“Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance-“ Dr. Samuel Johnson.Dr Wijayatunga Mudalige Harischandra Wijayatunga’s life truthfully reflects the authenticity of these lines. He is a revered mythical scholar, author, translator, lexicographer, teacher, lawyer, Hela Wadampathi, University lecturer and politician who have achieved numerous milestones of triumphs and achievements. He was born on October 25th 1931 in Minuwangoda to a family of wealthy landowners with esteemed social eminence. This amalgamation of affluence and respected lineage helped him to pursue undeterred, his academic ambitions.
Defying his father’s desire to see his son become a renowned
in the medical field as he was an Ayurvedic Physician. Dr Wijayatunga very steadfastly and passionately pursued his scholastic exploits. He concluded his secondary education at Nalanda College Colombo. His contemporaries at Nalanda College were Karunaratne Abeysekera,Dr Hudson Silva,Dr Dharmasena Attygalle,Rupa Karunatilleke,Ravindra Rupasena,Gunadasa Amarasekera and Stanley Jayasinghe.
In 1955 , the University of Ceylon conferred on him BSC degree . .Upon completion of his degree he joined the tutorial staff of Dharmaraja College , Kandy,simultaneously teaching Chemistry at Mahamaya Girls school Kandy .It was a moderate beginning for one who was later to be lauded for his outstanding achievements for Sri Lanka. Key to this was his early realisation that he possessed a storehouse of concealed talents, which needed expression. He had imbibed early in life, a unique passion for writing. He realized first of his ambitions when he authored a book on a field in the College laboratory he was so familiar with. This was the book titled “Miridiya Jivihu” It was a justification of the existence of life in plants and creatures which were not visible to the naked eye. Dr Wijayatunga had multifaceted talents which when harnessed were to result in lasting creative endeavours. He loved aesthetics. He was imbued with creative poetic talent. He displayed his innate talents when he composed Sinhala Kavis .These were compiled in a volume titled “Pahan Wana Da” Amongst them was his Kavi titled “ Gangawe Andonawa.It was his heartfelt dedication to the Mahaweli river. With certain lyrical modifications his close friend Arisen Ahubudu composed the famous hit song of Sunil Shantha “Emba Ganga Gangawe”.
During this period of time forces were at work to establish Sinhala as the state Official language. Less fervent activists were skeptical about science being taught in Sinhala. To meet the challenge Dr Wijayatunga determinedly pursued his vision of translating celebrated science books into Sinhala. In 1956 he translated the renowned “Practical Chemistry” by Joseph and Browning. In 1962 he published the Sinhala version of “Inorganic Chemistry” by PJ Durante.These books were used by students for decades.In year1965 he was appointed to the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) which started work in the same year. He was the first and the only member appointed to the staff, functioning as its Secretary. Under his supervision Divisional Committees on Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Agriculture and Chemicals, and Metrication of Sri Lanka was appointed. During his tenure he had issued 180 standards certificates.
Quite early in life he was enamoured with the art and science of jurisprudence. His desire for criminal law made him join Sri Lanka Law College as a student. He took his oaths as an Attorney –at-Law in year 1973.
Dr Wijayatunga was a great innovator possessed a passion for creating or pioneering fields anew; He discovered anomalies in the technique of Sinhalese written alphabet. He was not totally tied to tradition “Innovate where necessary” was his guiding thought. He proposed scientific ideas to standardise certain Sinhala letters in the alphabet. His proposal to change the standard exercise books to six ruled exercise books was a part of this success process. The concepts in English four ruled exercise books were thus revolutionized.
In year 1990 for his Thesis on “Legal Philosophy in Medieval Sri Lanka” for which he was conferred a doctorate. The Practical Sinhala Dictionary Vol 1, of his was launched in 1982,This was further edited to compose the huge sophisticated Practical Sinhala Dictionary Vol 2 comprising of over 130,000 Sinhala words which to date is the most comprehensive Sinhala dictionary, which was launched during the Colombo book fair in 2017 comprising 3000 pages.
Dr Wijayatunga is a persuasive writer. His writings displayed deep scholasticism and in depth analysis of subject matter. One such was his political philosophy Mahasammatavada ('Great Consensus' or comprehensive consultation) envisages consulting all people which he described "as going beyond democracy”. He contested unsuccessfully in two presidential elections.
Throughout the 1980s he held various offices. Inter alia he functioned as the Chief Editor of the tabloid Sinhala Bauddhaya (Sinhala Buddhist), Director of Sri Lanka Ayurvedic Drugs Corporation and a member of the directorate Siddayurveda College, Editor in Chief of the Sinhala Encyclopaedia and officer in charge , Sinhala version of the Legislature Enactments of Sri Lanka.
Today Dr Wijayatunga is 87 plus he has not succumbed to the demands of senility with the passage of time as he is still active accepting invitations for imparting his knowledge to University students, and via the electronic media..Hence he has not diminished his value of his creative works. Dr Wijayatunga can gratifyingly look back on the trials of his past and reflect how manfully he grappled with all odds Perhaps his message to posterity will be ‘Success’ does not always elude men. For it to achieve perseverance is a pre determinant. We all Sri Lankans should hail him and wish him superior health and longevity.
Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane