By Dr. Lionel Bopage
It is sad to hear about the passing away of comrade Marshal Perera, President’s Counsel, former Governor of the Uva Province of Sri Lanka and the father of former Member of Parliament and Minister Dilan Perera. If my memory serves right, I met comrade Marshal Perera in Badulla, during the latter part of 1977.
The political activities of the ‘Movement’ (which later became the JVP) in Badulla district commenced towards the latter part of the sixties. Late comrade Sumith Athukorala was the first full-time activist of the “Movement” in Badulla. He was one of the first full-time political activists, who came out of Peradeniya University and the first member to be arrested sometime in 1969. He was arrested while staying at Muthiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya in Badulla. This happened prior to comrade Rohana Wijeweera’s first arrest.
Prior to April 71 Uprising, comrade Sunanda Deshapriya was responsible for the JVP activities in the Badulla district. At the time we were released from prison in November 1977, the JVP activities in the district had considerably weakened. During the seventies, when the JVP was under proscription, comrade Sumith Athukorala and several other comrades had been involved in rebuilding party organisations in the district.
Subsequent to our release, and later as General Secretary of the party I had to visit the Uva province to revitalise political activities. During these visits to Badulla district, I had to stay over a couple of days to conduct JVP political activities. It was during that time, I stayed at comrade Marshal Perera’s house. In the process, I came to know that he was a simple, down to earth person, despite being an attorney.
I recollect the convivial mornings in which we had simple home cooked village breakfasts together at his house. He was very supportive and interested in the political activities we conducted at the time. Some mornings I accidentally came across his son, Dilan Perera, who was on his way to attend classes. Since I left the JVP in 1984, I did not have the opportunity to associate with comrade Marshal Perera. However, when I visited Sri Lanka while in exile in the middle of the nineties, I had the occasion to meet up with Minister Dilan Perera, a couple of times. On one such occasion, I was able to talk to his father on the phone.
When we were in Colombo last year, we invited comrade Marshal Perera to attend the launch of the Sinhala translation of my biography. He was extremely pleased to do so and kindly obliged. We did not get much time to talk, but during the short conversation I had with him, I came to understand that despite his many official governmental affiliations, he was the same simple person that I used to know during the 1980s.
With those comradely memories of solidarity and conviviality fresh in our minds, we salute him in his last journey.
Comrade Marshal Perera with comrade Upali Rathnayake, the translator of the biography.