An illustrious son of Sabaragamuwa
Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne (ex-Cabinet Minister of Home Affairs and
Sir Edwin Aloysius Perera Wijeyeratne was born on January 8, 1889 in
Rambukkana, and was a notable Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister and Diplomat.
He passed away on October 19, 1968 in Kegalle.
Edwin was the eldest son of his parents. He was first educated at the
village school of Rambukkana. He then went to Handessa Village School in
He was nine years old then. He stayed at the home of his future wife
Leela Pethiyagoda with Pethiyagoda Korala, at Meewaladeniya Walauwe,
He was at this school for two years. From there he went to St. Mary’s
College, Kegalle. He completed his education at St. Joseph’s College,
Colombo where he passed the Cambridge Senior exam with Honours. He
carried away 15 prizes at the last school prize-giving he attended.
He then left school. At this time he lost his father. He then became
a teacher at Lorenz Tutory. Simultaneously he took to journalism too. He
served under the greatest editor Ceylon had hitherto.
Armand de Souza, whom Governors feared and officials dreaded. Edwin
then became political secretary to Sri Ponnambalam Ramanathan. While he
was political secretary to Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, he became one of
the co-founders of the Young Lanka League along with A. E. Gunasinghe.
He was already a marked man. This brought him more within the danger
zone. Edwin was the chief livewire in the struggle for freedom. Now he
got linked up with the newer hotheads. The riots of 1915 nearly brought
a martyr’s crown upon Edwin. He was arrested. He nearly went the same
way along with young Pedris. His activities brought him very much with
the path of the law.
Others who had done nothing to court imprisonment but who were
unjustly imprisoned on this occasion were Messrs FR, DC and D. S.
Senanayake, Baron Jayatilaka, Dr. C. A. Hewavitarne and W. A. de Silva,
Messrs Arthur V. Dias, John Silva, Piyadasa Sirisena, A. E. Goonesinghe
and some others.
Edwin passed out as an advocate in 1929. He was able to build up a
large outstation practice very soon. He entered the State Council in
1931 from Kegalle. Edwin served in the State Council for term till 1936.
During this period he displayed great prowess in oratory and a
consummate knowledge of parliamentary procedures.
He was the champion over the underdogs, and his industry was
proverbial. He did not stand for re-election in 1936. His outstation
practice was colossal and he remained at the Bar from 1936 to 1947.
When the Ceylon Congress was founded by Sir P. Arunachalam and Sir
James Peiris, Edwin was one of their colleagues and a co-founder. By
this time he had passed out as a lawyer and was having a flourishing
practice in his hometown of Kegalle. He was an expert in Civil and
Kandyan Law and in Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law. He was also a live
expert in Civil and Kandyan Law and in Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law.
He was also a livewire in the Ceylon National Congress and was very
close friend of D. S. Senanayake.
When the Soulbury Commission came to Ceylon, when the commissioners
were on the way to Kandy, D. S. Senanayake had stationed Edwin, 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
A special invitation was sent to Ceylon by Jawarlal Nehru and Indian
Congress to visit India for a discussion regarding the independence of
Ceylon, D. S. Senanayake, Edwin Wijeyeratne, George E. de Silva, J. R.
Jayewardene, G. C. S. de Corea and H. W. Amarasuriya were among the
Edwin Wijeyeratne was appointed President of Ceylon National Congress
in 21st December 1940. His joint secretaries were Dudley Senanayake and
J. R. Jayewardene. During this period he was chosen to lead the Ceylon
National Congress delegation to London. The delegation created an
excellent impression on Conservative and Labour Parliamentary groups.
In 1947 Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne was appointed to the Senate. He became
the Cabinet Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development in D. S.
Senanayake’s Government. He was acting leader of the Senate too.
Being the Cabinet Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development he
had been the chairman of the select committee to select a National
Anthem. J. R. Jayewardene too had been a member of the committee and
they decided to select ‘Namo, Namo Matha’.
The year 1951 ushered into being a new chapter in Sir Edwin
Wijeyratne’s eventful life. That consummate judge of man, D. S.
Senanayake wanted a mastermind to represent the nascent Dominion of
Ceylon in the Councils of the world. Sir Edwin Wijeyratne was appointed
Ceylon High Commissioner to Great Britain in 1951. During this period
Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne moved with kings but did not lose the common
At the time Sir Edwin was Ceylon High Commissioner to United Kingdom
of Great Britain, he had to carry Europe on his shoulders as Ceylon was
hardly represented in Europe.
In the initial stages of our country’s independence, Sir Edwin gave
Ceylon a new and admirable image. He gave the people who had been under
the heel of the foreigner or foreigners for over three centuries a
footing of equality with the proudest powers in Europe. Thereby he had
won for himself a niche in Sri Lanka’s pantheons of fame.
Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne received the accolade at the hands of Queen
Elizabeth II herself in 1953 at Buckingham Palace. Very few Asians
received such a unique honour in person at the very seat of chivalry.
During his period as Ceylon High Commissioner in Great Britain he was
received in private audience by his Holiness The Pope and by the
President of Italy. He was entertained by Max Petitpierre, the President
of the Swiss Republic.
He had lunch with President De Gaulle and he was the guest of King
Leopold in Belgium. Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne was close to research and
student communities in Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham and London and he
was of great help to Ceylon students.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip were entertained by
Sri Edwin and Lady Wijeyeratne on three occasions at their residence at
No. 21, Addison Road, London a singular and unique privilege indeed
which no Ambassador has had. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were
At most receptions which Sir Edwin and Lady Wijeyeratne held Lord
Louis Mountbatten and the Countess were present, resplendent in all
their medals. Sir Edwin and Lady Wijeratne were guests at ‘Broadlands’,
the home of the Mountbattens, on five occasions.
Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne was appointed as Ceylon High Commissioner to
India in 1954. During this period he discussed the Indian problem with
Nehru. He was engaged with Buddhist work at Sanchi.
He established personal friendships with the Royal families of Sikkim
and Bhutan, where he and Lady Wijeyeratne were guests. He represented
Ceylon at the coronation of the King of Nepal.