Susantha de Fonseka

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Sir Susantha de Fonseka
Susantha De Fonseka.jpg
Deputy Speaker of the State Council of Ceylon
First Ceylon's Ambassador to Japan
First Ceylon's High Commissioner to Burma
Personal details
Born 1900
Died 1963
Nationality Sri Lankan
Relations Arthur de Silva
Alma mater Downing College, Cambridge,
Royal College, Colombo
St. John's College Panadura
Occupation Politician, Diplomat
Profession Lawyer
Religion Buddhist
Military service
Allegiance Ceylon
Service/branch Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force
Years of service (1937-1939)
Rank Sub-Lieutenant

Sir Kalutaravedage Deepal Susantha de Fonseka, KBE (1900–1963) was a Sri Lankan statesmen and diplomat. He was the Deputy Speaker of the State Council of Ceylon[1] and following Ceylon's independence from Britain her first Ambassador to Burma and first Ambassador to Japan. De Fonseka took an active part in the country's struggle for universal suffrage and self-determination.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

He was born to Dr C. P. De Fonseka and Muthutantrige Leonora Fernando Sri Chandrasekara, a daughter of Muthuthanthrige Simon Fernando Sri Chandrasekera (1829–1908) of Sirinivasa.[3] Susantha de Fonseka was raised by his uncle W Arthur de Silva who was a Minister of Health and a member of the Legislative Council.

Fonseka was educated at St. John's College Panadura, Royal College, Colombo and went on to study at Downing College, Cambridge, there he gained his MA. After leaving Cambridge entered the Inns of Court and qualified as a barrister. Upon his return to Ceylon he became the principal of Sri Sumangala College, Panadura after which he went on to become the editor of The Morning Leader.

Political career[edit]

Following his journalism career he entered the State Council as member for Panadura for the first time in 1931 and again after the 1936 general election. During the second State Council, when Sir Vaitilingam Duraiswamy was elected speaker, the Fonseka contested the post of Deputy Speaker and won against Major E. A. Nugawela, who later became a Minister in the first Cabinet of D. S. Senanayake. De Fonseka took an active part in the country's struggle for universal suffrage and self-determination. First it was with the Donoughmore Commission and later with the Soulbury commissioners (1943 - 1945). Susantha de Fonseka as the State Council member for Panadura, moved a motion in the State Council, by November 1944, to the effect that the Ministers "be directed to introduce immediately a Bill conferring on this country a constitution of the recognized dominion type for Free Lanka".[2][4] He joined the newly formed Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force as the first Ceylonese commissioned officer,[5] later his commission was withdrawn for stating in the State Council that the British were under-pricing Ceylon's rubber.[1] He lost his seat in the 1947 general election to a candidate from the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, marking the end of his political career.

Diplomatic career[edit]

In 1949 Susantha de Fonseka was appointed as Ceylon's first High Commissioner to Burma. He was a very popular figure in Rangoon, often making speeches in Burmese language.[4] Ambassador de Fonseka built up such close contacts with the Burmese leadership that he was associated with Prime Minister U Na when Karen guerrillas surrendered. Thereafter D. S. Senanayake sent him on an important diplomatic assignment to Peking in 1952. It was this assignment which laid the foundation for the rubber-rice pact between Ceylon and China.

Later, in 1956, Fonseka became Ceylon's first Ambassador in Japan.[6] While there, he together with the Professor G P Malalasekera, organized a conference of the World Fellowship' of Buddhists. He propagated Theravada Buddhism and built a dagoba in Japan.

Susantha de Fonseka was made a Knight Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire on 12 April 1954.


Sir Susantha de Fonseka, the Father of the Free Lanka Bill is remembered as one Sri Lanka's pioneering diplomats and for promoting constitutional reforms on the long walk to independence. In his memory the Sir Susantha De Fonseka memorial Prize for Arts is awarded annually at Royal College, Colombo.

  • [Born:25 April 1900, Died:1 January 1963]

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