James Peter Obeyesekere III
|The Honourable Deshamanya|
James Peter Obeyesekere III
|Minister of Health and Finance|
|Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament|
19 March 1960 – 22 March 1965
|Senator of Ceylon|
|Political party||Sri Lanka Freedom Party|
|Alma mater||Royal College, Colombo|
Born to Sir James Peter Obeyesekere II, a barrister who was an advocate of the colonial era Supreme Court of Ceylon and served as the last Maha Mudaliyar (the chief native interpreter and adviser to the British Governor of Ceylon). His grandfather was Sir James Peter Obeyesekere I.
Educated at the Royal College, Colombo, Obeyesekere went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge gaining a MA. There he was a member of the Cambridge Union Society and of the Debating Team of Trinity College. An accomplished sportsman, he was awarded a half blue in athletics at Cambridge, later becoming a certified athletics coach and excellent horseman and equestrian.
With the outbreak of World War II he joined the Cambridge University Air Squadron becoming a qualified pilot, he was invited to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot, however he turn down the offer and instead joined the Royal Observer Corps. In November 1946, he flew his single-engined Taylorcraft Auster home to Ceylon from England, becoming the first Ceylonese to make such a flight. Throughout the epic journey, Obeyesekere was closely shadowed by Sqdn. Ldr. R.A.F. (Robert) Farquharson in an identical Auster - as described in contemporary newspaper reports and early articles by Obeyesekere himself - belying claims that Obeyesekere was a "solo flyer".
A founding member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951, Obeyesekere contested the Mirigama seat in 1952 and in 1960 contested the Attanagalla seat and won and became a member of parliament. He served as Junior Minister of Health and Finance and acted as the Health Minister on several occasions from 1960 to 1965. Obeyesekere was also a Senator.
A racing enthusiast he competed in many racing events in Sri Lanka, India and England. He won the Grand Prix de Lanka. He was the vice patron of the Classic Car Club of Ceylon and was the only Asian to be elected an Honorary Life Member of the prestigious Bentley Drivers’ Club. He was also members of the British Automobile Racing Club and of the Cambridge University Automobile Club.
His aviation interests were also strong as he was the Chairman of the Colombo Flying Club until its takeover by the government. He gave his Taylorcraft Auster to the Ceylon Air Academy for civilian pilot training. The aircraft was destroyed in a fatal accident on March 11, 1971, but nearly 40 years later it was rebuilt for static display at the Sri Lanka Air Force Museum, Ratmalana in memory of his flight from England to Ceylon. Obeyesekere was very active in the scout movement and was a former president of the Sri Lanka Scout Association. In 2006 he was conferred the national honour of Deshamanya by the government of Sri Lanka.
He married Sivagami Dassanaike, who in 1970 became the Cabinet Minister of Health. They have two children, James Peter Obeyesekere IV and Chantal Obeyesekere.