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Don Richard Wijewardana
Personal details
Born Don Richard Wijewardana
(1886-02-23)23 February 1886
Died 13 June 1950(1950-06-13) (aged 64)
Nationality Ceylonese
Spouse(s) Alice Meedeniya
Children Two sons and Three daughters
Parents Don Philip Wijewardana (Father)
Helena Weerasinghe (Mother)
Residence Rickman House,
Alma mater S. Thomas' College, Mutwal
University of Cambridge
Occupation Press Baron
Profession Barrister
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Military service
Allegiance Ceylon
Service/branch Ceylon Defence Force
Years of service 1915-1917
Rank Lieutenant
Unit Ceylon Light Infantry

Don Richard Wijewardena (Sinhala:දොන් රිච්ඩ් විජෙවර්ධන) (23 February 1886 – 13 June 1950) was a Sri Lankan press baron who was a leader in the Sri Lankan independence movement. A successful entrepreneur, he established Lake House newspapers and played a major role in the independence movement.

Early life and education

File:St. Thomas' College 2.jpg

The young Wijewardena attended the prestigious St Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia.

Don Richard Wijewardena went on to study at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

D.R.Wijewardena along with another Sri Lankan freedom fighter E.W.Perera, successfully traced the banner of the last King of Sri Lanka. It subsequently became the flag of the Dominion of Ceylon.

D. R. Wijewardena was born as the third male child of seven sons and two daughters Muhandiram Tudugalage Don Philip Wijewardene, a timber merchant of Sedavatta and Helena Weerasinghe. He lost his father at a very young age and was raised by his mother. His brothers were Don Philip Alexander, Don Lewis, Don Charles, Don Edmund, Don Albert and Don Walter and his sisters were Harriot who married Dr Arthur Seneviratne and Agnes Helen who married Justice Eugene Wilfred Jayewardene. Wijewardena received his primary education at the Sedavatta school after which like all his brothers, completed his secondary education at St.Thomas College Mutwal.[1][2][3]

He then went on to study at Peterhouse, Cambridge. There he developed his interest in politics and met famous personalities such as future leaders of India like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bepin Chandra Pal, Surendranath Banerji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. After graduating he became a Barrister at the Inner Temple.


Returning to Ceylon in 1912, he took oaths as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon and started his practice at Hulftsdorp. He did not practice law for long, turning towards business activities instead. During World War I, he briefly served as a Lieutenant in the Ceylon Light Infantry resigning in 1917 on grounds of principle.[4]

Press Baron

In 1914, he acquired the Sinhala language daily Dinamina in 1914 together with his brother D. C. Wijewardena. He thereafter took over the English language daily The Ceylonese renaming it the Ceylon Daily News in 1918 and bought its primary competition Ceylon Independent. This was followed by the publication of a Tamil language daily Thinakaran. In 1926, these newspapers where consolidated under Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) which would publish seven newspapers Dinamina, Silumina (Sinhalese) Daily News, the Observer, Sunday Observer (English), Thinakaran and Sunday Thinakaran (Tamil). ANCL was a subsidiary of the Lake House Group owned by Wijewardena which brought together his different publications which included the Fergusons Ceylon Directory.

Nationalist movement

In 1913, Wijewardena was elected Secretary of the Ceylon National Association, marking his formal entry into politics and together with its President Sir James Peiris he agitated for constitutional reform and self-rule.[5]

D. R. Wijewardena and E. W. Perera traced the location of the banner of last King Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe, the last king of the Kingdom of Kandy to the Royal Hospital Chelsea where it was kept since the surrender of the Kingdom to the British in 1815. The recovered banner became a focal point in the independence movement and it became the flag of the Dominion of Ceylon upon its independence in 1948.[6]

Wijewardena was in touch with local events and organised the first deputation to the Secretary of State for the Colonies with Mr. H. J. C. Pereira along with E. W. Perera. As a result of lobbying benefits Ceylonese were given another concession of a seat in the British dominated legislative council. To this seat majority of the Ceylonese elected Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan against Sir (Dr) Marcus Fernando. He would later organise a second deputation too. He was also instrumental in starting the Temperance movement and the Amadyapa Sabha.


He married Alice Gertrude Ruby Meedeniya in 1916, she was the daughter of Meedeniya Adigar. They had two sons and three daughters, his grandson Ranil Wickremasinghe would later become Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.[7] His brother-in-law was Sir Francis Molamure, the first speaker of the State Council and his nephew (Helen's son) was J. R. Jayewardene, President of Sri Lanka.

See also

  • Sri Lankan independence activist
  • Sri Lankan independence movement
  • National Heroes of Sri Lanka
  • List of political families in Sri Lanka


External links

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