IN NEWZEALAND
The Board placed on record its appreciation for the services rendered by Mr. Muhammad Iqbal in promoting Ceylon Tea for more than 42 years. Whilst accepting his resignation, the Board noted with gratitude that during his period of service as Honorary Tea Commissioner for Sri Lanka in New Zealand, he has used his own personal resources without burdening the Sri Lanka Tea Board. It was unanimously decided to convey the sentiments of the Board to Mr. Iqbal and the Director Promotion was instructed to follow up.”
In November 2012, Iqbal was duly accepted to the membership of the ASEAN NEW ZEALAND Combined Business Council. Having promoted Ceylon Tea in the Oceania and the Pacific regions for 42 long years until the 30th of June year, Iqbal was been made aware that by the end of this Century the Muslims will exceed 50% of the world population. I have therefore in the remaining few years of my active life and living decided to promote Hal’al produce of New Zealand origin to the neighbouring countries. I do hope that with your support, help and assistance I will be able to easily undertake my mission in promoting the Hal’al produce to the Muslims.
In December 2012 Iqbal was duly invited to be an Associate Member of the prestigious Willows Cricket Club in New Zealand, which Iqbal readily accepted.
On the 5th of February Mr. RPK [Pita} Paraone, The Chairman of The Waitangi Trust invited Iqbal and his Dear Daughter Zanhuba to celebrate New Zealand and Waitangi Day at a Reception by H.E The Governor General of New Zealand at Waitangi. This was also an very special opportunity to celebrate over 44 years of my living in New Zealand and devoting over half of my life to Aotearoa ~ New Zealand.
On the 6th of February 2013 Iqbal was invited [on his Late Dearly Beloved and Revered Mother’s 11th Death Anniversary] to be a Honorary Member of the Shri Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan of New Zealand Inc. Being a very special day Iqbal also accepted honour with the deepest respect.
Mohamed Iqbal, No. 16, Cosy Place, HOWICK, Auckland 2014, New Zealand.
Sunday 17th February 2013.
Most Dearly Respected Brothers Doctor Nihal and Ranjit,
I do express my VERY BIG THANK YOU for all of your kindly actions in posting my personal information in our highly esteemed College’s ~ Website for the information of all of our fellow Wesleyites.
Yes~~!! I have now safely reached the age of 77 years and 6 months and commencing to feel the general weakness in my body and the slowing down of the general systems~~!!
Needless to mention that I am ever thankful to our God Almighty for what I am today and to kindly help me to peacefully reach my death in this universe.
Received from Mohamed Iqbal on Thursday 13th June 2013.
This is a copy of the letter presented to me yesterday the 12th June at 6.00 p.m by the Hon’ble The Minister on behalf of Government of Sri Lanka at the main auditorium of the Sri Lanka Tea Board.
It was a very formal ceremony with only my two younger Brothers present other than the Government Official.
Iqbal.From the Editor: Mohamed Iqbal at the age of 76 has not been in the best of health recently. He made a trip to Sri Lanka in June 2013 which he calls his final visit to the country of his birth. I hope very much he was able to visit the school he loves and also meet his friends from his years at Wesley as a student. We wish him good health in the years to come.
(21) Air Vice Marshall E.R.Amerasekera DFC and Bar. He was the first Sri Lankan to command the Sri Lanka Air Force. E.R Amarasekera was the most decorated Asian in the RAF. He was a hero who flew no less than 85 sorties over Hitler’s Germany during the war years. The Sri Lanka Air Force celebrated its 58th anniversary a few days back prestigiously as a professional fighting air force. There were several articles in the newspapers about the valiant pilots and men of the force who had made it strong and capable.
Yet going through most of those articles written for the newspapers one did not find the mention of the name of the first Sri Lankan
He flew bombing raids over Hitler’s Germany By Wijitha NAKKAWITA SL Sunday Observer March 2009
The Sri Lanka Air Force celebrated its 58th anniversary a few days back prestigiously as a professional fighting air force. There were several articles in the newspapers about the valiant pilots and men of the force who had made it strong and capable.
Yet going through most of those articles written for the newspapers one did not find the mention of the name of the first Sri Lankan Commander of SLAF Air Vice Marshall Rohan Amarasekera, the most decorated Asian pilot of the RAF during the second world war, an ace who flew bombing raids over Hitler’s Germany 53 times and manoeuvred his aircraft when anti-aircraft fire criss crossed the skies. Even during the night raids on Germany his successful manoeuvring the aircraft when the German search lights dotted the clouds brought him back to base safely though on two of those sorties his aircraft was hit by enemy fire, once severely.
When one rakes through the old newspaper files one reads a reference to the Royal Ceylon Air Force by the satirical writing on our Air Force that was called `Air Farce’ during the time that the British Commander headed it. However, when Rohan Amarasekera was the chief of staff of the SLAF in 1962, he made it a real fighting force and was able to get new aircraft and have the officers and his men trained in combat and flying with his unique experience.
The RAF records had these citations among other regarding Amarasekera’s valour and dedication to duty. Rohan Amarasekera flew on 20 missions with Flight Sgt. Emms from June to September, 1943 and this crew was decorated for their bravery and courage after the flights, especially for their bravery on November 11, to Cannes. And he was to be awarded a second Distinguished Flying Cross.
“This officer displayed a high degree of courage and determination navigating his aircraft to the target and back. In November, 1943 whilst on a flight to a distant target, the oxygen supply failed early in the sortie. Pilot Officer Amarasekera, though suffering from lack of oxygen and extreme cold, continued his duties and the mission was successfully completed. This officer proved to be a navigator of outstanding ability.”In the squadron 158 he was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant and was awarded prestigious bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross, the only Asian pilot of the RAF to win the award during the second world war.”
This officer has completed the second tour of the operational duty. In December, 1944 on route to Essen his aircraft was engaged by searchlights and heavy anti-aircraft fire causing severe damage to the aircraft. Despite shell splinters entering his compartment Flying Officer Amarasekera took evasive action and completed his allotted task. His other targets have been Ruhr Valley, Chemnitz and Hanover. On all occasions FO Amarasekera had a set a fine example by his tenacity and devotion to duty.”Among the other records of the RAF there are references made to him by his contemporaries who wrote about this great son of Sri Lanka with glowing tribute. The RAF officer Alex Sydall recalls an incident. “The only time I ever saw `Amer’ look disconcerted was when on our return from either Essen or Chemnitz, he picked up his parachute which he had stowed under his navigator’s seat to find pieces of flak embedded in it! But for that parachute he would have been somewhere uncomfortable.”
RAF bomber 640 squadron colleague Ian Roberts remembered him in his article `Leconfield’s League of Nations’ like this: “Handsome and dapper, with hair swept back and parted precisely in the middle Amarasekera hailed from Ceylon. He completed 52 operations requesting permission from the CO to stay with the Jeeves crew to do so.
He flew 22 missions with the New Zealander Jeeves and Papple. I remember most vividly with red nose and red cheeks as he was rolled in the snow during one of the inventable snowball flights between Sergeants and Officer Messes.
After the war he completed the pilots course and eventfully rose to Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Air Force. He was an unforgettable man.”In 1962 he became the first Sri Lankan Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force, proving an astrological prediction made when he was born.
In 1941 though he wanted to join the British Army his family did not give their consent to it, but he sailed to England with a group of Sri Lankans and joined the RAF as an aircraftsman and was promoted to U/T Observer and Leading Aircraftsman. In February, 1942 he was posted to the Empire Air Navigation School and in September that year to the Advanced Flying Unit RAF.His 35th death anniversary also falls on March 20 and one cannot forget a man who brought the highest honour to his country during the second world war, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice and the Bar to the Flying Cross on the third occasion for his valour and dedication to duty that no other pilot in Asia received from the RAF.
Born to an eminent family of Kegalle as a Christian he lost his parents early in life.In 1970 when he retired as the Commander of the SLAF he did not even own a house of his own.He died on March 20, 1974 and is survived by his widow Aloma and two children.
Even at this late stage the attention of the authorities should be drawn to posthumously promoting him to the rank of Air Chief Marshall Rohan Amarasekera who made our Air Force a professional fighting force.
(22) Dr.E.W.Adikaram – was the former principle of Ananda Shastralaya, Kotte. He was an educationist and a philosopher. His philosophy was based on Humanity, who saldy passed away in 1985