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London lawyer Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UAE

Several years ago - in the Vesak month of May, 1999 to be exact - I carried a logo on the front page of Newslanka, placed in a box with a line drawing of Sri Lanka in the back ground. It simply said - ‘Be Sri Lanka what she will - with all her problems she is my country still’.

These words truly depict the character of our Ambassador designate to the UAE Sarath Wijesinghe. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) established in 1971 is a constitutional federation of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah.

I have known Sarath Wijesinghe for a lengthy period not only as a loyal friend but also as an extremely capable leader among the Sri Lankan expatriate community in Britain. I have worked with him so closely and without batting an eyelid I can say that the Sri Lankan expatriate community in the United Kingdom has been extremely lucky to have amidst them a man in the calibre of Wijesinghe.


President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa


Late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike

He’s a well known and highly respected attorney-at-law who has in the past decade showered Sri Lankans in the UK with various opportunities in the field of education, employment and openings to participate and join forums on topics relating to his motherland.

He had a roaring practice as a Solicitor initially and subsequently as a Counsel with the highest success rates. He was respected by the legal fraternity in the United Kingdom as well as in Sri Lanka. What surprised me most was his amazing ability to organise events relating to professional, academic and political affairs of the day. I have personally attended many seminars and discussions organised by Wijesinghe at the prestigious University of London auditorium. They included discussions on varied topics such as Immigration Law and International Law.

Together with his innovative ideas and loyal friends he initiated many organisations that brought Sri Lanka to the forefront in Britain.

One such body was the Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers (ASLLU) where Sarath Wijesinghe was the first President. The current President is Haran de Silva Q.C. The formation of the Sri Lankan Professional Association (APSL) was also Sarath Wijesinghe’s brainchild. He not only initiated this move but also hand picked the founder members, and some of whom are still most active.

Sarath didn’t forget his alma mater when he organised the Rahula College Old Boys’ Association, still very much in the news, ably headed by the famous Dr Upul Wijayawardena.

A major undertaking by Sarath Wijesinghe was the revival of SLFP UK and Europe Branch in the 1990s. Together with Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Wijesinghe left no stone unturned and gave that much needed life and lift to the SLFP in UK. At that time, during the 1994 elections, SLFP was almost dead. Not only did he take steps to revive the SLFP branch - he also gave life and strength to it but unfortunately while he was progressing to bring the branch back its former glory, he was punished by Chandrika over an interview he gave to the Sunday Divaina which promoted Mahinda Rajapaksa’s vision on an ‘undivided Sri Lanka’ which was totally different to the “Package” proposed by Chandrika Kumaratunga.

One of Wijesinghe’s pet subjects was SAARC and his interest on the subject was so great, he went to the extent of setting up the SAARC Study Centre in the UK. Sarath has written extensively on International Law and Relations. President Rajapaksa has especially chosen him to represent the President and the country as Ambassador to the UAE in order to renew the old relations with the Middle East. Setting up the DA Rajapaksa Foundation in the UK was carried out by Sarath Wijesinghe in sheer respect, affection and loyalty he had for the late D.A.Rajapaksa, father of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is well known that it was D.A.Rajapaksa that moulded Wijesinghe’s life and coaxed him to become a lawyer.

It is also known that his uncle Sam Wijesinghe, the famous civil servant and a former Secretary General of Parliament was associated with the late D.A.Rajapaksa in directing Sarath Wijesinghe to be what he is today. President Rajapaksa is Sarath’s roll model and looks up to him with much respect and devotion. Sarath is also extremely happy about his sacrificing his lucrative law practice to serve his country. Sarath’s devoted wife Geetha backs him all the way and goes through the hard political life with him.

Sarath first hit the headlines in Sri Lanka during the 1977 presidential election when he contested J. R. Jayewerdene. It was a terribly dangerous decision for a young man to have taken and undoubtedly Sarath went through much hardship and was the victim of several attacks.

He represented and looked after the interests of President Rajapaksa during his stay and during the election campaign in 2005 and organised ‘Mahinda Vision’ in the UK with his group of supporters.

It is with pride that Sarath states “All the organisations I initiated are still active and functioning - serving the nation. A very simple man, absolutely honest and leading an exemplary pure life - he uses only one pair of shoes- only when it is completely worn out will he take next pair. Sarath who is not only a close friend of President Rajapaksa but a relation as well is known for his hard working and sincere qualities. Sarath is one among the few who were close to the President during all seasons in life - especially when the President was not powerful and Sarath says he is very, very proud indeed of the President. “I was fortunate to have been close to him”, said Sarath.

Wife Geetha is the woman and shadow behind this successful man and son Amila is the promoter. The two critics are son Amila and wife Geetha, while daughter Nipuni is quiet and concentrates on her education. Sarath’s time as Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) is known in business circles as the golden era of the CAA. I recall Sarath editing the Consumer Affairs page in the Daily News for two years and his book on Consumer Law based on his experience is considered as a masterpiece in literary and business circles.

With much sadness it will be remembered that Sarath Silva the former Chief Justice, turned politician and in active politics today, forced him to resign over the Gas and Dialog issue. It is alleged there is an inquiry in the Bribery Commission against the former Chief Justice in relation to a Dialog transaction, in addition to allegations on misuse of power.

Sarath also played a major role in producing hundreds of juniors who are today holding high positions in the judiciary while some are in active practice in Sri Lanka and abroad. Even in the UK his juniors are leading lawyers and in the high echelons of professionalism.

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