ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

A multi-faceted son of Moratuwa

Tyronne Fernando

Moratuwa, has been blessed with many illustrious sons, who have endered yeoman service to Moratuwa as well as to the country. Tyronne Fernando, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, born on August 8, 1941, was one of them.

His father, Shelton C. Fernando was a member of the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, who being a non-Buddhist, nevertheless had the distinction of heading the committee that organised the Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations in 1956. He was a classmate of President J.R. Jayewardene, the former being always first in the class and latter 2nd, as told by JRJ.

Tyrone had his secondary education at Royal College. He then proceeded to Britain for higher studies. At Keble College, Oxford he was the first Asian to be the Chairman of the Labour Club. He entered Gray's Inn and was called to the Bar of England and Wales, as a Barrister. He earned a Diploma in Journalism from the London School of Journalism.

Having returned to the island, he practised for a short while at the Unofficial Bar. He then joined the AG's Department as State Counsel along with the present Chief Justice on the same day. He was assigned Counsel in the Supreme Court, defence counsel, in the Court of Criminal Appeal for Pauline de Croos in her sensational murder case on whose trial he wrote a book "To Hang or Not Hang" published in 1973. Somewhere on an evening in late January this year he rang up the writer to say that my review on the second edition of November 2007 was appearing in the newspapers next day. Tyronne receives a Christmas Card every year from Pauline, married and now domiciled in Australia. Her visa was first refused on grounds of a criminal conviction but when then Australia High Commissioner in Colombo was told by Tyronne that "Criminal record was a sure passport to Australia", it was promptly granted.

He was later appointed a Presidents Counsel and elevated to Master of the Bench Gray's Inn. In 1974 he gave up a promising legal career to enter politics. In 1977 he sought nomination from the UNP, where nearly 70 candidates vied for the post of organizer. He won the seat in 1977, up to then a stronghold of the LSSP with a record majority of 15,000. He held the post of Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs, Media Minister and Foreign Minister. He did not cross over nor leave the UNP but, was forced to leave when in 2004, the promise of a slot in the National List was not honoured, the most senior in the party being overlooked. Educated, experienced, one of the few honest senior politicians he was better qualified to lead the party than even the present leadership.

The then President appointed him as Governor, North East Province. At the time of his demise he was Senior Advisor to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was to take up appointment in Paris as our Ambassador to France.

He rekindled the interest in the legend of Puran Appu, one of the two heroes of the famous 1948 rebellion against British rule. A statue stands in the premises of the Moratuwa Municipal Council, a lasting monument to Puran Appu. The Puran Appu School was rehabilitated. The new highway running along the sea - a stretch of 13 kilometres linking Moratuwa to Panadura with the new bridge at Panadura constructed against tremendous odds is his best contribution to Moratuwa. He bought International Test status to the De Soysa Grounds in Moratuwa.

He rendered invaluable service to Sri Lanka Cricket. He was at the helm of Cricket Board from 1991 to 1993, at the time Arjuna Ranatunga had been dropped from the team. He was brought back to the team and several promising young bowlers were sent to the Dennis Lillee Coaching School in India. The team was nurtured and eventually were able win the World Cup in 1996 under the captaincy of Arjuna Ranatunga.

Writing was Tyronne’s other forte. He has authored 12 books. Brought up in a Christian background with abiding commitment to Christian values and a sense of respect to all religions, he was able to win and hold a predominantly Buddhist electorate for an unbroken period of 27 years.

He was a multi-faceted personality, a barrister, politician, film producer, President, Board of Control for Cricket, author and above all, a warm hearted human being, sensitive to the lot of lesser endowed fellow beings.

He was the fond father of an only daughter Thehani. May his soul rest in peace.

By Methsiri Cooray

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