Philip Upali Wijewardene
whose vision embraced the world:
It was almost 27 years ago on February 13, 1983 that Philip Upali
Wijewardene considered the business tycoon of Asia disappeared in his
Private Learjet plane with his business associates and staff.
This incident sent shock waves throughout almost the entire world.
The Government of Sri Lanka took steps to trace him via the Sri Lanka
Navy and the 7th Fleet of US Navy which was at Suva Bay in Philippines.
He was the only son of late Mr. and Mrs Don Walter Wijewardene of
Sedawatte Walawwe in Kelaniya.
Upali was educated at Royal College, Colombo. He excelled in academic
studies and sports particularly horse riding. He entered University of
Cambridge UK with his cousin Ranjith Wijewardene, Founder/Chairman of
Wijaya Newspapers Ltd. Upali Wijewardene passed his BSc (Economics) and
MSc (Economics) very successfully.
Philip Upali Wijewardene
He returned to Sri Lanka his Motherland and engaged in an appointment
as Management Trainee at the well-known British Company namely Lever
Brothers Ltd. He learnt all aspects of manufacturing such as industries
and management. He was well disciplined and fearless; one who stood only
for the truth.
Having completed all the necessary reports and submitting them to his
Chairman he went abroad on leave. On his return home, his Chairman
blamed him for not having submitted the relevant reports of the Company.
However, he maintained that he had done so. He then searched for it
and found it in his Chairmanís tray! Upali was very irked by this
incident and went home never to return again to this office.
His uncle late Senator Sarath Chandradasa Wijesinghe of Adapane
Estate, Kamburupitiya berated the European Chairman and gave substantial
shares of his Ceylon Chocolates Company Ltd., to his nephew Upali
Wijewardene. With great initiative he forged ahead with this business.
Also amalgamated to this were Electronics and Motor Business,
Consumer Industries, Newspapers, Printing and Publishing, Travel/Tourism
and Aviation Business etc. Upali developed his own brands namely, Kandos,
Delta for Chocolates and confectionary, Unic for Electronic and
The Divaina, Island, Navaliya for newspapers and UMC Mazda, Upali
Fiat for motor vehicles and Crystal, Tingle, Sikuru for soap and Upali
Air for aviation.
Upali always presented his first product when launching it, to the
Kelaniya temple while the first product was sold to the late Lawrence
Tudawe, Chairman Tudawe Brothers.
Upali was the Chairman, Board of Stewards of the Sri Lanka Turf Club
and in early 70s he together with Ajit Chitty, Bernard Halahackone, late
Wasantha Coomaraswamy, late Mervyn Perera, Upatissa Hulugalle and
Sirimevan Senanayake restarted Pony and Horse Races at the Nuwara Eliya
Race Course. Upali took part in Motor Races in Katukurunda and Nuwara
Upali was the Chief Basnayake Nilame of the Kelaniya Raja Maha
Viharaya. This temple was restored by his grandmother Helena Wijewardene
Lamathani in 1927.
In 1978 Upali Wijewardene was appointed by his cousin President J. R.
Jayewardene as First Chairman/Director General of the Greater Colombo
Economic Commission (GCEC) (now BOI) of Sri Lanka to develop Industries
with foreign investors which he did successfully in Katunayake, Biyagama
and Koggala by organising Free Trade Zones for exports which generated
He organised Ruhunu Udanaya to develop Ruhunu Rata particularly
economically, socially, culturally, religiously, educationally,
vocational training, technology computers for employment of youth.
May he born among us till he achieves Nibbana in his journey in
Netham Mama, Neso Hamasmi, Na Me So Atta
This is not mine, this I am not, this no soul of mine.
- Capt. L. B. Lanka (Wilbawe) Jayaratne Weligama