Dr. Terence Amerasinghe: In Remembrance

Dr. Terence Percival Amerasinghe: Biographical Tribute – In Remembrance

Glen T. Martin

Terence Amerasinghe was born in Sri Lanka in 1917, son of a tribal chieftain in the traditional culture of that country. During his long life of 90 years, he made his native country his home base from which he has crisscrossed the world repeatedly in the service of world-peace. Since graduating with Honors in History from the University of London (U.K.) in 1939, he has continuously worked for peace and international understanding.   While engaged in the struggle for independence for Sri Lanka, he launched a campaign for a “United States of Asia” and held several conferences throughout South Asia to further this objective.   Today, we see that the idea has blossomed in SAARC.   His work for a united South Asia was between the years 1930 to 1950.

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Terence Amerasinghe on the right at the New Humanity Center in Kalamata, Greece

To support these ideas, he started and edited two newspapers “Resurgent Ceylon” in 1939 and “Colombo City News” from 1946-1952.  He suffered repression during the last years of British rule in Sri Lanka but nevertheless continued in his devotion to bring freedom, peace, and sustainable development to South Asia and ultimately the world.

He launched the Ceylon Literacy Campaign (1940-1948) to raise the standard of literacy in the villages and achieved great success in making the people over 80% literate, then the highest in South Asia.   This was done with the aid of legislators of all political parties.  The late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was foremost in facilitating this effort.

Dr. Amerasinghe started a school for continuing education in Sri Lanka, the “National Institute of Higher Studies” (1944-1994), to help those denied higher education for financial reasons and worked as its founding Principal for 13 years.  Over 20,000 students benefited from his courses and many achieved positions of distinction in the fields of law, administration, medicine, and politics.   He also produced and edited a journal entitled “Adult Education” (1945-1957).

Dr. Amerasinghe spent the years 1952-1955 studying and teaching at foreign universities.  He studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London, where he obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. in Oriental History.  He simultaneously studied at the Council of Legal Education, U.K., and obtained the degree of Barrister-at-Law (Gray’s Inn).  He then entered the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and worked as visiting Educator in the School of Education. While in the United States, he obtained the degree of Doctor of Education from Hamilton State University.  He was Smith-Mundt Fulbright Scholar in 1954.

He was called to the English Bar in 1954 and practiced in the Privy Council, then the highest court of appeals from Asian countries that had been under British rule.  He worked with such distinguished British lawyers as D.N. Pritt, Q.C., Dingle Foot, Q.C., E.F.N. Gratien, Q.C., and several others.  When appeals to the Privy Council were discontinued, he practiced law in Sri Lanka, beginning in 1956.

While in the U.K. and the U.S.A., he joined with several like-minded friends involved with the world government movement, namely, Henry Usborne (British M.P. and outspoken world federalist), L’Abbé Pierre (from France, Chairman of the World Federalist Movement founded in 1947), Philip Isely (Secretary-General of the World Constitution and Parliament Association), Dr. Max Habicht (renowned International Lawyer from Switzerland), and Dr. (Sir) Reinhart Ruge (long-time Co-President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association, from Mexico).  Dr. Amerasinghe began his most fundamental lifelong project: to create a disarmed world of peace with justice under the rule of democratically legislated laws.

To further this ideal in a unique way, Dr. Amerasinghe began the movement “One World in Art” with the aim of promoting peace and international understanding through music, art, and dance.  He built the Ceylon National Dance Company and toured the world with his company.  It was an instant popular success (if not always a financial success), and for 25 years, whenever time permitted, he led cultural delegations—three times to the U.S.A., four times to Europe, twice to the Philippines and Japan, once to China, twice to Latin America, and to many other countries on all continents.  Many a Sri Lankan Prime Minister called him the “Cultural Ambassador of Sri Lanka” and, in the western world, he was considered the last of the individual impresarios.   He did all this on his private resources and often suffered great financial loss.

In 1960, “One World in Art” joined forces with “Artist’s Embassy,” founded by the late Ms. Althya Youngman of San Francisco Ballet fame.   Ambassadors for the promotion of peace and international understanding were appointed in many parts of the world.   Dr. Amerasinghe is widely remembered as one of these Ambassadors.

Most of any profits that accrued from these dance tours, especially in under-developed countries, were donated to worthy causes.  In Burma (now Myanmar), the proceeds were donated to building the Eye Hospital in Rangoon.  In the Philippines, the proceeds were donated to the building of the Chapel where the plane crashed with the then President of the Philippines.  Some proceeds were also used for the promotion of the world government movement.

After the concept of “One World in Art,” Dr. Amerasinghe’s most creative work was with the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), along with Professor Philip Isely and others, founded in 1958. For many years Amerasinghe was Co-president of this organization with Dr. Reinhart Ruge.  The aim of this organization is the creation of a federated world under a Constitution for the Federation of Earth.   To this end, many conferences were planned and executed—San Francisco, USA, Wolfach, Germany and Interlaken, Switzerland, Colorado, U.S.A., London, U.K., Innsbruck, Austria, Paris, France, and many other locations.  Dr. Amerasinghe traveled the world enlisting support for this great historical project and had the distinction of organizing, attending, and being among the leadership at all these conferences.

In 1972, working continuously for several months in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Amerasinghe served on the five-person Drafting Commission to produce the first draft of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  (Until Amerasinghe’s death in 2007, Professor Isely and he were the only surviving members of this Commission, which also included Dr. Max Habicht from Switzerland, Prof. D.M. Spencer, Professor of Law from Mumbai, India, and S.M. Hussain, soon to be Supreme Court Justice in Bangladesh.)  After considerable revision (1973-1976), a revised draft was perfected. 

In 1977, at Innsbruck, Austria, the Constitution for the Federation of Earth was presented to the Second Constituent Assembly meeting in Innsbruck, Austria, for extensive discussion and analysis.  It was unanimously approved by the 138 representatives from 25 countries and 6 continents.  This document, which was finalized at the Fourth Constituent Assembly in Troia, Portugal in 1991, has now been translated into 22 languages and distributed worldwide.   It is available on the websites of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (www.wcpa.global)  and the Earth Constitution Institute (www.earthconstitution.world).  

Terence left, with Philip Isely at the 4th session of the Provisional World Parliament

Dr. Amerasinghe again organized the Third Constituent Assembly for creating the Earth Constitution in Colombo, Sri Lanka (1979), and worked to promote the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth by national parliaments.  From 1981 to date, Dr. Amerasinghe organized, attended, and helped lead ten sessions of the Provisional World Parliament held under Article 19 of the Constitution.  These have been in Brighton, U.K.(1982), New Delhi, India (1985), Miami Beach, Florida (1987), Barcelona, Spain (1996), on the island of Malta (2000), Bangkok, Thailand (March, 2003), Chennai, India (December 2003), Lucknow, India (August 2004), Tripoli, Libya (April 2006), and Kara, Togo (June 2007).    His brief illness and sudden death prevented his participation in the Tenth Session of the Parliament as its long-time President.

As part of this work, Dr. Amerasinghe founded the Graduate School of World Problems in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which has held regular seminars on world problems since 1982.  In 2003, this School as merged with the then recently created Institute on World Problems (IOWP) for which Dr. Amerasinghe served as President. The Institute on World Problems (today called the Earth Constitution Institute) presents (in various locations around the world) seminars on world problems, their interrelationship, their crisis proportions, and the need for an integral solution that includes all peoples and nations.   In the last six years of his life, Dr. Amerasinghe led seminars and meetings for the IOWP, ranging in length from a few days to several weeks, in Takoradi, Ghana, Lome, Togo, Lucknow, India, Chennai, India, Kolkata, India, Teplotzan, Mexico, and Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Institute (today called the Earth Constitution Institute) also works with local social service organizations (for example, the India Development Foundation in Bangalore, India, the environmental service organization Mtrikka in Chittagong, Bangladesh, or the permaculture projects in Sokodé and Kara, Togo) to promote solutions to the problems people face locally by increasing their awareness of global problems faced by people in similar circumstances in many areas of the globe.

To further strengthen this work for world peace through world understanding and the development of world law, Dr. Amerasinghe worked with Sri Jagdish Gandhi, Founder/Manager of the City Montessori School of Lucknow, who organized the first seven of the annual Conferences of Chief Justices of the World (2000-2007, which have continued through the year 2020 and beyond).  These took place in Lucknow for the first seven years with Dr. Amerasinghe’s participation. Each time, Amerasinghe addressed the assembled chief justices from around the world and helped them formulate their repeated call for a world parliament and the rule of democratically legislated law on planet Earth.

Since the English language today is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Dr. Amerasinghe, through the International Council of the English-Speaking Union, U.K., since 1981, vigorously promoted the study of English in South Asia.   He understood this promotion of English as a second language as an instrument for facilitating peace and international understanding.  He was President of the English Speaking Union of Sri Lanka, and Secretary-General of the E.S.U. of South Asia.

He spent several months in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan in central Asia as advisor to the government in English studies.  His work for the English-Speaking Union is best described by Michael Wynne Parker in his book, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1996).

Believing that spirituality is an essential part of human well-being, Dr. Amerasinghe, since 1979, worked with the Japanese religious movement called Oomoto, and its service arm the Universal Love and Brotherhood Association (ULBA), headquartered in Kameoka, Japan.  He believed with them that all religions spring from the same source and a good part of the present malaise in the world is due to organized religions striving for supremacy. The Universal Love and Brotherhood Association has chapters in a number of locations throughout the world, especially in South Asia, and Dr. Amerasinghe was President of the Sri Lanka branch.  He was also Vice-President of World Union, an international organization dedicated to similar goals of promoting world spiritual unity and understanding, the headquarters for which is in Pondicherry, India.

Terence (standing) in Sri Lanka, with the Universal Love and Brotherhood Association

Dr. Amerasinghe served, as mentioned above, as President of the Universal Love and Brotherhood Association, Sri Lanka, for 27 years until his death in 2007.  With the assistance of the headquarters in Japan, he built the United Religious Worship Center in Puliyankulam, North Sri Lanka, in an effort to bring the warring sections together. This Center is intended to bring the youth of all ethnic groups together in harmonious living.  It is hoped that the Center will not only help Sri Lanka achieve peace, but once peace prevails, it will help provide for an enduring settlement to this 20 year old conflict.

For many years, Dr. Amerasinghe promoted the spirit of cooperation among the diverse cultures, religions, ethnicities, and governments of the world.  During the past several decades, he actively promoted English as a second language from his position on the International Council of the English Speaking Union, as President of the ESU of Sri Lanka, and as Secretary General of the ESU, South Asia.   Many of his speeches, talks, and articles in this work linked the work of the English Speaking Union with the promotion of sustainable development, respect for human rights, and international cooperation and understanding under the rule of common, universally enforced and just world laws.

Dr. Amerasinghe’s long standing work with ULBA and the organization World Union (headquartered in Pondicherry, India) arose from his commitment to the development of a planetary spiritual awareness which is at the core of the Oomoto, ULBA, and World Union teaching.   He promoted the development of the religions of the world and south Asia—Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam—in the direction of a global spirituality that does not exclude or demean people from other traditions or forms of spirituality.  

As President of ULBA in Sri Lanka, and as a Vice-President for World Union, headquartered in Pondicherry, India, Dr. Amerasinghe made it clear in both his actions and teachings that all the religions must continue to grow toward what he called “planetary consciousness” and a spiritual realization that integrates both nature and all the diverse persons of the world into a sense of the sacred.  Over these many years, he networked extensively with ULBA and World Union chapters in South Asia, to integrate their promotion of spirituality with the development of world-wide democratic procedures, world law, and a world parliament. 

He wrote the Preface to the book by Sri Samar Basu, General Secretary of World Union, entitled The UNO, The World Government and the Ideal of World Union: As envisioned by Sri Aurobindo (1999) that reflects his broad understanding of spirituality and its development within humanity. In this Preface, he says of world government: “It is the only beacon of light that can steer humanity away from the mounting chaos that portents the death of Planet Earth.”

In his dynamic work for world peace through world law, Dr. Amerasinghe often reiterated the principle of “unity in diversity” that is written into the Preamble to the Constitution for the Federation of Earth and that serves as a foundational principle for his work.   He demonstrated this principle in his own life as well in his vision for a mature, sustainable, and integrated world-order.  According to Dr. Amerasinghe, unity among nations, peoples, religions, and cultures cannot be achieved without the development of a World Parliament and the articulation of world law that applies equally to everyone.  When the nations truly unite to create democratic world government, he insisted, then a procedural and institutional unity will be achieved that has the responsibility and duty to respect and preserve the diverse unity and multiplicity of human existence on Earth.   The way to world peace and understanding is through the principle of unity in diversity.

Dr. Amerasinghe showed the way in which human rights can only be protected and promoted through the rule of just and equitable world law.   But he continuously emphasized human responsibility as coextensive with human rights.  Democratic world law should not only protect human rights, it should emphasize human responsibility and interdependence.  We all have the responsibility to work together in an interdependent world, to protect nature and sustainable economic development for future generations, and to respect the diversity of nations and cultures world-wide.   His work emphasized the problems and issues in South Asia, but its implications are clearly for the development of planetary democratic law and a principle of unity and diversity that provides a truly global ethic.

In the last seven years of his life between ages 83 and 90, Dr. Amerasinghe promoted his integrated vision of world peace through world law by leading the Institute On World Problems as its President and acting as professor in a number of seminars from Africa to South Asia. With the retirement of Philip Isely as Secretary-General of WCPA in 2003, and the retirement of Dr. (Sir) Reinhart Ruge as Co-President of WCPA, Dr. Amerasinghe took on even more commitments and responsibilities as the President and eminent leader of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and worked closely with Dr. Glen T. Martin who was then WCPA Secretary-General. 

He energetically organized and sponsored sessions of the Provisional World Parliament in Malta, Bangkok, Chennai, and Lucknow in order to promote the development of world-wide democratic procedures, world law, and a world parliament.  And he promoted and participated in five Conferences of Chief Justices of the World on behalf of world law and world peace in Lucknow, India.  His extensive correspondence, travel, writing of articles, giving speeches, and conducting seminars during this period were all been directed to the building of world peace, understanding, and democratic institutions. His memoirs of this movement have been published as Chapter Three of Emerging World Law (2009), edited by Eugenia Almand and Glen T. Martin.

Dr. Amerasinghe’s rich education as both an international lawyer of prominent standing and a master of a wide range of literature, art, poetry, and history made his work for international peace and understanding particularly compelling.  He deeply understood the meaning of education, and the need for worldwide education directed toward developing a global civil ethic and shared sense of the sanctity of nature and the need for sustainable living on our precious planet.  His clear and common-sense response to these needs was to promote the development of human love and brotherhood, a common language, and democratic world law. He worked with unflagging dedication to educate citizens of diverse traditions and nations on the need for a common, unifying set of laws to bring peace as well as justice to the human project.

The development of common democratic procedures for all humanity is part of the development of a global set of shared values, according to him, and itself will contribute to the continued development of human spirituality in the direction of a planetary spiritual consciousness.  His emphasis on shared human responsibility and cooperation extended to the realm of law and the development of world parliamentary procedures for which he worked tirelessly throughout his life.

In Dr. Amerasinghe’s vision, there is a synergy between the development of a universal second language (his work with the ESU), the development of mature forms of planetary spirituality (his work with ULBA and World Union), the deep understanding of world problems and their interconnection (his work with IOWP), and the development of universal democratic procedures and institutions for planet Earth (his work with WCPA and the Provisional World Parliament).   Human life is a holistic process and cannot be successfully compartmentalized without risk to the work for world peace and understanding.  For example, he understood that the terrible problem of poverty cannot be addressed without also addressing the issues of sustainability, population, militarism, and economics. In fact, this understanding of the need for a wholly integrated approach was written directly into the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, of which he was one of the primary authors.

Dr. Amerasinghe’s work for peace was therefore somewhat unusual in that it was not narrowly focused (as is often the case) on a single issue or narrow set of issues, for example, working with the poor, protecting the environment, mediating between the sides in the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, defending human rights, or abolishing nuclear weapons.  Rather, his amazing energy and set of accomplishments reflected his own character as what was once called “a Renaissance Man”—a human being of great learning in many fields who becomes in his own person a representative of us all, of our deeper humanity, and of our highest human possibilities. He energetically promoted a truly holistic vision of human peace, mutual understanding, and cooperation while at the same time insisting that we must embody these values in concrete democratic procedures, universally applicable laws, and global governmental institutions. 

It is this holistic vision and understanding that make his life and work an inspiring model for the rest of humanity.  May we all have the courage and the vision to carry on the immense work that he has so beautifully begun.