Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, who was today elected President of the thirty-first session of the General Assembly, has been Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations since 1967 and Chairman of his country's delegation to the sessions of the Assembly since that time.
Mr. Amerasinghe's association with the United Nations, however began 10 years earlier, when in 1957, he was his country's delegate to the Fifth Committee at the twelfth regular session of the Assembly.
Since being appointed Permanent Representative, Mr. Amerasinghe has held office in a number of United Nations bodies, beginning in 1968 when he was elected Chairman of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction.
From then on, Mr. Amerasinghe has been the presiding officer of the various United Nations bodies which have successively dealt with this question. Today, he is the President of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, a Conference which has been in session since 1973 and whose meetings stemmed from the United Nations Sea-Bed Committee, of which Mr. Amerasinghe was Chairman from its inauguration in 1969.
Mr. Amerasinghe is also Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean, which Sri Lanka proposed be designated as "zone of peace". He has chaired that Committee since it was created in 1973.
Also, since its creation in 1969, Mr. Amerasinghe has been Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories.
Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe was born in Colombo, in what was then Ceylon, on 18 March 1913. Educated in Ceylon, he went to the University of Colombo, then an affiliated College of London University, where, as an external student, he took a first class honours degree of the University of London in Western Classics in 1934.
Three years later, in 1937, Mr. Amerasinghe joined the Ceylon Civil Service and has served his country in various capacities now for nearly 44 years.
After serving in various judicial and administrative capacities in the Civil Service, Mr. Amerasinghe was, in 1950, appointed Resident Manager of the Gel Oya Development Board, an autonomous statutory authority established to administer a Multi-purpose river valley development project.
Mr. Amerasinghe held that post for two years before he was appointed to his first overseas post, that of Counsellor of Embassy of Ceylon in Washington, D.C. There he served from 1953 to 1955.
After that a succession of posts followed in Ceylon, dealing again with development and finance: 1955-1957, Controller of Establishments, General Treasury; 1958, Controller of Finance, Supply and Cadre, General Treasury; and, in the same year, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Nationalized Services and Road Transport, as well as Chairman of the Port (Cargo) Corporation.
In 1961, Mr. Amerasinghe became Secretary of the Treasury and Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Finance, holding that post until 1963, while also serving as Official Member of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank and Alternate Governor for Ceylon in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
In 1963, Mr. Amerasinghe again began serving his country abroad, when he was appointed High Commissioner to India (equivalent of Ambassador when serving is a fellow Commonwealth country), while serving concurrently as Ambassador to Nepal and Afghanistan, posts he held until coming to the United Nations in 1967.
While serving in these posts, Mr. Amerasinghe began his active association with the Non-Aligned Movement, being a member of the Ceylon delegation to the preparatory meeting for the Second Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, Colombo.
While serving as his country's Permanent Representative, Mr. Amerasinghe has, since 1973, held concurrent accreditation as Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Brazil.