It’s the third month since Easter Sunday (April 12) when the cruel hand of death took away Suren Peiris, one of the leading lights at the Labour Tribunal, from his family and friends.
He was the son of two well-known journalists of yesteryear, the indomitable Denzil Peiris, a one-time editor of several newspapers published by Lake House, and Roshan Peiris, a features editor from the same stables. Father Denzil went on to become the founder editor of the London based publication South, which concentrated on news and views from the economically developing world, while Mother Roshan joined the Sunday Times in the latter part of her career. Between them, they knew everyone worth knowing in Sri Lanka.
Suren grew up in such a rarified environment, but opted for the wig rather than the pen – to be a lawyer rather than a journalist. He made his foray into labour law after his passing out of the Law College and then devilling with I.S. de Silva as one of his junior’s. As a young man, he was naturally drawn to politics, and his mentor was Gamini Dissanayake, a young up-and-coming politician at the time.
Soon after the 1977 elections when Gamini Dissanayake was made a powerful Minister in the new government of the day, Suren was promptly put onto the directorate of the State Timber Corporation. His beat was to ensure there was nothing amiss in a Corporation which by then was reeking with corruption and wrongdoings. Suren was equal to the task, and won the encomiums of many, and the anger of some who found in him an obstacle to their grand designs to continue with the pickings.
Gradually, Suren got disillusioned with politics and stuck to the law. The Labour Tribunal was his specialty, and here he was respected and regarded, and was in much demand by clients for whom he would give his best. Many are the occasions when he would appear for a friend pro-deo or give him an opinion on how to proceed with a matter. Not for him, the guineas that roll in from the profession. It was a day’s honest labour that mattered most.
Despite his venturing into the law, writing would have had to be in his blood. He would churn out letters, articles and even obituaries by the dozen on men and matters and public affairs. He was not averse to calling a spade a spade and I’m told, that editors had to often use their ‘blue pencil’ to ensure they maintained the peace. Desmond Fernando, PC and one-time President of the Bar Association was his later- in-life mentor who in turn, treated Suren as his trusted friend.
Suren was full of bon-homie; one to enjoy himself at school matches and a live-wire at the 80 Club where he served as the president for a period.
The week he died, Suren donated money to the Editors Guild Journalism Award given in memory of his father to the Young reporter of the Year. He was very eager to make the donation. He was busy organizing his mother’s first year alms giving the following month and already inviting people for it. Did he have a premonition of his own impending death? Who is to know. What we do know is that his life was well lived, in the service of people.
He stuck to the ‘straight and narrow’, a very religious man. His children, Brindhini and Sharen will do well to follow in his path, in their own chosen fields, as he did in the path of his own parents, whom he loved so dearly.