Lanka Ratne Martin Wijesinghe, the legend of Sinharaja passed away last night after a brief illness. He was born on a Christmas eve - 24 th December, 1939.
Martin Wijesinghe joined the Forest Department on 1 st August 1981 as a temporary hand and worked as the night watchman at the Research Centre where he came into contact with many researchers like Prof Savithri Gunatilleke, Prof Nimal Gunatilleke, Prof Peter Ashton and his son Prof Mark Ashton and Prof Sarath Kotagama and many scholars from Colombo, Peradeniya and Sri Jayawardenapura Universities to mention a few.
Martin retired from the Forest Department as a permanent employee in 1997 after 16 years of service.
Although he hardly had any formal education, he was one of Sri Lanka’s most knowledgeable persons on our Wet Zone rain forests. He was a valuable member of the National Conservation Review (NCR) along with Dr. Magdon Jayasuriya and P. B Karunaratne (Karu). NCR was commissioned by IUCN for the Forest Department. This comprehensive 5 year study in 2 volumes is the most informative study on Sri Lanka’s Wet Zone flora.
He was a great teacher and friend to many students and highly qualified academicians who came to Sinharaja from many parts of the World seeking his guidance and advice. It was amazing to see him to rattle off complicated and long-winded botanical names and even assist in the spelling of the scientific name in English to qualified professionals and students who came to him.
Martin leaves behind his wife Sopi Nona and four daughters and two sons.
Sri Lanka has lost a unique personality who acted as the watchdog of Sinharaja for many decades.