100th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF S.T.L.DE SOYSA, A man of vision and principle

Published : 9:15 am  March 9, 2015 | No comments so far |  |  (1649) reads | 


Soma Terence Lambert de Soysa was born on April 9, 1915. He was the fourth child of Sir Wilfred (award winning agriculturist) and Lady Evelyn de Soysa (Senator and pioneer social worker).
He made history when he was appointed the first Ceylonese Chairman of the prestigious Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in 1960 and again in 1984 when he was made the first Sri Lankan Honorary Member. He was invited to lay the foundation stone of the present building.
After his early education at Royal College, Colombo and the Forrest School, England, he graduated from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University. On returning to Ceylon he worked at Carson Cumberbatch & Co for a short time and then joined the Bank of Ceylon at its inception as an assistant accountant.
Mr. de Soysa was a pioneer, perhaps the first, in the Ceylonisation of business in the island. In 1946, two years before Independence, he formed a consortium of Sri Lankan and Indian businessmen to take over one of the leading export firms in the country, C.W.Mackie & Co. Ltd. and was made its Managing Director.
He used this acquisition to clinch the first large rubber deal with the Peoples Republic of China. He used to relate how he came into the office one day to find a telex from a Hong Kong agent for that country offering to buy rubber at 20% above the world market price, perhaps because other rubber producing countries were refusing to sell rubber to them due to the ongoing Korean War. Having ascertained it was not a joke, he went to Prime Minister D S Senanayake to find out what action to take, since our ally, the USA was opposed to China in this conflict. The Prime Minster asked him only one question “Terence, is it good for the country?” On being told it was, he gave him the go ahead and jokingly remarked that if he didn’t his company might be taken over!
So that all the rubber exporters should benefit from this windfall, after the initial shipment he convened a meeting and apportioned the quantities to be shipped by each according to their existing export proportions. This formed the base on which the Rubber-Rice pact was later founded between the Republic of China and Sri Lanka, on terms favourable to us.
In the 1960’s he moved to England and continued in the rubber trade. A company he took over, Prodcarry Ltd, was later to have close links with E.D.& F Man Ltd. one of the largest sugar traders in the world. He was able to persuade them to start off shore operations in Sri Lanka which greatly benefited the consumers here by eliminating shortages which were common at the time.
He was a lover of horses and dogs and was on the verge of starting studies to become a veterinary surgeon when he was prevailed upon to go to Cambridge University instead. He agreed to this because it was close to Newmarket, a horse racing and training centre. On returning to Ceylon he became a Steward of the Ceylon Turf Club and also showed his pedigreed dogs, mainly foxhounds, at the Ceylon Kennel Club, winning many trophies in both areas. After emigrating to England in the early 1960’s he continued to pursue his interest in horses and horse racing.
Terence de Soysa was an exemplary son, husband and father. As a grandfather he was wonderful. A great raconteur, he enthralled his four grandchildren with stories of wild Ceylon, his other love and also reminiscences of his extended family as a grandson of Charles Henry de Soysa. To me, his daughter-in-law, he was a second father.
He was above all a man of vision and principle who always looked to the future development of this country.
He died on April 9, 1989, his 74th birthday. This year marks his 100th birth anniversary,

                                                                                                                                                               -Kamini de Soysa