Our Prathishtacharya : Mr. Wilmot A. Perera
It is my humble duty to devote a chapter specifically to Mr. Wilmot A Perera. His continued determination was always to bring about changes and enhancement of the quality of common people’s lives. As students, we saw this quality from his activities all the time. If Mr. Perera had come across something special, something novel, in his well spread out circle of friends around Sri Lanka, he saw to it to arrange that article/equipment/new tech innovation technology to Sri Palee. This was his way to inspire teachers and the young minds to observe new developments in technology. Let me tell you a story - once he arranged to bring an RCA tape recorder (Revere) to 1955-56 “Mela”. It was a fascinating center of attraction to the visitors at the Carnival. Mr. Helapitage took over the tape recorder and tested with us. We as science students arranged a stall – “Record Your Voice”. There was a long queue of visitors to try the voice test. It was the first time in Horana or at Sri Palee that the visitors saw a tape recorder in operation. We as students were very energetic in handling the basic operations and today we are so proud about it – and we are so humble for that experience we gained of that technical “exercise” of Mr. Perera. On another occasion he brought a slide projector to Sri Palee, and a slide show was organized by his good friend Mr. Wimalasekera (Wewala Scout Camp Boss). Mr. Wimalasekera had collected the photos of his visit to America and Hawai, and arranged this slide show for Sri Palee students on one evening around 7.00 pm. It was attended by student hostellers and day scholars from the neighbourhood.
In a narration of Sri Palee Prathishtacharya Mr. Wilmot Perera, the next personality we should remember to recall is Mrs. Esmi Perera - beloved wife of Mr. Perera. In fact, the Sri Palee logo - sun, mountain and the artistic creation is a copyright of Mrs. Perera. She had over the years granted Mr. Perera the encouragement and the support needed to launch “project Sri Palee”. The Merriam Websters Dictionary defines a lady as : “A female member of refinement and gentle manners. ”. Mrs. Esmi Perera is a perfect matching for this definition. I have had the honour and the privilege of the association of her at times during our formative days. She was a very generous personality by words and deeds in proving richness means more than a rupee rich. I saw evidence - she had mastered the phrase: “Do not forget the lesser privileged”. Thank you very much Madam Esmi Perera. We copy that statement well and truly today and practice it too.
Their daughter – Enoka was a picture of health and as a young lass, had all the necessary accomplishments and continued her education at Sri Palee shifted to a Colombo school probably when she was about to sit for her SSC. Later she got married to Mr. Ashoka Pieris, Director – De Soysa & Company (Management Consultancy Firm). He too was a simple and a class of a gentleman who supported Sri Palee activities as a moral obligation. He was also seen as an active senior member who managed the infrastructure developments of Sri Palee and carnival – mela. They had a son and a daughter.
Mrs. Enoka Pieris, once came to my office to invite me for the daughter’s wedding. A very sincere happy remark she made about my placement in Uni Walkers still echoes in my mind. Her son Perera is too a businessman who manages their estates.
We are sad that we miss both Mr. Ashoka and Enoka Pieris. Mr. Ojith Perera was Mr. Wilmot Perera’s son who was also a businessman – manages a company and also functions as a board member in the Sri Palee Trust.
Re-focusing on Mr. Wilmot Perera and Sri Palee Developments, his way of developing to bring about society improvements and upgrades was through the upliftment of student minds at Sri Palee. His vision was that the educated student population will achieve their full potential and realize their dreams. This exercise of developing students will continue to produce useful citizens to take responsibility with knowledge and courage, to takeover control of activities of the society.
We are certain today to accept the norm of Mr. Perera kept to a precision track with Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore’s universal phrase of “Life’s aspirations come in the guise of children”
Mr. Perera had his own group of estates in and around Horana, Ratnapura, Kalutara etc. He was an energetic Entrepreneur among other specialist capabilities. In his Hegalla Group – Horana, there was a tea factory and a rubber factory operating separately. I have seen at times “he was walking in the tea estate with a baton in his hand with the Superintendent of the estate”. In the afternoon he was typing in his office till late evenings. He had a passion for work, and he encouraged people with passion all the time. His tea factory produce was famous for low country quality tea .
His rubber factory was producing special crepe rubber in 1950’s . Switching over from sheet rubber manufacturing to crepe rubber manufacturing was an industrial revolution in that era. I have witnessed the head bass of the estate factory as a very versatile person as he was turning out Iron Trusses from angle iron sections interpreting the blue print drawings by himself. He had only a couple of workmen to assist him. They completed the trusses and applied red anti-corrosive paint. I remember that scene even today. These trusses were later assembled at Sri Palee for the roof structure of “Arundathi” Hall. There were many high calibre passion driven personalities who really provided the infrastructure needs of “Institution Sri Palee” from his Hegalla Group/Estates.
Mr. Perera had his Bungalow in the “Hegalla” estate prior to his shifting to “Layan” the Chinese Architecture Bungalow in Sri Palee - Kapugala kanda. I attribute these sentences as a tribute to those hard working personalities of “Hegalla Group” who comprised of an unseen team behind Mr. Perera in the fulfillment of tasks for Sri Palee.