|Thursday, 11 April 2002|
Augustine Pereira - 50 years in business
by Professor P. P. G. L. Siriwardene , Former Vice Chancellor, University of Sri Lanka
It is a privilege to have friends and living among good friends is the mutual understanding that we enjoy. Augustine has been one of these close friends and this has prompted me to write this article to celebrate his fifty years in his business career. Augustine and many in his family circle have continued as friends for quite some time. Augustine's community the Bharatha community came to this country about two centuries ago and have made a very significant impact in trade and commerce. A key figure in this regard has been Augustine's father Chevalier I. X. Pereira, the eldest son of F. X. Pereira, a businessman of Tuticorin, who had migrated to Ceylon in 1889. He started the well-known firm of F. X. Pereira & Sons - which many of us will remember as the popular Departmental Store in Pettah's First Cross Street. After the father died, Chevalier Pereira took over F.X's which then expanded its business into Indenting, Insurance and Shipping Agents.
We also remember F.X's 'Rupee Store' in Main Street, Pettah, where products were priced from five cents to one Rupee. This store was similar to the well-known 'Woolworths' of London.
F.X.'s were the first agents for the Scindia Steam Navigation Company of Bombay and this agency changed to Narottam and Pereira Ltd, as a joint project of Scindia Company and the Chevalier Pereira family. This business later entered the present Asha Agencies founded in 1972 whose chairman is Manik Pereira, son of Chevalier Pereira's son F.X.A.
Augustine's father, Chevalier I. X. Perera - had been conferred the title of 'Dewan Bahadur' by the Viceroy of India for his services to the Indian community in Ceylon and a papal knighthood by His Holiness the Pope. Chevalier Pereira was well-known in Ceylon politics as a Member of the Legislative Council and two State Councils during 1931 to 1947 and also as Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce. We are aware of other eminent personalities of that community and the names of Sir Donatus Victoria, Christian Gomez, G. C. Roche, J. L. Carwallio and X. P. Paiva come to mind.
My initial association with Augustine was when he worked at F.X.'s in the Pettah. He worked with elder brother, F.X.A. (Francis) who was in charge. F.X.A. too became a close friend and it was a pleasure to meet dependable friends of integrity and sincerity. I would be invited to F.X.A's home and experience his and his wife Mary's cordiality.
My friendship with Augustine enabled me to meet his brothers, Aloy and Stanley, relatives Britto and Julie Motha, Berty Gomez and many others. However, it was Augustine I met regularly and also kept in touch while I was abroad. I learnt of his business activities and other achievements. He had been at St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa and St. Benedict's College as a schoolboy and had excelled in both studies and sports. Athletics and tennis had been his forte. His excellent school achievements had his father write to him expressing delight especially when he topped a class of 80. He has carefully kept these letters.
I used to meet Augustine when we were among those who helped the popular and lavish Edmund Samarawickrema when he contested the Bambalapitiya Municipal Ward for the UNP. We spent many evenings and met many prominent politicians, Colombo's mayor, V. A. Sugathadasa, R. Premadasa, E. L. B. Hurulle and Edmund's personal friend, Dr. E. M. V. Naganathan, whose dispensary was next door were regulars. It was bleak time for Edmund's party then with only eight seats in Parliament and even supporters were reluctant to accompany us to Sri Kotha, where we used to meet party leader, J. R. Jayewardene who soon restored the party's fortunes. The party had a resounding victory at the Municipal Elections.
Edmund won his seat at the Municipal Council Elections convincingly and later on he was appointed Deputy Mayor of Colombo. One year later he was elected as Member of Parliament for Colombo South. Incidentally, Augustine was bestman at Edmund's wedding.
I have pleasant recollections of my trips with Augustine to various parts of the country, particularly our trip to Nuwara Eliya, when we were guests of Ranjith Dorenagama, the brewmaster of the Ceylon Brewery at his residence inside the Brewery premises. We had a wonderful time.
Augustine is married to Beryl and I remember well the wedding in Kandy which I attended. We meet the couple very regularly and Beryl is a great strength to Augustine's progress and success.
Augustine is a prominent church worker and has also been active with the Colombo Jaycees and Lions Club. He has been christened with the name of his paternal Granduncle, the Rev. Augustine Pereira SJ, who founded in Madurai in South India, the Congregation of the Religious Sisters under the title - Congregation of the Immaculate Conception.
Augustine's life has not been without difficulties. After F.X.'s wound-up, again proving that honourable businessmen can be driven out of business, Augustine had to start life again virtually from scratch. He had many problems even of finding satisfactory business premises and struggled with his own indenting agency to build himself up again. Things became much better later on when he joined Asha Agencies as a Working Director when his nephew, Manik was Director. Manik later became Chairman, with Augustine as Deputy Chairman. Three generations of the Pereira family are now active in this firm and the associated Pership Group of Companies.
It has been a pleasure to write this article to congratulate Augustine for completing fifty years in his business career and all of us who are his friends will join in this felicitation and wish him many more years of professional activity and good health.
Produced by Lake House