Paul Perera’s 80th Birth Anniversary falls today
Tribute to a father
From the oration made at the funeral of E.P.
Paul Perera who passed away on August 11, 2007
My family has been touched by the many who shared our loss at this
difficult time. From the venerable clergy, President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Senior Judges, Members of
Parliament and other political bodies, friends from the media, the BOI
and the political associates of my father from the Gampaha and Colombo
districts, there were also many from overseas who expressed their
sincere sympathies on the passing away of Paul Perera.
I have heard many who were closely associated with my father affirm,
“We learnt a lot from him.” I too can vouch for that. He was a scholar,
a voracious reader and an expert on the history, geography, religion,
culture, laws, languages, traditions and the people of Sri Lanka.
Paul Perera. Picture ANCL library
He revealed in the great pleasure of taking his family all over Sri
Lanka in his quest for justice for the “common-man” throughout the
country-from the North to the South; East to West Jaffna, Trincomalee,
Batticaloa, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, Hambantota
and so on and so forth.
Fondly taking his family along, criss-crossing the land he adored so
much, in his Hillman, and later, Humber motor cars he proudly possessed,
he took the time to impart his wisdom on us, that: “Life is like a
raindrop that falls from the heavens onto a mountaintop and joins a
river which runs through forests and paddy fields serving the needs of
all earthly beings, and flowing into the ocean, and returning to the
He went opined that: “The people and religions of the country are
like the rivers that flow from the mountains to the sea.” As he
explained to the inquisitive young minds at the time, rivers are formed
from the raindrops from the clouds over the central hills, traveling a
fair distance through hills, valleys, mud and sod, ending up in the sea
and thus the continuation of the cycle through vaporization.
His conclusion was that this process depicts the religions and the
peoples in our country. As he extolled, water from the rivers are used
by people for a multitude of purposes; from personal use to irrigation
schemes of varying scale for paddy and other traditional and
non-traditional cultivations, and to large and small scale hydro
electric projects, thereby providing immense livelihood support for
those in the areas where these rivers flow. However, the flowing water
also results in some hardship for the people in the forms of flooding.
Obviously the people, living around these rivers and benefitting from
the water resource consider that particular river to be the most
superior in the land. Yet, a wise person may envision the view from the
above and come to the realization that from the beginning to the end as
well as the effects on life of all these rivers is virtually similar to
Through this metaphor he gave us all an opportunity to think about
the many aspects of life in a philosophical yet pragmatic dimension.
My father who loved history as well as literature having gained
proficiency in a wide array of linguistic skills (the three languages of
the country, Sanskrit and Latin) appreciated reading highly.
It was in his vast literary collection that I sought refuge to
console myself from my heartfelt pain in the aftermath of his demise.
By reading some of the highlighted texts in the books my father had
often used in his library, I was able to access some of his innermost
thoughts and feelings. In one such classic he treasured, the
Subhashitaya of Alagiyawanna Mukaweti, he had highlighted:
Wana kala sathun hata
siri sepatha mana kala
Kasa pala thulehi
diya londa men wei vipula
Yana kala esiri sampath
wena sei siyala
Gaja gala ethula mada sun divula pala thula
During good times, people’s luxury grows as the soft pulp and the
liquid in the young coconut, whereas when the bad time comes, all these
luxuries diminish as the emptiness of the woodapple swallowed by a
tusker. Another stanza in the same text:
Pun pirisidu sil mul
guna kandin yuthi
Dan kama nena
kuru mal saa madulu ethi
Pin cup thuru sagamok
pala denu kamethi
Man suda nan men
sili len wadei nithi
The Kapruka the wishing tree of merits which has its roots as virtue,
its trunk being goodness, its shoots as generosity, its flowers as
forgiveness, its branches as wisdom and its fruits being celestial
bliss, is watered by the compassion of righteousness.
I am certain my father surmised the second stanza as a way to deal
with the circumstances depicted in the first quotation.
It is well known to those who have been associated with my father,
the sacrifices he made with the hope of making the lives of his five
children meaningful and successful. Although it is very difficult to
express his vision for his family in brief terms, it can clearly be
presented in a verse highlighted in another of my father’s treasured
collection-De Senectute by the Roman Philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Abores serit diligens agricola, quarum adspiciet baccam ipse numquam.
“The diligent farmer plants trees, to bear fruit when he shall be no
more.” A farmer, who being asked for whom he is planting, will reply,
“For the immortal gods, whose will it was, not only that I should
receive this estate from my ancestors, but that I should also transmit
it in undiminished value to my posterity.”
Loving Father, we can proudly declare that you honoured all your
obligations. Because of what you had achieved, you will remain a hero to
As the youngest in the family, there have been numerous occasions
when I have had to obey the “strict” orders given by my father. And I
often sought refuge in the arms of my mother’s compassion to plead for
leniency. But on this occasion, I have to diligently carry out another,
possibly the last, instruction my father requested me a while ago.
That is to thank my mother, his beloved wife, for the sacrifices she
made in her life for his well being, for 53+ years, the last ten of
which were difficult years ever since my father suffered that fateful
stroke even though he made a miraculous recovery thanks to the
perseverance of my mother.
So here it goes, from my father to Amma, “Thank you Kulaseeli for
looking after me-being my life-long companion through thick and thin. I
do not mind being with you even for eternity. You are the Saint in this
Although my father was known to preach and practise according to the
Gospels of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, he often quoted from the Gospels
of Saints Luke and Mark-”What good is it for a man to gain the whole
world, yet lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his
soul?” This is on the principle on which E.P. Paul lived his life! Along
with this, the Dhammapada verse he had underscored will be on his
Here he rejoices, hereafter he rejoices; one who performs meritorious
deeds rejoices in both existences. He rejoices and greatly rejoices when
he sees the purity of his own deeds.
The writer is Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Norway