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Sydney de Zoysa remembered

Sydney Godfrey de Zoysa, the one-time ‘tough guy’ of the Police Force passed away on October 20, 1994 at the age of 85, long after having earned the reputation of being one of the most outstanding officers, the Sri Lanka Police has produced. He was born as the third child to the famous family of Sir Francis de Zoysa of Balapitiya Advocate, Kings Counsel and member of the first Sate Council - and Ethel Perera Amarasekera Siriwardena, the grand daughter of Mudliyar Miguel Perera Amarasekera Siriwardena of famous Ragama Walauwa

A product of Royal College where he was not only a brilliant student, but also won colours in cricket, sacker, while being a cadet as well, joined the Police Department as an Assistant Superintendent of Police, while reading for an economics degree at the University of Ceylon.

He rose to the rank, of Deputy Inspector-General of Police, of whom there were few at the time (by the late 1950s) and he became a much talked about personality, very often the epicentre of several storms in VIP circles, Senate and Parliamentary dramas.

His first appointment was to the Tangalle District in February 1937. It was then a notorious for thuggery and murders by poisoning and shooting. J. A. A. Perera was his Head Quarter Inspector at the time.

It is in the recorded history of the Sri Lanka Police that in the five years previous to Sydney’s taking ever of Tangalle District, the average murder rate of the District was 20 a year. In the five years after he left the District, the average, the figure continued to be as high: but in the 18 months period when he was in-charge of Tangalle District, there was not a single murder in the whole District.

For all his rough exterior, de Zoysa had a soft heart as evidenced when Malaria ridden men came back to barracks from stays in hospital. His orders to HQI were don’t care how you classify them in the duty roster, but you are not to put them on hard work by day, or any duty at all by night. It took the HQI to maintain the duty roster. De Soysa then go home and send the hospital ‘returnees’ bottles of horlicks malted milk on his account.

De Zoysa used to ride ‘Louviell’ a 16 hands black stallion which earlier won the ‘Governor’s cup’ for his uncle the late Sir A. E. de Silva.

He was the first Sri Lankan to play polo for the Police team with Sheringham, Robins, Notley and Haddon. He was the first person ever to drive a motor car, cutting his way through jungle to the famous shrine of Kataragama in the deep South in an old Ford belonging to be a local driver.

When the first Sri lankan I. G. P. Sir Richard Aluvihare decided to shift the Police Training School from Bambalapitiya to the abandoned Royal Air Force Camp to Katukurunda, Kalutara, de Zoysa was the most suitable police officer to appoint as the director. It was opened on September 28, 1948.

After passing out of the University, seeking employment, de Zoysa presented himself at a Police interview. H. L. Dowbiggin, the then I. G. P. had asked him ‘How many steps did you climb on your way to this room?, de Zoysa’s deft reply was ‘I came up on the elevator, Sir’.

Dowbiggin had referred de Zoysa to Professor Marrs regarding his character. Mars had told Dowbiggin: ‘it will be far better for society if de Zoysa was in the Police than out of it.’ He was quickly conscripted and spent the of his career in the Police ending up as a DIG. He would have been the IGP had he not missed out on seniority when others overtook him while he was a temporary guest of Her Majesty.

At the time Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was Prime Minister and Osmund de Silva’s term was up as IGP. The Prime Minister brought in an outsider Mr. M. W. F. Abeykoon of the Land Settlement Department as the IGP.

De Zoysa left the service in December 1959. He served as Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Internal Security under caretaker Prime Minister W. Dahanayake.

He married later in life, Dr. Mrs. Corrine Jackson who bore him two sons - Subodai and Shivaji, and two daughters Sydra and Sydol. The two girls were named after him and the boys after a Samurai Warrior and a Hindu God.

He passed away peacefully at home in tender loving care. He did not want Police honours. His coffin was draped with the flags of Royal College and the CR and FC. The retired Senior Police Officers’ Association of which he was the Founder President, was well represented. Mr. Jim Bandaranayake, a past President laid a wreath on behalf of the members.

He was regarded as a most unorthodox, but perhaps, the most effective Police Officers of recent times.

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