The 100th birth anniversary of late Siri Perera, an outstanding criminal lawyer, Buddhist scholar and leader, President of the Colombo YMBA and diplomat, falls on October 6.
Siri Perera established himself as a very competent criminal lawyer, commanding an extensive and lucrative practice in the criminal courts of the country.
In the working years of his life, he had two main interests, the legal profession and Buddhist activities. While a student at Law College, he became a member of the Colombo YMBA in 1928 at the age of 19, perhaps, the youngest member at that time. His association with the Colombo YMBA was long and meaningful. In 1931, at the age of 22 years, he was elected to the Board of Management of the Association and was later one of its Vice Presidents. On the demise of the then President, Sir Cyril de Zoysa, he became its President in 1978 after 50 years in active service in the Association and held that prestigious position till 1983. A few years before his death, his large collection of Dhamma books was gifted to the Sir Baron Jayatilaka Memorial Library of the Association.
Having learned Buddhism in a Dhamma school, he strongly advocated the establishment of more Dhamma schools so that all Buddhist children would learn the Dhamma. Such schools were usually located in Buddhist temples. Fluent in both English and Sinhala with a knowledge of Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhism, he addressed many Buddhist audiences in Colombo and elsewhere.
For a long time, he supported the annual Buddhist Journal, “Vesak Sirisara”, edited by the late H.P. Jayawardena, former Headmaster, Royal Primary School.
He contributed articles in English for this journal on varied subjects over several years.
He was first a member and then the Chairman of the SLBC weekly half hour popular Buddhist discussion programme, Buddhist Forum, which came on the air at 8 p.m. every Tuesday.
He was offered an appointment as a Commissioner of Assize which usually led to the crowning glory of entry to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. However, he declined the offer to refrain from passing the death penalty even though it was part of the judicial process. Taking into consideration his significant contribution to the unofficial Bar, he was made a Queen's Counsel in 1965.
In July 1967, he was appointed as the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in India and served in that capacity for three years.
As a sportsman, he played tennis and billiards. He was a Founder Member and the second President of the Billiards Association and Central Council of Sri Lanka. Siri Perera passed away after the brief illness at the age of 85 years in 1995. May this noble son of Sri Lanka realize early the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.
(The writer is Vice-President of the Colombo YMBA)