100th Birth Anniversary of L. H. R. Peiris: My Father a Paragon of Virtue
My Father, L.H.R.Peiris died on 23 November 2014 at the age of 93 years. His 100th birth anniversary fell on 11th of October this year. He led an exemplary life for more than four score and ten years. He was a strict teetotaler and non-smoker. If someone asks me whether I have ever met a Paragon of Virtue in my life, I would say “Yes” and it is my Father. He had his entire primary and secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo. He was proud that many heroes associated with the war victory in May 2009 were Anandians including the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
He was one year too young to enter university when he passed the University Entrance examination. His father decided to use the extra year to send him in his car to a scholar monk to ‘brush-up’ his Sinhalese, and the 16 year old student had made use of the opportunity, to learn the thrills of driving motor cars, literally pushing aside the driver to the front seat and taking the wheel himself. He became an advocate of the Supreme Court and in 1968 became the youngest Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice.
He served as a member of the Public Service Commission for 17 years. He was also a visiting Expert in Law at the United Nations Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, in Tokyo, Japan. He was a Visiting Lecturer in law at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya and was prominent in assisting the publication of the 1956 Legislative Enactments of Ceylon running into thousands of pages. He also taught Commercial Law at the Technical College and some of his students used to visit him regularly out of gratitude. He helped many people in their professional development.
Both his Father and Father in Law were successful businessmen and were very wealthy but sadly did not inherit any wealth due to events beyond his control. Due to his young age, he was smoothly on the path to becoming Chief Justice but fate intervened to prevent his aspiration. He was a workaholic when it came to office work, and often came home late bringing with him files for early completion. He was so just and fair that when he was travelling in a Ministry Car on official duty he would not stop even to buy a school book for his son en route to office.
In those days even Permanent Secretaries were not given official cars and he used to drive his own private Peugeot 403 to travel to office. He was extremely duty conscience and meticulous in his work. When a former President gave him an assignment he did it with so much devotion that he would work without a break having half a packet of Cream Crackers for his lunch around 3 pm. However, he would devote some time for hobbies as well. He even owned a 16 mm film projector, and his young sons were entertained to movie documentaries borrowed from embassies in the sixties.
This was at a time when Sri Lankans never thought they would be having television in their country. He loved Cricket, Chess and reading. P. G. Wodehouse was his favourite author and he had a wide selection of his books in his library. ‘Maname’, a play he had seen several times, was his favourite Sinhala stage drama. His elder brother was L.D.H. Peiris, another honorable gentleman and an acclaimed educationist and former Principal Royal College, Colombo. My father never had any heart, liver, High Blood Pressure, or diabetic related health problems.
He had a happy married life and brought up four sons. He attributed his long life to a daily glass of fresh milk his father compelled him to drink every morning. Especially in the legal profession he had many friends. He was very close to President D.B.Wijetunge. He loved songs of Jim Reeves. He liked to listen to Frank Sinatra`s ‘I did it my way’ in later years. Until the last few weeks, he used to work crossword puzzles, and often completed them in one sitting.
He loved Sean Connery’s James Bond films. While mostly confined to his room during the last three years of his long life, he used to relate many incidents of his life to those who visited him. My younger brother often travelled overseas and when he came to bid farewell to the Father before departure he would ask for his flight details and play Pirith on his audio cassette player during his entire flying hours.
He lost his mother when he was only six years old, and he grew up in the college hostel. G.W. Rajapakse, Sam Wijesinghe, Hubert Gunaratne and his brothers, G.M. Heennilame, Palitha Weerasinghe, Thilak Wijesinghe, Chandrasena, A.W.S. Gunasekera, A.M.Karunaratne “ Gandhi ”were with him in the hostel. He never had any racial feelings and often said his best two friends were non Sinhalese. During his school years, he used to say, that it never crossed anybody`s mind, that so and so was of this race and so and so was of that race.
He used to say the he can vaguely recall his Mother using the Mortar and the Pestle in the Kitchen and that was the only memory he had of the Mother. Due to old age he suffered health problems for about 2 weeks. He passed away peacefully at home, with a smile on his face. He shunned publicity, even left instructions, not wanting his obituary placed in the newspapers until 10 days after his funeral, about which too he had left very clear instructions. At the time of his demise, he owned just one house which he has been living in for over 55 years, and maintained in banks, only one savings account to which his monthly pension went in. In deciding how to cope with health problems in his advanced years, ‘He Did it His Way’. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.