Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

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Sam Wijesinha

27th June 1921 – 31st August 2014

My father died six years ago – on 31st August 2014.

This article – published in the British paper The Guardian soon after his death -is a fitting tribute to him on this death anniversary.

Sam Wijesinha – former Secretary General of Sri Lanka’s Parliament and subsequently National Ombudsman and Chancellor of the Open University – passed away on 31st. August 2014. He was 93.

He had a distinguished record of public service in Sri Lanka and was considered the ultimate authority on matters pertaining to parliamentary procedure in that country.

He was born into an old aristocratic family in southern Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) – the youngest son of Don Aelias Wijesinha in Getamanne, a small town in Hambantota District. Having received his early education at the Getamanne rural school, he went on to Rahula College Matara at the age of nine – and later to Ananda College Colombo and S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia.

He graduated B.A. from London University in 1944 after which he entered the Ceylon Law College and qualified as a lawyer. He became an advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon and a Barrister-at-Law, Middle Temple. Undertaking postgraduate study at McGill University, Canada he earned an LL.M. in Aviation Law. He was appointed Crown Counsel in 1948 and served in the Attorney General’s Department until 1964 when he was appointed Clerk to the House of Representatives.

In 1972 Ceylon became the Republic of Sri Lanka; Sam Wijesinha played a major role in helping to draft the new constitution. With the establishment of a unicameral legislature he was appointed the first Secretary General of Parliament. As Clerk and Secretary General he represented Ceylon/Sri Lanka at many Commonwealth Parliamentary conferences and visited the UK many times with parliamentary delegations.

Retiring from Parliament in 1981 he was appointed Sri Lanka’s first national Ombudsmen. He served in this capacity for 10 years and retired for the second time in 1991. He was later appointed Chancellor of the Open University.

He accomplished much in life, being a role model and mentor to many, well known for being generous with his time and his knowledge.  A firm believer in the value of education (one of his favourite sayings was ‘Knowledge is Power’) he often delved into his own pocket to help others who could not afford it to undertake higher studies. 

His wife Mukta (former Chief Commissioner and later President of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association) predeceased him.

He is survived by their three children – Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha (Associate Professor at Monash University, Melbourne), Dr Anila Dias Bandaranaike (former Assistant Governor of Sri Lanka’s Central Bank) and Professor Rajiva Wijesinha (former Member of Parliament).


This entry was posted on August 31, 2020 by in Opinion and tagged , , , .

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