My dear Wije, Thanks very much for your letters which came together. I am glad you are taking up the Bar Final and expect you have done so by this. A paragraph in the Observer, I believe written by Mr. R.N. Ferguson speaks of you in warm terms: he says you are a fellow guest [...]


When the seeds of a newspaper germinated in young D.R.

February 23 was D.R. Wijewardene’s 133rd birth anniversary

D.R. Wijewardene in 1909

My dear Wije,

Thanks very much for your letters which came together. I am glad you are taking up the Bar Final and expect you have done so by this. A paragraph in the Observer, I believe written by Mr. R.N. Ferguson speaks of you in warm terms: he says you are a fellow guest with him and Corbet at Greys Inn, that you are likely to gain a good pass and was interesting yourself under Corbet’s guidance in getting Ceylon matters such as the Pearl Fishery Lease brought before Parliament.

In regard to your queries whether equal rights were guaranteed to Ceylonese by the British, the reply is they were especially and unmistakably guaranteed as the condition of our capitulation by Portuguese, Dutch and British. The whole question is gone into by me with chapter and verse in an article which I am forwarding for publication through Mr. R.G. Corbet by this mail or next. You may refer to him when it does come.

With respect to the most vital questions of any future Government, I have got private information from what I consider a reliable source that the Governor is leaving for good in August. It will be a national calamity and lead to serious complications if a man of Sir Hugh Clifford’s type be appointed. A public meeting is out of the question. Nay, even if it could be got together it will be a positive danger. There are so many traitors in the camp that the meeting itself will be manoeuvered to vote for the wrong man and interested sycophants all over the country will get up country demonstrations to acclaim Clifford as ‘King’ for future favours. When you return you will see how hopeless the situation is and how warily we must step. They only salvation the country has is making the home and through this realise the situation.

Now for the paper. One or two men consulted me as to what the profitable cost will be, and I gave them facts and figures. But no one or even two men are prepared to make the sacrifice. The result is that they have or are going to float a Company. It is a short lived enthusiasm begotten of the elections and the new paper will die before it is born. If it draws breath at all it will be in a purely petty fated atmosphere wet-nursed by mere half educated local reporters, who think they are journalists. A truly national paper is yet to come into existence, although I must say the Morning Leader through the dominant personality of its editor, speaks out true in broad questions of public policy. Souza has gone for a month’s holiday to Goa and will be back in a few days. In the interval the paper has sunk to the inane.. listless level of the rest. I shall see that McCallum Scott gets his due when Souza returns.

I was very much interested in your account of your recent movements in London and of your ‘lobbying’. The Observer says you are coming back in April. Is that so?

Now, so far as I am concerned there is not very much to write except that my health has been undermined under the incessant strain of things and am just now in a terrible state of depression unfit for anything, with a swarm of ‘blue devils’ crowding round me. You will be glad to hear that Dr. Pearson, the Director of the Colombo Museum has made the offer on behalf of the Government that I should write a monograph on Sinhalese Banners and Badges for the Museum (indecipherable) which the authorities will publish in England with full coloured plates. They have given me a year’s time to complete it in and have already started on the plates, making coloured copies of ancient standards that I have passed.

E.W. Perera

I have also placed on my hands the writing of a note on a trilingual inscription discovered in Galle – one of the languages is Chinese – describing a Chinese Mission to Ceylon in 1408 which culminated in the Sinhalese monarch being captured and deported to China by the famous General Cheng- Ho who helped to found the Empire for the Kings and who erected this stone, now in the Museum.

I might as well give the reference to the guarantees at once. Treaty of Cuscon by Port: to Dutch 11 May 1656, Article IX and VII, Treaty of Cuscon of Colombo to British by Dutch Article 19, Treaty 15 Feb: 1796. Proclamation of 21 Nov: 1818 on surrender of Kandy. These you will find in a Copy of the Ceylon Ordinance (older edition the better because more complete! See also Riberio……. translation) for terms in which the low country Sinhalese surrendered to Philip II, in Convention. Pray remember me very kindly to the Messrs. Corbet and….

With every good wish.

Yours very sincerely,

Edward W. Perera.

1912: Another phase of Lanka’s freedom struggle was in its infancy. Edward Walter (E.W.) Perera, a barrister and politician, known as the ‘Lion of Kotte’  was in the forefront of the national struggle for Independence.At Cambridge University, 26-year-old Don Richard (D.R.) Wijewardene was finishing his undergraduate studies and preparing for his law finals. Nationalism was stirring in his young blood. The seeds of starting a newspaper group that would be the vehicle that carried the message of the freedom-loving Lankans were germinating within him.

On his return he became the first son of the soil to establish a newspaper stable- Lake House. Today, we reproduce a hitherto unpublished  letter from E.W. Perera to D.R. Wijewardene written from the Orient Club, Colombo, the meeting place of the anti-imperial movement. It gives a glimpse of the work they were doing and the issues that confronted the young men of Ceylon.

The winds of change were blowing across the island nation. Independence was to come in 1948. Both E.W. Perera and D.R. Wijewardene passed away not long after. Yesterday, February 23 was D.R. Wijewardene’s 133rd birth anniversary.

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