President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday paid a glowing tribute to the late The Island and Divaina cartoonist W. R. Wijesoma aka Punchi Singho, who passed away two days ago.
Expressing his deep sorrow at Wijesoma`s death, the President said his cartoons `were always a pleasure to see even to those who were the victims of his good hearted lampooning`. He added that Wijesoma`s death had created an immense void in the World of journalism.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s statement:
I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Mr. Wijayarupage Wijesoma, or Wijesoma, as he was known to us all, which creates an immense void in the world of journalism in Sri Lanka.
Through a career spanning many decades, one saw his steady rise in the art and skill of caricature to make him stand out as a cartoonist par excellence with hardly anyone of comparable skill in Sri Lanka. He also joined the select number of eminent cartoonists the world over.
His cartoons were always a pleasure to see even to those who were the victims of his good hearted lampooning. Unfettered by political or any other limitations, he used his talent, creativity and skill with the brush, with a great deal of cynicism and sarcasm in dealing with his topics whether they were political or social. There was no person who was beyond the pale of the brush strokes that produced some of the most memorable cartoons in this country. What was most impressive about his work was the absence of rancour while delivering a telling message.
Beginning his career in the world of newspapers as a proof reader he steadily rose to fame in the former Times of Ceylon, and later moved to Lake House where he was the cartoonist for The Observer. Still later, he shared his genius with the readers of `The Island` and `Divaina` until the end.
His character `Punchisingho` will always be remembered for its empathy with the average citizen, whether battered by the rise in cost of living, the burdens caused by politics, the faults and foibles of politicians or the pleasures and frolics of high society. Little is known of Wijesoma as a wildlife enthusiast and especially a wildlife photographer, whose skill with the lens was exceptional. He was a great lover of the wild and was associated in many an effort to preserve the wilderness of our country.
Always friendly, soft spoken and genial by nature, Wijesoma brought honour to Sri Lanka by his cartoons being exhibited abroad along with those of the other greats in caricature. The books of his cartoons soon became collectors items. Yet, he will always be remembered for his greatest service, which was his ability to make us laugh at ourselves as he did laugh at us.
I send my deepest sympathies to his children and other members of his family at their sad loss.