Personal Information
Born:10th November 1930
Died:31st August 2011
Nationality:Sri Lankan
Education:St. Joseph Vaz College, Wennapuwa, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and Maris Stella College, Negombo
Occupation:Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament, Attorney-at-Law
Spouse:Gwen Weerackoon
Parents:Dr. Albert Herat and Dagmar Herat

JAMES EDWARD HAROLD HERAT was born on 10th November 1930, the youngest son of Dr. Albert Herat and Dagmar Herat. He hailed from aristocracy, from both Kegalle and Chilaw. Educated at St. Joseph Vaz College Wennapuwa, St. Joseph’s College Colombo and Maris Stella College Negombo, he excelled in tennis and was awarded School Colours.

Born into an affluent planting family and growing up at Mudukatuwa Walauwe, he was a talented and multi-faceted youngster to whom, position and power was no novelty. He chose law for his career, though his father was a foreign qualified physician. This no doubt, was due to the influence of his two grand uncles the late C. E. Corea and his brother Victor Corea, both leading lawyers of the Chilaw Bar. He joined the Ceylon Law College in 1951 and passed out as an Attorney-at-Law in 1956.

He began his practice in the Chilaw courts and was the first President of the Marawila Bar Association. For many years he served as the Secretary of the Chilaw-Negombo Planters Association and was also the Patron of the Edirimana Corea Union. While practicing law in his hometown of Marawila and nearby courts, he was attracted to politics perhaps because of his links to a political dynasty where his grand uncles C. E. Corea and Victor Corea were identified as `Freedom Fighters’  and his uncle Sir Claude Corea was the first Ambassador to the United States and another uncle Shirley Corea, was Minister of Trade and Commerce and was also the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Harold abandoned a brilliant legal career that saw him rise as a criminal lawyer, when he was picked for the Nattandiya Electorate in the 1977 General Election by J. R. Jayewardene, against many other formidable aspirants. Holding many portfolios in the Cabinet during his political career, Harold Herat held a record of twenty three, unbroken and undefeated years as a Member of Parliament. Loved and respected for his honesty and sincerity he was personified as `Mr.Clean’ at the hustings. A fluent speaker in both Sinhala and English he held the crowds spellbound, in their own idiom using pithy language should the occasion demand, but always with the utmost decency. He was highly effective as a speaker in foreign fora, being possessed of polished dictum.

He was the first non-Cabinet rank Minister to be appointed under the Second Republican Constitution of 1978. He was assigned the subject in which, he had the greatest potential to perform - the coconut industry. Whilst holding the portfolio of Minister of Coconut Industries he was the Deputy Minister to the Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB) where the Minister was the late President J. R. Jayewardene.

Holding several portfolios under successive government of the United National Party Harold Herat was subsequently elevated to Cabinet rank and held two portfolios, Minister of Foreign Affairs, (April 1990 - August 1993) whilst also functioning as the State Minister for Finance to President R. Premadasa. He was minister of Justice (August 1993 – August 1994) in President D. B. Wijetunge’s Cabinet and also acted as the Defense Minister when the President was on overseas travel.

A popular Foreign Minister, he represented the President on two occasions at the United Nations, building up personal relationships with world leaders impressing them with his qualities. In fact the late Benazir Bhutto when she was out of power arrived in Sri Lanka to meet two of her good friends, Harold Herat and the late Anura Bandaranaike.  He served his electorate Nattandiya in the Puttalam District with dedication, turning around the agricultural sector and the fishing industry, the main sources of income. Having inherited vast and best acres of coconut lands in the Marawila/Mudukatuwa area, though later diminished with the land reforms of the previous regime, he was expected to revitalise this important segment of our economy, which was essentially indigenous in nature. Harold Herat not only improved and rationalised this network, but also introduced new impetus through additional local investment and much needed foreign investment and innovation. The coconut statistics for the era (1978-1989) not only in plantation, but also processing and marketing, would amply demonstrate the contribution that Harold Herat made as Minister of Coconut Industries.

Faced with near crumbling administrative buildings he got down to business, setting up committees that resulted in bridges spanning waterways, electricity available to all villages and network of buses that serviced the public and schoolchildren. While Paddy cultivation, the Coconut and Fishing Industry accelerated, Marawila was recognized internationally as the centre of the Batik Industry in Sri Lanka. Schools were upgraded and National Sportsmen emerged while the youth were absorbed into employment, with skills being taught to those who did not complete their education. He devoted his time to his constituents and although a staunch Christian played a dominant role in furthering the cause of Buddhism in his electorate. Although his Government lost the elections, his loyal constituents returned him to Parliament, to sit in the Opposition. Harold Herat retired from Politics gracefully. It was during this period that the then President, Her Excellency Chandrika Kumaratunge made the unusual request that he should come and see her. Which he did having kept his party leader informed.

Harold married Gwen Weerackoon. Their three children, were the two daughter Shamara and Parveen and son Avancka. His ancestral home was open day and night to all his constituents and when he was in Colombo with his busy schedule, it was Gwen who looked after the affairs in Nattandiya. Harold Herat was a devout Christian and had immense faith in God. He faithfully attended St. Stephen’s Church Marawila each Sunday with his family.

His daughter Parveen, in an article written to commemorate his death anniversary wrote, “The only time I saw my father holding his head down and weep was when he got a call to saying President Premadasa was assassinated. He sat behind his office table and wept silently for hours. My father was down with chicken-pox that day, but the same evening he got dressed and rushed to Colombo to attend to the final arrangements of his beloved leader, Premadasa. I can’t remember a day my father missed a Sunday Service, even during the height of the JVP Insurgency. He drove to his small chapel in Mudukatuwa, knelt down and prayed to God. He taught us to be thankful for our blessings, to be humble in all ways and to create harmony in life and amongst people. Although he worked seven days a week for the betterment of his people, Sundays were the only day he worked half-day to assure time with his family.  That was when you saw him relaxed and happy at home in his usual white sarong”.

Harold Herat passed away on the 31st of August 2011.

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