Appreciations | Daily News


Hemasiri Perera

An inspiring polymath

During in my life time, I met different individuals. Among them, I met few with extraordinary qualities, and Hemasiri Perera was one of them.

Hemasiri Perera was a devout Buddhist. I came to know him in Winnipeg, Canada. He migrated with his loving wife Prema to Winnipeg to spend their retirement life with their daughter Nirosha.

Hemasiri was a student of Henegama Central College, Gampaha (Western Province). Mylvaganam Subramaniam was his mathematics teacher (1955/56). Hemasiri was the first student who entered University from this school. Subramaniam and his wife are in Winnipeg. According to Subramaniam, Hemasiri was a hardworking and well-dressed student. We conducted a Zoom meeting to covey birthday wishes to Hemasiri on March 13, 2021. Subramaniam and his wife joined to wish him as well.

In 1964, Hemasiri graduated from the University of Peradeniya. As a student, he occupied the Jayathilaka Hall. He was familiar with indoor and outdoor Western sports, as well as Eastern games. During his university tenure, he was an outstanding table tennis player. He used the University Gymnasium (GYM) frequently with his game partners. Hemasiri was a versatile character with a wide range of knowledge, although he followed subjects related to Statistics. His university mates used to call him ‘Stat Perera’.

Just after completing his degree, Hemasiri got an opportunity to work as an Assistant Lecturer at University of Vidyalankara. For a short time, he was an Economic Adviser to Lanka Steel Corporation.

Until his retirement, he worked as the Director of both Coconut Research Institute in Lunuwila and the Coconut Development Authority in Colombo. In the Sri Lankan coconut sector, he provided numerous consultations to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), several UN agencies, as well as quite a few countries (on behalf of Government of Sri Lanka).

He was the author for two Sinhala Books: Gami Andarayak (Rural Anecdote) and Udella, Ma Ana Thuru Bala Sitee (Mammoty, Waiting for My Command). Further, he illustrated the historical and current conditions in countries such as the Netherlands, France, England, Indonesia, India, and the Pacific Islands. About six months ago, when he was in Sri Lanka, he was busy with the printer to publish his third Sinhala book about new management skills.

He published seven books (in English) based on the coconut industry in Sri Lanka, expressing the wide experience he had gained from his decades within the coconut sector, such as economics, desiccated coconut, coconut cultivation in the Hambantota District, the coconut industry of Sri Lanka, domestic marketing, productivity, and high-yielding coconut varieties. These publications, as well as his extensive knowledge base, allow us to identify him as a walking encyclopaedia.

The Sri Lankan Association of Manitoba (SLAM) obtained his in-depth knowledge to write strip train performers, and stage events to expose Sri Lankan heritage in the areas of drama and folktales. He exposed his talents at the annual event held in April during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations. Sometimes, he took part in the singing folk songs as well. His abilities helped us remember the good-old memories we had of our home.

Further, his skills facilitated Sri Lankans to expose their rich culture among Canadian communities. Subsequently, he joined Sri Lankan 55+ Seniors Group and continued above services. On June 17, 2018, at the Group’s Annual General Meeting, Hemasiri was elected as a Board Member. He was later re-elected to the Board on June 21, 2020. That itself demonstrated the value of Hemasiri’s service to seniors.

Hemasiri joined the seniors group of the Trinity United Church, who were called the ‘South Side Seniors’. He was very popular among non-Sri Lankan seniors as well. When Co-Chair of the Church Seniors Group came to know about Hemasiri’s demise on April 7, 2021, they conducted a remembrance session to invoke blessings on him.

Hemasiri was in Sri Lanka for more than one year to attend few of his domestic matters and, during that period, he got sick. Back then, his second son, Priyantha, carefully looked after him. His eldest son, Channa, has been working in Singapore for more than three decades. He is closely associating with Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobitha Nayaka Thera, Chief Incumbent of the Bodhiraja Viharaya in Singapore. When Hemasiri fell ill, Ven. Dr. Sobitha Thera visited him. Ven. Sobitha Thera conducted a Pansukulaya (Buddhist funeral service) after Hemasiri passed away as well.

Senaka Samarasinghe
Winnipeg, Canada

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