Austin Perera

The Colombo Tea Traders Association held a special commemoration ceremony recently to pay tribute to late Austin Perera who was the senior most member of the Association until his demise.

Late Mr. Perera, who goes down in the history as the first Ceylonese Chairman of the Tea Traders Association, passed away on the June 10, 2015.

The commemoration ceremony was held at the main Tea Auction auditorium of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on June 17, 2015, prior to the commencement of the weekly Tea Auction.

The daughters, son-in-law and the granddaughters of the late Mr. Perera, who had traveled from Britain to attend his obsequies, were present at this commemorative event.

Incumbent Chairman of the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association Anselm Perera, who presided over the proceedings, briefly elucidated the highlights of the late Mr. Perera’s career, which, in some respects, were quite unique.

Almost to the day, it was 70 years ago, on June 1, 1945, when Ceylon was still under the British Raj that he entered the Tea Industry, which was then, the exclusive preserve of the British, as one of the first batch of three young Ceylonese selected for training as Tea Tasters. They came under the tutelage of two eminent members of the Trade, O.P. Rust and H. J. Moppet on the initiative of the Tea Commissioner  P. Saravanamuttu. On completing his training period of one and a half years, he was offered employment as a Junior Executive in the Colombo office of the English and Scottish Joint CWS Limited, where he progressively moved up the Management ladder over the ensuing years. Later he served as a Senior Executive in Lipton Ceylon Limited.

In 1968, he penetrated another exclusive bastion of the British, when he was elected as the first Ceylonese Chairman of the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association – two unique and remarkable achievements; the first Ceylonese to enter the Tea Trade and, then the first Ceylonese to become the Chairman of the Apex Body of the Tea Industry!

In the mid 1970s, Pakistan was the most important market for Ceylon Tea, as the biggest buyer of Ceylon Tea at that time. The Tea Promotion Bureau identified the late Perera to serve as Tea Commissioner stationed in Karachi to sustain and further develop that market, in view of his experience, knowledge and competence in the commodity. He acquired an intimate knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of that complex market and developed an amazing rapport with virtually every member of the Trade there.

Thereafter, he was appointed as the Tea Commissioner in the U.K. where he served for 17 years.

In 1996, the late Mr. Perera was bestowed the singular honor of Honorary Life Membership, which was conferred upon him by the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association for his service and contribution to the Association and the Tea Industry over the preceding 50 years.

Michael de Zoysa, a former and the longest serving Chairman of the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association, who was a colleague of the late Mr. Perera at Lipton Ceylon Limited, then recounted his memories of their halcyon days of working together for this leading tea company.

At the conclusion, a minute’s silence was observed as a mark of respect and in honor of his memory.