Today is the birth anniversary of Elupitimudiyanselage Peter Paul Perera, who was born in Negombo, educated at Maris Stella College and became one of its most illustrious sons. At school, Paul excelled both in studies as well as in cricket, football and athletics.
He entered the University of Ceylon, where he continued to excel in studies. He also represented the university in cricket and football. Graduating with honours, Paul sat for the Civil Service Examination and took on the post of Assistant Archivist at the National Archives.
Paul married Kulaseeli Wijeratne, and they had four sons and a daughter. He moved to the Port Cargo Corporation where, under its chairman Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, he served as secretary. He attended the Ceylon Law College and was enrolled as an advocate. Paul apprenticed with the late H. W. Jayewardene, QC, and the late Neville Samarakoon, QC, who later served as Chief Justice. Paul left the Port Cargo Corporation and soon built up a lucrative practice.
By that time, Paul and Kulaseeli had built a comfortable house in Ward Place, almost opposite the residence of J. R. Jayewardene. Paul soon became a close confidante and acolyte of the UNP leader. Paul founded the UNP Lawyers’ Association, which became a vibrant organisation under his stewardship. He was in the thick of the fray during the 1977 elections. He was appointed Competent Authority of the Times of Ceylon and also a founder director of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC), which later became the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.
Together with Upali Wijewardene, Paul was successful in attracting a host of investors into the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, which was managed profitably with great zest. After the untimely death of Upali Wijewardene, Paul took over the reins at the GCEC and founded the Biyagama Free Trade Zone, with great success.
Paul was soon called upon to enter Parliament, to represent Kaduwela. He was made Minister of Justice under President Jayewardene, who also appointed him a President’s Counsel in December 1988. Paul continued under President Premadasa and served as Minister of Science and Technology. Paul served on the Working Committee of the UNP for several years.
Paul’s stout and doughty frame and resolute jaw were symbolic of his character. He had a wide coterie of friends and colleagues both in and out of Parliament. He was a great story-teller, faithful friend and much-loved husband, father and grandfather. He is greatly missed.
His friends would say that when Paul approached the Pearly Gates and identified himself as Peter Paul Perera, President Jayewardene from inside chuckled and declared: “He is my able lieutenant”, and Paul was immediately granted entry.
By Ben Eliatamby