What inspires a writer depends on the amount of feedback he/she receives from the readership with both positive and negative comments. Such annotations will naturally help the writer to sharpen his/her faculties with inspiration. It is usually said that writing is akin to sharpening a pencil all the time – ‘more often you hone it, pointed and refine it becomes’!
In that respect the writer has been providential to have passable feedbacks from the readership constantly, which have contributed towards an uninterrupted continuity. Acknowledgments and merits in this regard should go to a few avid readers of the writers columns and the blog for feeding the writer with interesting anecdotes and their personal experiences, always making the light reading aspect much more palatable than the highbrow and sickening Sri Lankan politics all the time!
Peter Wijesinghe’s memoirs started appearing first in the Daily News under the writer’s column, “ Life Abroad’. The writer received the following feedback from a Sri Lankan lady based in London at the time who had been working at the BBC World Service for several years, who expressed her thoughts in the following manner:
“Many thanks for daunting and comical incidents, bringing back nostalgic memories of Sri Lanka High Commission in late 1960s, when Dr. Malalasekera, of revered memory, and his lovely wife and faithful cook-housekeeper, were in residence. Dr. Malalasekera refused to serve liquor, and I watched with wry amusement as male invitees took turns to pop out ‘to check on the car’, and returning in more convivial mood.”
“More somber note; after I met my husband, we both worked at the BBC Overseas Service, and his close relatives and friends (of all communities), I became aware of undercurrents of hostility. It led me to ponder and say that if all communities did not work together, some day would see the outbreak of bloody civil war! Since I had not visited Sri Lanka for some years, I was laughed at, but my fearful forebodings were borne out in 30 years of dreadful events. I appreciate your articles – the one bright spot in the Daily News!”
In a complete contrast, another email hit my letter box from Peter Wijesinghe, who has been featured in my ‘life Abroad’ column with his own experiences surrounding the activities of the Sri Lanka High Commission where he held the record of being the oldest and the longest member of staff from its very inception – from day one as it were, when The Ceylon House was formally inaugurated by the late Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, on October 22, 1948 and functioned from 25 Grosvenor Square, London W1, up to his retirement from 13, Hyde Park Gardens, London W2.
Bandiya and Rankira in Kandy
Peter, who was 86 years of age, when I visited him in Kandy, two years ago, he spent his retirement in a large two storey house in Kandy with his brother Rankira who was 98 years old at the time. He related, and I reproduced whatever he touched on, be it about the variety of diplomatic officers and how they performed to ‘promote’ Sri Lanka or on ‘Tamil separatists’ and the ‘fifty -fifty’ mongers who ran their bucket shops under various manifestations added that ‘so much could be revealed about the LTTE (from his personal experiences) that would fill volumes’!
He continued: “One day in the future, if I am still alive, and if there is to be a Commission of Inquiry into the workings of the Ceylon High Commission, I would love to be able to tell the story of the Ceylon/Sri Lanka High Commission in London from its birth.” Unfortunately, I am unable to contact him now ( in June 2018) as I am advised by his niece that he is weak and his faculties too are fragile, as such he is unable to cope with visitor’s or telephone calls, while his elder brother Rankira had expired.
Once he posted an anonymous letter to me when his series started to appear in newspaper columns. He had received an anonymous letter posted from Kandy, after a particular article concerning the activities of the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, which partly touched on his personal life that described his attachment with Sir Oliver Goonatilleke’s father in Kandy, and how Peter ( Bandia ) was adopted as a young kid in Sri Lanka by the Goonatilleke family, and also about the special relationship he had with the High Commissioner, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke and his father. Many interesting episodes will follow in my latest Blog, in the form of Bandia Series.
Wijesinghe Wrote to the Queen at last.
Another area that got exposed in the series was how Peter Wijesinghe had once written to Queen Elizabeth II,The Head of the Commonwealth, being Sri Lanka still a member of the Commonwealth. He had to do so, as a last resort, when the Sri Lanka High Commission treated him unfairly on his PSPF funds, after working for the Sri Lanka Government for record number of years, which finally ended up in an appeal court in the UK, and ended up in a tedious and procrastinated battle squashing the case finally due to a ‘ so called diplomatic officer’s enigmatic duplicity having connived with a local Sri Lankan solicitor against him.
This news item, which appeared in the column, evidently had managed to hit a raw nerve of an old guard, who used to serve at the High Commission in London from 1980-1984, who appeared to be in retirement in Sri Lanka, of all places in Kandy!
Sir Oilver Goonatilleke first HC for Ceylon in the UK
Peter Wijesinghe said he received this anonymous letter by post highlighting various sections in the article (such as his bond with Sir Oliver Goonatillake family etc.,) pointing a finger at him and calling him a ‘devious and untrustworthy character,’ which, undoubtedly had managed to distress and offend the old guard.
In his first accusation, the critic had disputed Bandia’s adoption as a young boy in Sri Lanka by the Goonatillake family, and his “special relationship with the High Commissioner Sir Oliver Goonatillake and his father etc.”. The accuser had gone further stating thus: “You worked for High Commissioner for Sri Lanka for over 50 years, but showed no respect or gratitude, and you took your religion and temple to Court, insulted the HC and humiliated yourself by talking about an unfair dismissal“.
Peter Wijesinghe submitted all the documentary evidence (scanned documents relating to the incident, including the copy of the postal envelop with date stamp) to me with a view to place matter in the right perspective and straighten records by calling the whole issue as a ‘spineless act by a coward’, who was afraid to come clean and own up to his statements. Peter put it very boldly that “most probably this individual may not have even conceived in his mother’s womb when I was fetching and carrying for Sir Oliver Goonatilake, his father and the Goonatilake family”!
In response to the third accusation of the challenger’s ‘unfair dismissal’, Peter Wijesinghe, denied that he had never used the word ‘unfair dismissal’ at any time in any of his statements with regard to the Court case, but pointed a finger at the ‘so called diplomatic officer’who shamelessly humiliated the prestige of The High Commission Office during the appeal case hearing by ‘claiming diplomatic immunity’ and running away from facing the truth; the worst being going to the extent of bragging publicly about Sri Lanka High Commission winning the case, which Peter claimed was an absolute fib!
For all intents and purposes, Peter Wijesinghe wished to emphasise that his appointment to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London was made by the Public Service Commission at the time, because there no other authority could have appointed an applicant to a government post other than PSC during that period.
As regards the critic’s accusation of Peter insulting the High Commission, he reiterated the fact that, as a Sri Lankan, he always upheld and kept the dignity and respect of the High Commission, as good as any other self-respecting citizen of his motherland.
In an interesting postscript, he subtly posed the question whether this ‘faceless person’, who took all the trouble to write and post a letter to his Kandy address, could be the same old guard who cunningly manipulated with the Sri Lankan solicitor treacherously at the time of the appeal case by instructing the lawyer to sit on the papers deliberately to cause a ‘time to lapse’and to make the case null and void, and of course, thereby claiming diplomatic immunity!
Interesting episodes about the Sri Lanka High Commission of yester year will appear in the Bandia series in the writer’s new blog as a revival.
“There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel”- Bible
Pic Credit: writer and google