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Wijesoma

LET us then mourn great men. W.R. Wijesoma, Sri Lanka's pre-eminent political cartoonist will make his last salute today to a country which he amused and bedazzled with his characteristic humour for decades.

In a country where self-inflated figures and pompous panjandrums have become the order of the day Wijesoma was truly a man of honour.

The most striking quality of Wijesoma was how his great fame lied so lightly on his frail shoulders. The small-made cartoonist who punctured the pomposities of all politicians of living memory was the most modest of men.

There were no airs to him, he did not throw his weight around but he could be formidable if any newspaper proprietor sought to obstruct his course.

How did Wijesoma derive this peculiar strength? Was if from his family background or education or some inner strength within himself?

Wijesoma was the last link of the country's illustrious political cartoonists. Other names which come to mind are Aubrey Collette of the 'Observer,' G.S. Fernando of the 'Lankadeepa' and Jiffrey Yoonoos of our sister Tamil newspaper, the 'Thinakaran' and later of the 'Aththa' under the celebrated editorship of the late B.A. Siriwardena.

Wijesoma's characteristic quality was how he was able to appeal to both the Sinhala and English readerships in a society which during his last days had become tragically truncated.

This itself speaks for Wijesoma's vision. Without making loud claims of his pretensions, he was, yet able through his cartoons to give a true humanistic outlook about Sri Lanka, transcending all frontiers.

Wijesoma's greatest creation was 'Punchi Singho'. Everybody who knew Wijesoma also knew that this was a self-caricature.

The cartoonist was the cartoon figure and finally became the personification of a tormented country.

We, at the "Daily News" did not have the privilege of carrying Wijesoma's cartoons. Our cartoonist was Mark Gerreyn but however, Wijesoma from 1968 to 1981 was the political cartoonist of our sister paper the "Sunday Observer", and so today we bid him good bye.

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