|Saturday, 24 November 2001|
Merry-go-round - Mr. Rajaratne rides again
The Sihala Urumaya's nomination of Mr. K.M.P. Rajaratne on its nationalist list appears as a last forlorn salute to an era which is irrevocably passing into limbo. In this age of the Internet and the computer when the new bread of business whizz kids who are using the telephone as the medium of wooing the voters are holding sway, Mr. Rajaratne lumbers on the contemporary scene, like a Dinosaur reminding us of a time when politics was both decent and ferocious but did not leave us in a pool of blood or the fragmentation of the social fabric.
Konara Mudiyanselage Podiappuhamy Rajaratne was a Junior Minister in the 1956 Government of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. He was the man from Welimada who took the slogan of 'Sinhala Only' to its extremist conclusion.
He not only wanted Sinhala as the official language and the Sinhalese to inherit the earth but did not want any Tamils to be part of that paradise regained.
Needless to say Mr. Bandaranaike did not share this same exclusivist vision and soon they had to part company. When the communal riots of 1958 erupted Mr. Rajaratne was the only Sinhala politician to be detained under Emergency Regulations along with all the prominent Federal Party members on the other side of the divide.
Let us give credit to Mr. Rajaratne for his singular vision. That is a country where the Sinhalese as the majority community would have the dominant voice in national affairs.
However Mr. Rajaratne's tragedy was that as the leader of a minority political party (in the national and certainly not the communal sense) he had to align himself with the dominant party of the day. So the Junior Minister of 1956 in the Bandaranaike Government moved to the UNP under Mr. Dudley Senanayake in 1965. Here it was Mrs. Kusuma Rajaratne who was the Junior Minister, Mr. Rajaratne having been unseated on an election petition. But she too quit soon protesting against the UNP's accommodation with the Tamils.
Let us then give credit to the Rajaratnes for quitting office something quite rare in the politics of our day. They were honest politicians although they might have been misguided. Mr. Rajaratne was later appointed a Senator in the dying years of the 1965 Government and remained in the Upper House until that ship went down with all flags flying under the 1972 Republican Constitution.
It is perhaps fitting therefore that Mr. Rajaratne should ride again. The man who wore a beard once, who was one of the first lawyers to appear in cloth and banian in court, who holds something of a record for one of the longest parliamentary speeches (next to the irrepressible Mr. Dahanayake) deserves his moment of glory. Let us not begrudge the Dinosaur his last bow.
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