Appreciating and Remembering M. J. Perera

Senaka Weeratana

MJ Perera profile

M. J. Perera was a founder member of the Lanka Dhammaduta Society which was founded by Asoka Weeraratna on Sept.21, 1952 ( later re- named as German Dharmaduta Society on May 8, 1957). M.J. Perera was elected as a Vice – President of the Society at its inaugural meeting held on Sept. 21, 1952. Subsequently he was elected as the President of the German Dharmaduta Society (GDS) in 1957 and functioned in that capacity for many years. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the GDS from 1966 – 2000.

He was introduced to Asoka Weeraratna in 1952 while he i.e. M,J. Perera, was the first Director – General, Radio Ceylon, by the late Austin de Silva who was the Editor of the ‘ Buddhist Opinion‘ magazine and dedicated Buddhist Worker. Austin de Silva was also elected as a Vice – President of the GDS at its inaugural meeting in 1952. ……    see also PERERA and BandaThis picture was taken on June 15, 1957 at the Elizabeth Quay, Colombo Harbour, on the occasion of the departure of the first Buddhist Mission from Sri Lanka to Germany Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, then Prime Minister is seen walking in front. Behind him are Mr. Dharmasena Weeraratna ( brother of Asoak Weeraratna in white national dress) and Mr. R.S.S. Gunawardene ( then Ambassador to the UN in New York). Next to R.S.S. Gunawardena (on his left) is Mr. Duncan de Alwis ( Private Secretary to the Prime Minister) and immediately behind Mr. de Alwis is Mr. M.J.Perera ( President, German Dharmaduta Society) on the right wearing a white suit

Born 3 February 1915 Padukka, Sri Lanka
Died 14 March 2002 (aged 87)
Nationality  Sri Lankan
Education Government Bilingual School, Padukka (currently M.D.H. Jayawardena Kanishta Vidyalaya) Nalanda College, Colombo
Occupation Education / Broadcasting / Television executive
Employer The Government of Sri Lanka
Known for The first Ceylonese Director-General of Radio Ceylon first Chairman of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation
Predecessor John Lampson, Director-General,Radio Ceylon
Spouse(s) Mrs.Gnathie Ratna Perera

Mapatunage James “M. J.” Perera was a Sri Lankan civil servant, born on 3 February 1915 with nine members in his family in Udumulla,Padukka. He created broadcasting history by being the first Ceylonese Director General of Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia, taking over the helm from John Lampson of the BBC.[1] Perera witnessed the transformation of Radio Ceylon as King of the Airwaves in South Asia [2] the radio station was the market leader and the number one radio station in the region during the 1950s and 1960s, with a loyal base of millions of listeners.[3] Radio Ceylon enjoyed huge success under his leadership. Clifford Dodd, an Australian administrator, was appointed (via the Colombo Plan) as the first Director of the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon and he contributed to the station’s popularity across the Indian sub-continent. M.J.Perera was also appointed the first Chairman of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation,the island’s television station and the country’s first competent authority.

Born on 3 February 1915 in Padukka, he was educated at Rajabisheka Vidyalaya (Primary education) – Padukka Nalanda College Colombo and at the University of Ceylon. He became an assistant Government Agent and went on to become the Permanent Secretary of the Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry and later as first Chairman of the Rupavahini (Television) Corporation, retiring from the Sri Lanka Administrative Service after 48 years public service.


  • 1 Civil Service Career
  • 2 See also
  • 3 Further Reading on M.J.Perera
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links
  • Civil Service Career
  • Director-General of Radio Ceylon,
  • First Chairman of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation
  • Founder Chairman of Paddy Marketing Board
  • Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education
  • Chairman National Library Services Board
  • Chairman State Fertilizer Manufacturing Corporation
  • Chairman River Vally Development Board
  • Vice Chancellor University of Peradeniya
  • Director Cultural AffairsStudent Career: Attended Government Bilingual School, Padukka from 1920 – 1927. (Later renamed as Rajabhisheka Kanishta Vidyalaya and currently M.D.H. Jayawardena Kanishta Vidyalaya. Passed B.S.L.C. and E.S.L.C. in 1st Division. Entered Nalanda College, Colombo – 1928 to 1932. Cambridge Senior 1st Division with exemption from London Matriculation twice as underage to enter University first time. Entered Ceylon University College 1933, Intermediate in Arts (London) 1939 with Pali, Sanskrit, English and Logic. Bachelor of Arts (University of London) Indo-Aryan (Hons.) 1st Class in 1936, Honours Course covered in 2 years. Won Government Scholorship and joined London School of Oriental Studies and studied under Professor Turner, Dr. Stede and Mr. Rylands for a post-graduate course but interrupted studies and returned to Ceylon on passing the Ceylon Civil Service Examination in 1938 getting 3rd place in order of merit in the whole examination. (1st place in the written papers.)             Member of the Ceylon Civil Service from 1939 – 1968Extra Services of Importance: 1959 – 1963- President, Arts Council of Ceylon. Member and Executive Committee member,Sri Lanka Sahithya Manadalaya. 1960 – 1962 – Founder and President of the National Theatre Trust. 1960 – 1968 – Ex – officio member and later Chairman, National Book Trust. 1963 – 1968 – Chairman, National Commission of UNESCO in Ceylon (ex-officio). 1964 – 1968 – Chairman, Public Performance Board (Film and Stage Censor Board). 1966 – 1968 – Member, United States Educational Foundation in Ceylon. 1966 – 1968 – Member, National Council of Higher Education. 1991 – – Founder member of Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Education. Later President. The name for this Association (SLAAED) has been proposed by him.Attended many international conferences in Ceylon and abroad; Leader, Ceylon Delegation to the 1st Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference; Leader, Ceylon Delegation to 13th General Conference, UNESCO; Invited to seminar by Brookings Institute, Washington; Chairman or Member of various Government Committees, Particular mention may be made of Official Language Policy Implementation (1962). Revision of CAS Minute (1964). Advisory Committee on Academy of Administrative Studies; Chairman, Manpower and Education Committee of the Ministry of Planning (1965). 1967 December – Competent Authority under section 86 of the Higher Education Act for the University of Colombo and Vidyalankara University.A number of essays, articles and reviews published in Journals on literary, cultural and religious subjects both in English and Sinhala. Creator of the Sinhala word Rupavahini to the Sinhala vocabulary to identify the English word “Television” in 1954 at the Sandeshaya Programme of the BBC while participating at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association meeting in London. Creator of the Magazine “Tharangani” for Broadcasting at Radio Ceylon.1948 – 2002 – Life member of Young Men’s Buddhist Association. (YMBA) 1952 – 2002 1952 – Vice President, German Dharmaduta Society1966 – April 2000 ( Member of the Board of Trustees, German Dharmaduta Society)1992 – Nalanda Puthra Abhinandana Award – Service to the nation. awarded by alma mater Nalanda College, Colombo.1996 – Vishva Prasadhini AwardConferred by the Honourable Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike felicitation award for the field of Administration. 1996 – Award presented by Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation in appreciation of being the pioneer of the new social media service and the development of a very special identity and tradition for it. 1997 – Award for the contribution to Sri Lanka Librarianship. Presented by Sri Lanka Library Association. 1998 – Presidential (National) Award of Desabandu title conferred by the Her Excellency the President of Sri Lanka for excellent Administrative Capabilities. 1999 – Hideo Shimizu Foundation Sri Lanka – Award for the excellent contribution towards the overall development of media policy planning in Sri Lanka. 2000 – Award presented by the University of Kelaniya in appreciation of the invaluable service rendered for a period over 30 years to University of Kelaniya in the capacity of Secretary, Ministry of Education, Competent Authority of the Vidyalankara University and Member of the Council of the University of Kelaniya. 2001 – Golden Award for older persons presented by Helpage Sri Lanka for excellence in Public Administration. 2004 – Award in appreciation of the distinguished and dedicated servicerendered to the cause of Education in Sri Lanka. Presented by Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Education. 2012 – ‘Felicitation award for the contribution for the Sri Lankan creative Literary work’ and for brining glory to the Sri Lanka Administrative Service. Award presented by Sri Lanka Administrative Service Association.
  • See also
  • – Independent Television Network Sri Lanka award for contribution to Television Media.
  • Awards:
  • 1957 – President, German Dharmaduta Society
  • 1952 – Founder member of the German Dharmaduta Society.
  • Special Services: 1962 – 1966 – Member of the Vidyodaya University Council appointed by the Chancellor. 1964 – 1966 – Member of the Vidyalankara University Council appointed by the Chancellor. 1963 – 1966 – Elected Member, Senate of the University of Ceylon. 19- – Member of the Steering Committee of the UNESCO Cultural Triangle – Polonnaruwa Project. Served as an advisor and Coordinator and closely involved with conservation work of Alahana Pirivena, Tivanka Pilimage, Gal Vihara, Lankathilaka.
  • 1968 – March 1969 – Vice-Chancellor, University of Ceylon – Peradeniya. 1969 – Chairman River Valleys Development Board. 1970 – Chairman State Fertilizer Manufacturing Corporation. 1971 – 1977 – Chairman (Founder) – Paddy Marketing Board. 1977 – 1980 – Member of Governing Council / Associate Director – Sri Lanka Centre for Development Studies. 1981 – 1982 – Chairman – National Library Services Board. 1981 – 1987 – Member of the Board of Independent Television Network (ITN) of Government of Sri Lanka 1982 – 1987 – Founder Chairman Sri Lanka Rupavahini (Television) Corporation. 1984 – 1987 – Member of the Board of Sri Lanka Television Training Institute 1989 – 2000 – Member of the Board of Management of the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies 1995 – 2000 – Member of the Council, University of Kelaniya
  • Professional career as Member of the C.C.S. and later C.A.S.: 1939 January – Cadet, Galle Kachcheri and Matara Kachcheri, Additional Magistrate, Matara 1940 – Cadet, Hambanthota Kachcheri and Additional Magistrate, Hambanthota. 1941 – Assistant Land Settlement Officer. 1942 – Assistant Government Agent, Trincomalee (Covering war emergency duties) 1944 – Assistant Land Commissioner and Additional Assistant Government Agent, Anuradhapura 1945 – Assistant Government Agent (Emergency), Mathugama. 1945 – Administrative Secretary (Present designation of post of Deputy Director Administration), Department of Agriculture, Peradeniya. 1948 – Administrative Secretary, Irrigation Department. 1949 – Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. 1952 – Director-General of Broadcasting. 1955 – Director-General of Broadcasting and in addition, Commissioner, Department of Swabasha (Set up for the first time to publish Sinhala and Tamil Text Books.) 1956 – Deputy Commissioner of Official Language Department (by amalgamation of Swabasha Department with Official Language Department under special Commissioner.) 1957 – Deputy Commissioner of Official Language Department and Director Information. 1959 – Deputy Commissioner of Official Language Department and Acting Director of Cultural Affairs, 1960 – On leave Abroad. 1960 – On return Director of Cultural Affaires and Acting Director, Government College of Fine Arts. 1962 – Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Home, Industries and Cultural Affairs. 1963 – Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Education. 1963 – Chairman of initial committee appointed to draft bill of Parliament for the establishment of National Science Council. 1963 – 1968 – Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Cultural Affaires.
  • Desabandu Mr.M.J.Perera
  • Radio Ceylon
  • Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation
  • Nalanda College Colombo“When life was simple” As told to D.C. Ranatunga by M. J. Perera former Civil Servant and Permanent Secretary to the Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry“Cultural orthodoxy and popular Sinhala music” an article by Dr. Tissa Abeysekara.
  • References: 
  • “The Golden Voice of Radio Ceylon (Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka)”. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  • “Gnanam Rathinam – a pioneer Radio Ceylon broadcaster”. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  • “At the Berliner Ensemble” Henry Jayasena Column
  • “Livy’s golden years on radio” by Noel Crusz
  • Further Reading on M.J.Perera
  1. “When Ceylon ruled the airwaves”. Retrieved 2008-09-04.

ADDENDUM: MJ Perera was interviewed by Michael Roberts on 23rd September 1967 as one among the many falling into the oral history researches in the project ROHP.  These biographical Q and A investigations were recorded on spool. They were subsequently transferred to cassette, courtesy of Adelaide University grants and thereafter to CDs. This storehouse now reposes in the Special Collections of the Bar Smith Library, University of Adelaide. What is more, with the help of monies from Roberts and a few of his friends in Australia the CDs have recently been digitized.

SO: each and every recorded interview is open to interested persons anywhere in the world…. Not just the Leonard Woolf interview.

To get to the Roberts Oral History Project recordings:

Option 1:

Go to the Michael Roberts manuscripts listing

And click on the link to Adelaide Research and Scholarship under Series 1 – Digital versions

Option 2: Do a Google search on Michael Roberts. Oral History Project

Option 3:

Go to the University of Adelaide Libraries home page

On left hand menu bar click ‘Digital Services’

Then ‘Adelaide Research & Scholarship’

Then type in ‘Michael Roberts’ into the search bar at the top left of the screen to retrieve all your online items

Option 4:

Go to the University of Adelaide Libraries home page

On left hand menu bar click ‘Digital Services’

Then ‘Adelaide Research & Scholarship’

Click on ‘Communities and collections’

Scroll down to ‘University Library: Special Collections

  • Manuscript Collections’

Click on ‘Sound recordings’\

And then on ‘Title’ box to see a title list of recordings

Click on the title of the recording and then on View/Open to listen.




Cheryl Hoskin Special Collections Librarian       Ph: (08) 8313 5224 Barr Smith Library                Email : University of Adelaide S.A. 5005.

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